From Winter Sun in Gruissan to a Boat Viewing in Snowy Leiden

It’s 6:30 a.m. The thermometer is registering 45°F (7°C). If we’re lucky, it will claw its way up to 52°F (11°C) by mid-afternoon. The mid-January days we enjoyed basking in the sun from the comfort of our lightweight sun loungers are a distant memory. We’re at Gruissan’s Le Quatre Vents aire parked with a view of hundreds of bare masted sailing boats.

Even though we can’t wear tee shirts and shorts, we’re still happy to be here. We’ve seen one light frost this winter in France. The weather isn’t as benign in Leiden where Julisa, our Super Favorite mahogany and steel Dutch cruiser, is stored open to the elements in a steel cradle.

We’re trying to sell her. Two boats are one too many. Our new floating home, Dik Trom, is moored near Antwerp, waiting for us to move on board in April. Much as we love Julisa, we can’t afford to keep her. She has to go.

Our broker, Warner, took a German couple to view Julisa yesterday. The Germans couldn’t have picked a worse day to look at a canvas-topped summer cruiser. Heavy wind-blown rain swept across the boatyard. Rain turned to sleet and then snow. The Germans were aspiring boaters who still viewed boat ownership through rose-tinted glasses. Dark and dismal days filled with snow and ice weren’t part of their waterways dream. After a nervous climb eight feet up a slippery steel ladder, they spent just a few shivering minutes exploring the boat’s unheated cabin. They left the boatyard without a backward glance. We don’t expect to hear from them again.

We have a lot of work to do in April. We need to take Dik Trom from Antwerp to Leiden, and then take her out of the water to have a little welding done and to paint her hull. While we’re there, we will paint Julisa’s hull, put her back in the water and take her to a mooring where Warner can show her properly. Once that’s done, we’ll return to Leiden and a summer’s cruising on Dik Trom.

We’ll need a rest by then.

For now, we’ll relax in the slightly warmer Mediterranean climate and wonder how on Earth we’re going to pay for everything.

(Cynthia wants me to point out that it’s me doing all the worrying. It’s ME who constantly fears running out of money. She knows everything will work out for the best. She doesn’t worry about the unknown at all. Ever. We watched Will Smith’s dire After Earth last night. The dark cloud’s silver lining as far as Cynthia was concerned was the film title’s strapline, Danger is real. Fear is a choice. I wish someone would teach me how to not fear poverty. Until then, I’ll try to follow Cynthia’s fine example.)

Dik Trom shortly before we left her in December

Dik Trom shortly before we left her in December

Gruissan harbour on a sunny winter morning

Gruissan harbour on a sunny winter morning

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 6 comments
Ian - February 4, 2018

I,m just like you matey. Every time i withdraw cash from the atm i have visions of bankrupcy before 70 years. Cheers ian of bali on sea.

    Paul Smith - February 5, 2018

    I’m sure Cynthia is right. We WILL find a way to sustain us.

Marilyn McDonald - February 4, 2018

Hi Paul and Cynthia,
I rather like the new format of short posts, but also miss the diatribes …
I recognise the fear of not having enough money to live on, but in your situation, I think my bigger fear would be ‘where will we live when we are no longer able to manage in small and mobile living spaces?’
As a plan for the future, how about considering having another go at getting Cynthia leave to remain in the UK? I know you had a nightmare over it early in your relationship – cos I read about it! However, if you could put that aside and approach it following all the rules, I think you would be successful. After all, you now have evidence of a successful relationship over an extended period in, at times, quite trying circumstances. And maybe, if you were able to spend more time in the UK, you could boat in Europe in the summer and in a narrowboat in the winter – warm, comparatively spacious, with separate spaces for privacy and solitude … Tempting? And what’s more, you could continue to live onboard when you are both old and doddery complete with a heating allowance – what’s not to like, mate?
Cheers, Marilyn

    Paul Smith - February 5, 2018

    I loved my narrowboat Marilyn. I loved it less in the winter months when the towpath turned to liquid mud and I had to endure weeks of endless cloud and heavy rain. Having said that, I miss the English waterways very much. I would like to return at some stage.

    Proving our relationship was never a problem. There was a big question mark over my address. Residential boaters don’t make very good sponsors are far as the UK immigration service is concerned. Maybe there’s a way forward, but there’s a lot to be said for sunny and relatively warm winters. Living in a motorhome is actually less physically taxing than living on a boat. Personal space is more of a problem but, because the weather is usually better than in the UK, at least I can get out and walk for a few hours.

john - February 4, 2018

I can see that there are disadvantages to the nomadic life – there must be a degree of stress in constantly moving, with new neighbours every few days, long trips to the shops, security worries, mechanicals, etc etc.
Generating income of some description might be simpler in Blighty.. not many have crossed the North sea in a canal boat though.
Presumably you have considered Ireland – wet in winter but several degrees warmer than the UK.

    Paul Smith - February 5, 2018

    There ARE disadvantages John, but the advantages outweigh them. Driving can be stressful, so we are trying to reduce the amount of time we spend on the road this year. Neighbours are rarely a problem because we usually find overnight stops where we don’t have any neighbours. Security is a slight worry, but no more so than in a house. In fact, in my last house in a pleasant part of rural Warwickshire, we were burgled five times in eight years. This part of France feels very safe.

    Generating an income in the UK would be easy. I could return to my narrowboat discovery days. Maybe we’ll do that one day. For now, we’ll continue to enjoy better winter weather even if I have to work harder to earn a living.


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