Jackie Parry – author


6 Comments

I am not sure how we made it

But we did make it. Ecluse number 56 de Fonseranes (K206.5), has six locks, one after the other. Fortunately, we were first in line, but two other boats where squished in with us, testing everyone’s skills and patience.

6 locks

At the first lock, the lock-keeper swaggered over and managed to stop chatting on his mobile for a second. I naturally assumed he had come to take my line (as per every other lock-keeper). He took the line, slipped it over a bollard and then rapidly shot fast-French at me, ignoring my pleas to slow down. His disgust at handling our lines was evident.

He chatted on his phone more, watched the other boats come in and then said, in near perfect English, ‘you do your own lines.’

‘Of course,’ I said, ‘No problem.’

To which he replied with the most magnificent Gaelic shrug, that I would assume is usually reserved for vermin.

This was before they REALLY let the water in.

This was before they REALLY let the water in.

The hire boat was ordered to leave the first lock, first. While the crew gathered the lines the lock-keeper tutted, rolled his eyes and stood with hands on hips. Who knows what was going on in his tiny mind – but the phone rang and it was all smiles and back to chatting with buddies.

As we puttered in I wondered how I was going to get the lines on the bollards with the boat-hook, the lock walls were too high.

‘About a third-of-the-way-in are steps,’ I said to Noel, ‘You’ll have to get me near them.’ Noel nodded in his usual relaxed manor.

I’d climbed up many locks before in our sailboat. I know it is ‘not the done thing’, but we had no choice back then or here. Back then I was on a low boat, with no lock-keeper I had to get the lines on a bollard, so up I went. Here, with muscles some thirteen years older, I had to think carefully about what I was doing.

The dry steps, of course, the lower ones were underwater and covered in green slime.

The dry steps, of course, the lower ones were underwater and covered in green slime.

I took my time but it was  a little scary.

I took my time but it was a little scary.

You could walk the boat through (and others did, keeping hold of the lines) but they had plenty of crew, shorter boats, lighter lines. But, they still couldn’t ‘walk the boat through’ when we all got to the bridge. Besides Noel was doing inch-by-inch manoeuvring (handled brilliantly), and I wanted to help him too.

What followed was a scary launch of my body out to the slippery, slime-ridden steps, a steady climb with a fore and aft line on each shoulder and crowd-pleasing success. Noel manoeuvred the boat’s bow and stern right up close to the wall, however the curved lock-wall still meant I had large leap. I received ‘whoops’, claps and admiration. Meanwhile, the lock-keeper straightened his sunnies and chatted on the phone.

There was plenty of cheering as I made my way up.

There was plenty of cheering as I made my way up.

What resulted was me feeling alive, working the ropes, being independent, and being strong. I was thinking on my feet. On this trip, we’ve been hauling anchors, furling heavy ropes several times a day, climbing on deck, jumping ashore and shopping via bicycles. My muscles are becoming defined, my jeans are looser, I feel alive and yes, I am loving the whole thing!

The other amusing result I’ve noticed is that our precious paint is no longer precious. After six locks in what can only be described as ‘water-fall’ conditions, just inches (sometimes much less) between boats and walls, and all of a sudden you don’t give a flying fig about your paintwork – just surviving unscathed!

The climb.

The climb.

In my opinion, as lock-keepers, there’s too much responsibility for surly youths, which results in an attitude. That said, apparently since their hazard pay has been taken away, the lock-keepers on the Midi will not take your lines. I am not sure what the hazard is of taking lines. Actually it created a hazard as we took a moment or two than usual to secure the boat, and the lock-keeper let the water in before we were ready! Not fun!

I noticed, also, that not one of the boats’ crew looked at, waved, said Merci or even acknowledged the lock-keepers.


2 Comments

Rain Catcher . . . and they say romance is dead! Part 3

I’ve been reminded about how crappy sanding a boat can be. I must have whinged about the job a fair bit as Noel bought me an electric sander today – and they say romance is dead!

Covered in a layer of sanding dust and looking forward to a beer!

Covered in a layer of sanding dust and looking forward to a beer!

This gift is almost as ‘romantic’ as my first wedding anniversary gift, ‘The 12 Volt Bible’!! But that’s a different, (and a rather incredible), story (more details here).

With the pipes clean I turned my attention to the next part, preparing the wheelhouse roof for painting.

First I removed all the loose paint, then I became a sanding maniac. My sore knees, stiff muscles and the fine coating of ‘dust’ reminded me how much I hate sanding.

Lying down on the job - I was just glad I didn't fall off!

Lying down on the job – I was just glad I didn’t fall off!

But a good painting job is all about the preparation and after one full afternoon and a full morning – hurrah! I could finally paint!

To the paint, I added Rustol Owatrol, Antirouille Incolore, the French equivalent of Penetrol, which makes oil-based paint stick and flow better. I added fifty percent to the first coat, ten percent to the second coat. The mixture is very good at covering rusty parts of steel, provided there are there no loose flakes.

The first (‘scratch’) coat went on well and highlighted all the bits I missed. The dapple pattern from the rain that followed left me a bit peeved! But, the second coat (and final) is now on and I can play plumber next – extending the ‘down-pipes’ to the water tanks.

Before

Before

After

After

My new sander and I will work on the rest of the boat . . . soon . . . when I recover!

Recovery food! Chocolate mouse, macadamia and vanilla ice-cream and strawberry tart!

Recovery food! Chocolate mouse, macadamia and vanilla ice-cream and strawberry tart!


2 Comments

Rain-Catcher – part 2 (It Broke!)

Well the ‘you-beaut-fan-dangled’- cleaning wotsit BROKE! – on its first use! After saying some rather naughty words I sat, and had another drink . . . I mean think.

DSC_0092 - Copy

Where I had ‘made’ the thread, the handle snapped!

I needed:

  • to get the brush into the pipe
  • a brush small enough to go around corners
  • a way to move the brush up and down to clean the inside of the pipe

So, I cut the handle off the brush and trimmed the brush down (a new one). Then I drilled a hole through the middle and plaited some string (for strength) and threaded that through the hole. Then, to that string, I tied some strong cord. Ha Ha! That should do it!

Small brush

Small brush

Until I realised it was impossible to get the cord to thread down the down-pipe. After much uhhming and arrhing – I dismantled the gate-chain on the boat and tied that to the cord. This slinky chain slipped down the pipe dragging the cord with it.

Cord and chain

Cord and chain

The top of the roof

The top of the roof

What followed was a rather awkward tug-of-war on the cord, each end, to clean the pipes, but it worked! Success. Now I have to get sanding and painting!


Leave a comment

Emotional seesaw – positive thoughts

My family went home yesterday and left me feeling quite sad. I miss them already. Actually, I missed them as soon as we parted at the train station.

The sadness is emotional, but also physical. Especially when Noel and I had to carry our food shopping back between just the two of us! 😉

Noel and I had 'evening medicine' after our au revoirs

Noel and I had ‘evening medicine’ after our au revoirs

My positive? Despite the melancholy feelings of a farewell, Noel and I have turned our attentions to the boat.

Our first two projects are:

  • Rigging a rain-catcher
  • Installing the solar panels

These are the types of projects I love; tasks that take us a step closer to self-sufficient living. I plan to tell you all about it – with lots of pictures.

Mum & dad - home now in the UK

Mum & dad – home now in the UK

Of course, thereafter we have much painting and re-fitting to do. So, yes, while I am a bit sad, I am excited at the next direction in our adventure.