Meetings, coincidences & memories…..

We have stayed for several days in St Leger sur Dheune in order for my back / hip to repair. It was sore!

We were asked to moor at the end of the little inlet beside ‘Steinbourg’ – an ex hire penichette belonging to Robert & Jette, a Danish couple we met some years ago on the Canal des Vosges. We both well remember the restaurant where we ate that night – there was a’little problem of communication’ which meant we didn’t even start eating before Robert & Jette had virtually finished. And it was scorchingly hot – not like we ‘ve had this year so far!

Entering and leaving this mooring place was a master-class in boat manoeuvring by Captain Adrian (don’t tell him I called him that!)

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On about day 3 Adrian gave the decks a thorough doing with the pressure washer whilst I did housewifely (!) type laundry duties. Anyway, all of a sudden, the cover for the vent from the shower pinged off! Literally!! (Adrian had removed some rusted screws from it when we were painting last year and these had never been replaced so it suddenly decided to go ping).

Pinged right off and into the drink! I heard the ping and the splash.

So later that afternoon Adrian donned his ‘budgie-smugglers’ and got into the water to try and locate said cover. He slowly walked up and down feeling around the stones and the mud for sometime but without success on the cover front. He declined to be photographed.

It did, however, provoke interest and comment from passers-by, as you can well imagine. Several (french, dutch) stopped for a chat.

One couple turned out to be English & were living a few hundred yards away. They had originally come to France on their 100yr old Dutch tjalk ‘Owlpen’.

I have seen this boat here along the waterways since 2009 (or perhaps 2010). The name always stuck in my mind because Tom and I spent a cold, wet weekend in Owlpen in the Cotswolds one November (2003 I think). I have very fond memories of the place – a rather querky studio flat above the Cider Press restaurant; tramping across muddy fields trying to locate the footpath; country pubs & open fires and it was the first time we watched Strictly Come Dancing! Such memories.

I remembered speaking to the couple on ‘Owlpen’ in 2009 – they called the boat after the village of Owlpen where they lived for sometime. Jill had a vague recollection of a lady speaking to them about Owlpen some years ago. She thought Misty Morning was an Irish name.

So we met again – coincidence – and they also lived for many years in Putney – coincidence.

David & Jill have had to hang up their boating shoes due to health issues and are living here at St Leger sur Dheune, on the canal side. Their boat is moored outside and is up for sale. They enjoy meeting boaty types and reminiscing about their 12 years living on their boat. And they have some stories!

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Later that evening there was a knock on the boat and a Dutch guy, Jo, came to find out what Adrian had been doing & how we’d managed to get into our mooring place. Jo lives in Wimbledon – coincidence – and goes to the Italian bakers just along from where my sister lives – coincidence – he was married in St Mary’s church in Wimbledon where we used to go as kids – coincidence – and he also lived in Putney for sometime – coincidence!!

So we had a very jovial little get together with Jo, Jill & David, on our top deck the next evening where a lot of these coincidences came to light & many memories were shared.

Jill was an editor in her previous life and has become involved with a village project. Les Amis de St Leger compiled a book in 2003 collecting together information from memories of people living in the village – their memories of their lives with old photos as illustrations. Jill, in conjunction with a friend has translated the book into english and now Jill has produced a shortened version that will hopefully soon go into print aimed at visitors to the area. For those who have an historical bent, my next blog will provide some local info from that publication.

 

Kiwi Sue added a further coincidence to the above – apparently we had all met Jo last year at St Florentin!

What a year……

So after a wet night in Fragnes we headed off along the Canal du Centre trying to time our departure amongst the hotel peniches which frequent this canal. As always, best laid plans and all that, we found ourselves having to moor up and hang on, like crazy, to the boat while a hotel boat came out of a lock in front of us. There was another boat also waiting for it to exit and they were asked to change to the other side of the canal so that the hotel peniche had room to exit and then swing into the channel. Luckily that boat (Bon Viveur, a syndicate boat) had both bow and stern thrusters so could do the sideways manoeuvre as per Misty Morning. Oh for such manoeuvrability! We followed that boat up to Santenay – nice to have some company in locks – where the crew all dashed off into town, bought wine (just the one box it looked like), rushed back, cast off and continued on up the canal! Adrian did his cycle ride to pick up the car and I rested ‘cos I have a recurring problem with my hip / back.

