“You can’t always be strong,
but you can always be brave”.
Donations to – NPCD.org.au
Living on a boat with another person for months at a time in warm weather is one thing. But to be cooped up in a tiny living space during a UK winter has the potential to drive one round the bend! At least that’s what I thought.
So what does one do during a UK winter while living on a boat?
The last time Blue Heeler was laid up alongside for more than a few weeks was in 2010 in Melbourne. Over the past six months in Gosport, Blue Heeler has bobbed about, fenders rubbing against the finger with mooring lines stretching and tugging from cleat to cleat. Here on the south coast of England it generally doesn’t get cold enough to worry about winterising the boat to any degree, but we still had a few tasks to do to maintain a level of comfort.
Naturally the first thing is to stay warm. Wayne refurbished our little-used Webasto heater, and it’s worked a treat over the past few months, keeping our tootsies warm on cold winter nights.
The next thing to combat is dampness. There’s nothing worse than black mildew in cupboards and the musty smell of wet clothes. It’s also unhealthy to live in a damp environment. But we averted this disaster early in the season by investing in an EcoAir dessicant dehumidifier which performed much better than I expected. Inside Blue Heeler the humidity was kept at less than 45% removing the likelihood of mildew growing in cupboards, throughout clothes or in the saloon cushions. The alternative would have been disastrous. After six months I’m impressed with how dry the inside of the boat is.
Another thing to consider while shacked up in a boat is lack of physical activity. It’s not like the tropics where we can just jump off and go for a swim or hike up the nearest hill. I joined the local gym and went there most days when I wasn’t visiting somewhere else. Having a bike is a great way to get around, although it’s not much fun when it’s 5 degrees and the roads are icy. This coast is flat so walking is a great way to see the place too.
Surprisingly over the past few months we didn’t strangle each other and managed to keep ourselves suitably amused – Christmas was a delightful affair as we joined good friends Chris and Brian and their friends and family to devour a 16 pound turkey with all the trimmings; New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh we were welcomed by strangers and invited to eat loads of traditional fare before walking around after midnight with a piece of coal, shortbread and bottle (or two) of whisky for ‘First Footing’; spent an evening listening to the plucky tunes of the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra at Usher Hall; feasted on traditional Scottish fare such as Haggis and Neeps, Cullen Skink (soup), Tablet (fudge), Oatcakes, Potato Scones, Black Bun, Bannock, and the unidentified terrine known deceivingly as Head Cheese. Coincidentally (for those that did the Sail Indonesia 2012) while in Edinburgh we met up with Mike and Nicki from the boat Zen Again – who would’ve thought!
On the trip south we popped in to the small township of Kirriemuir, the birthplace of not only J.M. Barry of Peter Pan fame, but also Bon Scott of AC/DC fame.
Statues of Peter Pan and Bon Scott are proudly on display.
With the generous offer of a car from Brian and his family, we spent drove through the North West England visiting relatives, south through the gorgeous Cotswolds and to Poole, later returning to the outstanding snow-covered scenery between Perth in Scotland and the midlands. During the winter we’ve visited many castles and churches, and also some unusual places such as the site of the WWII code-breakers, and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich where we stood astride the Prime Meridian – one foot in the east; one in the west. Fascinating stuff.
For a change of pace and to appreciate some of the conveniences of a house, I took a side-trip and spent a few weeks house-sitting looking after an adorable old Wheaton Terrier in Teddington.
From this handy location I could easily venture into London, take a walk to Hampton Court Palace, or stroll through the shops at nearby Richmond. Most importantly I was rewarded with regular doggy cuddles!
Back at Gosport the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is an interesting place to visit once you’ve purchased an annual pass for unlimited entry. Included in the ticket is the waterbus from the HMS Alliance Submarine at Gosport to the dockyard in Portsmouth where the bones of the Mary-Rose which sank in 1545 are on display; the 250 year old HMS Victory famous for Vice Admiral Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar; the HMS Warrior armoured frigate built in 1860 with dozens of canons which were never used in war; plus a lot of interesting naval stuff for those interested in naval stuff. Portsmouth is the home of the new aircraft carrier the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
By living aboard we’ve managed to keep everything on the boat running so nothing has seized up through lack of use (that includes us!). As such there’s no major work to undertake, except for the usual maintenance and checks we do before any major trip. After six months of floating, our hull is a little furry but we expect that will sort itself out once we’re out sailing.
And just like that daffodils and snow-drops are blooming and winter is over. Really?
The weather has turned decidedly colder this past few weeks with winds from Siberia dumping snow throughout the UK, including Gosport, causing havoc with commuters and traffic. The first cold snap dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’ caused much havoc. How sad to learn that the Holyhead Marina at Anglesey where we stayed only last year was recently destroyed by the first ‘beast’. A couple of weeks later ‘The Beast’ was followed by the less imaginative ‘Beast from the East 2’. The forecast for Easter weekend isn’t looking any better as (you guessed it) ‘Beast from the East 3’ is on its way.
Anyway, Blue Heeler and crew will soon sail from Gosport along the northern coast of Europe to the Baltic. By the way, Haslar Marina is a great place to berth the boat over winter and the guys here are friendly and helpful. The town of Gosport has everything you need and what you don’t find here can easily be delivered overnight.
So I hope you’ll join us over the next few months as we voyage to the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Until then here are a few pics you might enjoy. Thanks for reading!