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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

NB Valerie Has Sold

"If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello." ~Paul Coelho, Brazilian lyricist and novelist

   Four people contacted me about viewing the boat since I listed it for sale. Yesterday morning at breakfast another person sent me an email and today, yet another. Yesterday the first person came to view the boat. I met his wonderful family, and we spent two and a half hours going over the boat from bow to stern. He made an offer and I accepted it. If all goes well, I intend to be packed and away with everything settled, before Christmas.
   I am fortunate to have such loving, supportive friends both here and in North America. I will stay with friends while I arrange to have my personal belongings shipped back to the States. I hope to visit some of the lovely people who've become such good friends over the seven years I've lived here in the U.K. and then...I will be away, flying back to America and the arms of my family who are excited to have their mom and Grandmother coming back to roost amidst them; back to the bosom of wonderful friends on the other side of the Pond who are thrilled I am returning.
   I don't know where exactly I will end up. I am going to trust the Universe and bounce a bit, visiting family and friends while I see what comes up for me in terms of a place to settle down, and opportunities for good employment. I am nearly finished with my first book draft which I have been working on for eight years, and I will be submitting it to a publisher soon. Fingers crossed it is picked up for publication and goes right to the top of the best seller list! Everybody loves a good true love story right???
   Since Samhain on October 31st I have felt Les strong around me. I know he was with me yesterday and he continues to look out for me. He may be dis-incarnate but we are still in a relationship of true love with one another that transcends death.
   My head is spinning! I cannot believe how quickly things move sometimes. While I am sad to be leaving our lovely home and the community of fellow boaters who have welcomed, befriended and nurtured both me and Les, I am very pleased that NB Valerie will provide a wonderful home for a lovely new owner who hopefully will have decades of life aboard her and who will  feel surrounded and protected by all the love and care Les and I put into this boat and each other.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Narrow Boat Valerie For Sale

"Acceptance is being in the moment without necessarily agreeing with it. It is about facing reality rather than trying to control it." ~ Anonymous

The death of my husband and my own ill health forces the sale of our lovely home, NB Valerie. Built by Hamilton Bespoke Narrow boats, she went into the water in January 2006. We have been her sole owners as live aboard continuous cruisers for 12 years. NB Valerie is 58 feet long, with a semi-trad stern. Serious inquiries only. All reasonable offers considered. Asking £44,500.00 ONO. I am willing to negotiate with the right buyer. I want NB Valerie to have a new owner or owners who will love her as much we have. E-mail me at Currently cruising in Nantwich, Cheshire. 

  •  33HP  Vetus engine
  • 180 Ltr/40 Gal. diesel fuel tank with two 25 Ltr. metal jerry cans stored in the stern locker for emergency diesel storage with a motor impelled pump to pump the diesel from the cans directly into the tank without having to lift them
  • 650 Ltr./144 Gal. stainless steel water tank with sweet, clean water (100 ft. hose)
  • Pure Sine Wave 3000 watt inverter
  • Candy on board washing machine (piped directly into the boat's hot & cold water to keep from draining the batteries when washing on hot)
  • Shoreline 12 Volt refrigerator with separate freezer compartment
  • 430 watts OnBoard Solar panel system with top of the line MPPT controller installed August 2017
  • Ebispacher on board radiator heating, replaced new in 2015
  • 22 inch HD TV with built in DVD player and Freeview, installed 2016
  • Pioneer radio system with ceiling speakers, installed 2017 
  • 20 inch thick firm Memory foam mattress with Cool Blue technology, new 2017
  • Charging station for two computers simultaneously, and two other stations for other electronics
  • All LED lighting throughout the boat
  • Valar Willow solid fuel stove with new fire bricks and new stainless steel double skinned chimney (and two older replacement chimneys should you need them!)
  • Airhead Marine composting toilet installed in 2012 (new, never used chemical toilet stored in Engine bay)
  • Boat safety certificate good until August 2020
  • Fully licensed and insured
  • Last blacked in January 2017 with all anodes replaced 
  • Dinette folds down to a double bed (extra thick cushions and easy to remove and wash upholstery covers replaced in November 2013)
  • All mooring ropes and fenders were replaced brand new in 2017
  • 6 mooring pins, three hammers, four nappy pins, and one set of mooring chains. Two bow mooring ropes--one on each side, one stern mooring rope and two mid-line ropes--one for each side. 
  • Plank, boat pole and boat hook
  • Loads of storage space
  • Extra parts included: second Shurflo water pump, parts for Ebispacher, 7 oil filters, engine belts, six tubes of stern gland grease etc. 
  • Extensive tools to stay with boat, including five year old Husqvarna 17 inch chain saw and sharpening set; brand new log splitter axe and sharpening stone, hammers, Dremel set, sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, etc. 
  • Out of the water for a replacement of the cutlass bearing and a new larger prop in January 2018, a marine engineer at Aqueduct Marina examined the hull closely and pronounced it in excellent shape. 
  • She comes with a complete list of all work done and repairs with completion dates,  all past BSC certificates, original boat paperwork, and all instruction manuals for on board appliances and boat parts. 
  • Pots, pans, silverware, dish and glassware, immersion blender, hand blender, cookware and many linens stay with boat. You could simply pick up some groceries, come aboard, turn the key and cruise off just as you do in a hire boat!
We were in the middle of painting NBV when Les received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Like a lovely lady of a certain age, she needs a bit of slap as the Brits call makeup. The paint job needs to be completed and all the paint, white spirit, brushes, rollers, Fertan rust converter, primer, sanding paper and two sanders come with the boat. This is an opportunity for new owners to personalize her or even change her name.  All the crucial bits--the engine, inverter, water tank, hull, etc. are in excellent nick.
A look at the brand new cutlass bearing and waterless stern gland installed in January 2018. 
Close up of the Vetus 33 HP engine. NB Valerie has a freshly cleaned and painted engine bay and brand new aluminium checker plate engine bay cover--easy to lift and is brilliant at keeping water out. The engine bay is always dry. The oil and filters are changed faithfully every 350 hours.  
A new larger prop means NB Valerie is ready to handle both canals and rivers with ease. 
Freshly blacked in January 2017 with brand new sacrificial anodes (4). NBV does have a galvanic isolater. 

