Monday 30 April 2012

To do list update

With our plans starting to come together I thought I should review our "to do" list.  We've made some progress but also added extras.

Buy a cheaper house - done
Sorting and packing up belongings for garage sale - done
Apply for Elly's Finnish passport- done
Sell our house - almost done!
Arrange insurance for stored belongings - hmm... better do this one now
Move to new house - remove from list
Open a UK bank account - in progress
Send remaining chickens to their new home
Cancel private health insurance
Arrange for our mail to be dealt with at home
Arrange for mail in the UK
Book airfares
Ship belongings to UK
Rent out our house - in progress
Arrange for someone to have the pot plants
Pack up remainder of our belongings and store
Sell Elly’s car (Mick's truck to be left at workshop)
Book hire car in UK
Transfer money to UK account
Work out what to do with our mobile phone numbers
Buy a caravan for temporary home
Set up bathroom for temporary home
Correspondence to arrive by email rather than post where possible - in progress

Sunday 29 April 2012

Pick of the week - Hydeaway

Looking at boats is feeling a bit more real to us now.  We're not quite there yet but by the end of this week we're hoping to have it wrapped up.  If the exchange rate stays close to what it is now, we'd have a budget for our boat of about £55,000.

This one is from Braunston Marina : nb Hydeaway.   It has a very thick base plate!  The rear area where the engine is looks to be a great storage area - we're hoping to have somewhere to store a folding bicycle.  We like the colour scheme too.  We'd need to find somewhere for a washing machine and to turn the bed into a cross bed but other than that it ticks all our boxes.

Price : £59,950
57 ft All Steel Trad-Style Narrowboat
Year : 2004
Hull by Hudson
Fit-out by Hudson

Hull: Original thicknesses 15/6 mm. Typically attractive Hudson hull with thick bottom plate, long swims, false rivets detailing & long foredeck. 3-coat blacking 2009. Glazed cratch with fold-down decorated table/shutter & fitted cover. Stirrup step, pigeon box, brass mushroom vents & equipment rack. Starboard side-doors. Brass portholes (venting aft). Brass tunnel lamp on foredeck mast. 124 gal approx. s/steel water tank. 40 gal fuel tank. Livery: green roof, cream sides, green panels, red lines. Traditionally decorated aft, forward & side doors.

Fit out: Quality fit-out. Headroom c. 6ft 3ins (min). Light oak veneered ply panels with matching or mahogany trim. Solid timber fitted furniture. Brown fitted carpet throughout except for tile-effect vinyl in galley. Beige curtains.

Berths: Four. Fixed double bed in own room aft. Conversion double in dinette.

Engine room & electrics: Beta 43 4-cyl 43HP diesel + PRM150D2 gearbox. Calorifier. 70A & 40A alternators. 1500VA/65A inverter/3-step charger. Advanced alternator regulator. 240V shore connection. Aquafax 8HP electric bowthruster. 

Batteries: 1 starter, 3 domestic, 2 bow-thruster. Mikuni diesel-fired heating unit.

Bedroom: Fixed ‘4-poster’ style double bed, storage under, o/h cupboard & adjustable reading lights. Double wardrobe, cupboard over. Small dressing unit, cupboard under, wall mirror, cupboard over. Radiator shelf. Gangway door.

Toilet: Side cabin. Part tiled in white ceramic + decorative slips. Fully tiled & curtained shower enclosure. Dometic gravity pump-out toilet. Large white ceramic basin on cupboard. 2 airing cupboards. Wall cupboard. Mirror. Radiator.

Galley: ‘U’-shaped. Dark grey granite-effect laminate worktop + small brick-effect slips to splashback. Large white acrylic sink & drainer, double cupboard with cutlery drawer under. Vanette GG7000 fitted gas oven & grill, separate 4-burner hob. 12V fridge. Double wall-cupboard. Suspended double-fronted glazed cupboard. Decorated side doors + acrylic insert, shallow cupboard under.

