Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Grizzles
London - Vancouver 23


There is no easy way of commuting across the world, just slow ways and faster ways.  For the time being we choose the faster way, burning as we go enough carbons to keep a small foreign country in fossil fuel for a decade, and we don't feel particularly good about that.  We don't feel particularly good about the food we eat en route, and we particularly don't feel terrific about the price of that food either.

Fortunately there are people employed by airlines to remind us that we shouldn't feel good about the way we travel either, so at least we don't have time to get too smug about our lot.  As Al so cheerily reminded us after we arrived tomorrow (work that out!), the motto of his national carrier is (apparently) "We're not happy until you're not happy."  They certainly gave some of the less caring souls working for an airline with a kangaroo on its tail a run for their money in the "most complaints lodged stakes."

Of course being given the only seat that had a non-functioning headphone jack for the entire twelve hour flight didn't do any more for my demeanour than did the three terribly unsatisfactory meals we ate in Airport Terminals did for our pockets.  By the time we were on the second leg, despite the improbability of the odds of finding another headphone jack not working, I came up trumps once more.

A friend who shared many business air miles with me over the years used to remind me that any flight we walked away from was a good one, and I must admit if we were to score our trip from London to Vancouver on that basis, it wasn't bad at all.   Although not only did we walk away from the flight, we almost found ourselves having to walk to our hotel, having not actually received any instructions as to the process of catching our connecting shuttle.

After eventually working things out and arriving at our uncharacteristically not at the bottom of the scale hotel, I might have settled in to catch up on a few blog posts sadly lagging in time, had the wifi facility not been indisposed.   Still, dinner was the perfect salve for our state of mind and jetlagged bodies, and we were in Canada, so things were not too shabby at all, and we needed to get ourselves in a grizzly mindset for the coming week!

Farewell to Old London, probably not forever.
London - 22nd September



It was a sort of lump in the throat day really, our last day in London for what may well be a year or two we think, and what better way to spend it that to take a stroll downtown.   If one is strolling downtown on a Sunday morning, there is probably no better way to satisfy one's hunger than snugged up in a pub eating roast lamb, and probably when one has consumed all one can eat in one lengthy and somewhat relaxed afternoon, a bit more of a walk is entirely in order.

While the girls among us chose to walk in direction Regent Street, something they said to do with shops and clothes, but we didn't catch the full conversation, Julian and I, by now in full retreat found a tiny purveyor of coffee, where we sought refuge, working in earnest on some of the world's greater and more complex problems before a long and particularly pleasant amble home, passing quite coincidentally, Little Venice.

Several decades have passed since we were last in Venice, and I am rapidly developing a fascination for all the "Little", and "of the north" Venices in the world.   A week ago we were in Holland in a Venice that looked to us rather like Holland, and now this one which looks for all the world like a Canal running through the back of Paddington.   Perhaps we need to revisit Venice to find the resemblance.

Tomorrow, we shall take one last stroll down Queensway, which has been our London "High Street" for more than a decade, wave farewell to the Union Jack above Whiteley's Department store, which will be apartments when next we see it, and that will close for a time what has been a remarkable chapter in our lives.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Shell and Jules go to the Theatre: Take Two
London 21st September

After more than a decade of regular visits we've managed to visit pretty much every London landmark and seen many things that will never make it into the tourist's bucket lists, but are no less important to the patchwork of London's character than are the theatres in West End.

We've even taken in a show at the West end.

How well we remember the lessons learned from that particular adventure.  Therefore when we decided to try our luck again we took our own counsel, learning from what could undoubtedly have been fairly described as a "mistake".   This time we didn't do battle with the touts in Leicester Square trying for the last minute cheap seats, we went to the theatre in search of the best seats in the house and hang the expense.

According to the nice man in the box office however, the best seats were not as good as the second best ones, so we thanked him very much and sent Shelley on a mission to make some reservations on our various behalves, discovering at the same time that the second best seats weren't anywhere near as costly as the worst seats bought at a heavy discount in our previous adventure.

