Friday 27 November 2015


Two years ago it cost me £90 to have Erin Mae winterised. I wasn't pleased – couldn't see how, even at workshop rates, it could take that long, even if I was being charged for someone to just stand around waiting while the taps emptied the water tank. Workshop rates are probably fair enough for expertise that I don't have – but I can look at running taps with the best of them.

So last year I sought help elsewhere, and paid £40 for that nice engineer Keith to talk me through the work as he did it. The main issue was emptying the calorifier (the hot water tank), which you can't do simply by opening the taps. He had an old water pump, so connected that to the battery, removed the pressure valve / outlet port from the top of the tank, and sucked out the water through a convenient bit of hose.

I don't have an old water pump, so during the year I researched alternatives, which all seemed to start at about £30. Then, while in bed one night it suddenly occurred to me that siphoning would be straightforward provided I did it into a bucket, not the canal. 3 metres of half-inch hose from the chandlers did the trick, and yesterday I put it to the test. Voilá!

So Erin Mae is drained down and emptied of everything that might respond badly to an excess of cold, and we're back home for the winter. But in those normally productive reflective moments each night as I lay me down to sleep, or in those relaxed moments under the shower in the mornings, I'm now worrying about whether I forgot some crucial part of the process which will come back to haunt me. Fortunately we shall have to take a trip to the boat in a couple of weeks when Clive has done the electrical work, so I'll be able to run over it all again. But, for the moment, this year's winterising has cost me about three quid, a splash of antifreeze into the shower pump and the toilet, and a few anxious thoughts. I reckon that's a result!

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Electric action part the first

Here's what must rate as the worst and most boring photo ever posted on this blog.

Boring to everyone, except to me. We finally bit the bullet and decided to install a 12 volt fridge. Today it got delivered. And that's exciting! Also today Clive Penny came to call – he's the one who's going to put in the wiring, and today was the day for talking through on board what he will do.

Our current fridge is a normal 230 volt affair. Which is fine when we're on a mains hook-up in the marina, and a disaster everywhere else. It's powered from our batteries via the inverter, and the combination seems to drain the batteries like there's no tomorrow. No one seems to know why an inverter uses more juice than the manual says it should, but leaving it off seems to be a principal route to battery happiness.

Erin Mae has two appliances that will continue to need mains electric – the washing machine and the vacuum cleaner. We normally use them only when the engine is running. For the computer, the iPad, the phones and the mobile broadband wifi unit we can get 12 volt chargers. We could get a 12 volt TV or stop watching any, and we can probably find 12 volt alternatives for our Ikea reading spotlights. So Clive is charged (ho-ho!) with giving us 12 volt wiring to various useful points. By the time we're through, the inverter can hopefully be left off most of the time.

Finally, Clive is going to normalise the wiring around the batteries – my assessment is that the way they're currently wired is not optimal. Target date is the week after next, and that will probably give us an excuse to visit our floating bolthole and report on progress. I'm very happy that at last we're moving (hopefully) towards solutions, rather than just mulling over problems.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Three bags full

We knew it would probably be unrealistic to expect just one car journey at the start or end of the boating season. Otherwise, the choice would be to wastefully equip Erin Mae, as well as the house, with those accoutrements we find desirable, or to embrace a minimalistic, not to say spartan, lifestyle for our cruising months. By the time you've included guitar, piano accordion, pressure cooker, bread maker, Magimix, all those bottles of herbs & spices, seeds & nuts, flour, sugar, rice, pasta and chocolate, pillows, duvets for visitors, tools, summer and autumn clothes, the car's looking pretty full, even though it's an estate. So there have usually been two trips, with the final one ending with a thorough clean, putting the boat to bed for the winter.

This year there were extra clothes for the visit to Norway in May, and the small gas barbecue. Somehow we've shifted enough stuff onto Erin Mae to fill the car three times. To be fair, it's actually worked out quite well, because we needed to be back home in the New Forest briefly last week, up near Mansfield at the weekend, home again this week and next week, and then back up on the boat towards the end of the month for some electrical work. When that's done, we'll winterise the boat – first time I'll have done it completely myself – and that will be that. Probably. Three trips in all.