Dinette: Raised ‘Pullman’ upholstered 4-seater dinette, storage under, veneered timber table, converting to double bed.

Saloon: Morso solid-fuel stove in tiled surround + brass scuttle & tools. Fitted corner TV cupboard + radio/CD & fitted speakers, power & aerial sockets. Glazed book case. Low-level open shelves. Overhead corner cupboard. Adjustable wall spotlights. Iron log-basket. 2 cream leather revolving armchairs. Solid bulkheads & decorated doors to covered well-deck with side lockers & fold-down decorated table.

Other equipment: Diesel-fired central heating to 3 radiators. 2 x 13kg gas bottles. Deck & mooring equipment. 3 fire extinguishers & blanket. Water hose. 

Saturday 28 April 2012

Chestnut soup

I found a recipe on the internet for chestnut soup and made a small batch tonight - my own adaption.  It's really good!  The reason I only cooked a small amount was because peeling them was such a nuisance.  Even with the help of a neighbour, my fingers were sore.  I wonder if there is an easier way?  Mind you, I didn't see the bit in the recipe that said to pour 1/4 cup of water on the tray before baking the chestnuts so I just roasted them dry like I usually do.  I wonder if it makes the peeling easier.  I might have to try that.  I also didn't have anything to put the cloves/bay leaf in so I just added them to the pot and picked them out before blending the soup.

So here is my version.

  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 cereal bowl of roasted, peeled chestnuts
  • ½ a chopped onion
  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup light cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. To Cook Chestnuts: With a sharp knife, slice an 'X' across each chestnut. Place chestnuts in a single layer on a  tray. Pour 1/4 cup water into the pan. Bake in a preheated 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) oven for 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, shell and peel.
  2. In a saucepan combine the chicken stock, shelled chestnuts and onion. Place the parsley, cloves and bay leaf in a spice bag and add to the saucepan. Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.
  3. Discard the spice bag and puree the chestnut mixture in a food processor or blender. Add the cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Return mixture to saucepan and gently heat through.  

Friday 27 April 2012

So close we can almost taste it...

We've spent the week negotiating with a potential buyer for our house and today... finally... they've agreed to our bottom line.  No contract signed yet but it's agreed in principle.  I think we're a bit shell shocked!

Thursday 26 April 2012

General update - April 2012

1. We're still waiting

2. Up the street - the shower screen being measured up today, carpet going in tomorrow.  The curtains and blinds will go up on the weekend.  We even have a potential tenant.

3. Quilts - I've made fantastic progress on my Hexagon Star and look forward to our sewing group today to show them my hard work.  I also got a a rev up from Rachel in our sewing group (when she came to measure up the for the carpet up the street).  I have a smaller hexagon quilt that I've stitching with hexagons I made in 1999/2000 when I wasn't well.  They were the first hand sewing I'd done and it was almost finished when I made a start on the Hexagon Star.  Big mistake.  I haven't done anything on it for 2 years and Rachel gave me a bit of a challenge to finish the quilt top by our next sewing group.  It's done! 

4. Our garden is a bit confused.  The weather has been quite warm for this time of year - until a couple of days ago, anyway.  A couple of plants that are spring flowering have had a few flowers on!  One of the plum trees outside our fence had some blossoms on it and the other day at a friend's place she had some flowers on a Banksia Rose.  The vegie garden's doing well though.

5. We're still waiting

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Anzac Day - Lest we Forget

A day to remember the Anzacs landing at Gallipoli, this year being the 97th anniversary. There are dawn services held all over the country - from crowds of 40,000 in the cities to 100 people at our local service.  It got us wondering whether there was somewhere in the UK where Aussies and Kiwis could attend a service. 

I found this website : Anzac day london

And a list of services all over the UK and Ireland : Commonwealth Forces WW2

Tuesday 24 April 2012


Up the road we have three huge chestnut trees.  I couldn't believe it when I went up there the other day - the ground beneath them is a carpet of prickly chestnut cases.  I spent an hour sifting through them collecting the decent sized nuts and came home with a bag weighing nearly 6 kilos!

