I have also completed this rather quickly, just to get it out there and begin the proper cruising blog for 2019, so apologies for typos, repeated photos, and all other mess-ups.
Having said au revoir to Calliope and left her for the winter we decided to make two speedy visits during November and December. The first was to collect the wheelhouse roof cover and bring it home for repair and cleaning. Then a second visit was required to affix the said cover back atop the wheelhouse.
Before we went there was plenty to do at home sorting out the garden which took on an autumnal misty feel and deer pranced through every morning looking for fallen apples, tasty shoots, and anything else that I don’t want them to eat.
(yes, there is a deer in this photo)
There were also plenty of grand children duties, especially across half term. Its good when the second youngest can read to the youngest! and when the youngest still thinks that a trip to a garden centre is fun.
We got to the end of October and discovered Halloween was upon us, so dressed to kill.
Caused quite a stir at the neighbourhood party!
Then at last we were off eastwards through the Hampshire countryside towards Kent and the ferry port.
The trip across was calm and grey, leaving behind blue skies and white cliffs ………
…… finally to arrive at Calais.
The road trip down to Silvery (just south of Reims) only took about three hours, not bad considering we hit the Reims ring road at rush hour. Being November it was dark by then, so looking for the requisite ‘à droites’ and ‘à gauches’ was not easy, but finally there we were aboard again, warming up the boat as quickly as possible and toasting our return in true French style.
Next day dawned bright and Stewart set to work removing PV panels prior to the canvas being taken off next day. He had plenty more maintenance to do so I had a go at removing the accumulated leaves, cleaning some windows, shopping for food and some other good first mate chores.
Over the two days I was also able to take a series of photos in the Silvery WW1 cemetery.
It was a very moving time to be there – 8 November 2018, just 3 days before the centenary of the end of the war. In the cemetery were soldiers who had does just a few days before the ceasefire – they nearly made it. And rows of christian and muslim soldiers lying side by side, just as they had fought side by side a hundred years before.
With the canvas off the wheelhouse roof (it was coming home for some TLC) it was time to put the tarpaulin on to keep things watertight in our absence. Not a pretty job, but it worked, and stayed on through the following weeks of wind and rain.
So for us, time to head home.
We awoke to a golden winter dawn, beautiful to behold. And as we packed up to go the wintery light became even more lovely across the water of Sillery marina.
Our drive back to the ferry was uneventful, and in such good time that we diverted off the motorway through a couple of villages to find a good local French bar/restaurant with a menu de jour.
Our diversion took us through an unexpected arch – luckily with no oncoming traffic.
And so ended he first hivernage trip, but we were to return again before Christmas to fit the repaired canvas wheelhouse roof ……
But while we were home we packed in lots of family activity.
Celebrating eldest grand daughter’s 20th birthday ….
… having fun with youngest grand daughter whenever possible …..
…. watching grandsons play football …
… seasonal cooking including mixing the Christmas pudding and using up our apples in roasted garlic and apple chutney …..
….. getting our photos taken, so that friend David could practise his new art ….
… and discovering totally unabashed deer and fabulous fungi in the garden.
We swept up lots and lots and lots of leaves, piling them behind Stewart’s lovely whirly-bird wheel sculpture.
Then the unexpected kicked in! We suddenly decided to buy a new house, which has the necessary consequence of putting the current one on the market! Plenty of cleaning, tidying, maintenance etc, and it all paid off. We had a buyer and really did have to sort out down-sizing.
And we still needed to go back to Sillery with the new wheelhouse cover, and complete Calliope maintenance. It was a quick 3 day trip in December.
Mission was accomplished and we saw more beautiful wintry dawns ….
and we saw Sillery at its most festive.
Then it was headlong towards Christmas, including delightful times with youngest grand daughter with fish and chips on Southsea sea front.
Christmas Day was a big family event – our last at Bishopswood with comfortable space for all 12; good fun all round.
New Year’s Eve is another chance to celebrate with family – grand daughter No. 3’s birthday – then back home to see the new year in before we set to in earnest with the house move.
January and February were a haze of giving, eBaying, Freecycling, auctioning and charity donating all the many things that would not fit into our new home. It was a mixture of reminiscing, delight and some sadness. No photos fit for this!
But one beautiful occurrence on January 21st was the appearance of a ruby moon – so amazing that my camera did a double take!
On March 5th we moved out of our lovely rambling wooden bungalow and its huge field of a garden. We said goodbye to the robin, the greenhouse, the many many trees, and had one last bonfire
We were then expecting to be homeless for a couple of weeks. In amongst a short holiday and visiting family we were able once more to make the trip to Sillery and start the de-winterising of Calliope. We had a lovely few misty morning spring days on board, clearing to blue skies, and we were longing to be off cruising, but still had the house move to complete.
So back to England, and with a push and a shove we managed to fit ourselves and our belongings into The Mixing House – a home looking out onto a creek off Portsmouth Harbour. We just love to see water – canals, rivers, sea, lakes.
Our new house has both a historical and maritime heritage. It is built within the blast walls of the old Shell Filling Houses where the shells for the navy’s were filled with explosive and run along rails to be loaded onto the ships.
And the creek (or Forton Lake as it is properly known) has the remains of many old hulks and other marine artefacts, just marvellous to explore for any boat lover.
Our view includes Portsmouth’s spinnaker tower and the new super carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth II, when she is in harbour.
We had a fabulous 5 weeks settling in, providing Stewart with plenty more opportunities to use his practical skills; no photos of this shy retiring working man.
During all this time we needed another canal fix so went up to the Grand Union Canal to visit family living aboard a narrow boat – so lovely!
There was also the exciting event at Wembley to watch my football team, Pompey, win the Checkatrade Cup on penalties. I know, it’s not that fantsactic an achievement but when you support Pompey you take every trophy that you can.
Easter was fun with all the family coming to squeeze into the new abode – yes they do fit!
Then back to Sillery once more, via another night at Folkestone. We have come to rather love that town.
When we arrived in Sillery the weather was not promising and I had to dig out the wet weather baguette bag for the boulangerie run, but by tea time I was sitting in sunshine.
We found we had a new neighbour, Jacana, a lovely old Tjalk, but no crew aboard.
– this time to bring and fit our new PV solar panels, and for Stewart to become an engineer. He completed a full service on the barge – gold star.
Between us we also got some painting done – I am only let loose on the wooden struts to support the PV panels, but managed to do this without getting wood stain where it shouldn’t be.
We managed to fit in a bit of a canal walk and had a day out driving through the champagne vineyards, and also buying champagne, Ratafia and beer to take home after our 9 day stay.
I also got into photographic mode about Sillery bridges – scroll on down if this is several bridges too far!
And, as always, we met lovely new people on other boats – then say good-bye as they cruise away.
My particular joy on this trip was managing to bring back the geraniums that were on Calliope last year, wintered in our greenhouse (see photo somewhere above), then sat outside the new house until we loaded them into the car and reinstated them aboard.
One last trip to England before cruising begins, with three aims in mind; first to celebrate son’s 50th birthday (he has some interesting obsessions!), second to see youngest grand daughter over half term, and third to oversee the final bits of snagging on the new house. The first two were easily and enjoyably accomplished. The third – well that is an ongoing, different, story.
So on June 2nd we finally finally left the UK for Sillery, leaving our lone poppy behind.
Stewart finished fixing the new solar panels and they work!
Let cruising begin!