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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Ordinary Life

"Even the most ordinary life is a mystery if you look close enough. " ~Ingrid Bengis, American author, Fullbright Scholar, University Professor, Seafood purveyor to America's greatest chefs, and creator of the Island culinary and Ecological Center in Maine, USA, 1945-2017.

     I apologize for being absent for so long. I've been ill with a wretched cold. sore throat, and fighting the virus' attempt to colonize my lungs. I am over the worst of it now but I still feel a bit weak and wonky. I also damaged my left upper arm tendons and elbow tendons about six and a half weeks ago and this injury is healing very slowly, making things like typing, picking up the tea kettle and carrying a bag of groceries rather painful.
     I have a bit of catching up to do! First of all Irene and Ian on NB Free Spirit were in the area a few weeks back and they were kind enough to stop for a couple of hours to share a rainy morning nattering with me. their boat is aptly named, as this couple really embody the free spirit of cruising on the canals. Irene is known for her amazing and breathtaking wild life pictures which she shares on their blog and Ian is a stalwart cancer survivor and man with enough life experience and wisdom to laugh at life's absurdities while plundering it for the choice bits. A visit with them is always a joy; my only sadness comes from the fact that Les never had a chance to meet them.
Irene and Ian--two truly lovely souls, and our boats below, bow-to-bow. 

