Well this is very boring. Everything in my life at the moment seems to be about waiting, and as a horoscope told me when I was a formative 16 years old, patience is not one of my strong points.
The latest update on Maria Elisabeth isn’t really an update as nothing has happened. She’s still at SRF boatyard in Northern Holland. All the repairs and surveyor’s instructions for the crossing were completed weeks ago, however it seems the Dutch have more bank holidays than we do and they’re all happening at once, right now, so there are no crews to be found to bring her over until Tuesday when with any luck she’ll be setting off once more on her week-long trip to the Channel at Dunkirk.
We’ve heard that so many times now to be honest that if she ever arrives I’m considering renaming her “New Plan: No Plan” (despite the far better suggestions which have been coming through from our friends in a valiant attempt to maintain a modicum of enthusiasm if not excitement for the whole project; these include ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and ‘The Runcible Spoon’).
Last week, the dad of a friend who knows Things About Boats very kindly offered to read over our survey and give an objective opinion. Given one of his projects is to manage the co-founder of Microsoft’s super-yachts, I confess I had mixed feelings about this; mainly a combination of Anxiety, Gratitude, Curiosity and Amusement (Tatoush we ain’t!).
Despite putting the fear of Jehovah in me for a few days before I could track down some answers to his valid but terrifying questions, S is possibly my new favourite person. Not only did he go through the survey with a fine tooth comb, picking it to pieces as he went, he familiarised himself with the BSS, printed it out and highlighted his areas of concern, AND sent the survey on to a contact in the barge trade for a second expert opinion. Then he came and met me for a glass of tap water and explained it all. A total pro and a lovely guy to boot – I tell you, if I had a super-yacht I’d want him looking after it too.
Sadly, we do not have a super-yacht. What we have is a 91year old barge that’s been parlously neglected for the past four years, is barely habitable and, if S is to be believed, actually poses a major health hazard to anyone daft enough to consider living on it anytime soon. “I think I misunderstood this bit: you’re not really looking to move straight on, are you..?”
The good news, through the dank fug of panic that descended shortly after he left, is that we’d already thought of almost everything S and his friend had pointed out. There was just the minor issue of interior hull access (the ceiling boards are made of ‘iron wood’) and a couple of thickness readings on the chines that were thinner than one might expect for a recently double-plated hull… Just two small points then, but of central importance to the question of how likely we are to sink anytime soon.
In times of crisis, we look to greatness: in this case, Julius Caesar. Having divided the possible source of answers into two (I took the surveyor, the Owl took R), we set about trying to conquer the very long list of questions raised by my chat with S as quickly as possible.
It turns out, unlike so much of this process, that getting answers was remarkably straight forward! Between R’s emailed responses and my very long phone call with the surveyor last Thursday morning, our peace is more or less restored.
We are not buying a turkey. We now understand the full scope of work that we need to do to make it not only habitable, but eventually an enjoyable experience to be on. And that’s fine – that is after all what we signed up for. It’s just that now we can see it all… 27 warty metres and all.