Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Decorating Time

When we bought our house five years ago, we were lucky that it had just been painted throughout. The house needed very little work and in fact the biggest jobs we undertook were replacing the living/dining room and bathroom flooring. The rest of the house, barring a few minor bits and pieces in the kitchen was ready to go. The walls throughout the house are the same shade of magnolia, which whilst giving the house a neutral modern feel is a little on the boring side. We didn’t do anything about it however as it was all freshly painted.

Five years on and the walls are starting to look a little grubby in places so we can start to make our own mark on the house and give it some colour again. We won’t be choosing bright or garish colours, we like more muted and natural shades, but we will start to give each room its own individual feel again rather than it being one big lump of magnolia.

The first room we aim to tackle will be the kitchen/breakfast room. We spend a lot of time in this room, cooking and socialising, it is the real hub of the home, so it seems right to give this room a lift first. We will keep the white ceilings as this gives the room a fresh look and makes the ceilings appear higher; however we are going to paint the walls in a lovely coffee brown shade to compliment the natural limestone tiling, white units and cherry wood effect work surfaces. We also plan to fit some new flooring, the laminate we inherited has served its purpose well but we really don’t like it and it looks cheap and nasty. We are trying to find some retro styled black and white chequered vinyl flooring, which will fit in with the retro theme and the old metal signs on the walls.

Next on the hit list will be the master bedroom. Perhaps not the most obvious place to jump to after the kitchen, but this is a large and airy room that needs making the most of. The master bedroom runs the full length of the house with windows on both the front and rear elevations, making this room light and bright at all times of the day and with great views over the city from the rear of the house this is a great opportunity to make this room a little bit special. The carpeting in this room, as with the whole of upstairs is fine and will just need a quick once over with the carpet cleaner to spruce it up a little. The walls are in good condition and just need a lick of paint. As with the kitchen we intend to keep the white ceilings and woodwork, but in this room we plan to paint the walls in a pale, muted shade of blue. We hope to give the room a relaxed, seaside feel and as the room is so large we will also be able to introduce a comfy leather tub chair to compliment the bed and a small white coffee table in front of the rear window, to create a space to relax with a good book and enjoy the views across the city.

The aim is to eventually decorate throughout the house but we are going to take it one room at a time and starting with the kitchen and bedroom will hopefully give us some great ideas for the rest of the house. We won’t be in any great rush with the decorating and will take it as and when it comes along, but we hope to bring the house to life in colours that we like and will enjoy. We have thoroughly enjoyed our five years in Foxhill so far, we have had our ups and downs, but the house has served us well and it is now time to start repaying it with some TLC. Watch this space for further updates and progress reports on this little project.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Battery Power Update

As this seems to be a boater’s favourite topic, right up there with toilet talk, here’s a little update for you. It has been a year since we upgraded our battery bank and what a difference it has made. For those new to the blog here is a little background on the story. When we bought Naughty-Cal she only had one 90 amp leisure battery of unknown age and condition, this was fine for a year or so but gradually became more unreliable, before at the end of 2010 letting us down week after week. At the beginning of 2011 we changed all of our batteries, upgrading the domestic bank to two 105 amp Varta, sealed domestic batteries and a new sealed Bosch starter battery.

The difference has been quite simply astounding. We have cruised far and wide over the last twelve months on our holidays and also weekend cruising and have not once seen the volt meter drop below 12.4V. The one time the volt meter did reach 12.4V we had been moored in the same place for almost three days, in December with the heating on most of the time and lighting on a lot as well. For the majority of last year the volt meter rarely got down to 12.6V. We don’t tend to stay in one place for too long preferring to move on every day and we often cruise for long days ensuring that the batteries are well topped up by the time we moor up for the evening.

Of course we know that when out cruising the batteries will rarely, if ever, be topped back up to 100% full or 100% state of charge. Due to a batteries complex nature the last part of the charge takes a long time to be achieved, however we are lucky enough to have a source of shore power on our mooring and a decent four stage battery charger to keep the batteries in tip top condition. This means that each weekend or holiday that we set off from our berth the batteries are as full as they will ever be.

Given the vast improvement of the performance of our 12V systems and the greatly improved power reserves we have available, we are certain that upgrading our battery bank was the correct thing for us to do. All too often people attempt to solider on with dead or dying batteries that let them down and are unreliable. Granted it was a big outlay to purchase the equipment in the first instance but for the peace of mind it brings and the improved quality of our time onboard it has been well worth the expense. At the first signs of unreliability from our current battery bank, we will be buying replacements. We won’t even attempt to plod on with dying batteries. It just isn’t worth it. There is no saving in the long run. It is far cheaper to buy new batteries then to have to run the engine for hours on end, especially with the fuel consumption we are treated to.

As an aside to this and given the extra battery capacity we now enjoy, we are considering adding a larger inverter to the boat. Our current 300 watt (900W peak, 300W continuous) inverter is great for powering the electric blanket and the slow cooker whilst we are out and about but cannot power the kettle or the immersion heater. It isn’t very often that we stay in one place long enough whilst out cruising to need the immersion heater but on occasion it would have been handy. The heating element on our tank is rated at 1100 watts and takes about fifteen minutes to heat a full tank of water from cold. This would equate to around 95Ah at 12V or in the region of 25 amps to heat our hot water over a fifteen minute period. Not a huge amount of power and we wouldn’t use if very often but it is there for the odd time we spend a few days in the same spot.

It is the kettle where the real benefit will lie. Currently we use the gas kettle when we are not on shore power, this often results in us using the hob whilst the engine is running and we are cruising. The more obvious solution would be to let the engine and alternator do the work rather than spending a small fortune on gas. Our electric kettle is a small 1050 watt two cup affair which boils in around four minutes. In 12V terms this equates to around 90Ah taking into account some inverter losses. As the kettle takes around four minutes to boil it will consume around 6 amps from the batteries each time we use it, (60/4 = 15 90/15 = 6). Not a huge amount of power to reinstate.

As you can probably see we are planning to take full advantage of our increased battery capacity and this year’s cruising season should see us benefiting greatly from the upgrades we have planned. Hopefully the batteries will continue to give good and reliable service again this year. More updates as the year progresses.

