Friday, 23 June 2017

Authors for Grenfell Tower

You may have heard about the awful loss of life in the recent London tower block fire. It was a tragedy that has affected many people. Several different fund raising things have been set up, amongst them this on-line auction. Various authors, editors and agents have donated promises which you can bid for including books, meetings, critiques and even the chance to name characters. Have a look and see if you can help this worthwhile cause.

Click below to go to the web page:

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Learning to read for fun

"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." — Kate DiCamillo 

The latest survey by the National literacy Trust shows record numbers of children reading for enjoyment. This in some ways is in stark contrast to the idea of teenagers glued to digital screens and is great news. There are so many great books out there and with the apparently unstoppable rise of young adult fiction maybe that is why more children are finding things that they enjoy. If everything you read is either too young or too old for you you’re not going to stick to reading but finding things that resonate with you will build a love of reading that will hopefully last a lifetime.

In hindsight, the best things we achieved with home schooling were to give the children a thirst for knowledge and a love of books. We were all excited when the youngest took those first steps of reading independently. A love of reading is not just a pleasure in itself but an open door to access the writing which makes up our everyday world. Making decisions on who to vote for, reading the pilot book before arriving in a new port, communicating on social media, all rely on our ability to read.

As we travelled we tapped in to their loves; the things that they saw around them. We found books about the places we visited and the things we saw. We enjoy reading and the children saw us sat with books. We talked about stories and read books out loud together. By using kindles we were able to obtain books quickly on top of the other books that we already had. Family brought books to us when they came to visit. Book swaps can introduce you to books you may never have come across and social media makes getting recommendations easier from contacts on facebook to suggestions on Goodreads.

Recommendations from the same article in The i , June 2017

Obviously there is still a long way to go before there is a fairness and equality for all children to be able to unlock reading. And not every child will enjoy it. Not everyone likes sitting down with a book the same way that not everyone enjoys going walking or shopping or sky diving. There is so much out there; graphic novels, magazines, short stories, poetry, anthologies, novels, the list goes on. The important bit for our children is to ensure that they have the chance to explore reading, to decide for themselves, to make sure that they have seen and had access to texts of a rich variety. Then we will have given them the chance of that precious gift of reading. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The refit (part seven)

So, how is the boat work going? Well, for many reasons work had to slow right down over the winter but now things are definitely moving again.

The galley (kitchen) is one of the biggest projects on the go at the moment. The units are growing. Mark is building them from scratch using two layers of 10mm exterior ply with 4mm oak veneered ply on top which has been well oiled with Danish oil. They include big cupboards spaces, plate and wine racks, drawers and the new hob is built into the work surface. As well as being bigger which means that we can fit more than a couple of pans on at a time, it has been moved to allow for better ventilation. There is 20mm Celotex insulation on the wall covered with more plywood which has been painted a lovely blue.

Bags of sand weighing down the drying layers
Plans for shelves

 We did experiment previously with bathroom/kitchen paint as it is designed for high humidity areas and is much cheaper than specific marine paint. It was worth trying but didn’t last and ended up coming off in peels. The new shelving and edges are white oak which looks lovely finished with (even more!) Danish oil. There is a shaped fiddle (raised edge) all along to allow for rough weather in harbour and movement whilst travelling.

The walls are bluer in real life!

The main table in the saloon (living room) was a bit of an experiment for us last year. Having always had a fold down table that meant we could completely clear the floor, we found ourselves leaving it up more and more often as the children grew and their needs changed. They were more likely to be drawing or doing something on the table than spreading train tracks over the floor. Mark created a solid table with a sliding, opening leafed top. After using it for a while we found that it was not as stable as we had hoped and was taking up too much room beside the chairs making it difficult to get in and out. Taking off the leaves, moving them off centre and shaping the ends made it much better.

Spring cleaning has been well under way, pulling things out of dark corners and wiping everything down as the winter damp dries out. We have had very little rain so far this year which has given us a chance to dry out many things. Other random bits have been done too in different areas of the boat.

One of our old folding chairs - now resprayed

Working on an old wooden boat is far from glamorous and certainly not easy. It can be frustrating at times and often feel like 'one step forwards, two steps back'. It is our home though and the Skipper is certainly working on it.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Adverbially challenged - taking part in a writing challenge

A fiendishly clever idea. To helpfully raise some cash for a charity and enjoyably play with words. Chris has cleverly orchestrated an anthology of wittily written prose. Writing two of the tickly little pieces helped keep me busily entertained over the chillingly long winter. Speedily buy the book – please! Thankfully, me.

