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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Odds 'n' Sods While Waiting for Repairs

"Don't squat with your spurs on." -Will Rogers, American cowboy, comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer, 1879 - 1935

     Right well after the not-so-grand beginning of setting off for a singular life on the cut (picked up a pram cover around the prop day 2, and the engine showed signs of overheating on day 3; broken bilge pump hose day 4), I came to a dead standstill just after Fenny Stratford Stop lock. Before Tom and Jan on NB Waiouru carried on the next morning, Tom and I opened the engine hole cover and he proceeded to give me a quick tutorial AKA Vetus Boat Engines For Dummies. In the process we discovered the band new bilge pump hose has cracked and the bilge pump no longer functioned so Tom patched it for me. That was a week ago yesterday. 
     I planned to stay in this spot for about four days to visit Bletchley Park, stop in at Ikea and purchase the accent paint I need to finish painting the boat.  I dipped down in the engine hole several times a day to check things out and while there was a small drip occasionally from the stern gland it was nothing to be concerned about--or so I thought. 
     Imagine my surprise and shock last Monday to pop the engine hole cover and find a bloody swimming pool underneath my engine! I baled for Britain, emptied most of it out and used newspapers rolled up and taped as wicks to pull up the remainder. All together I baled 20 gallons by hand and 5 gallons using the patched up bilge pump. Tom Jones called me to check on me and I told him what had occurred--and no we had not had any rain so it wasn't rain water leaking into the engine hole. Monday evening ended with me standing at the bathroom sink brushing my teeth. I bent over the sink to spit and the wooden port hole window frame fell out on my head! I spent two hours gluing it back in place with wood glue and securing it while it dried.
     Meanwhile over the next few days Tom sent me the schematic for my engine--it is the same as his--and he talked me through how to loosen the collar on the stern gland and grease it with silicone grease. I pulled out Les' set of Allen Keys, found the two half used tubes of silicone grease Les used for this job and grabbed a rag. Down into the engine hole I went. The collar was on too tightly for me to loosen it. Every time I poked the Allen Key into the dimple on top of the collar to attempt to loosen it, water began flowing quite briskly from the stern gland into the engine hole, so I left off with it and now I have a fairly consistent drip which bears monitoring and clean up.
     A lovely spot in my week was the quick visit with Debbi and Dave on NB
Chuffed. Dave offered to go down the engine hole and have a look but I knew they were only passing through and I figured this issue could take some time so I politely declined. Thanks for stopping and it was lovely meeting you both in person. Perhaps next time circumstances will allow us to have a longer natter over a cup of tea and a piece of cake.
     On Thursday I called RCR (River Canal Rescue).  When I explained my plight I was told that the repairs I needed were not covered under my agreement with RCR (non propulsion issues are not covered), but since Les had been a member for eleven years and I am a newly minted widow they were gracious enough to send out an ME (Marine Engineer). 
     The two young blokes showed up at 5:45 PM Thursday evening, complimented me on how clean my engine hold was  and how prepared I was with the Allan Keys, etc. The consensus was that the new bilge pump hose needed to be replaced with proper hosing and not cheap plastic electrical conduit, and the stern gland needed a proper greasing. I was told it would be a fifteen minute job and they would return with the parts in the morning. YES!!!
     The grease I had on hand was not considered fit for purpose as there was no screw on attachment allowing the grease to be squeezed out into a tube and forced around the stern gland. Les purchased it several years ago in a Stove shop in Leighton Buzzard but the tubes obviously did not come with fitted nozzles attached to tubing for the stern gland. How Les managed to get the silicone grease into the stern gland remains a mystery to me, especially as Sunday last I spent five hours cleaning out the largest of his three man drawers in the hopes of figuring out what most of it was and for what purposes it all addressed; I sought to tidy it all up and make order out of chaos. I figured out what most of it is for but Ido have two plastic margarine pots of shiny bits and bobs about which I am clueless.