Friday, 27 January 2012


Neither I nor Liam has ever been a great fan of soup as a main meal. We always thought it a bit bland, boring and unsatisfying. It has always conjured up images of watery offerings force fed to sick people on hospital wards.

We were introduced to the world of modern soups by our narrowboating friends who accompanied us on our trip to West Stockwith in November of last year. They supplied a fantastic brunch of sweet potato and dry cured bacon soup served with bread and butter followed by a lovely walnut cake and coffee. The soup was thick, flavoursome and extremely filling, a complete contrast to our previous encounters with this popular dish.

We have since been experimenting with different flavours of soup and are gradually finding flavours we like. Soup makes a great easy lunchtime meal; most of the supermarkets now offer fresh soup in cartons that take just a few minutes to heat up and are as good as homemade versions in a fraction of the time taken to make your own. One thing to watch though is the salt content. The salt content of supermarket own brand soups tends to be higher than the branded fresh soups.

We have tried the Tesco branded Curried Vegetable soup. This was bursting with flavours and had a lovely thick texture making for an extremely filling lunchtime meal when served with multiseed batch bread and butter. Last weekend it was the turn of Covent Garden’s “Jammin Jamaica” soup, a blend of sweet potato and jerk seasoning. It sounded nice on the shelf and it certainly lived up to our expectations offering a warm and satisfying brunch on a chilly, windy Saturday lunchtime. The perfect mix of flavour, texture and spice in a quick and easy to make package.

We have been genuinely surprised by the range of modern soups on offer. They make for a super simple meal, quick to prepare, great to eat and perfect for rustling up at short notice on cold wintery days. We will certainly be adding cartons of soup to our range of food we eat whilst out and about cruising and look forward to trying many more wide and varied flavours on offer.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Weight Distribution

As Naughty-Cal is a small planing hulled vessel we have to pay particular attention to how we distribute weight around the boat. Weighing in at just 2.4 tonnes (dry weight) she is extremely sensitive to uneven loading. What appears to be a slight list whilst stationary can turn into an alarming angle of tilt once the boat has jumped up out of the water and onto the plane with the gunnels skimming the surface of the water, quite a scary experience the first few times it happens.

Your average displacement hulled vessel will never achieve fast enough speeds for a slight list to become anything more than an annoyance, however on planing hulled vessels it can become a safety issue if the boat veers off to either side during flight especially if within the confines of a tight river channel.

It took us most of our first summers cruising to get to the bottom of how we should distribute weight evenly throughout Naughty-Cal. Being a small boat you don’t have a lot of choice as to where items can be stored. It was a summer long battle of moving items around until we had achieved a happy medium with the boat sitting almost level port to starboard. Whilst stationary Naughty-Cal does sit slightly bow down as we have a lot of heavy items in the anchor locker, however this does have the benefit of helping her jump onto the plane quicker. The bow is lifted somewhat, by a couple of inches, when we have the dinghy and outboard hung on the transom. This takes some getting used to for a day or two and is especially noticeable when in bed in the midships cabin or when cooking in the galley.

We have just had a particularly thorough clear out of the boat resulting in quite a weight of unwanted items, junk and general clutter being removed from around the boat. It will be interesting to see what effect this has had on both the performance and the trim angle of the boat when we eventually get to open her up again. I suspect we will have a bit of a task getting Cal to sit level again, even though we have made every effort to distribute the weight evenly through the cabin, and it will probably take several attempts to get her planing in a relatively straight line again. This is all part of the parcel of owning a flighty, little sports boat and something we have had to get used to.

The levels of the tank fluids can also have a drastic effect on the trim of the boat. With the black water tank full and the fresh water and diesel tanks getting towards empty Cal sits more noticeably bow down. With the black water tank empty the bow raises significantly. The diesel tank is towards the rear of the boat and at 225 litres has a large effect on the vessels stance. With the tank empty the stern of the boat can be an inch or so higher out of the water. We try to ensure that the diesel and water tanks are topped up on a regular basis to counteract these trim issues but on occasion, whilst out cruising they can run a little low and start playing with the angles of the boat.

As you can see there is more to this sports boating malarkey than first meets the eye. It isn’t always the glamorous pastime that people perceive. A lot of thought, time and effort have to go into the boat before you can begin to start using it to its full potential and enjoying the freedom it brings. We didn’t have a clue how important weight distribution would be when we bought Naughty-Cal and it is only through our own experiences that we have learnt how sensitive to change she really is.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Neglected Garden

I am ashamed to say that last year our garden didn’t get the attention or care that it deserves, so this year we have both agreed that we will spend much more time in the garden during the evenings after work.
We were lucky when we bought our house that it has had owners and tenants who have been green fingered and as such we have a well stocked garden with many mature and well established plants, shrubs and trees. We have over the last five years added to this stock, mainly with dwarf fruit trees but also with a number of ornamental plants and shrubs. The garden is relatively low maintenance and easy to look after, the hedges and lawns are the time consuming items that need the most attention. Last year we lost a number of plants due to the harsh winter, some have started to grown again; others will need to be replaced with new stock to fill in some glaring holes in the landscaping.

Luckily Liam’s parents have just moved into a new house which has mature gardens stocked with many well established and interesting plants. Come spring this will give us a great opportunity to take cuttings from these plants and introduce some much needed new and varied planting stock into our own gardens. Amongst the plants we have chosen to take cuttings from are Schumach, Variegated Holly, Scots Pine and a plain dark green Holly. In exchange we will give them cuttings from our many house plants including Dragon tree, spider plant and orange tree and the pup from our Mother in Law’s tongue. This exchange should give us enough plants to restock our gardens; however it will be some time before they become mature and established enough to make a real impact on the gardenscape.

With the gardens restocked, tidied up and generally looking much more presentable we may be more inclined to spend our evenings at home relaxing in the open air, instead of wallowing in front of the TV for hours on end. The BBQ at home didn’t get used at all last year despite the great weather we enjoyed so we are both looking forward to evenings spent in the garden cooking on the coals.