Shot of my bike on the newly installed bike rack, January 2017.

We had two additional T Studs mounted on either side of the bow to make it easier for short people like me to moor up. I never could reach the T stud out on the point of the bow!
All mooring ropes, fenders, and fender ropes were replaced in August 2017 and I added mooring cleats to the fender ropes to make it quick and easy to adjust the fenders when mooring up. 
Looking towards the bow from the chairs in the Saloon.  The TV has been replaced with a new 22 inch HD telly with built in DVD player and Freeview. the stereo has been replaced with a new Pioneer stereo. Les built new stairs for my short legs with storage underneath each step, a larger, longer hearth with new tiling so live coals would no longer fall on the floor. There is storage under the hearth for the coal bucket and two spacious closets on the left for shoes, boots, cans of paint, axes, coats, grocery trolley, and outdoor sun umbrella!
It took me four months to design this closet with built in man drawers and it took Les three days to build it! All the tools in the picture stay with the boat. 

A close up view of the new Solar panels installed August 2017. This set up makes it easy to clean and paint underneath and the panels clear the mushrooms vents tilted in either direction. In summer you can go for days without starting the engine. On a sunny day you can turn on the inverter and wash clothes on sunshine without touching the battery charge! In winter you can leave her moored up on the towpath for a few days and come back to find fully charged batteries and an engine that turns over on a dime. 
20 inch thick firm Memory Foam mattress with Cool Blue technology. It is the most comfortable mattress I've ever slept on. It is in pristine condition. It measures 6 foot by 4'6" wide.
The bed all made up, looking from the cabin down the hall past the bathroom and into the galley. The bed has been modified to pull out into a 6 foot by 6 foot cross-bed. 
Standing by the dinette and looking into the galley. 
Airhead Marine Composting toilet! Freedom forever from Elsan and pump outs forever! If you prefer to use the chemical toilet stored in the engine bay, it will take you less than five minutes to unscrew two wing nuts that bolt the composting loo to the floor and lift it out of the bathroom. The chemical toilet will simply sit in its place and require emptying at an Elsan disposal once a week. 
Interior of the roomy medicine cabinet in the bathroom. 
Shower/hip bath combination. 
Lovely Cannon home cooker range. Brilliant and handles anything you can imagine cooking, baking or grilling.
Close up of Shoreline 12 Volt Freezer/fridge on top of the counter! No more squatting down a half dozen times a day or lying on your belly in order to see what is in the fridge! The Candy washing machine is mounted below it and connected directly into the boat's hot and cold water system with knobs to turn to change from one to the other. This decreases the load on the inverter and batteries from 3200 watts to 2600 watts on starting. 
Top and bottom of dish and glassware cupboard Les built which is amazingly streamlined. Dish and glassware stay with the boat. 
Condiments cupboard at the end of the counter on the cooker side of the galley. 
The dinette folds down to a double bed. There are two large drawers underneath the near seat and the farther seat lifts up for storage underneath. The computer charging station is hidden behind those pillows nearest to us. 
This hidden charging station will charge two computers simultaneously. 

