Saturday, 18 June 2022

Arrival - first 2 days work

By 6pm Thursday 16 June, almost high tide.  Alan started to bring Xavier round from a spot sitting on the mud outside the Seal Sanctuary round the corner to where the river opens out just below Gweek. 

He was impatient to get going and did not want to wait for Simon and the crew from the boatyard to accompany and assist. He can be very stubborn! There were a few slightly awkward moments and exchanges!

The boat was turned and manourered through a narrow gap to its place alongside the quay.
The boatyard crew were on hand to deploy fenders where necessary as it made its way past several smaller boats.

Here are some videos of the process

First working day Friday 17 June
Arrived 9am Friday
Removing 5 metal disks from portholes
Tidied up metal around portholes. Cleaned and sanded.
Removed some flat pack furniture and other rubbish.
Trip to recycling centre
Occassionally havig a rest and enjoying the view.
Left 6pm

Second Working Day Saturday 18 June
Alan and Annette visited and Alan gave Julian some tips.
Paint the outside as it has been prepared and before rust sets in
Paint underside of wheelhouse roof as it is beginning to rust
He suggested we paint the outside by standing on boards on the mud.  drill holes and attach rope to we could move them easily.

Sian came to visit with the girls and they both slipped.  One of the deck and the other on the steps. Lessons learnt by all!

Julian managed to cut out the metal plates from 9 of the 10 small portholes and I went round and ground down the rough bits and sanded ready for painting.
When we got home Julian ordered some two part epoxy blacking paint

Annette and Tom

Friday, 17 June 2022

Xavier leaves Mylor Creek - destination at Gweek. Home!

For the past two weeks Xavier has been on a tidal mooring and waiting for the high tide to take us up the Helford River up to Gweek.
Mylor is a perfect spot, so picturesque.  But we could not get anything on or off the boat except what we could carry on our backs as the boat was moored front on.

We also found water in the bilges, from her time at Geertman's.  They said there had been a leak - we assumed a small one that had been contained.  No several gallons of water had been sloshing about in the bottom of the boat for several weeks.

Cockwells Boatyard Mylor Bridge

So the first few days were spent cutting holes in chipboard pumping out water, scrapping off rust and stabilising with Fertan rust converter. Which seems to be brilliant.

But this did focus our minds on the hull and its condition.  What parts were inaccessible and how important it was to ensure that everything was sounds in the bilges before we focused on the upper part of the boat. This video shows the moment that the engines started and it floated off thereby allaying my teo worst fears.  That the engine would not start and that it would not float!

This is nearly 3 minutes long!

Xavier is a spot in the distance Carrick Roads


Saturday, 4 June 2022

We really are aboard!

Getting aboard is a little tricky at the moment, 

but finally we are able to get on Xavier at its temporary mooring at Mylor Bridge boatyard.  The boat arrived at Mylor on Sunday 29 May

We are on a tidal mooring next to the barge you see above on the left, and we have started to get to know the boat.  Julian has been looking at all the technical stuff and thinking about how we will get hot water through batteries, solar panels and shore power, as well as how we will renovate the interior.  

I have been desperate to remove the peeling varnish on the wheelhouse exterior, so that's what I'm focussing on, using paint stripper (trying not to get the scrappings on the painted deck or in the environment).  Many of coats of paint stripper are required and each needs scrapping off, followed by scrubbing with a metal sourer and finally sanding before applying a thin coat of Indial Rosewood Coloron wood dye followed by Osmo UV protention oil. It is in pretty poor condition, but thankfully not rotten.  There is rot on one corner of the wheelhouse roof, and I think we will try to cut that out and repair it.

Here is a video of the boat coming to rest on the tidal mooring.  Note the hand signals from the bank!

We have had two days of brilliant sunshine, but today it is cloudy and wet, so we are going over on our bikes, it's just a few miles from Falmouth, to have a tidy up and wash the decks and side rails.

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Xavier arrives in Ramsgate, but disaster strikes, a spud pole drops to the seabed. The boat cannot move.

