Backseat Punter

Whenever anyone writes an article about boat life – which they do with alarming frequency and are presumably usually underpaid for – they will invariably begin their piece with that old Wind in the Willows quote we all know and love:

“…there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

This – is misinformation.

In fact, there are several hundred things more worth doing than messing about in boats. Reading, for example, or watching films. Or having baths. Or being clean. Or having electricity.

I can tell you from experience, dear reader, that the joy of messing about in boats is severely depleted when you have to do it every day or it’s a Thursday morning and the engine has broken down AGAIN and you have a casting to get to and tons of work to do and no power or hot water. AGAIN.

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“I can smell you from here.”

As you may or may not know, depending on whether you’re a stranger or one of the many people I complain to on a daily basis, Albion’s been a bit poorly of late.

It all started ages ago when we noticed that the engine wasn’t sounding great and decided to be super proactive and ignore it for a few months because the sound was the sound of something that sounded expensive.

Unfortunately, engines don’t take too kindly to being ignored when they’re feeling ill so – partly to punish us and partly in the spirit of Halloween – ours promptly died.

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“Bet you wished you’d fixed me noooooooooow.”

Luckily, Ed is somewhat of a dab hand at being pretty darn smart (and making things up as he goes along) and so – with assistance from my mum’s ever patient partner, the kindness of CRT to allow us to stay put for a while, and several hundreds of pounds worth of parts – he managed to get the old beast going again.

Very good, you might think. Nicely done. Off you pop then, you might say. Job’s a goodun, or something to that effect.

But oh, dear reader, you’ve been reading this blog long enough to know that wouldn’t be the end of it, right? (Unless you haven’t in which case please feel free to travel back through my posts and enjoy other instances of me complaining. There are quite a few about poo, sorry.)

You didn’t think we’d be boating off into the sunset happily ever after did you?

You did?

You must not be a boat owner then.

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Boat owners usually look like this.

No, what OBVIOUSLY happened is that, after a month or so of being absolutely fine, the engine suddenly become extremely and tenaciously not fine again (are you enjoying how much my engineering knowledge has come on after four years of living on a boat?).

I went to run the engine one day to top up our batteries and, while it started up okay, it very sadly petered out soon afterwards. Remembering the old rule of boat engineering, I vaguely wiggled some stuff that was on and around the engine but it was all to no avail.

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Em-woe-ji is me.

At this stage we had exhausted our collective engineering knowledge, which is 100% contributed to by Ed, and had to turn to The Experts.

The Expert this time being the lovely Darren at Cow Roast Marina who already knew us from when he fitted a very good and extremely electric-y invertor on our boat a few moons hence and therefore agreed to take a look at the engine for us.

BUT THERE WAS A CATCH.

Darren’s tools live in Cow Roast Marina. Albion was not in Cow Roast Marina. Albion was one lock below Cow Roast Marina and currently without the engine that was required to get her into Cow Roast Marina.

Which brings me neatly back to the futility of messing about in boats. You see, there was a way we could get Albion to the marina on time: via the extremely scientific technique of dragging. And also punting. And then dragging and punting some more.

I can tell you now that it was about as fun and easy as the last time we had to drag the boat somewhere.

I only wish I’d had my phone to capture the moment Ed discovered his vocation as a world-class gondolier. Having left me on dry land so that I could have a rope thrown at me once the boat had been steered to our desired landing point, Ed punted like a Cambridge University degree depended on it. Occasionally he nearly fell in. My heart, if not quite in my mouth, was certainly higher than is biologically normal. It was like watching The Fast and the Furious in slow motion. It was The Slow and the Furious.

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It was *exactly* this.

I also discovered at this juncture that I am a first-rate backseat punter. I could see, from my safe place on dry towpath, exactly how the boat ought to be punted right a bit or left a bit here and there. I occasionally helpfully yelled that Ed should avoid crashing into other nearby boats.

After being stoically ignored for several minutes, I decided to shut up.

Finally, after one lock, a tension-filled punt, and much top end muscle work (One Carli-and-Edpower is equivalent to about the same as one three-legged-horsepower), we rode triumphantly – if glacially – into Cow Roast Marina.

You’ll be glad to hear that Darren was then able to diagnose the problem and begin the long process of sourcing the correct parts to fix it (summin about fuel pumps?). You’ll be equally pleased to hear that we’ll only be without electricity and hot water for just a few weeks this time!

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Until next time readers, although you’ll probably smell me before then.

p.s. OPPORTUNITY: Are you a reader who also happens to be a millionaire? Would you like to be part of a unique opportunity to a) Give us heaps of money to fix up Albion or b) Buy us a house? If this sounds like you – get in touch with me in the comments!

Please!

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Albion: Before, During, and After

Yes! After a teeny tiny three months of DIY, OPDIFY (Other People Do It For You) and TABFDIYBILST (Taking A Break From DIY Because It’s Like Super Tiring), Albion is finally finished! In the way that only a boat can be finished, which is not at all, ever.

There’s still a million things we need or want to do but installing new solar panels, refitting the entire kitchen, getting new reclaimed wood counter tops and floors, and generally tidying up the boatman’s cabin will all have to wait until we’re able to Bring Out Another Thousand.

Still, everything we initially set out to do is done and we now have a proper bedroom, a freshly painted and decorated living room, and a completely new bathroom. Which doesn’t sound like a lot of work now but it WAS.

See:

The Bedroom

Although we had a bedroom in the back cabin, it had a fold-down bed that we didn’t think was very practical for the two of us on a daily basis. Not wanting to waste the huge space under the tug deck, we decided to turn it into a little bedroom den. And when I say ‘we’, I mean our amazing builder Robbie did it. (Although Ed has just reminded me that we did do the varnishing. So that fresh woodsy vibe you see is allllll us).

Before:

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During:

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After:  

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The Living Room/Kitchen

The living room was already pretty nice so all we had to do was paint it white, decorate it, and install a sofa.

This took about three weeks. We painted it nine times. Nine layers of paint that still peel off at the lightest brush of a limb. As I mentioned before, never buy cheap B&Q paint.

Before

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During:  

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NO.

NO.

After:

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The Bathroom

The bathroom was the hardest room in the whole boat (and that’s counting the living room and its B&Q anti-paint). First of all, apart from building the bedroom from scratch, this was the only room that we completely ripped out and started again. It hadn’t been touched for about 20 years and needed new EVERYTHING.

Second of all, there was no sink and no space for a sink. We had all manner of problems with the sink and where to put it, at one point considering fold-down caravan style options or just having to brush our teeth in the shower. Eventually we decided to chop the top off the existing cupboard and turn it into a plinth. This involved gently coaxing our builder into drilling a new waste hole in the side of the boat. I can guarantee you, there is no more unpleasant aural sensation for a boat owner than hearing a drill go through your boat’s hull.

…Apart from the ‘uh oh’ that came afterwards. (Luckily it was just because our tough tug hull had snapped the drill bit, rather than because we were, you know, sinking).

Third of all, we had to rip out part of the kitchen just to get into the walls to fit the new shower.

Fourth of all, we chose the most beautiful but most impractical boat tiles ever. Not only were they so thick and huge that they were nearly impossible to cut, they were so heavy we had to put concrete blocks under the bedroom floor just to stop us capsizing.

Look how pretty though!

Look how pretty though!

Fifth of all: sanding.

Just so much sanding. Endless hours of sanding. I have new muscles just from sanding. There was dust in places dust oughtn’t to be. I once lost Ed in a cloud of dust.

The problem was the traditional scumble varnish that was all over the walls. We quite like it in the living room but we wanted the bathroom to feel fresh, bright and clean. This meant we had to sand all the scumble off. Five million years later, it was ready to varnish, tile, and decorate.

Before:

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During (of which there are many, many pictures because it took us so long to during the hell out of this bathroom):

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The kitchen taking one for the team.

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Fitting the new shower tray. 

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After:

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Et voila! It is done. For now.


N.B. A foreword to anyone coming to visit our boat: There is blood in the varnish, sweat in the grout and there are tears in the wall paint. We will not accept anything other than effusive and adulating praise for all our handiwork. We are especially unreceptive to comments such as “Missed a bit!” or “Oops that’s a bit wonky!” This is the best boat interior renovation you have ever seen and will ever see in your lifetime and all of the lifetimes following. Trust me. I have a new axe.

 

Progress

Things are happening on Albion! People who understand tools are building things I’ve asked them to build!

Here she is in the dry dock the other week, having her insides all nice and warmed up with spray foam.

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For those of you who aren’t currently trying to turn a floating fridge into a bedroom, spray foam is a type of insulation that will hopefully stop us freezing to death in our sleep. Yay!

The rest of the bedroom under the deck is taking shape and we now have a nice curved ceiling and wooden walls which will soon be joined by an insulated floor and some shelves for the keeping of important boat equipment.

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Important boat equipment.

It also has a hobbit hole for a bedroom door, which is great for shouting things like “”We don’t want any adventures here, thank you!”

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I am now going to speak solely in Bilbo Baggins quotes.

The other big project is the bathroom, which we have decided to pretty much rip out and start afresh.

So far our builder has taken out the old shower tray to put a new one in…

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…and chopped the top off this cupboard to make way for a sink (more on that another time).

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Soon the bathroom will be decorated by these lovely, lovely tiles…

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…this copper shower…

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…and this very specifically-labelled copper tap.
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For all your women-washing needs!

It’s all very exciting!

And expensive.

Mostly expensive.

For example, did you know that mattresses cost more than one hundred pounds? Even at IKEA where you can get a lamb shank for £2.95.

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Luckily Sweden did deliver on sofas, and we found this excellent one for £95.

And those of you who saw the DFS Winter Sale adverts know there's nothing I love more than a bargain sofa.

And those of you who saw the DFS Winter Sale adverts know there’s nothing I love more than a bargain sofa.

Anyway, our builder reckons we can move on in about a week and a half but until then there are a million other little jobs that need doing so we’ll be back and forth with our NEW TOOL KIT…

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EAT YOUR HEART OUT BOB.

… so that Ed can get on with lots of DIY and I can get on with putting pictures of it on the internet.

More updates soon but I’ll leave you with this picture of Mother Nature just loving the hell out of us and our new boat.

Was the QEII blessed with rainbows? I don't think so.

Was the QEII blessed with rainbows? I DON’T THINK SO.