When one is staring at tickets affixed to one's fridge with magnets for several months, (even if it that is a metaphor for a sticky note posted inside a diary), anticipation and excitement builds to the point where, when the day finally arrives, one is quite possibly setting oneself up for a fall.

We left early to see if we could find a place to eat despite being unable to reserve a spot for a spot of pre-dinner refreshment in any restaurant in the entire internet or in half of the telephone book before setting out, opting instead to take pot luck.   We commenced our search at the theatre steps, fanning out in a classic search pattern, knocking on restaurant doors in turn as they crossed our paths.

It didn't take long, just two or three negative responses accompanied by looks that suggested that we may well be advised to skip dinner this evening, until we came across a "cancellation".    Suddenly we were all in the mood for a hearty Greek feast, which was just as well, because that was all that was served on the premises.

Dinner, was sensational, but it paled in the sensation stakes when compared to the show that was to follow.  Fifth row seats, centre stage amid the life-sized horse puppets was an experience that contrasted so magically with the lofty disappointment of our previous adventure in the West End, that further description fails me.   Don't miss "Warhorse on Stage", and don't forget to find the second best seats!

Propellor heads.
London 20th September


When in London, we choose to travel on the Tube, the London Underground as it is also known, yet our "first day in London" post to this blog always seems to feature a red bus or a black cab as some sort of evidence that we are here.   Today, with the possibility that this will be our last visit to the City for some time looming, it seemed appropriate to pay some sort of minor homage to our favourite mode of transport.

It was just luck that with camera in hand, we found ourselves on a line with a newish train operating at a time when the usual crowd was not around, and probably the time we were travelling does not really reflect the true emotion of the crowd, nor for that matter the crowding of the crowd, but if one closes ones eyes and imagines say two thousand people in this picture, one could gain a reasonable impression of what peak hours are like.

One perhaps curious fact about the tube, is that the hand-holds in the carriages are coloured to match the colour of the line on the tube maps, so one with a map in hand could see at a glance that we were travelling on the Circle Line when this photograph was taken.

At the time we going round in circles a bit ourselves on our way to find a propellor repair company that we could entrust to carry out a few little adjustments over winter.

Propellor repairing is not something that one's mind immediately associates with London.  We've never actually seen a picture of a bowler hatted banker standing beside a London Bobby with their arms around a propellor repair man, but today we found our man, who it turns out has been repairing propellors since 1958, and who politely chuckled when I told him I'd been breaking them since about then.

He would, he said wait breathlessly for the next few months until we could get our propellor to him.   

We, reassured by his undoubted experience, wandered off into the London sunset, Tube Map in hand.


Friday, October 11, 2013

The path well worn.
Paris to London 19th September


It was mid morning by the time the Eurostar brought us safely to a halt in St Pancras.  

We don't think we'll ever get over the novelty of hopping in a door in one country and hopping out the same door a few hours later to find ourselves in another.  It's strange to suddenly find ourselves surrounded by conversations in a language we can understand completely, and it's difficult for a time not to eavesdrop.

We giggled as we wandered down to Shelley's office opposite Harrods to pick up her keys, and marvel as we walk back to their flat past the Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace through Hyde Park at how we we will never take the many times we have spent with them here for granted.

As we climbed the last flight of stairs and turned the key to their flat, the effort of the past week or so combined with the nine kilometres we had walked in Paris and London with all our possessions in tow suddenly became apparent.  

Suddenly we felt as though we'd had enough for one day and it was barely lunchtime.  Thankfully the time we have spent here in the past meant that we had no pressing appointments with any of London's landmarks, so a nice sit over a long coffee on Queensway, followed by a snooze in the flat while briefly basking in what I understand from reading about it in books was actual sunlight, rounded out our day nicely.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

On the way
Lagarde to Paris 18th September

My goodness we woke up early.  Before the alarm.  Before daylight.  Before the temperature outside or anything else was civilised, but we had places to go, things to do, people to see, to say nothing of people to hug and once again to wish a very fond farewell with lumps in our throats.

