Thursday 31 January 2013

Tuesday and Wednesday

There wasn't much to report yesterday, it was another day of work.  I did go out for a half hour walk with Mick - he decided we should go down the towpath South of the marina.  Oh dear.... the mud!!  We aren't terribly well equipped in the way of winter boots and squelching through the mud wasn't much fun.  The towpath really is in a sorrowful state.  It's difficult because that low lying area gets the water from the river next door when it bursts its banks.... twice since we've been here.

This morning we decided we really should "bite the bullet" and go and fill the diesel tank and pump out the loo.  As we went out to prepare Barry (nb Winton's Folly) next door said he was about to go for diesel too but from there he was heading into Stone.  We worked out with him that if we moored up under the bridge, and he tied up to us, we could both get diesel, we could pump out our loo and I'd walk up to the Aston lock to help him through as he was on his own.

It was windy already and got worse no sooner had we drifted from the pontoon.  Huge gusts!  We managed our way out of the mooring and past nb Stanley and into the centre of the marina.  Fine.  The sun was in our faces so it was hard to see but we were well on course for the bridge... a little across from where we needed to be to allow for the push of the wind.  Just as we got near the wind worsened and gave the boat a big shove so we came into moor with a bit of a bang.  Never mind. 

Along came Barry behind us.  He looked like he was nicely on course too.  We could see the he was battling against the wind and at about the same spot as us, he copped a big gust.  Luckily there wasn't much room left under the bridge with us already there so it was only a little ding. 

Up at Aston lock it looked like a picture perfect day - except you can't see the wind in a photo.  A couple of the swan youngsters have taken up residence there and as the lock was filling they swam up to each other and kissed in that classic swan pose you see in figurines.  I was frantically trying to get my camera out but it was too late.  What an amazing sight.

Mick brought the boat back in by himself while I went up to the lock.  Back on board we did our calculations.  It's costing us just over £1.50 a day in diesel (running central heating for 3 hours a day - mainly for hot water but also to warm the back of the boat in the mornings), £2.50 a day in coal (the new stove goes 24 hours a day) and less than 50p a day in electricity (we haven't used the fan heater at all since we started using the coal stove), so all up a little over £4.50 each day while we're in the marina.  We did have extra diesel cost as we were out of the marina for a few days and back to running the engine for power.

The other thing we did was to lift up the mattress of the bed and shine our torch through the loo tank to make sure it was empty.  The pump at this marina doesn't have a "sight glass" in the hose so you can't actually see what is being pumped out.  Others we've used have a section of plastic so you can see the difference when it's just water being pumped out.... sorry.... I know it's gross. We can only judge by the the pulsing of the hose as the pump works to tell if it seems to be empty.  We put the hose in the flush pipe for the last minute or two because it seems we have our tank empty before the 8 minutes are up.  But, we just can't be sure!  Our level gauge isn't working so we'll look into having that fixed.  Meanwhile the "torch under the bed" method works well.  It's empty!

We were told a tragic tale at Monday's afternoon tea, of a couple who returned to their boat to find the loo had overflowed all over the floors while they were out.  I can't imagine how awful it must have been.  They thought maybe the marina pump wasn't working properly, which is why we were a bit paranoid today.  But we're sure all is well now and I'm glad of that with Mick going away in a few days time.

There was another event worth a mention.  As Mick reversed the boat into our mooring he knocked the pontoon and our ash bucket fell in!  He spent a good couple of hours over the remainder of the day fishing with the "sea searcher" magnet but no luck.  He fished left, he fished right, he fished further out, and closer in, all with a very confused swan honking and snapping and hissing at him.  There were a few amused spectators too.  He did manage to bring up a drill bit of his that had rolled off the decking a few weeks ago.  So in honour of his antics I've resurrected "in the drink" for this blog entry.

I spent the rest of the day working and am finally catching up.  There's been a bit of juggling going on between the work for my two employers as one had an urgent job to be done.  It will be nice to have more time to spare than just a half hour walk or an exciting visit to the pumpout.  I want to catch up properly by the end of the week as we've hired a car for Friday.

