A Boat For My Potplants


My nautical project took me to glorious places, metaphorically speaking. There were parties on board. There was The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station. Of course there were plants. And one day even a gorilla.
The boat also became my 'Writer's Retreat'. I decided to become an author, writing my debut novel aboard the boat. The book, called MUDDY WATER, was naturally set in Wivenhoe. Amazingly, several local people paid good money to have their names appearing in the book, and a lot of cash was raised for worthy charities - the RNLI, MIND, The Samaritans, and The Royal British Legion.
Now, my next multi-singular selling novel, FLORIDA KEY, is in 'production', due for publication in October 2017.
I'm sure to be visiting writers' block along the way, as well as euphoria, self-doubt and inspiration.
See how my book goes through all the stages - from initial concept to final print. I'll take you with me on my personal journey as I work on the words, on the cover, on the marketing, and on the publishing.
Maybe it will inspire you too to have a go at bringing out THE BOOK IN YOU. Everyone has a story in them, just waiting to be told, and after all, if I can do it, anyone can.
(Click on the tabs below to see more about the Writer's Retreat In France, the old Boat For My Potplants, Tallulah the Motorhome, Alfonso the Car, and Jane the Woman. And to find out more about MUDDY WATER the novel, click the cover to be transported to its Facebook page)

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Now That The Turkey Has All Gone...

The Christmas turkey has all gone, and now I'd like to wish my blog-followers a Happy New Year with the latest Virtual Tour movie of The Boat For My Potplants.

'Come on Oliver', I said to my computer-whiz-kid son. 'Let's nip down to the boat and make a quick film before you have to go back to London.'

DreamWorks we are most certainly not, and we won't be winning any BAFTAs - but I think the boat's spirit has been captured - and it's kind of fun (for me, at least) to compare it to the first instalment that we made back in March 2010.

(Just click on either of the pics to start the virtual tours on YouTube, at the top of the blog)

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Search Is On For A Motor!

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of The Boat For My Potplant's secret admirer, I am now able to look for something to fix to the flat bit at the back, and my budget is a cool grand. Although this represents a small fortune to humble old me, I know that this won't get me a brand new motor - so RELIABILITY is a key factor in my choice for a second-hand machine.

Just like the world of boats was an alien planet to me a couple of years ago when I was given the old Norman, ...er, Callumcraft, ...er, Teal, I am now in a similar position when it comes to outboard motors.

And at the moment I don't know one end of an outboard from t'other, so I welcome all the help and advice I can get.

I do understand that LENGTH OF SHAFT and POWER REQUIREMENT are crucial in the choice. And it needs to have a REVERSE GEAR, and I've been told that 4-STROKE is better than two.

Well, I've measured from the top of the back bit (TRANSOM, I believe) to the bottom of the bottom bit (HULL), and it's around 50cms. And as the Colne is a tidal river and quite choppy at times, I think I need something between 10hp and 20hp.

So the search is on! And ideally I'd like the supplier to assist with fitting and connecting it all up.

This is turning out to be more exciting than opening my first Scalextric box at the age of four, and to add to the thrill, I am - for the first time ever - going to the Boat Show in January.

I can't wait.

In the meantime I think I'll make myself a nice cup of tea.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Putting The Right Foot Forward

I'm now back in the real world again after a surreal couple of weeks in the south of France. It's back to starting the van, getting the brushes out, paying the bills, climbing the ladders. How wonderful it would be if I could spend all my time on the boat. There's still such a lot to do...

...and so little time...

...but when I look back at how far things have come since I first climbed aboard the old wreck on that winter's day in St Neots, I don't feel too bad (see the pic on www.aboatformypotplants.blogspot.com).

And now I can probably count the number of things still to be done on one hand. Or maybe two. And perhaps on my left foot. And my right.

I still have to...
ONE HAND
Varnish the rear deck
Repair the rubbing strake
Attach a bilge pump
Fix the rear rail
Get a motor
OTHER HAND
Get it working
Go on picnics on the river
Set up the record deck
Set up the iPod
Get The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station up and running
LEFT FOOT
Have some fun
RIGHT FOOT
Have some more fun on board The Boat For My Potplants

Friday, 18 November 2011

Backed Into a Corner

We recently had some great weather and I dashed down to the Boat For My Potplants with great eagerness to get the deck painted while I had a small window of opportunity. I only had a couple of hours available, as I had arranged to go in my van to do a job on the other side of town in the afternoon.

So, without hesitation, on the boat I went, took off my jacket, and got cracking with the paint brush. Luckily, I must have been a contortionist in a previous life, as I had to hold on to dear life as I bent over double to do the side decks - but hey-ho, it was a beautiful day, and I threw caution to the wind.

Around lunchtime, the usual throng of drinkers amalgamated outside The Rose And Crown.

Oblivious to their gaze. I continued doing a sterling job, working my way to the pointy bit at the front, then clambering over on to the planks on the quayside to finish off the bow.

Very pleased with myself, I stood up, gained my balance, and walked off the planks back to the van.

Great, I thought, a good job well done, and still on time to get to my next 'proper, paid' job.

I went to start the van engine. But where's the key?

I retraced my steps in my mind, recalling how I'd left the key in my jacket pocket, the jacket being inside the boat that I'd just painted the deck of.