It was freakin' amazing how much stuff my Best Beloved had squirreled away in that one large drawer! It left me scratching my head with wonder at how many scewdrivers and needle nose piers one man needs. I also cleaned out and tidied up the middle bow step. This leaves two more man drawers, two more bow steps, three stern steps, and the bow and stern lockers to be sorted and tidied; and to think that before I moved on board Les used to keep a lot of this stuff in three "nests" throughout the boat so he could reach for things at a mo's notice without having to traverse the length of the boat to find it.
      Friday dawned and at 2:30 PM when I had heard nothing and no ME had turned up, I contacted RCR to be told that the hose and the proper silicon grease for my engine had to be ordered and would be delivery would be delayed by the forthcoming bank holiday. The parts were expected in on Tuesday or Wednesday next (May 2nd or 3rd) and someone would call me at that time to book an appointment with and ME to come out. Crap! I should have known "the job will only take fifteen minutes and we'll be back in the morning," was too good to be true.
     It would have been grand if Les had been able to teach me about the engine however by the time we reached Cowroast after his terminal cancer diagnosis, he was too weak to lift the solid steel engine hole cover and I never could lift it on my own. Les also could no longer climb in and out of the engine bay and I could not do so either with my badly arthritic right knee. I realize now that the things I did on board NBV made our lives comfortable and certainly made Les happy as he was kind enough to tell me so frequently, but it was the stuff Les did that kept us cruising along the cut and I totally took him for granted. Yes I told him often how much I loved him and how happy he made me, but I never once thanked him for his labors in keeping the boat going. He loved tinkering with that stuff and I simply let him get on with it. I wish I had understood how vital his tinkering was to our lives and I desperately wish I had thanked him often. I will be taking the engine maintenance course offered by RCR in September.
     So now my next dilemma is water. I have been moored up here a week on Friday last. I cannot move the boat until the stern gland issue is seen to for fear of causing it to leak severely and now the bilge pump is not working at all for some reason, so...I climbed back down the engine hold again (I am down there at least four times a day. Now that it has been freshly painted and cleaned out it no longer appears to be the Black Hole of Calcutta and it isn't the least intimidating. I am on a first name basis with my engine. I will let you know when we progress to cutesy nicknames), found the five gallon plastic water butty, last used in the winter of 2011/2012 at Newbold to fill up with water when were were frozen in on the cut. I reasoned that five trips to the water point to fill up the butty and empty it into the water tank would hold me well.
     I took the canvas bag off our hand trolley and with trolley and water butty in hand I proceeded to walk to the water point by the service area near Fenny Stratford lock. Imagine my surprise yet again--to find the water point there is not only not working, there is also no "out of order"sign on it. Thank goodness I didn't chance backing the boat through the lock to the service point to fill up with water! Crap!!!
     Back on bard NBV I instituted emergency water measures and after speaking with friends on the phone this morning, I decided to try my luck in asking for water from one of the lock side cottages. First I dumped my rubbish and tried the water point once more to be sure I had not missed something; nope! Still broken...a woman and a man were sitting out at in front of one of the cottages having their morning tea after a bit of bijou gardening. I approached, introduced myself and asked my favor. The woman replied,
     "Don't I know you?"
     "Yes, we met several years ago when my husband and I stopped to sue the water point. You had a lovely crop of Pot Marigolds (Calendua Officianalis) growing in your garden and I asked if I could pick a few to  make a healing salve. You were very gracious and allowed me to help myself.  I took your email as you had a little dog with a skin condition and I emailed you an easy salve to make yourself as a remedy."
