Thursday, 12 April 2012

Week one in the big blue boat...

We have made it through our first week aboard Lois Jane. Lois Jane is a 60ft cruiser stern built/fitted by Alexander/Sandhills to what I now realize is a very high standard. The equipment levels are also quite impressive and I particularly like engine heat exchanger that runs the radiators whilst motoring; and the hydraulic engine drive.

There are two schools of thought with owning what many people would consider luxury items like boats bikes and cars. Buy it, use it and enjoy your time with it; or polish it, maintain it and try and keep it as close to new condition as you can. I still haven't decided if one is right and one is wrong yet, but whilst Lois Jane does have a considerably long list of jobs to do I hope I don't get too paranoid about every little mark and scratch. It took days to get the iroko floor scraped of brittle old varnish and back closer to its former glory (including 300 mile round trips after work to lay another coat of woodskin varnish) but only minutes to cure leaking radiators that have left damp patches. The outside looks great from a distance but up close the battle scars are looking rusty and will get attended to over the summer months What I do know is that we couldn't have afforded a boat of this quality if it was in any better a condition. 

We are still at Whilton Marina (where we bought 'LJ') near Northampton and will be until this weekend. It has been another fairly busy week trying to get the jobs done that have been on lists of varying sizes for the last few weeks but nothing like as busy as the previous few weeks trying to condense the contents of a four bedroom house into a narrowboat, small cupboard at the back of the garage and rather more of the mother-in-laws loft than was intended (thanks Pip)

So what lead us to this slightly belated gap year (or so)? Of course the usual stresses and strains of working  over 100 hours a week between us since we were teenagers. But, in brief.......

  • look to move to France and possibly start a B&B/gite business
  • decide seasons are too short and risks too high, look at smaller properties
  • visit lots of towns on rivers and canals.
  • decide that we can't decide what region we are agreed on to move to
  • consider living on a Dutch barge and tour the inland waterways of France
  • visit Southampton boat show to look at nice shiny new boats
  • decide that the purchase price and running costs of a dutch barge of any condition is prohibitive
  • research British waterways and narrow boats
  • book a couple of narrowboating short breaks
  • plan to buy a narrowboat in 2017 once we have saved some more money
  • remortgage now and buy a boat
It has been a typical April showery kind of day here in Whilton, and not too warm either! Travel reports on the radio today contain lots of bulletins detailing accidents from torrential rain and hail storms so I think we got off lightly.

The marina received another containerized delivery of new boats (presumably) from the Far East which was interesting to watch, they appear well fitted and the bamboo interior certainly looks hard wearing.

Deb dodged the showers and managed to get another coat of varnish on the workbench, small table and the woodwork on the bike trailer.

The bathroom looks much cleaner with fresh grout (silicone sealant tomorrow) and the tunnel light is now fully functioning. All sinks now hold water so the DIY list (at least on the inside) is getting shorter by the day. Tomorrow is fitting the washing machine day, log splitting and, if the weather is as forecast, a bike ride up to Watford locks to see what staircase locks are all about. We even managed an evening canal-side stroll!

Looking forward to getting onto the cut next week, now where shall we go......

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