Sunday, 24 July 2022

Time out in Ireland

 We have just returned aboard Antiope after four weeks catching up with freinds and family in Northern Ireland and England. It started with an invitation to cruise the Irish waterways with boating folk we have come to know while cruising France. Our home for a week or so was their current craft Paper Moon cruising Lough Erne, one of the large inland expanses of water in the United Kingdom. Very different from cruising in France as despite the vast expanses of water, there is sometimes be less than 2m of water in some of the
navigation channels. If we get the chance again perhaps we will get to cruise further South down the Shannon. Thank you to our hosts Colin and Joy, we had a great time despite the challenging weather. 

Paper Moon, the ideal craft to cruise the Irish waterways 

Annie on channel watch. Note the warm clothes.

Soft morning light on Lough Erne

Enniskillen Castle, the gateway to Lough Erne

A refreshment stop, soup perhaps? Note the warm clothes.
                                                    A bit of Irish !

Cots, traditional river transport, nowadays they race them !! 

Not all of our time was spent afloat, our hosts drove us along the Northern Irish Coastline to walk the 'Giant's Causeway'. No pictures can fully depict the scale of this rocky outcrop

The Giant's Causeway, truly awe inspiring
Our host and guide Colin. Note the warm clothes

For a day out, Annie and I took the train into Belfast, to visit the 'must see' Titanic experience and other sights. Belfast is a bustling city, working hard to put the past and the pandemic behind it. We had no safety concerns and met only freindly faces. We struggled a bit with the strong Northern Irish accents.

The Titanic was built on this slipway, still impressive.

Just another Belfast landmark.

Another day another visit.

Part of the 'America's Cup' folklore are the multiple 'Shamrock' challenges made by Thomas Lipton.
We were privileged to be shown into the Lipton room of the Royal Ulster YC and be dinner guests in the clubrooms.

The Lipton room, members only

Behind Annie in the picture are the lipton cup trophy winners, including our own Peter Blake.

All too soon it was time to catch the Ferry across the Irish sea.

Farewell Belfast
Hello Liverpool.

The England bit now.

We had set ourselves a tight schedule in order to see freinds and family across the country, where possible pre-booking hotels, flights, ferries and trains. We regularly covid tested ourselves and amazingly all the connections worked and we avoided catching the bug.
In the past we have hired cars to get around, but on this trip we have used only public transport and by playing the 'Senior Card' have saved both time and certainly cost. Frequently we were the only ones wearing masks on our travels and despite the alarmist news reports of impending strikes and disruptions we were impressed by the speed and efficiency of the services we used. 

The Nightingale pub in 'Mobs Hole', a haunt of Dick Turpin. 

We headed for London first and stayed in the genteel Victorian suburb of Wanstead where I had spent my early life. My local pub back then was the Nightingale which now claims historical links with the highwayman Dick Turpin and his gang in the area, then known as 'Mobs Hole' It is interesting how notoriety has now become a selling point. 

On our cultural day out in London we found 'Antiope' 

In contrast to Ireland the heatwave in London was gathering steam. The National Gallery seemed like a great place spend a morning in the cool. Here we found the greek goddess 'Antiope' being oggled by Jupiter as imagined by the Dutch painter Hendrick Goltzius.

The Lamb and Flag in Rose St, Covent Garden

Another way to cool off was to revisit the pub where I also misspent some of my youth.

The Deben river at Felixstowe Ferry, here lies the hulk of a once proud vessel.

We took a train to the Suffolk coast and another of my old haunts, the Deben river. The sea breeze very welcome after the trapped heat in London

At Shepperton, a little exercise on the Thames

Up to London once more and staying with sailing freinds Thameside at Shepperton before heading home.

'Swan uppers' heading past counting the Queens swans

In July it is a long established tradition for grown men to dress up and row up the Thames counting swans on behalf of the Queen. On the day they passed us, temperatures in London topped 40c and they were permitted to take off their jackets.

The same 'Swan uppers' in the lock

For our return to France we chose the Eurostar train through the channel tunnel, hassle free, cheaper and probably quicker door to door than flying.

If  you are going to build a railway station, do it in style. The Gare du Nord, Paris

Evening, back aboard Antiope. All's well and just as we had left her.

On Monday we start our passage to the Netherlands and our winter berth.

Cheers Charles and Annie


Thursday, 16 June 2022

Holiday mode

Auxerre, The old town centre.

