Sunday, 20 November 2016

Mad or what?




I still can’t decide whether this is the most exciting or craziest thing we’ve ever done – no doubt time will tell...

I’ll let you know if and when I find out.


The hardest part was making the initial decision to give up my job as a journalist, sell our house in Fort William in the Scottish Highlands and move onto a boat.

Once, the decision was made and we reached the point of no return – locked into the house sale, working my notice and boat deposit paid - it became plain sailing, well, almost...
Our new home

Our new home




The decision

One rainy day, my husband Phil and I were sat in our nice, warm house at Corpach, which is at the southern end of the Caledonian Canal, discussing the number of homes we had owned in the almost 18 years we had been together.

After a quick count up, we realised we’d had seven houses, plus three rented homes and a couple of months staying at my parents after an aborted plan to move to Spain in 2004. And we decided it was no surprise that one old friend describes us as “nomads”.

Phil jokingly – at least I think it was meant as a joke - said we’d moved so many times that we might as well get a house with an engine on it next time.

Over the next few weeks, we started talking over the possibilities, including me joining him in retirement as our age difference meant he would be 78 before I reached state pension age and we wanted to enjoy our retirement while still fit enough to do so.
We considered staying in the Highlands and moving to another house or bungalow that would be affordable without my income, but neither of us could really envisage finding our forever home so we started looking at other options that would enable us to move around.
Four wheels didn’t really appeal to either of us so a boat seemed the obvious choice, especially as we’d both enjoyed boating holidays and Phil had owned boats before – albeit much smaller than what we were now considering.
The next choice was whether we wanted to be on the inland waterways or the sea and we decided the sea would give us more options and be more of an adventure.
Initially the idea was to move to Wales, where my boys and grandchildren and Phil’s identical twin brother live, so I took a fortnight’s leave in early August of this year and we went to look at boats all around the principality.
On our way down the M6, we saw a camper van with a slogan on the back – “Adventure before dementia” – and we decided to adopt it as our motto.

We saw a couple of possibles and made provisional arrangements for a mooring in Aberystwyth, but there was one boat – a 43ft Neptunus 133 cruiser - we particularly liked the look of that we hadn’t managed to view yet. It turned out that she was at Maryport in Cumbria – wherever that was (Maryport, I mean, not Cumbria – my geography is bad, but not that bad J)

We called in at Maryport to see her on the way back up to Scotland and immediately fell in love with both the boat and the location.

Maryport Marina



She supposedly sleeps seven so was plenty big enough for us and our 18-month-old Hungarian Vizsla Dexter.
We started making plans to move her to Aberystwyth, then decided we liked Maryport Marina and it would be good to be close to the Lake District as we would still have access to mountains, which was the reason we moved to the Fort William area in January 2014.




Maryport Lighthouse

We decided to go ahead with the move, but I couldn’t hand in my notice until I was sure the house sale was going ahead and there were a few hiccups along the way that caused minor delays.

That was the worst time for me...

All sorts of doubts were going through my head and I couldn’t speak to anyone about it. I didn’t want my employers to find out I was planning to leave until everything was in place and I didn’t want Phil to think I was chickening out on our dream.

Every “What if...?” question imaginable went through my head, but, by the time the day came to sign the final contract that committed us to the house sale and we put down a 10% deposit on the boat, I was sure it was what I wanted.


We then faced the huge task of planning the move, which included getting rid of almost everything we owned as most of it would either not be needed or not fit on a boat.


Although we’ve moved house many times and thought we had the process down to a fine art, this proved to be the most difficult one yet.

This time, it wasn’t simply a case of packing everything up in boxes, numbering the boxes, keeping a list of the contents of every box and arranging a removal company to come along and take them away on the relevant day.

The first step was to make lists of stuff we definitely wanted to take, stuff we would like to take if possible, stuff to sell, stuff to give away to charity shops and stuff to take to the tip – and there was an awful lot of stuff to deal with J

We arranged storage as close as possible to Maryport and booked a rental van for a few days before the move. However, when we started loading it, we discovered that we should have gone for a larger van so decided we would have to make two trips.

Maryport


We were due to move out on Thursday October 20 and made our first trip down to Cumbria with a van load on the Tuesday of that week. We had planned to get there before the storage facility closed at 5pm and travel back the same day, but arrived at 5.05pm, so had to stay overnight and unload the following morning, which put us back a day on the packing at the house.

The reason for our late arrival at the storage facility was because we ended up travelling via Buttermere on a narrow, windy, hilly road with a fully loaded van due to satnav problems – or possibly my inability to use it properly, but I’m sticking with blaming the satnav J

We worked flat out when we got back to the house and managed to get away soon after midday on Thursday with another van load and a car packed to the gunnels.

We knew we wouldn’t be able to move onto the boat straight away as we wanted a holding tank fitted so we could use the loo in the marina so booked holiday accommodation for the first week.

By the Wednesday, the holding tank still hadn’t arrived and there were concerns that high winds may prevent us from putting the boat back in the water on the Friday when we were planning to move in, so I booked a holiday cottage for another week.

As it happened, the tank arrived on the Thursday and the boat yard pulled out all the stops to get the work done in time to get her in the water on Friday as planned. This gave us a week to sort out the boat ready for us to move in the following Friday (November 4).


Putting Ravensdale back in the water



First impressions of our new home 

“Candlelight”, as she was called when we bought her, proved to be everything we had hoped and the marina is a great place to be, except for unexpected problems with the wifi.

