11 August 2017

Boat Visitors - Rules and Etiquette on Board a Canal Boat

We've had our first boat visitors!

Stan's sister Charlene from New Mexico, was the first.
At the end of a trip from Finland to Holland via Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Then - son Mikey, his Italian wife, Iris, and Baby Noah came from their home in Berlin:

(Yes, at one point, we considered changing the boat's name to Noah's Ark.
However, Iris' father, from Venice, nixed the idea STRONGLY.

Finally got the name of the boat painted again!
"You NEVER change the name of a boat! It's VERY bad luck!"
So - we kept the original name.)

"Sorry, Noah. No Noah's Ark this time."

Then - son Erik came from Bangkok, where he's lived for about 5 years.
He speaks great Thai, but - not as much French. 

Off to the market in Capestang via bicycle.

Erik draws for a living - we even got to do a little drawing and painting together.

And son Kilian, also living and working in Bangkok, arrived shortly afterwards.

"Since I work online, I guess you could say I'm at the office, right?"

Our first local wine tastings in the area - with Kilian.

We never really had BOAT GUESTS before.
So we had to think about BOAT INSTRUCTIONS.

We're still winging it, so for now, it goes something like this:

Rule 1: Regulations require that we inform guests where the life jackets are.

Well - that's pretty silly, since you can pretty much stand up in the canal.

I can see it now: 
"Man overboard!" 
"Should I toss him a life jacket?" 
"Nah, just tell him to stand up and walk to the edge of the canal.
And then take a REALLY good shower."

But: DO make sure you use the handrail - especially on the canal side of the boat.
And especially after a glass or two of wine.

Yes, I've seen people fall into the canal. 
It's mostly just embarrassing.

Rule 2: Shoes off inside the boat.
That's easy.

Rule 3: Toilet protocol:
This one is important.

NOTHING goes down the head (toilet) that hasn't gone through you first.

 And - since I KNOW someone will forget, and be too embarrassed to admit it, I leave out a large utensil to rescue anything accidentally dropped into the head. 

Because: NO ONE wants to clean a blocked toilet.

Rule 4: Use power and water VERY sparingly. (We go into this in detail.)

Rule 5: Put everything back where it belongs. 

Otherwise, the boat quickly becomes a mess. 

Rule 6: Close the hatch if it looks like rain.

If not, you - and your bed - will get VERY wet.

Stan - showing Noah how life on board works. Noah's got it down.
Rule 7: Enjoy!

I'm sure there must be more, but right now, I can't think of anything else.
And ALL of our recent boat guests were GREAT.

You know? This is a pretty cool lifestyle.

Would you like a glass of rosé with that?

09 August 2017

Ducks and the Canal du Midi Duck Egg Salad

Remember the ducks? 

Stan was trying to persuade them to move elsewhere. 
Away from our freshly painted boat - and - they did.

They headed down the canal a bit. 

Friends of ours, Ron and Fiona, live on a lovely old barge from 1910 - "The Swan".
It's moored just a few boats down from us.

Maybe the ducks saw the swan on the rudder - and took it as an invitation to the neighborhood. 

A short while later, Ron and Fiona unexpectedly discovered a nest of duck eggs. 
Nicely planted under their bicycle cover. 
A LOT of eggs. 

- Oops. No bicycling for a while.

But: since no feathered female seemed to be sitting on the eggs, we took a couple for lunch.

They're big! And truly - organic. 
Totally free range, obviously. 

The ducks even eat baguettes. 
Of course. They're French ducks. 

Do you have to cook duck eggs longer? 
No, they're more delicate than chicken eggs. 

Just put them in cold water. 
When the water begins to boil, turn it off.
Let them sit in the water for about 12 minutes. Done!

But first: off to market - to buy some new potatoes, some fresh market tomatoes and greens. 
Add a little Dijon mustard, and some French sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon.

Stan choosing greens at the Capestang market.

