The Birth of Anú- 3 – Afloat!

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‘ Bathing is a very lonely business.

Except for fish…fish all bathe together. Though they do tend to eat one another.’ ( Hobson & Arthur  – ‘ Arthur ‘ )

Well, it’s been a while since I had any time to write this blog, as we have just moved off The Island…

Previous readers may know how much we loved living there  ( my post: Island Life covers this subject ) but ’tis done…and onwards we go, to the next adventure.

So, feeling the need to remind myself  of the goal in sight, I went to see Keith, Cameron and Kieran at my new home to be- Hart’s Boatyard- to discover the latest joys of their  progress on my boat, Anú.

She’s afloat!

Sitting in the water, a wonder to behold, with her paint shining- the Shannon Green I chose way back in August last year, and with a lovely new canopy over the stern.

As my last post covered ‘ technical’ bits and bobs ( Anú 2 – Something For The Boys )  I thought it was only fair to bring all you ladies up to speed with the finer points of  the delicate art of home- making on the water.

I hope the boys will like it too!

As good as his word, Kieran- another of my fantastic boat builders- has now  wired Anú for sound, with speakers in the ceiling and remote access, so that I can play my music all over the boat, in any space I choose.

Regular readers will certainly know about my passions for both music and dance ( see my posts: Music Was My First Love and Shall We Dance? ) and not a day goes by that I don’t tune in and have a bit of a sing – I hope the fish won’t mind.

Kieran took me to see the new wardrobes in the bedroom.

Keith was listening when I told him I need plenty of space for my clothes – they are wonderfully spacious and yet so cleverly done that they utilise the area beautifully…well done chaps!

And then Keith showed me the bath.

Now I know not everybody has a bath fitted on their boat, but as I explained before, I do like to bathe- particularly in the winter and after a cold game of tennis.

And here it is ( see pic! )

As so often happens, a scene from one of my -and Molly’s-favourite films popped into my head. Song lyrics, or lines from films tend to come to me at random moments. It’s to do with being a writer, I think, and loving words.

I immediately thought of the bathing scene in the film ‘ Arthur’, where the very wonderful Dudley Moore and Sir John Gielgud ( as his butler, Hobson ) discuss the merits of bathing and whether or not it is better to bathe alone or in company.

I was fascinated to learn from Keith- who is an endless source of boating knowledge- that when I bathe onboard Anú, I will actually be bathing in the river!

This is because ( and excuse me if I get this wrong, Keith! ) when you’re in the bath, the bath level is actually BELOW the level of the river, so you are in fact up to your knees in the river Thames.

This is appropriately, and rather wonderfully, known as ‘ The Swim.’ NB: Look out for another post coming shortly on other Boating Terms!

My bath also doesn’t have a plug in it, but rather, a switch.

I couldn’t help but start to laugh at all this info, and of course, began to think of Dudders and how I would certainly not be bathing alone ( though I might like to wear a Top Hat in the bath, as he does )  but would be feeling at one with the fishes.

‘ Perhaps’ said Keith, ‘ you might enjoy a glass -bottomed bath for a better view?’

Now we were getting into the realms of my ultimate fantasy- which has always been myself as a Mermaid, à la Ariel in The Little Mermaid, or ( in my childhood )  Aqua Marina, from Thunderbirds and Stingray.

‘ I don’t think that would be as romantic as my fantasy Keith, I replied,  ‘ as the only things likely to float by in The Thames would be the odd plimsoll, beer can or Pike, rather than exotic species and I really don’t fancy seeing an eel swim past my leg as I bathe.’

On this note, we agreed to keep the bath non- transparent.

Keith then asked me if I would like to see my newly – varnished Porthole ( as per pic .)

As we went into the Marine workshop, it occurred to me yet again how very lucky I am to be having my own boat built to my exact spec.

How often in life is anything made for us with such loving care?

Everything on Anú will be crafted and built by Master Craftsmen, with skill and patience and love for boats and the water.

My own father is a Shipwright, and has a love of, and interest in, ships and boats and how they are built too, so I think it must be in the blood.

How can it fail to be anything other than happy, to live on such a vessel, entirely made of love, talent, hard work  and good vibes?

At this point, just as I was about to leave, the workshop door opened, and in came Cam bearing a massive Paellera.

Holding enough food to feed about 12, it contained Cuban Chicken, which my new neighbour Vinny, who is very  popular, and  known at his restaurant as ‘ The Naughty chef,’ had  made for our lunch ( pic)

It was absolutely delicious.

Oh yes- I think I’m going to be alright living here.