We don't think too much about our commute back to our other home, but it always starts with big butterflies tromping around our stomachs as we lock the boat and hop in to Maggie's car for the ride to the station.   Once we are actually on the first train, the one that takes us from Luneville to Nancy, things settle a bit and we are in commuting mode, which is just as well, as we are taking a roundabout way home through London, Canada and the USA and our rough count says that we have another twenty or so connections to make before we sleep in our own bed again.

But that is for the future, tonight we are in Paris once again, having shared a splendid lunch with our friend Eric, even stumbling with him down a street he hadn't found before, and for a bloke who's been taking a photo of Paris every day for a decade, that's no mean feat.

Late in the evening we pinch ourselves as we often do, grateful for the opportunities that have brought us along the paths we travel and the people we have been so privileged to meet on them.

We are only in Paris for a night, but we are in Paris, and it's cold and wet and windy.

We are in Paris.  How good is that?

Finished!
Lagarde 17th September



As things often do, they worked out in the nick of time.  

The rain turned to storms which brought wind and exactly the opposite of optimum conditions for wrapping a ten metre boat in a series of five metre long tarpaulins, but at least storms relent from time to time, and when they do they allow just enough time to get a four by five metre tarpaulin unfolded but not tied before lashing out again!

It may not have been the smoothest, nor neatest job that's ever been, but by the middle of the afternoon, the outside of the boat was looking almost as shipshape as the inside.

A long dinner with Jacques and Maggie, an early-ish night and a sleep that would be too short was all that remained of our time in Lagarde this year.

Finally!
Lagarde 16th September


Last time I glanced at the calendar it was Sunday, and when I glanced at the sky it was grey, and specks of water kept getting in my eyes.

It's a little more intermittent than it has been of late though, the rain, and a little more restrained, so I finally got the scrubbing of Mr Perkins' bedroom finished, and even, with a little judicious use of the tent over the picnic table in the port, got a few coats of paint on the engine bed.

The interior jobs, with someone far more diligent than I in charge, are of course complete, except for some final fussing which, if things go as they usually do will continue until the cab arrives the morning after tomorrow.

Getting the covers on may be a little problematic though, a quick glance at the weather forecast for today and tomorrow shows a very clear dark grey cloud with lots of dark grey rainy symbols coming from them.  After that, it gets really interesting:  "Expect rainy weather tuesday through to Thursday" it says, as if over the past month or so anyone has been expecting any other kind.

The pointy end of "time to go"
Lagarde 15th September



At the end of every season for us, chaos reigns supreme.

While some of our friends (you know who you are) simply close the doors and windows and kiss their boats goodbye for another winter, our dear thing is best treated with a little more care.   It's the leaks you see.  

A couple doggedly remain, haunting us by disappearing whenever we are aboard, reappearing when we are not, and intriguingly dripping on the forward berth more or less only when someone is sleeping in it.

It's not smart to trust a repair that hasn't been tested, and it's not actually possible to repair when wet, so we sort out our cupboards, pack everything in bags, wrap the boat in semi-custom fitted tarpaulins, and leave.    All of that though, takes a few days in fine weather and we are now finding out, a few more in wet, but the back is broken and none too soon.  

The mess is almost gone.

Suddenly we are, we think,  despite all the wetness and adversity, in fairly good shape!

The sunset does not reflect the truth of the matter!
Lagarde 14th September

If one examines the above photograph very carefully, one may notice a glorious deep illumination as the setting sun glows beneath a picturesque steel grey sky.   If one has seen all of that, one then needs to ask what a picturesque steel grey sky represents.

If one asks that, one who was present at the time might be tempted to respond with perhaps just the slightest hint of exasperation: "Rain.  Buckets of it.  Relentless.  All day".

So then one may wonder how the fitting of the winter covers has been going, or the cleaning of the engine bay perhaps, or how about the repainting of the engine bed?   One would be advised to wonder that rather than asking out loud because one would not want to actually be in a position of allowing a response.

