It's been awhile, two years I think shamefully since I added to my view online to life aboard Misterton. There are some good excuses and much better ones than the dog ate my homework, but excuses none the less;

  1. I became a head teacher which is quite a mammoth task, and free moments are much fewer as a result. Don't get me wrong I enjoy my job, and the challenges it poses but I want to get it right for the sake of the students, after all they only get one chance at a good education regardless of the politics of the time.
  2. Simon and I had a baby, well, I went through child birth and Simon was there for me, and also for our gorgeous son. No need to go into details but delighted to say Simon avoided the attraction of Spearmint Rhino located conveniently close to UCH, and stayed the course with me.
  3. We became full-time working parents and its been a steep learning curve, but we are getting there and enjoying nearly every minute.

I do however feel compelled to write, as our son, Nate is chattering away in the Bed and Breakfast room, and we try to remain silent while he goes to sleep. This is not going so successfully as he thinks it is great fun sharing a room with mum and dad. Typing on my iPad is one way of keeping me quiet, otherwise I'll add to the noise. I am sure the gentleman I spied earlier in the garden is probably cursing our existence right now as Nate makes the usual protesting screams of a toddler who doesn't want to sleep.

Bed and Breakfast should alert the keen reader to a change of living status for us, we are not on Misterton. Life on the land is in our path for approximately six weeks. For those who know me well, we have just found the biggest spider in our room, so there you go. My fear of spiders is just as acute on land as on water. In some ways it is worse, as on the boat I have learnt an uneasy truce with them.

We have had to move off boat lock, stock and barrel, as a routine survey in the summer found some dreadful problems with the hull of our boat.  I felt really gutted and let down, had we known the what we know now we might have looked again, the repairs are costing a small fortune and any dreams of push gifts have well and truly left the boat (for those of you who don't know, many men buy their partners a gift after giving birth, often expensive, can be shiny and is given with love as a surprise. My husband feels these men are ruining it for the rest of men who think such gifts are ridiculous and true love needs no demonstration, hence my dreams :) )

All our furniture, clothes, personal trinkets, art work and so forth have had to come off. This is no mean feat at the best of times, but add a 20 month old boy into the equation and it gets tougher.

Thankfully our family came and helped us pack most of it, and our boat neighbours helped with the remainder, and that led us to being up at 7am on the first Saturday back at school, no lie in, ready to take Misterton down the Thames. The same neighbours came along for the trip and added their support to the mission. Plus they brought along Harry, at 21 months he is the older of the two boat boys, but a very good first mate for playing/fighting and inventing games with broom and dustpans for Nate. 

I am still the least experienced boater of those able to speak in full nautical sentences on board, and felt quite apprehensive about the trip ahead. This may have had something to do with the fact that the surveyor said the work needed doing within 12 months and not to go on any pleasure trips till it was done; or maybe that we had found 20 plus holes in the hull in dry dock and I knew epoxy putty was the only thing between the Thames and our home; or could it be the fact tat the bilge pump is continually working taking out water that is clearly getting past the putty! Whatever the reasons, I knew I was nervous and would feel delighted when the boat was safely stowed at MSO marine.

 The weather was kind to us and we set off in good time, there were no real escapades at the outset, and we felt good. Simon was slightly anxious about a corner just past the Chertsey bridge where a previous trip had caused a minor dent to our savings as the current took our boat and forced her to collie with another. It was all resolved amicably,and with understanding the way boaters mostly do, but Simon wanted to navigate this corner without problems this time. The new rudder fitted in the summer was definitely making the boat easier to handle and this was its first test. Unsurprisingly it passed with flying colours and we continued on our merry way.

The two boys were turning into surprisingly good boat babies, and when they weren't checking out the view, reading the paper or answering the phone (see photos on the blog for this, of course they can't read or make calls...or can they??) they were happy to play together in the hold that was empty and therefore completely child friendly, it meant we adults could focus on the boat. This turned out to be really useful.

It has been awhile since we went on our inland waterways competence course, and awhile since we had been on a trip. We had been told not to after the survey and now I knew the state of the hull I was extra anxious. We were in a lock and I was holding a rope, and the boat was going down and down, and the rope was getting tighter and tighter, I called out to ask  Simon if we were dropping much further, and for some reason he couldn't hear me. This surprised him and the rest of our team when we were talking afterwards, but the engine was loud and Simon was happily chatting to the folk on the boat next to ours, and I didn't want to panic anyone so shouted but without fear in my voice.(I have my suspicions that after nearly 5 years of marriage he had developed the ability to tune me out selectively when there is something more interesting in ear shot, how anything could be more interesting remains a mystery and one that may never be resolved.) The rope continued to get tighter and the boat appeared to slight tilting, by some miracle I got Simons attention and he said it was a bit further, Hannah turned and saw my predicament and said we need a knife. I knew exactly where the knife was having made snacks for babies earlier that involved slicing bread, I ran and grabbed it, brought it back up and the rope was cut, I think Hannah did the deed but I can't be sure, I just remember hearing the boat drop an inch or two into the water. This did nothing to allay my nerves and again I worried about the leaks underneath, and started to pray.

