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Age of the Dirt Dweller 

27 Oct

I’ve reached the stage of life when women are usually referred to as being of a “certain age”. Another phrase also comes, increasingly, to mind: “age appropriate”. I’ve ​always admired those women who seem to take great relish in growing older, who find the advancing years give them a sense of liberation. They say what they really want to and dress however they damn-well like. Then again there are women like Audrey Hepburn who age with such grace, dignity and wisdom they are an inspiration. I know I’m not either of these two stereotypes.

I aspire to be Audrey but, in fact, I’m probably nearer the aging starlets who seem to fill the pages of those ghastly magazine and tabloids with shock pictures of weight gain and plastic surgery gone wrong. Who doesn’t understand, men as well as women, the horror of watching your body change, hair turn grey and/or fall out, face sag? The image of youth is everywhere while only those who surprise us with how well they seem to have aged are admiringly remarked upon.

I’m not saying anything new here, of course, and I’d like to think there is a movement for change although I don’t really believe it. And I haven’t even mentioned how the body’s failings and increasing weaknesses ​impact on life and plans for the future. No, I only mention all this because it is so relevant to me at the moment.

Returning to the “real” world after time on the boat is always something of a shock. How truly remarkable British supermarkets are is always a delight and how easily we can access them, piling a week’s worth of shopping into the boot of the car to transport straight to the door and into huge fridges and freezers. But these same supermarkets are also the first to confront me with rails of clothes. And full length rear view mirrors. None of this seemed to matter on the boat where a discrete sarong was all that was required.

I thoroughly dislike most of the clothes deemed fashionable at the moment but it’s not only the vile colours, fabrics, patterns and frills. I know they won’t suit me. Leggings and skinny jeans were not meant to be worn with saggy bums. More expensive shops have better fabrics and sometimes a looser fit, yet when coupled with the 70’s patterns they just scream “old lady” to me. It seems I’m expected to wear the same thing my mother did when she was ten years younger. None of this will ever look good to my eyes. Age appropriate is the best I can do.

The other aspect of returning to the world of the land dweller is how it affects that obsession of mine – my hair. While deprived of hair dryer and straighteners the priorities were enough hot water to wash it in and long enough for it to dry naturally. All I had to do otherwise was tie it up and put a hat on. Restraining it is what mattered.

I’m now confronted with the increased length, the exposed grey roots and that particular shade of orange that coloured hair takes on when exposed to sun. I find that I resent the time it takes to wash, dry and style just to still be piled up onto my head because I’ve grown accustomed to having my neck cool. Life is just too short.

I begrudge the expense of the never ending colouring and highlighting to hide the real me. So my hair is turning grey. Is that really something I should be ashamed of somehow? And just who exactly am I kidding? Let’s face it, that shock when someone who looks twenty from the back and is nearer seventy when they turn around is not attractive. There you have it again, it’s not age appropriate anymore​.

I want to wear my hair any damn well way I like, yet I want to look dignified and attractive, not be a laughing stock. My roots are well and truly exposed and I’m never going to colour them again. I want to have it all chopped off. Are all these wants even compatible? I’m going to have to explain all this somehow to the hairdresser when I get Spain. They’ll need to be a damn genius.

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End of Season 

6 Oct

 We’ve bought Desi into the marina for the end of season jobs. Not that I’ll be doing many of them, I’ll head home and leave the messy bits to Neil. We’d stayed out as long as we could this time but I confess to the usual pleasure of returning to our berth. No sooner was the lazy line on and I was heading for the shower. And a hair wash. Ah, yes, oodles of shampoo, oodles of conditioner and oodles and oodles of hot water and all without having to clean the entire room.

My revelling in ample hot water, shore power and flushing toilets does, however, mask what a wonderful time we’ve had over the last few weeks. The weather has been pretty much perfect, give or take an occasional shower, which has meant lots of walks in beautiful places, discovering paths we didn’t know existed. It has also gradually become quieter and quieter. The chartered boats are now few, tripper boats almost empty (or filled with singing Greek pensioners!) and we haven’t seen a single flotilla for at least a fortnight.

