Category Archives: general

I’m back……

Well, what happened there.

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t posted for a while and for those who enjoy our blog, I apologise. For the those that don’t, I also apologise…… because I am back!

When you start to write something like this, you convince yourself that you are only actually doing it for yourself and if anyone reads it, then great.  That is a lie. You secretly hope that other people do read it and enjoy it.  Although I do sometimes like to go back and re-read some of our adventures, it’s actually nice to share.  That is, of course, until you get some cyber-abuse on a forum, where a small group of people tell you that no-one is interested in anything you have to say. Apparently, the fact that I am not producing some kind of Haynes guide for the Moody with step by step instructions including pictures and everything done by my own fair hand, removed any relevance in what I was doing.  Those comments combined with being quite busy at work stopped me posting for a while despite knowing that the vast majority of people who read these ramblings seem to enjoy it.  We normally get several thousand reads a month and even in self imposed exile it was averaging five hundred. So thank you for stopping me sulking 🙂 E7570D37-1A38-47EA-8EC4-C3B455440740and like the character in the film, I’m back.

So my time being pathetic and over-sensitive is over! I will try to catch up and will keep everything up to date since another by-product of writing these things is it is actually quite calming and relieves stress.

So what has happened in the last nine months or so since I last updated you.  Well on the boat not too much if I’m honest.  Work has taken over to a great extent as after leaving Moorfields, I spent some time at UCLH before joining Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital as the interim Chief Digital Information Officer. Work has been busy to say the least. The winter has been cold and so we have hibernating on the boat as usual.  We haven’t been able to move forward with the Italian project but we are starting to save up to finish it off since it is a prerequisite of us being able to move on. I also bought myself a little Lotus project car, a 1992 Lotus Elan Turbo, which is another way to ease stress whether it is fixing it or driving it!

I will catch up with a few of the things we have done such as skiing in Austria, some work on the boat when she was out on the hard and our first trip out of the season. I may even add a bonus one on the lotus and start a new theme 🙂

Anyway, let’s see if I can recapture the fun of the blog, enjoy.

Magic pontoon steps

So inspired by a video on facebook for a very posh dock box and with Maria’s upcoming birthday on the 16th August, necessity became the mother of invention and I decided to MAKE Maria’s present this year.

Firstly, like any parent, Maria will have had presents made for her by the girls when they were very young, I am hoping that my attempts achieve the quality level that she is used to…..

In the video, some flat pack wood miraculously unfolds into two steps with a lid to a box for shoes (or more likely junk!).  The steps look very stable as she hops onto her low freeboard yacht….does she really need steps at all??  In the comments to the video there were some questions raised as to how much such a box would cost and the answer had come back as $3,000!  I have to say the box does look beautifully made but if you are willing to pay that for it, I would like to introduce myself and discuss potential charitable donations or personal investment opportunities.

So there has to be another way….. and please read to the end to see an unbelievable offer!

Mariadz, as a Moody 54, doesn’t have exceptional freeboard for her size but it is still well over a metre to the water line and nearly a metre from a floating pontoon to the deck.  Maria and I are a little vertically challenged too, which meant when I snapped my Achilles Tendon or tore Cruciate ligaments, it was tricky to get on board – in the end you have to sit on the rail and swing your legs round.

But do we need this?  At the moment we have a throne on the pontoon.  This is a huge wooden staircase to the boat that works really well but will be left when we start our travelling. So potentially we would need something for when we are travelling and Maria had taken a shine to this video when it came out. Surely I can work something out and put it together for less than that!

imageI have been fortunate to have Pete and Linda as neighboursIMG_6442 for the last two years and one of the things I have noticed as they fit out the beautiful Haven Voyager is that Pete designs a lot in cardboard before making it or buying it. This gave me the inspiration to mock up the steps prior to buying any wood or hinges!  I can also thank my son Matthew for drinking the cider that made this all possible.

The model worked really well from the wood perspective but didn’t give me a great view of the problems I was likely to have with hinges.  You need two types of hinge for this design a flush fitting hinge which helps with anything that goes out to 90 degrees and a butt hinge for joints that go out to 180 degrees.

So, here he we have the Mariadz designed Magic Pontoon Steps (patent pending 😉 ),

{drum roll please}

So what do you need to make these fine pieces of modern design?

