Friday, 27 January 2012

Mussels on the Woodburner!

The Golden Cloud 27/01/12

Being tired from a long night chatting through thoughts and religion last night I came home today as early as possible to have a lovely evening by the log burner. 

The tide was out upon my arrival home and so I set about a foragers dinner... moules sur le poêle à bois. (Well thats what google translate calls Mussels on the wood burner anyways!)

Recipe number 2! Mussels A La Woodburner!

First walk the 10meters from your boat to the mussel bed!

 (Mussel bed is the gravelly looking stuff bottom right)

Collect a few mussels, choose the biggest ones as they've had time to live and make plenty of babies. Take only what you need, leave some for tomorrow.

Now bring them home put them in a shallow dish with some oats and slightly salted water, leave for 2 to 10 hours (according to the books i've read, i've heard slightly more and slightly less. Too long and they die, too short and they're full of grit and poo)

(My mussels purging in the frying pan)

After the time has elapsed pull the mussels out, if there open tap them on something hard, they should shut, if they don't discard. Then put them in the wood burner fire box so that the crack between the shells is horizontal.
Shut the door, and enjoy the smells and noise from the stove for 5-10 minutes.

While this is happening finely cut some garlic and some parsley in some olive oil and butter, and cook on the hob

After a while check the mussels, any that are open take the worst shell off, and keep the meat in the other shell, drizzle over a teaspoon of garlic oily butter, over the meat and put back in the woodburner to sizzle some more.

 Once the meat goes abit rubbery and all the fluid is gone, pull out and enjoy!
(Beware shells and woodburner = very hot)

Enjoy the mussels!
 Cooked Mussels
 Empty shells at the end!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

A Whole New Chimney

The Golden Cloud 25/1/12

Today was a great moment as I got a Whole New Chimney!

I've been having a lot of trouble with this fire, tar flowing out the chimney, back smoking, not drawing, giving me headaches both in anger and in asphyxiation!

So I chatted to the boatyard owner to see if he had any ideas. (After scouring the internet, I'd got some of my own ideas too!)

I thought what the issue was based around the diameter of the pipe and height of the pipe being tooo small resulting in not enough draw, and the single skin of the pipe getting too cold causing the smoke to cool too quickly resulting in tar build up.

The boatyard owner thought the majority of the issue was with me burning wet wood.

So today he said, get the stove out and he'd put you on a bigger pipe....

So I got the stove out! and loooky here...
The Chimney was soo chock a block with tar it was too tight to fit my finger through!

I blamed the cold pipe, and the boatyard blamed what i burnt! 

The issue for me is, thats the build up from 10 days fire!
I cannot afford posh wood from good sources dried in a barn for 38 years! I can afford free wood off the beach, the woods, and the hedge, the end.

So the opinion was taken to enlarge my pipe that way i'd at least have more time between having to clean the pipe, (once a week takes the Michael!)

So out came the plasma gun and the welder and bingo the new chimney was on!

Does it look a bit ott?

New Chimney

Old Chimney!

New one looks a lot more industrial and a little less homely but it most defiantly does the job... exemplified by the logs up the side catching fire just!

Right best be off! Got to get ready for a boat party on someone else's boat

Nos Da!

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Eel Trap

The Golden Cloud 23/01/12

As an avid watcher of River Cottage, one trick I really wanted to try out in the river besides my house was an Eel Trap. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFq-0oUs4gY in this episode hugh makes his!)

So I set about making one for the river... Now Hugh has a lovely trickling brook filled with eels, I have a rageing torrent (outgoing tide) crossed with a millpool (incoming tide). He also has a posh traditional wicker trap, compared to my made out of a tub attempt!

So Step one

Find yourself a suitable plastic tub that you don't mind destroying, and has a whole somehwhere on it where an eel could slip  in, but should be above the bed so a crab wouldn't.

 This would do nicely...

Next you want to put as many holes in it as possible. So the water can get out when you pull it up and so the smell of the bait gets out.

To do this if you chose a suitable plastic bucket it easy...

First heat up a metal screwdriver...