     I have been dawdling along between Audlem and Calveley, mooring up 10 days at a time, enjoying the end of the cruising season at last.  I was moored up at Hurleston Junction on double mooring pins fore and aft when I injured my arm. A count by Canal & river Trust (CRT) indicated that 100 boats made use of the Hurleston Lock flight over three days on one weekend. That gives you dear reader, an idea of just how many boats were passing by each day and sadly too many of them don't give a fig about observing good manners and slowing down while passing moored boats. The main offenders are Chas Hardern hire boaters, Midway Boats day boat hires, and private boat owners coming off long term moorings and out of marinas.  Day boats for those unfamiliar with the hire companies, are small boats of about 22-34 feet long with a lot of windows and seats. Groups hire them for a few hours or one day to cruise the canals and have a birthday or anniversary party.  For some reason day boat hirers seem to think the objective is crack on at the speed of light to get to wherever they are going and they are unaware of the wash they make. I even had a day boat attempt to cut around my bow when I was half way through turning around at a winding hole.  I had to warn him off. Then he decided he would go around the stern and had to yell at him to wait his turn as the fuel boat was breasted up to a moored boat just off the winding hole. This guy road my stern button past a long line of permanent moored boats until I found a place I could pull over and let him pass. Cheshire Cat hire boats seem to receive instructions on the issue and they almost always slow down.
     One old git on a private boat kept in a marina and visited throughout the summer, delights in passing moored boats at absolutely top speed, ignoring shouts and rude hand signs. He has passed me many times this summer and always left NB Valerie rocking heavily from side to side in his wake. Anyway, a boater passing to fast pulled my double mooring pins out and I had to quickly jump the fifteen inch gap caused by the Shroppie Shelf, and hammer them back in place. I was so angry I hammered the living daylights out of the pins and injured my arm. Act in anger (and haste) and repent in leisure. Since then I've also had a lovely visit from Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau), and Ken showed me exactly how to moor using spring lines on my boat. What a difference! While she still rocks from side to side when a boat passes at top speed and creates a large, frothy wake due mainly to the fifteen inch side gap caused by the Shroppie shelf, my boat isn't sliding vertically back and forth anymore. In the six years Les and I cruised he never once used a spring line, but he also had far more upper body strength than I do so perhaps he was better able to hammer the pins to China!
     It is true that if one hangs out on the canals long enough, one will see just about everything.  I was amazed one overcast and drizzly morning several weeks back to see a man walk by my windows leading a donkey! By the time I dug out Les' camera and slipped on some shoes the donkey-ish duo had passed NBV and the boat moored behind me, but I still managed to catch them as they headed for the bridge near Barbridge Junction. This still left me with puzzling questions, such as why walk along the canals with a donkey in the rain? The answer to my questions arrived a week later with the Towpath Talk newspaper.
     Adam Less is walking the length of Western Britain from Cape Wrath Lighthouse on Scotland's Northwest coast to Isle of Portland Lighthouse on the south coast of England. Less has undertaken this journey on foot to raise money for Centrepoint Charity which serving the needs of homeless young people in Liverpool where Adam lives. This is not Adam's first footloose trek. On his crowd funding site he says:
     "I am an experienced traveller and walker. Since 2004 I have completed long
term, rough travels in South East Asia; travelled overland from New York to
Tierra del Fuego and back again and in 2016 I walked 600 miles along the
Pamir Highway from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan. Most recently, in 2017, I
walked 200 miles from Liverpool to Stranraer. From these journeys I have
been developing a philosophy of slow and rough travel, using these as ways to
experience places more deeply and have chance encounters with people I
meet along the way. I have been documenting these journeys, through writing
and photography, on my blog Adam Walks."
Adam Lee and his sidekick Martin the Donkey. 
     While I was filling up with water and dumping my rubbish at the Calvely service point, fuel boat Halsall was loading up with coal.  I had caught them on their way down to Ellesmere Port a few day previously and topped up the diesel, bought four bags of coal and three bags of kindling. I have twelve bags of coal on the roof now, ready for winter. Of course as the following pictures show, we've had a few cold nights recently. I've cleaned the chimney, checked the fire bricks for cracks, and re-pointed the fire concrete around the outside of the chimney where it joins the stove. I've also replaced the battery in the carbon monoxide alarm.  A warm, glowing fire on a cold night is a simple and deeply satisfying blessing.
Brrrr! A sign of things to come: ground frost.
Lee and Roberta fill the hold of Fuel boat Halsall with bags of coal for delivery to the likes of me and other boaters who live along the cut. It always lifts my heart to see them both as they bring their big working boat alongside NB Valerie. 
     As the seasons change the canals change too. Not just the foliage of the plants and the wildlife but the actual water in the cut. In the evenings when it cools suddenly, the water is warmer than the air and mist rises in columns, water souls rising into the evening air. Early morning on the cut sees the same phenomena repeat itself with misty clouds obscuring the crisp lines of the canal, towpath, and the hedges, lending a mysterious quality to the start of the day.
Evening mist forming on the Shropshire Union canal at Calveley. 
Morning mist near Barbridge after a very chilly night.
The full moon on a cold evening recently with the bow garden still growing in the short Autumn days and cooler nights.  
     I am moored in the basin at Nantwich Canal Centre. I've been having some issues with the engine and I couldn't put things off anymore so I arrived yesterday. Back in February after changing the oil, I noticed a black drip of oil from the back of the engine about half way down. I kept an eye on it and the absorbent pads I placed under the engine were soaked with dirty oil after about a month. I've been religious about changing the oil and filter every 350 hours.  In April a good local engineer gave the entire engine a good service, replacing fuel filters, etc. He commented at the time that engine oil was quite low before he changed it, so I became obsessed with worry about this issue. A couple of changes back I noticed a great deal of clean engine oil had totally soaked two absorbent pads, and it seemed to me there had to be an oil leak somewhere!
     The engine was smoking quite badly with blue-gray smoke upon starting as well so with some moral support from dear ones, I bit the bullet and brought NBV in for a look-see. The engineer found a cracked and leaking diesel return hose which had been leaking quite a bit into the engine bay. The good news is there is no engine oil leak as I had thought. The engine was full of carbon and coke and he blew it all out with a good run on high revs for some time. Black grit coated the surface of the water. He shut off the engine, let it cool down, looked for leaks again and then started it up and let it run for three or so hours repeatedly over a 24 hour period. She barely smokes at all now on a cold start, and there is no oil leak! the relief I feel is HUGE. My deepest thanks to Margaret, Linda, Mike and the rest of the Nantwich Canal Centre/Chandlers crew for looking after me and NB Valerie.
The view, starting from the right, inside Nantwich canal basin, of the back side of the businesses at Nantwich Canal Centre. The Chandlers is in the middle and the cafe is on the far left.  Below, the view continues on across the basin to the tunnel on the left where boats are painted.  