Please tell me that I'm not the only person who's ever backed themselves in to a corner?

(apologies to regular readers of the blog - I will be away now till 4th December. Backed myself in to another corner by agreeing to paint the hall of www.lepetitchateauexperience.com . It's a tough job, and somebody's got to do it, so I thought it may as well be me)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Warm Cockles

Knock me down with a feather.

This is a true story that will warm the cockles of even the coldest
heart…

Regular readers will know that so far the boat has only travelled vertically with the tide, due to a distinct lack of a motor.

Thanks to the provision of paint from Dulux and power tools from B&Q, and with the recently refurbished toilet and the reinstated kitchen (complete with running water), the boat's renovation is rapidly approaching its final nautical mile towards completion.

But there's one BIG thing missing - an outboard motor.

Unfortunately I had come to a conclusion - I couldn't afford one. River voyages and picnics aboard would sadly have to remain distant mirages beyond the horizon.

That was until last week, when a local blog-reader who had been following the unfolding story came round to visit.

What occurred next was something that only happens in dreams.

This very kind person gave me an envelope.

I opened it, and inside there was a card with the words '…this is for you to get a motor with, so that next summer we can go for some picnics on the river'.

And out fell a substantial cheque for The Boat For My Potplants!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Two Lessons Learned

When I began renovating the Boat For My Potplants, I didn't have a clue as to what pipe or hose was supposed to go where.

Anything and everything to do with plumbing is my weakest spot. and it simply leaves me cold. So I did what any normal person would do – I left it alone.

What I really wanted was for my friend Mark to just fix the whole damn thing for me.

‘Mark. I can't do plumbing. And I'll reward you handsomely', I pleaded, thinking of the decorating job I’d just been paid for.

'Sorry Neil - I'm too busy. And besides, it will help you to help yourself'.

That became LESSON ONE - help myself.

So on a blustery and dark mid-week evening, I dragged a long hose along the quay to the boat's filler cap and proceeded to half-fill the water tank.

I tried the foot-pump. Nothing happened. Not even a trickle.

After calling Mark yet again, I realised I was on my own.

‘You will have to take it all apart’, he advised, emphasising the 'you'. The prospect of ME doing THAT filled me with horror.

So, yesterday I told Jane I may be gone a while, and set off to the boat with a heavy heart. I ended up with a multitude of nuts, bolts, washers, rings, springs and bits of plastic all over the cabin table, with still more parts having fallen on the floor. I just stared blankly.

I needed to take a break and wandered across to Pete The Roof's boat down river, and told him of my problem. 'Now what you should have done was to make a drawing as you took the pump apart'. That was to be my LESSON NUMBER TWO. Er, thanks, Pete, I'll remember that.

I returned, trying to keep inwardly calm, and made a cup of tea. To my utmost astonishment, after cleaning up the washers, adding a little lubrication here and there and scratching my head some more, I somehow managed to put things back together.

I reconnected everything and pumped the pump. Like a miracle, water came out the tap, into the sink, down the plug-hole, and out into the river.

It might not sound like a big deal to anyone else, but for me it was a Major Achievement.

And now I can do the washing-up on the boat, so in celebration today I'm off to Tesco's. Never before have I been so excited by the prospect of purchasing a dish-cloth and tea-towel.

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Boat That Rocked

As parties go, that was a pretty good one. And the picture tells the story.

On Saturday evening we took our positions on board The Boat For My Potplants. I have never seen so many people on the quay. It was heaving. The queue to get to the Rose And Crown bar snaked for twenty or thirty people outside the door and along the road. Papa's, the fish-and-chippy around the corner, was doing a roaring trade. Music was blaring out from somewhere high up. The evening air was clear and mild. In fact the atmosphere couldn't have been more perfect.

The countdown began, and on the crowd's shout of "ONE" the first burst of rockets and bangers were sent skyward from the control point on the other side of the river.

From our rear deck position we had the most excellent viewing platform, and company to match.

After the firework finale, our solar energy system and old Grundig amp did us proud as we pumped up the volume, ensuring that the party went on into the night.

And more importantly, we had a stream of our guests coming on board to join in the fun on board the The Boat For My Party.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

It's That Time Of The Year Again

It's coming up to that time of year again when we have Fireworks On The Quay, organised by those grand people of W.O.R.C - the Wivenhoe Ocean Racing Club. Apart from the fact that there's no ocean, and no racing, it is a true description of a club in Wivenhoe.

W.O.R.C. raises much-needed funds for the upkeep of the Royal British Legion building, situated on the quay, near the Boat For My Potplants, and they do this by offering a spectacular firework display - set off on the opposite side of the river. Buckets are provided for spectators to donate whatever they can afford.

Those standing on the quay get a great view.

Those sitting on the rear deck of the Boat For My Potplants get a truly breathtaking, first-class, super-duper, incredible view.

And this year, like last year, our guests of honour will be Neil Rowland with his wife Angela. Neil is the chap who persuaded his elderly father to give me the boat in its derelict state.

So it's all his fault, and I thank him enormously.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Just Like The Man From del Monte

Just like The Man From Del Monte, who say 'YES' (sorry, younger readers - you won't have a clue what the heck I'm talking about) - the man from B&Q - he say 'YES', too.