Xavier looks very smart entering Ramsgate

Nearly 12 months after buying the boat, it had been stripped down, painted, essential work carried out and the engine had proved to be capable. But could we relax? could we hell!!  Of course not, nothing is ever easy when you buy an old boat.  Alan moored the boat in Ramsgate overnight, so far so good, but when he and the crew tried to depart the next day, he realised he was dragging a spud pole along the bottom.  No one knew how it had dropped or how to raise it and there appeared to be no hydrolic oil in the the place where hydrolic oil should be. Checking and overhauling the spud poles was the very last thing on the list of jobs that the boatyard said that they had completed.  I was not in the least surprised to find that they did not work.  But it was a gloomy time to know that 3 paid crew were ready and waiting to move and the was a great big metal tube that was lodged in the seabed!

Our mooring still awaits us, an empty space in front of this other large barge.  

Thankfully, Alan is experienced in every kind of boat related problem and he managed to get the spud poles up and tie them up. 

About mid day, having sorted the spud pole problem,  Alan took a road trip to Dover to look at the sea conditions.  The swell was too great.  But around mid-day the following day, we looked at Marine Traffic website and saw that Xavier had taken to the seas and was approaching Deal.

The plan was to reach Eastbourne tonight and Swanage tomorrow night.

Update, they reached Eastboure the first night and  Portland tonight Saturday 28th May 2022.


Sunday, 22 May 2022

Xavier is somewhere between Dunkirk and Ramsgate!

At 7am this morning, Alan began the crossing from near Dunkirk following the shipping lane to Ramsgate. Will he turn south to begin the voyage to Falmouth or east to his mooring in Chatham? The wind and speed will dictate.

Here is a coincidence. Xavier and sister ship Zomerland passing each other in Zwartsluis 5 May 2022 as Xavier began the trip via inland waterways to Dunkirk 
Also featuring Julian's finger!

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Will our 1940's Dutch barge ever cross the channel?

 We first saw Xavier our 1940's Dutch barge in Medemblik in Holland on Wednesday 5 May 2021

The owner had been wrangling with the local council as he was one of the last liveboards, in a posh marina and the authorities refused to renew the resifential permit if he sold the barge. Unsurprisingly they did not want these big old barges with their occupant pumping raw sewage into their marina full of holiday yatchs.  Xavier had no black water holding tank.  We were something of a dream come true for the owner.  He had plenty of potential buyers for this lovely wide barge 6x30 metres.  A perfect size to make into a home.  But the buyers all wanted to make their home im Medemblik, who would not!  The owner could only sell it to someone who wanted to take the boat away. Or start a legal battle with the council.

Fast forward a few months.  Xavier was ours and she needed a complete de rust and paint and a survey before we could even comtemplate finding a crew to cross the channel to Gweek, where we had arranged a permanent mooring.

Gweek, Cornwall

Xavier needed a lot of work internally, but we do up houses for a living and we have owned a Dutch Barge before.  That did not phase us.

Our mooring, Gweek, Cornwall

Our broker found a yard called Geertman in Zwartsluis Netherlands, near Zwolle.  It seemed ideal as it was littered with old Dutch barges in various states of repair over a huge site.  A family concern and the young owner spoke English which was quite essential as we were not going to be there to oversee the survey or the work required.  We were in the first phases of the first lockdown and we had only been able to travel to see the boat as  our own house was under offer and this was to be our permanent home.

By the June 2021, Xavier had been taken to Geertmans and a surveyor was commissioned to look over the boat.  He identified quite a bit of work.  We negotiated a small discount with the owner bought the boat.  

What should have followed was a smooth process of painting the exterior of the boat whilst the boatyard worked through the list of jobs the surveyor had provided.  What followed was  months of delays and excuses. Work on our boat always seemed to be at the bottom of the to do list, yet we really were at the mercy of the owner of the yard to manage the list of works as we were unable to travel over to supervise.

By December the work was apparently complete.  Hefty bills had been paid  for the entire exterior paint and the work to make the boat seaworthy including sealing up the lower  portholes. But by then the weather had turned - we were in the middle of winter and a .crossing on a flat bottomed boat was not safe. Never the less we got back intouch with the skipper that we hoped would take the boat across the channel and we waited for good weather.  Waited and waited.  By March and April, we hoped that a crossing would be possible, but unfortunately our skipper had his own problems and everyone he know and we knew that could tackle this work was busy preparing their own boats for the coming boating season.  