Duck egg salad. Delicious!

And - a few fresh cherries for dessert.

22 July 2017

After 8 MONTHS - The Boat is Finally All Painted!

No idea it would take THIS long to finish painting the boat.

Noah wasn't even BORN when we began painting the boat!

Painting the hull went quickly back in December.
We were up in the shipyard, remember?
In Grau d'Agde, on the Mediterranean.

José Jimenez (he swears he's French, not Spanish-) "attacking" the hull with his "pistolet".

First: Sanding.
Then - a metal primer, since the boat is steel.
Then - 2-3 coats of paint.

But then - winter set in.
It was too cold - too wet - too humid.

In spring - the trees rained tiny seeds.
Showered millions of tiny black insects.
Then rain. And wind.
Then - too hot.

Steps - before painting.
Steps - after painting.

But FINALLY - this week, in JULY - it's painted. Glad we weren't in a real hurry.

Here's what things looked like - before and after. 

Now - all we need is to put the name back on. And the new French registration number.

Looks like new. Shiny.
Darkened the off-white to a rich cream color. And darkened the blue.
But stayed with traditional colors.

We've been "detailing" it all week. 
Polishing the chrome. 

Removing paint traces from windows. 
Cleaning the sides.
It's fun when it looks so good.

Working from the aft deck. Who needs yoga?

Found a new spot for bicycles. 

Raised the mast for the first time (it's hydraulic-!) and added the flags. 

That's not the right position for the flags -

We have the Languedoc flag - the red one. 
It coordinates nicely with the New Mexico flag - the yellow one.

Yes, that's an air conditioner unit on the roof.  Really. -Need to find someone to recharge it.

It's a big boat - it took a LOT of paint.
The previous paint job was done without a primer coat.
The paint just peeled off in large strips.

And now - Stan has a new passion for keeping ducks away from the boat.

They've made themselves quite at home on some of the other boats.
Even laying large duck eggs on the deck.

And - they're a bit messy - to put it mildly.
So understandably - Stan doesn't want them around this nice clean boat.

Ducks in front of the cabin door. Waiting for opportunities. Hoping that Stan doesn't notice them. 

And - the ducks know it.

14 July 2017

Killer French Canal Fish

Usually - BIRDS eat FISH. 
Not the other way around. 

The building on the right - used to be the communal laundry. 

I mentioned this in the previous blog post. 
Here's the rest of the story:

It usually happens at the "lavoir", the medieval laundry area on the banks of the canal. 
In the evenings.

Lavoir - scene of impending doom - on the left.

One moment, the pigeons are peacefully taking a drink at the side of the canal.
Maybe even dipping their bird-feet into the water.

The next moment - a streak of silver, one large SPLASH - !
And - no more pigeon.

Not a feather, not a webbed foot.

Nothing but a ripple of water.

No wonder the ducks are up on the path these days.

This fish is BIG.
And really good at catching birds.

The pigeons don't stand a chance.
"Muddy Waters" is the boat beside us. What are the chances?

So we began to look into it. 
Iris - visiting from Berlin with Mikey and Noah - found a video - and an explanation.

Mikey and Iris, waving their baguette from the bridge. Stan on the towpath, rolling up the "utilities". 

Turns out - these are large catfish, and - this is new behavior for them.
In some instances, the catfish comes entirely out of the water. 

Some catfish are successful 80% of the time! 
- One study at the University of Toulouse counted 52 attacks in 72 hours.

Mamma mia! Poor pigeons!

Across from us on the boat, it happens most every evening.
It's a bit disconcerting.
Sometimes we have to rescue the injured bird.

(Sometimes it's simply - R.I.P. pigeon.)

The barge Hatuey comes through. Oblivious to pigeon peril.

Here's the 4 minute video:
(Beware - scenes of death and violence included.)


Meanwhile, happy Bastille Day!

See? We're still learning something new - every day.