Tuesday, 29 July 2008

This Weekend

My daughter Rachael and her partner Dan had been living for the last 10 months with Dan's mum, and after my Granddaughter Brooke was born living space has been virtually nonexistant.

So this weekend, after much saving, they have managed to find a property to rent and Laura and I were called up to assist in the move.

The day of the move was due to be Saturday morning. Normally, when visiting we would book into the local Travellodge at Ramsgate, however, yours truly hit upon the great idea that we could Camp for the couple of nights and save ourselves quite a large wedge on accomodation.

We dug out the tent, which hadnt been used for at least 4 years and collected together our camping bits and bobs.

We finished work Friday morning and drove direct to Ramsgate arriving about 9am and we booked into a nice little site just by The old RAF Manston airfield. Now known as Kent International although most flights appear to be traing flights for pilots.

It took about 15 mins to pitch the tent then another half an our to blow up the airbed with us taking it in turns on the foot pump to avoid RST.

In order to keep tiredness at bay we visited the Raf and Spitfire museum at Manston which im sure Laura was thrilled about although she managed to keep her enthusiasm under wraps.

She seemed very unimpressed by this Fokker Dr1 Triplane

And I dont remember the figure sitting in the cockpit of this Sopwith 1 1/2 strutter. Have we just captured a ghosty image?

and finally the Manston Spitfire

We finally got to bed about 8pm think the noise of our fellow campers BBQ next door might keep us awake but no, we heard nothing till we woke up twelve hours later.
We hot footed it over to Dans mum's house for a brew and await the man with the van.

Brooke was unimpressed with the bustle, and managed to sleep through most of the move

The move went smoothly, we then returned to camp and packed up the gear as for the first time, we would be spending the night at Rachael's.

A smashing weekend.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008


My old Mukka Gary Browne died 3 years ago after fighting cancer. He was 45

We had first met in 1985 as young coppers in Woolwich SE London working those mean streets and enjoying all life had to offer. Together with our close friend Paul, we went hiking, camping, fell walking and boating.
Eventually as time passed, Gary stole my dream of living aboard a boat, however, he didnt go along my route of a Narrow Boat but went the whole hog and bought a 1908 Dutch barge which was for sale in Amsterdam.

The actual purchase took rather a long time due to Dutch Notaries (solicitors) and money transfers but eventually, following several trips to Holland we were finally ready to cruise 'Disponibel' from Amsterdam to Hoo on the River Medway in Kent.

The Dutch and Belgium Canals were like nothing we had ever experienced before, with huge commercial barge and ocean going traffic.....and we thought Disponibel was big.

In order to satisfy Insurance demands, Gary was obliged to ensure a qualified skipper for the Canal trip to Neiuport and another qualified skipper for the crossing to England. he also had to name an Engineer for the journey and confirm that various modifications had taken place for the crossing, ie, a dedicated engine fuel supply to engine, not using the existing tank, Wheel house strapped down (as it was collapsible) and all skylights to be 'Boarded over'

The Skipper for the canal part of the journey was very kindly filled by Mr Eddie Oostland, The vendor who had lived on board for the last 30 years, 10 of those years with his wife and children. Disponible had been in his family since she was first launched. This was his last trip in her and his emotions were running high.

We kept him plied with liquids to ease the pain :)

Yours truly was nominated Engineer, based on the fact that I once changed a split pin on the prop of my dad's outboard engine on one of our 'Lads' boat trips on the Peak Forest canal.

Gary's official title was 'owner' and our 4th crew member was Paul.

Moorings overnight on our run to Neuiport were varied and always near local bars that the commercial boatmen used.

At almost 90' she was just about long enough to fit between these two dolphins

The Barge behind was twice our width and had the customary car on the stern

It took us 4 days to get to Neiuport passing through wide tidal sections and small villages and towns, Brugge and Passchendale being being my favourites.

The lift bridges are operated by pressing a button on the approach, although some seem to open by magic

Once at Neiuport we were met by Carl, our skipper for the crossing and much activity took place preparing the old girl for the sea. The insurance only covered us for crossing in winds up to Force Four and Carl informed us we were good to go on the next tide at around 3 am. The hardest part of the preparations were finding an oil drum for the dedicated fuel tank as upon our arrival at the port everything seemed to be closed for the day but Eddie came good and using his native tongue on the Belgium community secured a drum suitable for the task which was then secured to the engine room roof and the nessessary pipes connected to the engine.

At around 3 am we left the harbour and headed for England.

All was well till I took over the helm as we approached the first Traffic Separation Scheme. Carl had gone to sleep behind me on the bench seat after giving me a course to steer and instructions to wake him if i wasnt happy with anything.

Well, I knew the basics that we had to cross the TSS at right angles and give way to traffic on our starboard, but this was a totally alien environment to me. I could see several large ships off our starboard bow and as we all inched closer I was convinced I heard the name 'Disponibel' being spoken over the VHF......I woke Carl and pointed out to him the rather large vessel approaching and he said..."mmmm yes does look rather interesting, I think we'll give way"

carl took the helm and didnt leave it till we had rounded North Foreland, in the meanwhile, the wind had picked up nicely and we were now ...I think bouncing about is the wrong phrase....we were being thrown around like the proverbial cork. I was scared to death.

