Monday, 25 January 2010

The Lucky Duck Chinese Restaurant

While we are moored outside the Fort, we have been letting Lyra out a lot, and she has been making the acquaintance of everyone who stops on the benches outside. She's a bit of an attention-seeker, is our Lyra! Anyway, I walked past a woman and her son who were playing with her, and introduced myself as her owner. They then said they'd been trying to work out what her collar tag meant. It says 'LYRA, NB LUCKY DUCK' and apparently they had guessed that she belonged to a Chinese restaurant called Lucky Duck!

Incidentally there is one, in New York!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Punt Parts

Yesterday evening we were walking along the river, just under Victoria Avenue bridge, when we saw a mysterious shape mostly submerged in the river. It didn't seem to be moving, and appeared to be made of wood, with ridges down it. Curious about what it was, and also wanting to prevent any rowers from hitting it and falling in, we got our boatpole and attempted to get it into the bank. After a few attempts we managed, and discovered that it was most of a punt. We heaved it out of the way onto the bank, thoroughly pleased to have prevented any accidents. Incidentally this is not the first time we have fished bits of boat out of the river!

The river level above Jesus lock has been significantly lowered, to allow works to take place. It does look bizarre. But it was too dark to take any good photos, maybe i'll try again tomorrow.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Its catching...

James and I have both been unwell recently, hence the lack of blog posts! Although we are both nearly back to normal, its been a tough few days. James was off work Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with a fever, headache, sore throat, the whole lot! On Friday, I wasn't needed at work so I took a day to look after him. John Pippin very kindly gave him a lift to the doctors, who said that it was flu (possible swine flu but they have given up testing for it) and that he should just stay in bed, drink lots of water and take painkillers. Unfortunately that evening I came down with it too. Over the weekend, we were both down to cox and row lots of training outings and races but had to cancel them all, as we were just not up to going out!

It seemed that everything was catching it! Even Lyra has been looking a bit peaky and dribbling a bit... (so it might be a trip to the vet for her if it continues) and then the generator caught it too! Or so it seemed. It was no longer able to run the 20A Stirling charger, but instead spluttered and popped out the circuit breaker every time the charger was turned on. But then we tried again with Andreas and Louise's genny, and the same thing happened! With the charger off, all the rest of the boat's 240V circuit was working fine off the genny, so now we think it is the charger that is the problem. We can still charge the batteries from the wind generator and alternator so we will be fine until we can get it sorted, but any suggestion as to what might be wrong would be welcome!

On Sunday, we decided that, as we were feeling a little better, we would make the trip into Cambridge. There are several reasons for this: We has planned to go in next weekend for various social events and races, but Baits Bite Lock will be closed from Friday 22nd until the 6th. So the only way to be in town for when we need to be was to come in before the closure and leave after. We also had heard reliably that the Conservators would not be penalising visitors who did this. It was very sunny, so it was a nice cruise, apart from a very scary moment when a St Ives IV swerved in front of us despite a few turns of the klaxon. They stopped dead in front of the boat, and James had to throw the boat into hard astern. Luckily we are a relatively small light boat so it was possible for us to stop in time. They apologised, but we weren't worried for our own sake - the Duck would have come out of it unscathed! Still, no-one was hurt and no equipment broken, so it could have been much worse. We could have been Pippin for example, who would not have been able to stop in that distance!

We were lucky enough to find that our very favourite mooring outside the Fort St George was still free, so we plan to be there for as long as possible! Last night we also went to see Transforming Tomorrow, the wonderful light show put on by the university to mark the finale of their 800 year anniversary celebrations. It was quite fantastic, with several buildings in the centre being illuminated with a series of animated projections commemorating 800 years of Cambridge university history. It even had a bit on rowing! We enjoyed it very much. It is on again tonight for anyone in Cambridge who's not yet been - its really worth it! Elizabeth, whose boat we are currently moored next to outside the Fort has been instrumental in organising large parts of the show and the year's celebrations, so credit to her and her team. We were also very pleased to run into our friends Charlotte and Philip, quite a co-incidence in such a large crowd! Unfortunately we also lost them in the crowds a little later, but they invited us to join them after the light show had finished for a cup of hot chocolate in Clowns which was lovely!

Some images from the light show (thanks to Sarah Collins, from the Transforming Tomorrow Facebook event page) more here

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Fen Tiger

Photo: Rachel Slater/Cambridge News

Apparently, local residents in Histon (North of Cambridge) have seen six-inch cat pawprints in the snow, indicating a return of the notorious 'Fen Tiger'! Here's the story in the local paper. The pawprints look a bit dog like to me, but they are certainly pretty big! Its not the first time there have been reports of a big cat living wild in the Fens, hence the nickname 'Fen Tiger'. It is rather wonderful that it made front page news though!

Can't have been our Lyra, she was here:

Roast cat, anyone?

Pawprints in the snow: dangerous cats on the loose?