It's not as though the rain stopped at all except for a few brief moments of photographic goodness, even then it was as though it was simply taking another deeper breath before dumping another gazillion buckets on us.

We have now spread our various tasks out so far and so deep within the confines of the boat that we are starting to have some vague misgivings as to whether we can get finished in time to depart.

It will be OK in the end, it always is, but we are allowed to doubt aren't we?

At least tomorrow the forecast is for rain.  That will be a nice change.

Big marks where he's been.
Lagarde 13th September



When Mr Perkins left for his holiday, he didn't bother to clean up after himself, he just sort of jiggled away on Duncan's trailer singing a merry song.

We have four days of rain left before we leave, and the list of jobs which we didn't do last year has been growing at a distressing rate, soon to become the list of jobs we didn't do this year either I'm afraid, but no matter what the weather, we have to clean up the engine bay before Mr P's return.  

Normally the term "we" in connection with work of this nature is code for "someone other than l, but since sadly she was rather occupied doing equally or even more productive stuff like cleaning the backs of all the cupboards to within an inch of their lives, there was no one else left in the line of volunteers.

All was not lost though, with a bit of gentle convincing, Bill came to the rescue tying us to another boat and dragging our dear engineless mess to somewhere within reach of the steam cleaning rig.   If I was going to get wet and messy, at least it would be warm water.

Even steam and some sort of chemical so vicious that it made my eyes water and what was left of my skin turn a deathly colour, couldn't remove all of the third of a century of oily sludge that had seeped into the pores of the fibreglass, but it made a promising start.

It took nearly as long to get the mess off me though, and when I finally did, one can only imagine how much I was looking forward to doing it all again on the morrow using only a scrubbing brush and gritted teeth.
Look at me, look at me,  Lagarde 12th September

One of the disadvantages of living on a boat with no motor, is that one can't actually go back to one's berth without some form of assistance, so we thought we'd just stay next to the crane for a while.

While sitting near the crane there seemed no point in not actually hooking a sling under the boat and having a look at things.

Crane time is expensive of course, and Michel was in the middle of a few other jobs, and I wanted to inconvenience him as little as possible, so made a great show of rushing round with pencil and paper and tape measure, variously measuring and wiggling things as I saw fit.

Wiggling.  That's an interesting word when used to describe movement of the underwater parts of the boat, particularly when those parts in the normal course of events are not, according to the manual, supposed to wiggle.   Apparently it is not a good sign if a propellor wiggles up and down, nor for that matter is it a particularly good one if a rudder wiggles in any direction other than side to side.  Our brief sojourn out of the water had yielded at least two signs that weren't good!

My head wiggled a bit in Michel's direction, and he wiggled his back in mine in a valiant attempt to show he understood and was sympathetic, but looking into his eyes I could see him thinking "well no prizes for guessing what Bill and I will be doing this winter!".

I nodded and while I was quietly counting the cost of what we may need to do on my thumbs and toes, the boat was gently lowered back into the water.

Mr Perkins goes to town .. or somewhere like that.
Lagarde 11th September


Duncan was due to arrive at about ten, and the thing that is entirely un-French about Duncan (if one ignores for instance his name, or perhaps his accent) is that if he says he will be somewhere at about ten, he means about ten.

One of the problems with being in France and having someone actually arriving when they say they will, is that no one will be there to meet with them if they do.    Thus it was that at exactly ten minutes to about ten, Michel was still having a few problems with the boat that was being held up by the crane, Bill had been called to an emergency breakdown an hour away, and the rain started coming down in buckets of stuff that could almost pass for party ice.

Michel, being Michel, immediately secured his project, sorted out the crane slings for us and proceeded to oversee the operation.   In no time at all we had all the lifting bits in place and the crane not struggling at all, but Mr Perkins hung on grimly, like a pre-schooler clinging to his mother's skirt on the first day of school.