After presenting my case as to why it would be a jolly good idea for the diy giant to give me something for The Boat For My Potplants, I returned to the store to meet Duty Manager Derek King (with my fingers tightly crossed behind my back) to see if he was positively receptive to my request.

Because those very nice people at Dulux have jumped on board by giving me paint, woodstain and varnish, and including the story of the boat's progress on their corporate website (see http://www.tradexpress.co.uk/ask_the_expert/my_life_in_paint/neil_watson.jsp), I was sure that it was only a matter of time before B&Q came along for the boat-ride as well.

And sure enough, they did. I walked out the store clutching my bright and shiny new DeWalt power tools. Big Thanks to you, B&Q, and especially Mr King.

So now, I only need an outboard motor from the likes of Yamaha, Honda or Volvo, and then The Boat For My Potplants will be well sorted.

But in the meantime, the summer geraniums need replacing with the winter pansies. Like I said last time, there’s ALWAYS something to be done.

Friday, 14 October 2011

There's Always Something To Do

When is this Boat For My Potplants project ever going to end? There's always something that needs doing. No sooner do I finish the interior, my attention falls to the rear deck, which could do with a rub down and a new coat of varnish.

And then there is the painting of the top deck and repairing of the windscreen and the houdini hatch. But hang on a minute - I've already done that once. How can it possibly need doing again?

I suppose the winter snow and ice, the howling winds along the salt-water estuary, and the baking summer sunshine take their toll.

But instead of me getting on with it, a recent passer-by caught me red-handed taking a break (well deserved, I might tell you), catching the last of the summer wine.

There's always something to do. I hope that's the way it will always be.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Lower The Floor - Wiggle Your Toes

This Boat For My Potplants mullarkey shouldn't be all about me me me. I want to be able to put something back into the boating community...a tried and tested way to fellow owners of Norman Boats and Callumcrafts (of which I believe mine is one) to enable them to lower the floor in order to increase headroom.

For me me me it has been a resounding success, and with my 5 foot eight and a half inches frame (I'm very proud of the half inch), I can stand up properly inside the cabin - useful for making tea in the galley, or perhaps being a dj on The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station (one day, one day).

For anyone remotely interested, here are the instructions...

1) Measure between the the bits that go down between the ribs of the bilge, width and length.
2) Go down to B&Q and buy some thick ply - get them to cut each section to size to save time later.
3) Place each 'tile' in situ so that you can cut them again precisely to allow for any lumps and bumps.
4) Paint the bilge to make it look clean and nice, and then paint the 'tiles' to make them nice and clean.
5) Place the 'tiles' in the bilge, and then cover over with shag-pile rugs.

6) Walk up and down the length of the cabin in bare feet whilst holding glass of wine, and standing     upright without tilting head (unless you're taller than 5 feet eight and a half inches),

7) Wiggle your toes in the warmth and comfort of your new floor.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Too Tired For Triple Word-Score

Last Friday night didn't go according to plan, due to the exceptionally high tide leaving the Boat For My Potplants on such a skew angle that it would have been impossible to spend a few minutes aboard, let alone sleep.

But never mind. After adjusting the ropes here and there, we were finally able to spend a whole night on board on Sunday night instead.

But I didn't manage to get the cook pot and stove out.

And we didn't open the Scrabble from it's wrapper.

Instead we got fish and chips from Papa's Chippy,  and of course a bottle of wine.

And because we were so exhausted from that afternoon's events of hanging on for dear life on the back of a giant inflatable banana off the coast of Brightlingsea, and having to be rescued because the engine conked out (another story), we were so completely exhausted that we were both sound asleep by nine o'clock.

So even though a learned Scrabble scholar had given me a pre-game tip of the high-scoring nautical word of "MIZZENMASTS" (on a Triple Word-Score that would have earned me 99 points - thanks to Deano), I was sadly not able to use it.

Oh well. What was it that John Lennon said? Life is what happens when you're busy making plans.



Thursday, 29 September 2011

A Big Decision - Burger or Balti?

It's Thursday night, and tomorrow promises to be another scorcher. I think I've managed to persuade Jane to spend tomorrow evening - and night - on the boat.

What could be better?

There's no good reason for the missus to change her mind - now that there's a rather classy working toilet, even if I say so myself. The lack of facilities was always an objection in the past - but that's not valid anymore, now that we have a bright and shiny 'heads' complete with book-case, loo-roll holder and bi-folding door.

So here's the proposed schedule that I have in mind...

5.00pm    Arrive on board with duvet and overnight bag
5.01pm    Open the cold Pinot Grigio and pour
5.02pm    Open the Kettle crisps and houmous, and tuck in
5.03pm    Turn on the solar power, the hifi and the iPod and relax to some music
6.30pm    Watch the sun go down
6.31pm    Open another bottle?
7.00pm    Think about dinner - this is the tricky part of the evening. A Big Decision has to be made;

Should we order burger and chips from The Rose And Crown like I did earlier in the summer, and have it brought to the boat? Or should I cook a Lamb Balti down in the galley? I heard the recipe on the radio this evening, and I'm tempted to give it a go, using my saucepan and camping stove.