There was a plan made on Monday for drinks at The Swan in Stone at 5pm today.  It will be the last time Mick gets to see a few of the marina folk as several will have headed off on their cruising by the time he returns the last week of March.  I was frantically doing work right up til 4.30pm when we really should be going.  But, I still had another 2 hours at least to go and dreaded having to come back and finish the job at night.  It had to be sent back in time for Thursday morning at the office in Melbourne.  I was dressed and had one shoe on when we started discussing whether I should bail out and stay back to finish the work. I paused with my other shoe in hand and agonised over what to do.  In the end I decided to stay back.  I have a whole day of work ahead tomorrow for my other employer.  And, I'll still be here to see everyone next week.  Now the work's done for today and I have time for blogging.

In memory of today :
1. Pretty Aston lock in the sunshine
2. Seeya Barry!
3. onwards.... fishing

In the drink to date : Elly - phone charger (retrieved - it floated!), Mick - sunglasses, Mick - hearth brush, Mick - mooring hook (retrieved with sea searcher), Mick - reading glasses, Mick - drill bit (retrieved with sea searcher), Mick - ash bucket

Tuesday 29 January 2013

The Australia Day get together

Today, being Monday, we had our Ocado grocery delivery.  Dot (nb Ewn Ha Cul) had called saying they had a delivery due too - the hour after us.  They had the same driver so our deliveries would arrive together.  Right on the dot of midday the truck arrived.  Great service!

Mick had walked into Stone for a couple of extra things we'd forgotten and I worked in the meantime.  We met Diane up at the cedar hut at 1.30pm to put up our Aussie decorations.  Some of our regulars are away at the moment but the rest of the usuals were in attendance.  There was some new boaters : Sue from nb Cockney Sparra and Julie from nb Dampervan.  They brought along a non boating friend.

It was an enjoyable afternoon of Aussie treats.  Gee it was windy.  The Aussie flag, courtesy of Leanne before we left Australia, was flapping wildly.  Even the dogs got into the Aussie spirit.  Banjo (nb Ferndale) had his little green and gold coat on and Sam (nb Caxton) was in green and gold too.

The weather is much milder now but the rain has returned... and the wind!!

Weather for Stone, UK
Currently : 10°C Scattered cloud
Mon : Clear, Max 11° Min 7°
Tue : Chance of rain, Max 14° Min 6°
Wed : Clear, Max 11° Min 4°
Thu : Chance of rain, Max 11° Min 3°

Today :
1. Barry (nb Winton's Folly), Gordon (nb Ewn Ha Cul) and Mick getting in the spirit
2. Barry's contribution
3. Elaine (nb Caxton) with Sam in his green and gold
4. Banjo (nb Ferndale)


Monday 28 January 2013

Rain and high water

When we went to bed last night the marina was white with snow but over the course of the evening the rain had been increasing in intensity so by morning there was barely a patch of snow left.  The boat was strangely still too.  We got up to an alarming lean and peeked out to find the water levels had risen dramatically in the marina.  In fact, a quick check over at nb Stanley and the water was higher than it has been since we arrived in the marina.  There was no space at all beneath the pontoon.

All day the weather kept changing its mind.  We had rain, we had hail, we had blue sky and sunshine, then back to the beginning again.  We had to keep turning lights on and off as sometimes they sky got so dark we could hardly see and an hour later the sun was streaming in the window. 

Today was a day of catching up on chores. I had a bit of tidying up to do - it had been neglected over the last week or more while I was working on my urgent job. 

Mick had been nagging me for a few days to book him fares to New Zealand for while he's home in Australia.  He wants to go and visit his mum as her health has taken a further turn for the worse.  Working out the logistics of this was more than a five minute job, so it too had been deferred until my work was over.  So now his flights, car hire, hotel is all booked and ready to go.

We also booked a hire car from Friday so we can have a day out together before Mick flies out on Sunday.  There is always things we want to buy that can only be done with a car.  I'll go and visit Lois, our house exchange friend, while Mick is away and there is a couple of patchwork quilt shops in her direction.  So, although my original intention had been to visit her by train, I'll now drive so I can also visit the quilt shops.

Mick's been busy with maintenance.  He completely dismantled the drainage system for the shower and gave it a clean.  It probably hadn't been done since the boat was new and we noticed the shower wasn't draining as well as we'd expect.  The reason was obvious.... not a pretty sight!  So now it's all refreshed and ready for the next few years.   He's checked out the water pump, cleaned out the bilge at the back of the boat, sorted, tidied, cleaned and restacked all the stuff stored at the stern.