All bolts were free, yet his mounts refused to budge, even while lifting the boat entirely out of the water.   Once again someone called for the emergency hammer and a big pipe, and once again substantial force was brought to bear until finally he released his grip.  Defeated, Mr Perkins sat quietly and perfectly still while Duncan bolted him to the pads on his trailer floor, and as far as we know behaved himself all the way to his winter home.

If we felt awkward yesterday living in a boat with an engine that was disconnected, living on a boat with no engine just felt weird.

Mr P's last hurrah!
Lagarde 10th September


Tomorrow is the big day.

Duncan is due to arrive for the extraction of Mr P so there was no mucking around today we just had to have all the disconnections done and hopefully the wiring connections recorded to give us some hope of getting it all back in the right order in six month's time.

Disconnecting is quite a simple task really, it involves taking the nuts of the electrical connections, letting them touch in a shower of spark and crackle, neatly tripping the safety switch and saving one from having to scratch around to find the right circuit breaker to isolate.

Once the electrical connections are sorted, one removes the fuel line, screams frantically for something to catch the trickling diesel, reconnects the fuel line, finds a suitable receptacle and turns off the fuel tap at the tank, disconnects the fuel line, and so on.

Thus it was that with almost no drama at all, there were only the engine mounts to undo.    By that time it was raining sufficiently hard that I was able to find something to do in the heated saloon, while Bill struggled away in the rain, cursing silently in seven languages as each tool brought to free the bolts failed in new and spectacular fashion.   Eventually he managed to find the right combination of big hammer, water pipe and belligerence, while completely ignoring my continual stream of very good suggestions, and Mr P sat on his beds, disconnected, awaiting his fate.

As the sun set, we were left pondering how awkward it felt, living on a boat with no means of propulsion.

Ready and rearing to go!
Lagarde 9th September




We hadn't really expected to be in Lagarde today, but one thing led to another and by the time we were half way across Belgium last night it didn't seem sensible to stop and now here we are once again in the cold and the drizzle.

We woke with a million things to do, and we were quite keen to get started but it was raining and miserable and even indoor jobs don't feel particularly inspiring for us, so we didn't.  Instead we lay about with hot coffee (tea for her ladyship), biscuits and books as long as we could, which turned out to be quite a long while really.  

Eventually we pushed through the lethargy and pottered, sorting cupboards, splicing new tie down ropes, drinking coffee and resting in front of the heater, all the while making copious notes so we could remember where things are when we return.

Whenever the rain slowed to a cold drizzle I did sneak out to look and postulate on whether I should detach a wire or two from Mr Perkins, but I couldn't get round the feeling that if the rain doesn't stop tomorrow, it might not be a pleasant task at all and perhaps I may be able to persuade Bill to stand out there in the wet and cold playing with our disconnections,.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Finding Vanessa and Maarten
Jisp to Lagarde via Volendam, Marken and Urtrecht - 8th September



If one types "find Chuck Norris" into a Google search box and then hits the "I'm feeling lucky" button, one will receive a message to the effect that Google cannot complete the request, as you don't just find Chuck Norris, Chuck Norris finds you.

That's exactly what happened when we tried to find Vanessa and Marty.  Instead of traipsing around the country in search of them, they arranged to find us somewhere nearby, in this case the little tourist village of Volendam, from where we would travel together to the ancient and World Heritage listed island village of Marken.  

The original plan was to catch the ferry across the bay, but despite the impression given by the photograph, and the optimism of yesterday's sunset, the weather was rather inclement, or bleakish really not to put to fine a point on it, so after finding each other we decided to avail ourselves of the relatively recently completed land connection, twenty minutes or so away by car.  

This was a good thing from several points of view, for instance when we arrived it was exactly in time for lunch (fried eel rolls all round) and any clue that the day had begun with rain and decidedly bitter winds had entirely and completely magically changed into something from a postcard.  We spent a wonderful few hours under clear blue skies sitting like a group of locals in the baking sun.