8-ish    Dinner for two        
9-ish    Draw the curtains closed, and then get down to something for the first time on board The Boat For My Potplants...earlier this year we purchased a brand new SCRABBLE - and it's about time we took it out of it's wrapper.

I wonder what the highest scoring nautical word might be.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Naughty Boy, Hector!

'Mark. We're going away on holiday for two weeks and it would be fantastic if you could do a little job for me while I'm away', I said to Mark, just before we were going away on holiday for two weeks.

I followed on...'Now that I've finished the toilet and the kitchen on the boat, is there any chance you could help to fix the water tank and get the pump going so that the sink works properly?'

Mark is one of those brilliant people who can pretty much turn their hand to anything. He's a damned good chap, and is more than capable of carrying out most tasks, so a little bit of boat plumbing would be second nature to him.

I returned after a nice and relaxing break away, and excitedly rushed down to the boat to see the results of the work.

But his little dog, Hector, takes up a lot of Mark's time. So I had been wondering where Mark's priorities might lie - my boat's plumbing, or Hector.

Unfortunately for the Boat For My Potplants, it wasn't the plumbing.

Naughty boy, Hector.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Mum's The Word

My mum wants to come on to The Boat For My Potplants, but she's a bit doddery on her feet these days, especially after a small glass of wine. Or perhaps two.

She's confident about walking the plank, but it's the side-deck that she's more concerned about.

So I have a cunning plan, but I'm not sure whether it's feasible or possible, or if indeed it's ever been done before? Any comments, suggestions or ideas would be gratefully accepted.

The idea is to widen the side decks by screwing down some heavy-duty ply from the bow along to the rear deck, of course making sure that it's all properly sealed. The ply could be shaped and contoured to look okay, but I'm also thinking ahead to when I get a motor. Could the widening of the side-decks adversely affect the handling of the boat when I eventually get it out on to the river?

To support the weight of a person standing on it, I would make some 45 degree supports (like shelf brackets) that are fixed to the underside of the ply, and resting against, but not screwed in to, the sides of the hull.

It's a lot of work, but mum's are worth it, eh?

(I'll be away on hols for the next two weeks, so the next blog will be mid-September, hopefully with answers to the deck-widening debacle)

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Anyone For Breakfast?

To celebrate having The Boat For My Potplants included on the website for Dulux's parent company (see http://www.tradexpress.co.uk/ask_the_expert/my_life_in_paint/neil_watson.jsp ), I decided to throw a breakfast party on my Boat For My Potplants this recent Bank Holiday Sunday. After all - corporate sponsorship from Yamaha and B&Q must surely be following Dulux's footsteps, just around the bend.

The guests of honour included my son Oliver and daughter Laura, my nautical neighbour Pete The Roof, and the lovely Neil (he, who got me the boat in the first place) and his even lovelier wife Angela. And of course my great missus Jane.

Neil and I went up to the Co-Op to buy provisions of tea, milk, sugar, butter, bread, - and essentially to bring back the bacon. We all convened on the boat at 10.30 sharp. I removed my new frying pan from it's wrapper and took up my rightful place in the kitchen, er, galley.

Before too long the quietness of the still River Colne was broken by the sizzle of the Danish, and I distributed the butties to all who were eagerly awaiting their sarnies, complete with brown sauce. None of yer mamby-pamby tomato ketchup on this occasion.

Ah, this boating life. I have to say that nothing has ever tasted so good.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Bog Off

Today is an exciting day on board The Boat For My Potplants. I am now starting to work on the bathroom, and in the early hours of this morning I took great delight in removing the old cassette toilet that must have been there for the last five years.

It wasn't a job that I'd been looking forward to, and since becoming proud owner of the boat, the smallest room was being used by me as a dumping ground for all my pieces of wood, tools and other mullarkey.

Gradually the old toilet was becoming covered over, which I didn't mind one iota. Out of sight - out of mind.

Until yesterday, when I began to clear the decks, so to speak.

Off with the old bog and on with the new. But I didn't want to put the patrons of The Rose And Crown off their pints of lager last evening with the sight of me carrying off a full-up tank of five-year-old you-know-what. So I waited until the early hours of this morning, and like a stealth bomber on a secret mission I discreetly removed the offending item, carried it home to empty down our own toilet and then dump it, never to be seen again.

After a quick celebratory cuppa, I'm off now to install the bright and shiny brand new toilet that I happened to find last year on a skip. It was still in its box and there was even a pack of chemicals in its original wrapper.

Sometimes I just can't believe how lucky I am.







Saturday, 13 August 2011

Dear B&Q / Dear Yamaha...

Now, where did I put my pen..? I wonder if this might work...

Dear B&Q / Dear Yamaha (delete as appropriate)

You see, it's like this...
I was given an old boat that was falling apart and I've been renovating it. It's parked outside the pub in Wivenhoe and it's quite famous now. It's got a multi-coloured canopy that was made specially by a nice local company. It's had windows put in by another nice local company. It has solar electricity for the onboard Hi-Fi, and it'll eventually become The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station. Nice.

I write a blog about the boat, see, and it's sometimes included in Essex Life, a jolly nice glossy magazine for this region. And those nice people at Dulux gave me lots of paint, which was very nice of them, particularly as their paint is very nice too and perfect for the boat, and they've asked me to write for their website as well.