Next push the screwdriver on the plastic, it will melt through and make a hole

When it's through woggle it about to enlarge the hole... Repeat till the tub is covered with holes.

Then you need to attach it to a rope and something to hold it down....

For the rope attaching cut a whole in the tub the opposite end to the end your entry hole.
thread the rope through, and then make a knot in the rope on the entry hole (in my case also handle end)

Then tie the opposite end to something very heavy to hold the tub down.... in my case I chose a small lobster pot that the boatyard sold me.

Then you throw in some bait to each, find a suitable spot (easy access, deep water) and throw her in, being sure to give enough rope and tieing the end of the rope off somewhere secure.

Wait for a period of time (it's meant to be to the next tide but I got to excited and checked at high tide)

 Sadly, Checking both at 9pm and 9am through shear excitement, I found that my luck was not in. in the 2 attempts the Lobster pot caught 8 Shore Crabs, and the eel trap caught nothing!

That said! HFW's River cottage handbook no.5, the edible seashore, does have a recipe for these little shore crab critters "Shore Crab Bisque". However, it calls for 1kg, these did not weight a total of a kg, more like 10g!

Better luck next time!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Its not all fun and games

The Golden Cloud 21/01/12

Its really not all fun and games.

I bet reading the past blogs your thinking, my god he's having such an amazing time. Well right now I'm most certainly not.

Now part of this is self induced but alot of it I can't get away from.

So yesterday I was nursing my hangover from my birthday night before. I was trying to get alot done with a blog entry, a job application, and a clean up to do.... well you can see by the way yesterday's blog wasn't posted till this morning that just didn't happen. Headache and doing work don't work well together.

Now something that improved my mood somewhat was the yard owner inviting me round for dinner, after dinner came rum cocktails, I should have quit while I was ahead.

But I gleefully drank my cocktails, in fact I pretty much downed them, due to the adrenaline and shakes running through my body. As the owner's boxer dog, really didn't like me.... there's some new holes in my shoes which can vouch for me!

So needless to say I got very pissed, and today I'm nursing another hangover!

On board and hungover with lots of work to be doing don't mix very well. 

First issue, when your hungover, and your on a boat, the rafters you've learnt to avoid suddenly start hitting you again. All I want at the moment is silence, a dark room, snuggled up warm inside a duvet on a sofa. I have none of these. The wind is causing the tarpauline and masts on nearby boats to make so much noise. Then I'm shook every 5 minutes as the big gusts make the boat rock.

Then I need to clean. So I need some hot water... oh I've run out of water in the camel bag, so I have to unhook the bag, untie the tarp, get through the tarp and walk to the tap to refil the bag. Then I come onboard and have to turn on the gas bottle, and fill a kettle, and leave that to boil for a while. Then when I test if the waters hot enough with my finger. Its too hot. To which by reflex I jump back, causing me to hit my head on the rafters once more.

Meanwhile I get back to the washing up, and then realise I have to clean the work tops, as because of the issue I'm having with the woodburner blowing back smoke, everything is covered in soot. Thats another thing adding to the headache, the copious volumes of smoke i've breathed in over the last few days.

Then you want to clean up and before you can do anything you have to move everything round as with the limited space there's always something in the way. Suddenly after a big gust making a horrific noise on the tarp, a moment of calm, then you hear the boatbuilders drilling some metal, AHHHHH BLOODY NOISE!

Today I wanted to see some mates in aber, but now i've had to cancel, as the jobs that in a house would have taken 20min, have taken over an hour. This with the buses being infrequent and taking the best part of 40minutes, and your body telling me that cycling won't happen today. Mean that although you got up at 8 (woken by the bloody cockrel and the noise of the tarp), its coming to half 11 and you've still got lots of work to do before you can go, and you've got to be in work at 3!

All I can say is thank god I'm night porter tonight, means a nice warm quite bed, with smokeless heat and a soft pillow! Thats the stuff dreams are made of!

Boat Party!

The Golden Cloud 20/01/2012


And so yesterday was my first birthday on-board the Golden Cloud. This meant only one thing, BOAT PARTY!