I've been sharing them round to neighbours and friends and toasting a handful in our Rayburn stove each night.  One of the girls at sewing last night said her aunt used to make chestnut soup when she was young so I'm on a mission to find a good recipe and give it a try.  Suggestions for other chestnut recipes are most welcome!

Monday 23 April 2012

A bank account in the UK

After reading of Paul's problems with trying to open a bank account (click here), I made it my mission today to find a way for us to open an account before we go.

I spent an awful long time on the phone but finally have a resolution.  HSBC will open an account for us now.  We'll have an account in Australia with HSBC and an account in the UK with HSBC.  There is an initial fee of $200 for them to process the application but no ongoing account keeping fees.

The UK account comes with a Visa debit card and a cheque book if you want, but there is a minimum monthly deposit requirement of £500.  If you don't maintain the minimum deposits the account could be downgraded to a basic account which it seems doesn't have the cheque book facility and the card provided is a basic ATM card. 

We will wait until our house is sold before we open the account, but at least we know it will work out.

Sunday 22 April 2012

The agony of waiting

We can't think of much else at the moment except whether we'll have a buyer soon. We have had two very interested parties in the house over the last two weeks but no offer.  The waiting is wearing us down!

Meanwhile we have other positive things happening.  We borrowed the money necessary to finish the other house so it can be rented out.  The carpet goes in on Friday and the other remaining jobs are in progress.  We had a knock on the door by our neighbour the other day - she thinks she may have found us a tenant!  That would be a real bonus.  She said she'd send the people up to see us so we can show them the house.  They've just sold theirs and want to rent for a couple of years.  Once their 3 day cooling off period expires they'll start looking for somewhere to live.  That means this week.

Another bonus is that the neighbour over the road with the barking dogs moved out on the weekend.  We're so glad.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Pick of the week - Quality Time

This one! This one!  We really like this boat.  We'd look no further.  It would be at the very extreme top of our budget, if we could knock the price down a little.  We've really started to think we'd prefer a second cabin like this boat has.  We'd convert it into an office but still keep it as somewhere for a guest too.

From ABNB Brokerage is nb Quality Time.  (not sure we really like the name).

Price: £62,000
Length: 57ft 0in
Builder: Piper Boats
Fitter-out: Piper Boats
Style: Trad
Year registered: 2008
Certification: BSS to 2016
Engine: Beta Marine B-43KC diesel
Bow thruster: Vetus 12V 55kgf 4hp
Plating: 10/6/4
Last out of water: October 2010
Water tank: 100 gallons built-in
Headroom: 6ft 6in
Fit-out materials: Maple panels with ash trim
Insulation: Spray foam
Berths: 3
Berth sizes: 6ft 6in x 4ft 2in perm double, 6ft 5in x 2ft 0in perm single
Fridge: Shoreline 12V 4cu ft
Washer/dryer: Candy Aquamatic washing machine
WC: Tecma electric flush wc to remote tank
Shower: in cubicle with door
Cooker: Spinflo Caprice free-standing gas cooker
Water heating: C/heating + engine + 230V immersion heater > calorifier
Cabin heating: Webasto diesel c/heating > rads, diesel stove
Mains 230V: Landline + 2500W inverter
Other: Corian worktops, breakfast bar. Forward cratch and cover. Rear taff seats for steerer.
Location: Trent & Mersey Canal, Staffs

Saturday 14 April 2012

Hopeful again

After having our hopes dashed a few weeks ago when two out of a party of three wanted our house but the third wanted more "entertaining space", we're cautious about being overly optimistic.

It's been a better week with inspections.  First a couple over Easter that came back twice and then rang from Melbourne for a copy of the S32.  That's promising.  Better still was a new prospect yesterday who fell in love with the place!  She also took the S32.

It's hard to keep positive when you don't dare get your hopes up!!!