By the way, did I mention the boat's got nice potplants on it as well as nice astroturf, and that I call it A Boat For My Potplants?

Sadly I'm now running out of spondoolics but I still need quite a few more materials / an outboard motor to finish the renovation. Some plywood and plumbing items / ten horses would do very nicely.

Dear B&Q / Dear Yamaha, will you help? I really like your products. It would be really nice of you if you said YES.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

This Time Next Year...

Jane (aka 'Erindoors) inspects my handiwork and is pleased with the way things are coming on with the new interior. It's the shag-pile carpet that sets it off nicely, and she doesn't even mind my plastic flower arrangement or my hanging hi-fi loudspeakers. What a girl!

But just recently I've hardly had time to catch my breath, let alone continue with any on-board renovation, much to my frustration. To keep the wolves at bay I've been having to actually get my finger out and work for a living. How inconvenient! And to cap it all, on every single weekend we've been busily going hither and thither to weddings, parties, concerts and family affairs.

Every weekend that is, except when the Regatta came to Wivenhoe.

A constant stream of visitors on board, many bottles of wine later and a right party atmosphere made the day one of the best in the history of The Boat For My Potplants. We managed a record ten people all on board at the same time that day, perched on the rear deck observing the proceedings of other boats maneuvering up and down the river.

By this time next year, when it's finally got an outboard motor, and the renovation is complete, the Boat For My Potplants will be joining them. I'll make sure of it.

Friday, 8 July 2011

What A Fiddle

Well, I spent a very peaceful night in the bedroom of The Boat For My Potplants. I woke up to the sound of the seagulls hovering by in the garden outside, and I thought it was time to try out my new stove and gas canister that I bought from Tesco (good value at less than fifteen quid). I played around with it for a few minutes and then it all made sense. I turned it on and hey presto, it ignited. And of course I had to have a tin of Heinz All Day Breakfast.

The old copper kettle that I bought off Mark, from a few boats down river, did me proud, and very soon I was peacefully sitting out in the back dining room, with the canopy rolled up and the morning sun streaming in, eating breakfast for one at the dining table.

I tried to read the paper but I had ants in me pants, and kept looking to see how I could improve the kitchen. An hour later I had my work-bench out on the quay, with tools and plywood set to go, ready to make some shelves to hold the plates and glasses on the wall.

Mike came by and informed me that I wasn't making a shelf, but instead it's called a 'fiddle' - and that it's not for the kitchen, but the 'galley'.

What does he know?

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Beer, Wine, or Tea?

I love 'Erindoors - I truly do. But she's only gone and left me on a Saturday night to fend for myself as she goes off gallivanting with her mates. Good luck to her, I say, but who's gonna make my tea, I ask?

There's only one thing for it - a night on the boat. I can order a meal from The Rose And Crown. It's only a few feet away from the deck - and while I'm at it, I may as well have a drink or two to celebrate the fact that The Boat For My potplants is now habitable.

What should it be? I rather fancy a beer to quench my thirst after a hard day's work, but I do prefer the gentle taste of a Rioja - or perhaps a Merlot. Much more posh than a beer, what what?

But as I'm gathering together my survival kit for my first all-night sleepover (I need my pyjamas, slippers and the like), I think that on this occasion I really should put my new camping stove to the test. So now I'm off up to the Co Op for tea bags, milk and a packet of biscuits.

Soon I'll be all set. I've got my radio, my book, the evening sun, and some geraniums.

What could be better?

Monday, 27 June 2011

It's All 'Appnin'

It's all 'appnin' down in Wivenhoe on board my Boat For My Potplants...

Essex Life magazine has featured one of our blogs in its pages of this month's issue (July 2011).

...The interior of the boat has had a paint-job and it's now bright and shiney...the shag-pile has been laid...the hi-fi rocks...and the leccie lights are up and running.

...And not only that - 'Erindoors went and made a complete set of curtains, so it's just a matter of time until we can check out the on-board overnight facilities - I can't wait for that!

...And top geezer Mike has been servicing my old Johnson (4 hp outboard) whilst we've been on our hols. He informs me that it's now working just fine. We may even fix it on this weekend and see what 'appens when we start it up.

...And of course there's the Wivenhoe 'Front-Of-House' competition coming up in search of the best horticultural display. We thought it rude of us not to take part in the spirit of things, so I asked the organisers if we could enter the boat and they said "why not". It's out with the winter-pansies, and in with the summer geraniums, a good old brush of the astro-turf and we're ready for the judging this coming weekend.

It certainly is all happening down at Wivenhoe quay on the Boat For My Potplants.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Going Somewhere - Going Nowhere

After all this time of floating up and down vertically with the tide by the quay, it actually looks like it won't be too long before I'll be going somewhere horizontally - perhaps across to the pub on the other side of the river.

Mike, from the Nottage in Wivenhoe, has kindly offered to service and get going the outboard motor that came with the Boat For My Potplants.

It's a Johnson, which I've been told is a goodun. It's only a 4hp, but it's a start. It was free, as was the boat itself, and it needs to be checked out with the fuel tank, which I found on board.

This is going to be done tomorrow at 9.30am. As you can imagine, I'm jolly excited.

If it all works, top geezer Mike will be getting more than a standard-size tipple from me. I've heard he's partial to a rum or two - or maybe three.

