The Owl here. Blogpost numero uno so take a deep breath. Let’s hope I can be at least half as engaging with the written word as herself.
I feel somewhat emboldened this weekend by the feathery news that one of our neighbours is an owl whisperer. An actual “bird of prey” guy. In the last week he and his colleagues from the Bradford Birds of Prey have set up an aviary on the industrial estate we live next to, and has settled a small parliament of owls (all have been rescued and are being rehabilitated). So some of my more impressive brothers and sisters are now nearby. They’re so impressive in fact that our mooring manager described them as “being big enough to carry a small child away”. Without betraying any family secrets, I’d just like to say that from an owl point of view, children are way too much trouble to bother with.
Not the actual owls but very similar. We think they’re Eagle Owls.
Onto boat life… To be clear, I have never “lived aboard” before. My boating experience extends to being quite the dab hand with a canoe… but this is just a little bit different. I grew up in the Great Southern Land so I’ve been in and around the ocean a lot. Never been sea-sick, so why not right? There is only one thing that un-nerves me about boats… there is no brake.
So as a fresh set of eyes to this life, I have several things to report.
One… Nomenclature overload. After eight weeks I’m still not sure which way is port and which way is starboard. I think the aft is backwards, but don’t quote me on that. The bow, the prow, the bowsprit, the stern, an eye-splice, a hitch, a half-hitch, a tug-hitch, Vac-tan, Sikaflex, low-modulus silicone, red-diesel, white diesel, negative head pumps, positive head pumps, jubilee clips, arctic-blue cable, armoured cable, 32 amp sockets, PEX pipe, Speed-fit pipe, polybutylene pipe, BSP connectors, consumer units, RCDs, MCBs, RCBOs … it goes on and on. I’m convinced I’m now on the Screwfix Christmas card list.
Two… There are definitely more characters in the boating community than I’ve encountered in land lubber life, and even some brilliantly extreme eccentrics. Unsurprisingly, there is also a greater sense of community here than anywhere I’ve lived in London – or actually on land, generally. We have all chosen to be afloat and so there is a willingness to help and share knowledge. It’s a fine thing. For the record, I suspect that there are probably as many eccentrics living in suburbia.
Three… Emigrating from land-lubber to boaty, and as a first home owner at that, it has become abundantly clear that I will never attain that hallowed male status symbol – a shed at the end of the garden. A terrible shame I know, but never fear male readership… I have an Engine Room.
This is actually a totally superior man-cave in many ways:
- There are a lot of puzzles to be solved, which is endless fun. But there shall be no false bravado… I initially asked “What is that?” about almost every object in there. I keep recalling odd bits of high school physics (ok: first year engineering), which mostly helps with not electrocuting myself. Beyond that, it’s all YouTube how-to videos and neighbourly advice. My biggest learning curve centres around our mighty Volvo diesel engine.
- I take a perverse pleasure in being really filthy. That’s not a riff on pirate swearing so much as straight up dirt on skin. I’m talking sump-oil filthy.
Filth that requires a scrubbing brush usually reserved for the floors of an orphanage in a novel by Dickens to bring the soles of your feet back to anything vaguely resembling baby pink. Filth that builds on callouses that are built on filth. Suffice it to say, me and the callous file have become mates for the first time.
- There are lots of opportunities to use power tools. I have recently learnt that a humble jigsaw is quite capable of cutting through metal (who knew?!) So I am going to embark on the piece-meal removal of our two redundant tanks in the next weeks, so long as I can find a man to take away out the 200+ litres of diesel-and-sump-tainted water that I hoovered out of the bilge last weekend.
So I’ll be a sometime resident of this dark hole, until of course I bring its woefully maintained state up to rust-free, gleaming perfection. At that point I’ll re-emerge and start interfering in paint colours and the Pussy Cat’s more aesthetic (read: clean) pursuits.
…but that won’t be for a while.
Until next time, reporting live from the bilge… Owl out.