It’s been over a month since my last blog, and a few things have happened since then, so I shall do this in two hits.
Saint Christophe I was eventually tied up on the pontoon opposite Distant Drum, and on inspection, she didn’t look quite as well as she had from a distance.
We had to vacate the pontoon once all was clear though the lovely chaps at Dart Harbour let us stay until the 17th April, which gave us time to fix the holes in the dinghy, and herein lies a tale….
On realising the imminent departure date to mid-river, the urgency for securing a dinghy to get us to and from Distant Drum until such a time that we move on, became imperative. A couple of years ago we bought Jason’s old dinghy which was fab, though after tootling over to Felixstowe and back with Fergus, Clive and me aboard, we realised it was potentially a bit small for two big adults and a medium sized dog, particularly with shopping etc. It also kept losing air, slowly but surely, and though I repaired one hole, which Clive accidentally caused on a rough bit of metal jutting from the pontoon at Fox’s (Ipswich) when first using it, each time I checked on it, all sections were deflating. When we bought our new RIB (which being too big, we sold before Christmas), I gave this one to our friends Libby & Chris for their son Zak to get across the Orwell when he was working at Levington. Warning them of slow puncture(s) and knowing Zak was a boat builder, I thought he a good person to inherit the boat as he could repair it better than me. It also had three planks on the bottom, two of which were cracked. I’m a nice pal aren’t I? Giving away a punctured boat with cracked base to a vulnerable teenager, HA, what a rascally thing to do!
Knowing that Zak is now living inland, I had a brainwave & asked if we could perhaps borrow it back. Yes was the reply, and it’s in his workshop in west Essex. Luckily I had to once again travel eastwards for an eye examination at Addenbrookes Hospital, so took advantage to go sort my garden out at the cottage, which was still being let, and collect the dinghy en route.
So the first week in April I headed to Royston and stayed with my lovely pal Eliza and her family, which now includes Fergus the dog, for a couple of nights, visiting Addenbrookes in between. In short I have a cataract in my left eye now bad enough that I could get a free lens replacement on the NHS. Advantage, it’s free, disadvantage, they will only do one eye and I would have to wait another few years until my right eye’s cataract catches up before qualifying for a further free replacement. “You’re rather young to have a cataract!” was the echoing conclusion of all three specialists I saw. The problem is I’m short sighted so distance is a complete blur (particularly in my left eye) without my contact lenses or glasses, though I can read perfectly when I’m not wearing contact lenses, as long as the pages are about six inches from my nose. However a replacement lens ‘corrects’ the sight to what is deemed normal vision. This is long sighted with the need for reading glasses. You get my dilemma. I asked whether they would replace both lenses if I paid for one of them? Ah, now that’s a different matter altogether. If I was paying for a lens replacement, they would not use the same lenses you get on the National Health, which cost about £60 each. Instead you would get a super duper multi whatever state of the art lens, which would cost £400, and if you were getting this lens in one eye, you must get this in the other so they work well together, and further would be done within a fortnight of each other. The surgeon’s recommendation, seeing as I was “rather young to have a cataract”, was the latter, both lenses replaced. The cost of this, privately, would be £7,000, including the super duper multi whatever state of the art lenses… careful thinking needed, and in the meantime I shall carry on with blurred vision in my left eye and Clive saying, “See those three ships on the horizon?” “What ships? Where?”…..
It was lovely staying with Eliza and I was thoroughly spoilt. We went for a long walk with the bluebells just starting to come out, before I headed to see Libby & Chris. Great to see them too though Chris hadn’t been well for a few weeks so there was lots of catching up to do. The dinghy luckily fitted in the boot of my car and Harwich was the next stop on my west to east trip. Zak unsurprisingly had found it most frustrating as it kept losing air. His revenge was about to come….
I stayed once again with good pals Howard & Sue in the mad house they’re renovating and they have a great workshop on the ground floor, so I was able to carry out a number of tasks. First when I tidied the cottage garden up, I got my jigsaw and my Black & Decker Workmate out of the shed, and cut three new planks for the dinghy’s base from the boards left over from my shower repair. Perfect! Sue gave me some boat varnish and a brush and I coated the board’s edges for water resistance. Next I inflated the dingy and covered it in soapy water to discover where the leaks were. With Sue’s help, we heard hissssss, hisssss, hisssss, and found numerous bubbling streams…. Oh yes! Five holes, all three sections. We marked these in black marker, deflated boat and packed it up ready to take back to Dartmouth where we had three puncture repair kits waiting.
I saw my parents on the way home to DD, and my friend JenJen who was renting a fabulous little place in the middle on nowhere – I found myself singing, ‘where is my friend Jenny, woo hoo hoo, in the middle of nowhere’, while I was traveling down ever narrowing lanes, into deepest darkest Somerset to a village with the oldest Yew Tree in the world and a telephone box converted into a book library. I finally got back to Dartmouth on 13th April.
The following day the weather once again deteriorated and Clive & I invited ourselves to Vicky’s in Ottery St Mary to effect the puncture repairs in the dry of her garage, trying to avoid causing too many obstacles for my God-daughter Issie who keeps her horse tack in there. We didn’t succeed in the latter, though did a fairly good job on the former. Apart from when we inflated the dinghy the following day and launched her into the Dart. Bubbles emanated from all around – seriously. Hissing Sid, for that is what Sue named our rubber vessel, was still hissing, so much so that a further puncture repair kit had to be sought from the local chandlery. So with the two repairs already on the boat, and the five more we’d made the day before, plus another eight, Hissing Sid became Fifteen Apatches, aka Holier Than Thou…… It being a warmer and drier day, we carried out these repairs beside the van in the centre of Dartmouth, with tourists and locals alike offering snippets of advice whilst tittering behind their ice-creams. Fifteen Apatches was relaunched the following day (Sunday) and seemed to be good.
No bubbles, all patches holding. We got the engine on and went for an adventure up the river to Dittisham, taking a good walk round the village and to the church before heading back to Dartmouth. The dinghy held its air, phew. Suffice to say we had our life jackets on and the VHF radio with us!
Marianne and Nigel joined us on our last night on the pontoon, where we toasted Saint Christophe I and the good health of each other, Diane at the Harbour office, Dartmouth in general and life in particular, finally seeing them both wobble off to their Dory and on back to Treshnish almost at midnight – great fun the pair of them. The following day we finally left the town and headed up to a visitor pontoon mid river, close to the higher ferry, and the view from here is lovely. It’s also so much quieter than the town and more private. It doesn’t have electricity or water supply so not so convenient, however rather special. We decided we’d leave DD here for three to four weeks as there were some important birthdays to celebrate in the next week or so – hurrah, I hear you say, at last! About time! Etc. Departure was going to be Wednesday.
The next day, Tuesday, Marianne & Nigel invited us for lunch to say farewell until we’re back again. “Oh Christ!” Clive said, having only just recovered from Sunday night. This amused them both so much they’re still laughing about it. Best response they’ve ever had to a lunch invitation. It gave us one more go in our dinghy to make sure all holes were fixed….. Sixteen Apatches is now deflated on our deck (a quick repair over one patch was indeed needed) and Nigel most kindly taxied us to shore on the Wednesday afternoon (April 20th). We stayed in Exmoor over night with another old friend Bobby Block in his beautiful, eccentric newly renovated farm house, and on to meet JenJen once again for brunch and coffee at a great nursery close to Wellington. Next stop Harwich….