   I realize this post might appear to be an abrupt about face in contrast to my previous post titled Never Give Up but I assure you it is rather a continuance of the idea. It has been a very tough two years since my Best Beloved Les died. I had to try life on my own on our boat and give it my best effort. Sadly there were fences, walls, and impediments I could not have foreseen waiting for me.
   In the States I never had trouble finding a job. I have a university degree, twenty five solid years of experience working with students, and excellent references. None of this has made any difference over here in Britain. I've looked for work for a year and the only work I could get was waitressing. Now I don't mind waitressing and I've done it before--when I was 19. But I am 61 now with health issues and a financial need to earn more than minimum wage so sadly it isn't going to work out for me.
   When I married Les and moved here I had two auto immune (AI) diseases: Sarcoidosis and Osteoarthritis. I managed the Sarcoidosis with supplements of melatonin shipped from the States since I could not get it here without a prescription and even then no one would prescribe enough to actually stop Sarcoidosis from progressing. When Les' cancer began to travel and we had to spend hundreds of pounds every month on supplements to fight it, I quietly stopped taking Melatonin as the cost for shipping it from America was ridiculously high and I never told Les. Sarcoidosis has now made my lung tissue brittle and it is harder to breathe. Now I've developed Crohn's disease and all three diseases are adversely impacting each other. They are incurable, chronic, and progressive. The arthritis in the first digits of my index and middle finger on my right hand now make it very difficult and painful to pull on socks, pull up trousers, tie shoes and mooring ropes.
     My children have been worried that I might fall ill over here and end up in a  care home and they would not be able to get me back To the States, near them, so it is time to close this chapter of life, square my shoulders, turn and step forward to rebuild my life anew once more back in the States. I love this boat. It has been my home for over seven years. She brought Les and I together, and his heart and soul is in every bit of her. She was Les' "other" baby. She deserves a new owner who will tart her up and make her shine with love and joy; in return she will give many decades of comfort, security, and freedom to the right buyer.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Never Give Up!!

"Flutter your wings frail bird
And rise an inch above the impossible." ~Anonymous Haiku