In my brief defense, as the least experienced crew member, I didn't tie the rope on in the first place, and so there was more than one crew member at play in this event, but I equally didn't check the way the rope was on the bollard and it may have been correct at the outset. I could tell Simon was anxious, albeit momentarily , about my ability. Simple clues like 'you really need to be more careful in locks' gave it away. Hannah was able to skillfully divert this doubt by saying how great it was that I knew where to get a knife and did so quickly, and Simon then provided me with low level praise. I was mildly appeased whilst slightly smarting as I have my suspicions about who put the rope on the bollard to start with...

 The journey continued for the rest of the day without further crazy events, and Simon allowed everyone to have a go at steering, which everyone turned out to be good at, although we all agreed Hannah's skill was definitely worthy of a mention, and I now have a female role model to aspire too. When we arrived at Twickenham lock we found a good spot with relative ease and then were able to take the boys and ourselves to The Anglers, a very civilized establishment, that provides fine wines, ales and also has a children's playground as part of the pub garden. I am a strong advocate for more of this approach in places that sell alcohol, such sensible selling would certainly see more of my pay packet pouring down throats, and not always my own.

The next day involved a bit of waiting and driving, Nate had a swimming lesson back in Staines which I took him too and on the return collected our crew. They hadn't stayed with us on Misterton overnight as we had no beds, no pots, no blankets, no music, no boat comforts whatsoever, also we knew I would be going back to Staines right past their boat and it made sense to collect them. We had to wait as high tide was at 3pm, so taking all factors into account a 2 o'clock start time had been agreed. We wanted to be near the entrance to Brentford when the water was still as the tide turned, and figured that an hour before high tide would work. I may sound water aware with that sentence, or I might have just made a complete ass of myself, either way I gleaned this information which at the time of writing I believe to be accurate, by listening to the conversations of boat folk with eminently more experience than I have.

 With the crew all safely on board we set off, and for this journey on the tidal Thames both boys were firmly strapped into car seats.  Ed started the engine for us for the second time, as Simons back was bad, and I have yet to master the art of starting the boat, for those who don't know its a hand-start only engine, I suspect as we age and loose muscles we will have to adapt this, but for now it is right for our boat. Ed was rightly proud of his two starts both on a first attempt, I am going to have to work on my technique.

 As we came out of Teddington lock onto the tidal section, there was a definite change to the feel of the boat as the rocking, very gentle, felt more pronounced than on the non tidal. Simon was proudly steering the boat and said it felt slightly different to the non-tidal. I sat in the wheelhouse pulling faces at both boys and watching my handsome husband expertly guide the boat down the river,  and then idly wondered how I would get on with steering on the tidal section, and suspected I would soon find out. This time my suspicions were not to be accurate, as the love of driving/steering was demonstrated by Simon. Simon has me on his car insurance, and has told me a few times that I am more expensive to insure as I don't have enough experience of driving classic cars. That tells me I need more experience and therefore should drive classic cars more often, last time I drove was my brothers birthday, a couple of years ago, and Nate was not about then, need I say more. The section on the tidal Thames was not particularly long, and in Simons defense I suspect he though it would take longer and that is the only reason why he did not share the steering, but I have yet to let the keen reader know the difference between this on the tidal and non-tidal, maybe next time, but not if the river is still in flood.

 I decided to go and sit at the stern of the boat with Hannah and watch the beautiful countryside go by, and it really is beautiful countryside, it's quite hard to believe we were well inside the M25 for this part of the trip. We sat and watched and shared mothers thoughts, leaving the older boys with the younger boys, when all of a sudden I heard Simon call out 'Nate' and the tone was one of alarm. I raced down the boat to the wheelhouse to find Nate looking all calm and happy whilst the older boys looked slightly shocked. It transpired that Nate, who was strapped into his Britax car seat, firmly placed on the table, had got so excited with all he could see he had started bouncing in his seat. His bouncing must have been very enthusiastic as he managed to get the seat to bounce with him, to the edge and then off the table. Luckily Ed had been stood near the top of the stairs and Nate had landed sideways so was extremely well cushioned for the impact when he fell. I began to be aware of how many times I was thinking about how lucky we had been and hoped fervently that our luck did not run out.

 The talk slowly turned away from Nate and moved to how we would know when we were at the turning, Hannah and Ed had done the trip in their boat in the summer, and said the signposting wasn't great, but knew roughly, Simon had a vague idea as he had looked at maps in advance, it will surprise the reader to know it hadn't occurred to me to think about it till it was mentioned.

 Simon had decided that he was going to go past the turning and then do a U-turn bringing Misterton back upstream into the opening towards Brentford and the home of MSO marine. He had decided this because previous boaters who had undertaken the turn had let him know that the turn is so tight it was common to come dangerously close to hitting other boats. Simon wanted to avoid  hitting any boats, one because it might damage them, and two because we just don't need anymore holes even so close to MSO marine. As Simon started to guide the boat through his chosen path, a silence descended on the boat, as we all watched, and I willed it to be right.  It only took a couple of minutes, and I tried to capture it but this was hard, Simon executed a perfect turn into the opening, and we glided beautifully up the inlet towards the waving man who was worked for MSO and it had been agreed he would meet us so we could handover keys etc.

We had arrived, Misterton was where she needed to be to ensure that her lifespan and our home was at least as long as our sons, and with a little luck longer. Lets hope our luck continues.