I was ticking along nicely with NaNoWriMo back in November last year and was 45,836 words in when life got in the way. I didn't manage to get back to writing for a while after that even though there were projects sat looking at me, waiting for my attention; my brain was having none of it. I started looking around for something just to spur me on.

The annual 50,000 word writing challenge

The answer came in the form of an old family friend. Chris and I grew up together in a town on the coast of the Bristol Channel. He runs a website full of information and competitions and generally aims to support and help out people who enjoy writing. The gauntlet was laid down to write a short piece (90 words) using as many adjectives as possible. It was fun to play around with different ideas and actually break all the rules. Mike's Not-Entirely-Serious Wantonly-Rule-Breaking Adverb Writing Challenge (to give it it's proper title) was certainly an interesting challenge.  Chris’ challenge was much bigger – to wrangle those pieces into a book and then take it to market. Not something he is a stranger too as this is far from his first book. This is the second volume of adverb laden prose and contains gems from a wide range of people.

Once upon a time, home was a town on the Bristol Channel

Not only was this a kick to get back writing again and a chance to find out more about self publishing but also a chance to raise money for a great charity. For each book sold a pound will be donated to First Story. This is a charity that matches talented professional writers with schools in low income areas. Bringing the opportunities and challenges of creative writing to children can be life changing. The affect on confidence, communication and just the general thrill of writing and freeing their creativity has a hugely positive impact on the children.

It has been fun to be involved (admittedly in a very small way) in this project/book and it is great to have something positive come from this winter. If you are interested in joining in any of the many writing challenges then have a look at Chris' website, if you are keen to support First Story then please buy the book , thank you.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Taking, storing and using photos as a liveaboard

We love taking photos and when you set out on a big adventure you really want to record it somehow. Digital photography is so different to analogue (film) as you can take as many images as you want and be able to see them straight away. Sharing them with others is also easier.

Looking back at the photos posted through our adventures, I can see how much we improved by thinking about and reviewing and practising what we were taking. I started looking into taking decent photos when I was pregnant with the first deckhand. It seemed a good time and I wanted photos of them as babies and growing up that did not have heads missing or were completely blurred. Varying success and lots of practice was joined by research of technical photography books and on line articles. 15 years later we are still learning and still practising.

We took photos to record our children growing and changing, to record places we went to and to capture memories and moments.There are images of all sorts of things to record and document, to capture the moment and the mood, food, places, things. You forget how things in a home change and how you change, it gives you a physical record. We also used photography as a means of storage; important documents, favourite pictures, work done by the children can all be photographed and kept easily and (relatively) safe from damp. Other things like stop animation can be done with cameras too. We recorded Christmas plays each year to send to the families; it was special for us, a great learning experience and was a lovely thing to share with family.

We posted lots of photos on line for friends and family to see what we were up to, others were emailed direct to grandparents. Some were filed away as a record of school work or childhood memories. When we got back to Britain, we created albums of our adventures for the children and presented them with flash drives containing a selection of great photos. We have others up on the walls to look back on our adventures. They jog our memories and remind us of how small the children were, the time that we ate that incredible chocolate cake or the fantastic time we had with new friends. They have also taken photos into school many times as part of projects adding a different dynamic to their work or class discussions.

There is no need to spend a lot of money on equipment unless you plan to become a professional photographer. We have a couple of point and shoot cameras and a couple of tripods. We have had the shorter one (or a similar one) for quite a while, the larger tripod is a new toy that I am enjoying experimenting with. It came from a charity shop for only a few pound and looks like it had been barely out of its packaging. I personally prefer a smaller camera that I can just put in my handbag but big lenses are great too. I find that I take more photos with something that I don't mind carrying around and it takes good quality shots. When picking a camera, you have to think about weight when you are walking, how conspicuous you want to be whilst you re taking photos and whether you will just end up leaving it behind all the time if it is too big or bulky to carry around. We have a waterproof camera but the salt water has affected the locking catches on the side so we tend to avoid underwater photos in the sea with it but at least if it gets splashed, falls off the kayak or we get caught in a Dartmoor storm we don't have to worry.

We store our images by backing them up onto discs with a burner which are then kept in a folder. We keep the small folder (A6 size) in the 3rd (optimistic, things we'd like to save if possible) grab bag when under way. The favourites are often duplicated and sent on to relatives, uploaded to the blog etc. too. We also have a hard drive for storage, meaning we can upload to the computer and access images easily. Everything is filed under the place name after some experimenting, we have found it makes it easier to find the photo we want when searching for a specific image.