     Gosh a lot has happened in the last few weeks! I began moored in Nantwich for two days and was treated to a visit by my lovely friend Susanne King. her boat is at Aqueduct marina. Sadly Susanne's husband Peter died just over two months ago in a hospice in Winsford. We connected because I started a closed group called Widows on the Cut, for women on boats who have lost a partner, spouse or significant other and need a safe, confidential place to share their their feelings and emotions and know they will receive compassion, loving kindness, and understanding from other women literally in life's same boat. Susanne is Danish, Peter was Welsh and they lived half the year in Kenya and spent the summers on their boat cruising the British canals. Meeting Susanne has been a blessing for me, as I can speak candidly about my grief with her and know she gets it--because like me, she is in it. We had a lovely lunch aboard NB Valerie and her presence brightened my day.
Susanne King
      I cruised back out to Hurleston and the weather deteriorated. First it was blustery winds and warm rain--decidedly a departure from usual late October weather. The shortened days, the lack of sun, and the depressing fact that November was one week away and I would hit the one year mark of looking work--unsuccessfully--made me feel suicidally depressed. I just wanted to give up and throw in the towel or more accurately get pissed and throw myself in the canal.
     But then a series of things occurred: a group of women came by in a flotilla of canoes. It was lashing with rain, and the wind was forming waves on the canal and yet here were these intrepid young women refusing to let the crap weather keep them from learning to row a canoe and enjoy nature--in all her vicarious moods!
Women out canoing in the rain!! Brits don't let the weather interfere with fun--much like Alaskans that way!
It really was chucking it down!
The same stretch later on after the rain cleared off. 
    Next a package arrived for me at The Laundrette. It was from the Heck Sausage Company in Yorkshire. I had purchased a package of Heck brand Smoky Paprika Chicken Sausages. I love heck brand sausages because they contain no rusk, use fresh herbs and spices, and are 98% meat--like U.S. sausages. I was thrilled to my boots to find a chicken sausage that I thought might be close to my beloved Spanish Chorizo sausage that I use in Three Sisters Chicken and Chorizo Casserole and in my homemade Minestrone soup.
     I bought Aidell's chicken Sausages from Costco back in Washington State and loved them so I was very excited. Sadly the Heck chicken sausages were not for me. They were low fat and consequently the texture was more like plastic then juicy, flavorful sausage. When I ordered groceries again I took the opportunity to leave a less than favorable comment about the product based on its texture, on the Ocado web site.  Apparently the store passed my comment on to Heck and I received a lovely email from a woman named Claudia who works for Heck and was sad to read my review. She wanted to send me a check for a refund! It was only £3.00 but what customer service!!
     Instead of an envelope with a check I received a package with a hand written letter from Claudia, a refund check for £3.00 and a lovely apron! I have since tried Heck's full fat chicken sausages and they are delicious, and of course their pork sausages are divine. Sadly I can no longer digest Pork or Beef so I cannot enjoy them, but I encourage everyone else to give Heck brand sausages a try.
     The weather now took a cold and typically Autumnal turn with ground frost and nightly temperatures plummeting to -1/28F. No more going outside to start the engine withhold a coat, hat and gloves! Time to pack away the summer clothes and fill the wardrobe with winter wear, including my favorite cold weather trousers from Duluth Trading Company in the USA, made of fire hose canvas. They are thick, tough as old boots and more comfortable than jeans, with pockets for knee pads, a loop for a hammer or a windlass, and lots of pockets and a back waist that rises to close the gap between shirt and pants. Their clothes are made for people who work outdoors and need tough, lasting and essentially comfortable gear.
     I love sweater weather!! Mine are washed, dried, de-pilled and folded on the shelf along with thick sweatshirts and long sleeve turtle neck tops. My black down coat and Les' green down jacket are back in service again; I wear my coat to town and Les' jacket for cruising and boat chores.
     October 31st arrived and for me as a Witch it is Samhain and a sacred day. It is our day of remembrance of our beloved dead, and it is New Year's Eve. We believe the veil between the world of the living and the dead is thinnest on certain days and nights of the year and this was one of them. We build altars in memory of beloved dead, engage in ritual to allow their spirits space to return and visit if they so choose and usually we have a meal of their favorite foods and set a place at table in their memory.
     Since I was on my own my ritual was very low key, but I felt Les' presence. The hairs went up on the back of my neck at one point, and I felt surrounded by power and love. Spent with emotion, I turned in about 11 p.m. My phone woke me at 12:30 a.m. with a ping telling me I had a text message! Someone had logged in to Tutorful, the tutor web site I am listed with, and was requesting me to tutor them! I answered the next morning and we agreed to meet at Nantwich Bookshop and Coffee Cafe near the village green.
This is the 435 year old building in which I work!
     We had a good first meeting, discussing my student's goals and objectives. As we were parting by the bookshop counter I spotted the manager Denise. She has sent me an email three or four weeks previously asking if I wanted them to hold on to my CV. They were in the process of reorganizing things and weren't hiring--yet. so of course I emailed back, "Yes please! I would love to work at the book shop. It appears to be the warm heart of the village green and everyone on staff seems very kind." Now that we were face-to-face I queried,
   "Are you Denise?"
   "Yes I am," she said with a bright smile.
   "Well then you also know who I am!"
   "Yes I do. It is good to see you and in fact I wondered if you were still looking for work?"
   "Yes I am."
   "Could you come in some time later this week and work for a couple of hours in trial so we can see how you handle things?"
   "I would love to. What about Wednesday?"
   "That would be perfect, " Denise replied as she flipped through her wall calendar and wrote my name down.
     The upshot is that I went in for a trial and worked for six hours. At this cafe everyone is trained to do everything: pot washing, plating up orders, barrista, waiting tables, and cashiering. That way anyone on the clock can be slotted in wherever they are needed most. Tips are divided equally between all the staff as well so it means we are a cohesive team working together to provide good customer service no matter what we do--even washing dishes. So now I am finally employed, albeit part time which is a good thing at the mo as I have not worked a physical job on my feet for six hours since I was nineteen! I've had desk jobs since my university days.
     I stopped in to Marks & Spencer for a Saturday paper (they a re located right next to the bus station and library and it is easier to nip in there for a paper then walk all the way over to Morrisons for one) and I was chatting with the grocery clerk. Her face lit up when I said I lived on a narrow boat.
   "Oh we just bought ours and she is going into the water tomorrow at Aqueduct Marina. My husband and I are gong to live on her and we are so excited!" Her name is Linda and her boat is NB Water Colour so if you see them about give her a big, friendly wave.
    After eight days at Hurleston, preparing for winter and putting draft plastic on the windows,  I cruised back in to Nantwich in time for the winter mooring times to begin, filled with water, dumped the rubbish and moored up near the ramp by the stairs down to the Welsh Lane. The cold weather disappeared and warm, balmy weather swept in from the southwest! How warm you say??
     So warm I had to let the fire go out in the boat! So warm I had to switch back to my rain jacket! So there you have it!! me and Ma Nature are both very mixed up about the weather these days. One morning recently I was out walking my rubbish to the bin back at the service point and everywhere I looked boaters were popping in and out of hatches and engine bays. Nothing like surprise helping of warm, sunny weather to get those last minute boat chores completed.  An elderly gent was standing on the towpath, tobacco pipe in hand looking at his boat NB Solitude. We got to chatting and before you know it we had exchanged histories, names, and opinions of some of the trials of the world. We even got round to loos!! His name is Roy and his wife is Carol. She was out that morning, but I look forward to meeting her.
     After dropping my rubbish in the Biffa bins I decided to stroll down to the Canal Centre and share my good employment news with several women there whom I know. Margaret and Lynda who work in the Chandlers were both out that day. I sauntered around the corner to the Convenience Shop and nipped in to say hi To Sharon, the new owner.
     If you haven't been in there, please make sure you stop in when you come through Nantwich and stop to fill up with water, dump your rubbish or empty your Elsan and say hello To Sharon. If you just need to replenish some tinned goods, fresh veg, milk, bread, eggs, and maybe some frozen food between large shops then you will everything you need. It will save you making the one and a half mile round trip walk into town.

Sharon knitting as she waits for customers. She didn't realize I was taking her picture. Drop in and say hello to see her thousand watt welcoming smile!

     Sharon's daughter owns The Laundrette there in the Centre, That's where I get my mail. Since Sharon took over the Canal shop it is ever so much cleaner, far more organized and has a really solid stock of the kind of things boaters are using. She even carries lactose free milk! Being a knitter, Sharon has yarns and collectibles for sale in her shop as well. This is one more canal side shop we should support so at the very least pop in and grab a candy bar!! You won't regret it.     

Friday, October 26, 2018

Seeking Clients!!!

Let the Beauty of what you love be what you do. ~ Rumi, 13th century Persian poet, jurist, Islamic scholar, theologian, and Sufi mystic originally from Greater Khorasan; 1207-1273.
I am a medicinal herbalist and I have openings for clients right now. If you have a chronic illness or health issue and you would like some research undertaken about what, if any alternative medicine or treatments may work for you then please email me at I charge £25/$35 (difference in price is the exchange rate) for an initial consultation, research, and health profile with one six week post consultation check in.

I am also registered on Tutorful which is a legitimate academic web site offering tutors for a wide range of academic services. If you or anyone you may know seeks tutoring to improve their written communication skills I am available. You can read my profile on the site. I also tutor those in need of conversational English language skills. I can connect with students on-line in the Tutorful website where meetings may be booked and payment is arranged or in person if you live in the Nantwich, Cheshire area. 

I tutor the following subjects:

A Level and Degree:
Conversational English Language Skills
English grammar and writing Skills
Essay Writing

A Level: 
English Literature
Humanities & Arts

I am also available as a manuscript editor. Just email me with your manuscript. I charge £25/$35 an hour. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Life's Cherished Gifts

"Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future but today is a gift. That's why its called the present." ~Bill Keane, American cartoonist, 1922-2011

   It's been a busy two weeks here in my world. I've been writing every day with punctuations for a walk to stretch my body. I've cleaned out a ton of old paperwork, said goodbye to Les' three ring binder from the visiting nurses with all of their notes on the last six months of his care, and organized several drawers. I've also dug out file folders of family documents, pictures, and items I used to have pinned to my bulletin board at Cloudhouse. I bought a clear polyvinyl desk protector to lay on the dinette table and I slipped pictures and mementos underneath to help me with my writing.
My new memorabilia collage which lives under a desk protector on the dinette table. Each item represents some aspect of the things I am writing about now in my book rough drafts. 
My favorite oldest daughter Jesse, left with her favorite oldest son Micheal as a baby. The cartoon below is one I found over three decades ago and saved because it encapsulates my Jesse girl as a child in terms of her relationship with her sister. My favorite youngest daughter Sparky on the right as a teenager and far right a few years ago. Her cartoon also encapsulates a little of what she was like as a child too.  
The card top left came with a dozen roses from Les the day my spouse visa was accepted. I've had the Pinups on Writing for over thirty years. The picture of Les was taken in 2011 and is one of my favorites of my Best Beloved. I bought the post card of the Bison and the bird when I was thirty. Many times I've reminded myself to be like the Bison: develop a tough hide and call on persistence while turning my back to the wind. Some days all one can do is stand knee deep in the snow and wait...for spring.

This is one of my favorite poems, The Bus of Questions. It was written by my dear friend and member of The Wednesday Women,  Lisa Conger. 
The other poem which I couldn't get a clean picture of, is one I found years ago somewhere and it is so evocative of my life I have held on to it as a reminder of where I came from and how far I've traveled.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters--Anon.

I walk down the street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I pretend I don't see it. 
I fall in.
I am lost...I am helpless.
It isn't my fault. 

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it. 
I fall in again. 
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But it isn't my fault. 
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there. 
I still fall's a habit...but
My eyes are open.
I know where I am. 
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