We bought our house so that we could enjoy the open space that it afforded, yet last year we failed to make the most of arguably one of the best features of our property. We pay handsomely for the pleasure of our own home, so this year we plan to make the most of it and enjoy it to the maximum. Neither of us is particularly green fingered, and you don’t have to be to enjoy the benefits of outdoors space. Trial and error and a few mistakes along the way soon teach you the ways of the garden. Gardening needn’t be an expensive hobby either. Taking cuttings from your friends and families existing plants will provide you with free stock for your garden, you just need to give them some initial love and attention to ensure that they grow on successfully and strongly.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Our Most Memorable Moment of 2011

Whilst we are looking forward to this year’s cruising opportunities and the chance to explore new and varied waterways we have also been looking back at our most memorable moments of 2011. There were a few to choose from but there could only really be one winner. What a day. It was of course our day spent at anchor in Blakeney Bay. You don’t get many days like this and we feel privileged to have been able to experience this so soon into our boating careers.

The day started bright and early, we had spent the evening moored on the fuel berth at Goodchilds on the Southern Broads ready for an early refuel as soon as the office opened. By 8am we had both boats refuelled and both crews fed and watered and with the tide now low enough we could leave the Norfolk Broads and head for home. We had a fantastic early morning sprint across Breydon Water, no hire boats around at this time, before turning into Great Yarmouth port and heading for the sea. An hour later we emerged from the walls of the harbour onto a brilliant blue sea. The weather and sea state could not have been much better as we hugged the Norfolk coastline cruising north. The boats were both on song, taking the slight chop in their strides and easily eating up the miles. All too soon, about two hours after we set off, we were within sight of Blakeney Harbour entrance and the resident seals. A closer look at the harbour entry revealed we wouldn’t make it past the sand bar, which also meant we were far too early to enter the harbour at Wells next the Sea, so we turned the boats around and headed for the bay just a short hop further up the coast.

With our positions chosen, the anchors were dropped, anchor alarms set, and a tense 15 minutes was spent onboard ensuring that the anchors had set successfully. At this stage the tide was still dropping but didn’t have much further to go, we had chosen a spot tucked right up by the beach in just 6ft of water, so as a precaution we lifted the drive just to be on the safe side and to prevent it nudging the bottom as the boat gently rocked on the anchor with the action of the gentle waves. With nothing left to do but sit back and relax and with the sun beating down, we grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge and watched the seals playing between the boats and the sea birds diving for their dinners.

After an hour with the tide now turned and the anchor still holding nicely, we lowered the dinghy and made a bee line for the golden beach. There was not a soul on the beach bar us and our friends, just the four of us on miles of golden unspoilt sand, not a spot of litter to be seen. The resident seals took an instant interest in the four strangers trespassing on their beach and were astonishingly brave and upfront. They were coming within a few feet of the water’s edge, before taking an about turn and disappearing into the surf. As we took the tenders back to the mothership’s the seals swam next to the dinghies, treating us to a real lesson in swimming and diving. There was still an hour to kill but by now the water level was rising and our 6ft of water had now turned into 12ft, we would soon be able to enter Wells on the early afternoon tide. We enjoyed the last hour of our time here basking in the glorious sunshine not a care in the world, with a beer in our hands we could have been anywhere in the world at that moment.
All too soon it was time to lift anchor and set off for the safety of the harbour. With the boats safely moored up for the night, it was time to find lunch, fish and chips of course and a beer or three in one of the pubs. The perfect end to the perfect day.

Unfortunately this was to prove to be the calm before the storm and we spent a horrendous three days being battered by a Force 8 North Easterly storm blowing straight down the harbour entry. This somewhat spoiled our stay in Wells but has not put us off from going again. We plan to head there again sometime this year, most likely at the end of July.

So there you have it, our most memorable moment of 2011.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Let The Work Commence

It’s another weekend and it will be another busy one. We have a whole host of jobs to be cracking on with and as we won’t be at the boat next weekend we have double the work to be going at.

My first job of the weekend will be finishing off the spring clean and declutter of the cabin. Last weekend I tackled the galley and bedroom so this weekend it is the turn of the shower room and the saloon. The shower room shouldn’t take too long it was polished late on last year. It should just need a wipe around and hose down as we keep this room relatively clean and tidy but the saloon is a much bigger prospect. The wardrobe is full of junk that needs sorting and sifting through and the three storage lockers all need emptying, dejunking and cleaning out before making a start on vacuuming the carpets and upholstery. The curtains and shower curtain also need to be to be taken home and washed so that they are fresh and clean for the start of the summer cruising season. With this little lot finished the cabin should be ready for the off and will only need a weekly wipe around and vacuum to keep it looking at its best. This six monthly spring clean helps to keep the amount of unwanted junk and clutter at bay and also helps to shed some unnecessary weight which we have no need to cart around all year.

Whilst I am down below cleaning, Liam has a multitude of jobs to be tackling in the cockpit. Firstly this week he has taken the transom gate to work and retapped the threads on the hinge. This will be ready for refitting and should hopefully improve the opening and closing action of the gate. Another job ticked off the list. With the weather not looking great for cruising it might be a good chance to start mocking up the outboard bracket and trying out a few ideas. This has been a thorn in our side for nearly twelve months now, we need to get it sorted before April. We also have a flush fitting water resistant 240V socket to install in the cockpit. This needs a large hole cutting in the GRP bodywork so will need to be right the first time around. We still have not worked out the route for the cabling just yet so this job may wait for another weekend.

At some point during the weekend we need to have a trip to Torksey caravans to pick up a fold flat water hose and a 25m long shore power cable. These are items that we feel would benefit us during the summer months when we are out and about and should hopefully make for a much tidier clutter free boat (See post of 19.01.12 for further detail). Whilst in Torksey we normally call in at the Torksey Tea Rooms for a cup of coffee and a natter with Zan, the owner. We will also call in on the lockie to see what gossip he has for us and to quiz him on the new “improved” tide table that no one can figure out; we have a few questions about the timings of our Easter excursion which we are currently struggling to decipher.

With this little lot finished we should hopefully have some time to sit back and relax. With blustery winds forecast for the weekend, cruising looks likely to be out of the question but that needn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves in the marina. We have some lovely homemade meals planned for the weekend, so good food is definitely on the cards as I’m sure will be a good dose of Budweiser. It should be a productive yet enjoyable weekend if all goes to plan.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Cruising Season Accessories

With the 2012 cruising season fast approaching we are starting to gather together the accessories and items we need and want for this year to add to and improve our existing range of cruising accessories. As you cruise around on your boat you soon start to find items that will be of use to you and also find out that some of your existing accessories may not be the most suitable for the job.

