Monday 10 October 2016


As we pulled in to moor up for the night just south of Trentham lock, we thought it would be a good idea to have the second half of the cream tea goodies from Tesco's Saturday offer. I secured the lines and came inside, and my best beloved said "What about lighting the fire first?" She was quite right, of course. The thermometer in the cabin was reading 16˚C. But, oh, those fateful words!

I emptied the ash tray, put in a firelighter, laid some kindling around and over it and then carefully arranged some Taybrite ovaloids on top. The last few days have suggested I shouldn't try to put to many on to start with. Lit the firelighter, shut the door, made sure there was air getting up into the firebox, and sat down to watch the heat develop and enjoy our tea (and the scones and cream were exceedingly good!). Flames soared up, the kindling seemed to catch, but over the next few minutes everything dwindled away to virtually nothing. I tried again – in fact I tried several times. More kindling poked in, another firelighter, juggling of the grate to remove any obstruction to the air flow. The wood would catch, the Taybrite would glimmer…and fade.

I remember watching my mother kneeling in front of the fire at home with a double page from yesterday's Daily Telegraph held across the front, to get a good draft flowing up and through the coals. It was extraordinary, and a bit scary, to see the fierceness of the flames through the paper. You had to get the fire to draw, she said. It's what they say about good chimneys, isn't it? I suspect that my own difficulties may be a combination of the characteristics of Taybrite, Erin Mae's rather short chimney, and the colder weather which means there is less of that magical "draw" going on.

Eventually I treated the fire like a philosopher – de-constructed everything and re-built it in line with a new set of principles. Whether it was better technique, or just that the fuel now had some residual warmth to help it get going, I don't know. But at last we have some cosy glowing. The thermometer is still reading 16, and my best beloved is still wrapped up in a blanket, but there is the promise of warmer things to come.


  1. I believe a colder external temperature should help the draw, not hinder it, as long as it's not too cold in the boat. The bigger the temperature difference between inside and outside the better the draw. What you're really after is a good temperature difference between the gasses in the chimney and the air outside it. The lighter hot gasses will rise all the more readily in this situation. This is why a double skin chimney - for more insulation is a good idea.

    1. I've been puzzling over why the hotter gasses are apparently not doing what I think they should. And we do have a double skinned chimney – at least, a liner inside the outer.