The Journey -
The last few days have seen us merely meandering along, so this wittering will do likewise.
Works continue on Rosy. I still haven't acquired the courage to put the white, plastic tape stripes on the cabin sides, to separate the red and blue areas. There are so many things that could go wrong with it that I'm feared to begin!! I started on the roof a few weeks ago. The base layer of paint is in good nick, but the vanity layer (that the previous owners slapped on moments before they put the boat up for sale) is in a dreadful state, so I decided to strip everything off and to start again. Getting the old paint off with heat and a scraper was taking forever, as was using a sander. I thought a grinding disc would be too fierce. I was tempted to try a 'flap-disk' on the grinder - little bits of coarse sand paper mounted on a disk - and this has worked very well, so I have some renewed enthusiasm for the task. Only a bit though, for the complete job is going to take nine, ten (or even more) days. I've also been holding back, as I couldn't get the top coat that I wanted. I've been looking for some red, matt, floor paint, preferably Rubson brand - I met some folk putting some on their side decks, and they assured me that it was easy to apply and to touch-up and that it wore well. For the last four months, not one of the many d-i-y stores I've been in has Rubson paints. I finally gave in the other day and got some 3V3 brand, which other folk swear by. It's come out a bit dark for my liking, and its anti-slip qualities could be better, but overall, the bit of the roof that I've done doesn't look too bad.
So that is the sides 80% done and the roof 20% done.
Meanwhile, the back cabin Epping stove is in disarray. I had to take the top plate off, and that meant removing the chimney. That led to the discovery that the bit of the chimney that passes through the roof is just about rusted away. Ever tried getting 4½ steel tubing in France? We have finally tracked some down, and ordered some, though 50 Euro for 150 mm of 5 inch tubing and 150 mm of 4 inch tubing is pretty heart rending. Fortunately, although the weather has been a bit iffy, it has not been cold enough for us ruftie-tufties to need a fire - though I admit that when I wake up in the morning, I find myself squeezed over to one side of the bed whilst a certain woof occupies the remainder. We have already had several words about this.
The tubes arrived, and the outer collar is now welded through the roof. The smaller diameter tube was carefully cut at an angle, and welded onto the chimney tube rising up from the stove. We managed to get this inner chimney tube to pass through the outer collar in a reasonably true manner - that is, their surfaces are parallel. We will fill the gap with Rubson's heat resistant (to 1200 deg C) mastic, and hope that this will be elastic enough to allow the inner chimney tube to expand and contract as the stove heats and cools. When we demolished the chimney, part of the cast iron collar at the base was cracked and broken, but Mike has managed to weld these back together.
Then I wasted an entire day. I started with the best of intentions, but happened to notice some water on the floor under the kitchen sink. Investigations showed a leaking 'Acorn' joint on the plumbing system. It took time to empty the cupboards, and even longer to manipulate the shelving out of the cupboards. Then the water pump, the Square D controller and the pressure vessel had to be removed to give access to the leaky joint. That all took two hours. Six minutes were required to remake the joint. Then the bits didn't want to go back as they were, so another joint had to be tampered with, and changed from an elbow to a straight connector. Then the pump, Square D and pressure vessel had to be screwed back into position. It then took two hours to manipulate the large shelves back into the cupboard, in the process of which the sink U-bend (which has needed cleaning out for quite some time) came adrift dribbling disgusting gunge and pongs over the interior of the cupboard. In total I was at it for eight and a half hours.
Meanwhile, Fanny the Woof has taken to barking more often. She has particularly taken against the military about-turn. When we are on our morning and evening walks, I keep myself occupied and cheerful by running through some military drills. I have always enjoyed slow marching. Done properly, it is very smart, and has that thrilling aura of being inexorable and unstoppable. The other marching movement I like is the quick march about-turn, and this is the one that Fanny has taken against. Even if she is some distant ahead, as soon as the right foot comes together with the left foot for the T-L-V movements (military souls will understand this) she comes scampering back with lots of excited barking.
Our days have been spent on the stretch of water between Lutzelbourg and Strasbourg. There are several moorings on this stretch, and people seem un-concerned as to how long we stay. We are currently by a VNF (French equivalent of BW) yard, and have enquired of the VNF about the possibilities of over-wintering here. The local man seems quite keen on the idea, but he must check with his boss. The mooring is not too noisy, and the nearest town is easily cyclable, with good bakeries and shops.
At the moment we have to keep shifting up and down the quay. We settled in one corner, when a hotel barge arrived wanting access to their own electric box - we kindly moved AND blagged them into plugging us in to their electricity. Then another hotel boat appeared and we had to shift about a bit more. Both the these boats cater for the top end of the market - Americans and the occasional Canadian - who pay upward of $1000 per day for their one week holiday. They have been sorely missed over the last few years - post 9/11, several companies stopped trading - but the Yanks are beginning to return.
The staff on these boats are a skipper (who may double up as the overall manager) a cook and two attractive wenches - often, these days, of Polish or Czech origins, but who generally speak French and English - and, maybe, one or two others. The number or passengers - ooops, sorry, 'guests' - rarely exceeds eight. One boat we know has the boss as the skipper, with his wife co-ordinating the domestic arrangements. On another, there is an American manager, with a Frenchman boatman concerned solely with steering, mooring and managing the electric (and other) systems. Some boats also run to a barman, but others run an open bar, so that folk can drink what they like when they like - just like home!
Invariably, the guests depart on Saturday, and the new arrivals appear on Sunday evening, giving 24+ hours to titivate the boat and the accompanying mini-bus. This means that the staff get a run ashore on Saturday night, which, of course, is pretty much ideal.
The guests get to do some cruising, but also have the mini-bus for trips out. Food and booze are given considerable prominence.
The hotel boats stop running at the end of Oct, and, indeed, part of the canal is to be dewatered for a couple of months.
Ah!! Talking of food and booze
To make up for my plumbing miseries, I'm half way down a bottle of St Estephe - a fine Bordeaux wine. The last bottle I had was in the Al Bustan Palace Hotel on Muscat, Oman, where some friends and I were dining. There, we paid more than 20 times as much as I paid for my bottle here in France. But what the heck, we were being paid squillions in Oman anyway!!
The bottle before that (and its pair!) was consumed in Bordeaux during a weekend break I had there from my labours in Oman. The bottle here (from not the best chateau) was 6 Euro, whilst a very much better one was still only 12 Euro.
May I extol the virtues of cous-cous? I was a great rice eater, and had mastered the art of cooking it by 'boiling it to dryness'. However, I am now on a low salt diet, and rice without salt is (for me) pretty tame stuff. I've turned to cous-cous, which is very much quicker to cook - using 'cook' in its broadest sense! All one has to do is to measure out a volume of cous-cous, add an equal volume of boiling water to it, and wait for two or three minutes.