Our list of items to buy for 2012 so far includes:

25m shore power lead. Our existing lead was far too long for daily use on our home berth. It was around 10m long, which was too long for our berth but often too short when we have travelled around, especially in sea ports and harbours where you can be moored three boats abreast. So we have shortened our existing lead to a more manageable length of around 4m for our home berth and will buy a longer 25m lead for occasional use when on holiday. We have found a suitable lead at Torksey caravans for about £28 so will be buying that this coming weekend.

Fold flat water hose. Our existing water hose is far too bulky and ungainly for general use and takes up far too much room on the boat. We plan to buy a 15m fold flat water hose on a small reel that will store away nicely in the cockpit and take up much less room. Our current hose will be left on the pontoon for general tank filling and boat washing whilst on our own berth with the new flat hose used whilst we are away from our berth and out cruising. Again we have found a suitable candidate at Torksey caravans for about £25 so will be buying that as well.

15m mooring ropes. Our existing mooring ropes are about 10m long, which is about the right length for general boat handling and day to day use. However we have found occasions where we have been moored three boats abreast and 10m ropes are just not long enough to reach back to the shore. A pair of 15m long ropes should be more than ample and with a couple of rope tidies will be able to hang under the cockpit table ready for use as and when necessary. We plan to buy the same navy blue Marlow braided rope that we currently use from the Newark Boat Jumble next month and expect to pay around about £25 for 30-40m of rope.

Crew bags. Our current small suitcases have suffered three years of weekly use and abuse and are now showing signs of giving up the ghost. They are starting to become ragged and in places jagged and we are now running the risk of damaging the boat with them. So we are on the lookout for a pair of crew bags which are about the same size and will fit nicely at the foot of the bed. Again we are hoping that Newark Boat Jumble will come up with the goods and we expect to pay in the region of £30 for a pair of bags.

We have already made inroads into buying some items. We bought a nifty little fold up trolley for transporting shopping supplies, mainly beer, whilst we are out on the boat. This has always been a sore subject as we have often carried cases of beer well over a mile to get back to the boat. Now with the trolley it should be child’s play and it folds away neatly under the cockpit seating taking up very little room.

It takes some time to gather together a full cruising package of items and accessories. It has taken us three years to piece together our current one and it is constantly evolving with new items added and some older items removed to make way for new ones. The only way to know what you will need is to get out there cruising and find out for yourself. A few items from our initial guess at what we would need, way back in 2008 when we bought NC, have survived the test of time and come in useful, namely the mooring pins, mallet, BW key and BW services card so we didn’t get it completely wrong the first time around.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Jobs Keep Coming

With the Christmas and New Year break out of the way we really have to start ticking some jobs off the to do list before we start the 2012 cruising season in earnest. We have managed to do a couple of the jobs but as ever more keep getting added to the list.

The major jobs on the list which must be finished before we go away are:

· The outboard bracket. It has been nearly a year since we bought Asbo and whilst the dinghy now sits nicely on the davits, the outboard is still being problematic and at this rate will spend the summer in the cockpit again. In all honesty a 6hp outboard is far too big to mount on the transom on Naughty-Cal but we think that we have a solution which will work so we need to mock it up in mild steel and try it out before we send the bracket away for fabricating in marine grade stainless steel.

· We need to rewire the radar arch. For some unknown reason since we replaced the anchor light the steaming or masthead all round white light has given up the ghost. It is getting power to the connector and wires running through the arch so the problem lies somewhere in the hoop wiring. It should not be a massive job to rewire it all but it needs doing quickly as our first few trips of the year will involve an element of night time and evening cruising.

· Install another 240V socket in the cabin and another in the cockpit. Since buying the slow cooker we have come across the need to install another 240V socket. The slow cooker sits perfectly on top of the gas stove lid, however there is no suitable socket near this area. The socket over the galley sink is used for the kettle and toaster so is no good for this reason. Installing another socket shouldn’t be a major issue and will put an end to trailing an extension lead across the boat from the socket next to the TV. We plan to install a socket which matches the current ones so that it doesn’t look out of place and will mirror the one adjacent the galley sink. We also need a socket in the cockpit area for the laptop and a coffee machine.

· Re tap the threads on the transom gate. The stainless steel transom gate we purchased last year has proven to be a bit of a sticking point of late. When we fitted it one of the threads on the fastening bolts was dodgy so we tried it with just three bolts tightened up. It worked fine for a while but has got progressively worse, to the point the gate is often impossible to open. The fix is fairly simple, Liam will take it to work and re tap the threads, the issue will be getting the gate back off. It was a nightmare to install so will be a nightmare to take off again.

· Various works to the dinghy. As if the jobs on the main boat were not enough to undertake before Easter, we also have various jobs to start and finish in the dinghy. We need to service the outboard motor and give it a good check over to keep it in good running order and reliable. With the motor serviced our attention can turn to the dinghy. We need to remove the lime scale from the hull, sand down and repaint the floor boards and install the bow bag. On top of this once the outboard motor bracket is on the transom of Naughty-Cal we also need to add some extra attachments to the dinghy for the stand off arm supports.

· With the dinghy ready to go it will be time to give Cal a good scrub up. The topsides are ready for a good polish, as is the cockpit and the whole boat needs a proper spring clean, declutter and wash down.

· Finally, and possibly most importantly, we need to give Naughty-Cals’s engine its major service. To keep the engine singing sweetly she has a full service in the Spring and oil and filter changes on a regular basis throughout the cruising season at approximately 100 hour intervals. The spring service is the major one with every service part and filter replaced. It takes a few hours to give the engine a thorough going over but it is worth the time to check that everything is as it should be. It is also a good chance to give the engine and bay a good scrub and clean, so that any leaks can be easily identified. This job is best done about a month before we head out on our first holiday of the year, so that the new belts have time to bed in and any adjustments can be made as necessary in plenty of time.

As you can see we have a busy few months ahead of us and time will be tight to get this little lot finished in time as no doubt we will have plenty of cruising still to do as well.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Early Spring Cleaning

Even though the weather has been less than spring like over the weekend, with winter reminding us that it is still here for now, I have made a start on the thankless task of spring cleaning, decluttering and valeting the cabin of the boat. Not a task I enjoy doing but it needs doing thoroughly at least once every six months or so, so why not make a start on it now and get it done in plenty of time?