 The job list aboard Antiope has whittled down to the tasks that can be achieved before the sun gets too hot. So far this season we have not strayed too far from the boatyard at Migennes and the Bricolage  (French for Bunnings) at Joigny. The big job list has all been done now, which has included installing a new gas sensor and remote shut off in the galley. Tis is a 'BEP' Kiwi made unit which is working well and shuts off the gas at the bottle at the touch of a button. We have also added a second 150w solar panel, supplied by a French company 'Unitech', their online enquiry, ordering and delivery was painless. The total 300w solar array should make us less reliant on shore power stops and running daily engine hours.  

So we have slipped into holiday mode, with a bit of lazy cruising to familiar haunts along the Yonne river and some quite social meetings with fellow boaters all of whom have their own Covid stories to tell. Ashore we find that Covid restrictions are all but lifted, mask wearing is optional and increasingly a rare sight.   

Antiope in the lock at Migennes, off to explore!

 'Auxerre', Antiope in the Nivernais lock

Some months ago back in NZ, I wrote a story for 'Cruising World' magazine, They published it in their May issue and a couple of copies found their way to us at the boatyard.
If you want to read this little yarn online, hit the link to 
and scroll down to the Steinlager 2 image.   

A bit of a yarn just published in 'Cruising World

Our plans to cruise further afield are always governed by water levels, canal closures and WEED (the water type). The Bourgogne canal has been reported as particularly thick with weed this season. As it is on our wish list to explore this year, we ventured a little way up the Bourgogne canal to 'St Florentin' to see for ourselves and spent a couple of delightful days there.
Some of the delights of 'St Florentin'

An invitation too good to refuse, to join some friends in Ireland for a cruise on the Shannon river, has settled our plans for the next few weeks, so we are heading for Vermenton on the Nivernais canal  to leave Antiope there, while we hop on a plane.

Watch this space for some different scenery.
Cheers Charles and Annie 

Monday, 23 May 2022

Afloat once more

                                                        Migennes, 19th May 2022

After three weeks of cleaning, painting, re-stocking and a long list of tasks, 

            we are finally afloat.     Antiope has come to life once more.

30 Months have passed since Antiope was last in these slings. 

To our delight we have found that our home away from home has survived well without us, even the                   box of walnuts that we picked the week before leaving in 2019 were edible.

            After having done the engine checks they both started on the first turn of the keys.

Over the past few weeks we have made new friends, from many parts of the world, all of whom have                          their lockdown stories to tell and their own boats to clean and fit out.  

The pre-launch and a sort of post-covid celebration boatyard party. 

Simon Evans, the one in the centre with the bright blue Aussie shirt, has suddenly found his boatyard overun with owners all wanting work done and their boats back in the water. Simon and his team work tirelessly away on tasks ranging from 'blacking' the bottom of a near new 20m Piper dutch barge to fixing a leaking rivet on a century old live aboard barge yacht. It is wise however to be a patient owner. 

Me, antifouling the rudders before re-fitting.

We have had a persistant problem over several seasons with our nylon rudder bearings binding up in hot weather. Hopefully now, having dropped the shafts and making some some 'adjustments', Annie will be happier taking the helm again!   

We take time out to visit a Brocante fair in the village of Old Migennes

A sort of car boot sale spread over the day, and the whole village, 
a carnival atmosphere, just magic on a spring day. 

Another day trip out to Sens and the market.

Market halls in 'Sens'

We try to take a regular day off from work on Antiope. On week two we take the train to 'Sens' for market day. 

Since arriving we have had great weather, clear skies and almost too hot at times. We are certainly enjoying this early summer weather,  

21st May, underway at last, for a short 'seatrial' run down the Yonne river to Joigny

Moored up in our favourite spot at Joigny for a BBQ

Springtime on the river.

Work on Antiope has kept us busy and me off the keyboard. Hopefully this blog will be more regular as we start cruising again. 

Cheers, Charles and Annie.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

The Long Sleep over !

Antiope has been waiting patiently

On the morning of 26th April
and only hours after Annie and I had stepped off the plane we are in the boatyard at Larroche-Migennes. At some time during her two and a half year sleep Antiope had changed her nightie !   Simon Evans who owns the boatyard had replaced our lightweight green hardware store quality tarps when they had rotted in the sun and finally blown off in a storm. In the past these 'Baches' had been quite adequate for the usual six months that we are away. 
Our long absence had fueled our imagination of the condition we might find Antiope, To our delight and surprise, when we pulled back the covers everything was exactly as we had left it, but for a thick grey layer of dust on deck. inside the cabin all was dry and relatively clean, A box of walnuts gathered beck in October 2019 were still sitting on the table and quite edible. 

