Tuesday 31 May 2011

Melodeon music

A practical training week in Doncaster finished on Sunday and we were able to come across to Great Haywood for a couple of days on Erin Mae. Monday we'd expected to go to Crick, but the weather changed our minds. All those questions bubbling away can wait till the IWA festival in July.

Our friends Roger and Mirjana arrived at Tixall Wide on Maggie May. No challenges for my best beloved's knee in that trip, so round we went today to catch up. It's the first time they've seen Erin Mae, and they gratifyingly made all the appropriate noises. Coffee, good chat, lunch, more coffee, and then out came their melodeons for an excellent demonstration. My attempt was a reminder of what it would mean to re-train the fingers and think push-pull (like mouth organ blow-suck). Tonight we all go into Stafford for a folk session in one of the pubs. Perhaps my guitar will get an outing alongside their boxes.

These were the friends who lent us their first boat some years ago for an idyllic week from Ellesmere to Llangollen and back. The seed was sown. Good buddies!

Monday 30 May 2011

Clearing the clutter

A couple of Fridays ago Iain and Simon joined us from Cornwall and London to help clear out the loft, in preparation for some extra insulation. "Help" is actually an understatement since, by the time their father got home afer lunch, the job was completed and the dining room had a considerable amount of gear alongside the stuff still waiting to be brought up to the Erin Mae. It's amazing what a couple of healthy lads will do on the mere promise of some good food in the evening. Must have something to do with filial affection, I suppose (hope!). Now the only problem is what to do with the dining room.

I've spent quite a lot of the last 25 years helping students clear out clutter of another sort – patterns of thinking and acting that get in the way of effective working with other people. Same problem – what do you do with it all? Seeing the courage with which some of them face up to the issues has been, for me, both a reward and a challenge to continue the process with myself.

At the pub in the evening (the one with the reputation for the best fish in the area), the food was great. We all had something different, but the satisfied smiles at the end had a lot in common. It had been a good day.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Water, water everywhere!

The new calorifier looks very nice sitting in the cupboard between the kitchen and the cruiser stern. We have water in the taps, water in the shower, automatic water for the toilet. Water for the new washing machine. Water wherever we want it!

And water where we don’t want it. We knew the surveyor in December had reported a drip in the environs of the calorifier. We knew the calorifier had eventually split, so presumably had ejected a certain amount of its contents. We knew the central heating header tank in the same cupboard had also developed a drip, though we were trying to catch most of that, and and the engineering boys sealed it up. So when we looked down and saw water lying in a four-inch space between the floorboards beneath the calorifier we weren’t surprised. We dropped in to B&Q and bought a car sponge. My best beloved has one of these 3-foot contraptions with a handle at one end and a gripping mechanism at the other (good for helping recovering knee patients grab things that are out of reach, from the comfort of THAT chair). So, although it was awkward, I could lean over the edge of the cupboard with the sponge gripped in the gripper, put it down between all the pipes and dip it into the water. A check with the dipstick had shown it was only about a centimetre deep.

It took me an age to get the first bucketful out. Down with the sponge. Up with the sponge. Squeeze into bucket. Down with...  After that the technique improved and the rate of extraction speeded up. But after three bucketsful (what a nice word!) the water in the bilge didn’t seem to have gone down at all. The bilge pump was no good at all, since it’s in the engine compartment, sealed off by a bulkhead, and completely dry.

After six buckets I wondered what was going on. After nine I lost count. It was about then that at last the level seemed to respond to whether the boat was tipped to one side, so my best beloved went and had a nice kip tucked up against the gunwale. After ten (or was it eleven?) I was finally looking at a surface without water. I’d thought it would be the base plate, but boats have ballast, and it looked like some sort of black paving bricks sitting there in the bottom.

What worried me was the calculation that had been fizzing round in my head for the last half-hour of this operation. I reckon 10 buckets means 100 litres. 100 litres, 1 cm deep, covers 10 square metres. Boat is just over two metres wide. That means (all things being even) there was a 5 metre stretch of boat bottom filled with water. Any one care to check my calculation? I just hope those ballast bricks are extremely tightly packed and totally non-porous. I also hope the inside surfaces of base plates are well painted against rust.

When we came away we left the cupboard door open, but it’s a very small gap in the floor boards for evaporation to get through. We’ll check it when we get up to Great Haywood again next weekend. Just hoping the water won’t have reappeared.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Agua viva!

After a couple of abortive attempts, first on Good Friday and again on Wednesday of last week, our washing machine was finally delivered today. Engineering reckon they can install both it and the new calorifier during the coming week and that will mean, at last, the mising element: running water!

When you look at pictures of the old commercial narrowboats, it's clear such a luxury would have been beyond their wildest imaginings. However, a trawl round boating blogs indicates that in the pecking order for modern boaters' priorities and discussion topics, the water supply ties for third place behind toilets and electrics (alongside encounters with ducklings and appreciation of atmospheric sunrises / golden sunsets / picturesque canal bridges).

Me, I'm just glad that frequent trips to the tap with a bucket will be a thing of the past. Could our next two-day visit to the Erin Mae actually see us able to stay away from the marina overnight?

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Street Party and Rolt

At our wonderful street party last Friday, our neighbour Steve, hearing we’d bought a narrowboat, nipped home and came back with a 2004 reprint of the 1994 edition of Tom Rolt’s Narrow Boat for me to borrow. He (Steve, not Tom!) hasn’t done any boating for years, but had really enjoyed the book. I suspect he may now be getting some good ideas for this year’s holiday.

Meanwhile I’ve started on this classic. Traditional boaters we may not be (yet), but this looks a fascinating introduction to, among other things, canal and boating history.

Celebrating royal nuptials