     Since Les always serviced our engine and dealt with the mechanics, or called River Canal Rescue (RCR) when something like a drove plate went, the learning curve on the bits and bobs which live in the engine bay has been steep. I am not the least bit mechanically inclined and Les didn't have time to teach me anything about the engine before he died. I've had to absorb things as I've gone along and friends like Any Elford, Ken Deveson and Bryce Lee have counseled, consoled, and offered me the wisdom of their own experience with boat engines. I am pleased to say when I changed the oil and filter two weeks ago, it was the first time I didn't have to think the entire process through and then refer line by line to my notes. I simply grabbed a pair of latex gloves, an empty bin bag for rubbish, and a new oil filter, climbed down in the engine hole and thirty minutes later--job done! It hit me as I climbed back up out of the engine bay;  I am comfortable and knowledgeable enough now to remember the sequence of events for an oil change and clean up, and I have confidence in my abilities. Les would be proud of me. I can hear his voice telling me so.
Me and Les in 2012 on the nearby Llangollen canal.  


Anonymous said...

Love seeing the picture of you and Les in easier times. And the mist/fog rising off the water. May your body heal sooner rather than later.
Les would be sooooo proud of your skills on NBV. Good going gir!!
First frost may be this week in Pullman. Karen

Judith nb Serena said...

So lovely to read your blog post, glad to hear you're on the mend. I've also got a cough which is driving me nuts. We've been down the River Nene, across the Middle Levels and onto the River Great Ouse and it's tributaries and are now on our way back to Stourport at the moment at Hawkesbury. We won't be able to get up the Shroppie as we have to be past a stoppage at Dimmingsdale lock by the 5th November. So glad you're sounding more positive and well done on your engine work, I couldn't even get down in ours. Often think about you, take care of yourself.
Love and hugs Judith nb Serena

locheriboll said...

Glad you are beginning to feel better! I remember Nantwich ��


Carol said...

Sorry to hear that you've been suffering with sore throat and nasty cold Jaq, me too! Just when I think it's getting better it comes back and hits me again! Hope you're feeling better soon. Glad too that your oil leak was not as serious as it might have been and that it's now as good as new. I'm in awe of your abilities learned the hard way by having to do it yourself. We think and speak of you (and Les) often and miss being able to catch up with you. Take care of yourself, stay warm and safe and be happy. Enjoy your winter cruising. xx

Boatwif said...

Hi Jaq, I was amazed and bemused by the "donkey duo" story... True, there is always variety on the waterways!
We are very glad your engine problem has been sorted now.
Take care,
Sue/ Boatwif/ nb Cleddau

stevefree said...

The donkey passed us as well when we were in Nantwich. Just come back from nearly 3 weeks away visiting the Monty. After leaving the madness of the Llangolen we didn’t see a boat for 3 days. Bliss.
You mentioned Cheshire Cat being better behaved, well we had one speed past us on Sunday and she side swiped us as well.
Steve and Ang

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Karen,
It felt really good to blog about boating once again! Thought our warm weather was done here but it returned much to everyone's delight. I made good use of the land line power at the marina and washed two loads of clothes before I cruised out at 9:15 am An hour later I was moored up, the clothesline was up and y clothes were flapping in a lovely warm breeze.

Thank you for all your good wishes Pal. Make sure you save a lot of that energy for your own healing and know I am sending you some too.

I love you gobs and bunches!

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Judith,

I am sorry to hear you were laid low by this virus and I hope you mended now.

You and John sure have cruised some miles since I saw you both last May! How I miss that freedom but I am pleased people i love are out there on the move.