The measurements below are based on producing steps that are 60cm tall (Height) with a first step at 30cm.  The depth (thickness) of the wood is key and I have assumed 12mm (woodwidth) but will also explain below how the sizes are made up so that people can adjust as necessary. Dimensions are Length x width and all measurements and I have rounded up the woodwidth to 15mm for calculations for ease of cutting and also because this gives a little space which the hinges are likely to require anyway.

Wood – (B&Q do a fantastic cut to size service which is very accurate)

  • The back – 60cm x 60cm [(Height) x (height)]
  • The concertina sides (4) – 60cm x 28.5cm [(Height) x (Height/2 – woodwidth)]
  • the top 1 – 60cm x 10cm [(height) x (width*7 + a bit?)] – the width is what provides the top part that closes the pack and so you want to be too much rather than too little.
  • the top 2 – 60cm x 50cm [(height) x (height – top 1 width)] – best that the top is cut from the same sheet
  • Steps (3) – 30cm x 60cm [(height/2) x height)]
  • small step sides (2) – 30cm x 30cm [(height/2) x (height/2)]
  • top bars (2) – 45cm x 45 cm [(height – top 1 width – wood width*4) x (height – top 1 width – wood width*4)]

hardware – (I chose 50mm brass hinges)

  • 10 Butt hinges
  • 14 flush hinges
  • 12mm screws (100) – check that the hinges don’t come up with 16mm screws, or you are through the wood!
  • 16mm “ish” screws (6) – these need to be less than (2*wood width)
  • magnetic catches (2)
  • anti slip tape


20170810_164659There are basically three types of joint in the design.  The outside of the box 20170810_164715requires a joint that forms an L so that the top of the box is supported on all sides for stability.  This means that the flush hinges need to be brought in by the width of the wood and recessed into the wood to provide a flush finish (I would now recess these differently to the picture with the larger part of the hinge being recessed but I did the first as in the picture and wanted to stay consistent at least on the inside of the box).  Two of the concertina sides are joined to each side of the back using this method and the other two are joined to the top step in the same way, I used two hinges for each joint irrespective of size. Having built the U of the back and two sides and the same U shape for the front, we can join these together with the butt hinges.  You now have a box with one end which is only half covered and has the front of the top step.  We can now fit the top step itself, which is the top of the box, by fitting two flush hinges onto the top edge of the back on the outside and then the smaller top piece can be fixed.  The larger top piece is then attached to the smaller with two butt hinges (on the inside).  Our top step is taking shape.  Now to avoid any unfortunate accidents it is a good idea to attach two bars on the underside of the longer part of the top step.  These will stop the concertina collapsing inwards.  They should be mounted a wood width from the outside edge and have at least a wood width on the outside edge at the front.

Now to do the bottom step.  We already have the facing for the top step on the box so we need to make an L shape with our two remaining step pieces of wood using flush hinges and again positioning the hinge so that it forms an L when opened. Now we can join this L to the bottom edge of the top step which forms part of the box, , using the flush hinges, which should allow the entire step area to fold up to the top of the box.  The next step is to attach the small step sides to the bottom of the box under the steps so that they fold in and then come out under the steps.  In order to ensure that the bottom step sides stay in place, I used magnets on the inside of the small side pieces to lock it into the back of the bottom step.  My steps are untreated so far but the plan is to get this done too since they will be outside a lot of the time.

Finally, put anti-slip tape over the steps and top, we don’t want any accidents. At the end, you should get the following..

You can see the video was done before the protection or anti-slip was applied, I’m just a little premature I guess….. A month later, I have used International Paints Woodskin to waterproof and protect the wood, Anti Slip Strips to stop any accidents and the boat name in gold, which isn’t too clear with the wood colour unfortunately. The final element is a weathermax bag for it to go in, and I’ll probably throw some silicon sachets in there.


So the steps are done.  The size works well for us since we have 90cm above the pontoon to the deck and it means three same sized steps and you are on board, probably useful that they are all the same size in case someone isn’t concentrating.  As an alternative and nearer to the example from the original video, the steps could have been a little smaller, since the overall dimensions of these steps are 60cm x 60 cm x 12cm.  It is quite easy to have the height at 40cm or 50cm, and hopefully the explanations above will help to explain how to do that.

