Monday, 9 November 2009

It's all in the detail

Mr J read this blog yesterday and said it was 'boring'. He thinks I should include details of what we see on the river, names of the locks, distances between the locks, etc. So I'll start with the locks, which are all very picturesque and manned by friendly lock-keepers. There are 4 locks between Wargrave and Marlow: Marsh (at Henley), Hambleden, Hurley and Temple (just before Marlow if you're going down river). And there's one lock between Wargrave and Sonning: Shiplake. It seems strange to think that we won't be on the river again until next year. Roll on the Spring!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Back to the boat earlier than expected...

I've just unpacked our bags and realised that I left the milk & cheese in the fridge - along with the grapes & bananas. Un-be-lie-va-ble! So it's back to the boat tomorrow, which is much earlier than expected. But I'm glad I remembered. Can you imagine what the boat would have smelt like if we'd left it there until March?

Wargrave to Marlow: a weekend of 'firsts'

This was our last weekend on Happy Chance as she's coming out of the water over the winter. So with the sun on our backs we headed down the river to Marlow. It was the first time we'd been to Marlow and the first time we'd operated the locks on our own. (The locks are manned most of the time but between 1-2pm during the day and after 4pm in the winter it's 'self-service'. And as there were so few people on the river we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to figure out how it's done.) Luckily the instructions are very straightforward and (apparently) there's no way you can flood the river or cause a major catastrophe, which I was very relieved to hear as I was operating the lock. Another first was dinner at Villa D'Este in Marlow - a great Italian restaurant. It's not cheap but it serves delicious food, has a buzzy atmosphere and is packed with lovely people (walk up the High Street, turn right at the top and it's just beyond the zebra crossing on the right). And if you want to grab a coffee and are tired of Starbucks, Cafe Nero, etc - try the Caffe Fego (on the right as you walk up the High Street). The 'final first' was dancing in the cockpit after dinner. We don't have a TV on board so we have to create out own entertainment. What a laugh!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Art of Mooring

We've only had Happy Chance for three weeks but I'm pleased to say we've got the whole mooring thing down to a fine art. What we've discovered is that you don't have to shout wildly or gesticulate madly. (Because the truth is that if I'm at the bow and Mr J's at the stern we can't hear or see each other.) You just slow down, put the engine into neutral and glide in! And now we have a system: I secure the stern first and then sort out the bow. Simple, easy and stress-free (thanks to the bow thruster!) All I have to do now is get a hang of throwing the ropes over the mooring posts!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The Bull at Sonning

We went back to Sonning on Friday night and this time made a point of finding The Bull, a traditional 16th century inn which is tucked away up the hill and down the High Street. And I'm glad we did because it was divine. Red walls, dark beams, candles on the tables and a roaring fire by the bar. Lovely people, lovely food and lovely atmosphere. We were on table 18 which is in one of the corners of the 'main' restaurant. If you're booking a table for 4, try tables 20 (again in the main restaurant) or 12 (in the bar).

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

We have a name!

We were going to keep part of her original name - Lady - but we've changed our mind. We've decided to call her Happy Chance, which I think is lovely.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

You don't have to go far to have fun: Henley

Although it was raining on Friday night, we decided we'd spend the weekend on the boat regardless. And I'm glad we did because Saturday was absolutely glorious. We didn't go very far - just down the river to Henley - but we had a lovely time. Moored up past the bridge on the right, had lunch, read the papers in the sunshine (I even got the sun block out!), went for a walk around town and then had dinner at The Little Angel (not to be confused with The Angel just beside the bridge), which was superb: great food, great atmosphere and great service. The perfect end to a great day. And this morning we were treated to a display of fit & disciplined athletes: rowers on the river and runners (the Henley Half Marathon) on the towpath. So all in all a superb weekend.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

You can tell we're new to this

As gale force winds were forecast for yesterday, we decided we wouldn't go out on the river. Instead, we'd go to the boat, drop off all our latest purchases - plates, lump hammer, wind up torch, kettle, cups, etc - and give her a good clean. So we packed up all our bits and pieces, including the hoover (I wanted to hoover all the upholstery) and set off along the M4. At about exit 6 (and our exit is 8/9) we suddenly remembered we'd forgotten to pack the most important item: the boat key! Luckily we didn't have to drive back through all the traffic and roadworks because when we bought the boat it was suggested we leave a spare set of keys at the Marina. Which we did. Phew!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Naming our boat

As the previous owners are retaining her name - Ambient Lady - we have to come up with a new one. We thought we'd keep part of her original name - Lady - because it means she's graceful, gracious, sophisticated, elegant, etc. But what do we add to 'Lady' to describe her/how we feel about her? Dutch Lady (she was built in Holland)? Lady of Leisure? Lovely Lady? Joyful Lady? Serene Lady? The search goes on.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Introducting our lovely boat

As the boat (name still tbc) is going to have a fairly major role in all my boating stories, I thought I'd introduce you to her. She's a Dutch made, Antaris 720 Family. Just over 8 metres long, with enough room to sleep 6 people (but you'd have to know them VERY well because there aren't any cabins). There isn't a shower or any hot water on board either but, like camping, you can make do with wet wipes. That obviously works for short, overnight stays. If you're planning to spend a week aboard, you'd have to use the showers (and hairdryers!) at the riverside Marinas. So pretty basic, but lovely nevertheless!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Maiden Voyage: Wargrave to Sonning Lock

Our first lock was a bit stressful but we made it through without damaging our boat - or any of the other boats - and moored up just below Sonning Lock at around 5pm. The sun was setting, the man on the boat moored opposite us was fly fishing and, to top it all, a multi-coloured hot air balloon was gliding through the blue sky above us. It was idyllic. Dinner was at the riverside pub/hotel (must remember the names of these places) and after a glass of wine aboard we crashed out in our v-shaped bed. I was expecting to fall asleep to the sound of lapping waves (or the river equivalent) but instead I fell asleep to the sound of loud rock music: Queen, Kings of Leon, Dire Straits, etc. You see, there was a wedding at the aforementioned pub/hotel and they'd hired a live band. This morning - feeling rather scruffy (no shower on board) - we headed back to Wargrave passing swans, ducks, cows and rowers along the way. And it was so warm that I pulled out a sleeveless t-shirt and slapped on the sun factor! A truly great start to our boating weekends.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Let the boating stories begin

Mr J and I took delivery of our river boat this weekend: an 8 metres Dutch cruiser (name still tbc as the owners have retained the name they gave her). Mr J had a yacht several years ago but this is his first river boat. And this blog is the start of our boating stories on the Thames.