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LIFE ABOARD Life Aboard BY MARIANNE BARTRAM


THIS IS A NEW COLUMN BY MARIANNE WHO LIVES ABOARD THE MV TRESHNISH WITH HER HUSBAND NIGEL (SEE THEIR INTERVIEW IN OUR AUGUST 2012 ISSUE)


We had just retired and thought “Oh, let’s live on a boat, why not? After all it’s just a house that floats, isn’t it!” And where better than the beautiful River Dart, days with nothing to do but loll about on deck in the sun, reading, fishing, drinking a glass of wine or three – perfect! I mean it did cross my mind in a vague way that there would probably be ropes and engines and things but no doubt they sorted themselves out. So in this state of blissful ignorance


we began a new life aboard a large ancient wooden boat at an age when the only wooden thing we should have been buying was a walking stick. I wonder if I had had a blow on the head at the time – I’ve certainly had plenty since! I could tell you how wonderfully


addictive living aboard is, the thrills, the sheer unique fun of it, and I will, but it would be wrong not to relate the downside which strangely has us doubled up with laughter even when at its worst.


Our first of many reality checks


came swiftly! I still do not know to this day how


we came safely from mid river to our winter mooring. We had to request special permission from the Harbour Office to come in a day early due to bad weather and even ended up going astern at one point so that by the time we arrived we felt slightly shaken. I immediately managed to make a complete show of myself when an experienced lady from the local ferry - who doesn’t suffer fools gladly - called out an instruction to me. (I should explain that when you come alongside there is always a shocking commotion – well, there is on our boat anyway - with people run-


ning about and shouting. I usually stay below and read a book). Also a Gardner engine is very noisy so when (as it turned out) she yelled over the din “Grab the warp, throw it round the fair lead and put it over” my brain seemed to interpret it as “My dog has slipped its lead and is probably in Dover.” So I pulled a sympathetic face, smiled and waved and she looked , to put it mildly, unimpressed. I consoled myself with the fact that


ropes are heavy, salty, things anyway and I had just done my nails. Once safely moored up, you begin


the life of an Edwardian Maid of All Work.


When I wake (assuming there


hasn’t been a gale as then the night will have been spent flinching in terror as items lashed firmly to the deck fly about crashing into each other and sleep is out of the question) the first thing I do is lean perilously over the deck and see which scenario applies: the dinghy has disappeared, turned upside down or filled with rainwater. Then I start the gruelling routines the boat demands, most of which involve fingernail removing, skin scraping pro- cedures, hauling yourself up and down steep companionways countless times until you have all the basics of life that on land you take for granted. Well, not all at once as something always breaks or refuses to work! The thing is that, in a house, every- thing is available at the flick of a switch or the press of a button, but we have to spend hours servicing the boat. We have to generate our electric- ity, consider voltage – 12, 24 or 240, use solenoids, invertors and balance batteries. We have to collect our gas,


water and the various types of fuel we need. We have so many ways to blow ourselves up that we are spoilt for choice. Laundry has to be done ashore in order to conserve water and the lo- gistics are appalling. You have to decide which side of the river you need to be and if you then need the river taxi or the ferry, in which case you need books of tickets. You need coins, cans, bottles and cases. It all has to be lugged back and, if the tide is low, getting it down the pontoon risks being shot down so fast you are catapulted into the sea and, if the tide is high, getting up it in the first place when it’s as steep as Everest makes your toes touch your shins and your arms leave their sockets. I thought I had a large tumour the other day but it turned out to be a muscle. All this must be done in your dinghy. I hate dinghies. Ours is a wobbling, leaking vindictive thing that deflates at will with a spiteful engine that cuts out the moment it senses that you are in a rush or in any danger. It is also an eyesore, covered in streaks and blobs of black paint due to it deliberately becoming airborne while Hub was holding a paint pot. Its other trick, should you be lucky enough to reach the pontoon, is to wait until you’ve placed one foot ashore, at which it will swiftly drift away while your other foot is still inside it. So although still novices, I am proud


to say that we do actually have some- thing in common with all the very experienced sailors on the River Dart – unfortunately it is only astonish- ment that a) we are still floating and b) haven’t killed each other or anybody else (yet). Watch this space…..


87


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