Sunday, January 15, 2012



20 December 2011 to 31st December 2011

It is now officially winter in the northern hemisphere and it has sure cooled down but nothing in comparison to last year. Most days it is still short sleeve shirts in the boat and over jackets when out and about. Last year we had snow flurries by now and cold temps as you can believe.

We haven’t lit the log burner yet. The diesel heating has been sufficient so we are lucky for sure. The ground is nice and dry so no gumboots or Wellingtons as the Poms call them are needed. With the shortest day only a few weeks away we are feeling lucky so far and have fingers crossed that we don’t get walloped like they have in northern Europe and Scotland etc.

While the weather has been really kind our family has not fared as well with the passing of my sister-in-law and 30 days later, my last surviving brother so that means that since coming to take on this adventure in 2008 I have lost a brother-in-law, a sister, a sister-in-law and a brother plus a number of mates from Surf Lifesaving days etc. When we consider that it was due to my illness that we decided to make this adventure happen before it was too late, we have had a great time and are hanging on so well. If I had known how long I was going to live, I would have taken better care of myself when I was younger. I think it is due really to the care and love I receive from Rhonda that has been a major factor so as you can imagine I am truly grateful. She is really my rock as the saying goes.

After staying on the Canal Lateral a la Garonne down here in the south west plus a side trip up the Baiise river for all this season since slipping the boat in Toulouse for a bottom clean and paint etc, we have fallen in love with the territory but it was with a good feeling when we pottered back into Moissac last week for out winter mooring. As usual Iain and Kaz, the Capitaneries of the port had our berth ready and waiting so within half an hour we were settled back into the lifestyle we had been so used to when last in port. It was great to be greeted by a number of our old mates from last season and to meet up with some new folk as well.

As we had left the car back down in Valence d’Agen so Rhonda could ride back on the boat with our pals, Gill and Alan who had cycled down the tow path for 2 hours to meet up with us before we loaded their bikes on the deck and we all came back together which was a real bonus. The next day Herman drove his motor home back to Valence d’Agen with Rhonda so she could collect the car and bring it “home” too. Such is the spirit of co-operation so often found among the boating fraternity. There is a very true saying that whatever goes around comes around meaning that “do a good turn for somebody, and it will be returned with interest”.

Since coming back we have rejoined the Friday night pub get-together which is short but fun and a chance to chat and get up-to-date with the scandal of which there is always plenty.

On the first Monday night of each month an entrepreneurial English man and wife tow there caravan into the port and cook up great Fish n Chips. English cod and home made chips. Gee they are good so we got our servings and brought them back to the boat and really wallowed in this delightful meal which is not one the French do at all. Roll on Monday next month.

With Christmas nigh upon us, the shops have picked up in trade but it is not as commercialised as it is in the UK, Australia or New Zealand. The open markets are busy but mainly due to the fresh fruit and vegetable stalls selling their wares. We will be having a fairly quiet Christmas Day this year but are preparing to take off for our drive to Spain for 3 weeks as from the 8th January 2012 so this will be exciting for us.

Ok, today is Christmas Day and as mentioned above we have had a quiet but lovely day as the weather has been beautiful and sunny with no wind and the clear blue skies have allowed so many people to get out and about. Walkers were seen all day looking at the boats etc. An early morning call from our old mates Grahame and Michelle Smith from Sydney set the tone of the day so after a good old chat the eating began with a larger than normal breakfast and so went the day.

The past few weeks have been a mixture of real autumnal conditions with steady rain almost every day much to the relief of the farmers etc following the worst drought in memory. With little to do apart from Christmas shopping, I have had the car tuned and the oil and filters changed etc and a couple of new tyres fitted ready for our forthcoming trip to Spain in January.

Last Thursday night being the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere we had many of the live-aboard boats lit up with Christmas lights and some owners went to great lengths to make their boats look wonderful. We joined in hooking several strings of lights to our rigging so we looked bright and colourful but when the judging came to being carried out by the local Mayor we were found to be wanting so no prize was given to us. Oh well maybe next year. We did enjoy tucking in to the hot mulled wine and Christmas tarts afterwards and again as it was a lovely night we were all able to stand around enjoying each others company for a few hours.

This year we seem to have received even more Christmas cards and greetings than ever so it is really nice to have that contact with so many people. With lots of folks taking the easier way of sending email electronic cards one has to be amazed at the creativeness of both the designers of the cards and the senders. Thanks to all those who sent us such messages, and or posted real cards, we sure appreciated them.

Boxing Day dawned with a grey sky and minus 2 degrees so as predicted real winter must be almost upon us. Getting a welcome phone call from our friends Daphne and Claude in New Zealand was great so we were able to catch up on the local chat and gossip. While we are chilly, they of course are expecting wonderful warm summer weather so good luck to all.

As we are now anxious to get away to Spain for our holiday break, it is hard to keep focus on getting the boat set up to be safe and sound while we are away but due to the local Capitanerie folk keeping a watch out plus our nearest moored neighbours all should be fine.

As New Years Eve approaches we are looking forward to a final “knees up” for 2011 with all the live aboard boaters who are wintering over so a good night should be had by all. We trust that the New Years news is so much better for each and every one of you. Best wishes for 2012. Take care and look after each other.

Best regards,
Ken, Rhonda and of course Harry