Thursday, 2 April 2020

Out for a walk ... it's definitely spring ...

Regular readers will probably know that our usual 'daily' walk is over Hambleden weir footpath, but not now with social distancing in place.  The weir bridge is barely wide enough for two people to walk very close to each other let alone 6' apart, even on the bends there's not 2 metres of space to pass someone so that's a no no!    The dogleg pathway is about 400 metres long and if you meet someone coming the other way, one of you would need to turn back and that could be a long walk!

So we now walk the other way ... these pictures taken on Sunday (20th March) on a very cold windy day.
We walked out of the marina entrance, turned right and right again ...
onto this lane
which runs parallel to the River Thames
Looking back at the marina
Planes are still flying in and out of Heathrow but not nearly as many as usual
Never noticed this before, it's on the opposite side of the river in the  grounds of Culham Court
Nearly at Medmenham Meadow
 where we see our first lambs ... this one was certainly glad to be alive!
Nesting swan by the stream
Lots of Blackthorn blossom
On the way home ... a walk of about 1½ miles only seeing a couple walking in the field and another couple as we walked along the road back to the marina and they crossed the road to avoid us.
Our first duckling (Monday 30th) ... mum was nesting under one of the boats behind the summer house so I think the two she had with her were newborns, unfortunately she had none with her the following day.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Surviving self isolation at Hambleden ...

It's a weird and scary time for all of us, but we all have to 'get on with it' as best we can.  
I've interspersed a few nice (imo) in an attempt to keep my ramblings light!
 The sunset photo's were taken on Thursday (26th) and the Pied Wagtail pictures the following day.
 Self isolating is easy when you're a boater ... just stay in!

What we have found difficult is obtaining slots for supermarket deliveries and not knowing which essentials will be missing/unavailable/limited when the actual delivery arrives.
I'd arranged a Tesco order (before the virus turned into an pandemic) for delivery on the Tuesday we had the new batteries fitted.  
Living on a boat and continuously cruising we (that is us) need to stock up on items that will 'keep' a long time, like part-bake bread and UHT milk as we often moor out in the sticks where shops are not readily available.  On that delivery my order for those two items was severely reduced and the eggs I'd ordered weren't available.  
That evening I scoured the internet for further delivery slots, none from Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose ... but I did manage to grab one for Asda on 1st April and another on the 8th, also Asda, and ordered a couple of items on each to secure the slots.
There was still the couple of items I needed and a couple that are only available from Waitrose (my favourite tea and yogurt and by this time we'd run out of bread) which, from here, meant a bus ride into Henley which I did, reluctantly and anxiously, early the following morning.  I managed to get everything I wanted ... except the eggs ... which I forgot!
I have to admit I'm in a bit of a panic ... 
George and I are what's called the 'vulnerable group' with regard to Covid-19 because we're in our 70's.  Sainsburys were planning to provide more online deliveries to this group so I looked on line and provided necessary details ... name, address, date of birth etc., then a list of conditions came up on screen to tick which, if any, were relevant to us ... none ... thank goodness ... after which a curt  message is displayed ... we did not meet their particular criteria  of 'vulnerable' ... fair enough ... we have our health.  
So, what to do?  We're still supposed to self-isolate, don't have our own transport, not supposed to use public transport, don't have family and friends around us to help ... so?
During the winter Chris from the fuel boat Merchant delivers coal to us by road and George would ask the other moorers here if they needed any and would order accordingly.  This year there's a young lady on the other side of the mill stream who has been having coal and George would carry it to her boat for her, so I wondered if she would be willing to help.  George and I are quite independent of others and usually sort things our ourselves but as this was not possible I walked round to her boat last Sunday to ask if, when she's out and about to and from work she would mind calling into a shop to get us a few items.  'Yes, of course' she said and I asked for bread and eggs when she could manage it.  A couple of hours later there was a knock on the boat and there was Anna with a carrier bag!  I thanked her profusely as I looked inside for the receipt but she said she'd thrown it away and insisted that she didn't want to be paid.  I thanked her again and took the bag inside ... on unpacking we found ... bread, eggs, Cadburys chocolate fingers, grapes, yogurt and a bunch of daffodils ... how lovely and kind was that!
So now there was 10 days until I could get further supplies via my first Asda order ... but in the meantime we're going to run out of fresh food ... fruit, veg and bread.  I'd been discussing the difficulties with our daughter and she mentioned local community groups and local corner shops.  Before I could investigate further she sent me a link ... to Hambleden Village Store, where the website informed that volunteers would deliver any purchases locally ... (thank you Sharon).  Ok.  Email sent explaining our predicament and a confirmation reply arrived quickly ... I should email my shopping list, they would check their stock, let me know the cost, take the payment and then deliver.  It didn't quite go as smoothly as that but yesterday a lady brought my box of goodies ... brilliant!  Unfortunately, they didn't have any fresh fruit, so I must think of an alternative in case I have problems on my Asda order.
Every day I'm checking my first Asda order as items are removed because they're out of stock and the following day trying to replace them with an alternative ... not always possible ... we shall just have to wait and see what arrives.  Thank goodness for the village shop.

Like everyone else we know, we are so grateful and thankful for the frontline workers, especially the NHS but also including shop staff and volunteers trying desperately to help others.

Stay indoors and safe ... please!

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Covid-19 on Environment Agency Waters ... and a birthday ...

which of course includes the River Thames ...

We had prior notice (unofficial) a few days ago via Simon the resident lock keeper here at Hambleden when he said that there would be no assisted passage through locks ... 

We could do with more diesel so rang Chris (fuel boat Merchant) to ask if he's currently still able to deliver to boats.  He said that he was and had already been out delivering but when he arrived at Chertsey Lock he was turned back because he'd been told by the lockie that the lock was in shut down with no power ... although he had discussion with the lock keeper about his right to maintain essential supplies he was not allowed through.

We decided to contact Simon to find out and he explained that to prevent (or perhaps delay/deter) boaters cruising the Thames all power had been switched off ostensibly to stop the virus from spreading via the buttons on the control centres.  It would be possible however to operate the locks manually - ie., wind the handle a million times to open the gates!

late yesterday afternoon it was confirmed ...

The announcement states ... "we have taken the difficult decision to introduce limits to the use of our waterways to stop all non-essential travel." 

This means ...
  • We are asking the owners of all boats kept or used on our managed waterways not to make any journeys on their boats, other than to access essential services and facilities.
  • We will not provide ‘assisted passage’ (staff to operate locks) at any of our lock sites but locks will remain open for self-service use where possible. This will allow those living aboard their boats to reach essential services if they need to.  
  • At the few locks where self-service is not possible, our local teams will put special temporary operating arrangements in place to allow boats to return to their home moorings.   
  • We will lift time restrictions on the short stay moorings we own or manage, to assist those who live aboard their boats so they can access essential services.
  • We will do the very best we can to keep open the essential facilities we provide (e.g. water supply, sewage pump-out and chemical toilet disposal), for those who need them. However our staff will not be able to offer the sale of keys, cards or tokens. These essential services will not include the provision of shower and toilet facilities.     
  • We advise our customers to stay at home rather than self-isolating aboard, unless your boat is your primary residence. This is so you do not put yourself at increased risk or place additional burden upon our facilities.
  • The river conditions on our waterways are starting to improve and in some places our Strong Stream Advice will be updated in the coming days. However, any travel on our waterways should still be minimised to the essential movement outlined above.  
We will keep these restrictions under constant review in the light of the developing situation and advice from Government, but we expect them to be in place until at least 14 April 2020. 

To read the announcement in its entirety click on the link here
Several reaches both above and below Hambleden are still on red boards but even when the water reduces Hambleden Lock will still be closed as the maintenance work on the lower lock landing was stopped back at the beginning of November due to rising water levels and need to be completed before the lock is open again.

We are due to leave the marina on 13th April ... we shall just have to wait and see what transpires.
In the meantime on Still Rockin' we've not been idle ...

We love watching the birds on and around the feeders and this little moorhen was really funny!  He would wait directly under whichever bird was on the feeders waiting for scraps to fall ... every now and then he would look up with obvious impatience for his/her next morsel!
We've had quite a few very cold mornings with temperature below freezing followed by gloriously sunny days ... this one on Monday morning (27th March).

Since the new battery bank was fitted we have been decorating the inside of Still Rockin' in very similar colour tones to what we had before.  The whole job has taken just over a week, taking down pictures etc., filling and sanding in the holes and washing down the walls and ceiling before starting with undercoat and two top coats on all the surfaces ... it was all worth it as the whole interior now looks so much fresher.

After the decorating it was straight on to cleaning and waterproofing the canopies ... a long and tiring processes ... but at least the sun was shining as George jet washed and scrubbed them on the pontoon (sorry too busy to take pictures).

Bikini weather yesterday (25th) ... this is my weather station which I sat on the roof of Still Rockin' in the sunshine while I was cleaning the deck cushions in short sleeves!  It was almost too warm!

This is today's photo of another overnight ground frost and another warm day ahead is forecast.

Today is George's birthday and we're taking a day off ... no meal out this year but I've got a leg of lamb to roast and still have some fresh veg to go with it ... we'll open a bottle of wine and celebrate how lucky we are just now to be safe and well.

Tomorrow the work will start again ... we managed to get the pram hood on yesterday afternoon ... that was fun ... NOT ... getting soaking wet as we both stood underneath the dripping canvas fastening it to each of the supporting bars, holding each up in turn as the other struggled with the studs and other fastenings ... lots of fairly heated discussion going on too as you can imagine!  So ... tomorrow we (George that is) will waterproof all the canvases.

Although we cannot/will not invite anyone into our home for viewings, Still Rockin' is still up for sale, hopefully someone some where will see the adverts on Apollo Duck and on several other boat sale sites, and be ready and able to purchase as soon as this awful time of all our lives is over and done with.

Please, all of you, stay safe to stay well.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Ecobat - deep cell battery bank

Still Rockin' is nearly six years old and the 6 x 2volt deep cells making up one big battery (the sort used for fork lift trucks) were starting to fail so on Tuesday (17th March) Ecobat brought the new ones which had been ordered in January for manufacturing.

With all the boat's electricity supply off the Ecobat employees check out the current wiring and disconnect the old ones ... note it is the younger man of the two who lifts the six cells out ... they are very, very heavy!

Once the battery box is empty we can see that there's a problem at the bottom of the box ... condensation has rusted the metal which the guys treat and wait for it to be dry.

In the meantime the men start to ferry each box on a sack cart to their van and bring over the six new ones

which the young man fits into the housing 
The older chap wires them up and then the moment of truth when they were tested ... fantastic ... good for another six years at least!