     "Oh yes I remember it now. How is your husband?" And so the conversation carried on. Her name is Lynn, she is a lovely person and she happily filled my five gallon water butty for me. I found out through our conversation that other boaters on the long term moorings just under the bridge before the lock have been asking cottage owners to fill up with water as well as the water point has been out of service for some time! I did send an email to CaRT (Canal and River Trust), but of course it is bank holiday weekend so nothing will happen very quickly. Can I just say what a luxury it is to have water heated on the stove to wash up with? This is taking me back to my childhood on Alaska and the early years of my first marriage when we as a young family of three, lived off the grid in a log cabin the sticks with no indoor plumbing or electricity. Aah yes I remember it well and to altogether fondly. A bit too much hardship and deprivation is not good for the soul. 
My precious!! Five gallons of clean, drinkable water.
     Anyway here I sit waiting for Jules Fuels to come by to top up the diesel, buy some coal  (I am down to three quarters of my last bag so that is timely!) and wait for RCR to contact me. One final issue cropped up on Friday to put the worm on top of the whipped cream on this disaster: I checked our bank account and found unauthorized activity--charges when no card was present it said--which leads to ask how in the hell the charges were made--to in Slough! My last amazon order was April 5th, Les' was even longer, and there were no new charges on either account. I had to email Amazon and ask for Les' account to be closed due to death. I contacted our bank and they will refund the monies to our account. This led me to finally contact our banks and make an appointment with a bank bereavement advisor to remove Les' name. I simply could not face this chore before but I see I really must do it and so I will. I don't understand the need to make an appointment with a bloody bereavement advisor. I asked why bereavement advisors were necessary and received this reasoning: 
     "Oh well not all of our employees have taken the bereavement training and we need to ensure grieving customers are handled with sensitivity. An appointment ensures you will be seen by someone who has had the proper bereavement training and can assist you in with this issue." I'm sorry but I think this is a load of utter crap. If the only customer service reps employed by a bank who can show a bit of kindness and sensitivity to a grieving customer is one suitably trained to so then there is something seriously wrong with the bank's hiring process in my humble opinion. At our U. S. bank I went in to the nearest branch with Les' death certificate, our birth and marriage certificates, and a teller assisted me, only requiring my ID and Les' death certificate. It took all of ten minutes. She was suitably kind and sensitive which didn't require special training; being human seemed sufficient. But hey ho I am in Britain where bureaucracy reigns supreme, so I will endure it as all other Brits do. 
   To end this post on a positive note I am happy to say I saw Adam and Adrian pass through yesterday on NB Briar Rose. I knew they were headed my way and I left the boat at 8:30 AM to walk to Tesco for some bits and bobs hoping to return before they arrived. On the rare occasions when I wander in to Tesco do do my sopping in person, I have found that there is a totally obnoxious two year old who follows me around the country form Grocery store to grocery store. She/he/it sets up an ear splitting, hair raising, nerve tweaking caterwauling the minute I walk in the door that makes me want to step on its wind pipe. So I thought perhaps if I went to Tesco early I might make it through my shopping before the little brat child had even had breakfast. It worked but sadly I nearly missed Adam and Adrian. I didn't get a picture but they did and it is on their blog. I will see them again tomorrow for a longer visit involving tea and cake when they return this way.
     Finally I wish to share a nifty item I picked up at Robert Dyas in Hemel Hempstead two weeks ago. It is a night light. Les and I discussed this issue thoroughly in the months leading up to his death. We looked at all sorts of night lights but few if any ran on 12 volt electrics and I was hoping for one with a motion sensor to use in the bathroom and in the galley. Nothing we found online was suitable and the topic feel by the wayside so I am chuffed to bits to have found The Egg!
The Egg on a small boat shelf near some framed pictures to give you an idea of its actual size and dimensions.