Late this afternoon we went for a walk to the other side of the marina to see what the river that runs beside the canal looks like.  The water level had continued to rise from the melting snow.  The river's burst its banks and looked more like a lake.  On our walk we noticed a couple of boats on other pontoons were on rather a strange angle.  nb Stanley looked fine.... I know you'll be reading guys!

On returning to the boat we had a quick look at the boat beside us.  It had been stuck up on the pontoon when the water level went down after the last flood.  It has a steel plate at the back which helps support the rear fender and that plate had been sitting stuck on the decking.  The boat was far enough back that the same thing would happen so we thought we'd pull the boat forward and re-tie it.  We couldn't move it at all!  We pushed and shoved and eventually discovered that the rudder was caught beneath the pontoon.  As the water had risen, the boat was wedged tight by the caught rudder.  I went and rounded up Ray and Andy for help and with us standing on the back of the boat to force it further down into the water Mick was able to push it away from the pontoon. 

This afternoon I baked Anzac biscuits.  I made a batch of each recipe and although they were ok, they weren't as good as those I've made at home.  The golden syrup is different!  It's much lighter in colour and has a different taste.  We don't have a baking tray so I did the best I could with about 6 layers of aluminium foil.  It was ok, but did sag a little across the bars of the oven rack.  I also have no idea when temperature I'm putting the oven on!  It just has numbers rather than temperature markings.  The internet chose that moment to refuse to work so I couldn't even look up a conversion of the gas marks on the oven.  And finally, we don't have a cooling rack.  With only one rack in the oven, I had nothing to cool the first batch on while the next was cooking.  Oh dear.  The coconut batch turned out a bit better so they'll go along to our Australia Day get together tomorrow.

Today's photos :
1. There is no space beneath the pontoons this time
2. The river burst its banks and a little snow left on the canal towpath
3. And again
4. This boat needed its mooring ropes loosened
5. nb Stanley is nice and level

Sunday 27 January 2013

Anzac biscuits

No, it's not Anzac Day but with today being Australia Day we thought we'd take along Anzac biscuits to Monday's afternoon tea.  It looks like it's going to be an Aussie theme.  I've heard talk of vegemite sandwiches, snags in bread and lamingtons!

I hadn't thought to include an Anzac biscuit recipe on the blog before I left home so now I was stranded without my favourite recipe.  It's been a long time since I made them so I emailed my mum who provided the following from our old school cookbook.  I'm thinking that might be where I got my recipe in the first place.  We'll see how they turn out!

Anzac Day might have been a better time to talk about Anzac biscuits but now that I've started I thought I should include a link for how they came about.

High School Anzacs

2 cups oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon Golden syrup
1 teaspoon bicab soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup melted butter

Combine sugar, flour and oats
Mix golden syrup, bicarb soda and boiling water
While frothing add melted butter
Pour into dry ingredients and mix
Drop spoonfuls onto a baking tray - allow room for the biscuits to spread
Bake at 160c about 20 mins

My recipe doesn't use coconut but I know a lot of them do.  I did a browse on the internet the other day and found this one.  It's close to my favourite recipe but it has coconut in it.  Worth a try.

  • 125 grams butter
  • 1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2  cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  1. Heat the oven to 180c (350F). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Combine the flour, oats, sugar, and coconut in a mixing bowl.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat then add the golden syrup.
  4. Using a cup, add the boiling water to the bicarb soda and stir quickly.  Then add this to the melted butter/syrup.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  6. Roll into walnut size balls and flatten them slightly with a fork onto the tray about 5cm apart as they will spread.
  7. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Take tray from the oven and let biscuits sit on tray for 5 minutes.
  9. Remove the biscuits from the tray and finish cooling on a wire rack.


I've been flat out working lately and not had time for much else.  I was so glad of the day off on Thursday.

Yesterday the snow started melting and the weather forecast suggested it would be gone soon.  There's even been talk of potential flooding from the melting snow.  Someone had cleared the built up ice/snow from the pontoon up to just before our jetty so yesterday Mick got out there and finished the job - all the way to the end of the pontoon.  It kept him out of trouble for a good while.

We'd arranged with Barry and Carol (nb Winton's Folly) to have a bit of a card night.  Mick had never played Canasta and I hadn't played since a teenager.... memories of school holidays at Vic's place.  So after dinner we prepared for the long trek just 2 boats across.  It was snowing!  By the time I got inside their boat I was covered in huge splotches of snow much to Barry's amusement.  It was great fun and a very enjoyable evening. 

Mick was most put out that all his hard work in clearing the ice from the pontoon was now covered in a new, thick layer of snow.  This morning he was out there clearing it all again.  The marina is covered in snow but the wide pontoon and our jetty coming off it are clear and almost dry.  It certainly makes walking around much easier. Thanks Mick!

Today :
1. No snow on my roof!
2. Icy water again
3. The only clear pontoon in the marina

Thursday 24 January 2013

Bus to Hanley

Having spent an awful lot of time sitting in my "office" the last 10 days or so we decided at the start of the week to take today off and go by bus to Hanley.  It was the best day according to the weather forecast.

The 101 bus is becoming familiar to us now.  We learnt something new about the bus route today.  Our bus arrived at Newcastle and most of the people got off.  There was only one other couple still sitting there.  After a moment or two the driver poked out his head and said "are you getting off?".
"No" we said.
"We're not going any further!"
Well.... I guess we were getting off.  We, and the other folk, quickly scurried out.

We went for a wander around the shops by the bus station and then came back to find a different First Potteries bus route about to depart (34).  It was also going to Hanley so we jumped on board.  This one went via Festival Park, an area we are familiar with so on the spur of the moment we pressed the button to get off at the next stop.

It was lunchtime so we made another spur of the moment decision to have lunch at The Toby Carvery.  It's such a bargain at £5.99 each and then we don't have to cook dinner.  We browsed the other shops in the area and before heading back we stopped at Tesco for a few extras.  There is a "101" bus stop just out the back of the supermarket.

By the time we traipsed across the marina field.... just starting to get muddy from the snow melting... it was 5pm.  I had time for an hour and half work!

Pie night

We woke to more snow but we're getting used to that now.  Mick faffed about and chatted to people while I worked and the day passed quickly.  We looked at the weather forecast and tomorrow is the pick of the days so we're going into Hanley on the bus.

Jim and Joan (nb Two Jays) asked if we'd join them for "pie night" at the Three Crowns.  We haven't eaten out for a while and had to pass up the Sunday roast with Ray and Diane (nb Ferndale) on Sunday as I was busy with work.  It hasn't been many times that we've gone somewhere for dinner as being on foot makes that a little more difficult from the marina, plus we're watching our budget.  It was dry when we walked the 3/4 mile to the pub.  It was an enjoyable evening and the time passed quickly.  As we got up to leave we could see it was snowing outside.  What a lovely walk back it was.... Mick and Jim laughing loudly all the way.  There were huge snow flakes gently tumbling down and it looked like a magical wonderland.  So pretty.

Not a good photo but a reminder of that lovely walk back.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Walk to Stone

The sunrise today was lovely and the day looked promising.  We decided we shouldn't waste the opportunity for a walk into Stone.  It's just stunning walking along the towpath when it's covered with snow.  A bit slippery in places but we certainly enjoyed the walk.   As we left the boat we saw Roly and Bev (nb Klara) on the marina "hill" with their three lovely spaniels frolicking in the snow.

On reaching Stone I glanced through a barber/hairdresser window and noticed there was nobody there and was pleased to be able to have a haircut on the spot.  It was well overdue.  Next stop was Morrisons for a few bits and pieces and then a coffee at Costa.  As we sat there we saw the fellow that we often chat to (and pat his very lively labrador called Breeze) when he comes to the marina for a walk and a coffee.  Further down the mall we got chatting to he and his wife, Tony and Hazel, and met their guide dog puppy, Jilly.  Tony said Breeze knows which boat is ours and every time he walks along the path that passes our pontoon, Breeze looks over to see if we're there.  It's very funny to watch her if we come out of the stern of the boat while they're walking past.  She immediately starts straining to try and reach us.  Obviously she knows who is good for a pat!  She is a gorgeous chocolate labrador but oh so energetic and boisterous.

We decided we'd walk back along the towpath again and just as we reached the lock at The Star pub we saw Jim and Joan from nb Two Jays.  A quick chat and we headed back - work beckoned.

