Thursday, 23 February 2017

Lapworth (a gruelling time in the sun)

Even though we are away from the boat this week I thought I would make the odd blog entry even if just for our own memories.  

The island we are staying on is stunning and we feel so fortunate to have found somewhere that suits us down to the ground.  We are determined to walk at least five miles each day as well as swimming just to make sure we get some exercise.  On Tuesday we walked two miles along the beach to the east of the villa.  We saw two other couples and a fisherman, oh, and lots of birdlife of course.  We were in an area that has  salt lagoons behind the shoreline which makes for  interesting flora and fauna. 

We have seen a few butterflies, mainly from the white, brown and blue families.  The most common so far has been the Plain Tiger (aka African Monarch) which belongs to a family not seen in the UK.

Plain Tiger

In the evening we wandered down to the bar on the beach to watch the fisherman come in and then went to what’s purported to be the best restaurant in the place.  It happens to be right next to the villa which is handy.  I’m not sure what criteria is used to make it the best but we had a pleasant time.  During the day it is a general stores run by Isobel, who is 20 and the middle child of 13 – she has six brothers and six sisters – an even bigger family than our nine.   She wants to move out of Cape Verde and has taught herself English as the first step.  She is quite an ally to us as she is the only English speaker we have met and our Portuguese is next to useless.  The tourists tend to be aging French and Germans so not a generation to speak English.

Anyway, Tuesday was the day before the next supply ship arrived so restaurant choices (and stuff in shops) were very limited.

On Wednesday we walked to the next village, Morro.  We walked out on the road and back along the beach.   It was a bit further than we realised at eight miles and with half of that on sand meant that our calves were pretty tired by the time we got back.  Again, everywhere was deserted; on the three mile stretch of coast we saw one person – a local fisherman.

Back in our village we bumped into three guys we met on the first day.  They are all Italians and eight of them moved out here nine years ago.  They are Buddhists and make their living by looking after the villas owned by the foreigners.  We had a chat with them and sat at the bar again, this time to watch the supply ship unload. It comes over from Santiago island on a Wednesday every one to three weeks depending on the volume of goods that have been ordered.  It was fascinating watching the locals scurrying around like ants filling up their shops and restaurants.

Here are a few photos from the last couple of days:

Evening drinks on the beach watching the fisherman coming home - our villa is at the far right at the top of the cliff

These are a type of egret and I think these ones are Cattle Egrets

Walking east on Tuesday

Pig family in Morro

A salt water lagoon

Evening view across to Santiagao, the largest island in the group

The extensive menu on Tuesday evening - I had the goat and Karen had the Longoustines


Walking back on Tuesday

The road to Morro - the building in the distance is the airport we flew into

Goats outside the villa - just like the Canary islands seeing so many goats around

Another pig family - pigs, goats and chickens seem to be the most common animals

Beach walk on Wednesday

Our local restaurant (the blue building)

Morro high street

Supply ship unloading

Our restaurant from the back - it is upstairs and the shop is downstairs

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Lapworth (spring like cruise and a trip abroad)

The only boats I had seen on the move all week were local residential boaters going to the service point and then back to their moorings.  All changed on Saturday morning – by nine o’clock two hire boats and a private boat with a family on board had come past us.  It then dawned on us that it must he half term, an occasion we often forget about now all the children are well past school age.

Karen and I went for a little cruise on Saturday morning – it was a great feeling not having to dress up warmly.  It was also strange as we didn’t have Buddy with us; I had dropped him off at the kennels on Friday in preparation for our holiday.

Karen getting the first lock ready

We pulled in alongside nb Blue Valentine for a chat with Mandy and Peter and then got underway again.

Heading through one of the quaint iron bridges

On Sunday we were up in the early hours to get the first of our three flights to the island of Maio, one of the Cape Verde islands.  We had chosen this destination as it is the island least affected by tourism and also the greenest (vegetation wise as opposed to ecologically).  There are only a couple of dozen villas to rent in the main town where we are and we are probably the youngest tourists here, the others seem to be French or German.  As for half term – it had passed me by when I booked the villa and flights but this is not the place for families to visit so the only children are locals.

We had a 40 minute stopover in Lisbon and then flew to Praia the capital of Cape Verde on the island of Santiago.  We had an Airbnb apartment for the night and spent the evening wandering around the town.  At one point we saw a grey headed kingfisher which seemed very out of place in a garden away from water.  We walked out along the harbour wall to visit the lighthouse.

The light was powered by a bank of four batteries which reminded us of being back on the boat with our battery bank

On Monday morning we went back to the airport to catch a flight to Maio.  There are only two flights a week and it had been a bit of a worry whether we would catch the plane or not.  Since booking the flights we had had three emails changing the flight times.  The original departure time of 10 in the morning ended up being 6.45 although the last notification we got was for 7.30 so we were glad we got there early.

The airport terminal on Maio

We had booked our villa through Airbnb from an English guy who spends his time between his houses in Santander, England and Maio depending on which ones he has rented out.

The island is very poor as expected and reminded me very much of going to The Gambia thirty years ago.  But everyone seems to be friendly (not surprising as tourists spend money) and we don’t feel intimidated.

The beaches are as deserted as expected with clear turquoise water

The town from the beach bar

We walked away from the town along the beach and our walking app on our phones showed we walked for 1 ¾ miles before turning back.  In that time we did not see a single person and apparently it’s like that all round the island.