Ravensdale at high tide




The previous owner told us he watched live TV on a laptop, but we can’t get wifi at all. Initially, I got it briefly at high tide, but it has now gone altogether so the only way to get online is to take our laptops up to the customers' lounge, which is OK for a while, but will prove annoying if it doesn’t get sorted soon.

Dexter – AKA Dex, Dexie, Dexie Dog and Baby (really must stop calling him that J) - seems to be adapting well to life on board.

Initially, he found the noises in the marina a bit scary, especially when windy, but he seems quite at ease with it all now and is totally oblivious of the rocking motion of the boat. He is also enjoying meeting more people in and around the marina.


Dex on lookout watch


Meanwhile, the new, quiet-flush electric loo we had fitted when we had the new holding tank installed proved a bit of a problem. It was so high off the ground that only someone over 6ft (probably more) would be able to reach the floor. Imagine a small child sitting on a big chair with their feet dangling and you will have some idea how awkward it was.

So Phil set about raising the floor. He managed to bring it up about 4ins, which has helped a lot, but the toilet is still rather higher than it should be. The downside (quite literally) being the reduced headroom, which isn’t so bad for me at 5ft 6ins, but is not so good for Phil, who is 4ins taller, and of course a man – think about it J

I found it totally hilarious when I wanted to buy a mat to put in the bathroom and discovered the total floor space was smaller than a regular bathmat! I’ve put one in there for now with a couple of edges folded under, but will have to cut it to fit properly at some point.

In fact, just about everything we buy for the boat has to be tiny. It’s a bit like buying things for a kiddies’ play house J

Not quite so hilarious is the fact that the holding tank doesn’t seem to hold enough. The first time it was full in less than a week, which means we are having to use it more sparingly. The plan now is to only use it at night and in emergencies. Other than that we are walking up to the excellent marina facilities. Although we have a shower on board, we are also choosing to use the marina showers, which are lovely and warm with plenty of hot water

Emptying the holding tank means moving the boat a few hundred yards to the pump out facilities so Phil drove it for the first time on Wednesday November 9. This involved manoeuvring it around the pontoons and all the other boats then reversing it back into our mooring and he did a great job.

The marina manager later played the CCTV footage back for us so we could watch his first attempt and it was all jumpy which made it look really funny. I would've loved to have been able to include the video clip here but sadly it was not possible.

Phil also removed the name “Candlelight” from the stern that day and she is now called “Ravensdale”. We have registered her on the Small Ships Register and we are in the process of getting a new name plate made.

Phil removing the old name


Other than the loo situation, I’m totally loving being here. The weather has been pretty kind to us so far given that it’s November, but I still enjoy getting out on the cold, wet and windy days and the boat is lovely and warm and dry, especially since we bought a really good dehumidifier.

Storage wars

We had no problem fitting the stuff we had with us in the holiday accommodation into the boat.

Then came the daunting task of bringing the stuff from storage aboard and working out where to put it.

For a boat, Ravensdale has quite a lot of cupboard space, including three full-length wardrobes and there is lots of space under the seating in the main cabin and dining areas and under the beds.


Watching the yacht owner at the far left of this image climbing his mast made me very glad we went for a cruiser!



However, it quickly became clear that we had brought way too much stuff, despite thinking we had got rid of almost everything we owned.

It seems the van was the correct size for the move after all. If only we had jettisoned more of our stuff before the move.

We decided to make regular trips to the 75 sq ft storage unit that we took for a month almost a month ago now.

Opening it up is always scary, but bringing another pile of stuff back to the boat knowing there is nowhere to put it is even scarier.

The new goal is to downsize to a smaller storage unit within the next month... or so, hopefully, maybe J

Each time we visit the store, we bring back a car full of boxes, bags and other items and we have set ourselves a rule that these have to be stowed or disposed of before we can get any more.

This is proving very difficult as we don’t know whether we will have room for items we want to keep until we have stored everything we really need or want and some of these things are still buried in the store.
Initially, we discovered that lots of things we needed were in storage, so we’ve had to buy cheap basics until our own turn up.
The first day we had to cut the bread with steak knives as the bread knife hadn’t surfaced yet – it still hasn’t so we’re using a cheap one from Asda until we find it. I can’t really work out why the steak knives were so readily available, but we were very glad they were so we went out and bought some steaks for dinner :-)
At long last, we seem to be making a bit of an impact on the contents of the store and if we keep doing what we’re doing we will eventually clear it – and hopefully find all the important things we really need to find asap.
Week two
Still enjoying life aboard despite the minor inconveniences, such as the loo situation and the storage puzzle.

I decided against asking the holiday question again at the end of week two. It was only a joke the first time, but, if I say it too often, Phil might think I mean it and that definitely isn't the case.

It's a very different life, but I'm loving every minute of it, OK, almost every minute of it :-)


Dex seems very happy with his new life too. So far, all his walks have been local, but we are planning to take him further afield and start exploring Cumbria once we have finished sorting ourselves out on the boat.


Meanwhile, Dexie gets really excited when the seagulls put on aeronautical displays around the boat and he has a new friend that comes to visit most days.

Dex watching his new friend on the aft deck



He also enjoys cuddling up with Phil or I while watching TV in the evenings.


Dex watching TV with Phil


And he (Dex, not Phil :-)) has started singing along to some TV show theme tunes. I will try to get a video of this to post asap.
PS. This is my first attempt at blogging and the software seems to have a life of it's own. It keeps inserting random spaces between lines that I don't want, but I can't get rid of them. Hopefully I will learn how to use it better as time goes on...