As the rhyme goes: One for the master and one for the dame, and one for the little boat that… No, that doesn't sound quite right. All this travelling's gone to my head.

Friday 6 November 2015

Shouldn't of

When is the Erin Mae adventure like a yo-yo? (Ans: when we're down on Tuesday and back up on Friday). We're going to the Boaters Christian Fellowship annual meeting tomorrow, and it made a lot of sense to split the journey over two days. So tonight we're back on board.

We moved some food around, but were out of anything substantially nutritious by yesterday so, not wanting to buy supplies just before coming back up to the boat, we went down to the local Toby restaurant for our evening meal. At £5.99 each for a huge plateful of roast meat, Yorkshire pud and as much veggies as we could manage, it was seriously good value. Our waitress was cheerful, even when she had to change what she'd charged me for a glass of wine, because she'd substituted a more expensive one for the one I'd ordered, of which they'd run out. If she'd told me in advance, I'd have probably agreed, but she didn't, so I complained.

But I digress. In the course of our conversation with her, she said they "shouldn't of" done something – I forget what. Now in my time in theological education, I got used to pointing out to students that their use in essays of "might of" or "could of" was erroneous. Common, of course, but wrong. Up until now I blamed it on that sound (I think it's the "schwa") which English speakers use all the time, mostly without realising it. So the "of" in "a sort of sound" and the abbreviated "have" in "he might 've done" typically sound identical. No surprise that students who have never been taught otherwise think that "might have" is actually "might of", and write it so.

What was different about last night was that when our waitress said "shouldn't of" she actually pronounced the "o" of the "of" as a short "o", not as a schwa. And that, for me, was a first. She was using "of" actively, not just by default. It was at that point that I realised my corrections were a lost cause. This is the language changing, and no effort by yours truly is going to affect it. King Canute and all that. I just wonder whether official books of grammar and syntax will get round to recognising it before I depart this life. I haven't seen any signs yet of those in the know accepting it, but last night's conversation (I think) showed it moving from being an error to correct to becoming a change in the language to embrace. Like the split infinitive.

To all readers who don't know what I mean by a split infinitive and haven't a clue what I'm on about, I apologise. Perhaps I shouldn't of dunnit.

Wednesday 4 November 2015


The time has come. We've quite a lot planned for November, but it includes extracting ourself from Erin Mae for the winter. Yesterday was the first of what we expect to be several trips. Fortunately, because we'll be back up at the weekend, and then again a couple of weeks later, there was no need to ensure we'd cleared or cleaned everything.

We'd had more clothes than usual with us, because of our visit to Norway in May, so we started with the suitcases, the washing (clothes, bedding, towels) the instruments (guitar and piano accordion), and the kitchen stuff that isn't duplicated at home – bread maker, pressure cooker, Magimix, herbs and spices, perishables from the fridge. The tools have to come and go as well. Wasn't long before the car was filled to the gunnels. Erin Mae would snort at that, of course – what gunnels!?!

We calmed her down in the way you do with certain animals – a dark cover over the front windows – and got away just before lunch time. The journey to the New Forest was noticeable for one thing only: a decent flat white at Cherwell Valley services. I've been waiting for that for five months. We got home in the dark and unpacked just before the rain started again. Everything seemed fine at home except for a small infestation of fruit flies in our bedroom (where did they come from?), and the house soon warmed up.

Greeting us, of course, was the mountain of mail which we've been trawling through today. And on the back wall of the house, this:

Where this climber gets its energy from, I don't know. But we may well have blooms until Christmas. And then eight yards in front of the kitchen window was someone else still showing off.

It was raining, so I snapped it from the back through the window. That rose was one left to us by the previous owners, so it's at least 30 years old.

The odd thing is that it doesn't really feel like five months since we were here. But should we doubt it, a glance at the mail mountain puts us right!