Category Archives: Marina Life

Pontoon In Snow

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Pontoon in snow

In Came the Snow 2021 and it left the pontoon as hard as iron and water like a stone…

With the Marina frozen, the natural toing and froing of the narrowboats moored therein stopped. Instead of the natural susurration of the hull in water, we were treated to a banging, each time the wind moved the boat.

We had been expecting to be gripped in place but this was not the case. The fenders normally stopped the boat from banging against the pontoon it was moored to. However, the ice stopped the boat getting near. It was a combination of the water underneath the ice, a small gap between boat and ice and the wind. Other boaters commented on the phenomenon.

rp – peace and narrowboats

In Came the Snow 2021

In came the snow and ice in 2021. Is it cold on a narrowboat? Yes, it’s bl**dy freezing when it’s sub-zero temperatures outside, it’s first thing in the morning and the stove’s gone out!

However, once the fire’s lit (third time lucky , fourth time lucky…), the Webasto is fired up and we’ve got thick jumpers on, it’s lovely.

To be fair, we had plenty of warning. So, we had stocked up on coal (smokeless fuel) for the stove and diesel for the Central heating.

I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of snow and cold. “Everything looks so beautiful”, “I love a walk in the cold”, “It’s so invigorating”. I’m more “We’re gonna need more coal and diesel – it’s going to be expensive”, “The towpath will be un-traversable due to the mud”, “When’s it going to warm up?”.

But, for the sake of dispelling my churlishness, here are a few images. They are from the Marina, as in came the snow in 2021

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Snow starting to fall on Silverdale
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Across the Marina
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Prow in the snow
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Silverdale in snow

The snow has all gone now, it never hangs around long and some warmer weather is among us.

rp – peace and narrowboats

Moving Silverdale – ‘fill her up’

Moving Silverdale – ‘fill her up’.

A visual documentary of our last journey of the year lol! We move to get fuel, out of Whilton Marina, onto The Cut (sort of) and back – a few hundred yards. Perfect day for it tho’ – no wind, no rain and no boaters (The Buckby Flight is closed for repairs). She handled really well, we really enjoyed moving Silverdale.

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The Takedown – “I’ve got this”
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“Whoah, Just this bit now”
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“I’m still under here somewhere…”
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“Where does this flap go?”
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I almost look like I know what I’m doing!
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On the move – now that’s a Helmsman’s pose!
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Actually on The Cut
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Destination in sight (no, not the lock)
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“Fill her up – how much?”
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Back under the bridge into the Marina – precision perfect!

rp – peace and narrowboats

Bringing Things Up to Date

September 2020

Bringing Things Up to Date

End of August

Well, I ended August by locking myself in the Marina loo!

I had trouble unlocking the door to get in, getting out was near impossible. The key wouldn’t turn in the lock, no matter how hard I tried. I poked the mechanism with my key and continually tried the key many 10s of times but It wouldn’t budge. I opened the small window and waved and shouted to the Office which was mere yards away but to no avail. Eventually, someone else came to the door, unlocked it easily (I must have doe all the hard work and freed it up) and I managed to escape. I did let him know and the Marina Office and I obtained another key, just in case it was at fault.

September

No further lock-in episodes.

It turned out to be a glorious month weather-wise. There was sun, warmth and little rain. The mornings were colder but nothing too onerous. We purchased more gas in the form of a large orange cannister from the Marina Chandlery. I drove the old, empty cannister around and drove a new, full one to the end of the marina path. From there, mu and I manhandled it, rolling it along the path and nearly into the canal! Lifting and lowering it into the gas locker aboard Silverdale required Herculean strength. I had to slowly lower it, into the locker, not wanting to scape the beautifully finished inside. It had been cleaned and blacked by the marina before we bought it. The trusty Gas Spanner, purchased last time I had to do this worked a treat and gas was back up and running.

Beside the Seaside

This is also the month we made progress with our project. We’re making a game: Beside the Seaside. It’s going to be a pixel art seaside side scroller and beyond.

mu is busy creating pixel art. I’m learning to use the game engine we’ve chosen for this project and documenting it.

