Smokey and the brownie

Steve has managed to earn his brownie points – the one job low on his priority list due to it being “quite a big job” has finally been ticked off! I have new galley flooring!!! It is brilliant I can sweep and wipe it down in about 5 seconds flat – heaven!!  After hunting high and low for a carpet/vinyl flooring store (admittedly only in our immediate area, there are probably loads in Caen!) we finally managed to find some suitable lino at Bricorama in Colleville Montgomery.  It was a grey morning when we set off and the rains came down on our trip back – I really do love cycling in the rain – mad I know but so much better than getting overheated!

Our normal practice in this type of work involves the product to be fitted having to acclimatise (generally for at least 6 weeks) in the garage (which we no longer have!) although I suppose he could have used his man cave (stern locker – 8ft x 4ft x 4ft – almost a full-size shed!) but that’s not watertight!  However, the very next day he set about removing the ridges and then the old lino – amazingly he was able to get it out in one piece so he had a template to use!  The longest part of that day’s activity fell to me, which was to remove as much glue as possible from the floor – the afternoon went well as I was probably as high as kite on the solvents used – no alcohol required!! He did have to undertake a small modification to the insert to stop the rocking which involved using a rubber strip that had been in his bucket of “come in handy one day” stuff.  By the end of day 1: lino up, glue removed, insert screwed down, new lino cut from template and all in time for wine o’clock (3pm CET).  The following morning the monumental task of replacing began and by 12 o’clock Steve had finished!  No need for edging strips as he had managed to slide it beneath the units (ok with a bit of extra force and a lever at times).  So all in all, this significant task cost approximately 17 Euros and about 8 hours of real work (at least 4 of which were mine!) and several shouts of “I hate lino”.  Admittedly the job was made so much easier by the fact that the old flooring came up in one piece as if he’d have had to cut in situ we may not have survived the Stanley knife.

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Squeak Free, Easy To Clean Floor

Steve’s favourite expression is “everything tastes better with bacon”.  Since finishing his last, purchased in England, 12 rashers of smoked streaky bacon he has been trying a number of alternatives to get his weekly fix.  This has proved difficult but not insurmountable, so if you are venturing to France and run out of this staple don’t panic there are passable alternatives.  Look near the wide variety of sliced ham products and usually tucked somewhere obscure you might be lucky enough to spot the Bacon Fume – it isn’t as strongly smoked (contains an awful lot less water!) and usually only has 7 rashers per pack.  The other struggle has been for an uncooked smoked bacon joint (recognise a theme here?)  One has been discovered at E Leclerc – however, in Steve’s words: “it aint big”. Having said that it does last him at least 4 or 5 meals so in my view is plenty big enough!

As we have mentioned before, one of the benefits to being at Ouistreham is the proximity of the ferry to Portsmouth, now this can be considered as a positive or a negative depending on whether you want to be away from the English speaking world.  Steve had spoken about going to the Southampton Boat Show back in September but I had been reluctant – mainly because we had talked ourselves out of going since visiting the year before (although I think there might have been another undercurrent to my thinking).  So, having to plan for the dreaded C word (Christmas), we decided that perhaps a practice run would be advisable.  It also meant we could do a bit of shopping of some basics that we cannot do without but cannot get here or only expensively from the World Food aisle – salad cream, brown sauce, feminine items to name a few.  This was when it became patently obvious that I was going to find it very difficult to leave my beautiful baby all alone on the end of Ponton E as she doesn’t even speak the language.  We decided that our trip should be less than a week as that was as long as I could imagine being away from her  (as my other babies no longer need me and are all growed up, allegedly!)

The morning ferry arrives in Portsmouth at 1.15pm, a civilised time for a family pick-up, however it meant leaving the boat at 7am at the latest.  A still, slightly frosty & misty morning as we said our goodbyes to Shearmyste and made our way to the terminal.  The sea was unbelievably calm, thankfully and we had an uneventful crossing.

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Isle of Wight from the ferry – wot no waves

We spent a few days of very enjoyable family contact (including the essential chip butty with plastic sliced white!) and Steve could get his fix of breakfast telly (and fully understand it all!!)  We chose to return on the afternoon ferry (again a civilised time for family drop-off – thanks to both sets of parents for this!) We managed to find ourselves a comfy sofa in one of the bar areas and Steve made a trip to the shop and purchased himself a box of wine and me a bottle of vodka.  I didn’t drink very much alcohol as it was a little bit rougher on this trip!  It rained during the return crossing (not that we knew too much about it) but fortunately it had stopped by the time we got to Ouistreham at about 9.30pm.  I’m not sure if it was the amount Steve drank on the ferry or just the fact that we were back on dry land but he certainly seemed to struggle to walk in a straight line on the way back – he blamed it on the small wheels on his trolley and the weight of all our provisions in the bag secured to it!! We arrived back at the marina and Shearmyste was still where we had left her, none the worse for our absence and even greeted us with 9 degrees of warmth inside!  Amazingly the rain then decided to fall down again – but we didn’t mind we were safely home!

Some live-aboard facts for those who may want to consider the big get off the world and may not consider it as a viable option, or for those who want a view of what to expect when leaving the rat race and getting off the English island.

  • Marina fees work out at least 20% cheaper to stay a week than just one day, so if on a budget and no time pressure stay for week or even month blocks (we will spend approx. £6k this year against a year round berth at Hull of £5k), but electricity is included which will save us £20 a week over the winter period.
  • Consider joining the Cruising Association and/or RYA as it will pay for itself (in our case) in the first week in France – discounts on berthing etc.
  • When speaking to a Danish couple (back in Dieppe) who were crossing to the Caribbean they were surprised with the lack of anchoring opportunities that they had come across – so not many free nights from their experience. There will be more opportunities the further south we head (but we do like staying in marinas!!)
  • Yachts over 50ft do seem to get better berths and generally don’t have to fight in the so-called French finger berthing arrangement.
  • 17mtr boats can fit on a 9mtr finger, make sure you have a centre cleat.
  • If using gas other than Camping Gaz, go with the minimum you need for a few weeks, the cylinders are a pain to dispose of if you have a conscience.
  • Folding bikes are a godsend, I have just ordered a folding trailer to aid shopping.
  • Food prices are similar but most prices are displayed per Kg so try to have a mental picture of what that means to you, meat is at least 30-40% higher (but the meat does contain less water). English Cheddar is very hard to find and in the region of £15 per Kg so stock up if it is your staple.
  • The French market prices are higher than the supermarkets and the fresh veg and fruit doesn’t last as long.
  • It doesn’t matter if you get it wrong when trying to speak the local dialect all that matters is that you try.
  • When moving from port to port you will motor far more that you have imagined if you want to hit the tide gates.
  • We have budgeted £20k a year as we don’t have any income, we both smoke and drink but in year one we will be under budget.
  • Get a credit card that doesn’t charge for transactions, we have spent less than 300 euros in cash in 6 months.
  • Carry some spare 240v plugs or fit some continental 240v socket outlets.
  • Tool shops are few and far between, so stock up on those English size tools.
  • Re-stocking on filters and other boaty items are far cheaper from English suppliers even with the extra cost of delivery.

So end of boring entry, bottom line is look at your current life style and get the book “Sell Up and Sail” Steve got over 3000 points in their ‘Ulysses Quotient’.

Coming next food blog including the pitta bread challenge and veggie scotch eggs!

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Author: shearmyste

Steve and Theresa (Tee), living the dream aboard Shearmyste, our 55ft aluminium ketch.

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