Thanks to my parents coming up a few days previous I had been able to stock up on a few things to finish off the boat and make it more party friendly. They also brought with them deck skittles (I had been given as a birthday present many years back by Auntie Carol) and cake... the ultimate combination!

Keith from uni, gave me a lift back to the yard, (stopping off at a supermarket enroute to pick up cider, gin and tonic!) Before I got straight back to get the Cawl on the stove!

Joe's Cawl Recipie

cut the following into chunks and brown off in a hot frying pan with olive oil (in this order)
1 onion
1/2 a leek
1 carrot
1 parsnip
1 turnip
1 beetroot
handful of mushrooms
3 rashes of bacon
a fist sized piece of gammon
a fist sized piece of lamb
1 potatoe

add to the stock pot, after browning, and add an equal measure of red wine and water
bring to the boil then leave simmering
add mint, tarragon, and 2 leaves of sliced cabbage

leave to cook for as many hours as possible.

Once that was done I got to work sorting out the party games ... deck skittles (see on the floor in image) and a rudimentary version of deck quoits... (5 beer bottles and 3 loops of rope)

Soon enough the boys arrived, and the party began... needless to say the cawl and then a desert of stewed apples and ice cream went down a treat!

Max won the deck skittles by a mile (final score of 21 compared to Matt's 2)
and I can't remember who won quoits... all I know is it wasn't me!

It was a bit cramped in there but a great night!

right i best get off to nurse the hangover.... speak soon

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

It never rains... it pours!

The Golden Cloud - 17/01/12

In this life it seems like it never rains, it pours! (especially in rural Wales!)

This last few days has been great on the boat as I now feel like I've got the boat in a state I can live in no matter what! I've had many friends over, which has been fantastic to both see them and get them over to show off my boat!

Alterations recently to the boat have been to put a second tarpaulin canopy over the boat which has successfully kept the frost off and taken away some of the chill, I've also installed full sized gas!

Now talking of chill, it definitely poured on that front the other night! But with a sense of "I can't pull out now" I kept buggering on!

The coldest night so far was forecast and I thought it had been bloody cold the night before. First I was set to begin with proper full sized gas out the cannister.... But the regulator I had from the old bottles doesn't fit the new ones.... and as it was Sunday night no way to get one to fit! I was running low on water, but I couldn't top up my water bottles as the mains had been turned off to save it freezing. I came back to the boat and tried to start a fire.... the wood, paper and cardboard was all too damp to start the fire, I was struggling to get the matches to light as well. So I thought OK I'll get into bed early with a hot water bottle (now on at £ land well recommended I've got 3!). However as this was the moment where my portable gas stove ran out of gas, I couldn't have a hot water bottle! I had 3 sources of heat and nothing would start, it was minus degree's onboard, and any place I could buy a source of heat was closed for the next 16 hours. 

The boss at work had earlier in the day offered me to stay over at the hotel that night.... One half of me was gagging to go, the other side said MAN UP.

Then my friend Marc offered a centrally heated place to stay... this was so tempting... but if I ran tonight I know i'd run every cold night!

So I tried to work out why the stove wouldn't light, while I ate my pickle sandwiches (no stove or cooker = no hot food). It seemed from looking at the stove and out the chimney that the smoke wasn't rising out the top if the chimney... Read up on Yahoo-Answers, and found that in cold weather you need to get a woodburner really hot or the cold air holds the hot air in the chimney and chokes the fire.

So I set a firelighter (I know there not eco friendly, but I borrowed a tiny piece of a corner of one, and its probably more ecofriendly than my carbon footprint at the crematorium if i'd froze!) with as much dry kindling as I could find, at the bottom of the chimney and got the fire roaring! Cut a long story short did the trick! And a slow cooked omlette on the semi-hot stove later I was warm satisfied and off to sleep.

But last night I finally sorted out the gas bottle, and so I was finally cooking on gas (needless to say although I was cooking on Gas the stove was burning well for once!)

So with the boat up and running, today my parents are coming up to drop off my fishing rods etc. So I had a quick tidy up this morning of the boat... see what you think!

 Looking down the cabin, (from bottom right clockwise) Freezer, Stove, desk and seat, woodburner, bed.
Woodburner with 2 hours of wood cutting round it

I think it looks really cosy!

Another pours not rain, is condensation onboard. This cold snap mixed with drying a lot of damp logs round the fire means the boat is like a rainforest at the moment! humidity gauge is reading 80% + fingers crossed it warms up and the logs dry out sooner rather than later!

And I must thank Russ, Matt, Tom, Ben, and Laura for coming over the other day was really nice! and the Boat Plant, Beer, and Cider they gave me are all doing well! (the beer especially!)

Also thanks to boatyard Keith for giving me the corner of fire lighter that saw me through the cold winter night!

And not forgetting my audience for 1051 page views so far, spanning 10 country's as far apart as the US and Vietnam!

Right I've got plenty to do as always so speak soon!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Colder than I'd thought!

The Golden Cloud

It was a pristine beautiful morning that I awoke to today. The sky blue, the wind low, the sound of wading birds on the estuary... awesome.

However, what wasn't awesome was the temperature. Clear skys, East Wind, and January don't make for a warm morning.

As I turned over from my slumber I noticed the fog from my breath. Inside the sleeping bag was toasty, inside the boat was 3 degrees.

However colder temperatures were to come. After taking the best part of an hour to get out the sleeping bag, and light the stove, I took my morning stroll to the toilet block. Bloody freezing! Mind you a beautiful view up the valley!

On my return I noticed the thick layer of ice across the ladder, deck and tarp over the boat, perhaps it was colder than I imagined... (turns out it dropped to minus 5 at times last night here.

Never mind hey, worse things happen at sea!

Last night I had a lovely treat, after spending a wasted hour in a lecture with someone half way through a sex change, I headed up to Matt, Fran and Marc's house. Never before has a cup of tea been such a treat! These guys are fantastic at listening to me blabber on about total shite! They made me feel so welcome and are always willing to help! 

While there I set about making my new bike trailer (from ebay) more visible to traffic on the night road. Many thanks to Matt for the addition of his old works Hi Vis. The trailer is a fantastic addition to my repertoire of tools, means I can collect wood, tools, and transport things with ease back to the boat. Making a eco-efficient life more possible.

This evening I had a Fantastic time. First a mini road trip to Aber with Keith and Lloyd to pick up a gas bottle for my cooker, then Keith from uni came over before Keith and Lloyd (from the yard) came over for a bowl of cawl (Welsh lamb stew slow cooked on the woodburner) and 2 bottles of red!

Went down a treat, fantastic night! I have such a good laugh with the my yardmates, its unbelievable. We chatted, drank and ate, from when the sun went down to late at night, I go to sleep every night with a big smile on my face. This big risk of a boat, is increasingly becoming a fantastic experience.

Other big news, dongles arrived! So this is the first blog published direct off the Yacht! Also means I can work from home in bad weather and full internet.. . happy days!!!

Night Night!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Adventure Begins

Golden Cloud 11/1/12

The Adventure Begins

The ferry pulled away out of Yarmouth on a cold winter's morning. Below decks my Kayak, for years neglected as I studied at uni, was coming up to aber for the first time. No longer a device of pleasure, but a working vessel, a platform for fishing and lobster potting, as well as collecting wood.

I sail across with mum, and once we dock on the other side, I'm greeted by the smiley face of Jo who offered to take the kayak up on her roof rack for me!   Incredibly kind of her!

From there I went by train to Wolverhampton to spend and evening with grandma and watch a football game, before heading on to Aber to prepare for what was to come...

I took the early morning train to Mach, to meet my friend and colleague Keith. From there keith drove us up to Porthmadog to the Golden Cloud. This was a special day, the day I moved in.

Armed with a bag full of tools and a sleeping bag (as well as keiths ample toolbox), we made our way through the wild and windy mountains of Wales, the twin geography geeks pointing out every morainic feature and erratic on the way. We made Porthmadog in good time and so I headed off to the shops to get a few things before I headed to the boatyard.

Upon arrival we made quick work of taking down the boom tent, mast and rigging, with help and knowledge from the boats old owner Brian (or Keith as I kept calling him). I say quick work, it was probably quicker than we would have liked. We carefully lowered the mast on her hinges with keith holding the rope forward, and me taking the weight of the mast with an old a-frame underneath. As we got nearly there the mast was but a meter from finishing point. Here we hit a snag... well actually my right ear!

I suddenly felt the weight increase dramatically through the a-frame, the rope had gone parallel with the mast, so from here the rope would have little strength to slow the fall. I told keith to tie the rope off as he wouldn't be able to stop her... at that the a-frame started to creak, a crack then appeared in the top of it... it was buckling under the weight, I shouted "keith tie her off she's gonna slip" to a response of ..."it's ok I've got it" ...bollocks had he!

With that the mast slipped out the a-frame, and through keiths hands, as I saw it coming I quickly dropped the wood, got my hands up to catch, but the weight of 9m of aluminium mast was to heavy to catch. As I caught her, she slid veraciously down the side of my head, ear, cheek, and neck, before resting (with a thud) on my shoulder!

An inch higher drop, an ounce heavier mast, or microsecond slower reactions, it would have slipped all the way, and smashed through the cabin roof, or worse still through my collar bone!

But all in all this was a good job, we lashed the mast to the railings and cabin roof, knowing that we'd saved a fair wack off crane fee's. Once we'd tidied a few more things ready for the move, we headed off to town to price up a freezer for onboard. On realising every electrical shop in Porthmadog was a rip off, Keith headed home to look at what was on offer online.

I spent the evening playing endless games of solitaire, moving things about and making plans for the boats future. When I thought the night was drawing in I headed to the local only to find it was still only  5.15 (It felt more like 8) and I'd have to wait like a seasoned alcoholic before I could get in. 

After a scrumptious Steak and Ale pie, bed called me as if it was half one in the morning. I tootled back to the boat (by this time it was 7.15), before laying out the sleeping bag and getting ready for bed.

Morning came with utmost beauty. There is nothing quite like waking up just before dawn next to a river, and watching the wild birds flock and feed across the sand bars, this was something I'd soon become accustomed to! As the sun rose over the welsh landscape the beauty of the scenery was breath taking (see pictures). There's also nothing quite like a big fry up on a big day!

By 7.30am I was ready, fed, and had prepared the boat to the nines for the haulage company.  The HIAB was booked for 9.30 and it wasn't till 9.20 I got the dreaded call. The lorry had broken down between Betws-y-Coed and Porthmadog. Some radiator pipe had burst, these things happen I suppose. Never the less the driver said he had the part and he'd soon be on his way. 

To fill the time I scrubbed the decks top to bottom... If I hadn't already paid the difference would have added thousands to the price of the boat!

11am no lorry, I phone up... the spare he had onboard didn't fit, so he'd had to get someone to come out from base with an alternative, he wouldn't be long an hour at worst...

3pm the lorry turns up... but my what a spectacular piece of kit this HIAB is... the crane arm folded out of the back of the cab like some mangled velocoraptor arm, swung over and with ease manoeuvred the boat peacefully onto the flatbed. The driver looked liked the worlds strongest man as he pushed the 4 tonne boat into position with ease.

Soon we were on our way, I called ahead and informed Ynyslas we'd be there before sundown...

Or not.

10miles out of Porthmadog, is a big hill... big hills and bodged pipe repairs don't mix. A sulphurous smell filled the cab and as we slowed steam surrounded us from all angles, like some 1940's romantic film at the station! We got out the cab and while I went for a walk to find the source of the sound of a beautiful river, the driver got to work on a repair.

The HIAB's next party trick was awesome too... with the flick of a button in the cab the whole front section levered itself forward, to reveal the smouldering remains of the driver's repair!

The magical jubilee clip just couldn't hold the pressure, and had come loose.

So away the driver went (it was now tipping it down, and I couldn't wait in the cab because the cab floor was at 45 degrees and the door was now about 8ft up in the air!

Soon a Haulage repair company turned up and set to work on the repair. Thinking it would be a quick job I stayed to watch. Turns out it wasn't and so before I got trench foot, I got the ladder out and went up into my yacht on the back of a lorry, went and sat at my desk and played cards...

Now I'm not the best at cards, in fact I'm pretty hopeless, ask my housemates of 67 pjm. So when it looked like I was gonna finish off my game of solitare, you can imagine my disappointment as the driver tapped on the hull of the boat and said time to go!

The disappointment was soon reduced as we sped off down to Ynyslas.

Upon arrival we were greeted by the staff and other people who live at the yard. In the dark, wind and rain they stood at the gate, wearing matching red head torches, and guided us in to the boats eventual mooring spot.

As I made my apologies for the delay, while introducing myself to my yard mates, I was soon whisked away to be shown the woodburner Lloyd had made me... I had been pricing up alternative places to get a stove from fearing this stove would be a bodge job. Oh no she was a beauty, the smallest wood burner I've ever seen, but beautiful. The yard had been working on her all winter to perfect her, and she was now, well perfect!

Once everything was sorted with the haulage and chocking up the trailer I headed into Borth to get the bus or train back to Aber, get a few things and sort out a few things.... Borth's further away than I remembered! Luckily I hitched a lift in with a lovely gent who owns a Snapdragon at the yard as luck would have it. He drove me into Borth, where I used the payphone (I know they do still exist!) to call in the ex that made this all possible to give me a lift back to Aber.

On arrival back in Aber, I charged my phone just enough to txt Jo who'd kindly brought up my kayak to say I was now here. And within moments we were back on out way with my kayak to the yard to slot her under the boat! (The bilge keel hugs the kayak light like a mother monkey to her child!)

One last sleep in town, in a bed, tho for this night before moving out properly.

Next morning I buy some things the boat needs, before heading to the yard to have the burner fitted. Out with the toilet in with the stove, fair swap I feel!

As the welsh rain fell, I quickly devoured a tin of beans before a few knocks with the hammer made a cowl to stop the rain coming down the chimney.

Soon after I started my first meal on the stove, Eggs and Bacon, my god was it tasty!

The boys at the yard have been fantastic so far, they've sorted everything out I could ask, they've lent my any tool I need, and they've given every piece of advice I could ever ask for. for this I'm forever grateful.

The next day I had work 9-5 cleaning up and preparing the hotel I work at for the new season, a long day, but good fun. The staff at work (and almost everyone I've met along the way) have all been so accommodating helping me out. At work they offered to help find me anything I needed for the boat, while also giving me a supply of firewood (in green grocer crates) some food (in the store of apples left from this years harvest), and various utensils I required. Bless the boss he's also lent me a shed for storing my excess gear, and is letting my mother stay over at the hotel when she comes to help me out onboard. 

After work I cleaned out the old flat with the ex as the contract ran out the following morning. Moving is always a stressful thing, but something about cleaning out a flat, that represents the future you were building was quite hard to take.

The boss then drove me back out to the yard, and the expressions from his face when he viewed the boat were a sight to behold. When I've brought mates to the boat they've seen that yes its small but its got everything and its perfectly adequate. He just had blind fear in his face, its making me chuckle just thinking about it. 

This brings me back to a conversation I had with the ex that evening. She said she felt sorry for me, in that I had little cash, and had almost been forced into taking the option of this tiny yacht, and she thought it might make me sad. 

When I thought about it though, I realised at the moment, I'm feeling the happiest I've ever felt. I've got a cool quirky house that has my every need, I'm living in a way that's frugal and relatively good for the planet, every penny I'm spending on my boat is something I am more than likely gonna make back when I sell her instead of going into the pocket of some landlord, I live in a amazing beautiful place, I can go kayaking whenever I feel (indeed yesterday morning I kayaked up river collecting firewood before breakfast), I get to cycle across some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world to get to uni, I'm surrounded by brilliant funny people who want to help me and want to have a good time, I have so many opportunity's with these people to do amazing things. Many people only have the experiences I've had in these first few days once in there life. Most only get to do the things I'm doing on holiday. Most people never have times like these. And for these reasons, I feel the richest and happiest I have ever felt... Long may it continue!