Friday 13 April 2012

Ten year project update

I had barely sewn a stitch from about November to February.  Seems I lost motivation.  I knew when we had our first 4-10pm sewing group for the year I'd be inspired again, and so it was.

Alison and I are a couple of years into a 10 year project - each making our own version of what we call our Hexagon Star Quilt.  I had only very vaguely in mind what I'd need to achieve each year to come anywhere close to the 10 years of getting it finished.  But, at our first sewing evening for the year in February, Alison had a year by year planner of what she wanted to get done.  I went home and did the same, working out how many of each block I'd need to do per year to come somewhere close to the 10 year mark.  It was a bit of a shock!

Each year I need to make 6 "star" and 11 "hexagon" blocks.  So in theory, by that February sewing group I should have made 12 stars and 22 hexagons.  I was nowhere close!  I had just 6 stars and 10 hexagons done in 2 years.  I do have quite a pile of pieces cut out.  I decided to put aside all other projects and concentrate on this one until I catch up to where I need to be with it.

Since our March get together I've not let a single day go by without working on my project.  It's amazing what progress you can make when you concentrate on it.  I have also caught the train to work a few times and that gives me some extra sewing time.  In three weeks I have made another 3 stars and 6 hexagons.  I'm getting closer to catching up. 

Thursday 12 April 2012

Boating knots

Now here's something we're going to have to learn about.  Amy on nb Lucky Duck had a recent post about rope splicing.  The link she gave to the instructions on how to make the eye splice also had step by step instructions on a whole lot of knots.  Very interesting!

The website is called Animated Knots and I see they have a smart phone app as well.  Might be worth it as I'm sure it will take a while before we're any good at them. Would love to hear what experienced narrowboaters use.  Comments welcome.

Wednesday 11 April 2012

Pick of the week - Joanna

This one is listed with Nottingham Boat Sales - nb Joanna.
We quite like the colour of this one.  The photos are quite small so it's difficult to get an idea of the state of the paintwork but it says the boat is in good condition. Nice looking galley and bathroom.

57ft Semi-Trad Stern Narrow boat 

Built in 2006 by Alken Engineering.
Finished to a very high standard. 

Berths: 4 Berths. 1 Fixed Double + Double Bed Settee.

Main Cabin:
Open plan. 2 Double bed settee. Shelving &  CD rack. Flat Screen TV. Radio &  CD player. Breakfast Bar &  Stools.

Galley: 4 Ring Gas Cooker &  Oven. 12V Fridge/Freezer. Washing Machine. Microwave, Corian Work-Surface With Incorporated double sink + mixer taps & draining.

Thetford Cassette Toilet. Walk-in Shower Fully Tiled, Tiled Floor Thoughout Area. Storage Cupboards with Corian Top &  Ceramic Hand Basin. wall mounted Mirror.

Bedroom: Fixed Double with storage Drawers under &  Cupboards Above.  Folding Bed-side Table. Wardrobe. Storage Cupboard.

Engine: Beta Green line 4/38 Inboard Diesel (38hp) connected to Calorifier. Skin Tank Cooling. Last serviced on 8 September 2010. Full service history.

Reflex Diesel Stove. Mikuni diesel heater to radiators.

12V &  240V Electrics. Twin Alternator. Marine Charger 2000w. 2000w Master Volt Inverter 12V Lighting.

Technical Specification:
All Steel Hull Plating. 1 Side Door. Stainless Steel Water Tank. Oak Veneer Panelling Throughout.

Additional Information: Current BSC. Timber Cratch Cover. Rear tonneau covers. Galvanic isolator fitted Jan 2011.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Clever possum

It was a big relief this morning to find that the chimney flu possum had climbed up the rope and moved out.  We had been a bit worried whether he'd have the strength.  After all, he had been there since at least Saturday morning when we first tried lighting the fire and may have been there before that.  Plus, with two attempts at fire lighting!

Monday 9 April 2012

Playing possum

We had a house inspection Saturday morning so we were up early to give the house a once over.  The weather had turned cooler so we decided to light the wood burner in the living room as well as the Rayburn in the kitchen.  It would make the whole house feel more welcoming.