    A week ago Britain caught the tale end of the hurricane that ravaged the Southeast coast of America. Over here is was named Callum. As it swept in from the west, passing over North Wales and into the borders I hunkered down for three days and nights and wind gusts up to 65 mph. Moored at Hurleston Junction just before the bridge, I had a front row seat watching boats coming off the Llangollen canal and out of Hurleston bottom lock where they have to turn right and cruise through the bridge towards Nantwich and NBV, or turn left and head towards Barbridge, Calveley and Chester. While the canal is wide enough to comfortably turn a boat at the junction, the towpath curves around to the right and the winds sweep down the lock flight, pinning boats to the side. Even on a mildly windy day the winds swoop down the hill across from the moorings before the bridge. More than once I have helped boaters who come slowly through the bridge to pick up a partner who was working the locks, only to find their boat pinned to the side. I am grateful to Ken Deveson for showing me how to pin the boat using spring lines. What a difference this makes in a storm! Yes the boat did rock side to side with the wind generated waves but she stayed secure and didn't slide vertically back and forth. Passing boats had no choice but to give their engine some welly to keep the high winds from shoving them into moored boats, but the spring lines kept NB Val secure and stable. Below are two videos from the wind storm.
   After the winds let up it was time to head back in to Nantwich. I had a leisurely cruise in lush and lovely afternoon sunshine. It took just under an hour to fill the 144 gallon water tank which was pretty low, dump the rubbish, and pick up three packages from the Laundrette. When I arrived at the Nantwich service point there was one boat moored on the 48 hour visitor moorings. I had hopes I might actually be able to moor up at the end of the moorings just up from the service point. By the time I finished filling up there were only two spaces left! Fifteen boats had come from both directions, quickly filling the empty mooring spots but I was lucky to get in where I wanted, just behind NB Bessie Surtees.
   We've passed each other throughout the past nine months, coming and going on the Middlewich arm and the Shroppie. She called to me once that she followed my blog so it was a pleasure to finally have an opportunity to stop and meet Phil and Barb and have a chin wag. They've been boating for years, and have lived aboard NB Bessie Surtees for four years now, cruising. Phil followed the blog from the beginning when Les first started it. Did I take a picture of them and their boat??? By the time I remembered the camera they had been to town and the chandlers and cruised off. Next time!!
   Yesterday my phone rang and Elsie Fletcher's lovely Welsh accent said, "Hi Jaq it's Elsie. We thought we would come for a visit this afternoon." Lovely!! It's always a treat to spend time with Elsie and Eric (NB Bendigedig). I cleaned up, popped a Betty Crocker gluten free Devil's Food Cake in the oven and finished putting together a Venison stew for dinner later. They came bearing flowers and cwtches (special Welsh hugs) and we spent several lovely hours setting the world to rights. Thank you Eric and Elsie for blessing me with your company.
The bijou Aloha Island Grill hut on Monroe Street in Spokane,Washington. There is just enough room inside for five people to stand and order at the counter. I've eaten many a Hawaiian plate lunch at the outside tables or in my car.
   I have been searching for recipes that are gluten free and still tasty. I find I still cannot fix most of the things I used to cook for Les. As everyone knows food is a potent means of stirring memories. I take no joy in cooking food for myself that Les and I enjoyed, without him here to share it, and most of those recipes need tweaking and substitutions to remove gluten, lactose, etc. For some reason I found myself thinking about one of my favorite Spokane take-aways from Aloha Island Grill on Monroe Street. 
Their Hawaiian plate lunches of Teriyaki chicken, macaroni salad, and sticky rice with Katsu sauce is food for the weary soul. This set me on an Internet search for recipes that might be close and I am happy to say I've found several I am going to test out soon.
   The other cuisine that has grabbed me by the gut is Middle Eastern--I finally found a Tzaziki sauce recipe I like and I cannot get enough of Chicken Souvlaki in gluten free pita bread. I am also jonesing for (craving) Dolmathes which are stuffed grape leaves.
   As a kid my parents hung out a couple they met through work. The Schei's had a daughter named Jeri who was close to my age and we hung out quite a bit. Her parents had been world travelers before settling in Anchorage and having children. They had ties to Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Lowell was a fabulous cook. I still remember everyone gathered around their table filling and rolling grape leaves. I wish I would've had the presence of mind to ask for some of his recipes but of course when one young, that isn't what is on one's mind. I've searched off and on for decades for a Dolmathe recipe close to Schei's and I've finally found one that I have adapted. I made a batch last week and they were so good! Now if I could just get Schei's recipe for salad dressing life would be darned near fabulous!
These Dolmathes are stuffed with a mixture of rice, organic lamb mince, finely diced onion, finely diced fresh mint and parsley, ground cumin and dash of Tobasco sauce, fresh lemon zest, olive oil, salt & pepper. Layered in an enamel cast iron pan, six cloves of peeled garlic are tucked down in between the layers which are topped with tomato passata (tomato sauce), olive oil and water, then cooked for 40 minutes after which the juice from a fresh lemon is squeezed over the top. These little rolls of love are addictive!
   My cold nose woke me this morning at 4:40 am. The coals had gone out in the stove and the boat was COLD.  I had planned to back up to the service point yesterday to top up the water tank but I woke to such thick fog and it didn't dissipate until noon, so I decided today was the day. At 8:00 am I started the engine, pulled the fenders up, folded down the TV antenna, slipped the tiller in place, untied the mooring lines and pushed NB Valerie out stern first, backing her up beyond the boat moored right behind me, past the permanent moored boats and over on to the service point landing. I topped up the tank, cleaned out the loo and the bathroom, dumped the rubbish, picked up the mail, and cruised slowly in the sunny chill of the morning wearing Les' green down Jacket for warmth.
Yellow roses from Elsie and Eric Fletcher, pink flowers and the birthday card from Ken and Sue Deveson, and pictures of loved ones. On the far left is Jesse with her favorite oldest son (and my favorite oldest grandson) who is now nineteen!
   Moored up now by the playground at the other end of Nantwich, I have a grocery order sorted for delivery tomorrow. The rest of today is one of leisure as it is my 61st birthday. I splurged and bought three books to read: two are Man Booker award winners and one is a BBC 4 book of the week: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017 winner), Milkman by Anna Burns (2018 winner), and Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History. I am filled with a fine sense of satisfaction today as I completed all those chores and moored up again by 10 am, and I've received a lovely birthday card in the mail from friends, emails and e-cards from friends, and cell phone texts from friends and family. Today Life is good. xxx 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Ordinary Life

"Even the most ordinary life is a mystery if you look close enough. " ~Ingrid Bengis, American author, Fullbright Scholar, University Professor, Seafood purveyor to America's greatest chefs, and creator of the Island culinary and Ecological Center in Maine, USA, 1945-2017.

     I apologize for being absent for so long. I've been ill with a wretched cold. sore throat, and fighting the virus' attempt to colonize my lungs. I am over the worst of it now but I still feel a bit weak and wonky. I also damaged my left upper arm tendons and elbow tendons about six and a half weeks ago and this injury is healing very slowly, making things like typing, picking up the tea kettle and carrying a bag of groceries rather painful.
     I have a bit of catching up to do! First of all Irene and Ian on NB Free Spirit were in the area a few weeks back and they were kind enough to stop for a couple of hours to share a rainy morning nattering with me. their boat is aptly named, as this couple really embody the free spirit of cruising on the canals. Irene is known for her amazing and breathtaking wild life pictures which she shares on their blog and Ian is a stalwart cancer survivor and man with enough life experience and wisdom to laugh at life's absurdities while plundering it for the choice bits. A visit with them is always a joy; my only sadness comes from the fact that Les never had a chance to meet them.
Irene and Ian--two truly lovely souls, and our boats below, bow-to-bow. 

     I have been dawdling along between Audlem and Calveley, mooring up 10 days at a time, enjoying the end of the cruising season at last.  I was moored up at Hurleston Junction on double mooring pins fore and aft when I injured my arm. A count by Canal & river Trust (CRT) indicated that 100 boats made use of the Hurleston Lock flight over three days on one weekend. That gives you dear reader, an idea of just how many boats were passing by each day and sadly too many of them don't give a fig about observing good manners and slowing down while passing moored boats. The main offenders are Chas Hardern hire boaters, Midway Boats day boat hires, and private boat owners coming off long term moorings and out of marinas.  Day boats for those unfamiliar with the hire companies, are small boats of about 22-34 feet long with a lot of windows and seats. Groups hire them for a few hours or one day to cruise the canals and have a birthday or anniversary party.  For some reason day boat hirers seem to think the objective is crack on at the speed of light to get to wherever they are going and they are unaware of the wash they make. I even had a day boat attempt to cut around my bow when I was half way through turning around at a winding hole.  I had to warn him off. Then he decided he would go around the stern and had to yell at him to wait his turn as the fuel boat was breasted up to a moored boat just off the winding hole. This guy road my stern button past a long line of permanent moored boats until I found a place I could pull over and let him pass. Cheshire Cat hire boats seem to receive instructions on the issue and they almost always slow down.
     One old git on a private boat kept in a marina and visited throughout the summer, delights in passing moored boats at absolutely top speed, ignoring shouts and rude hand signs. He has passed me many times this summer and always left NB Valerie rocking heavily from side to side in his wake. Anyway, a boater passing to fast pulled my double mooring pins out and I had to quickly jump the fifteen inch gap caused by the Shroppie Shelf, and hammer them back in place. I was so angry I hammered the living daylights out of the pins and injured my arm. Act in anger (and haste) and repent in leisure. Since then I've also had a lovely visit from Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau), and Ken showed me exactly how to moor using spring lines on my boat. What a difference! While she still rocks from side to side when a boat passes at top speed and creates a large, frothy wake due mainly to the fifteen inch side gap caused by the Shroppie shelf, my boat isn't sliding vertically back and forth anymore. In the six years Les and I cruised he never once used a spring line, but he also had far more upper body strength than I do so perhaps he was better able to hammer the pins to China!
     It is true that if one hangs out on the canals long enough, one will see just about everything.  I was amazed one overcast and drizzly morning several weeks back to see a man walk by my windows leading a donkey! By the time I dug out Les' camera and slipped on some shoes the donkey-ish duo had passed NBV and the boat moored behind me, but I still managed to catch them as they headed for the bridge near Barbridge Junction. This still left me with puzzling questions, such as why walk along the canals with a donkey in the rain? The answer to my questions arrived a week later with the Towpath Talk newspaper.
     Adam Less is walking the length of Western Britain from Cape Wrath Lighthouse on Scotland's Northwest coast to Isle of Portland Lighthouse on the south coast of England. Less has undertaken this journey on foot to raise money for Centrepoint Charity which serving the needs of homeless young people in Liverpool where Adam lives. This is not Adam's first footloose trek. On his crowd funding site he says:
     "I am an experienced traveller and walker. Since 2004 I have completed long
term, rough travels in South East Asia; travelled overland from New York to
Tierra del Fuego and back again and in 2016 I walked 600 miles along the