In the course of our conversation we discovered that Marty's grandfather was having his ninety-something birthday party back in their home town, and they had been resigned to arriving several hours late after making their multiple bus, ferry and train connections.   Since we were now travelling by car, and Utrecht was more or less on our way back to France, it was hardly a challenge to get them to the party on time.

Our change of plan worked nicely for us too.  We were happy to have saved a few hours on the ferry in what turned out to be quickly deteriorating weather in the afternoon and we were in truth quite anxious to get back to Lagarde as well, to the boat to supervise Mr Perkins' removal and just to settle ourselves for a bit as we quietly begin the wintering process.

So our mini-break in Holland ended as it had begun, with a tortuous six hundred kilometre drive, tortuous this time because of the weather not the Sunday evening traffic, but the ending to these trips is always the same:  We arrived home once again tired but happy!

Finding Dave and Ria
Amsterdam - 7th September



We have lived for the past year with the gestation of "Max" never far from our thoughts. Dave and Ria's have kept us up to date with progress on their boat right up to the time that it was launched just a month ago, and now  have it proudly on display at the on water boat show in Amsterdam.  It was time we became acquainted!

We arrived with time to kill before our appointed meeting time with them all.  Sitting quietly waiting for the gates to open, a gentleman in suitably boatish attire approached and asked us if we would like to go into the show.   Puzzled, we enquired if he was Hans, Dave and Ria's boatbuilder-friend, but no he was just an exhibitor who had for some reason decided that we would like to use his guest passes, which of course we would, so he ignored our puzzled expressions and happily ushered us through the cordon of security people and into the heart of the show.

This turn of good fortune came on top of the odd circumstance of our arrival in the carpark before anyone had arrived to man it. After making several enquiries as to how or who we should pay, the consensus seemed to be that if no one was there then parking would be free for us for the day.

Perhaps if the sun had shone all day, things could have been more perfect, but I doubt it.   A day among friends, among boats, not to mention meeting the beautiful Max (if that is the right word to describe a boy-boat), with food to match and without dipping into one's pocket is about as good as things get.

We had to leave eventually of course, and when we did it was with a contented glow within, that matched the magical sunset which seemed to cap off the day and at the same time fill the world with optimism for the morrow, and a our heads with the thought that perhaps the forecast for miserable weather would be wrong.

Finding somewhere to park
Assen to Jisp - 6th September



The centre of Assen did its best to convince us it was washing day as we pottered about in the morning with Trish and Andrew  discussing life over coffee and cake before somewhat reluctantly moving on.  Although we never did get to the bottom of the street decoration, we suspect that it may have been some sort of celebration of a long, hot and unusually fine summer.

Unhappily for those who really needed their laundry dry, there were signs that all of that was about to end.  The skies became increasingly overcast as we headed north and they finally began to dribble just a bit about the time we drove through Sneek.  About half an hour later we were midway across the thirty kilometre dyke that stops the ocean pouring into the Zuiderzee and after that into the whole country for that matter, when things became decidedly worse and we found ourselves driving in something approaching gale conditions.

Even with the miracle of the telephone App telling us where to go, finding an unmarked guesthouse in a street that was not quite wide enough to allow a car to pass while simultaneously trying to decide whether it was simply raining very hard or if indeed we had run into a canal was just a little problematic. Eventually we found what seemed to be the only small car-sized piece of land above water level even remotely close to our accommodation and parked, a little relieved to have arrived at our destination and not to have to move until the morrow.

But our relief was short lived.  The Bistro below our room was fully booked for the evening, with a hundred guests apparently intent on partaking of a special goose-derived menu, and not a place left for ourselves.  This of course left us seeking sustenance in a village elsewhere, and more importantly perhaps, giving up our parking space for any of the hundred diners at the bistro.  We wondered as we departed, whether we'd have any chance at all of finding a car space on our return within kilometres of our spot.

We need not have worried.

On our return we discovered that every one of the diners had arrived by bicycle, and while there were still scores of them enjoying their feast, their bicycles were piled high along the canal banks, and our car space was left thoughtfully vacant, ready for our return.