We use a couple of programmes to add text and frames to images or create collages. I know that sending cards is a very British thing but we often use our images with appropriate messages to send to friends as birthday/good luck/new home/thinking of you cards. GIMP is very useful and intuitive to use and I also like FOTOR which does need an internet connection to work.

We enjoy capturing images and have a lot of pictures now which hold many memories. In addition to sharing our photos through the blog we have a Shutterstock profile which has many pictures from the South coast and Dartmoor and sailing related images.

All the images in this post have been taken by us

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Boat repair reference books

It's World book day! A celebration of books and reading.

The Skipper is a very practical bloke. He is working his way around the extremely long list of work that needs to be done on the boat, using various skills. There are a number of books which have been helpful, not all of them specifically aimed at boat builders or sailors. Tarquilla is a cold moulded ply boat which means she is made of overlapping layers of plywood strips bonded with waterproof glue.

For anyone attempting anything similar these are some of the books that he has found most useful so far:

The complete woodworkers companion by Roger Holmes. Very useful sections on sharpening blade and wood preparation.

Over 150 essential jigs, aids and devices for today's woodworker by VJ Taylor - some useful woodworking hints, tips, advice and knowledge.

The new cold-molded boat building by Reuel Parker - a fascinating read. The Skipper says, "The section on repairing cold-molded boats gave me confidence when I have needed to repair a cold-molded boat" 

The complete riggers apprentice by Brion Toss. The absolute reference book on knots, splices and rigging. You'll never tie your shoe laces the same way again.

Build your own boat by Ian Nicholson. Number 1 deckhand has been leafing through this book since it was picked up in a second hand bookshop last week, no-one else has had a chance to read it. It looks interesting though.

Diagrams in Build your own boat

Nothing is not worth reading about, even if it is so you can then dismiss it! The screw fix and tool station catalogues are also very frequently used for reference.

Let us know if you have come across any books about repairs that you think are really useful. Happy reading everyone.

Last year I wrote about other sailing resource books. You can find a link to that blog here.


Monday, 20 February 2017

Beach combing for sharks

It was a pleasure to write this joint blog with Richard (deckhand no. 2)

Over half term we have wandered along several different beaches. It is hard to return from a walk along the coast without assorted bits of treasure.

One of the things that we like to look out for are mermaids purses, the empty shells of shark eggs. It is the time of year that lots of egg cases are washed onto the beaches, even more so because of the storms last week. There are over 30 different species of shark in British waters and the Sharks trust has set up a fun science recording project to try and help understand and protect this important part of our oceans.

Rays and sharks are closely related. Dog fish are a type of shark and sharks are going endangered! They lay their eggs on seaweeds in sheltered places, they take seven and a half to ten months to hatch dependant on the water temperature. By combing the beaches for their mermaids purses we give the people at the sharks trust an idea of the numbers and distribution of sharks around the beaches and seas. Using the Great Egg case Hunt link to catalogue your bounty of the sea you help the shark population grow therefore allowing you to add to your collection of treasure!

The vast expanses of the treacherous beaches!  

They are well camouflaged to protect the eggs before they hatch. Varying degrees of brown and black mean that they can look very similar to the bladders of seaweed. The best place to  look is at the tide line amongst the flotsam and jetsam washed up. The sharks trust use the reports to monitor numbers and areas that the eggs are found in giving them vital information about the size and health of the shark population and its distribution around the coast.

The mermaids purse offers protection and nourishment to the growing embryo and once big enough, the pup wriggles its way out of the small slit to swim free. The remaining egg case is a curiously shaped oddity which has inspired a childhood love of sea life for generations.

A collection from Slapton Sands, Devon

The Shark trust website offers full advice on identifying and recording your finds. They need to be taken home and rehydrated for the best results.

There are many different types of sea life to be found on the beach. We have also found whelk egg balls, shells, cuttlefish bones and lots of other things washed up onto the beaches along the tide line. Have a look for treasure next time you are by the sea and if you are lucky enough to find a mermaids purse, please go online and report it to help out our sharks.

Whelks, barnacles and cuttlefish amongst other treasures

Follow these links to the websites for more information:

Shark Trust

The National marine aquarium website

Natural History museum - citizen science

Citizen science projects list