I can’t actually believe that we are now in October! Where has the time gone? We seem to have been quite busy however we don’t know what we’ve done!!
Steve has continued with his pot-fishing and has decided to try and turn it a bit “sciency” to see if he will be able to predict what he may or may not be able to cook for dinner.
We have finally had our first (and only) visitor – our first-born, Sean!! The day before his arrival, Steve commented that it would be ideal if he was able to catch a couple of lobsters to feed the protein-hungry child, but then thought that two in the same pot wasn’t a good idea as they would fight. However, that morning Steve lifted his pot to discover two lobsters, one being the largest he’d caught to date – weighing 1kg. Steve then started to worry whether it would actually fit in our biggest saucepan.
Sean came for a long weekend (and I think he found it a little bit of a culture shock as the pace of the life can’t be further from his usual London lifestyle). However, the restaurant that is Shearmyste, may have made up for the other short-comings, including a lobster roll breakfast, made with homemade bread roll and freshly caught lobster. We did try to entertain him but our choices of entertainment were quite limited – generally either shark fishing with daddy (with son as bait) or snorkelling/swimming with mummy. Surprisingly he chose to go swimming with me – this then caused me to return to being the worried parent with small child at the beach. I did very little swimming as I was panicking that I couldn’t see where he was – it was like he was four years old again and not twenty-nine! It was absolutely brilliant to see him and we hope he will join us again!
One of the major jobs we had on our Job List but kept putting off was the coach-roof leak repairs. We had planned to replace some small sections to see if that would cure the leaks using the wood supplied at Christmas by Mac. Unfortunately this repair, although looking good, actually created other internal leaks. This meant that we could no longer put off the inevitable so, before starting to rip it off, Steve checked with the local timber merchant that they would be able to supply a hardwood. As the price wasn’t too eye-watering the job could commence. Steve was adamant that it would be a relatively easy job and take a maximum of five days. We have a large tarpaulin that would cover most of the roof and provide protection from any rain. What a mistake to make!! Without paying too much attention to the weather forecast he decided to start ripping off the old teak-faced plywood after removing the grab rails. Unfortunately the rain decided to come with a vengeance and the tarpaulin acted like an old frame tent and as we all know frame tents when touched from the inside leak like sieves. Removing the handrails had created an extra 24 holes and with the two large window openings no longer fully secure the rain came in. To make matters worse as the rain came in Steve was busy in the galley filleting a wrasse! I was running around grabbing buckets and towels and trying to catch as much rain in my hands as I could! Happy Days!!! Four or five buckets later we had been able to catch the majority of the water ingress. Once the rain abated Steve was more focussed on getting the job done. Once all the wood was up, it was time to fill all the holes (at least another 50 grub screws!) The wood would take two weeks to be delivered so we had that time to do all the prep work and this also pushed us to remove the teak under the sprayhood as this was in poor condition as well (but didn’t leak!)
When the wood arrived we fixed the centre sections of the panelling then we had to wait for a two day weather window as we knew we would be unable to complete the hatch areas in a single day. Our first planned start of this next section was going to be the Sunday/Monday following the Beaucette Marina BBQ on the Saturday. However, due to the free-flowing free beer and good company, Steve woke with a headache along with a large number of other marina berth holders! (As did I, however I took headache pills and neglected to tell Steve!!!) This caused a two day delay as more rain was forecast. We managed over the next ten days (in between the rain showers) to fit the remaining wood sections and seal and return the boat to a watertight state (ish). Unfortunately we were still experiencing leaks around the hatches, so more sealant was applied. We are now pleased to report that we are leak-free!!!!
The other debate whilst we were fitting the wood was how to finish it. Neither of us are keen on silvered hardwood so our options were oil or varnish. As we have not had a great amount of success with oiling, varnish was always going to be the preferred choice (for Steve especially, as varnishing always seems to be my job). We set up the tarpaulin to protect the newly varnished surfaces form our resident seagulls who like to deposit from the top of the mast, but this seemed to turn the space into a greenhouse and also happened to coincide with what felt like the three hottest days of the year! We managed to apply it over the three days and are extremely happy with the result.
Overall Steve’s five day job took from 26th June until 28th August – the longest five days I’ve ever heard of. Did he really earn a living as a project manager?