So now for the unbelievable offer.  So anyone seeing the original video of the deck box will know it costs $3,000 (but it is a beautiful piece of art, the Rolls Royce of deck boxes).  I would be happy to make the Magic Pontoon Steps to the quality you have seen in the videos, to an agreed, realistic size, for £300 + delivery (feel free to email us at  I know, I know, I am robbing myself.  Clearly Maria’s special steps cost four times this, they are a present after all!  For those who prefer to go it alone, I hope my instructions above help.

Gratuitous cat pictures

Maria and I often discuss how the cats are more popular than we are… and there aren’t nearly enough cute pictures of cats on the web 😉 we are also feeling very lucky since our recent experience of almost losing Clyde just before his seventh birthday and are very grateful for the help and support we received via Facebook from people who don’t know us.

So firstly some pics of the cats when they were young…

The first four years of their lives were in West Bergholt where they were very comfortable.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Of course their first experience of boating was on the original Mariadz, the Dufour 455.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then we bought the Moody a new playground for the cats.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Before selling the house and getting a motorhome and travelling around..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

but the cats do like skiing….



Favourite blogs

Well the blog has been in place now for a couple of years and we have also added blogs from previously that describe the journey we have been going through.

wedding closeIn that time, a lot has happened and I thought it may be worth pointing out some of our highlights for those who have caught up with us more recently.

Sometimes the more fun blogs have been those that have described the journeys we have had or the state of the build rather than the more technical ones around the refit of the boat, so here goes…..

Our first (aborted) trip across the channel was in company IMG_1100with Richard and Janet on Easily Led. It did prove to us that what we had in mind was not going to be all plain sailing even in benign conditions. Very Easily Led

Later that season, we went across the channel to Ostend. Our next trip over to Dunkirk was also eventful. Firstly getting there and working out where to go followed by the first attempt at the trip home.


Across the channel to Dunkirk 

Trying to get home from Dunkirk

We have some fun but also are aware of the safety aspects and are always learning lessons. Although I try to be critical, and hopefully amusing, in the blog, I hope it doesn’t come across that we are foolhardy.  We have been trained well and are able to think ourselves out of most situations.

But our (mis) adventures are not just limited to water…. imagewe can have as much fun in the motorhome on a journey to Italy. Road trip to Italy 2016

However, on water is where our home is and our first proper trip out of this year was to North Kent where we had a great time. Our 2017 season starts with a trip to Kent

imageWe are also fortunate to see some amazing sights and the pictures from the Thames barge race were a favourite of mine.Thames barge race weekend

Finally, no list of our favourites is complete without something to do with the house we are building in Puglia.img_5370Build in Puglia – Trullo complete

There ya go, a diverse selection of some of our favourite blogs. Maybe some beach reading, or for the commute to work, I hope you enjoy them.

When in Italy

As I am sure you have been able to tell from the website, we are rather keen on Italy and Puglia in particular.  However we are not the types to try and turn a small part of Italy into little England.  To that end for the last few years we have been trying to learn Italian, who knows another language may even help us on our travels.

We started with some lessons bought through the internet with Listen and Learn UK.  This didn’t work out very well for us, since the requirement that the lessons be in our home seemed to be missed and so we were travelling across Colchester for our lesson. We started to get into a rhythm of having these when our tutor got pregnant and decided to give it up.  When we went back to the company they told us that the money we had paid was non refundable and that the fact these had not been completed quickly due to our tutor’s availability was immaterial.  On top of that they were expensive but a total the time we didn’t know anyone who could teach us Italian and so a large mark up had to be stomached. A pretty poor experience all round.

In Ipswich, we have our haircut at an Italian hairdresser and one of the team there spoke to us about our Italian recently.  He mentioned that his wife was in the process of starting up a small business to teach Italian and so we jumped at the opportunity to restart our lessons – something that our Italian friends will be grateful for, I’m sure!  We previously had been using the espresso books, but our lessons had been dotted around these, rather than structured, and we didn’t feel we were learning conversational Italian.  italian coursebookOur new teacher has a slightly different approach and a new book (Contatti 1 Italian Beginner’s Course).  We are looking forward to developing our language skills further….I think our Italian friends are probably looking forward to it even more than we are :). Having had our first lesson, it has reignited our love for Italy and I think will help us to keep the dream alive when we are in England.  Our final help will be a Easy Italian: Photo Phrase Book (Collins) which will apparently help perfect our pronunciation.