Captain Amanda

‘ Arthur’ -Screenwriter: Steve Gordon. Starring : Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, Sir John Gielgud.

Copyright Amanda Hills 2017, All Rights Reserved

 

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The Birth Of Anu- 2. – Something For The Boys ?

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When I first  mentioned to my Dad that I was thinking of buying a boat to live on, I think he feared for me.

Maybe he had visions of me in an old, but charming vessel, bailing out through the night in my wellies and pyjamas …( it could have been the case! )

And then, once having decided to have a boat built especially for me, to my own spec, I sat down with my parents one hot July afternoon this summer and opened the brochure that  Keith ( boatbuilder ) and Ossie ( Marine owner ) had given me.

‘ What engine does she have on board? ‘ My Dad asked me.

‘ She doesn’t know the detail of that kind of thing, Chris!’ Said my kind Mum, who knows me well.

It was sadly true, and as I handed the brochure over to my engrossed father- who is after all, a Marine Engineer and Shipwright and DOES know the detail-  I resolved to rectify that.

So this second blog on The Birth Of ANU, is going to be slightly more technical, though I hope no less fun.

After my decision had been made,  I sat down with Keith again, and this time, he had just returned from overseeing the start of my build in Great Yarmouth.

I must thank him again, as I know this involved a very long day which began at 5am, and those of you who know me, know I’m not really an early morning person ( it’s the creative, yer see.)

I had asked him to send me a few photos of the hull and how she was beginning to shape up ( see pics )

And I also asked for some info on Anu’s construction, engine and all those vital  parts that my father ( and some others, mainly chaps, sorry ladies if I’m being a little sexist, I’m sure  there are many of you who may well be engine- inclined! )  had been so interested in.

So here is some of that info- abridged as I see fit, since this is not a manual for a boat – building enthusiast, and I hate manuals anyway – never knowingly read one!

Worry not, readers of the fairer sex, or those not particularly fascinated by  engines, I shall return swiftly to the real necessities of life afloat, such as a Cocktail cabinet, space for my little black dresses and three types of Gin.

My boat – Anu- is a Widebeam Barge. She will measure 57′ by 11′ and she will be a luxury one berth boat with all mod cons and built to a very high quality.

The name of the company building her is Alicat, which as I mentioned in my first blog, is project managed and overseen by Cameron Stewart,  who also happened to go to school with my daughter Molly.

Keith Bullard is the boatbuilder who designs and ‘ steers’ the whole thing ( pardon the pun) and he has now built 40 boats to similar specs…Anu will be his 41st- a good number!

At the moment, this is all happening in Great Yarmouth, but ANU will be floated down nearer to where I will be moored quite soon.

I chose Shannon Green and Cream for her paintwork, as those are traditional Irish colours and she has an ‘ Irish theme,’ with the Harp logo and Celtic knot design that I chose for her exterior.

Please forgive me, Keith, if I get any of this incorrect, I am still learning and I think always will be, but as I understand it, Anu will have a steel hull, and her engine is a 60 horsepower Canaline, which is a Japanese Marinised engine and the best of its type.

There, that was sexy wasn’t it?!

Canaline engines are very robust and easy to maintain, which is exactly what we want for this sort of vessel , which- after all-will be a home, as well as a boat I will learn to drive and sail.

She will have a fully fitted luxury kitchen, complete with aforementioned wine fridge ( very important ) a Swan Hatch…for saying friendly ‘hellos’ to passing wildlife whilst making your morning Cuppa  …and a large breakfast bar / table in stainless steel and glass for feeding the troops – a job I relish and thoroughly enjoy, for I dearly love to have friends and family  round my table.

Anu will have a beautiful bathroom on board, complete with shower AND bath, thanks to Keith’s design skill. As I mentioned in the first blog, I dance most days and play a lot of sport, so I do love to come home and get in a nice hot bath with a glass of fizz or something stronger!

I must remember to ask Keith about my on-board music system,  as that  is another thing in life that I cannot live without, and I often like to partake of a little Michael Buble whilst in the tub ( Molly calls this a ‘ Buble Bath’).

Anu will also have a large main Saloon, complete with a wood burner for extra toastiness, as well as being fully centrally heated- cosy.

The bedroom will be fully fitted with extra wardrobe and shoe space ( thank you Keith ) for the little black dresses and their friends, and there will be a Japanese screen at the foot of the bed, for privacy from passing ducks and to  give that rather ‘ James Bond in ‘ You Only Live Twice’ effect.

In fact, for future reference, and if in any doubt Keith, just imagine you are designing and building a boat for Bond, as I have always wanted to be the female equivalent- (except I don’t like pain, so would give in under torture) and am completely obsessed, owning the entire box set…for those rainy nights in front of the log burner.

