I’m not sure where the time has gone, but as I write this it is exactly a month since I boarded Iris Abbott in Northwich and Matt and I brought her down to Acton Bridge.

To be fair, a lot of the answer is, as ever, work. As much as I’d like to spend my free time getting my new home sorted, it has to fit around the rest of my life. I spent a few days working in Swindon at one point, and have also spent time in the office or at meetings nearer to home.

When I have been home, I have quickly settled into the rhythm of river life. Acton Bridge is a popular spot and I have had lots of conversations about the boat with passers-by. Some knew her already, one told me his father had worked on her, and he had driven the grain lorries that replaced the boats when the trade from Liverpool to Kellogg’s stopped in the 70s.

The local rowing club also use this area most days. I’ve enjoyed watching them, though you wouldn’t get me in the water in something as small as that! One morning I was sat at my desk when I heard a loud bang – someone hadn’t been looking where they were going and the bow of one of the boats rode over the top of another one. They sorted it out quickly enough and no damage seemed to have been done, indeed everyone seemed quite amused by the experience.

They don’t half move though. The powered boats carrying the coaches need serious engines to keep up with the rowing boats out and produce enough wash to bounce Bream around when they pass in speedboat mode. Iris, of course, barely notices them!

I mentioned in the previous post that I’d been hopping between the two boats, sleeping on Bream, but with most of my things now moved across. Initially I was eating on Bream, but managed to at least partially solve the problem with the cooker and whilst it does need professionally looking at, there is now enough power in all but one of the rings to cook with. I’ll most likely change the cooker at some point, but for now I’d like to keep it going, until I have made more decisions about layout changes.

One of the underpowered gas rings

The real chore was keeping both boats up and running, with the generator running on one boat or the other for up to 6 hours a day. Things came to a head in the early morning of 7th February when after another sleepless night pondering my next step I decided that the right thing to do was to shut Bream down completely, other than as a power source, run a mains lead from there to the battery charger on Iris, as if she was on the shore line back in Northwich and move across completely.

Once I’d done this life immediately became simpler. There was only one set of batteries that needed to be thought about (the other set looked after itself) and the engine on Bream could do the job more quickly than the generator on Iris could. Within a couple of days I’d established that there was comfortably enough battery life in Bream to keep Iris running for a day, and possibly two, so a 2 hour engine run at some point each day is all that was needed. There is a plan to solve the battery problems (more of which later) but this move put me back on something a bit more like the original plan, which had been to move my stuff onto Iris, get Bream off the river and figure things out as I went along.

The photo at the top of this article was taken as I emerged from the cabin after my first night on Iris. I’m still taking drinking/cooking water from Bream so the first job most days has been to go and fill my large flask. I want to fit a filter in the water line as I did get a small amount of dirt from the taps when I first used the system. I’m also testing the water, to confirm that it is safe. It is stored for such a long time that this feels like a sensible precaution, but for now nipping next door once or twice a day isn’t a huge inconvenience and I’ll have the results after the weekend.

That early morning decision had resulted in me immediately disassembling my home office and moving it into the wheelhouse on Iris. It has always been my plan that I’ll work from up there and whilst it needs some serious reorganisation before I can properly do that, it was fun to do it for a day. I was very amused to receive what was captioned a “Statue of Liberty” screenshot from Mike after one of my first Teams calls on that day!

At the end of the day I moved the office downstairs and onto the kitchen table, where it can stay until the wheelhouse has been sorted out. With the boats in quite a public location, leaving a lot of computer equipment on display was not a good idea, anyway. The new office is working well, and isn’t in the way at all, so that is one problem solved.

Solving the power problems

I’d known before I bought the boat that there wasn’t enough power for my needs. After 24 years afloat, I’ve got a pretty good feel for this and Iris has less than half the battery capacity of Bream. What I wasn’t expecting was that she was so much more power hungry, due to the huge (but incredibly effective) central heating system. After a few conversations by phone, I went to see my friend Dave, who is my go-to expert on such things and we agreed a plan. Initially I proposed putting the new batteries where the current ones are, but it was a really tight fit and I would like to have more not less breathing room in the engine room, so have decided that they will live in part of what is presently the utility room, housing the washing machine, dishwasher and fridge, directly ahead of the engine room.

They don’t need all of this space, by a long way, and my present thought is that this area will be reworked so that most of it becomes part of the main cabin. The white goods will move into one of two presently unused rooms which were once bedrooms.

On the move!

Last Sunday I started the engine and moved the boat for the first time. We’re back where we started but it was quite an adventure. I’ll save that for the next post though, as this one is more than long enough!