It was a Monday. That’s Sam’s day to work, doing web admin for a UK charity. Generally I get on with blog stuff, video stuff or do some ‘wifing’. On this particular Monday I had my wifing planned out. Starting with checking the Capitanerie for our replacement propeller parts and a separate parcel of West Country Cheddar- the only UK foodstuff we really miss. Both were sent by my Dad, who is kindly hosting the spare engine that came with Joker in his garden. We were also low on food so a trip to the shops on the edge of town was in order. There’s a shop full of local and organic veg, next to a small but well stocked ‘Super-U’ that seems to have a little bit of everything.
On waking there was a scrim of ice over the windows and the wind was deafening. I had a dim memory of Sam leaping out bare chested in the middle of the night to lash down our flapping sail cover and returning all clammy and shivering. I crawled out of the hatch and set off along the pontoon, only to find I was woefully underprepared. Chunks of sleet were smacking me in the head and coating my jaunty poncho with a breastplate of ice. My hands ached, then numbed. I returned to Joker and grabbed gloves and a coat. The wind belted in from the sea and through the basin of boats, unravelling mooring lines, ripping sails to shreds and making the masts sing.
I got to the Capitanerie and picked up a parcel. Not the cheese. Damn. Just the parts for the propeller and drive shaft. Heading back into face-shredding horizontal ice I decided that further wifing would wait until tomorrow, and we had enough supplies on board to last another day. Another week or two if we ate small amounts of boring stuff.
On my return I lashed down the sail cover again, wishing I’d replaced the broken hooks with the ones I’ve had in my mending bag for three months.
An hour after I returned the power went out. Sam’s tethered internet phone lost reception, so he couldn’t communicate with the Bristol office. We tried to call the Capitanerie but- duh- same problem. We used the VHF radio, and when they came on line they said the whole town was in a blackout. It seemed likely that St Vaast’s electricity would be a priority, while we might wait forever for somebody to fix Pontoon E. So we waited. And waited.
We normally run an oil radiator on Joker as long as we have shore power. She’s so small that it’s possible to warm up quickly as long as there is a bit of heat, but without, the cold starts to crawl implacably through the hull. Home very quickly becomes a floating fridge.
I boiled up tea and hot water bottles on the alcohol stove and we set up the bed and got in our double sleeping bag.
I drew and read for the rest of the day and made a curry for dinner, while Sam wrote on his laptop about his latest inventions. I appreciated the excuse to draw for once, and came up with some good ideas for things- real 3D things, not made of pixels at all- that I could make. I also realised my handwriting has become disgusting as a result of typing everything. So I’ll be working on that.
Next time an icestorm is heading in and the larder is running low, maybe I will decide to head out for supplies immediately rather than settling in to wait it out. But on the whole we were well prepared for a temporary powercut. We switched the light on later than usual but our 2 leisure batteries were charged and the 12V power held out well.
We had light, some power, and the ability to generate more using our solar panels and a TEG (Thermoelectric Generator) unit on the meths hob if we needed it. The hob also helped heat the cabin, but we had to keep the hatch open to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Even then, the condensation soon drenched every inch of the walls. But our bed was warm. The only trouble was, we were low on meths.
Outside, total darkness swamped St Vaast, as the snow pelted down.
Continued in Part 2…