We had another run-in with the RNLI who have become our personal rescue service these days. They should re-brand with the slogan ‘Towing Seahorse Most Weeks’. We could make them a film and everything to promote it. Our short trip to Eel Pie Island was over before it even started as the engine failed as soon as we had untied all the ropes. We were then left dithering sideways mid-river while the tide pushed us towards towards Kew Bridge.
I was watching Pat as it happened and he said: ‘Why aren’t you moving faster?’ (To the accelerator stick with the bobble on top that I am a bit afraid of’). And then he said ‘Fuck’ as the engine sort of died. Then he stuck his head out of the window of the wheelhouse at Louis who was helping us with the journey and said ‘Fuck’ at him, as though it was a command. Then he ordered me downstairs with the kids, to be honest I had already decided that would be the best place for us. Sammy had no idea what was going on and was happily chewing on his bottle. Nina said ‘Oh. But I want to go to Eel Pie Island’. And then ‘I’m hungry’. And finally ‘ I’m going to put my rollerskates on’. Perfect footwear for the situation.
I do believe I kept my cool as the boat drifted. I ran up and down the stairs a few times, looked about, told Nina to keep Sammy still and got my phone from the bedroom. I took a picture and put it on Instagram and then I asked Pat if I should call someone meaningful. Pat meanwhile had put the anchor down and called the coastguard saying PAM PAM Seahorse a few times. (I love PAM PAM! How exciting- I might start all my conversations with PAM PAM, makes everything sound more energetic. PAM PAM Simone here.)
Even though we had put the anchor down the boat was still drifting and that was alarming. Happily, we were drifting through the central arch of the bridge which is better than into it.
SO to cut a not very exciting rest of story short, the RNLI appeared, saved the day and towed us back 10 metres to our mooring. We nearly squashed a few rowers. FUN TIMES. So we were back where we first began a few hours later and a bit paler. Pat was particularly pale and I felt a bit sad for him as he had been very excited about the little trip and the independence of it all. Just ‘popping’ to eel pie island to have the boat re-painted. It takes a lot to ruffle the fur on that old sea dog. Well, he’s more a barge dog really. Yes. Disappointing but not too disastrous.
I’m sorry to say that the big trip we did in May this year to Chatham went undocumented as it was all a BIG SUCCESS and we made it there and back in one piece having had the most perfect sunshiny weather all the way through and a lot of beautiful stretches of cruising along. We had NO fires and NO problems and we were practically in the sea. We joined as part of the DBA rally, which was funny in lots of ways. The DBA are a bit of a prehistoric organisation and resistant to change so we were one of the few young families (apart from our neighbours who came along for the ride on our boat) to join in the trip. A lot of the boats are newer than ours and very tidy indeed. The demographic is mainly older retired couples doing trips around the norfolk broads. All very n i c e. Not hugely (erherm) diverse.
Anyway. We had a great time and put the kids in a wash tub on the roof of the boat which Pat had used on a shoot he did for Virgin Money.. ha ha. The wash tub contained them and also amused them.
Thinking back on this voyage it is really miraculous that it all went so smoothly and actually it was totally entirely magical. I drove (steered, really…I was a bit scared of the accelerator stick) the last part of the journey coming in to Chatham as the sun went down.
I was awoken to the gentle sound of 100 year old anchor being winched up somewhere near my head. This noise then followed by a short pause and then sound of giant chain unraveling rapidly. So, I thought, it’s the big day! Adrenalin will kick in and I will be ready to face the challenges. Pat is already wondering about black faced and panting from various high-energy activities including the anchor and also pulling down the mast. It’s an incredibly beautiful morning.
We are planing a maiden voyage tomorrow up the Thames and through central London. It has been a week of checking what works and what doesn’t and it has also been the hottest week of the year- Tuesday night was around 30degrees. All seemed to be progressing well until Pat sensibly decided to check the stern gland a few nights ago to see if it was watertight and it turned out not to be… NOT ideal, luckily the bilge pump works.
So I am currently sitting with my feet in a bucket of ice water watching Over the Hedge with Nina waiting for Stuart the local boat welder/general boat fixer to return with new material to pack the propshaft again. As I write Stuart pulls up next to us in a Tug owned by local Marine yard and jumps off carrying a scrappy looking bag with ‘packing’ in it. Not sure how this all works so I looked it up and still not much clearer.
But basically a lot of grease and rags are applied around the stern gland which is essentially a part of the propeller which is what moves the boat once the engine is on. Obviously if this is too watertight it doesn’t work as it needs to have some movement… Equally if it’s not watertight at all then the boat sinks.
I have packed life jackets and had various dreams about me jumping (7 months pregnant) into the river to rescue the 4 year old child. I have also bought croissants for breakfast and juice even though I’m aware of the high sugar content it contains.
Not in here
So, in accordance with latest rulings of the river we have had to install a poo tank that actually works and into which our waste actually flows. This is of course a very important thing that all boats should have been doing instead of flushing waste into the river as before (shhhhhh…. Everyone did it and it was a well kept secret amongst boat folk but before you judge, remember that many sewage overflows in London lead to the river so when there is heavy rain the waste water is forced into our precious waterway and the quantity of that is next level to what a few boats plop out every day). (None the less, appreciate its pretty anti-social so definitely time for progress).
So since January 2016 we’ve been implementing a system enforced by the PLA which has involved some waterworld-esque sub-tanks being built at various points around the mooring and a ‘king of all the crazy tanks’ tank which sits right at the entrance to the mooring and makes us look like a mad Max style community. Mainly, when you see it, you expect anyone coming off the mooring to be dressed head to toe in combat clothes complete with muddy face and a shawl of that autumn leaf-mesh stuff they use to enhance camouflage. They should also be crouching down and whispering while pointing at things as they exit.
The situation now as follows- poo flows into our tank on the boat. Every week our newly installed pump works to send that waste into the holding sub-tank and then finally that gets into the King tank which is big enough to hold 75 years worth of excrement and no one has thought to work out how the heck it will be emptied. Currently it floats lopsided at high-tide or sits on the base of the river at low-tide filling up with poop.