A day in our life on the river.

I wake this morning to a change in the weather, our “window on the world”, from the bed, is the hatch above our heads, for the past week it has been filled with unbroken blue but this morning there is a blanket of slate grey. The sounds are different too, instead of the slap of oars from the procession of early morning rowers passing just feet from our hull, I can only hear the fog horns from the cargo ships leaving the docks in Southampton.

Each morning as one of us steals ourself to get out of bed to turn on the heater, we miss our reliable, auto-timed central heating system, once on we quickly jump back into bed until the boat warms up. I glance out of the window but all is quiet on the river, a lone swan swims by, its feathers fluffed up in full display. Unfortunately for him this effort is in vain, as far as I can see, there are no other swans nearby so this performance is watched by just myself and a bunch of disinterested seagulls.

An hour later and the marina has woken up, the large yacht next to us is having its windscreen replaced, the sailing school boat a few berths down welcomes a group of sheepish looking students and a rib speeds past setting all the boats rocking. On the hard, as I take some rubbish to the skip, it is also busy. Half a dozen salty sea dog types are lovingly painting and polishing their crafts and there is a motor boat being put onto the crane to be returned  into the water, while another three boats line up on the working dock ready to be lifted out.

Onboard Raya, Rick has all the cushions up and is busy sorting spares into a selection of assorted boxes and filling every inch under the seating. As the only seat left is at the chart table I take out the chart plotter instructions and start work on recalibrating. The Raymarine display units ( the screens showing our electronic charts) are the only part of the navigation electronics we haven’t replaced, so I spend time deleting all the old routes and way points and setting the types of displays, alarms, etc. to the settings we want.

In the meantime a guy from Sailfish comes to check over the watermaker. When switched on we can supposedly make about 90 litres an hour of fresh water from seawater, amazing really. We have left this job to right at the end of the refit as once commissioned the unit does have to be used, ideally every couple of days or at least once a week and as we are sitting in the not so pristine waters of the Itchen river it is better to be run it while we are out sailing. Happily everything is working well. Once Rick is satisfied that he understands all the ins and outs the engineer leaves and we jump in the car to buy engine and generator spares. It is only a half successful trip but we do find a fantastic pub on the river Hamble for a light lunch.

As the day wears on the marina begins to empty of workers, most of whom don’t work Friday afternoons, and would normally start to fill with owners coming down for a weekend of boating. Today however people must have looked at the weather forecast and decided it would be warmer to stay at home, everywhere is very empty. The wind is whistling through the rigging and creating a chop on the river, the friendly black lab is hunkered down on the dock patiently waiting for his owner on one of the boats, even the ever present seagulls seem to be hiding somewhere, just the odd hardy soul sails past slowly.

Rick and I turn on the heating and settle down to some admin, he is responding to emails and researching the final few spares, while I type out a Mayday radio procedure sheet to be put next to our VHF Radio – lots of RED and CAPITAL letters.

It is almost high tide and so the tidal stream that rattles past the boat has reduced and the floating pontoon we are tied to is nearly at the level of the surrounding land, all the mud flats are covered. Our depth meter shows 5.2m, that’s under our keel so the river is now about 25ft deep, at low tide it can go down to just 6ft or 7ft. That’s a lot of water moving in and out twice a day and produces the strong currents that can make mooring so difficult here.

Late afternoon the sun threatens to appear but fails, Rick goes on deck to finish a piece of woodwork that he has been glueing and I sit down to write this blog. Opposite us more well wrapped up crews arrive for the sail school boats, a group of flirting swans take off magestically from the other side of the river and the choppy water continues to lap noisily at our hull.

All is well on Raya we have achieved quite a lot today and we have a friend arriving to take us to dinner, it’s time to break out the gin and tonic. We have been drinking Gin and Tonic with Jonathan for about forty years, but today he comes armed with ingredients for a very different beast. Hendricks Gin, Fever Tree Tonic, cucumber, lots of ice and finally a couple of twists of cracked black pepper. Surprisingly good!

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