To break up this arduous task I take the cabin one area at a time. This weekend I tackled the midships bedroom cabin and the galley area. Next weekend it will be the turn of the shower room and the saloon area. The midships cabin always catches me out. It is a small room so you assume that it won’t take long, however extracting the mattress through a small entrance hole and then cleaning in a confined area with a low ceiling height makes for hard work. On the plus side with bed base, walls and ceiling wiped down and cleaned, the mattress vacuumed and aired and the hatches cleaned, it only leaves the shelf and cubby hole to clear of unwanted junk before remaking the bed. The shelf in the midships houses the book, DVD and CD collection. Over the last few years this collection seems to have out grown its home so it was time for a thin out of the unwanted and unwatched items which were thrown in the car and brought back home, leaving much more room on the shelf and a much tidier, fresher look to the room.

With the midships finished my attention turned to the galley. Another seemingly small area of the boat but one that actually takes quite a while to get the better of. Again I cleared an amazing amount of junk from the cupboards and lockers, where does it all come from? At this rate Naughty-Cal will be loads lighter by the time we have finished this spring clear out. The galley took quite a while to sort out but the effort was well worth it and the effects instantly noticeable with a cleaner, fresher look and clutter free cupboards, lockers and surfaces. We actually have free storage space again in the cupboards.

Whilst I was busy in the cabin, Liam was at work in the cockpit. Another thankless task as the cockpit is the most used area of the boat so the one that suffers from the most general dirt and grime. The dashboard and cabin door needed a good wipe down and polish, the seating had a quick wipe but really needs a good scrub with EVM and a good hose down when the weather is warmer and the floor was vacuumed, mopped and dried out. The results again were instant and a marked improvement. Liam also removed the transom gate to take to work so that he can retap the dodgy hinge threads and make the gate much easier to operate. He also topped up the diesel tank and the water tank so that we don’t have to mess around next weekend.

With this little lot completed it was time to start enjoying our hard work with a quick run out. It was by now mid afternoon but the weather was crisp and clear so it would be a shame not to make the most of it. We didn’t get very far, just a quick nip to the Pyewipe for a couple of pints, before heading back to the marina to listen to some music with a few more drinks to hand.

Sunday was another quiet day. With dinner in the slow cooker we went about our morning’s business, lazing around, reading the newspaper and drinking coffee, before pottering around, tidying up a little more and planning our schedule of attack on the remaining jobs to finish on Naughty-Cal before Easter. As the morning gave way to afternoon, we decided to head out and enjoy the winter sunshine with a quick run into Lincoln. We didn’t get very far, as soon as we left the marina entrance we hit the iced up canal. Ordinarily we would have just ploughed on through breaking up the ice but we didn’t feel like it on this occasion, so we reversed back though our broken path and swung around back into the marina and the safety of our berth.

Next weekend we are in for more hard work getting Naughty-Cal ready for a long season of cruising ahead. The cabin needs the spring clean finishing off, the transom gate is to be reinstalled; we are going to hopefully mock up the outboard bracket, rewire the radar arch, head to Torksey caravans to buy a few items ready for the cruising season and hopefully enjoy a cruise out somewhere. Who said boating was relaxing?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Grow Your Own

With the days starting to gradually stretch out again and the dark nights starting to ease slowly, we are starting to think about getting ready to begin messing around in the garden at home again. We don’t have a huge plot, just a standard suburban corner plot, but since buying our house five years ago we have made inroads into making the plot earn its keep by growing our own. We don’t know much about gardening but we learn as we go along.

We have a small orchard in the front garden, currently stocked with two apple trees, a plum tree and two cherry trees. You don’t need a huge garden to grow fruit trees, these days there are a wealth of nurseries stocking plants grafted onto dwarfing stock. The apple and plum trees act as a natural boundary line between ours and our neighbours land and have just about reached their full height of around 3m tall. This year they will be topped and cut back to encourage them to spread out a little forming more of a bushy hedge line. These three trees have been planted for some four or so years now and are becoming fully established and reliable croppers. They were purchased as yearling stock from a local DIY store for the bargain price of £10, for all three.

Our two cherry trees are relatively recent additions to the garden being planted some eighteen months ago; they are not yet at their full height nor are they producing anything of a crop. Planting fruit trees doesn’t give instant results but with time and some care they will provide you with year’s worth of fruit for not a lot of effort. Fruit trees also provide some colour to the garden with their spring blossom, green leaves throughout the summer and then a burst of reds and gold during the autumn months. It is always a relief come spring when the first signs of life start to appear on the trees after their winter slumber. The locations where these two trees are planted dictate that they need to be pruned to keep them small and manageable and at a suitable height for their positions close to the house, but this doesn’t take much time or effort and keeps them under control and healthy.

To compliment the orchard fruits we also have a small green house in the back garden. Each year we attempt to grow a variety of fruit and vegetables with varying rates of success. We are fairly reliable with the tomato crop, often producing far too many for our own consumption and having to give the majority away to friends and family. However in previous years we have struggled with peppers and chilli peppers. We will give them a go again this year and hopefully manage to produce a reasonable crop for our own consumption.

As we are away most weekends and during our holidays we invested in an auto pot, automatic watering system for the greenhouse. This is a simple gravity fed float switch operated system that provides the water, and nutrients that each plant needs individually. It has taken all of the stress out of monitoring the green house and the only thing we need to do is ensure that the water butt is full of water and feed and that the greenhouse is left well ventilated. The plants then pretty much look after themselves. We do of course still need to monitor the plants for sucker growth and insect infestations, but this is a very quick task taking just a few minutes each morning during the week.

We also have a raised bed which we have constructed in the back garden that we use for growing vegetables. This year we are going to have a go at growing a small crop of sweet corn. In previous years we have had success in this bed with onions, garlic, broccoli and broad beans. We also have a number of large containers that we use to grow other vegetables such as carrots, parsnips and peas.

Perhaps the most used of our home grown produce is the herb garden, stocked with mint, lemon thyme, rosemary, sage, chives and parsley, it is used pretty much every time we cook a meal at home. We have saved a small fortune by growing our own herbs and it isn’t difficult; once established herbs will pretty much look after themselves needing just the occasional watering during the summer months. Herbs also like to be used; they will grow much better, once well established, if you pick them and use them on a regular basis.