This is the Netherlands after all.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Finding Trish and Andrew
Steenwijk to Assen 5th September



In contrast to the instructions from our Canadian friends, or perhaps those could have been better described as "hints", our now receive-only non-roaming telephone buzzed with a text message from Andrew and Trish with clear instructions as to their whereabouts, complete with a position in latitude and longitude, presumably in case we had a handy sextant in the bottom of our bags.  

It was a bit easier for them to predict their whereabouts as they were awaiting the delivery of new batteries and therefore movement was improbable.

We didn't have a sextant of course, but the App on our phone made a reasonable imitation and took no time at all to calculate that our day's journey would be approximately forty kilometres and should take us somewhat less than an hour, which would give us plenty of time to travel via Gietshoorn, "the Venice of Holland".    

We were still musing over this description, and whether sometime in the future we might find the "Amsterdam of Italy", when we came across a lovely boatshed with a cafe attached at exactly lunch o'clock.   The array of traditional wooden skiffs with electric motors seemed to be begging to be hired as we loafed our way through our quiche and coffee on a perfectly clear sunny day.

We hadn't been afloat for several hours, and it was going to be at least another several before we'd be aboard a boat again so we decided that instead of dessert we would spend an hour pottering among the houses and the marshland.

Perhaps because we were completely reinvigorated from our injection of seafaring, or maybe it was the GPS in the phone, we managed to drive almost to the stern of Trish and Andrew's boat without so much as a wrong turn or even stopping for directions.

Finding Sunny and Al
Lagarde to Steenwijk - Netherlands September 4



"We'll be  north of Kampen and south of Sneek and that's all we know right now".  With a complete understanding of what they meant and and the difficulty we all face in pinning down our potential whereabouts when travelling by boat, we punched instructions firmly into the GPS, and set off in search of Sunny and Al.

We had intended to phone them for further directions when we were somewhere north of Kampen but we were not to know that at the end of a six-hour drive across four countries, which commenced substantially later than we would have liked, in a car substantially more uncomfortable than we would have liked, in traffic substantially heavier than we would have liked, that the roaming function on our phone would substantially absent itself?   Interestingly we could receive messages but not send any form of outward communication, which left us wondering whether the best strategy would be to find a cafe and sit there for long enough for someone to become worried, or at least curious as to our whereabouts, at which time, perhaps they'd phone to enquire about our health.

But we were now in Holland, a place where in contrast to that from whence we had come, things are ordered, cleaned and ritually tidied, and where if the person one is addressing in English does not understand, he or she will know someone who does, so we pressed on with fingers crossed.  Besides, our hosts were not the worrying kind, and in fairness to them probably had the utmost faith in our ability to find a needle in a haystack.

To be even fairer Al had narrowed the search area somewhat in an email which had been received but not opened by the time of our delayed departure, and it wasn't long after finding it that we found ourselves driving around the waterways of Steenwijk.  

With almost no fuss at all we found a familiar blue boat with a Canadian flag flying from its stern, made ourselves at home and settled in to swap stories as though this was the last time we were going to see each other for another two weeks.   Which if all goes to plan, is exactly the case.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The road trip begins!
Lagarde - Luneville - Lagarde, 3 September


In the absence of anyone in a position to offer a lift to Luneville, and for reasons which are otherwise quite inexplicable other than there was probably some cleaning that needed to be done and I was looking for a reason not to be around for an hour or two, I decided to cycle the twenty-seven kilometres into town to the hire car place and fold the bike neatly into the boot of the car for the return trip rather than engage the local taxi service.  

At the moment of my decision however, the other of us seemed to be looking around for something to clean to avoid accompanying me on the journey.    

This is the sort of thing that was part of our thinking when we bought the bikes last year after all.  We had gone to a lot of trouble to find a cycle model with geometry which would give some hope of providing some comfort over a distance and would be able to travel at touring speeds.

We really should act with the courage of our conviction, so it was decided that perhaps it was only right that the one who held those firm convictions should test them and report back.