Friday, 10 June 2011

In The Dog House

It's a Boat For My Potplants.
It's a garden. And a terrace.
It's a study.
It's going to be The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station.
It's been a dining room.
It's always a bar.
It was a golf-course recently, but that's another story.
And last week it became a dog-house.

Our friends Lynn and Wayne came aboard one fine evening to join us for drinks and bask in the glorious sunshine. I had been working like the clappers all day on the boat's interior, and it was now looking clean, fresh and tidy.

Despite there being still much to do in the kitchen and toilet departments, in essence the boat is now comfortable and good enough to sleep in. And that's what their dog, Harvey, wanted to do.

He pleaded with his owners to let him experience life on the ocean waves (or at least the muddy banks of the Colne). Or was it Wayne pleading with Lynn? Who knows? Wayne popped home to get the dog-basket, just in case the answer was yes.

It was yes. So, some makeshift curtains were hung, and they all settled down for the night. It all seemed like a good idea at the time.

After a few hours, Harvey woke up his owners and asked if he could go home now. Or was it Lynn? Who knows? At three in the morning Wayne didn't really care.

All he knew was that he'd be in the dog-house if he didn't obey.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Cheers Alfie!

Luckily, I'm an early riser, and recently it's been glorious at seven or eight in the morning, being on the boat with no sounds except only for some sea-gulls squeeeee-wawk-wawk-wawking - and my paint-brush painting.

For these first couple of hours even I can be impressed with my own productivity.

In Wivenhoe, we are lucky enough to have our very own barbers, run by the amiable Alfie. As well as being at the cutting edge of his profession, he's also damn fine behind a lens and doesn't miss a trick.

I become thirsty and decide to pop round the corner to get a Coke, and as I go past Alfie's I tell him how much painting I've got to do on the boat today, and I rush back, eager to get on.

But then as the morning develops, so do the number of people around the quay. It would be rude of me not to pause from the task in hand and natter to a few.

It's only a matter of time before there are rumblings in my tummy, and I may as well stop for a while, have some lunch on the rear deck and soak up some rays. I invite Pete, one of my nautical neighbours, over to join me. We sit and eat and chat, and chat some more, as the tide gently comes in.

After an hour or so I get up. 'Right, Pete. I've got to get on now. I've got a lot of painting to do'

Pete returns to the jobs on his boat and I pick up my paint-brush one more time.

Then my phone goes. It's 'Erindoors. 'I'm coming over to join you while you're working'. 'No, no, no'. I protest. 'I've got to get on with this painting.'

I obviously didn't protest strongly enough, and she arrives a few minutes later, and asks me if I'd like a Guinness.

'I'll just have the one then. But only one. I've got to get on with this painting'

And then Alfie the Barber walks by and catches me 'at work'. I finally give in in to the powers of the black stuff and put away my brushes.

There's always maƱana. That's what it's all about here. Cheers, Alfie.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Lowering The Tone

Now that work is under way in earnest inside The Boat For My Potplants, I had a eureka moment whilst pondering how to achieve some extra headroom. Of course! I could make 'tiles' of plywood and lay them lower down into the sections of the bilge.

An old boat is like an old house. Nothing is exactly symetrical or straight, or indeed flat, so each 'tile' had to be made individually to fit precisely into each recess, which is what I did.

The idea worked, but unfortunately, the tiles creaked underfoot as they couldn't lay completely correctly. I scratched my head some more and came up with another great solution. I needed something rubber under each tile in order to even them out and absorb the noise.

Well! Being extremely cautious of the cost, or perhaps just plain tight, I eventually discovered Tesco 'Value' car mats at only £1 each, and promptly bought up five of them, pleased with my money-saving idea.

Well! Even the check-out lady commented that she could smell them coming when I was queuing up to pay. I should have put them back on the shelf there and then, but regretfully I didn't. I left the mats in my van overnight. The following morning I got up full of enthusiasm, had a hasty breakfast, and was eager to get to work.

Well! I could smell the bloody mats in the street before I even opened the van door. But unperturbed, I cut up the mats on the boat and placed them under each tile, convincing myself that the odour wafting from the cabin wasn't all that bad.

Well! Who was I kidding? But at least the creaking has stopped. All I have to do now is to work out how to put up with such a stink.

I know! I wonder if I can find some scented flowers to replace the winter pansies.

Right. It's off to the garden centre now. I've learned in life that there's always an answer to everything.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Think Once, Cut Thrice

In my professional life I've always taught myself to 'think thrice, measure twice and cut once'. That's all well and good in theory, until it comes to the subject of boat interior renovation.

I just can't believe what a plonker I was when I got to the bit where I repaired the 'ceiling' in the 'bedroom'. On discovering the existing wood was so dilapidated, I decided that replacement was the only option.

I thought about it three times, accurately measured it twice and cut some lovely new plywood just the once. Proud of my handiwork, I fixed the timber into place, and stood back to admire my work.

I continued with the job by fixing two struts and all new trim using screws and glue, as well as I possibly could do.

'Right', I thought to myself. 'That ain't going nowhere'. As I looked around for the celebratory bottle of beer I'd brought along for the occasion, my eyes caught sight of the air-vents that I'd put aside and that I'd forgotten to cut the holes for.

I've now got to work out how to accurately cut said holes in exactly the correct position to line up with the top halves of the vents situated on the deck. Unfortunately, I can't remove the tops and mark the positions from above.

Any suggestions?

Oops. If only I'd thought about it four times instead of three.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Under Pressure

I'm so much hap-pier now.

After many months of waiting, I can now pier out from my kitchen window at the Wivenhoe jetty, officially opened only yesterday by our local Mayor.

As people wander to the end of the structure and gaze up river, they will just be able to see The Rose And Crown in the distance, outside of which The Boat For My Potplants majestically floats at high tide.

Sadly the boat ap-piers to be going nowhere. That's because it still doesn't have a motor - but dear bloggees, I can report that plans are most certainly afoot to get one. Watch this space for exciting news to follow. One day.

In the meantime, I'd better get a wiggle on with the boat's internal refurbishment, now that hoards more visitors will be flocking to Wivenhoe during the summer months to follow.

Although I've managed to make enormous strides just recently, I can't help feeling a certain amount of increased urgency to get things finished due to yesterday's Grand Jetty Opening.

I can only describe it as pier-pressure.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Open Plan

Dear Bloggees
I am so sorry to have been away for such a long time. I have been working and helping a friend rebuild his barn in South of France. It was a tough job but someone had to do it.

I toiled night and day, and learned many things, the main thing being that nothing is impossible.

So I'm back on the boat with a vengeance, with fresh vigor and vitality. I've begun the renovation of the interior, after lounging around on the deck enjoying the wonderful Easter weather.

Now it's down to work.

On Monday I rebuilt the floor, making it lower so that I can stand up without bashing my head on the ceiling.

Yesterday I removed the old kitchen.

And then after lunch I tore down the walls between the lounge and bedroom.

What will I do today?

Scratch my head and ponder, that's what I'll do.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Harry and Me

Don't you just hate it when you've had a job in the diary for weeks, only to be canceled at the last moment by a client who doesn't appreciate the implications that his late notice has caused yer average self-employed decorator, such as me?

So, instead of working several miles away, as originally planned, I switched to doing a local job - so local in fact, that it was but a stone's throw away - a midway position between my home and The Boat For My Potplants.

So there I was, repairing a window, and the sun came out. It was glorious to feel the natural heat on my face at long last, and I wanted more of where that came from.

I reached a point in the work-process where I needed to leave some filler to dry for two hours. In one direction I had paperwork to do at home. You know - really boring stuff like sorting out receipts and invoices. But I also had a boat that was calling me in the opposite direction, with its rear deck facing the sunshine.

Now I like to keep my paperwork up to date. But I also like to lay on the deck of the boat, drinking a Coke, listening to my iPod, and reading a magazine. But which one's better? There was only one way to find out...

In true Harry Hill style...FIGHT!

I wrestled with my conscience. It was a tough battle. But in the end there wasn't really any contest.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ruby and Josh agree Wivenhoe is better than St Tropez

What a great pleasure it was to have Steve, my old friend from school days, come to stay with us last weekend, along with his charming wife Harry, and their two delightful children Josh and Ruby. This was the first time they had come to visit us in Wivenhoe.

When Ruby was younger she had a 'Naming Ceremony'. It was like a Christening, but without the religion, and it had been a privilege for me to attend as 'Responsible Adult', instead of God-father. You can forget the jokes, thank you very much - I've heard them all by now. As 'responsible adult', I knew it was my duty to show Ruby and Josh the Boat For My Potplants, which they had been looking forward to seeing.

The children 'walked the plank' and climbed aboard. I lowered them down the hatch one by one, and they then enthusiastically fished over the rear deck with their net.

I had forgotten the expressions of delight and excitement shown on young faces when they experience something fun for the first time, especially now that my own children are grown up and more interested in computers than boats.

Josh and Ruby didn't care tuppence that the paint was pealing off the cabin walls. Or that it was a bit cold and damp that day. And I didn't care thruppence that they went a-clambering around, knocking this and that in their wake. It was simply good Fun, with a capital F.

Even if I were a millionaire, I'd still choose my 36-year-old river cruiser outside The Rose And Crown in Wivenhoe. You couldn't have this much fun with a super-yacht moored in St Tropez harbour.

Could you?

Friday, 11 March 2011

Nice Pic, Doctor!

A well-known figure within the Wivenhoe community suggested that he could take some photos of my boat at the end of last year. I was particularly keen to get some shots from the other side of the river, and I knew that my poxy little digital camera wouldn't really be up for the job, so I gratefully and excitedly accepted his kind offer.

Clinton Hale (known as Doctor Clinton, although he's now retired) obviously knows a thing or two about proper photography, and this became obvious when he sent me a disc containing his recently-taken pictures.

How kind people can be! And it seems that The Boat For My Potplants is the catalyst for goodwill and favour.

I'm sure that certain serious sailing folks frown upon such a vessel taking up space outside the pub. "What on earth is that boat doing there with plants and astroturf and a multicoloured canopy?", I can here them muttering.

But to others, I hope it brings a cheer to them, especially now that the golden sun of springtime is beginning to shine upon its bow, with the perfect setting of the Rose And Crown in the background.

Thank you, Sir Clinton, for taking the trouble to capture the essence of what it's all about.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

At last...

At last, at last, at last...there are bursts of spring sunshine appearing all over town, and especially outside the Rose And Crown, where the Boat For My Potplants is majestically moored.

I can't wait to begin working on the interior renovations, as well as the cleaning-up operation of the exterior (especially as I now have my super-duper ActiveBrush to try out).

T'was only yesterday that I spotted my nautical neighbour giving his vessel a good old scrub, and I think it's about time I followed suit and did the same with mine, so indeed I will.

And now that I have independent power on board, thanks to my solar panel set-up, it will be easy to use my power tools for cutting, sawing, drilling and sanding, and generally bringing the cabin up to scratch.

During our cold and wet winter of discontent, my plans for this summer's exciting programme of activity have been brewing, and soon the fermentation process will begin.

In the meantime, the winter pansies have been flourishing in their planters, and all is good with the Wivenhoe world.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Brush Up and Brush Off

Firstly, I must apologise to all my blogees for my absence of late due to a combination of circumstances.

I'm pleased to be back in full swing again with more tales from the river bank - and what an exciting time it has been just recently...

To begin with - the Brush Off.

You see, we had a stormy high tide, and my dear nautical neighbours rang me up, demanding that I get down to the boat "straight away" because, in their words "your stern rope has broken and your boat is touching ours, and it's YOUR problem to sort out, not ours".

Well, I don't mind admitting that I came over all of a quiver, not wishing The Boat For My Potplants to be the cause of any conflict to anyone, or indeed any damage to their beautiful vintage sailing vessel. I dashed down to the quay within seconds, only to discover that my boat was in fact floating several feet away from theirs, with all ropes intact. The problem had been with the boat on their other side, which had come adrift and was subsequently being dealt with by friends of its owner.

So, dear Nautical Neighbour, please note...there are ways in which to enlist the friendship and co-operation of people to assist when things go wrong (which they inevitably sometimes do)...but your aggressive and incorrect stance was not it.

And now on to Brushing Up...it was a pleasure, after many years, to recently meet up with Robert - an ex-colleague of mine. He is now the UK MD of Alaska, a successful Danish company, selling, among a multitude of other products, brushes. And one of which he gave to me.

And this ain't any ol' brush, I can tell you - no sirree! The Alaska Premium F1 ActiveBrush has a unique water chamber, which slowly releases its water onto the surface of your car, caravan, OR BOAT! You simply immerse it in a bucket of water, and you don't even need to get your hands wet. It says so on the side of the box, so it must be right.

Yippee! I can't wait to get down and clean off all the mud and crud that's been dirtying the boat's sides during the past winter months.

Sorry to 'Erindoors, but I won't be able to take you shopping on Valentine's Day. I'll be far too busy cleaning the Boat For My Potplants with my new ActiveBrush! I'm sure you'll understand.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Paint Job

After what must have been one of the worst and earliest winters for many a year, I thought I'd better check out the state of the boat's exterior paint job.

Sun, sea water, fresh water, rain, snow, ice, gales; you name it, we've had it.

My old mate Greg, who (thinks he) knows a thing or two about boats, laughed his head off when I told him I'd be using ordinary exterior undercoat and gloss. "You can't use THAT!", he scorned, last year. "You've got to use special marine paint if you're going to avoid becoming a boat-bodger."

Well, after discovering that marine paint was mega-bucks, I decided to wing it and try the ordinary Weathershield house paint from B&Q at less than half the price. I hoped to goodness that I wouldn't end up having egg on my face, as I knew I'd never hear the end of it, and I certainly didn't want Greg to have the satisfaction of saying "Told you so".

It's turned out to be as tough as old boots. Hoorah!

And from one successful paint-job to another, I am eternally grateful for Chelmsford artist Cherry Ann for sending me her 'Mermaid' to adorn the cabin's interior, right next to my Captain's 'at, 'anging on the 'ook, in the 'all. Or is it a galley?

Who cares. I just like it, and that's all that matters.

Monday, 3 January 2011

A new year, and a new chapter begins...

Happy New Year to all the readers and followers of my blog with whom I am very glad to share my adventure.

We saw out the old year and welcomed in the new at a fab party in Wivenhoe's Nottage Museum, with its balcony overlooking the quay.

I reflected on my time spent last Spring on the river-cruiser's exterior renovation. It was a most positive period, being there among the other boat-owners at the Alresford Creek sheds, and then culminating in the most grandest of launches on July 17th 2010.

I missed Old Alan calling out to me from the deck of his boat parked next to mine at the boat-sheds - "Ready for a cuppa, Neil?". And I remembered Wise Paul wandering over to comment on my progress to date - "It's coming on now, Neil." Happy days, indeed. And I'm certain there will be more happy days to come.

That New Year's morning, as I took in some fresh midnight air, I looked down at my Boat For My Potplants in its mooring just a few yards away, and wondered what lay in store for it in 2011.

Will it get its much needed outboard motor?
And when will the first trip up the river take place?

Will the interior get its much needed restoration?
And when will the first drinks party be held aboard?

Will 'Erindoors get the much needed curtains made?
And when will she draw them to?

Will The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station ever take to the airwaves ?
And what will the first record to be played be?

I can't wait to find out.