Photos from today :



Tuesday 22 January 2013

Boaters tea party

I have a lot of work on at the moment so that was my plan for the day.  Mick decided to walk into Stone to see if the boat builder there had some timber in the right colour so he could build a little cupboard in the space where we previously had the tv.  

We had our Ocado grocery delivery coming today.  After telling Jim and Joan from nb Two Jays what a great service it was they'd placed an order for today too.  We'd selected 12-1pm (because it was the lowest delivery price when I booked it) and Jim and Joan had theirs for 11am-12pm.  I had a feeling they'd arrive together and at 11.15am Joan rang saying the delivery van was there and our groceries were on board.  I rushed out to find they were already loaded onto one of the marina trolleys.  Thanks guys!

It was a bit of an effort to get the trolley down the slope onto the pontoon without losing control in the snow.  Andy from nb Josephine looked up to see my struggle and came to my aid.  Another thanks!  Getting all the bags on board is much harder with only one of you.  Having to step out onto the pontoon for a few steps to get each load of bags I had snow everywhere by the time I was done. 

Mick returned from his mission... no luck... and after a quick lunch I got back to work.  It seemed like no time at all after lunch and he was knocking on the side hatch window telling me to make coffee.  It was already time for the boaters tea party.  I only joined them for an hour so I could return to my work.  The day seemed to just rush by.

We took photos of everyone around the table and then a few more arrived.  There was new additions from our pontoon and also Dot and Gordon (nb Ewn Ha Cul) who were just back from their trip to see the Northern Lights.  Jealous!

A few from today :
1. Collecting the Ocado delivery - Jim and Joan
2. Tough ducks
3. They ploughed through the ice to come and get bread
4. Barry and Carol (nb Winton's Folly) and Diane... or should that be Toni (nb Ferndale)
5. Jim and Joan (nb Two Jays) and Roly (nb Klara)
6. & 7. Mick and I plus Ray (nb Ferndale).... something was very funny

Monday 21 January 2013

Busy with work

The snooker is on tv at the moment... something we don't see a lot of in Australia.  There is a young Aussie fellow called Neil Robertson playing and Mick's got right into watching his progress.  It reminds me of watching "Pot Black" with my dad when I was a kid.  Barry on nb Winton's Folly is also interested in watching the snooker so last night after dinner Mick decided he'd knock on their hatch and see if Barry was watching it.  So the boys watched snooker and Carol came over for a cup of tea and a girlie chat.  Lovely evening.

Today I continued on with work.  I have a bit of a deadline looming.  There was time for a coffee break when Diane from nb Ferndale brought the paper in for us to read.  Thanks Diane!  They were heading off to The Three Crowns for Sunday lunch but we're watching our budget a little and I had work to complete so we stayed in.

There is still snow on the ground and more fell today.  Seems that's how it will be the next few days.

Mick will be off to Australia in just 2 weeks time!

Sunday 20 January 2013

The chimney dilemma

Now, we know there's going to be lots of opinions on this matter and hope you'll leave a comment with yours.  We're loving our solid fuel stove.  It's made the boat so warm and cosy.  We've had no trouble at all keeping it going overnight.  Enough heat gets down to the dinette that I'm comfortable working all day and the bathroom and bedroom aren't freezing cold.  Overall it's a winner!

Here's the dilemma.  We have one of the little "hats" to keep the rain out of the flue.  When Mick was installing it there were a few people mention the problem of gunk dripping down onto the roof from the edge of the hat and staining the roof of the boat.  We can see on other boats where this has happened.... and run down the channel along the edge of the roof and the dribbled down the side of the boat.  Not pretty.  With the roof covered in snow yesterday the problem was obvious.  The snow under the flue was stained with gunk.

Some boaters appear to have just removed the hat altogether to avoid this happening.  But we're wondering if it's not a good thing to have rain or snow getting into the flue.  Surely moisture inside the flue is going to leave residue on the inner walls of the flue?

We have found so many fantastic ideas from other boaters and we're hoping there might be some for this problem.

Meanwhile, it's been a clearer day today.  The pontoons are a bit more manageable with the snow trampled down.  It looks like there is more snow to come though.

Weather for Stone, UK
Currently : 1°C Mostly cloudy
Sat : Chance of snow, Max 0° Min -3°
Sun : Chance of snow, Max 0° Min -2°
Mon : Chance of snow, Max 0° Min -10°
Tue : Partly sunny, Max 1° Min -3°