To be frank, our faith in spending time in the Ionian has been renewed. Blissful days at anchor in uncrowded picturesque bays were alternated with favourite resorts, Desi effortlessly tied to the quay. And there you have it: peaceful and relaxing with minimal stress. But it’s time to leave before half-term brings the final onslaught and everywhere shuts down. On to the next adventure.

Outboards

17 Sep

Are outboards ​the bain of every liveaboard’s lifestyle? Certainly, I’ve read several blog posts bemoaning them and they all too frequently become the subject of cockpit discussions​. The dinghy is such an essential part of our boating existence, the car of the dirt dweller but with a far less reliable engine. Not only that, the engine has to be heaved on and off the boat, a task that is either back breaking or involves some sort of, often precarious, pulley system.

We thought we’d cracked it though. When we bought Desi a lovely little dinghy was included along with its outboard which happened to be electric. We’d never actually seen an electric outboard before and had certainly not considered buying one. A little wary at first, we were rapidly converted. Light to handle and with more than enough power, it also had the advantage of being rechargeable via either the mains electricity in the marinar or using the solar panels – free power! No more reliance on smelly petrol or carrying/storing noxious containers. Win, win. Until now.

Our little beauty has developed an aversion to water. You might well say that, of course, electricity and water don’t mix. But this is an outboard motor, engineered by those clever Germans, and designed to be in water as the basic function of its being. Now ours doesn’t like a bit of dew. Connections have duly been cleaned and sprayed with the German equivalent of WD-40. But a few days at anchor and we’ve had to resort to rowing ashore. And back.

Damingly, it always seems to start on testing, even happily taking us for a night out. Sorted, we thought. But no. Ironically, just as we were returning to the dinghy we got chatting to another owner, only the second we’d met, singing the praises of the motor. As we both inserted the magnetic key his started immediately. Ours – nothing. The other guy, who happened to be German himself, volunteered​ to give us a tow, saying that he felt a responsibility for his country’s engineering. We were very happy to take him up on the offer, our rowing not being the most efficient at the best of times let alone after a big meal and several drinks.

At the time of writing, cleaned and sprayed yet again, it seems to be working. Until we come to use it again?

A Day Out  

9 Sep

My bout of D&V kept us in the marina for a couple of days, venturing out only on land. Then just as we were making the boat ready to head out Neil developed symptoms and naturally wanted to remain in reach of a flushing toilet! I didn’t need any persuading; I’m always anxious when we set off regardless of conditions or destination.

With some very unstable conditions forecast for the weekend we eventually grabbed the chance to have at least the day at anchor​. We didn’t want to waste time doing anything as boring as sailing, of course, so just motored to the nearest bay. We nearly motored right out again when a little speed boat towing a paraglider shot out without bothering to look right in front of us and we were seriously worried the poor paying customer was going to end up wrapped around our mast!

Having moored as far away as we could get it was surprisingly peaceful considering the busy tourist resort close by and much cooler than in the marina. Unfortunately we’d picked the spot one of the many tripper boats used to disgorge its load of the American version of Club 18-30 into the sea. With shrieks of delight and amplified music the scantily clad beautiful bodies variously climbed, bombed or performed athletic dives into the water. Were we ever that young?

As is usual with these trips they didn’t stay long, though, and I was surprisingly sorry to see them go. They’d been hugely entertaining to watch and even the music had been good.

End of August 

2 Sep

After the indignity that is Manchester Airport – herded through “shopping opportunities”, terrible food and drink at even worse prices, insufficient, uncomfortable seating in too small areas with neither heating or ventilation and constant trudging up and down stairs (OK, moan over and you knew all that anyway, of course) – arriving in Corfu felt like coming home. Not that I’m praising the airport but it is on a more human scale.

Two months away, for me, made the return to the boat both welcome and yet strangely disorientating. I knew the routine, knew how everything worked but found it difficult to remember where specific things were kept. Acclimatising to the heat was an initial struggle, too. Normally I’d take temperatures in the low 30’s in my stride but I was actually grateful for the clouds and odd light shower the next day. A couple of days stocking up and a few maintenance jobs and we were ready to head out to our first anchorage.

We’re not planning on going far this autumn so the short sail, well motor, to the bays in the north of Corfu beckoned. Nosing into Agni proved an unattractive mooring prospect with the shallow areas swallowed up by bouys and small boats so Kalami it was. What a surprise! There were only two other boats in the bay and one of them was already heading out. We’ve previously remarked on how quiet the last week in August usually is but with the general increase in numbers we had though this year would be different. Late into the evening we were still expecting far more to arrive.

Kalami stays quite deep until very close to the shore so you either have to choose to anchor close to the beach or be prepared to put out a lot of chain and accept a large swinging circle which can be a bit anti-social. As we are unapologetic people-watchers we chose to be close to the sun loungers and not get upset when we, in turn, became an​ object of fascination. Feeding time at the zoo springs to mind. We weren’t even too troubled by the swell from the big cruise liners, ferries and cargo ships that all have to make their way up and down the narrow stretch of water between the island and Albania.

Our happy existence of lounging around in the shade and reading, enjoying the sea breeze and cool, salty swims came to an abrupt end after only two nights when I woke up with a stomach bug. I’ll not go into detail but suffice it to say it seemed like a good idea to head back to the marina ASAP. Some weather sites have been predicting thunderstorms​ for tonight so being tucked up against a pontoon had other attractions anyway. I’m glad to be back – for the time being​.

Castles and Canals 

15 Aug

With temperatures routinely topping 40°C and the madness that is the Ionian during August, it seemed like a good idea at the time to spend it in the UK. It probably was the right decision but somehow we’d forgotten just how wet the British summer usually is. I know, I know – it was beautiful before we arrived. So here are some castles in the clouds. And canals. 

Conwy looking all mean and moody 

These rare moths don’t seem to mind, though 

Ludlow during a brief break in what was a day of almost relentless rain. Ten minutes later we were literally soaked to the skin. 

There was the odd sheltered spot in the castle itself. 

Chester has its own castle but a) it’s not in ruins and b) it’s a military museum and not my idea of fun so a cloudy walk along the Shropshire Union Canal followed by a Sunday roast dinner seemed a better idea. 

You don’t have to go far to be seemingly in open countryside. 

The rain just about held off for a walk along the Llangollen canal 

We walked up to the junction with the River Dee at Horseshoe Falls where a couple of kayaks were heading downstream. Annoyingly I just missed the picture of them going down that step in the falls. 

Geordie here was just about to turn back to Llangollen with his cargo of tourists when we met him. He didn’t want to hang about waiting for his burden to be reconnected. 

And finally, a cheese board – just because it made me smile. 

Up North 

2 Jul

With the Ionian getting into full swing for the peak holiday season it seemed time to head north through the Lefkas Canal again. The wind gods were kind enough not to throw anything unpleasant at us on our return journey and we chose to break up the trip, anchoring in a quiet bay for a night to brace ourselves for manic Parga the next day.
Despite the noise and constant bashing from the wake of speedboats dragging assorted inflatables and anything else they can think of around any boat willing to anchor and thus provide the required obstacle course, Parga has its attractions. It must have been absolutely stunning before mass tourism took off but enough remains of the original harbour with its narrow streets leading up to the castle to preserve a bit of character. One night is enough, though.

Lakka, on the other hand, called for a bit of lingering and redeemed itself after the “unpleasantness” in May. However, after some eight weeks of beetling about, the lure of a few days in our marina berth on Corfu complete with shore power and the civilising influence of showers with unlimited hot water, was inevitable.

Not so good, though, is that our visit coincided with the first of the stupidly hot weather. Life on board trying to cope with 40 degrees in the shade is no picnic when even what breeze there is almost makes it worse. You know it’s hot when you’re just as sweaty after a shower as before. I tried cooking a quick pasta dish yesterday. Mistake! It put up the temperature of the interior to literally unbearable levels and it was 3am before venturing to sleep below deck became feasible.

So here I sit in the nearest bar making a soft drink last as long as possible. Thankfully the direction of the wind is slowly changing. The downside is that it’s also increasing, enough to keep us in the marina for a few more days. Even I can get a bit bored of it. I know – there’s just no pleasing some people.