The Egg up close while off.
The Egg shining brightly!
     Battery operated, one taps the bottom of The Egg on a hard surface to turn it on and taps it again to turn it off.  If left on it will shut itself off after about a minute and a half. The Egg produces bright light and I can carry it in the palm of my hand late at night to use the loo or make a cup of middle of the night tea. Brilliant!!


Bryce Lee said...

Tools. toys and trinkets. It is what we men do. Ladies have their teapots and things...

Dragontatoo said...

Love the nightlight & after you get all the man drawers tidied you'll have such storage! Love you 1000 Swedish Fish!

Carol said...

Gosh Jaq what a baptism of fire you've had to contend with on your first sortie out on your own, and what a pitiful job Cowroast Marina did on the engine. Do you think you've got the energy to contact them and give them a piece of your mind?

I'm sorry but I had to smile at the picture of you with your head over the sink and wearing the window too! Still it was better it happened whilst you were in than if you were out for an extended time leaving a gaping hole in the boat for any passing intruder.

I hope that tomorrow sorts out all your engine problems and that you have managed to take advantage of the fine weather during your enforced stay and that tea and cake with Doug and James has lifted your spirits with a good old laugh!

You're always in our thoughts, love from us both. xx

Anonymous said...

Oh Jaq ... oh my god....this is a trial by fire and wire and bureaucracy and I don't know what else. You aren't even given a chance to grieve and wail ... maybe for now that's for the good. But no doubt about it .. you are one warrior lady and you Will not only survive but thrive. The book(s) you will write will be hard to put down. We are cheering for you lady.
Karen in Pullman

Boatwif said...

So glad you got the water problem sorted, Jaq. "If you don't ask, you don't get..." as someone said to me the other day.
All fingers and toes on nb Cleddau are crossed that RCR manage to get you sorted and on the move again very soon.
Love as always,
Sue/ Boatwif/ nb Cleddau

Judith nb Serena said...

Hi Jaq, for all your trials and tribulations with your comments and observations you still managed to make me laugh. Hope all goes well tomorrow and you will soon be on the move again. Judith nb Serena.

Mike Griffin said...


Sounds to me as if you need your stern gland re-packing....not a big job. Good Luck,


Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

LOL! Yes Bryce it is what it is and you have succinctly defined it. Holding you close in my thoughts this week as you go for pre-op and other medical stuff.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Jesse Darlin',

Who taught you to be so positive in the face of what sometimes feels like overwhelming odds? Even if I don't h ave more room, I will at least know what I do have and where to find it! I love my Egg light! It is my new night time companion....and I love you more than 100 millions Swedish Fish!

Mamma xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Carol,

It certainly hasn't been dull, I'll give you that! I'm glad I made you laugh! I guarantee if Les had been here he would have laughed, and I did too. It is just so absurd isn't it?!!

I am still waiting for RCR. Bank holiday weekend and all that...It wasn't Doug and James it was Adam and Adrian on NB Briar Rose who hailed me in both directions.

As for Cowroast Engineering, I will never, ever rust him again and he will never, ever touch my boat again. I did try talking with him about things, but he made up excuse after excuse, as though I were too dumb to understand things and it was all my fault we had a "misunderstanding." Les has had a lot of work done on our boat by him over the years. When Les was alive he always treated us both with kindness and respect. It is only now that I am a woman, singular, that his treatment is different. It is what it is, and what it is, is bitterly disappointing.

Biggs big hugs to you and George,

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Karen,

You have aptly described it to a T! I am being taught quite a few life lessons all at once. Today I am focusing on living in the present moment. I so appreciate your and Jim's kindness, encouragement and support. It is so great to have strong, feisty friends in one's cheering section!

I miss you like Aqua net misses the '60's!

Love and Biggs big hugs to your both,

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Sue,

Thanks for the multiple crossed digits! No word yet...I am being taught a lot of life lessons all at once here. Lets just hope I can remember them all!

You are correct about don't ask don't get; still it is hard for me to ask for help. I never want to put anyone out, but the lady at the lock cottage was so nice. And I am learning just how far I can stretch five gallons! :)

Looking forward to seeing you and Ken soon,

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Judith,

Well I am glad I made you laugh! It made me laugh, sanding there at the bathroom sink with a porthole frame around my neck and toothpaste dribbling down my chin!

I certainly hope this doesn't stretch out to take the rest of this week but it well could do.

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Mike,

I am crossing my fingers in hope that stern gland greasing is really all it is, along with replacing the bilge pump hose. I don't know how to do that, but I will learn. After all I have some overdue caddywompling to get on with!

Jaq xxx

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs