Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter on the Water

Hello Folks and Best Wishes to You All for a Very Happy New Year.

Before going ahead with new additions to our blog again we thank you all for your responses and comments. May we point out to those who have asked for bigger pictures that you have the answer in your own computer. Simply one click on any of the small photos and the photo will be very much enlarged, then click on back arrow in the top left hand corner to go back to our blog. Trust this makes them a bit more meaningful.

Now returning to Christmas, we can report that about 1.00 pm on Christmas Eve Day we had a visit from the couple who have their boat moored alongside our marina at Penton Hook. They came looking for us saying that they had missed us so came bearing gifts for us and Harry then about an hour later another couple from Penton Hook also turned up to visit saying that they too had missed us, so that was really nice and made us feel pretty warm and happy.

On top of that I can report that the weather had been fine for about a week with temps up to around 12 degrees but after waking on Christmas morning, we found that we had no power on board to even boil the jug so we eventually heated the boat with the gen set and ate breakfast in silence with the Christmas spirit fast diminishing toward the company who had "completed " the electrical fit out the day before. As they had agreed to come back on the day after Boxing Day to ensure all was good, we had agreed to stay for those extra days at Shepperton Marina which was fine but with this failure, we felt marooned a bit so a call to the manager who was away down the south coast on holiday gave us news that he would find someone to call and fix the problem that day so all would be well.

Rhonda's Comments: You can almost see him saying "Is that all I am getting for Xmas?".

We headed down river by car to Runnymeade where the Magna Carta had been signed and where there is a very substantial Air Force War memorial gardens and church plus museum, however, as you can imagine it was all closed for Christmas Day so off we went on to our hotel where we were booked to have our Christmas dinner with mixed feelings.

This hotel is sited on the banks of the Thames and our booked table looking over the river with expansive views was ready so we enjoyed a couple of hours dining and chatting so that coupled to the phone calls to and from family and friends at home and in Australia, we had a lovely day really although a bit lonely without family at our table. To finish the afternoon off we took Harry and walked for a couple of miles down the tow path and back alongside the Thames and this ensured we "walked " off any excess grog and food so went for a bit of a country drive home which filled in the afternoon and as we have said previously it is getting dark by around 3.30 pm.

Boxing Day saw us up early and off to the nearby suburb of Weybridge (Rhonda's Comments: Apparently Cliff Richard lives in Weybridge, will have to keep an eye out.) to a sound and TV specialist sale where we joined queues of buyers making offers for TVs and sound systems which were already well marked down. The shop is only small really with a showroom of approx 6m x 4m, so 20 people really filled it with the lines going from the counter to the street. While we were there buying a couple of speakers for our sound system which we had taken from New Zealand, we counted at least 7 or 8 x 42inch LCD TVs priced as low as 450 pounds which is cheap for here and lots of other sizes of all brands were being bought by customers who then struggled down the streets to get them to their cars which were parked some way off. As I have said before, parking is the worst problem of going to any built-up area and free parking is almost impossible to find.

I guess the point I was making was that despite the recession which has hit hard, this sale proved that people will still buy if the price is right. From Weybridge we went on to Staines to a big hardware store which also were having great sales and bought ourselves a Kartcher power washer for the boat, so we can keep the painted decks a lot cleaner than we had been able to especially with the trades people walking around on them for so long. Like a spoiled kid with a new toy I had to get back to the boat to try it out and despite the temps not getting above 4 degrees I enjoyed a couple of hours of blasting a lot of the crap off the decks and walkways. It sure seems to work pretty well.

The next day one of the Shepperton engineers and his wife called by and was able to determine that our mains power failure was due to a fault in the main jetty and pontoon wiring, not the boat except it had been off so long we lost the ability to draw 240 volt from the batteries so once he repaired that, normal service was resumed much to our relief. He was also able to tidy up another couple of matters and agreed to help us get the boat back to Penton Hook the next day. As the river still was running with a fair volume and speed we accepted his offer and made our way back upstream, about a 3 hour journey through some lovely countryside and past some magnificent homes. We negotiated through 2 locks which were not manned due to the holiday period, so it was a case of manual operations all round. It was great experience to be able to handle the boat in the conditions and as we all know there is nothing like experience to learn what and how a boat handles in various conditions. There are weirs which run like heck at every lock to allow the main river to work its was down stream, the currents sure push or pull the boat around and across the river so one has to be alert and ready to react quickly to avoid any collisions with walls etc and even the water coming into the locks can throw the boat around if the paddles are opened too quickly plus any rivers running into the Thames also have cross current effects which need to be watched and manoeuvred through . Having said all of that we did arrive without any real incident at Penton Hook Marina where we enjoyed being "home" after almost 4 weeks away. Even Harry was excited to revisit his old trees and bushes and in particular to run in the park again free of his lead.

The next morning dawned beautiful and clear with a full sun but with a frost which did not melt away until around 11 am so about noon I set to again with my power washer and special detergent to remove the last of the stubborn stains and all went well until around 2.30 pm when I noticed what appeared to be detergent solidifying on the off side of the boat. Believe it or not it turned out to be ice as the water from the washer was freezing on top of the detergent residue and hitting it with the power washer just saw it flaking off and flying everywhere. No wonder my hands were feeling numb as the temp turned out to be 0 degrees. No wonder the water was freezing once it hit the cold steel decks and walks so that was the end of water blasting and an hour later the whole boat was covered in frost and ice. This was around 3.0 pm so think about that while you are lazing in the sun with temps of around 30 degrees.

The weather forecast advised that temps for Tuesday would not rise above 3 so we decided that again despite the sun being out it was not to be a day to do much so at 12 noon we set off to go to the movies and after 15 mins we had the frost cleaned from the car using de-icer and water and a special ice scraper. It was unbelievable for us to see this frost turning to ice when we tried to wash it off and as the water hoses were frozen we just had to make do with the de-icer. Well, we went to the movie Australia which in our humble opinion was almost as bad as Pearl Harbour. We felt that the film had terrible acting, poor plot but with some great scenic shots but all in all would only rate it about 3 out of 10. Having said that, there will be no doubt that we will have plenty of viewers who will disagree. When we came out at around 4.0 pm there was the most beautiful red/golden sun showing but the irony was that the car had frozen over again and as we still had grocery shopping to do which was achieved in a rush and home we came to frosty docks and walkways and again the weather report advising that we should get temps tonight of -4.

As New Years eve drew closer we planned to have a few of our boat people friends over for drinks and niblets and this turned out to be great evening and we watched the New Year come in for the first time for about 10 years and finally hit the cot around 1.30 am New Years Day.

(Rhonda's Comments: Sorry, we were having such a good time I forgot to take any photos. Oh, well I'll get them back again for a repeat performance I'm sure.)

To you all we extend our sincere best wishes for 2009 and hope that when we enter 2010 we can look aback and say " well that year wasn't as bad as we thought it would be.

We have just had the most beautiful fine day with absolutely no wind or cloud but with overnight temps of 4 below so woke to a marina with a centimetre of ice over it all and the biggest frost we could imagine. It is now 3.30 pm and the hoses and water pipes are still frozen so it will be salt on the docks and walkways etc as tomorrow is supposed to be the same but colder. Overnight with a bit of a breeze equates to a chill factor of 12 below. The marina is flying the red flag which prohibits movement by any boats and while I thought this was bit over the top as boats should be able to crush through this ice without any trouble we learned that the problem can be with boats moving through the ice and pushing large plates of sheet ice against plastic or wooden hull boats and could actually sink them. The folk here say that this is the coldest but best winter they have had for 30 years so all the bugs etc should be eliminated for the summer. In 1963 the Thames River actually froze over at Windsor which is about 15 klms from here. Old photos show this amazing period when waterfalls also froze over and trees looked like solid icicles. Also at that time, large areas of coastal sea froze over and kids where able to skate on these surfaces.

Yesterday we took ourselves off to Virginia Water which is a posh suburb about 5 kms from here and where many of the rich and influential live. It is on a direct and quick route to Heathrow one way and to Gatwick the other so has lots of pilots living there along with the upper crust of the business world as well. The size of the homes is amazing and while they are all hidden in groves etc the peeks one can get of them just makes you shake your head in wonder. It is also the home of the European Golf Headquarters and the famous Wentworth Golf Club with a clubhouse and grounds which takes your breath away. This club has enjoyed hosting many British Opens and other noteworthy events over the years. Well we drove in in our old Toyota among Maserati's, Porches, Lamborghini's and the biggest Range Rovers I had ever seen plus every other well known brand of car. There were security guards patrolling the drives and walkways along with Rangers and so on all driving in very flash enclosed buggies etc. As the course winds through some of the most beautiful forest I have seen you notice that again there are huge homes tucked into sections that made my eyes water they were so big and developed and we learned that this was the area where people like Elton John live plus a fair number of football stars etc. Apparently it was all developed by an Indian gentleman some years ago and obviously he made more money than you could poke a stick at. We took a few pics and fled in case they wanted fees or similar just to look.

We then went down to the village of Virginia Water looking for a coffee shop and found a small Italian Restaurant which was welcoming and warm so we ordered Calamari with warm bread and a glass of wine. I have to be honest and say that the food was the very best I had tasted since arriving here with the true Italian flavours and toppings and dressings enhancing the food to just right and the wine even though it was a house wine to be beautiful and we finished off with the best cappuccinos we had ever had, 30.00 pound was the bill including service tax so while it was expensive by kiwi values it was not by pommie pricing and we did so enjoy it. Tea last night was almost bread and scratch to make up for the indulgence.

Well as we were advised the ice and cold was even to be worse today with the ice increased to around 15 mm, with huge frosts which made walking through the park very interesting for Harry as the grass was snapping off as we walked through it and there was no chance of getting running water from any of the taps or hoses along the docks so fingers crossed for milder weather tomorrow.

After 7 days of being frozen in with the coldest temps experienced in England for 30 years we are very proud of how we have dealt with it. No running water so buying water at the supermarket is the only alternative. Minimal washing facilities as our tank is almost on empty while our black water tank is full almost to overflowing with no chance of pumping it out for fear of a 20,000 pound fine if caught doing so. Legs crossed is the order of the day until one can get to the marinas toilet/shower blocks.

Rhonda's Comments: Note the birds ice skating on the river!!

The locals are amazed at this weather saying that they can't remember temps at this time of the year to be so cold so we are glad to at least be accused of bringing a cooling to this planets area so there is no talk of Global Warming at present.

While we are talking doom and gloom we are honestly doing just fine and love the experience really and laugh at the way we layer up to go out Example, Singlet, Tee shirt, Shirt, Jumper, Underpants, Long Johns, Track suit, Heavy socks, Woolen lined boots, Swan Dri or similar, Scarf, Under Beanie, Over beanie, Heavy gloves. This is fine until you have to peel off at the loo or shower as you can imagine.

They are talking about rain coming which should melt the snow with temps rising to around the 5 degrees this Sunday which may help melt the ice. Fingers crossed particularly for the old folk who the NHS say about 5 or more will die throughout the UK every hour it is so cold as they can't or won't get the heating levels raised due to lack of funds etc. Just to cap this off, we went to Staines yesterday some 5 mins drive from here to find the whole shopping centre and surrounds covered in snow which was still falling at 1.0pm. Rhonda thought it was oh so pretty. I didn't quite make the same sort of comments, however, when we got back to the marina there had been another frost at 3.0pm but no snow.

Even a couple of big rugby games were cancelled yesterday as the grounds were still frozen despite the introduction of huge heating blankets and blowers being applied over the previous night. The players were far from impressed as one of the teams had just bussed in from far away only to be told to go home again. You can imagine the media reaction, however, that is what was done so we watched other games on TV but have to say that it is no wonder the New Zealand teams like the AB's do so well when playing here as the local general discipline and planned play is pretty poor by comparison.

Ok I will close off now and go off for my morning swim (yeah right) and hopefully our next blog will bring news of warmer temps etc. Take care of each other. Kindest regards.

Ken, Rhonda and Harry