It’s our virtual visit to the seaside. You can follow progress here

Electric

We also met with Mark, a boat electrician who used to work at the Marina but was now self-employed – Weedon Narrowboat Services. He came to evaluate our electrical setup to see how we can solve a problem of flickering lights and diminishing 12 volt power. We’re hopefully going to upgrade a bit, bring it up to date.

He’s returning in October to replace the batteries and install a new Solar Controller. This will give us more visibility into what’s going on.

We’ve been watching Rain and Borgen on Netflix and had a lot of Drive-Thru coffees to keep us sane in these crazy Covid times. We also got a new, new Spin Dryer (don’t ask) and a new monitor.

Well, that’s about brings things up to date for September. It shot by but we got a lot of stuff done. October’s calling…

rp – peace and narrowboats

In Honour of JRR Tolkien

Wednesday 22 July 2020

In Honour of JRR Tolkien

We got up and drove to Oxford today, the spiritual home of JRR Tolkien author of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and a host of other important 20th Century books.

I have loved Tolkien’s work ever since I was first encouraged to read The Hobbit by a teacher at school (a long time ago). It was in a Library session at Secondary school and I had been limiting my reading at Library sessions to non-Fiction books.

“You really should read some fiction – try The Hobbit”.

From that moment on, there was no turning back. I read the hobbit, then went on to purchase the George Allen & Unwin Seventeenth impression 1977. I still have that copy. It’s falling apart after multiple readings as a teenager

murpworks - The Tales of Silverdale - In Honour of JRR Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings book image

I more recently purchased a second had copy, in much better condition than mine and started re-reading it. I find it still as enthralling and pertinent today as ever. This book has inspired generations of fantasy from novels & series of novels, through pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying through to computer games – last gen, this gen and next gen!

The next series I went on to read was The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. This trilogy (followed by a second trilogy) was incredibly influenced by the template Tolkien had laid down. I later read The Silmarillion.

And So To Oxford

So, making the journey to Oxford was a pilgrimage in honour of JRR Tolkien. I wanted to see where Tolkien spent his time in Oxford, writing these great works – as far as was possible in the midst of a global pandemic.

Oxford is a one hour destination from Silverdale. It is therefore eminently doable in a day, with plenty of time for sightseeing. It was a beautiful day and we arrived in the centre of Oxford to park in an underground car park. We had parked here when we visited before, with MIRRLESS (another Tolkien pilgrimage). The car park opened out into a square with a market and attendant Cafe Nero. It would have been rude to not socially distance and partake of a coffee and morning croissant confectionary, so we did.

Blackwell’s

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Fortified, we set off in search of Blackwell’s Book Store. It was rumoured to have a well-stocked Tolkien section. We were not disappointed. There are still Tolkien books I do not possess (it’s true! My collection barely scratches the surface) and Blackwell’s had them. I did succumb to a particularly erudite hardback that deals, in detail with the flora of Tolkien’s world. I hadn’t seen this book before. It was a real find however another book I have to find space for aboard Silverdale.

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Downstairs, Blackwell’s has a small exhibition of rare, mostly first edition books. In a glass case at the bottom of the stairs was a copy of The Road Goes Ever On. There were also Other Science Fiction books by Ballard and Michael Moorcock among others.

The Eagle and Child

murpworks - The Tales of Silverdale - In Honour of JRR Tolkien - The Eagle and Child pub image

Next stop after a short walk was The Eagle and Child – a pub where Tolkien sat with C S Lewis and discussed The Lord of the Rings among other things. The pub sign shows a child being carried away by an eagle. This has been noted as and surely is the inspiration for the eagles in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Gwaihir the Windlord – The lord of eagles rescues Gandalf and participates further in the ‘Rings’ story. The pub was closed due to the pandemic but looking through the window, we got a feel for those meetings.

murpworks - The Tales of Silverdale - In Honour of JRR Tolkien - The Eagle and Child pub interior image

Handlebar

We had a break for brunch (I liked to think of it a second breakfast) at the Handlebar café & kitchen whose Vegetarian and Vegan food was excellent. Can’t recommend it highly enough. Afterwards, we wandered through a deserted Oxford with a ‘one way’ system in place to socially distance any visitors that hand braved the City. This was presumably very different to when Tolkien was living and writing there.