You don’t need a massive garden, as we have proven, to make an effort and grow at least some of your own fruit and vegetables. We still have a wide variety of ornamental shrubs and plants within our gardens, however it is nice to be able to provide at least a little of our own produce for the table. The fruit and vegetables blend into the garden and add extra colour and texture to the gardenscape as a whole. Home grown produce tastes so much better and is much fresher than shop bought alternatives; it is just a shame that more people don’t make the most of their gardens and at least attempt to grow a little of their own.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Me Again

It’s me again. I have heard the crew talking about this year’s adventures, they sound so exciting I just had to let you all know about them.

The crew like to give me an easy trip for our first holiday of the year, to give me a chance to settle into the cruising routine again after the long winter break. I have heard them talking about going to Leeds at Easter. The cruise to Leeds they say will give them a chance to check that everything is in good working order with a sprint to Trent Falls to stretch my legs and blow away the winter cobwebs, before they drop my anchor for a few hours and have some lunch. Trent Falls isn’t as pretty as the last place we spent some time at anchor, we have only ever cruised straight through here, but if the weather is nice it should be pleasant enough and a quiet spot to waste away some time and wait for the tide. When the tide has turned and run in for an hour or so then we will head into Goole Docks. I have not been there before, but one of my friends, Chrisnico has, she says it is full of much bigger boats and we have to be careful not to get in their way. It sounds like fun to me. The cruise from Goole to Leeds is along a big canal with river sections along the way. We have been on part of this navigation before, I like it on there with the wide open spaces and deep water.

The second trip of the year will be the main one and the one that sounds the most exciting. The crew say that we are going the other way on the sea this year to Whitby and Scarborough. We have to go down the big, muddy Humber and then turn North onto the Yorkshire coast. I have not been that way on the coast before and neither have my crew. We only made it to Hull the last time we went that way due to the horrible weather and rough conditions on the river. I don’t know what to expect, but I do hope that the water isn’t so muddy and brown all the way there. I hate the muddy, brown splatters of the Humber on my shiny white hull. The crew say that they have been where we are going before, in their land boat, and that they liked it, so it can’t be that bad, I’m sure that I will enjoy it if they do and my buddies Devocean and Chrisnico are going as well so we should have great fun together again.

The crew say that we are going to Wells next the Sea again later in the year, I do hope we can. I like Wells with the clean air, salty water and pretty surroundings. I hope we can go and anchor up in the bay again. I like to sit at anchor with my nose to the wind, waves lapping against my hull and the crew having a great time with my mate Asbo and the seals on the beach. I always dream of that day last July when the weather is bad here at home. I want to go there again and spend the afternoon relaxing in the sunshine in the bay. We might be going to Wells on our own this year, this will be the first time me or the crew have been on the salty stuff on our own. I will have to look after us all and make sure we get there and back safely. The crew don’t seem worried though, they obviously trust me and I trust them as well.

They also say that we are going back to York this year. This will be the third time we have been there together. They must like it there and I do when we get there, but I don’t like the horrible muddy brown tidal River Ouse with its swirling water full of debris that we have to navigate through to get there. I have to pick my way carefully through the rubbish so that it doesn’t hit my bow or wrap around my fragile propellers. York is nice though and I like it when we moor in the city centre and people admire my shining white gel coat and my gleaming blue dashboard. I think the crew are posers really, they like the attention I seem to gather where ever we go and they enjoy sitting on my bow with a beer talking to the passersby. Hopefully the sun will shine again so that they can take my canopies off and I will look at my very best for them. There is also talk of beaching me at Nun Monkton Pool this year, beaching me on purpose, what ever next?

I have to go now, before the galley slave and second in command come back for their weekend break, the heating will be turning on soon to warm me through ready for their arrival. The temperature has certainly dropped for them. I hope that they will let me loose on here again sometime soon, I’m sure I will have some more news for you soon. Bye for now,


Thursday, 12 January 2012


Whilst we were at Aldi buying our great value little weather station we also spied a nifty little dehumidifier. It is only a mini one with a 1.5 litre tank capacity and the ability to remove 400ml of moisture from the air each day, with this you also benefit from mini power consumption at just 65 watts, a little over the power used by an old style light bulb.

Naughty-Cal isn’t a damp boat and we don’t and never have suffered greatly with condensation or mould growth in the cabin. Despite several major water leaks from the domestic plumbing over last summer she has remained incredibly dry with the help of good ventilation and adequate air flow through the cabin. We had previously used “dry bags” during the winter months to great effect. Cotton bags filled with desiccant that once full with moisture you stick them in the oven at home or on top of a radiator for a few days to dry them out ready for reuse again in the boats cabin. These have so far helped to keep the moisture levels in the cabin down to what we thought was an acceptable level.

We have been genuinely surprised by how much difference the little dehumidifier makes. 1.5 litres of water may not sound like a lot at first but it is a full bottle of Schweppes Lemonade, which would take some mopping up if you spilt it. The whole cabin has a much drier and fresher feel; the dehumidifier keeps the air moving around the boat which also seems to be keeping any odours or stale smells at bay. It has certainly already made a massive difference to the feel of the cabin and was well worth the £25 price tag to keep the cabin dry. We don’t run it whilst we are aboard, instead preferring to keep the windows and hatches open ensuring a good supply of fresh air through the interior of the boat. We will however continue to run the dehumidifier during the winter months whilst we are at work here in Sheffield.

One slight modification we plan to make is to create an over flow for the collection tank. Currently when the tank reaches 1.5 litres of water collected, a float switch activates which switches off the machine. We plan to drill a hole in the tank, below the switch level and insert a length of pipe and rubber washer to allow the tank to over flow into the galley sink. This should keep the unit running for longer and, if for some reason the pipe blocks, the float switch will still be present to activate the cut off. This should increase the amount of moisture the dehumidifier can take out of the air. Currently it can run for about 3 .5 days before the tank is full and we really need it to run for 4.5 days to be working to its full potential. An extra 400ml of water collected could and should make a further marked improvement in the dryness of the cabin.