With Steve catching all this stuff (fish) that I don’t really like eating, his focus has widened to try to provide other foraged meals. The first foray was mushrooms. With a newly purchased book in hand off he went to return with the following items:
- Fairy champignons
- Field mushrooms
With a view that these would cooked and placed on my pizza that evening, Steve prepared the mushrooms and cooked them in a bit of garlic & butter. First I tried the fairy champignons, they slid down, slimy and tasteless – urgh. Then the field mushroom – which was pretty bland and finally the puffball – the worst of the lot – the texture of undercooked lamb fat – bleurgh. So I had tomato and pepper pizza instead!! This hasn’t stopped our foraging but has stopped me trying any more mushrooms so far – he is still working on me. So, on the island, non-fish based foraging has resulted in finding blackberries (which has renewed my love of homemade jam – without bits, sorry mum!), apples (spicy apple chutney), chestnuts (still to be eaten), wild garlic (our very first foray, back in April!), nasturtium flower heads and leaves (very peppery), wild onion and wild fennel. We are still searching for nut trees on the island but have been informed that there is a walnut tree within an hour’s cycle! We now have our eyes on the haws. Haw jelly is the next planned test.
Having received a call from our youngest, sometime in July, suggesting daddy might like to go to the rugby double-header as his birthday present (perhaps I should swap birthdays with him as it is more a present for me!!) we decided to make a “holiday” of it as this may be the only way to see our families as they don’t appear to want to travel to see us – or perhaps it’s just the sleeping on the boat putting them off! With the Southampton Boat Show also on in September we decided to arrive just in time for the rugby and leave just after the boat show. The most convenient route for us was to travel overnight on the Clipper, arriving in the early hours in Portsmouth and then take a train into London, stay with Sean and Laura for the weekend and then travel north to see my sister in Skegness and my brother in Burton on Trent and then return south to spend time with our parents before returning via Poole to Beaucette.
This gave us a deadline to work to, to finish the coach-roof and to reduce the contents of our fridge. Steve was reluctant to quit fishing, as he needs his twice daily fix of pulling his pot. We carefully planned our last ten days of meals, not accounting for any new arrivals. The lobster were obviously unaware of our intentions as in those last ten days Steve probably had lobster every day and also supplied three other boats with at least seven adult portions of lobster – even providing an evening of instruction on the best way (his) to dress one. This, in turn, added to our predicament as, after instructing, we were too late and too inebriated to bother to eat our smoked eel or Mediterranean veg quiches! We did end up leaving some cooked gammon behind in the fridge but Steve had decided to allow this to go off to use as his first bait on our return!
With our bags packed, off we trundled with our faithful trolley loaded, bus to the ferry and proceeded through Customs! This was the most lax customs we had ever seen, I’m sure they carry out more checks on the Isle of Wight ferries!! We hadn’t booked a cabin as there hadn’t been the option to do so online but had booked reclining seats in the quiet lounge (unbeknownst to us at the front of the boat). We had seats 3 and 4 – giving us a dual aspect view right at the pointy end! Leaving St Peter Port we were escorted by a large pod of dolphins (always makes any trip better!) The route was via Jersey to Portsmouth with a two hour stop in Jersey. Just before entering St Helier another pod of dolphins greeted us. The crossing itself was calm (fortunately) but the seats weren’t that comfortable so Steve took to sleeping on the floor. We were not as prepared as others, who appeared with mattresses and sleeping bags! We had booked a 10 o’clock train so we would have plenty of time to get to the train station and also find breakfast. As soon as Steve spotted the Sainsbury’s he promised me almond croissants (remembering back to Lancaster – best almond croissants ever!) Unfortunately we were half an hour before opening so had to wait outside on a bench, feeling like we looked like bag people. Steve returned with a pecan plait for me (a suitable alternative as they had no almond croissants!) and a plain croissant for himself. It was a really lovely train trip to London Victoria, passing Arundel Castle in all its glory although the train did get a little busy at Gatwick! Still, it was certainly better than going into Waterloo as they had issues with overrunning engineering works!! We finally arrived at Sean’s in the afternoon (23 hours after leaving the boat – compared to Sean’s four hour trip the other way by plane!!) and Alex arrived early evening. Chinese takeaway for tea! The following day’s plan was to leave Sean’s midmorning, grab some lunch with a view to getting to Twickenham in plenty of time for the first match kick off. Having navigated our way across the smoke we found a lovely little chip shop with a park opposite. Sitting down to eat our lunch we were joined by some very inquisitive and tame squirrels – who also enjoyed the chips! Probably not the best diet for them, but they looked pretty healthy!