Note the lashings for the fuel drum to the funnel

Eventually, Broadstairs on the Kent Coast came into view

I dont worry about admitting my fear at all, I was in a flat bottomed 90 year old boat, made of iron with a 1940's engine in sea's for which she was never intended......gulp

Thankfully, as we rounded North Foreland and headed up the inshore Gore channel things calmed down and Carl, Gary and Paul retired again to bed leaving me with a fantastic trip along the North kent Coast.

We entered the Swale at low tide and chugged through the very narrow channel towards Queenborough (isle of sheppy) to await the next incoming tide to take us onto Hoo. As we approached Kings Ferry Lift bridge, smoke started billowing out of the engine room, Carl took the helm and dropped revs to tickover, Upon inspection and with much trepidation I found that the problem was the oil filler cap had loosened itself and thrown oil over the engine and exhaust. soon sorted.

At Queenborough we tied up alongside an old lighter just behind the 'Ross Revenge' which some of you may remember as the old 'Radio Caroline' ship.

Queenborough is a lovely stop over if ever your brave enough to do the transit from Limehouse to the medway

Around about 2am saw us cast off and head up the Medway towards Hoo.
The crew very tired and worn out following their 23 hour trip.

Paul, trying to work out tide tables

We had to hold position outside Hoo to wait for enough water to get us into the moorings, but eventually, the tide did its job and we inched our way into our allotted slot.

Note the fine looking MFV in the background.......my old boat 'Emblem'

We enjoyed many trips on Disponibel after our epic journey and Gary tried various moorings, Tower Bridge, Cuxton and finally ending up at Poplar Dock BW Marina.

Eventually his illness and outrageous moorings and upkeep forced him to sell the old girl and he moved back to the land to a flat in High Wickham.

A year before his death we were searching the net one night and found an advert for Disponibel...she was up for sale again....by this time I was divorced and we hit on the Plan of buying her again and setting up home together as two sad bachelors.

Sadly, it wasnt to be.

Friday, 18 July 2008


Finishing nights onto a day off is not my favourite way of working. I can never decide if its best to go straight to bed or stay up and see most of the day through and then have an early night...after all, normal folk don't go straight to bed as soon as they get home from work, Have their tea, then maybe a few bevies in front of the telly before bedtime.

So that's what I did Wednesday morning. It was 815am by the time I managed to get past the traffic on the Chelsea embankment and through Earls Court onto the M4. Was very surprised to see Laura up and about which she explained she had stayed up so we could get into the routine together rather than being awake and asleep at different times.

We eventually got to bed about 1pm and both woke at 8pm. That meant we had the prospect of still being wide awake come the early hours of Thursday so, following a couple of ciggies and a brew we retired again and both managed to sleep till 2am........what a life!

Night time telly not being up to much Laura settled down and watched her ER dvd's while I battled with ancient civilisations to conquer the world on the laptop.

5am saw us pushing a trolley round Tesco in Slough for the weekly BIG SHOP. We were just 2 of about 6 other shoppers and while that may sound smashing, not having crowds of people about, its actually more of an obstacle race due to the shelf stackers and their huge wire cage things blocking aisles and walkways so that you find yourself in a kind of supermarket maze wheeling your trolley from one dead end to the next till you finally emerge at the only open checkout with its sleepy occupant clock watching.

I think im slowly getting the hang of Blogspot and have been messing about with colours and stuff, so if anyone finds it hard on the eyes or has suggestions the please let me know.

Here's a couple of my fav pics from our Emblem days

Sunset over Chatham

Monday, 14 July 2008

Still Playing

3 days into a 5 day working stretch means ive not been able to have a faff around with the site.

I think ive managed to show some fav blogs and links and managed to work out how to add a link when typing text......Ill have to test em now.

Laura is still lying in her bed of sickness and demanding sympathy so im trying to make all the right noises while avoiding the dredded lurgy.

Good to see Herbie back alongside us after enjoying their cruise on the river Wey, I was abit concerned for them after all the rain we'd been having but like all true adventurers they came through. Well done folks and thanks for the wine :)

Time to get ready for work. Only 2 more nights to go then 5 days off, yipeee

Thursday, 10 July 2008

testing pics

Just a test page for pics, that i was never able to load onto CWF coz they were too large...still struggling with links?????

This was a trip on our old boat Emblem, mid summer 2007 on a fishing trip to the Thames estuary with some work chums

Its a new day

This Blog site is totally new to me, Canal World Forum was pretty easy to use but this is already taxing my IT brain so if there are any glaring errors, please let me know or at least bare with me.

I have really enjoyed posting a sort of diary of our lives on the canal world forum.....now, thats the first thing......how do I make the words canal world forum, into a link?
But having read Herbie and other blogs I thought I would try and go a step up and not rely on the relative safety of Canal World.

Its 8am and I have just returned indoors after being outside looking for swimmers.

There I was, sitting on the trusty Elsan when a weird howling/meowing noise invaded the privy privacy, A quick dash outside after releasing the front cratch cover revealed our neighbour Lydia.......Nice jim jams......clambering over her bow.

It turns out Millie, one of her cats had lost one of its lives by dropping between the moored boats, but Lydia had managed to rescue her by a quick release of mooring lines.
Thank goodness, I think Millie is proably lauras favourite cat, Should wouldve been heartbroken.

Good news, we passed our BSC