The next morning we went into Santenay and bought several boxes of wine, found places to store them on the boat (Adrian has made a ‘cave’ under the galley floor) and then set off after lunch – and it was not actually raining!!!!

This weather is really adversely affecting the boating season. We are hearing tales from various friends. Most of the rivers seem to be in flood so that navigation is closed to pleasure boats.

  • At Decize boats are not being allowed to cross the stretch of the Loire to enter / leave the Canal du Nivernais
  • Boats at Vermenton (Canal du Nivernais) cannot move out of the port
  • And at Moret-sur-Loing the situation is pretty grim as the Loing is in full flood and access to the Canal du Loing is closed.
    • Martin and Jacqui on Akaroa are stuck there – playing crib, doing odd jobs & reading
    • David and Sue had to wade through knee high water to get off Akaroa having been stuck there with the water rising around them for several days
    • A hotel peniche came across the river there to take Akaroa and another pleasure boat to safety on the other side, beneath the lock entrance, out of the river flow. They remain tied up to the hotel boat and will have to wait it out – but they don’t know for how long as the area all around is flooded
  • Part of the Canal du Loing above Montargis has collapsed so that canal is closed and repairs are estimated to take between 1 & 4 months
  • Throughout Paris the Seine is in flood with many walkways under water & both the Musee D’Orsay & the Louvre are closed and volunteers have been in to take stored works of art up to safety in higher rooms. Not expected to reopen for several days
  • The newspapers are full of photos and stories of the situation in Paris. A week ago the river was 1.5m above – now it is over 6m above normal.
    • Stories of people in apartment buildings who have only ever said ‘bonjour’ before, now banding together to look after and help the more frail inhabitants.
    • One elderly lady managed to get down the stairs (lift not working because of water in basement) to get out to do some shopping but couldn’t get back upstairs so spent several hours in a neighbour’s flat waiting for son to come home and get her up stairs. They talked & talked.

What a year!

I am so glad we left Pont de Vaux when we did because I would think navigation onto the Saone will also be closed now. On the Canal du Centre we seem to be safe from it all. One eclusier joked that other day that we should lock through with Bon Viveur to ‘save’ water!

So we are currently moored in the middle of nowhere and have taken an enforced day’s rest because of my hip & because more rain was forecast for today. In fact we have returned to St Leger sur Dheune so that I could go to see a GP because the pain in my back / hip got worse and worse. I am now on various pills and resting the offending part. No point in hurrying anyway because of the situation re the flooding. Like an awful lot of other people we will have to revise our plans as it is unlikely that we will get up to Paris as planned.

What a year!!!

Yesterday it was lovely to see Tony & Sue on their new boat Waimanu with his sister Sue & her hubby Tony. Yep, 2 Sues married 2 Tonys! I think they believed I was feeling rough when I declined a glass of wine!

No photos thie time I’m afraid as the network here is pretty poor….

Finally orf!

Sunday morning remained wet so we hung about a bit and finally set orf around 11am – later than intended but decided we probably wouldn’t go as far as planned. However, there aren’t many mooring places between Pont de Vaux and Chalons-sur-Saone so we just kept going!

So we set out very carefully from Pont de Vaux as the 3km canal linking to the Saone is well-known for catching & damaging props! So gently did it. There is a small lock at the entrance to the Saone with pontoons to wait at whilst preparing the lock. Quite difficult to locate as the pontoon was completely under water – Adrian’s wellies were only just high enough to wade through to the bank!

After all the rain we’ve been having the Saone was moving pretty fast and, as we were going upstream, it gave the engine a jolly good work out. We’d had to have work done on the transmission overwinter – fluid leak probably caused by the rope getting wrapped around the prop last year! Expensive!

Boats going downstream seemed to fly by – when we went down in October it took us 6 engine hours whereas it took 8 engine hrs coming upstream yesterday.

And that set the scene for the river – high and fast – with pretty large crocodiles ready to catch the unwary, we kept a good look out. We reached Chalons-sur-Saone just before 7pm – nearly 50kms – so that was pretty good going. We had thought we could moor against the wall just outside the port, but that wasn’t possible because it was well underwater. Luckily the nice mooring-geezer-with-the-ponytail (I’m sure those of you who have been to Chalons in the last few years will recognise who I mean) let us moor on the waiting pontoon. This morning the water was even higher and we could see the amount of debris that is collecting in the port.

