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The cold snap

October hasn’t yet ended but we have a sudden cold spell, the wind descending on us from the northern end of the North Sea, where it is almost certainly considerably cooler than here, and bringing with it some snow, some frost and a rapid change. This, so soon after a balmy mid October, has taken us by surprise, taken Britain by surprise, but with Kate and I so recently having taking up residence on the water we find ourselves both surprised and only lightly prepared. Warm clothing is a habit generally acquired slowly as the Summer draws to a close and Autumn creeps in. When it comes with a bang we cannot cope. We find ourselves wearing too little or alternatively over-compensating and putting on too many clothes. Our minds and bodies just need time to adjust.

So instead of being a comfortable transition from the warmth of our apartment to the cosiness of our boat we have gone straight into our first Winter on board Cirrus with a shock similar to stepping under a cold shower. They grit the pontoons here, and they have to as there is a thin layer of ice when we stagger off to shower just after dawn.

But the water in these showers here is endlessly hot, leaving a warm glow that carries us back to the boat to dress for work, and when the sun shines it warms Cirrus’ decks and dispels the cold and damp. We might come home to a cold boat after a day at work but our small electric heater and, as soon as I can get it going, our Taylor diesel burning stove rapidly heats our small cabin to a liveable temperature. Life here carries on under a different set of rules but we have our own world here around us, one that will soon be off travelling with us inside it.

Saturday, 1 November, 2008
A couple of days of cold then, as ever, you can expect Britain’s maritime climate to produce something completely different. And it has. The cold has relented, giving way to torrential rain. So, it being a weekend, this has called for some imaginative construction work to give us a little more shelter in Cirrus’ wide cockpit. An ancient but nevertheless serviceable tent flysheet is now strung up between the backstays and the shrouds, floating just above the boom and giving us a delightfully orange shelter to huddle under. The rain drenches everything it touches and runs off our decks in streams but now we have a pleasant covered area from which we can stand and watch the world.

By evening the rain had barely stopped when the fireworks started. Whistles and bangs echo around the marina, coming from all directions at once although rarely seen clearly as we are so enclosed here. Then suddenly our neighbours in the top floor of flats to the West of us brought the head of every live-aboard above decks by setting off a series of powerful set piece fireworks from their balcony. I felt I should applaud such profligacy as I’m sure we had a far better view from the boat than they did.

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