Pamir Highway from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan. Most recently, in 2017, I
walked 200 miles from Liverpool to Stranraer. From these journeys I have
been developing a philosophy of slow and rough travel, using these as ways to
experience places more deeply and have chance encounters with people I
meet along the way. I have been documenting these journeys, through writing
and photography, on my blog Adam Walks."
Adam Lee and his sidekick Martin the Donkey. 
     While I was filling up with water and dumping my rubbish at the Calvely service point, fuel boat Halsall was loading up with coal.  I had caught them on their way down to Ellesmere Port a few day previously and topped up the diesel, bought four bags of coal and three bags of kindling. I have twelve bags of coal on the roof now, ready for winter. Of course as the following pictures show, we've had a few cold nights recently. I've cleaned the chimney, checked the fire bricks for cracks, and re-pointed the fire concrete around the outside of the chimney where it joins the stove. I've also replaced the battery in the carbon monoxide alarm.  A warm, glowing fire on a cold night is a simple and deeply satisfying blessing.
Brrrr! A sign of things to come: ground frost.
Lee and Roberta fill the hold of Fuel boat Halsall with bags of coal for delivery to the likes of me and other boaters who live along the cut. It always lifts my heart to see them both as they bring their big working boat alongside NB Valerie. 
     As the seasons change the canals change too. Not just the foliage of the plants and the wildlife but the actual water in the cut. In the evenings when it cools suddenly, the water is warmer than the air and mist rises in columns, water souls rising into the evening air. Early morning on the cut sees the same phenomena repeat itself with misty clouds obscuring the crisp lines of the canal, towpath, and the hedges, lending a mysterious quality to the start of the day.
Evening mist forming on the Shropshire Union canal at Calveley. 
Morning mist near Barbridge after a very chilly night.
The full moon on a cold evening recently with the bow garden still growing in the short Autumn days and cooler nights.  
     I am moored in the basin at Nantwich Canal Centre. I've been having some issues with the engine and I couldn't put things off anymore so I arrived yesterday. Back in February after changing the oil, I noticed a black drip of oil from the back of the engine about half way down. I kept an eye on it and the absorbent pads I placed under the engine were soaked with dirty oil after about a month. I've been religious about changing the oil and filter every 350 hours.  In April a good local engineer gave the entire engine a good service, replacing fuel filters, etc. He commented at the time that engine oil was quite low before he changed it, so I became obsessed with worry about this issue. A couple of changes back I noticed a great deal of clean engine oil had totally soaked two absorbent pads, and it seemed to me there had to be an oil leak somewhere!
     The engine was smoking quite badly with blue-gray smoke upon starting as well so with some moral support from dear ones, I bit the bullet and brought NBV in for a look-see. The engineer found a cracked and leaking diesel return hose which had been leaking quite a bit into the engine bay. The good news is there is no engine oil leak as I had thought. The engine was full of carbon and coke and he blew it all out with a good run on high revs for some time. Black grit coated the surface of the water. He shut off the engine, let it cool down, looked for leaks again and then started it up and let it run for three or so hours repeatedly over a 24 hour period. She barely smokes at all now on a cold start, and there is no oil leak! the relief I feel is HUGE. My deepest thanks to Margaret, Linda, Mike and the rest of the Nantwich Canal Centre/Chandlers crew for looking after me and NB Valerie.
The view, starting from the right, inside Nantwich canal basin, of the back side of the businesses at Nantwich Canal Centre. The Chandlers is in the middle and the cafe is on the far left.  Below, the view continues on across the basin to the tunnel on the left where boats are painted.  

     Since Les always serviced our engine and dealt with the mechanics, or called River Canal Rescue (RCR) when something like a drove plate went, the learning curve on the bits and bobs which live in the engine bay has been steep. I am not the least bit mechanically inclined and Les didn't have time to teach me anything about the engine before he died. I've had to absorb things as I've gone along and friends like Any Elford, Ken Deveson and Bryce Lee have counseled, consoled, and offered me the wisdom of their own experience with boat engines. I am pleased to say when I changed the oil and filter two weeks ago, it was the first time I didn't have to think the entire process through and then refer line by line to my notes. I simply grabbed a pair of latex gloves, an empty bin bag for rubbish, and a new oil filter, climbed down in the engine hole and thirty minutes later--job done! It hit me as I climbed back up out of the engine bay;  I am comfortable and knowledgeable enough now to remember the sequence of events for an oil change and clean up, and I have confidence in my abilities. Les would be proud of me. I can hear his voice telling me so.
Me and Les in 2012 on the nearby Llangollen canal.  

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs