Thursday, 29 December 2011

It's never easy

The Golden Cloud 29/12/11

It's never easy is it. With just over a week left until the proposed move date for the Golden Cloud, I get a slap in the face.

The boatyard currently home to the ' cloud (the one who was asking the earth for yard and crane fees) called me yesterday to say ... the clutch was gone on there crane!

Oh Joy!

So I spent last night ringing and emailing around the various haulage companies of Wales, looking for a lorry that has a crane built in (a HIAB)... the nearest companies with these are in Conwy or in Swansea... great.

However, this morning I get the email from a company in North Wales. His price undercuts the cost of boatyard crane, low loader, boatyard crane, by £200.

Out of Darkness Cometh Light!

So new move date 6th January. BRING IT ON!

Happy Christmas, have a great New Year

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Oops I Did it Again!

The Golden Cloud 21/12/11

When I was a teenager my mother always used to say, "as soon as my savings got to £300, I couldn't take it any more and would spend it". Ooops I did it again!

Sat on the sofa, with top of the pops 2 on the telly, I've had one of those evenings where the boredom pushed me to a moment that I checked how my banking looked. After working for a friend of my mum, cleaning my great aunties car and selling my old speakers I'd amassed about £300... time to go and blow it then!

So onto ebay, look at my "watch list" and I soon see that oh wait, there's a 500w wind turbine on there, I've been watching it because it suits what I want... And look here, its on at £155, £300 less than I priced up. Well how could I resist a bid, i'll say a £180 maximum! 

30 seconds left, no bid from me £155, I'm holding out to make sure there's no time for anyone else to bid... 20 seconds left no bid from me, this holding out is hard £155... 15 seconds, Now's my time! £180 maximum bid.... 10 seconds OUTBID!... 3 seconds left quick £185 bid, .... 0 seconds ... WIN!

God my heart was about to explode....

I'm the winner!!!!
However, this is quite exciting, I now own a 500watt wind turbine, a source of power beyond my needs! (I'd planned for 100watts).

Before any geographers point out a big problem with turbines, I did think about it! A wind turbine, doesn't produce its rated output all the time. The output of this turbine increases from 0w at 0mph wind, up to 500w at 35mph wind. Some turbines won't produce any energy at usual wind speeds, and only produce an output at hurricane force wind! Luckily this turbine has an output of 100w at the average wind speed in the Aberystwyth area so that will do me nicely.

I'll probably also get a small solar panel to see me through the not so windy days of summer.  

Exciting stuff!!!!

It's been posted to the boatyard which makes it more exciting! However, he doesn't know it's coming so fingers crossed he doesn't send it back!!!!

Seatbelts on the roller coaster of The Golden Cloud is about to start!

Merry Christmas

Monday, 19 December 2011

What do I actually need?

The Golden Cloud 19/12/11

And so the Christmas season is most defiantly upon us. I'm sat now curled up in a blanket on mums rocking chair, sat by the fire while the dogs sleep to either side of me. It's so nice to be home and the Christmassy homely feel is definitely what the doctor ordered.

I spent the first few days after getting home doing a RYA Powerboats License. I sometimes find myself doing something fantastic like this. I spent 2 days courtesy of my job at uni, spinning around in a high spec. powerboat, doing over 35knots, racing ferry's, the rib's equivalent of a handbrake turn, j turns, 8 turns and donuts! FANTASTIC. Apparently this will also be something that will help the work I do, and will mean they give me more hours. What more can I ask for!?!

I've come back in the evening and spent my spare time reading the various books I've bought off amazon as reference material for the project. Many things have caught my eye, from chutneys and jams, to fish traps and lobster pots. Fingers crossed I'll have the time to try them out.

One particular book has been fascinating bedtime reading; Low Cost Living by John Harrison. One chapter that has captured my thoughts Energy.

Energy on The Golden Cloud is something of a critical point. The boat is designed to run on 12v produced by the inboard 10hp diesel engine. However, this has a number of stumbling blocks. 1st  the previous owner was in the middle of an electrics refurb, as a result the boats internal 12v circuit is incomplete and not operational. 2nd if the electrics were operational I will not be going to sea for the foreseeable future, and as such, the diesel engine that charges the batteries will not be running to charge the battery, the battery will soon run dead.

Now I also have a number of decisions to make with regards to energy. I could a) run off the extension lead that I will be supplied with from the boatyard, on metered mains 240v, at ~15p per unit. Or b) spend some of my years savings on a solar panel or wind turbine to charge the battery, and then set up the 12v circuits, with the free power from the sky!

The answer that slaps me in the face is GO FOR THE RENEWABLE, after all I want to be sustainable, and this will also be adding value to the boat. However, going down this route will cost me ~£500 for a set up for a 100watt panel, or £700 for a 500watt turbine. 

It will also limit me in the wattage I can use onboard. Yes I will not use all my electrical items all the time, and yes by producing my own energy I'm more likely to be careful with what electric I use, but it does mean I need to work out what wattage is a want and what wattage is a need.

So I wrote it down and worked it out. If my heating comes from the wood burner, and my cooker runs on gas. I'm left with the fridge (optionally works on gas) ~50w, the Laptop ~30w, phone charger ~5w, lights over the cooker, bed, forward cabin <10w each. Total under 100w. Other things I may need are optional extras, they're wants, not needs, The TV, the PS2, I really don't need in all honesty, I don't need lots of lights. Its also more than likely that I will only have the fridge, the laptop and a light on at one time. If I find I need something that I haven't put down for, worst comes to worst I can use the extension lead supplied.  

In a lot of ways this final bit of the blog is more of a survey than anything else. Other than light, laptop, phone and fridge is there anything anyone can think of that I will need electricity for?

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Golden Cloud is glistening on the horizon

The Golden Cloud 15/12/11

As one life begins to end, the Golden Cloud is glistening on the horizon.

I write this entry sat on the train on my way to the family home for christmas. When I return to Uni in January, The Golden Cloud will be home! I left the hotel first thing this morning and on the way out, the boss gave me a bottle of wine and some lovely biscuits. I can't help but think these "luxury" items may be the last, and will be savoured with that in mind.

In the bag with the wine also came my tip slip. I thought of no better way to use this money  than to head to a favourite old haunt of the local cafe, and have a big breakfast.The result was leaving town with a big smile and a belly stuffed with too much food. I wonder if those feelings will happen in 2012?

On the train we tootled past the boat yard, and i'm filled with a sense of what's to come. There was a pristene beauty to the valley as we sped past. The wintery haze hid the larder of natural foods that will soon be at my disposal. What I saw through the train window, only made my excitement and thought processes run wild. I wondered the best ways to catch and cook canada geese, if there was a hidden delicacy in the reeds, indeed were the reeds themselves a scrumptious treat?

As people came and went, bought things off the trolley, and played football manager on their I-Pads, I couldn't help feel that somewhere our modern society had lost it's way.

The £5 per litre fruit juice (with numerous preservatives and chemicals added) from kenya on the trolley. The thousands of pounds of laptops and I-things that our society makes us crave. Our obsesion even through a tough economic climate (the worst times since the 1980's according to a certian D. Cameron) with this tat, and crap, that honestly doesn't improve us or our lives.

I looked out the window and saw a world of under-utilised natural plenty. These people on the train speed past unaware, as they are engrosed in the latest episode of "strictly come dancing" on I-player. A few months down the line they may visit these beautiful places on Google Earth, on holiday, or on a team building exercise. unaware that they can admire it's beauty from the train journey too!

Last Night I had my final meal as a Uni Seminar Coordinator. The meal's purpose; to amuse and chat up a lecturer of another uni, sucking up basically. I had spent in excess of a combined week's food and energy budget for this task. While everything I ate could be caught, forraged or grown in the local area, and cooked with relatively little skill. Don't even get me started about how the majority of the dish was 5 months out of season.

I realised sat there, and sat on the train this morning, that we've become so disconnected with the natural rhythms of the world, with the true value of things. As a society we say we can't afford or its too hard to live sustainably. Yet we will easily waste the equivilant money of a high spec solar panel or wind turbine, for our annual upgrade of laptop, mobile, i pad or the next new piece of kit. This would be understandable if we needed the upgrade to do what we NEED to do on the computers. But all we NEED to do on a laptop is type, and research on the internet, neither needing high spec, or regular upgrades. What does need the regular upgrades is for the new version of Football Manager, Call of Duty, or FIFA. We buy these things and they stop us from doing things outside, they cost us money, they take up our time. Because of this we then have to spend further money on a Gym Membership, an excersise bike, a week's holiday to somewhere hot (and a massive distance worth of aviation fuel and pollution). 

If we just thought long term, not for our next techno fix, we'd save enough money in a short period of time to buy solar panels, wind turbines, land, woodland, shelter, and all the things one would need to live a life where it doesn't cost money to live, and it does't damage the planet. If we lived more sustainably we wouldn't need the gym membership as lifting the logs into the fire would build our biceps. We wouldn't need the holiday in Tenerife, as even Aberystwyth has an average of 4 hours of sunlight every day (1455 hours a year). The thing that grinds the most is that IPad (which I admit I'm also jealous that I don't have one!) may have cost around £1000 now, the second it's brought its value will halve by the end of the year its outdated and chances are will just be hoarded in a cupboard. If i spent £1000 on renewable energy equipment, (say £300 turbine, £300 panels, £150 battery, £150 transformers and controllers) based on output rating (normally the output is below this admittidly) I'd make 15p worth of electric an hour (on the price N.Power was charging me) Thats £3.6 a day, of £25 a week, of £1310 a year. In one year with these rough figures I could afford an upgrade on my solar panel and a new IPad!

Enough ranting, my train's just passed some snow topped peaks, and that reminds me to say, Merry Christmas to all, and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Times They are a Changing

The Golden Cloud 8/12/11

So I thought to myself, a broker who has on his website boats of up to £500,000, and has sold boats from the UK to people in the USA, should find a 24ft boat for under £1000, moving only 22miles plain sailing (pardon the pun). Perhaps not it seems.

Now I understand I'm small fry, its out of season, and probably not worth the effort. But if this is the case, don't offer to sort everything out. This is a big deal, big expense for me, for gods sake it's going to be my house. So waiting the best part of a fortnight for the broker to liaise with the boatyard to sort out the best date for moving and a price to suit, does kinda grind.

Before I go any further I'll put this into context. 24ft of boat, moving 22miles, I've sorted the road transport, but I needed the yard where the boat is, to get a crane for demasting the boat and getting her on the lorry. That was the only thing I needed. I myself had sorted the crane at the destination boatyard, in about 10minutes. The cost at the destination boatyard to get her off the lorry and remasted came to £60.

I told him the dates the lorry could do, and he said OK he'd sort it out. So each day he called me gave me a cock and bull story of why he hadn't. Made funnier by the fact he lives half a mile from the boatyard and could easily pop over there any time.

So this morning, after getting a call from him claiming that "all dates wouldn't align, and that the price for the crane was going to be astronomical", I decided to take matters into my own hands. 

In 15minutes, the boatyard, crane, lorry, crane, boatyard from origin to destination were all aligned and the primers set. Upon calling the broker he was amazed that so much work could be done so quickly... I know the sailing type are meant to be layed back.... but he's bloody horizontal.

The new date is the 7th of January, a full 25 days after the originally intended date. This isn't a bad thing though, it means £50 less rent, it means I get a straight run at it, it means I can shop for items I need in the January Sales, it means I have the best part of a months more wages. But on the other hand it is a pain in the arse to have to wait.

But if anyone is free through January for an hour, an evening, a weekend, or a week, please give me a shout. Any help would be much appreciated, and as part of the deal a boat party in the summer!

The date set, costs confirmed, looks like the times will soon be a changing.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

So it Falls into Place

The Golden Cloud 7/11/11

And so the future begins to fall into place. Although it is hard to organise 2 boatyards, a haulage company, and the broker, as everyone has different perogatives, insentives, and holiday's booked, I feel I'm begining to get there.

Today was an important day in the development of this story as today a date for moving my boat was decided. Friday the 30th December. So the plan is set, instead of coming back to the hotel on the 29th after my xmas holidays at home, I will carry on up to my boat. That evening I will prepare her for travel, de-rig her, de-mast her, and secure everything onboard. The next morning the boatyard will put her in the water on a crane, there she will stay for 2 hours to check the hull is watertight and sound. After that onto the lorry and the the ~70mile drive through the Welsh Mountains to my final destination.

The proximity, the closeness of this all makes it so exciting and yet so scary. Soon I will not be living a normal life, I'll be living out there, kept warm by a mere 15mm of plywood. 

Now dad, mum, my sister, my neighbours, god parents, friends, and relatives all can see this is something my heart is set on, and can see that this is the way I'm going, for now at least!

Now before I start this journey I need to secure some ground rules. Reading the book "The Moneyless Man" (a great motivation towards my new lifestyle choice), a key part in the authors success in becoming sustainable and successfully moneyless was ground rules. While in the film "Yes Man" the lead character at first can only successfully say yes to every opportunity in the believe that he had to due to a "covenant". The ground rules must reflect the key objectives of the project, and so must be carefully chosen. They must help me get to were I want to be, and get there happy and healthy. 

1) Every month's food bills cheaper than the last:
The main issue I'm up against is living costs. With my future rent at the yard at £14 p/w, my biggest regular cost is now food. Now as an avid fan of on TV and books based on sustainability and outdoors (such as River Cottage, episodes of Grand Designs, Ray Mears, Moneyless Man, Sustainability Bible, and Food For Free), I know there is no need for this to be the case. Nature has a plentyful bounty available for my nurishment, and I can think of no place where this is more true than in a river estuary by the sea, with woods, pasture, cliffs, rocks, sand dunes, salt marshes, and sand flats all in walking distance. Now the reasons I don't start the ball rolling by saying I want all my food to be free, are numerous. A) Its now the bleak mid-winter. The totally wrong time to start living off the land, there are few mushrooms, no fruits, few vegetables, and many of the summer fish stocks have left welsh shores. There simply isn't enough food about for a novice to go in head first. B) I'm a novice, yes I've read books, yes I've watched almost every episode of River Cottage, but I have few ideas where to start. C) I'm doing a masters at the moment. More than anything I am doing this so I can afford to finish my masters so I cannot give all the daylight hours to looking for food. As the days grow longer in the new year, more time will be available for finding food, I will have more knowledge of where to find it, and I will have more skills and equipment on how to catch and cook it.

2) Finish the Masters by 2013:
The whole point of doing this is so I can afford my masters, there is no point saving the money to finish but not actually completing it. 2013 however, does give me an extension on the expected hand in date of sept. 2012, yet I think I can do so much in this summer to improve me as a person the extra 4 months will be worth it.

3) Write a record everyday:
This project is something huge in my life. The stories, experiences, and adventures along the way will change the way I live in years to come. They'll also be something for the family at Christmas! So I need to make sure I don't forget it. I also think stopping for half an hour each day to think what I've done will help me see the good points, the advantages, and the improvements. Chances are in the long run i'll forget the bad stuff. Also a record of what works and what doesn't will help when I do something again. I'll write the record every day, and then every so often turn these entries into the blog. Fingers crossed it doesn't just go boring!

4) Any spare cash is spent on the Golden Cloud
Now this is the moment my parents get to reading the blog then call me saying are you being stupid!!!!
But there is method in the madness. The 'Cloud is the core of this journey I'm beginning, and so if I work on her, and improve her, I improve the journey. Now admittedly it won't be every penny of spare cash, it will be the cash with a spare grand to push me through any hard times. A major issue of my plan that many don't understand is "if you've got the cash to buy a boat, how can you not afford a house". But I'm playing a very delicate balance here at the moment. I earned the majority of my years budget working the summer, and so I'm trickle feeding the penny's across from these savings to pay for the years costs. Projections in conventional housing were not pretty. The move to the 'cloud  should save massively in the long run, its investing in the future.

5) Take any opportunity that presents itself.
The film Yes Man and the book Moneyless Man shows this perfectly, if an opportunity arrises, it may be hard work to help someone out when your tight on time, but in the long run, Karma will ensure the people help you back!

6) The Good Life, or Sustainable Man, not The Gypo, The Pikey, The Hermit, or The Loner
I need to make sure of the fine balance that I'm not turning into something that people frown upon. Yes I will be living in a caravan of sorts, and yes It will not be a permenant home. But I want to do this in a way where I'm still happy, and I'm still happy of peoples view of me. Theft is not an option! So no stealing steal gates to sell to the scrappy. I want/need people to look at me and say WOW thats awesome, he lives sustainably and off the land and he's still respectable, I want to live like that. Not PIKEY!!, GYPO GYPO GYPO (for one i'm not Stephen Hunt!)

7) Sustainable route where possible
As said a main aim is Sustainability. Now this will not always be possible, I can't varnish the boat in cowpats, however hard I try. But choosing a varnish that has the lowest environmental impact and the longest lifespan is possible. It may cost 20% more initially, but in the long run I may save 50%, and the planet. Everything has to be looked at in the long term. A Xbox 360 would be great to keep me amused, but in the long term it will cost on electric, needs a 240v power supply, needs games. For the same money as the Xbox I could buy a Wind Turbine or Solar Panel and a load of fishing gear to replace the games, which will give me free electricity when I need it and fun/food from the fishing gear!

Now I know I've got a few Friends and Family reading this, so please do not hesitate to comment on the blog, you may have ideas of rules I should put in, or see flaws in my design. Any ideas are appreciated.


Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Decision is Made

The Golden Cloud: 3/12/11

Lets start the story from the start, I'm 21, I'm a masters student, and I've just broken up with my girlfriend of 19months. We lived together, and thus now I'm in the market for a new place to call home. 

Living in a university town attaches many problems, mainly the excessive price of housing, and the lack of rental choices. Jumping into a cardboard box with my sleeping bag isn't really an option either, with the wind, rain, and freezing temperatures that are battering this town in early December.

And so, at the moment I've been put up in a small but perfectly adequate room in the hotel I work at. The conditions of my stay are I work the night every night till Christmas, for no wage. It sounds a good deal, but it's definitely not permanent. I need somewhere to call my own, and I need it ready before the New Year.

A fortnight previous to the breakup I had booked myself in with a nurse to talk about the stress I found myself under, previous to the breakup I was worried about money. I went to the university "money doctor" and their best answer was take a year out and work till you have enough money to carry on. With the research I'm doing this plan caused some issues, plus I can see myself never coming back once I leave. And so, I've decided to carry on regardless.

Then the slap in the face that was the breakup. It was amicable and mutual, and we've since watched films together, we probably get on better than we have for 15months or so. But this doesn't remove the fact that now I'm not going out with the greatest person in my life, and now I'm on the market as it were.

Talking of on the market, being out on the street means I need a new house.  My old house was perfect, plenty big enough, with a rent of £100 a week +£50 per month bills. And although it was tight on my budget this was very do-able split between 2. However, now I find myself looking for a flat for one, or a room in a shared house, the costs seem to have sky rocketed. The cheapest place I can find is £70 per week + bills. A price I can ill afford.

And so, I went in search of a cheaper option. I've checked B&B's, lodging, caravans. I've priced each one independently and I've come to the conclusion, in this student town everything has a price and every price is too high. 

So on a whim I went to look at something from my past. Being from the Isle of Wight, and educated in Cowes (the so called "International Home of Sailing"), I have always had a soft spot for the sea, and boats in my heart. My best memories as a child were racing oppy's at Yarmouth Sailing Club, going out fishing on my dads boat, kayaking around the coasts and estuaries of the island, and visiting my grandpa in Cornwall with his moorings and boats on the Helston estuary. The best memories were in or on the water, and so I wondered, what if?

This isn't the first time these thoughts have passed though my head. During GCSE my friends and I wanted to motor through the canals of France in the summer holidays, at the end of A Level the same idea once more reared it's head. As my Bachelors degree came to a close I planned with my close friends to buy a boat in need of repair, do her up and sail around the UK or Europe for a gap year. And although I have viewed boats in my time with the thought of buying a yacht as a home and as an adventure, I have never actually gone ahead. 

Then a month ago, a lecturer over a pint asked me to help him repair his 24ft long keeled yacht, that he planned to sail to Ireland. This day was fantastic and it relit the fire in my belly. Then my girlfriend and I broke up and I'm looking for a home, so I just had a flick through boatyards websites, and put ridiculously low offers in on the boats that tickled my pickle. Turned out that an offer for 75% below asking price was taken on the boat that suited my needs the most. A 24ft Falmouth Gypsy, 22miles as the crow flies from where I live.

The Golden Cloud: The Falmouth Gypsy MkII that may soon be my home
Source: Boatshed.com (2011)
Now my dad had a boat a 28ft wooden fishing boat called Viking II, my grandpa had more boats than a yacht club. Grandpa even built his own from scratch called FireFox. It was in my blood! Grandpa designed firefox and had it built at Gweek Quay, a place he often took me as a child. When she was launched she sat perfectly on the water line he had painted from his drawings. After a short bit of research I discovered that the Falmouth Gypsy was too built in Cornwall, designed at Gweek, and built in Gweek or Penrhyn. 

The fate just hit me, so I went and had a look at the boat. I went hoping I would realise it was a bad idea, hoping she was a tip and I would totally change my mind once I saw her. In fact quite the opposite happened. She was in perfect condition, and a total bargain. And so on condition that I could organise a home for her and get her to that home, I said I would buy her.

I found a boatyard perfect for the job, 8miles from uni, with a regular bus and train service from uni, to within walking distance of the yard. The prices, and dates were discussed, a ship could soon be my home.

Now I wait, sitting in my hotel room, thinking and praying of what might be. Waiting on the haulage company to OK my dates, and then I'll be off.

Exciting times ahead!?!