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We were really pretty tired by the time we had moored up and decided to head for the Rue de Strasbourg and the restaurants. There is a fish restaurant that we have tried to visit over the last few years but it is always closed when we are there. But it was open and we had a very nice menu du jour pour La Fete des Meres. So I got a second Mother’s Day! Sue (kiwi) had told me she was wearing her french pearls in honour of the day, so in true sisterly fashion I did the same!

One has to dress for the occasion after all – standards, my darlings, standards….

Then back to the boat for an early night

Monday 30th May

This morning we awoke early and decided to get on with the day. We walked up to the train station and caught the 7.35am to Fleurville to collect the car. We were back at the boat by 10.00am having visited M LeClerc’s emporium en route to replenish our cupboards! We set off about 11.00am heading for Fragnes at the beginning of the Canal du Centre. Bad timing at the lock onto the Centre meant we had to wait an hour in order to get through but we arrived at Fragnes in time for Adrian to cycle back down to Chalons to collect the car. We have decided to leapfrog the car again this year which is a bit of a pain, but necessary given that we don’t know when we will have to return home for the apartment buying process.

There are big probelms in France at present  – fuel shortages and strikes impending. This is all due to changes proposed to employment legislation that would make it easier for employers to ‘hire & fire’ workers. At present this is very difficult so that many small firms are just not employing people because they fear they will not be able to fire them if there are problems. The tanker drivers and the train drivers are taking action. Some petrol stations have no petrol available (luckily my new car is diesel which seems to be more available) and at those that have the price has jumped by around 30 cents a litre. Apparently Martin and David were turned away when they went to buy diesel in fuel cans for the boat – stock piling is not viewed well! They had to buy at a port, which is always very high price, to avoid confrontation.

And many trains will be on 3 day strike from Wednesday.

So all is not rosy on the canals this year.

Adieu to Pont de Vaux

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We have worked hard to get everything back in place and do necessary works before we start cruising.

  • External woodwork has been re-oiled
  • Rust spots (remarkably few) zapped
  • Wasp nests jettisoned – they started another after we got rid of the one under the table – identified them as paper wasps from me little ‘I spy insects’ book
  • Bimini positioned and tested out yesterday afternoon – briefly
  • Barge fenders re hung

So we are ready for the off!

And the port authorities here decided to hold a party in our honour – OK so a port party was planned for last evening anyway…. Rather like the Bastille celebrations in Paris coinciding with my 60th bash and the french airforce providing a fly past as we cruised arounf Paris in Misty Morning.

It was an interesting event – started out with lots of long trestle tables arranged outside. The poster said it was from 17.00 hrs – not a soul until 18.30 when a steady procession of people converged & installed themselves at said tables – complete with umbrellas. There was intermittent rain which became increasingly determined so there was an almost unspoken signal and tables were lifted and transferred into the boatshed behind the office. Everyone retrieved there seats, wiped them down, returned to their tables and their food and glasses and carried on the important task in hand – eating drinking and chatting. It was most enjoyable and we got to meet others from our pontoon.

 

Food & wine were shared. A little inter nationality competition – compliments & then surprise regarding our cheese (english cheddar) so we were then presented with Compte and chocolate by a Swiss couple. He looked uncannily like a comedian on the telly whose name I just cannot remember!

The evening broke up rather earlier than it might because a real storm hit! Thunder, lightning and torrential rain. The lightning was spectacular and it was difficult to distinguish the fireworks across the town form the lightning flashes. We got soaked running (well hurrying) the 100 yards or so to Peidaleau and practising quick lowering of the biminis which were sagging under the weight of the rain.

We towelled off and went straight to bed!

Finding the part……

The cause of our plumbing problem was identified, and the offending component removed from our system by Guy (pronounced ‘gee’ as in the Indian cooking ingredient – aka the mechanic guy here at Pont de Vaux) late on Friday afternoon. He blocked the feed to the front loo so that we could use the rest of the water / plumbing system.