It is worth noting that this is a small basic unit and that it lacks the features of many larger and more expensive units. It is really only suitable for smaller boats and rooms and will shut off when temperatures reach 0°C or if the power supply is interrupted. There is no automatic reset on the unit so should the temperatures drop severely or power be cut then the unit won’t work again until it is manually switched back on. The unit also lacks the ability to choose the required humidity level. It will just keep removing moisture from the air until you tell it to stop doing so by turning it off. This should not be any great problem given the small amount of water it removes from the air but it is worth keeping an eye on woodwork for drying out and fabrics and upholstery becoming damaged.

All in all another value for money purchase which we are quite glad we have made and which will certainly be of great benefit to us and Naughty-Cal. We will certainly be keeping an eye on Aldi and their special offers in the future as they seem to be selling some useful items at good prices which despite their cheap price tags seem to be of reasonable quality. Only time will tell of course how long these items last but they do seem to be incredibly good value.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Slow Cooked Duck

We decided to go for something a little bit different for Christmas dinner this year, or should that be last year now? Time is really flying by and Christmas feels so long ago now we are back at work and into the daily grind. Being on the boat we were fairly limited with our big dinner choices so we plumbed for a duck crown to stick in the slow cooker with some sweet potatoes. We are both big fans of duck and much prefer it to turkey so as there was just the two of us for dinner this time around we thought, why not have something we will thoroughly enjoy?

As is normally the case I was up first so preparing lunch fell to me. It couldn’t have been much simpler, peel and cut up the sweet potatoes into small pieces, I did this the night before and left them in a pan of cold water. Coat the potatoes in oil and some Cajun spices then place a layer in the bottom of the cooking dish. Sit the duck on top, lightly oil the skin and sprinkle again with Cajun spices. Stick the cooker on high then head back to bed for an hour to enjoy some more snooze. Simplicity or what? And right in the spirit of our lazy Christmas break afloat.

After an hour I turned the cooker to low and forgot about it for the day, just occasionally peeking through the glass lid to check that it wasn’t running dry. I needn’t have worried the duck fat kept everything nicely lubricated and made a great base for the next day’s stew. We left the duck cooking whilst we went about our daily comings and goings, heading to the pub in Saxilby for a few pints at lunchtime, leaving the inverter to provide power for the slow cooker whilst we made merry over the road in the pub. After heading back up river to our mooring and having a couple more drinks for good measure, I added some sprouts and stuffing balls to the pot, turned the cooker onto high power again and left it for another hour or so before serving up.

The result was a succulent duck that fell from the bone and was cooked to perfection, perfectly moist and full of flavour and easy to carve, well it mostly fell apart. The sweet potatoes were just right and the stuffing and sprouts were steamed and cooked exactly as we like them, so they were still firm with some bite to them. It couldn’t have gone much better.

All in all the duck was in for around about nine hours, an hour start and finish on high power and the remaining time on low power. A hassle free Christmas dinner if ever there was one but boy was it tasty and we will certainly be cooking it again over the summer months whilst we are out and about cruising.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Calling All Stations

Calling all stations, well weather stations that is. We have bought a new gadget for Naughty-Cal. A friend of ours got one and we thought it such a good idea that we decided we had to have one as well. It wasn’t an expensive gadget either at just £18.99 from Aldi. We have, as you may have already guessed, bought a weather station which comes with a second remote sensor.

The main reason for buying the weather station was so that we could install the second remote sensor in the engine bay and monitor the temperature in there to ensure that our engine room heaters are working efficiently without having to lift the engine hatch every weekend to check them. The remote sensor relays its data to the main unit which in turn displays the temperature and humidity in the engine bay as well as temperature and humidity in the cockpit or cabin and the time, date, moon phase, barometric pressure and 24 hour weather forecast. All great fun and actually quite useful information to know when out and about cruising. The unit will also store minimum and maximum temperatures over a 7 day period so we can monitor the data for the days we are away from the boat, making any adjustments to the heaters as necessary. The main unit can either be fastened to the wall or has a fold out stand so that it can be placed in an easy to monitor location. The unit is also pleasing on the eye so no need to hide it away in an out of sight cupboard it can go out on display where it can be easily seen and the data easily read.

Over the weekend we found that our engine is much more cosy and warm than we are in the cockpit or cabin of the boat. The engine bay reaching the heady heights of 32°C with the tube heater and Webasto air heater running, whilst we had to make do with just 20°C in the cabin and 16°C in the cockpit. Hmm, who has the better deal there then? With the Webasto turned off for the evening and colder night time temperatures approaching freezing point, the engine bay settled down to a much more sensible temperature of around 8°C and the cabin around 10°C, which will happily keep the frost at bay and protect the raw water cooling system of the engine and the fresh water plumbing throughout the boat.

This new gadget should provide us with some extra peace of mind during the winter months but will also provide us with helpful weather information and predictions during the summer months whilst we are out cruising. Quite a useful piece of kit for the princely sum of £18.99.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Tandoori Chicken

The first recipe for you of this year and this is another exceptionally simple dish to cook to impress your friends and family and will make them think that you really do know how to cook.

For this one you will need (quantities feed 2 people):
· 6 chicken thighs, skin on with the skin slashed
· 1.5 teaspoons of paprika
· 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
· 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
· 1.5 teaspoons of ground coriander
· 2 teaspoons of cumin
· 0.25 pints of natural Greek yoghurt
· 1 tablespoon olive oil

Preparation couldn’t be simpler. Mix all of the spices, garlic, oil and yoghurt in a large bowl, then add the chicken thighs and make sure they are all well coated in the mix. Leave covered in the fridge over night to marinate, letting the spices soak into the chicken skin and flesh.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C and cook the chicken thighs on a wire rack for 30-35 minutes ensuring they are well coated with the spice mix. Alternatively grill the chicken until cooked through and the skin is starting to blacken slightly, but don’t let them burn. Serve with hot pilau rice and dressed salad for a super simple meal.

This dish works equally well with lamb and duck if you fancy something a little richer for a treat or for that special meal, but also works really well with turkey if you fancy something a little healthier.

Friday, 6 January 2012

The View From Within

Boy can that galley slave whittle on. On and on and on, she never stops. Well, at last she has given me the chance to say my piece. Not before time too, almost two years it has taken me to get a word in edgeways. Two years, and I’m the one that takes them on their adventures, I’m the one they spend all of their spare time on and I’m the one that this blog is supposed to be about.