April was also the time that we had agreed with Gweek boatyard that we would start paying for our mooring.  Never guessing at the time, that the work would have taken so long.  In fact the work did not take that long, it was the fact that work on our boat was the least priority.  We were not on the spot to make sure things got done. No one at the boatyard really had our interests at heart.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Jack de Crow

Jack de Crow   The link is a rather rambling video by me!

The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow by A. J. Mackinnon 2007 Seafarer Books

Sometimes you come across a book that is such a good read, you wonder why on earth you have not come across it before. This recently happened to me whilst browsing some other topic on the Dutch Barge Association (DBA) forum. The book mentioned was The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow by A J Mackinnon, and I decided that a voyage in a 11 foot Mirror dingy from Shropshire to the Black Sea was indeed unlikely for all but the most adventurous among us. I duly ordered it to find out what sort of person would attempt this journey and how could they achieve it, not least how did they plan to cross English channel?  A crossing which many, including myself had not dared to attempt in a motor powered Dutch Barge.  At the time I had absolutely no idea what a Mirror dingy was and, more than that, I had no inkling of the reading pleasure that awaited me between the pages of this little known book. 

I am now fully conversant with the possibilities and limitations (if there are any) of a Mirror dingy, and I have become well acquainted with the indomitable Mr Mackinnon; in fact I feel that I have travelled with him on his journey, enjoyed his nature notes, been thrilled at his refusal to be thwarted by almost any obstacle, and impressed by his sheer determination to continue against any odds and remain ever the cheerful optimist throughout!  

If he has a failing it is perhaps a reluctance to plan further ahead than where his next meal is to be found. He appears to have a map of some sort but as it covers the entire route from Calais to the Black Sea one presumes it lacks the required detail. He communicates by telephone, not a mobile of course, and he writes a good many postcards. One suspects that if he had the use of modern day internet that he would be reluctant to use it.  But then, if he had all the answers by simply pulling a smart phone from his pocket, he would avoid all the adventures that rely on not knowing what lies ahead.

Boaters will be all too familiar with many of the situations presented here, but perhaps not so eager to emulate the way our protagonist throws caution to the wind on almost every occasion.  Most of us who contemplate a long journey by boat would do a fair amount of research to find out if this idea is feasible.  Not  the captain of little Jack de Crow; the idea of sailing into the unknown is part of the excitement of the voyage!

One of the things that make this book such an amusing read is that the idea of having a plan never seems to occur to Mr Mackinnon. From the very start we really are on a roller coaster ride as he tries to navigate waterways that are to a large extent uncharted, some are no more than ditches, never meant for navigation and one even having strands barbed wire strung across to deter farm animals from wandering of their land.  Others are designed for motorised sea-going vessels and not a small dingy. I suspect that stopping to fully weigh up the dangers, research the likely consequences of proceeding on a given course, would make for far less exciting reading, so even if he has an inkling of what's in store, he doesn't let on!

As the author states at the beginning, he is more than happy to 'exaggerate for effect' and so it is perhaps with a largish pinch of salt that the reader can enjoy the progress of boat and captain/oarsman.  At times (for him) frustratingly slow and at others terrifyingly fast through canals, rivers and seas powered by sail (yes sailing on a French canal in 1997) or by rowing, often against pretty ferocious tides. Once on the Rhine he just manages to row 700 metres upstream to a mooring, (the only mooring) in 2 hours.  That after crossing the Rhine at Koblenz which, of course, took him the 700 metres downstream from his target. That superhuman rowing effort only possible because he had built up strength after rowing pretty continuously for the past few months.

Through thick and thin, good humour characterises his approach to every situation.  Not only that, as befits a teacher of literature his prose is light, lively and down right hilarious on many occasions, and that is said by someone who is not easily moved to laugh out loud!  Maybe it's his Aussie temperament that drives him to tackle any situation with an almost wanton disregard for his own safely, and to hilarious effect.  But to me his joy in the simple pleasures of the river bank, his modesty, his unabashed willingness to fund his supper by busking on a tin whistle when the opportunity arises, his taste for the absurd and his optimism in the face of any danger mark him out in my mind as quintessentially English!  

Sunday, 2 December 2018

End of cruising and Quercy goes to new owners

A few photos from the time of our final cruise along the loveliest part of the Canal du Centre from Saint Leger sur Dheune towards Santenay, Remigny, Chagny, Rully and on to the end of the Canal at Chalon Sur Saone. 

Near windmill at Santenay


Hotel barge at Santenay mooring

Interesting gate near Chateau Chamilly

Although the town of Chagny is uninspiring, we got around the whole area on foot and saw a lot of the rugged beautiful countryside.  Hillforts, quarries, caves and vineyards.

Wine estate Chateau Chamilly.  This does not do it justice.

Jo, Mark, Julian and Me after our wine tasting st Chateau  Chamirey

Impressively woven Willow Chagny
Rully Square

Walk near Chagny

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Paray le Monial - twinned with Wells

Here we are in Paral le Monial again, and Julian always corrects me on how to pronounce the name of this town.  He believes that he knows how to pronounce it as he came here about 30 years ago as part of a twinning group. 

I'm afraid that I have little confidence in either Julian's ability to pronounce French words or his memory going back 30 years, and I seem incapable of saying it in he insists is he correct way!

The Basilica is a fantastic building from all angles.  It does not look 800 years old.  I think a lot has been rebuilt as it says her from Wikipedia.  But still very impressive.

Basilica of Paray-le-Monial.
View of the nave.
The Basilica of Paray-le-Monial is a Romanesque church in Paray-le-MonialBourgogne, eastern France. Built from the 12th century, on the site of a 10th-century monastery founded by count Lambert of Chalon, it was a small-scale version of the Abbey of Cluny. It was completed in the 14th century, although some sections were added in the 18th century or renovated in the 19th century. As a priory, it was  the authority of Cluny and was a popular pilgrimage site.

The town of Paray is another of those whose shopping area has contracted and the shops are staggered amongst the old streets between many vacant properties.  Some km East of Paray le Monial we enter an interesting section of the Canal du Centre where the former scale of industry, and working people in this area, especially ceramic tile making is evident by the number of huge derelict factories, almost as big as cathedrals themselves.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

South Nivernais and a bit of the Loire

It's mid September and a few trees are beginning to turn to their Autumn colours.   The sun glows clear orange gold rather than the faded hazy yellows and scorched earth that we have been used to.

We have been travelling through the Nivernais where we saw many cyclists but not that many boats.

We then turned right and cruised a few miles up the Loire Canal before turning back and beginning our cruise along the Canal du Centre. The first time we did this route, we explored just about every side road, town and village that we came to.  This time, we spent more time alongside the canal, and just revisited some of our favourite spots.  The coutryside is beautiful in the remote area and there are plenty of small chateau, fortified manoires and ruined castles to see (if you are prepared to leave the canal!)

Cafe at Fleury sur Yonne

The bridges on the Nivernais are a great topic of conversation amongst boaters, especially those whose air draft is borderline for going under some of these bridges. Quercy just squeezed through, and I noted that the bridges South of Chatillon en Bazios were the ones that cause the problem.  These are beautiful stone structures built I think in the 1830's.  To make things extra difficult, you have to go through them slightly off centre as the path runs along the inside of some of them.

After a while the arches on these same bridges have been removed and replaced with horizontal metal structures, keeping the stone sides.  So although low, there is no problem in navigating under them if you have managed to get through the ones further North.

Very occasionally one comes across a lively cafe just near the canal and we found the best of places at Fleury sur Yonne, on the Nivernais.  Popular with local and boaters is served good food from a limited menu in a former lock keepers cottage, the tables and chairs spilling out onto the tow path and a quirky marquee outside.

Other notable rural or unexpected cafe spots are Chitry Les Mines on the Nivernais, also worth a mention is the lock keepers bar/cafe at Marigny sure Yonne.   Lovely mooring and cafe at Pont d'Ouch, pizzeria at Tanlay on the Bourgogne, and Samois-sur-Seine on the Haute Seine near Fontenbleau.

Martigny near Cercy la Tour

Water meadows of the Loire near Decize

Dipping my toes in La Loire on evening after cycling a few km down a fisherman's track near Avril sur Loire

The Ruined Chateau of Luthenay-Uxeloup with a working farm inside the walls.
Not open to the public unfortunately, not even to peek in through the archway.

Outside the Chateau on our fold up bikes.  Fine for going up to 10km on fairly flat.