Covers off !

Day two and on a warm spring day we can start to dismantle the frame, and take stock of what needs to be done. Watch this space !
 We had saved up and flown with Emirates business class, two stops to Paris from NZ, we took the complimentary chauffeur ride direct to Bercy rail stn, then 1.5 hours on the train, a short walk to our familiar campsite cabin, which is nearby the boatyard, The whole journey was quite painless despite having to wear masks on plane and train. So far we are feeling much less of the usual 'jet lag'  We also seem to have eluded the Covid bug despite the multi-national crowding at immigration control and baggage claim.
We did our first big shop yesterday, where mask wearing is now optional. Our trolly load of groceries was probably 10% cheaper than it would been in NZ. It feels great to be back in France again.

Cheers Charles and Annie

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Locked Down in New Zealand

                                                        'We are all in this together'
                                                                NZ April 2020

Not an original heading in these uncertain times as our customary life is turned on its head. Our thoughts and hopes are with our friends around the world. For the first time in over 20 years Annie and I are hunkering down for a winter in New Zealand.

Any plans to return to Antiope in France in the near future have been taken out of our hands. However this enforced lock down has prompted me to reflect on a lifetime of messing about in boats with the adventures afloat that I have shared along the way. It has also given me the time and motive to open up my photo archives.

In 1966  David and I sailed this dinghy to Denmark from England 
 For a while now I have also been gathering material for a second book, 'Waterway Magic'. This will be a follow up to 'Swatchway Magic' which was a modest little book of stories co-authored by Paul Antrobus and myself and was first published 9 years ago. It was unashamedly a nostalgic look at our old haunts on the East Anglian coast of England. The current book is a tale of my adventures in a variety of boats on inland waters from a young age through until today. Below are a few pics of the boats that have shaped that life afloat.

My first 'live aboard' at aged 14
The Kiel canal en-route to Copenhagen 1966

A three month round trip from England

That voyage to the Baltic was a life defining experience. Whether it was an act of bravado or recklessness, the motive is the subject of the longer story. David and I survived and friendships made then remain today.

Newly married to Janet a boat with a lid was a more acceptable option. Swan was a shallow draft barge yacht. For four years we cruised the coastal and canal waterways. but Swan was just a touch too wide for the narrower English canals. In recent years I found Swan again, a story by itself.

Swan my first grown up boat
We cruised  Swan deep into England

A chance find  in 1972 was this old river launch in need of a new life. She would fit the locks. It was a project rebuild. We had fun and the prospect of a profit when I had finished, neither of which really happened.

Re-purposing the launch was big learning curve during an English winter. We  gave Smaug a canal boat look and did eventually manage a few summer weekends aboard before the opportunity to move to New Zealand forced a quick sale.

Smaug, the re-build completed, sadly cruising time was short lived  

Rolling through a whole chapter of life in a new country, holding down a real job, having a family to raise, a house or two to build, a sad but amicable parting of the ways with Jan, not forgetting a fair bit of sailing over the years before meeting up with Annie eventually brought me to a point when I wanted to show my new wife the magic of the waterways.

So we fast forward to the 90s and our first experience with narrow boats, this tired old hire boat  which we renamed Water Gipsy was intended to be a short term 'do up' cruise it and sell it project. Five years later we were hooked on the waterway lifestyle, but the old boat was getting tired and needed increasing maintenance.

Our first narrowboat project, A tired old ex-hire boat.

 Water Gipsy became a much loved but temperamental old girl
Water Gipsy, yes there is a story behind the name, took us to the far reaches of the English waterways, but she did have her off days and we were frequently hosting visitors who often had to patiently wait while I took the engine apart. We needed a larger and more reliable craft.

The answer was to build our own boat, or at least fit out a custom built hull, and incorporate our own ideas.
The bare hull built to our specs and ready for delivery  

In 2002 we took delivery of a bare 64ft hull and over the next 5 months completed the fit out.
She was built and fitted out to comply with RCD regulations to which our surveyor ensured compliance.

We set ourselves a  tight schedule.

Job done and ready for cruising

We kept the name Water Gipsy and hosted many guests for a further 6 years. Water Gipsy turned out to be everything we wished for but by 2007 I wanted a break from cruising the now all too familiar English waterways, What about France? Within two years we had bought Antiope refitted her and crossed the North Sea to Europe where we have cruised for the past ten years.

Antiope in Copenhagen  2016, and 50 years on from the dinghy voyage,

Meanwhile, I must get on with the book.

Keep safe all of our readers, we will get through this.

Cheers Charles.