There is a lot of birdlife but our bird spotting skills are practically useless so I have sent a few pictures to birder friends to confirm what we have seen so far.

Peregrine falcons (I think) coming in to land on our villa

Ruddy turnstones

Although we live on a boat I really don’t like swimming, mainly because I can hardly swim; however, I have promised Karen I will swim in the pool and in the sea as it is so warm.

Karen enjoying the view from our pool – the first time we have been in an infinity pool

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Lapworth (where are the ducks when you have spare peas?)

I only took one picture yesterday even though we found a new walk!  Whilst Karen paid a visit to the local hairdressers Buddy and I had a mini-trip to the water point.  I know we only got water the other day but part of the spring cleaning has involved quite a lot of washing this week so we must keep topped up.

Buddy on guard at the water point as usual

Friday was clearing out freezer day amongst other things.  We had a surplus of peas but managed to eat everything else over the last couple of weeks.  Apparently peas are better for ducks than bread so I thought I would share the excess with them on Saturday morning.   For some strange reason there have been no ducks to be seen this morning but I'll keep looking for them.

Karen and I plan to have a cruise today – more on that later!

Friday, 17 February 2017

Lapworth (mallards are mating and a bit about mooring gear)

The swan on the right was making a right old racket through the open hatch because I wouldn’t give him any of my breakfast on Thursday morning

As it promised to be a spring like day I fancied going for a circular walk first thing.  I planned a walk that went down the Stratford canal and after a couple of miles, cut across the fields to the Grand Union and back up that canal until it reaches Lapworth junction where we have been moored for nearly two weeks.

Walking across the first field – no lambs yet in this part of the world

After a couple more fields I found an unclassified country road.  As many of you know, I am always keen to find these old unadopted byways and imagine how life was when they were last used in earnest.  I like to think of the reasons why they weren’t well used enough to become adopted into proper country roads.

The road must still have been used when the railway was built as a bridge was built for it

At first glance I thought the bridge was installed as an accommodation bridge for the local farmer whose land would have been divided by the railway.  Looking about 200 yards to the right there was another bridge, this time with a metalled road so maybe it was a proper road bridge when first built and has since fallen into disuse.

Old farm machinery stored in the bridge

I passed a lovely old brick built barn in the next field, Warwickshire’s answer to the protected stone built barns in the Yorkshire Dales.

Barn in a field still intact

Clouds building up as we got back home

There are plenty of signs of spring around but I have yet to see any butterflies; plenty of different species have been seen in the south already though.

Bulbs coming on well on the front of the boat

The clouds continued building up and it started raining soon after lunch and carried on for most of the afternoon.  It wasn't until I went to take Buddy out for his final walk that I remembered I had left my boots on the back deck, warming in the sun; they were soaked through of course.

The other day I said that I like to find mooring spots against Armco and someone asked what Armco was.  For those who don’t know, it is the same as a road crash barrier and is fixed to the metal pilings that are driven into the side of the canal.  Some canals have a lot of piling and Armco and some have practically none so it’s always worth remembering where the different spots are.

Armco where we are currently moored

I like parking/mooring against Armco as I can use nappy pins that slot behind the Armco.  The lines are then passed through the top of the pin and secured back on the boat.  This makes for a good secure mooring that is not easy for pranksters to untie and set the boat adrift.

Nappy pin (mooring hook)

Sometimes I use mooring chains instead of nappy pins.  This will usually be the case when old railway lines have been used instead of Armco.  Railway lines aren’t as wide as Armco so nappy pins can easily pull out but chains can be looped round the line and back through themselves.

Mooring chain

The front is currently attached through a permanent mooring ring which is also a secure way of tying a boat up.  The rear is attached by one nappy pin.

Front attached via mooring ring

Rear attached by nappy pin

When a lot of boat traffic is expected, i.e. when the season starts and the marina dwellers and hire boaters are out in force, I sometimes attach the rear with two nappy pins.  Both will have lines running at 45 degrees to the boat – one rearwards and the other forwards.  This makes the boat more secure and it tends not to get rocked by speeding boats causing food and drinks to slide off the table or kitchen units!

The most insecure way of mooring is to use stakes that are hammered into the towpath.  Sometimes there is no option but to use these but they need to be checked regularly as they can pull out especially if the bank is moist and there are speeding boats.

Mooring stake

Sometimes people loop their lines through the loop at the top of the stake which is not a good idea.  The metal hoop is only welded on and will eventually come adrift as will the boat.  It’s OK to loop through it as long as the line goes round the stake too.  Constant hammering of the stakes also works the joints loose - we have lost three loops over the years through hammer shock but at least the pins can still be used.  The other thing to do is to knock the stakes in at a good angle (with the top pointing away from the boat) to give more strength to the mooring.  I always knock a second pin in at an angle to the first to help secure it.

In all the miles we have travelled we have only been set adrift once and that was in Stalybridge where we were moored against bollards.  It’s too much of a temptation for someone in high spirits (we were near a pub) to lift the lines off the bollards even if they are wrapped round several times.  The first we knew about it was at three in the morning as we were awoken by a branch rubbing along the boat.  I went up on deck and it took me a while to orientate myself as I hadn’t initially realised we had been set adrift.  I was trying to work out why I had moored on the wrong side of the canal and then I realised that we had drifted down to a winding hole and across to the other bank.  It was just a case of pulling the lines in and then motoring back across to the towpath side to moor up again.