Thank goodness we have 2 loos cos we therefore still had one loo available. This has caused a comment from some of our boating friends(?) regarding the need for us to go through the wheelhouse from the bedroom to get to the loo. Unkindly said to boot! Maybe they don’t require nocturnal perambulations like most of us! But I digress……

But Guy had never seen such a part before and therefore didn’t know where we could get  one from. He sent us scurrying to a heating / plumbing suppliers not too far away but they didn’t have such a thing. At 4.40 on a Friday Guy wasn’t going to spend anytime on it.

So Adrian set to searching the web over the weekend – first to understand what this thing was and secondly to try to locate one in France, if at all possible.

It is a solanoid valve – ‘electrovanne’ in French. But there are loads of these little bad boys on the web with different specifications &, of course, it has to be exactly right.

So we knew the part – now just have to find where we can buy one! Easy you would think, but hardly so.

Adrian found a website catalogue for a place in Lyon – rang them first thing Monday but was told we couldn’t order from them cos they only supply suppliers. But they had the little beauty in stock – lots of them! He told Adrian which supplier they could supply to (are you keeping up?) ……

So back to the web to find this supplier (Mabeo) which supposedly had place in Bourg en Bresse. Adrian rang and spoke to Denis who agreed they could get this part but had to check with his boss as to whether they could sell it to us as we are not contractors.

Later in the day he rang to say they could only order it if we went into the shop – a 45 mins drive away! Couldn’t order it on our bank card over the phone – had to go there in person.

So we jumped in the car & headed off – got there by about 4.30pm (shut at 5pm)

Grumpy salesman on shop floor knew nothing about this order, or indeed who Denis is! Denis was found and came down from the offices from on high.

Basically this part has to be ordered from the place in Lyon – you know that Adrian found?

A long invoice is required – always causes a problem when you can’t provide a french department number (like a post code). Denis is telling Patrick what to type in on the order – so 2 guys to write one invoice.

In the meantime I have spotted a dinky little pressie for Adrian, being the romantic woman that I am – a head fitted torch so that he can direct his own light when doing those tricky little jobs in the engine, repairing the loo etc.

Patrick nearly has a fit cos he’s all but finished composing the invoice – if he doesn’t add this item he would have to do a whole new one for the torch!! And there is a charge for each invoice!!!!!

So finally the invoice is done (cost 3.5 euros) including 29 euros for speedy delivery from Lyon to Bourg en Bresse. Fast service means 24 – 48hrs delivery time. But it can’t be ordered until tomorrow – orders only placed between 8 & 11 am!

I asked who we should call if we needed – Denis pointed determinedly at Patrick who pointed at the invoice as if I should know his name would be on it! As soon as we got outside the doors were locked – 5pm.

So we wait for the call to go and collect this important part. Denis suggested we play tourists & visit Bourg en Bresse in the meantime.But we ain’t got time for that, we have a boat to clean and prepare for cruising……

In fact the call came this morning (thurs) so 48 hrs delivery – we were well pleased – and we were there as they opened after lunch to collect our little saviour! Adrian spent the rest of the afternoon plumbing and then fitting everything back together again. Really chuffed with his handiwork – which I can now contemplate anytime of the day or night! Reduced nocturnal perambulations, thank goodness.

At over 100 euros for the part with delivery this is surely a ‘right royal flush’!

So, would you like to hear about the sheenaghans we had in paying our bill here at Pont de Vaux …….. no I thought not!!!!!

En France ……… at last!

Well, after the stop /start of the last week we finally jumped in the very full car (how can we still have so much to bring to the boat each year?) at 3am on Weds 18th May and headed for France, with lots of audible sighs of relief & snores from whomever was in the passenger seat!

It had been an exhausting roller coaster of a week. We delayed leaving because of an offer on Adrian’s ex marital home, which his ex wife would not accept until after another booked viewing on the Saturday – we worried that this could result in losing the original offer. Thank goodness it didn’t because the Saturday viewers declined to make an offer! But, of course we had to wait until Monday to have this and the original offer confirmed!

In the meantime we went down to Hemel Hempstead to view apartments with the kids – they are very clear about their requirements and we had decided that this would also provide good rental material for the future, so at least our options were few. In fact we had 2 strong favourites, Adrian made offers on each & we were immensely relieved when the guy in New Zealand accepted quite a reduction on the first choice. So on Tuesday morning this was agreed! He has been busy with forms ever since!