I knew if I wanted to stay on our boat I would have to learn the ins and outs of caring for the engine. If I can mange it it is proof almost anyone can!! I had never been down in the engine bay while Les was alive. It was the equivalent of his man cave and it was also dark, filthy and greasy. I thought it was much deeper than it actually is because it was so dark and dirty it looked like the black hole of Calcutta. I was certain I would need some hand and foot holds welded in for me to climb in and out. After Les died I had to have a the solid steel engine bay cover replaced with an aluminum checker plate cover which I could actually lift off. I also had the engine bay completely cleaned and painted. Lo and behold I could see all the way to the bottom and it wasn't very deep at all! LOL!

you and John take good care of each other and hopefully we will see each other sometime next year.

Love jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Sally. I felt like I had been reincarnated as a limp dishcloth for quite a while but I have bounced back now.

Nantwich is a lovely old village and it is great to have memories of you and Joe there, under the spring flowering trees in the village green.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Carol,

I'm so sorry to read you were laid low bu this cruddy virus. I hope you feel well and truly over it soon. Colds are just so awful because one is too sick to live but too well to die. It is a purgatory of misery.

I miss you and George too.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Sue,

There is an American children's book called "And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street." It was in every second grade classroom when I was small. When I saw the donkey I felt exactly like the main character in that book!

Yes indeed after eight months of fretting and worrying over that engine is was such a relief to know all it needed was a new diesel return hose. Of course I still don't know what a lot of the little noises signify but I am not going to worry about them anymore.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Steve and Ang!

Lovely to hear from you. You've both been on my mind a a lot lately. I don't know where the time goes. How lovely you both escaped down the Monty for a well deserved break. I suppose with every hire boat company there will be some bad eggs and poor drivers. I hope Tumbleweed is okay.

Love Jaq xxx

life afloat on nb tickety boo said...

Hi Jaq, sorry to hear you have been unwell I do hope you are feeling better now and your arm is not giving you too much trouble! When I am feeling really down and sorry for myself I read your blog and miraculously it puts all my woes into perspective and makes me realise that I really need to be strong. You are a lesson to anybody who thinks they, 'can't'...I know I can if you can. You have been through so much but you still stand strong! As for Les being proud of you he would be literally bursting at the seams with pride and justly so! Well Winter is upon us, I am so looking forward to us meeting again and having a good old natter, in the meantime, 'super woman' take good care of yourself! Note to oneself, I really must learn to change my oil filter too!! xxx

Ian and Irene Jameison said...

Oh, Jaq I have just read this post. First, thank you for the lovely way you described the both of us. I am truly honoured coming from someone I admire greatly. I have also taken a leaf out of your book as I did my first oil change today supervised by Ian. The achievement I felt was second to none. Ian will get me to check batteries and water next time so I'm up to speed with that. I also agree wholeheartedly on your sentiment with those speeding boaters. Such a shame though, that in taking your anger out on the pins you damaged your arm. I hope for your speedy recovery. Take care this winter and so looking forward to seeing you again. Next year maybe? Xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Deb,

That is so kind of you to say!

Winter is heading in our direction. I would love to see you again--the sooner the sooner the better. Superwoman...Ha! More like I wonder how I managed to get through this woman! :)

I was so overwhelmed the first time I faced doing an oil change. I was fortunate to have a good friend or ours standing by to help. Each time after that I sill felt intimidated by all the stuff I don't know about engines but I brought my lined notebook down in the engine hole with me, and I went step-by-step through my instructions. I will say my girlfriend, that if women designed the world, engines would have all their filters and fiddly bits in easily accessible places!

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Good on you Irene!
And Ian bless you for standing by with patience and love. I know what you mean about the sense of achievement. Some people feel the need to climb great mountains for that feeling. You an dI had to grapple with our boat engines to get there! Ha! I feel such a sense of triumph every time I manage to do something that Les always did and I took for granted; something I thought I would not be able to do or not do properly.

Yes I agree with you about my arm. It is taking a long time to heal and it is one more opportunity for life to teach me patience--something I am not always noted for!

I look forward to reading about your winter RV travels and I hope our bows will meet again next year. Until then, take good care of each other!

Love Jaq xxx

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs