Thursday, January 9, 2020

Van life, or anchoring problems?

Well, as there are massive strikes all over France today our train tickets to go down to Catalunya were worthless. Fortunately we get a full refund.  Also fortunately, my amazing sister who we just spent a couple of wonderful days with in Paris, knew about an app that let's you hook up with cars that need to be moved, so we're in a campervan for the night!!!!

It has not been entirely flawless, in part because we aren't properly renting the van anf in part cause its not really fully equipped.  But still very cool, and as it costs 1 euro to rent it (plus gas and any tolls), it's pretty cheap, and you can cook, which is very nice.  Difficulties? We couldn't grt into a parking lot to get the man a coffee cause we're too tall - I can stand up inside which is sweet sweet sweet, so we had to park down the road and walk back 20yards.  No biggie. 

The man has saved the day twice over, first we had some trouble getting the stove to light, but he got it going!!!!!! Pasta with Canned cassoulet as a sauce.  Very tasty.  The other problem he solved was potentially more serious.  We're in a municipale campground, which asks you to pay 10cents an hour.  Not exorbitant, but as a result you need to check in and out.  We dutifully check in, get the little ticket with the code to get out and it tells us to put it in the front window. Ok!!! I tuck it up there and it disappears, like it's been sucked down vlby some kind of sea creature, into a finger wide gap between the glass of the windscreen and the top of the dash.

I mean, what the absolute f#ck.  Who on earth désignés That into a car. Well, we now know how to open up the hood, and we've closely examined inside the glove compartment, we've inspected the entire passenger side footwell and unscrewed part of the panel on the top.  Finally, in desperation, cause we can't leave tomorrow without this ticket, the man just randomly blew down the gap in the hopes that something might happen, when low and behold, out it pops!!!!!!

What we couldn't figure out is how to make the Lower bunk into a proper bunk.  So, it's kinda pulled up one side and I'll have to sleep on it diagonally, but the man's driving tomorrow, so he gets the better long enough, flatter upper bunk.  I'm just the Google interpreter.

Its an adventure!!!!

Monday, January 6, 2020

*Phew* sometimes it's complicated!

Well well well.

I love to travel, but sometimes, man o man, it gets complicated.  We're supposed to be leaving tomorrow to go down to Paris and then on to Catalunya, the original plan was a train to Paris, then a couple of days later, a train to Perpignan - cause the train that goes right to BCN doesn't accept dogs (????).  Then a rental car for 2 days from Perpignan to drive down into Catalunya, leave the dog and me behind the man returns the car and comes back on the train.  Complicated enough, you'd have thought...but

The first train, they automatically - as in they told me after I had purchased it and I had not choice - the mailed the ticket to my address in Canada.  Not convenient as I am not in Canada. 

Then the french went on strike.  But it seems that train is travelling!  YIPEE!!!

But, the next train is on a day they are declaring a massive national strike, and so my darling sister got me onto an organization called driiveme, which links people who want a one way rental to car companies who need their cars repositioned and if it lines up, you get a car for a Euro.  Yesterday we waffled around, do we book it or do we reserve it and hope for the best, you see as it is a car rental agency, it is a little risky as all the cars may be needed that day and they cancel on you.  Well, we figured that as it was a national strike there would be a good chance that every rental (I keep typing 'renal' car - something completely different!!!)  anyway, there would be a good chance that every rental car in the city would be rented and we'd be stranded.  So we sucked it up and booked a camper van, on a 48 hour trip Paris to BCN.  Fingers crossed this works out or my sister will be singing that old line that 'guests and fish start to smell bad after three days' except her apt is a little small, so two will likely do it!!!

We got an official notice that the train from Paris south is cancelled, so we had to go through the process of getting our money back for that, and cancelling the rental car from Perpignan.  The car was easy, the train a little trickier, because with so many strikes, there are about six different places to cancel tickets, but I think we did it right in the end. 

Hopefully the actual travel will be easier than this part has been!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Visitors and what we do all day

Went into Amsterdam yesterday to meet up with some friends from Catalunya, he's Dutch, but has lived in Catalunya for decades, and prefers it there.  She lived her for five years with him, so speaks quite good Dutch as well.   He wasn't from anywhere near Amsterdam either, so I ended up being tour guide for them, which was very odd for me, but also shows that we've been here a while as I can find my way around the city without much of a problem, at least the more or less central parts of it. 

It was fabulous to see them, we've been luck this year with more people coming to visit.  One of the things we talked about was that if you're the one who buggers off into the blue, you are also the one who has to make the effort to maintain friendships, part of why we go back to Catalunya (also it's Catalunya, and as an added bonus, it's warmer and doesn't rain so much) and Canada. It's important to put that work in, it is also fabulous when they come and visit though!!!  They also asked what we do all day, and honestly, the same stuff everyone does, except we don't go into work.  Like many people who work at home, I spend part of my time working online, we take the dog for long walks, we buy groceries, get some exercise, read.  I still can't get everything done in a day that I'd like to.  I've got to take the dog for a vaccine tomorrow, normal stuff. 

Today I walked the dog for a shorter walk as she still seems to be recovering from whatever she got in Glasgow and her sleepless night on the ferry with the endlessly barking dog, so long walks are off for a bit.  I had an unfun errand to run in town, I bought some mushrooms and buns for the man's first birthday celebration, I'd found a perfect book for him, entirely by accident, while we were in Glasgow, and as we're heading off with only knapsacks on our backs again, it didn't make a lot of sense to carry it off with us, only to have him carry it back again, so, TA-DAAAA, and excuse for a birthday dinner!!!

Greek yogurt with sugar and Ikea ginger cookies for dessert.  mmmmmmmm.

Then I did some yoga, some more work, dealt with more life irritants online, made dinner, read a bit, walked the dog, rescued a tennis ball she found after she dropped it in the lake - she was very careful thereafter when she put it down - and played a short game of fetch with her.  Finished my book, which was great!  My sister in law had told us about a series of crime novels that were set in Medieval Girona with Catalan characters, the principal character being a Jewish physician, and Eldest found a used copy and got it for me for Xmas, it was really good!  An auspicious start to 2020 reading!!!

Now a quick right up and to bed.  Zzzzzzzzz

A day, pretty normal.  Tomorrow will likely be similar, but different. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

New Years Eve in the Netherlands

Well, we're back from our trip to Glasgow for Christmas which was wonderful, and I have to say that Kelvingrove park is the best dog park I have ever ever been to, and I already miss it.  It was great to get to hang out with the kids, although youngest could only be there for three days, and the dog got sick for part of it.  We got some lovely walks in as well as touring around Glasgow, though nothing is open over Xmas, so we didn't get to the tenement museum, and the man didn't make it to Govan Church, the coolest thing to see in Glasgow, hands down.

Anyway, we made it back to the Netherlands in time for New Years Eve.  Now we'd heard that the Dutch go over the top with fireworks, and kids have been banging some off for a month now, this was like nothing we'd ever seen before, and the Catalans love fireworks.  This, however, was a whole new level.

The fireworks were going off all evening, fortunately Stella is completely unafraid. Chuck would have been a mess.  And it was pretty loud, but you honestly got used to it.  Then it was midnight.  Allow me to try and describe.  Imagine it is hailing heavily and you are under a canvas tarp, that is the base sound.  Now, at the same time, there are a large number of horses running back and forth over wooden bridges.  In addition, many many people, lets say at least a hundred, are shooting off hunting guns continuously, and added to that, at least once a minute, someone shoots off a cannon, near you. 

And we are in a remote area on a boat, not in a big city.  I cannot imagine what it was like in Amsterdam.  I gather that many people go off to Belgium in the summer to stock up on hundreds of Euros worth of fireworks that have to be stored in a special safe for half a year.  They can only, legally, buy them for three days before new years.  But it seems that lots have an at home store of them.

They are utterly bonkers. Apparently in some parts of the Netherlands, the tradition includes setting cars on fire!  Nice.

The firework litter this morning was impressive. 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

3 trains, Harwich to Glasgow

Woke a sleepy Stella up, in fact she was so asleep it took her a while to be excited!!!! X and I were both looking forward ro visiting Harwich, where the Swallows started their trip from, and also where the captain of the Mayflower was born.  We had a n initially un lovely but fast improving walk from the ferry terminal to Harwich proper stopping at a train stn en route for breakfast.

We walked along the Channel side of Harwich, looking out to sea, where they didn't mean to go and we'd just come from.  I'd been a little disappointed when I went out early that morning that I hadn't seen us going into harbour.  On the way home with any luck.  It was a calm day with the tide going out.

However, as we were settling in to explore the town a bit, I got a notice from the Greater Anglia train services that a lot of trains were cancelled that morning.  As wee had a train to glasgow to catch that afternoon, getting trapped in Harwich seemed a poor idea.  We headed to the train stn to check and sadly chickened out, making our way to London (2 trains) sooner.  I sat next to a man who chatted about the 7 parrots and parakeets he has.  (friends with Capt. Flint???)

London for a puppy from the pobla was a pretty overwhelmingly exciting thing!!!!! Tremendous pulling on the leash at first but that gradually waned on the walk from Liverpool st stn to St Euston.  We walked along London Wall st for a lot of it, which was cool, because, well, London Wall!!!!

We went by a Victorian era hero's wall, with many plaques like this one,

We then hung out jn Russel Square for about an hour and a half, remember we were quite early, before heading for the madness that is Euston Station.

While in Russel Square we managed to sit on a bench dedicated to a Catalan who was born at the close of the civil war and emigrated to London in the 70s

Got some supplies for dinner and got on the train.  It was a little squishy. But it was fine.  Stella was an angel on the train, sleeping peacefully for the entire trip.  Her onky problem was that she's longer than the seat is so even with her butt against the wall, her head hung out in the aisle.  The man spent a lot of time picking her head up so it wouldn't be stepped on. 

Thing's improved as we got further north as the train emptied out à bit and the man went and sat across from us.  And then we arrived in Glasgow, met by Eldest.  Another slightly hectic walk through a new town and we got home.  Ahhhhhh

Saturday, December 21, 2019

4 trains and a ferry

Well, we're on the move again!!!! Ho ho ho Merry Christmas!!!!

We're off for xmas with Eldest (Youngest is flying up in a few days) this time, the land of sunshine and warm weather.  Not.  Glasgow is darker colder and wetter than the Netherlands, but we'll all be there together and it'll be great. 

So we set off this morning to take the train to the ferry.  But the train to Amsterdam Centraal was cancelled because of a problem with a bridge. Fortunately, the train the Amsterdam Schipol airport wasn't and so we took that, though a lovely girl told us we could change trains at an earlier station.  Managed that. Stella had her first train rides and escalator rides.  Good she liked the trains better cause the escalators were a little panic inducing. 

Got the train to Rotterdam, upper deck!!!! And mostly empty, though we had a lovely chat with a university student who had just written an exam. 

Rotterdam was fine.  The river, Rijn, was far and away the most impressive part.  It looked pretty North American, kinda like Hamilton, but more stylish, to be honest.  Fine. Stella the country mouse who thought she liked the city is not so sure now.  Wait till tomorrow and London!!!! 

So we went into Hoek van Holland Haven on a littler train.  I was excited to visit as The Hook and Harwich where we're docking tomorrow morning as they're where the Arthur Ransom book 'We Didn't Mean to go to Sea' takes place, and we're on the ferry that their father leapt off of when he saw them in the harbour!!!! Hoek van Holland little resembles the books, it was very very badly damaged by the Germans, so is modern and, at least near the station, honestly a little dreary, though they say the beach is lovely.  We may make it out on the way back as Stella will be needing a walk, but it was nearly dark when we got here. There are however a few older houses, and there are still pilot boats, again rather different from those described in the story.

The ferry is enormous, full of trucks, and we have an inside windowless cabin, we'll be mostly sleeping anyway, with a bathroom and shower.  Very lush.  Best of all, there's a puppy cam as Stella has to go in a kennel for the trip.  She hasn't slept all day, so she should sleep at least some of the trip away. 

UK tomorrow!!!!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Mice vs Voles

Our Stella Petronella is a bit of a hunter.  Particularly for the little mice that live in the grass beside the canals and walks.  She's sadly quite good at it, and is managing to reduce the population a little bit most days.  Ho hum.

The wild thing is that she can hear them scurrying underground, and she pauses and waits then pounces right down through the grass and earth and sometimes comes up with them.  Other times she starts excavating digging her face down into the soil, which is very very soft and sandy throughout the Netherlands as it is essentially a gigantic reclaimed peat bot / delta / man made (sand made) land.

She doesn't eat them though, she doesn't seem to be sure what to do with them, so she carries them for a bit and then puts them down.  It does kind of bother me, in all honesty, but some other bird is likely getting a meal out of it anyway.  The thing is though that we've been alternating between calling them mice and voles, not really sure what the difference is, so I finally looked them up.  They're about the same size, but voles are stockier with shorter tails and small ears.  Frankly they're adorable.  They also mostly live underground and in runways they make in the grass, while mice are more often in our houses!