Tolkien’s Resting Place

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We decided to drive out of Oxford to find Tolkien’s final resting place. JRR Tolkien is buried in an unassuming spot in an unassuming grave in a graveyard just on the outskirts of the town centre. He is buried with his wife and it seemed a fitting place for a great writer – no pomp or glory that, though justly deserved, would have taken away from the kind of person I believe he was. Rest in peace.

This is the Way We Rollright

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Finally, we set off to find the Rollright Stones just outside Chipping Norton, a short(ish) drive from Oxford. The Rollright Stones are an ancient site consisting of three separate areas. It was a long, dusty drive. However, once there, the views afforded are spectacular and the site (or sites) are a fascinating reason for visiting. Our main reason for visiting was the fact that this area may have been the inspiration for The Barrow-downs in The Lord of the Rings.

The Rollright Stones consist of three parts: The Kings Men stone circle, the King Stone, and the Whispering Knights

The Whispering Knights has an area set aside to an outdoor art trail. We Wandered around the mazes made from willow cane and cut grass paths. Later, sitting peacefully, in amongst the trees and grass it brought the area to life.

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In our journey in honour of JRR Tolkien, we felt we had scratched the surface of finding Tolkien’s Oxford. We hopefully honoured his contribution to British literature in some small way. There is plenty more to find and see that relates to JRR Tolkien in this beautiful City and we will return in the future to explore a little more.

rp – peace and narrowboats

A Short Walk to the Nearest Bit of Woodland

Tuesday 21 July 2020

A Short Walk

Today we got up and walked a short way to the nearest bit of woodland we could find. It wasn’t very far, just up from the marina, across the A5 and on the road towards Norton. The woods were minimal but views of the adjacent fields proved stunning, early in the morning.

I took some photographs

Shire! Baggins!

Back aboard Silverdale, after a walk in the Shire the post brought more Tolkeinary in the form of The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey soundtrack CD and The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies Blu-Ray 🙂

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rp – peace and narrowboats

Gas Panic

Saturday 19 July 2020

Gas Panic

We run out of gas! It ran out last night actually. There is this terrible panic when you turn the cooker knob, press the piezo-electric lighter button and – nothing happens. You suddenly think

” Everything’s stopped working on the boat!”

“We’re doomed!”

“We’re going to sink!”

Then

“Oh, no. It’s just the gas that’s ran out”.

It gets me every time (although this is the first time it has happened on Silverdale. It has happened a couple of times on MIRRLESS in the past).

I went to the stern (Ooooh, fancy terminology) and lifted the gas locker lid to reveal two pristine orange 13 Kg cannisters tanks – one connected, one in reserve. I unchained the now empty tank (it’s chained in place for safety purposes) and looked for the gas spanner. The gas spanner is a specifically-sized spanner that allows you to undo the regulator and connect it to a new tank.

“What gas spanner?”

Gas Spanner in the Works

There wasn’t one! It’s usually tied around the neck of one of the cannisters. So, no problem. I can use my adjustable pliers; one of three pairs in ascending size, except they don’t adjust enough! They adjusted about two millimetres too short. We went off to Daventry (after a detour via Northampton for a cup of drive by tea – we were gasping) to purchase a gas spanner or adjustable spanner – extra large.

Back aboard Silverdale I once again lifted the gas locker lid, tried to undo the regulator but no! Too small! Was this collar some none imperial or metric size? It must have been Babylonian! Another tool for the toolbox.

Luckily Louie, a neighbour from a nearby boat kindly lent me his gas spanner (the correct tool for the job) and it became a doddle! I removed the empty cannister, manoeuvred the new cannister into place, connected it up to the regulator (with the regulation, borrowed gas spanner), double-checked it, then went into the kitchen to turn on the gas and make a cup of tea – nothing!

I double checked the connection, it was fine. Then, lifted the cannister and then lifted the old, empty cannister, they both weighed the same – they were both empty!

Arrgghhh!

Firestarter 101

It was Sunday and the Marina Chandlery doesn’t open on a Sunday – no gas. So, this was a perfect opportunity to try out the Ghillie Kettle. The Ghillie kettle is a thing of beauty and we had purchased it for just such an occasion. It’s basically a ‘rocket’ stove. It runs on anything that will burn and heats water in no time

I placed the kettle safely on the metal pontoon, above water and away from the boat. after several failed attempts with matches (the slight breeze, channelled down between the two narrowboats was enough to keep putting them out), I managed to light it. I used my Swedish Firestarter (it wasn’t Twisted).

