17 Oct Colchester…our first HelpX experience
Day 220 – 221 (10/11 Oct 2013) – It is already late in the evening when we arrive in Colchester and we are all excited to start working on a 60 year old river cargo boat. About 6 weeks ago, a Lady contacted us through ‘helpx’ to help restore the ship that used to deliver drinking water to other boats on the Themes and is supposed to be the last one of its kind. The restoration has already been in the making for about one year and the overall plan is to eventually turn the boat into a museum or bookstore for charitable means (according to the helpx profile). The profile also stated that helpers are expected to ‘become part of this hardworking ship crew’. It sounded like it was going to be the perfect first helpx experience and we are all excited to get started.
In return for our services we’d receive room and board while living on the boat. So here we are in Colchester, following the crazy directions to the mooring place of the boat and finally meet its owner.
The boat looks ok from the decking point. There are several piles of garbage on dock and all kinds of other clutter, but that does not bother us much, the main thing is it floats.
Under deck, however, a whole other picture appears. It is dark and musky, panels along the walls are half stripped and very old fiberglass (maybe even some asbestos) insulation is visible everywhere. Old black Styrofoam insulation is hanging off the ceiling and exposed, bare hot wires are hanging from the ceiling and walls. Rubbish, wine, beer bottles and clothes are strewn around, and the air is damp and moldy. Also, the bed that was offered to us had so much DNA all over the mattress that it would have made any forensics lab jealous. We are by no means neat freaks and do not mind clutter or some dirt or ‘lived in’ conditions; and we do realize that the boat is not in great shape, hence needs help to be worked on. However, we felt, that the living conditions were unsafe and that we’d probably be sick by the time our 2 weeks would be up.
Besides the boat being a complete disaster, the owner also had absolutely no plan. We thought since she contacted us 6 weeks ago to help on the boat, she would have had enough time to come up with something for us to do…maybe strip paint, pain, redo the ceiling, what have you. Yet, we come to find out that she has neither the supplies available to do any work nor the means to buy any anytime soon. She does offer that we could clean up anything we see that needs cleaning up. Yet, we come to find out quickly that there is no garbage pickup available either.
So what are we to do?
It is too late to find another place to spend the night, so we decide to stay this night on the boat. We put on an extra sheet on the mattress and sleep in our sleeping bag. Since we are not able to sleep much in the coffin like hole, aka bedroom, we make plans to get going as soon as possible the next day. In the morning, we try to help at least with one task and move an old hose along the docking area. We also wanted to help measure the walls, so maybe at one point the owner could order new insulation. Unfortunately, there was no measuring tape to be found, so eventually the owner and we gave up on that idea. As we didn’t want to tell her that she is a complete disaster, we tried to convince her that while she has no supplies and nothing for us to do, it would only cost her more trying to feed the three of us and it may be better for her if we’d get going again.
So we took off and checked out the oldest city in England, Colchester.
and… head back to Scotland!!