On Sunday we had an evening on the deck with the neighbours to celebrate ‘things moving’. That really is one of the things I miss about home when we are away most of the summer – evenings on the deck! Impromptu gatherings on a nice evening that extend and morph into a bit of a ‘session’! But this sounds quite familiar to boaters – arrive at a mooring, meet up with other boaters and have an impromptu gathering…… hmmm.

So we headed straight for Cascarot where Elizabeth had one of her superb rooms (we slept sooo well) and one of her superb dinners awaiting us! Lots of catching up ensued. We also managed to finally meet up with Georges – French Canadian who helped me several years ago on Misty Morning, replaced the alternator with one from a farm machinery place! After which Misty would invariably head towards the bank when she saw a tractor in the fields! Georges is a bit of a legend on the French waterways – he’s an amazing boat mechanic who just enjoys doing it! We have discovered that he is known to several of our friends and helps them out when needed. Hope we can keep in touch.

We also managed to pop up to St Jean de Losne for a brief visit to Tony and Sue on their new boat and thank them for retrieving my bangles from Auckland airport ( left them in one of those tray things at security!).

So we finally arrived in Pont de Vaux (and the boat) at about 4pm on Thurs.

‘Yippee’ we cried as one!

Took ages to empty that full car! The water was filling in the boat at the same time, so no worries. And we had to dewinterise the boat – luckily we had written a list of what needed to be done from Guy’s instructions when we left – except we couldn’t quite understand it!

Took it bit by bit – which brought us to the first problem – the water system wouldn’t pressurize which turned out to be due to a problem in the front loo, a diaphragm-thingy had failed (a tiny piece of wire seems to have been the culprit) which meant that there was an open valve in the water system so it couldn’t pressurize and every time we tried it the loo would fill to overflowing! Not nice. So no loos or running water in the meantime. And no ‘badge’ available for the marina loos until Friday morning. We had to wait until Friday afternoon for Guy to find the cause and present us with that tiny piece of wire – after which he managed to ‘block’ off that front loo so we could pressurize the system and have running water and one loo working. Just a bit of a trek in the middle of the night.

‘Balderdash’ we cried as one! ……. with crossed legs!

And it was raining off and on …….. so we took ourselves into town for dinner. Decided against the Michelin starred ‘Le Raisin’ (we were dirty and grumpy) and crossed the road to ‘Le Cochon Rouge’ – a basic establishment with simple menu and unusual murals of ….. yes you’ve guessed it ……  pigs! But pigs as you have never seen them before – in rather bizarre poses and garbs! Still, the food was good (even if Adrian was distracted by the large mural facing him) and there were loos!

We now have the dubious pleasure of tidying and cleaning the boat after winter – how can rain be so dirty? The covers I made for the windows have all stayed in place & several of our neighbours have commented positively on them. I’ve removed the front ones but Adrian hasn’t yet got to do the ‘gymnastics’ required to remove the ones along the sides.

The weather has improved so that I have been able to sit on the top deck for a glass of wine in the evenings. That’s when I spotted we had stowaways! The table and chairs were covered for the winter and I noticed wasps going in / out of a hole in the cover. Adrian (I decided this definitely comes under he heading of ‘man’s work’) carefully removed the cover and turned the table over to reveal a wasps’ nest. Another first!

‘Bzzzzz’ we cried as one …… with me ready to run!!!

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So Adrian is now trying to source a replacement diaphragm-thingy hopefully in France so that we can get the loo issue sorted asap.

And finally I thought I’d share another boating-in-France type book which I read recently in order to avert some of my boating withdrawal symptoms. I found it better written than the average boating-in-France type book and amusing in places – On a Barge in France by Harvey Schwartz – see what you think!

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Delays!!!!!

Hi all – thought I’d better update everyone as to why it has been so quiet for sooooo long on the Piedaleau blog.

We were due to head back to France at the beginning of April but a series of events have overtaken us so that we are STILL here!

I lost another very dear friend in awful circumstances – completely unexpected. I have been extremely upset by it and wanted to be here for the memorial service which took place at beginning of may. Beautifully done and very very moving.

After a fabulous holiday in Sydney, New Zealand and Singapore we came home to find that the situation viz a viz Adrian’s children and their mother had deteriorated significantly.

The upshoot is that the ex marital home has been put up for sale and Adrian will buy an apartment so that the children can live separately from their mother and step father. A hard decision to make and not one that he has taken easily. There has been a long build up to get this point with a ‘final straw’ breaking the proverbial camel’s back in March.

So, for these reasons we delayed our return to France. We decided last week to book our return on the Chunnel for Thurs (12th May).

We were all set to load the car on Weds when Bingo! a good offer was received for the house!

So we cancelled our travel arrangements and are now trying to see what will happen re the house and have started apartment hunting with the kids.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us because we are having severe boating withdrawal symtoms!

I’ve had to do some decorating (!) & even had to go out and buy a wine box to calm me nerves ……….

 

To lighten this brief epistle I attach some photos from our fantastic holiday down NZ way – it was great to meet up with the kiwis we met last summer on the french waterways and we were literally bowled over by everyone’s generosity & hospitality!

 

2015 in review

Happy New Year to one and all!

Thought some of you might be interested  in the stats for my blog – I realise you may be casting around for something to do just now! –  if not, no worries. I am amazed to see how far and wide the readership is flung!!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

And finally…….

Some stats from this year……

 

We cruised:

  • Burgundy Canal ……..    242 kms      189 locks
  • Nivernais Canal ……..     174 kms      108 locks
  • Canal du Centre ……..     112 kms        61 locks
  • River Saone …………..       70 kms          1 lock

  Total     598 kms      359 locks

  • Engine hours  ……….     225  – ie more than previous owners had put on in over 2 years!

 

We worked:

  • Paint applied ……….      about 20 litres (us)
  • Adrian cycled ………..    around 500 kms to collect the car – got a couple of lifts and a couple of train rides
  • Jenny sewed …………     30 different covers
  •             using   ………..      315 magnets

 

People:

  • Don & Cathy-Jo; Sue & David; Mary & Hywel & Nadine came to join us on board
  • Number of kiwis met …….. 15 and we intend to take as many as possible on their rash invites to visit when we head off to NZ after Christmas!

Why don’t you think about coming to meet us in 2016 and give us a call / email

Happy Christmas & cheers to one and all for now!

J & A xxx

 

Home again ….

We returned home on Friday ……. and I got ticked off by Heidi for not having completed my blog! Sorreeee!!

We really had a hectic couple of weeks preparing to leave the boat – well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

I have been sewing like mad & know now that I am definitely not cut out to work in a sweatshop! Having already made internal covers for the wheelhouse windows which should be useful for both hot (reflect sun) and cold (keep it cosy) conditions I took on the task of external covers – for all the windows! – and blue canvas covers for the wooden doors! I reckon I was tied to me trusty sewing machine for 8 days solid work.We have mainly used magnets to secure the covers to the outside – we ordered about 350 and I think I have sewn about 220 into ‘pockets’ of the various covers. Sewing magnets ain’t very easy as the little blighters don’t like to separate from each other in the boxes & they like to grab ahold of the machine footplate and then they grab each other on the table as you put more into the cover. Get the picture?

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I started really early one morning whilst Nadine and Adrian were still in their beds so she took delight in photographing us in our PJs fitting the first one to the front of the boat!

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All in all, quite a feat for this old biddy – much muttering and sore thumbs from pulling magnets apart and pushing them through the machine!

But I got them done (all but the 2 smallest windows) and Adrian had the job of balancing along the rubbing strait to secure the salon window covers. Several of our neighbouring boaters have expressed interest and concern when they saw Adrian’s balancing act!

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We also decided to call in the expert and see exactly what he recommended as regards winterization of the engine and domestic systems ‘cos we felt Larry the Lamb (dodgy geezer wot we bought her from) was far too casual about it all – just pour some antifreeze down the loos type approach! Guy was extremely helpful and spent time explaining and demonstrating what needs doing and suggesting ways of minimizing costs for next year. It all helps with our knowledge and understanding of the boat.

So she’s done! Winterized and wrapped up nice and snug and we will return in the spring hoping all this work has paid dividends in terms of a happy boat ready for our next exciting season.

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