To conclude the spec ( for now ) outside on the bow, there will be fitted seating for summer drinking, and a little ladder built in, for ease of climbing up onto the roof to enjoy the stunning views that Mother Nature always provides…and a handrail, collapsible for going under low bridges, on the roof itself,  to assist with wobbles as you hold onto your Martini ( shaken, not stirred, one olive and a twist for me ).

The stern will have a full, barge – style canopy fitted over it, so that we don’t get wet when pulling off our wellies or damp sports gear and to keep us cosy and act as a sort of porch in the more inclement weather.

So there we are, I think that will suffice  for now. Something for everyone, I hope.

During the writing of this blog, I actually had to ring Keith to check I’d got the type of engine right ( I hadn’t ) so I’ve got a lot to learn, I’ve not even scraped the surface yet, the tip of the iceberg, to use yet another boating term…of which there are many.

Perhaps Santa might bring me a book on ‘ Boating for Beginners ‘ in my stocking this year…

And on that note, I’m off to the kitchen that I currently inhabit, here on The Island, to mix this evening’s cocktails…just call me Bond- Amanda Bond.

Down the hatch.

Copyright Amanda Hills 2016  All Rights Reserved

Life Afloat- The Birth Of Anu

 

I think I have always wanted to live on a boat.

I have an adventurous spirit, and for those of you who have read my previous blogs, you may remember that one of my very first was about my love of the water- being beside it, in it or on it (  amandahlondon Just Keep Swimming ).

Having been blessed to live on a beautiful private island here on The River Thames for the last 10 years ( amandahlondon Island Life  for more on this! ) I have experienced first – hand the wonders of being so close to nature on a daily basis.

A friend told me, years ago, when I first bought this house, that once I’d lived on the water, there would be no going back.

Richard- you were absolutely right!

We have loved living here, but the time has come for a change of scenery and a new adventure, and recently, I decided that new horizons were beckoning.

I started to look at smaller houses and flats elsewhere ( this was to be a downsize – my eldest son, Rob, and his  girlfriend Marley, live in America and I want to be able to go over and see them on a regular basis ).

But I very quickly became despondent.

Even the nicest of the houses had one vital ingredient missing: water.

Where was the water?

My house here on The Island has a mooring, and amongst the boatyard friends I have made whilst living here, I am well known for being out there, in all weathers.Wrapped up in winter, sunbathing in the summer.

The sight of geese water -skiing up to greet me in the morning, or a baby coot following its mother, or the laughing of the ducks ( yes, they laugh ) fills my soul with deep joy.

And I’m a writer, so I find the peace and tranquillity of the river very inspiring, it allows me space to breathe and create, away from the bustle of London, where I often work.

I began to think I could not bear to leave. I love my house, and will be sad to move on, but it is so much more about my love of being so close to nature, and to water in particular.

But what to do? I needed to simplify and make life less expensive, and anyway, had itchy feet.

My friend Barnaby, who works at the aforementioned boatyard, had spoken to me before about the possibilities of buying a boat to live on.

We had talked at length about it, over a Gimlet or two, and I had listened very carefully.

Barnaby is himself building a boat, which he plans to live on one day.

And so, after much thought, and as I always do whenever I need the soundest advice, particularly in matters financial, I called my friend Zed Lorgat ( JM Financial, for any of you who need a top finance wizard ).

Zed had been advising me on my house move anyway, and knew my plans to downsize, plus my love of the water.

‘ Zed, ‘ I said to him, ‘ I don’t think I can leave the river. Do you think it would be absolutely crazy of me to consider buying a boat to live on?’

Now, Zed knows me well, but is also not afraid of being quite forthright in his opinions …he is a Yorkshireman after all. I knew I would get an honest answer from him.

‘ No,’ he said, ‘ I actually think it’s a really good idea.’

I thought so too.

As always, when I decide on something, The Universe seems to conspire to help me along, for the very next thing that happened was that Barnaby called me.

I had begun to look at some boats that were for sale locally, and I have to admit, I’d seen a couple of very unsuitable vessels ( ok-  they were stinkers.)

Here, I have to thank Steve, who along with his wife, Mel, is a friend of mine who also just happens to be the lock – keeper at the next lock along – East Molesey.

Steve steered me away from a couple of potentially dire purchases- as I say, I am very blessed, I have friends here on the river.

One though, was beautiful, but far too big for me.

She was a Dutch Barge, fully navigable, and my mind began to fill with possibilities.

