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!

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