The day began clear and crisp and perfect for a ride through the countryside, a little warm in the sunshine, a little too cool in the shadows, but perfect for a ride none the less, and I set off in great spirits pedalling like a champion for the first two hundred metres at least.

It had not occurred to me before during the many taxi rides and drives that we had taken along the route, that the reason there is no canal to Luneville is that it is on the top of a hill.   Conversely, the reason there is a canal through Lagarde is that it is at the bottom of a hill.

The road as it turns out is relentlessly in the up direction for the first nine kilometres, after which it tends to steepen generally in the same direction not reaching anything like a plateau until the outskirts of Luneville itself.   This turned out to be a fine test for old legs and little wheels, which it must be said combined valiantly to make quite a good pace, even if at the expense of the leisurely meandering envisaged at the outset of the journey.

At my destination, as I folded the bike into the boot of car as the nice man handed me the keys with a cheery reminder that we had unlimited kilometres allowed in our agreement, and as I always do, I feigned surprise and thanked him very much, with nary a hint of a smirk.  Will they never learn?

She does like her comfort
Lagarde - 2 September



Tomorrow we pick up the car, and the productivity fever that hit so suddenly yesterday reached something of a peak as we cleaned and pulled things apart and had deep and meaningful conversations with Bill about what did and didn't need to be done to the boat over winter, or for that matter in our absence so that it would be ready for Duncan's visit on our return next week.

We were having a little think, Bill and I, about ways of solving the minor leaks which have plagued us for years, without completely dismantling the windows when suddenly inspiration gurgled past.

By taking a leaf out of the book of this craft and simply not bothering with any windows we would overcome the need for any sealant with all its attendant unreliability.  We would never have trouble with their heater either, but would need to have a goodly number of blankets and sleeping bags in those boxes for when the temperature took a turn for the worst.

We've seen this intrepid couple a few times now over the past couple of years and while their raft is called "With Pleasure III and on those glorious summer days it we're sure it livse up to its name, in some conditions it does have the potential to be a little less pleasurable.   Indeed when conditions take a turn for the worse, in sleet and rain and cold for instance, we can only think that it is so much less pleasurable that the fate of its two predecessors needs no further description.

On balance, I suspect we'll be thinking some more about those leaks.

A short break - Lagarde 1 September


For the first time since the beginning of summer, we seem to have the right combination of weather, tools spare parts and motivation to get some serious maintenance projects underway and there is a small window of sunshine on its way so we need to make the most of it.

So we have decided to go away for a week or so until that feeling has gone.  Most of the year's washing is done now anyway, and it's really only the terrible, grubby unexciting work that remains to be done, the sort of work that we put off last year until this, and this year until now, so a little more delay won't hurt.

We have been inspired somewhat by being in the midst of all those holiday makers so we have arranged to hire a car and will embark on a short driving holiday through the Netherlands, catching up with several of our cruising friends in the process.

That decision to do nothing seemed to snap us out of our lethargy, and suddenly the boat became a hive of activity, a hive in which even the drone was suddenly hit with an urge to make and do.

It's nice to be home
Lagarde 31 August



Oh it's fun to be back home, and as if to emphasise that we belong here, the weather has taken a sudden turn for the better.  Sparkling sunlight greeted us this morning, and we responded by waving a line full of washing at it.

The sun has created a buzz around the hire boat base as well.   There is a real excitement in the sunshine that is often noticeably muted when the weather is poor.   We rather enjoy sharing the excitement of the families and groups as they turn up to hire their boat for a week or even a weekend's adventure on the high seas.    Watching them earnestly and nervously taking their lessons on what for many is the first time in a boat, and returning at the end of their cruise either in the same high spirits, or wrung out, hung over and ready for the relief of another week at work.

There is a sort of symbiosis between us, the live-aboards in the port and those weekend sailors.

We laugh at them and take photos as they drink their beer bare topped in fifteen degree sunshine, in their sailor hats and their funny flags.  In turn, they laugh just as incredulously and point and take photos of us in our jumpers hanging out our washing.