The rugby was pretty good although Harlequins did lose. The first match was Saracens v Northampton and as we were sitting amongst a large number of Northampton fans, it was very entertaining as they well and truly got their arses kicked!! Fortunately (as I am not a big fan of Sarries), I didn’t make too much of it, which was just as well when we lost!!
As Melanie (my sister) failed to respond to phone call and voicemail we changed our plans and Alex drove us to Mac and Mum’s instead. We spent about a week there, foraging whilst walking Jake (the dog). Steve found hazelnuts, beech nuts, more mushrooms including chicken of the woods and an inedible bracket fungus. He roasted the hazelnuts – very tasty. The best smelling man in the world (brother-in-law Kevin) joined us for a few days and it was decided that we would take him back to Burton on Trent and meet up with David, Zoe and the kids for a pub lunch. Squeezing the five of us (and Jake) into Mac’s Mazda 3 was entertaining – we almost thought we’d have to put “granny” on the roof Griswald-style (National Lampoon’s Vacation), although David suggested we might look more like the Clampetts!?! Mac had put Steve onto his insurance so Steve got to drive a car for the first time in over a year – and a manual one at that! Mac finally managed to get rid of us by very kindly driving us to Steve’s parents, I think he did it to make sure we got there and didn’t reappear on his doorstep!
We planned a week with Steve’s parents as well. With the weather being good, we went for a relatively long walk one day and Steve found an apple tree a stone’s throw from his parent’s house. So he started climbing and picking. Steve’s mum thought we had been up to no good when we returned as I brushed the remnants of the tree off his back! Steve took his dad and a large bag back and they managed to pick 9lb of apples from a tree that his dad had no idea was there! Plenty of apple wine on the cards now.
Whilst we’d been at my mum’s, she’d mentioned that she and Mac were keen to get a map of the footpaths around the village and she wanted to ‘posh up’ her cake eating with some of those little cake forks – the ones with the little knife-like bit on one of the prongs, so this was in the back of our minds. As usual we found ourselves in the charity shops in Hythe and Steve spotted a map section in the Oxfam book shop. Amazingly, in there was the Ordnance Survey map covering Owslebury – result! Steve had spotted, whilst returning from his sisters, a large catering shop in Southampton so a plan was hatched. When the opportunity arose to go into Southampton, we got dropped off nearby and investigated the shop. The only suitable forks available came in a pack of twelve so we purchased those and packaged them up with the map and posted them. The next day I got a phone call thanking us, although mum did say we should have bought her bigger cake tins if we expect her to provide cake for twelve!
I’m not sure whether it was because he took over or was encouraged to take over but Steve cooked every other day at mum and Mac’s and every day at his mum’s (except one – the traditional pea fritter and chips or fish and chips night!!) I did do some things – I gave my mum a bread making lesson and we had homemade bread, rolls and pizza! We also had at least four crumbles there – different fruit each time (and requested by us!!) Steve made fish pie, devilled kidneys and toad in the hole for his parents. We also had fruit crumble with Steve’s mum and dad – we certainly overdid the puddings on this trip!
One of the most unusual things to happen, food wise, was that on the day we arrived at my mum’s she had made cheese scones. Now I haven’t had cheese scones in I don’t know how long and Steve wasn’t even sure if he liked them – funnily enough he did! That in itself wasn’t unusual, however the day we arrived at Steve’s mum’s she had also made cheese scones! What a coincidence!!
The boat show was very quiet. We went on the Monday but speaking to some of the exhibitors it hadn’t been any busier over the weekend. We had a good wander around and got the information we were after about possible berths for 2018, potentially on the southwest coast of England and a few bits we were after. A good tip: if you are going to the boat show and fancy a glass of wine at lunchtime visit the insurance brokers!!
Our return ferry was the faster Condor Liberation out of Poole. This should have taken 3 hours but was slightly delayed as, apparently, they made a mistake loading the cars and then because of tidal constraints we had to take a slightly different route, going through Big Russel instead of Little Russel. Again we were extremely lucky with our seats, getting a huge amount of legroom, right next to the duty free shop. Yet another smooth crossing – thank goodness! Arrived back at Shearmyste having had a very good break and fortunately Steve helped me put everything away before getting to his most important job – baiting and lowering his lobster pot!!