Not my photo, from wiki

However, they only live for about 6 months maximum!  That's a very short lifespan indeed!!!  It also oddly makes me feel a little less bad about Stella pursuing them.  I worried that she was making them burn through precious energy for hibernation, but no.  They mostly eat plant roots, so these are some healthy voles in ideal habitats.

Still makes me a little sad when she catches them though.  Boy does she love the hunt, on the other hand.

Monday, December 16, 2019


Today we called in the professionals....sometimes it's necessary!  On two fronts, first and rather mundanely we had to take Stella to the vet to get dewormed in preparation for our Glasgow Christmas.  Chuck never made it to the UK, but it seems Stella is going to.  Fingers crossed!

The other professional was an electrician.  We have had the absolute worst luck with batteries.  The boat came with two batteries that were rather old, but functioning.  One day in Denmark, the boat stank like rotten eggs.  Now, the man has many strong suits, but his sense of smell is not one of them.  He isn't sure he believes this though and so tends to underrate his family's complaints about stinks.  (indeed we had a gas leak in the house that took some time to convince him was there!!!)  Anyway, eventually the smell was so strong that I started searching for it.

I'll say this now.  If you smell rotten eggs on a boat, and there aren't any smashed rotten eggs? Check your batteries as fast as you possibly can.  They may be boiling over!!! And they can explode.  So that was fun.  The next day an absolutely gigantic viking of a man came over and sold us two new very lovely batteries!  Wonderful!!!

Later, when we got to where we stopped over the winter, we plugged in, but didn't hear the hum from the battery charger turning on.  We commented on this, but got on with our lives.  Mistake number 2.  If you notice something odd, go and investigate it right away!  It wasn't working, and we ran our batteries right down to 0.  (well layman 0, battery numbers are somewhat less intuitive).

Blessedly the damn things took a charge again, and hung in there.  We took the charger off, took it to the boat repair guy who told us it was both ancient and dead and bought a new one.  (oof)  Installed it and everyone was happy!  The battery charger is only used when we are hooked up to shore power, otherwise the batteries charge off the engine, which works fine when we're cruising.  It's only when we get to shore or a marina that we need to use it, and even then our electrical consumption is so low that we don't draw very much.

Fast forward to this fall, we get back to the boat, Bart the boat yard guy has been plugging the boat in dutifully, but....the batteries are dead.  Ho hum.  Brand new charger is dead again, and we have to get another new battery.  3 batteries, 2 chargers, 1 year.  Not a good average.

As the charger was still under warranty, it got sent off to get fixed, and we waited and waited and waited!  Finally this week it reappeared.  I had gone over to ask about it, planning to ask for the phone number of the shop so I could play the bad cop and start to get a little uppity about the piece.  Don't know if it's related, but it showed up 2 days later!!!  While I was talking to Bart the lovely boat yard guy, I asked if he thought maybe there was something wrong with the electrical installation, as much of the work had been done by the previous owners.  And some of it is a little basic. 

We went round and round that, basically thinking that maybe, yes, so an electrician came by today!  Good news, the installation is basically fine.  A little messy, but no problems.  Bad news, the problem is condensation!  (See the previous post about mildew.)  It is basically raining in the cockpit lockers and enough water is getting on this piece of MARINE electrics that it is messing it up.  Ho hum.

So, we are now madly investigating insulation and ventilation schemes, and the man is building an eave for it.  I think we should hang a neoprene shower curtain off it too, but we'll see.  We'll be off the boat for 10 days, back for a week then off again for 2 months, so things should dry out a bit.  The biggest issue with the condensation is the combination of the heat we add to the boat + the moisture we give off - humans give off about 2 liters a day each plus cooking and the dog...that's a lot of water!!!!

Get out your drills and I'll be phoning some boat insulation sales people tomorrow.  The old charts wrapped in garbage bags we're using in our clothing lockers are probably not ideal throughout the boat. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Mildew, nobody's favourite thing

Well, today.  What a day! 

I mean in the grand scheme of things this isn't a big deal at all, but today was....the battle of the mildew; and I wasn't happy.

I woke up far to early, and lay in bed, realizing I could smell mildew.  Now that's the way to start a day!!!!  Nobody loves mildew, but living on a boat, especially a sparsely insulated boat in a cold climate, you learn to hate mildew in such a wide variety of ways!  The walls in the v-berth are theoretically somewhat insulated, in that they glued on a vinyl backed bit of thin foam.  It is effectively impossible to remove without a grinder, and brilliantly has a weave pattern pressed into them, cause wtf not?  Except when mildew starts to grow, it finds every one of those nooks and crannies the perfect place to hang out.  And makes it equally difficult to remove!  Love.

So this morning, before breakfast or a cup of tea, there I was with an old toothbrush, cleaning fluid and some tp, having a go at it.  We really can never completely get rid of it, but by poisoning it regularly with the cleaning fluid, we can keep it in control.

Headlamp on, cause the Netherlands in mid December doesn't exactly see a lot of light.  (Mildew heaven, rain rain more rain, cold and no sunlight!)

Well, that accomplished, off to breakfast, if not feeling happy, at least like I've accomplished something.  Darned my sweater after breakfast as I was on a roll and we'd gotten up early (insomnia + mildew = not sleeping in!)  and I thought I'd read a book for a few minutes while my phone charged before taking Stella Petronella out for her 2 - 3 hr walk.  Gotta have lots of juice to listen to that many podcasts!

Well, I pulled the book out, and you can probably guess this, it was really wet and mildew-y.  NooooO!

Pulled its neighbours out, yet, active ponding water and lots and lots of disgusting growth.  I, in a mix of despair and rage contemplate throwing out all the books, but reason prevails.  Thankfully!  One had to be tossed, and one I'll read and get rid of.  We cleaned it out back there, again that same stupid foam shit, and Stella and I went on our walk while the best husband in the world continued the battle. 

We decided we'd need some kind of plastic grid along the back of the bookcase to keep the books from touching the hull and to promote air circulation, so we arranged to meet up at the tail end of the walk to go the Karwei - imagine Home Depot, but much smaller and with more furniture.  We may have found a solution there!  Wandering the store and thinking laterally, we found this:

It's that cheap plastic stuff that people put on the roof of sheds.  Just might do the trick, and it was really the only option.  Plus we got some pipe insulation to stuff up behind the ornamental trim to insulate the bolts that hold the hull and deck together.  You see, because they're metal and they go through to the outside, they get horrific condensation, hence the ponding, but a good layer of insulation and hopefully that would be solved. 

Back home, a little lunch, a little struggle cutting the plastic roofing stuff, and it's all up again, well minus a couple of things.

Doesn't look tooooooo bad!  We'll get more of that pipe insulation for all around the v-berth, and likely some more of the roofing stuff for behind the other bookshelf, and possibly between the mattresses and the hull in the v-berth as well.  They get more than a little damp too, and if they don't touch the mildewing walls, they'll last longer.

Oh, and the best husband in the world?  We took turns going into Karwei cause we had Stella Bella with us and she can't go in.  When he came out having bought everything, he brought me a chocolate bar.  This man can totally STAY!

Living on my ja-ch-t. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Amsterdam light show

I had to go into Amsterdam today to get a new chimney for the oil lamp.  That's a whole other post.  (I wanted to type 'a whole nother post' there as that is what we say!)

And it is legit!  I looked it up, cause it does actually make sense, what we've done there is taken 'another post' and inserted 'whole' in the middle of the word 'another' for emphasis, giving us, a whole nother post!  They don't give the explanation - I do, I taught English for years - but they it is a legit bit of informal English!  How cool is THAT!

OK, back to Amsterdam and the oil lamp I'm not going to tell you about today!

So, I was planning on going in today and yesterday evening as I was scrolling through Instragram I noticed that there is an outdoor art exhibition on right now in Amsterdam, all installation pieces featuring light and lights.  Well, how cool is that!  So I decided to go in later in the day than I otherwise normally would, though honestly not that late as it is pretty much full dark by 5pm which is a mite dreary.  Not this evening though!  I was psyched!  They have a website with a route map on it, so all I had to do was follow along!

Here, you can see some of it.

Honestly, the last two shown were the best.  Most of the exhibits were very cool in concept but not so much in execution.  Basically, it is hard to be impressive outside, when there is so many other lights, and people are fairly far away.  Hard to make it look big and like you're involved. 

See Amsterdam, and the moon tonight were also pretty cool


It's a neat town.