Not that I’m complaining, they do love me, unlike the owners of my next door neighbours. I like my crew to come and visit each week, even though it means I have to work harder than most of my friends, at least I get the chance to stretch my legs and I never have chance to get bored. My friends get bored sat on their berths week after week with no visitors to come and see them, I feel sorry for them sometimes. They must get cold in the winter. My crew come and turn my heating on so that I can warm through, I like to feel the heat flowing through my body, and I know that when the heating turns on at 6.00pm on a Friday evening that my crew are on their way to keep me company during their weekend break.

I was a little bit hard on my crew for the first year or so of their company, well you have to know that they are in it for the long run you see. They were very green and inexperienced, but they have stuck it out and I have grown to be very fond of them. They lavish me with love and attention and always make me feel special even if I have been a little naughty or feeling under the weather. We have gotten to know each other very well over the last few years but they still manage to surprise me with their plans and ambitions, and I still manage to surprise them with the odd spell of unexpected naughtiness.

They took me to see some new waterways this year. I loved it, the chance to run free for hours down the coast without the constraints of this river to hold me back. I loved the salty sea water thundering past my hull as we skipped down the coast at 25 knots with not a care in the world. I put up a good performance for the crew and looked after them so that hopefully they will take me again; I liked it there, Norfolk I think they called it. There were lots of funny looking, brightly coloured boats down there with new and inexperienced crews so we had to keep a look out for them and be on guard, but we all had a good time and I liked the change of scenery. I never knew there were other waterways like these ones. I have been cooped up on this muddy, shallow ditch for most of my short life, but my current crew are now showing me lots of new places, places I like and places I want to go to again.

I am not sure what they have planned for me this year, but I do hope it is as exciting as last year and that we can go away with my mate Devocean again. She is a wise old bird and keeps me on the straight and narrow, showing me what to do when I come up against strange new situations. My friend Wish You Were Here has just about finished the “testing” of her current crew so maybe she will join us on some of our adventures this year as well and I do hope we get the chance to meet up with Chrisnico again. She is very mischievous and we got up to all sorts of tricks the last time we all got together, we make a great pair of troublesome twins.

Must dash now, the crew will be here soon for their weekend afloat, so I am going to get myself ready for their arrival. I’m not sure if they have any plans for this weekend yet and I hope that the weather will improve for them. I have been rattling around on this mooring all week in this horrible wind, with waves crashing against my hull and bow. I wonder if they will remember to bring me a drink of diesel, my tank is starting to get a little low again and they must remember to fill my water tank this weekend or that will run dry.

Hopefully it won’t be so long before I get to grab a word or two with you again. See you soon,


Thursday, 5 January 2012

Christmas on the Ditch

A handful of pictures today for your viewing delight from our Christmas on the Fossditch and Witham. The weather was great for the whole holiday, a little blowy at times but certainly no worse than we have been out in before, unlike the storms of this week!

Christmas day morning was spent lazing around, playing with new gadgets and eating fine food before we headed off in search of a dinner time pint or three, eventually settling on the Sun Inn, Saxilby.

Christmas day at Saxilby

Boxing Day was bright and breezy, so refreshed from a good night’s sleep we set off to find somewhere to spend a few days away from our mooring. We set off through Lincoln and Stamp End Lock and down onto the River Witham beyond, cruising on perfectly quiet waters, only us and the wildlife on the move. We had thought we would moor at Fiskerton Fen, a favourite mooring of ours, but with the wind direction it was a little exposed so we carried on the mile or so further to Bardney Lock. Here the visitor moorings were much more sheltered and had the benefit of electricity and water on tap. The moorings here are still very pleasant and remote but within easy walking distance (1.5 miles) of Bardney village and the local shops and pubs.

Boxing Day on the River Witham

A pleasant winter scene

Bardney Lock Visitor Moorings

We decided to visit the remains of Bardney Abbey whilst we were in the village. It is a very pleasant walk along a lovely and unspoilt lane, past private residences, farm houses and through a farm yard. The remains have been covered with to protect them from the elements, however here and there you can catch a glimpse of the magnificent stonework that once stood proud amongst the fields. The hummocks and hills in the enclosure each hide a feature of the once stunning building, information boards around the site show pictures of the remains and plans of the former Abbey buildings making distinguishing the individual buildings and features all the easier.

The remains of Barndey Abbey

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Back in the Swing of Things

Well the Christmas break flew by. It didn’t seem like we had ten days off work but we are well and truly back in the swing of things now.

Christmas on the ditch was lovely and peaceful, the mild weather making it all the more perfect. We had a run out on Christmas day to Saxilby for a few pints in the Sun Inn, before enjoying a lovely meal f slow cooked duck with sweet potatoes, stuffing and sprouts later in the day.

On Boxing Day, we decided to head out for a few days. Finally settling in on the fully serviced moorings at Bardney Lock. We had a very pleasant few days moored in the peace and quiet, doing lots of walking (you have to from here) and generally enjoying the tranquil setting we were in. I will post more pictures later in the week now that I have coaxed my phone back into life!
New Years Eve was a much more energetic affair. With an evening in the Woodcocks pub where they held a casino night and put on a great disco and buffet lunch we had a great night in great company and were finally forced to leave at 1am. Never mind we finished off the night with drinks on Wish You Were Here where we finally gave in at 3.45am and decided enough was enough.

New Years Day was a write off. We didn’t get up until mid day and then we were so tired and hung over that we did little bar get showered and drink coffee. We had a little snooze in the afternoon wasting another couple of hours before getting up at 5pm to have lunch. We watched a few episodes of Still Game before heading back to bed to sleep off the remnants of a stinking hang over. What a waste of a day.

Monday we were both much better which was a good job as we had an invite for drinks and bacon butties at our friend’s house, another annual event. So we got up bright and early, did some shopping (more on that another time, we have some great new boating gadgets) and head off for drinks. It wasn’t long before the drink was flowing and by 6pm we were ready to head back for home and grab some dinner. We eventually settled on eating in Harbour City, the Chinese restaurant opposite our mooring. Yet again we had a great meal with excellent service despite not booking in advance. Then it was time to hit the sack and get ready for the start of work again.

Needless to say we felt like rubbish yesterday but we thoroughly enjoyed our holiday from start to end.