Mick lit the living room fire and we sat down to breakfast.  A little while later I walked past to see through the glass that the firebox was completely filled with smoke. Mick raced outside to discover not a wisp of smoke coming from the chimney.  It wasn't looking good!  With only 1 1/2 hours until the inspection we decided to just leave it and let the smouldering go out.  By the time we left the house the smoke was gone and it just looked like someone had set the fire with wood ready to be lit.  Nothing had burnt at all.

When the people inspecting the house had gone we took the wood from the firebox and it looked like the firelighters hadn't even caught on properly.  They were left over from last Winter so we came to the conclusion that they were stale.  Today the same people returned for a second inspection so among the many other things we had to do today we decided to light the fire - this time using newspaper.  The same thing happened - lots of smoke inside the firebox and nothing more.  We just left it again and later this afternoon Mick set out to investigate the problem.

Mick got on the roof and peered down the flu with a torch but couldn't see anything.  Back in the house he slid back the steel plate that's on the "ceiling" of the firebox and got the shock of his life.  A possum was wedged inside the flu!  He's hissing and snarling so Mick has hung a rope (with knots tied along it) down from the top of the chimney in the hope that the possum will climb out overnight. We've had this happen in our other chimney once before and the rope worked.  We'll see what happens by morning. 

Sunday 8 April 2012

The truth about living afloat.

Happy Easter!

Being Sunday today we spent some time reading the latest Waterways World we received and the Towpath Talk that Ray brought us last week.  Mick likes to trawl through the boats for sale and mark ones for me to look up on the internet.

I came across an article in WW that caught my interest.  It was called The Truth About Living Afloat - sort of a list of 50 facts.  Some were funny, some were silly, and some were interesting.  Some of my favourites were :

30. When other people fall in, you are never there to see it/photograph it.  But you know all too well that when you fall in there'll be a group of Japanese tourists there, immortalising it on film and uploading it to YouTube within the hour.

Goodness, I'm not planning on falling in.  I sure hope not anyway!!

39. The first things you do when you wake up in the morning is look out the window and make sure the land is still at the same level to you as it was the prior evening, and that your recurring "sinking" dream is in fact, still just a dream.

Now this is something that I have thought about.  I've read a few worrying stories on blogs about people waking up and almost rolling out of bed because their boat is tipping.

47. The first time that you steer your own boat yourself, however slowly or poorly, you just know that you're the coolest dude in the world.  I wouldn't say that the feeling is better than chocolate, but it's better than pretty much everything else.  Yes, even that.

During our endless discussions about what it might be like to finally get our own boat, we sometimes say just this.  Imagine how amazing it's going to be to head out for the first time on our very own boat.

50. You used to hate having pictures of yourself shown around, because you always look so gormless in them. But with boating pictures, you don't really mind that you look like a cross-eyed imbecile, because you're just so obviously happy in all of them.

We've not thought of this before but after seeing the photos of Paul and Elaine it's something else to look forward to.  Just look at them - they look so happy!!!  Click here.

Thursday 5 April 2012

A visit from Ray

We had a lovely visit from Ray of nb Ferndale (Gypsy Rover) last Sunday.  It's always such a pleasure to talk to somebody who knows more about life afloat than we do.  We have so many questions.

Ray kindly brought us a copy of the Towpath Telegraph which we've put aside for our Sunday morning narrowboat fix.  So Easter Sunday will be a great morning of reading.  Thanks Ray!

Monday 2 April 2012

Sydney harbour bridge walk

I took the memory card out of my camera today and found these photos I took when I was in Sydney in February to apply for my Finnish passport.  It wasn't the nicest of days in Sydney that day but it was interesting to see the people doing the bridge walk.  I took these from the ferry.  Even in the photo with the opera house beneath the bridge you can still just make out the people walking along the arch of the bridge.  They look like tiny dots beneath the patch of blue sky on the right.   I don't think I'd be game!