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Cats! on Ice

No, not a new ice-skating version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic, but the antics of the Pippins' cat Tom Kitten. He has been merrily wandering about on our frozen mooring basin, and has left his pawprints in the snow! Lyra has not been quite so adventurous (partly because she doesn't have a catflap - more on the solution to that later) but she has been encouraged to come out and play in the snow.

Tom's pawprints on the ice

Cambridge is looking lovely in the snow, although we've not had as much of it as some places. We've been able to get into work every day this week, even if we have had to wait ages for public transport, and once share a taxi with fellow commuters who like us, had got bored waiting.

Christ's Pieces looking magical.

Today, after rowing (a very coooold 8am outing with lots of ice floating in the Cam followed by a much nicer 11am outing for me, and a 10am one for James) we went for a walk near Clayhithe and were able to follow up on what we had learnt about the latest development in the Helena Knowlsey story. Again, according to the Cambridge News, the new owners were unable to float and move the boat in time for the deadline. The Cam Conservators stepped in and impounded the boat, taking it to their moorings at Clayhithe. The new owners will now have to pay a fee to get it back.

Helena at Clayhithe.

Also while we were out, we walked past Bottisham lock, which is completely frozen solid.
Cut below Bottisham lock

Oh yes, and regarding the issue of Lyra's freedom, we have come up with a solution that doesn't involve cutting holes in the boat yet. We can't cut cat flap holes in the back doors as they're to small, or the front door because they are curved. We are currently considering cutting through the stern or bow bulkhead,but aren't sure if we want to do that yet. So for now, we have a plan. We will make her an insulated snug, from a catflap fitted into the side of a wooden box, and lined with polystyrene and a spare duvet. John on Pippin has provided the perfect box, picked up in the dump for a fiver, and we already have the catflap. More on this project to follow!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Helena Rides Again

According to the Cambridge News story, Helena Knowlsey, the boat which recenly sunk in Cambridge, has been sold for £3000 hours before a 24hour salvage notice applied by the Cam Conservators was up. Apparently the owner had been given a day to refloat it, or it would be impounded by the Conservators. But he was contacted just in time through Facebook, by someone who was prepared to take on the massive project of refurbishing it. Rather optimisitically perhaps, the story suggest that the boat 'could sell for up to £60,000 after a major revamp.'

Picture: Cambridge News

When the story went to press, they were still pumping it out, and we've not been down that way ourselves to see the progress. There is a video on the Cambridge News website showing the pumping in progress. I'm glad that something has finally been done to save this sad boat, but from a personal point of view, I have to say I'm also glad to see it leave the mooring scheme, as the previous owner would not have been permitted to sell the mooring with the boat, and that's one place closer to the top for the Duck...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Snow at last

Cambridge has been rather missing out on all the snow excitement of recent days although it has been very cold.

But now its our turn, and it looks set in.

This is the Corpus Christi College webcam which if you see this in time,
will show the gently falling snow (and the odd fellow wandering about):

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Bags of usefulness

For Christmas, James' mum and Alison gave us several Onya bags which have already proved to be invaluable:

They are light bags made of strong parachute fabric, which can be easily scrunched up into the tiny integral carry bag. I always mean to take carrier bags to the shops with me, but its so easy to forget! These, however, have a little caribiner, making them easy to attach to keyrings/handbags etc.

She gave us each a standard Onya:

as well as an Onya Weigh for which contains reusable bags to weigh and wash vegetables - ingenious - and an Onya Side for James (which works on the same principle but opens out to form a good sized messenger bag).

I know I sound like a commercial, but they really are very good. We've used them loads already for laundry and groceries and we've only had them a week! I also looked at their website today and found that they also do biodegradable poo bags which don't just fall apart into harmful plastic flakes but actually compost. They are designed for dog owners but I have ordered some to use for collecting and disposing of Lyra's litter tray offerings, which I previously used non-biodegradable food bags for.

Thanks Pat and Alison!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Frozen In

After a few chores in Cambridge, we left the visitor moorings for home at 2pm yesterday, on a chilly but bright afternoon. On the way, I made a stew, and left it to cook slowly on the stove. When we arrived home, we had to do a bit of icebreaking to get into our mooring. (The place we moor is just off the river, in a sort of lagoon, and the water is comparatively still in there). We got a taste of what it must be like on the canals right now, listening to the tremendous SSSCCEEURUNNNCH noise that the ice made as we broke through.

We unwrapped the standpipe tap from its cocoon of insulation, and filled the water tank before it got dark. Then we attacked the mess in the bedroom, and sorted out a lot of stuff which needed doing, with only a brief break to eat the stew which had been cooking on the stove for hours (just what we needed in this freezing weather).

This morning, the water has refrozen around us, although I don't think its thick enough to prevent us from moving of we needed to.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Taking up my pencils

Two drawings.

for John and Jackie:

Tom Kitten

and Bree:

Percy, Cindy and ??

to say thanks for looking after Lyra while we were away.

I enjoyed doing them so much that I have been inspired to do some more of other things, for example James' grandparents' Jack Russell Sandy, when I have time.