A Nice Cup of Tea

The kettle burst into life, my water started boiling and smoke started billowing. Pretty soon I was worried I would be smoking out the whole marina! If I had a been a fisheater, I could have smoked haddock! All went well however and we had a nice cup of tea. There’s something about drinking tea outside that takes it to a whole other level.

In fact we had another soon after but this one was from the Marina Café. I didn’t want to risk more smoke and someone calling the the fire brigade for a “narrowboat on fire!”.

The cup of tea at the café turned out to be fortuitous as we met Stuart there – Stuart works in the Chandlery. We explained about our gas panic and he kindly offered to open the Chandlery and let us purchase some gas AND a gas spanner, as he had access to the keys. I promptly drove cannister in the the car around (even an empty cannister would have been a struggle to walk and/or roll around from the boat) to the Chandlery. The gas was connected (via the gleaming silver gas spanner), the cooker was lit and all was well with the world.

Gas panic over.

We finished the day listening to vinyl: Pink Floyd, The Stones, New Order and XTC but

Here’s Oasis and ‘Gas Panic’

rp – peace and narrowboats

Tolkien-inspired and Pirate-inspired

17 – 18 July 2020

Tolkien-inspired

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It was another Friday so another non-working day. I do like them. I have got so used to them in such short a time, I don’t know how I could live without them now 😉

Once again it was sunny and hot. It had been sunny and hot yesterday and so, there was nothing else for it, I had ordered a book. I ordered Tolkien – The Maker of Middle Earth by Catherine McIlwaine from the Bodleian shop. It was a book produced in support of the exhibition of the same name, the Bodleian Libraries’ summer 2018 exhibition, at

The Weston Library, Oxford
1 June 28 October 2018.

Mu and I both went to the exhibition when moored in Oxford with our previous narrowboat – MIRRLESS. It was inspirational. I never bought the book at the exhibition but decided to rectify this now. The one thing you have to know is that it is a big book, especially as I ordered the hardback. I also ordered a print of the the jacket cover of The Hobbit. The print is going to take pride of place, on the wall, just to the left of my desk. I’m not sure about the book…

Adrian had returned and tidied up the woodwork that had been disturbed in the fix of the overflow pipe (see We Found a Leak). It was as if nothing had ever been disturbed.

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Following on with the Tolkien-esque theme (I am also currently re-reading The Lord of the Rings) we also started watching The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey such a great film.

Pirate-inspired

Saturday saw us travel to Kings Lynn. Kings Lynn is the nearest piece of coast to where we now live. We weren’t planning to visit a beach, just hopefully ‘go to the sea’. It had been a very long while since we had. It didn’t quite turn out to be the ‘Oh, I do love to be beside the seaside’ experience we had expected. This will become apparent.

We had set off a little later than we had liked but it was the weekend and a little lay-in was in order (or more like, “Oh, what? Is that the time? I thought we were setting off early?”). It was a long way, well it seemed a long way when actually plying the highways. Also, there were also a lot of roundabouts. I am no stranger to roundabouts having worked in Swindon for many years – they have the ‘magic roundabout’. It seemed that no sooner had you crossed a roundabout, another reared up on the horizon.

Pleasantly Surprised

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We were pleasantly surprised with the town, it was very nice. The estuary of the River Great Ouse had places to explore, with Ferry Lane and Purfleet Road giving a distinctly ‘pirate’ feel to the area. Sculptures of anchors and chains and a figure in a tricorn hat was inspiring. This was especially as I’m writing The Tales of Silverdale – A Pirate Ship In Dark Waters , on Ko-fi as we speak.

We sat out in Tuesday Market Square at a socially distanced Prezzo for coffee, which was handled really well. We bought a vegan pasty each and a vegan chocolate muffin from a local, independent bakers (one door in, one door out) for our return to Silverdale.

As we had arrived later than we had liked, we never got to walk down to the sea. So, there was no harbour to wander around and no sea to look out to but we were pleasantly surprised with Kings Lynn and will return to explore further, another day.

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rp – peace and narrowboats