By now, I had decided against a houseboat. I wanted a boat I could not only live on, but learn to sail. To meander upstream with my family or a friend, drinks in hand, and moor up under a weeping willow for the night…with always a good pub close by- what could be better?

And the delicious prospect of deciding on a new horizon and changing view as often as desired…yes, the sailing life was beckoning me.

‘ Amanda, ‘ said Barnaby, ‘ Don’t buy that one, she’s far too big and expensive and I’ve got a better idea. Come down to the yard and I will introduce you to Keith. He builds boats.’

Reader, I did.

I had always somehow thought that you had to be some kind of oligarch to commission a boat to be built for you.It seemed so…rockstarinsouthoffrance.

I never dreamed that I would be in a position to sit down with a boat builder and describe my perfect boat to him, yet that is exactly what happened.

I sat there, at Harts Boatyard and Stewart Marine with Keith and Barnaby,  and I decided  to commission a boat…built for me,  to my very own spec.

Amazing!

We looked over a couple-  Widebeam Barges, the type I would be having- and Barnaby told me the right questions to ask.

I knew I should be asking about the engine, and how smoothly she steered, but I was already out on the bow, entranced with the panoramic, 360 degree view over the most stunning stretch of river, with a faraway smile in my eyes, planning the name and colours. Imagining myself, up on the roof, enjoying a sunrise or sunset, chilled wine never far away. 

I was a goner. It was a foregone conclusion.

Even my Dad, who as a Shipwright, was involved with boats his whole career, approved the engine spec and design.

But how could this be done? I hadn’t yet sold my house, and a deposit needed to be paid to seal the deal.

Zed,  yet again, came to the rescue, pulling the rabbit out of the hat, managing to put together a finance package for me which would allow me to pay said deposit whilst awaiting my house sale ( thank you Zed, and Jane, PA extraordinaire at JM Financial ).

The impossible had suddenly become possible – I was on my way.

So Keith and I sat down again, this time with Ossie Stewart, who owns the boat – building company and the Marine,  and together we drafted the layout of what was to be my boat ( see pic for final version ) .

Keith must be praised here, for immediately ‘ getting ‘ me ( and for bearing with me during several changes of mind on where the main berth would go …thanks Keith).

He had incorporated plenty of wardrobe and shoe space ( I love clothes ), a bath as well as a shower,  as I cannot do without one, particularly in the winter, a log – burning fire,  bookshelves for my many books, and – most importantly- a special wine cooler in the galley kitchen.

We had even built in some steps leading up to the roof, for ease of access when admiring the view or sunbathing.

As I always say, I can do very well without essentials, but I must have my luxuries…and creating warmth and cosiness wherever I am is very important to me, as my family and friends will testify.

And in the meantime, a hot July afternoon spent dreaming in a deckchair,( always so vital for inspiration, doing nothing much ) with a beloved book of mine, ‘ Anam Cara’ by John O’ Donohue, an Irish poet and philosopher, had resulted in me finding a name for her- ‘ ANU’ , which is Celtic, and means  Goddess of the earth, rivers, sea and abundance.

Having always had  a very strong affinity with my Irish heritage on my mother’s side, and a deep love of Ireland, ( my daughter’s name, Molly, was chosen for this reason also )  I wanted Anu to be painted in traditional Irish colours, and Keith suggested Shannon Green and Cream ( again, see pic ).

I chose the harp as my logo, inspired by that traditional and most nutritious Irish beverage- Guinness, and because the harp is, for me, a mythical and beautiful instrument which I have always associated with the sea and water.

As a further nice connection, my son Fred plays drums in the Ellie Ford Band, where Ellie herself writes the songs and plays the harp.

It was all beginning to come together.

And so, the journey begins.

Keith has already been to Great Yarmouth, to oversee the start of the build.

I shall go with him next time, and will post some photos of the hull as it takes shape.

Ossie has a son, Cameron,who is involved in the building of Anu, and in another  twist, went to infant school with Molly…funny how life comes full circle.

It is SO exciting!

And a new talking point at parties, where quite a few people ( the chaps especially, I have to say) are expressing a huge interest, along with a desire to know more, and be invited on board when she is built.

‘ Oh, how wonderful, I’ve always wanted to live on a boat, ‘ they tell me. ‘ Can you fish?’

It is not for everyone, but as Zed says-  it suits me.

So, I look forward to sharing my adventures with you, as they happen, in this blog.

Both as ‘ ANU’  is born, and once I finally step aboard and start sailing her around the rivers and canals.

Bon Voyage, and I do hope you will enjoy the trip!

Captain Amanda

‘ Anam Cara’ by John O’ Donohue

copyright Amanda Hills 2016, All Rights Reserved