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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hotter Than H-E-Double Toothpicks!!!

"The only thing I know is this: I am full of wounds and still standing on my feet." ~ Nikos Kazantzakis, Greek author nominated nine times for the Nobel prize in literature; 1883-1957.

     It has been too hot to blog. Anything over 72F (22C) is redundant and unnecessary as far as this Alaskan is concerned. It was hovering in the range of 89-90F for five days and dropping to 60-65F at night with full on humidity. The weather has been insufferable. The heat makes me ill and all I can do is stay inside out of the sun, take cold showers (and exhaust my water supply like a mad woman), while waiting for reasonable weather to return--which it has at last! I've always said I would like living in a climate that may require me to wear  sweater in summer. I do get that over here a fair amount of time, but when there is a heat wave Holy Smoke!! Living in a metal tube can be hot, hot, hot.
     The week before the heat wave struck, the weather was dominated by high winds which kept me pinned in place. Had I known about the heat coming our way I would not have complained so much!!  I moved on from the lovely spot I had enjoyed on the N. Oxford and headed for Napton to spend time with friends Andy and Tina on NB Ytene. They live and work nearby so it was lovely to have some quality time catching up with them both, sharing good suppers, playing The Great Game of Britain (AKA the railroad game), laughing madly and remembering Les.
     Since they both have many years of experience as boaters and working with hire boats, I was able to benefit from it in relation to many of the projects still requiring attention on NBV. Andy sorted out the stern seats which Les undertook to resize. My Best Beloved made new boxes for them but he didn't have a chance to sort out the padded lids/seats so Andy did it brilliantly. He also stood by to coach me through my first engine oil change. Andy had to remove the filter which was practically welded in place! All in all it is a quite easy, though messy, job to do. I also took the opportunity to register with a local dentist. One cavity needs filling, and I picked up some tools and items needed for the work ahead. What work is that you ask?
Clean engine bay after an oil change.

My new mop with adjustable handle. It lives in the engine bay where it is used to keep things clean and tidy.

     I am in the process of completing the boat paint job which Les and I began in 2014. This requires finding the new patches of rust and treating them with rust converter, painting each patch with primer, letting it dry and sanding it, then giving each patch two coats of Highland Green paint with sanding in between. Once this has been accomplished the patches will be up to the same degree as the rest of the boat. Then I can tackle each side individually, the bow, the stern, and the roof with two coats of Highland Green (with light sanding in between the coats) and painting the tiller. the bow door bonnet, and other bits and pieces in accent colors. I have decided to go with vinyl decals instead of hiring someone to paint the sign writing, but the paint needs to cure for several months first. After a six month cure I can polish it. 
     The outer stern deck doors, the inner stern door, the side hatch doors and the bow doors have water damage and will need to be sanded and painted, rather than stained. Then I will look into either decals of roses and castles or I may try my hand at painting them myself. The window frames all need attention as well. I will be painting the metal frame black as the original black paint is now peeling inside and out. The wooden frames will be painted inside with a soft cream paint to match the curtains. The dinette table and the galley counters need sanding and refinishing. The bow fender buttons need replacing, as did the boat hook, boat pole, and plank, and the side fenders--two of which were missing. My mooring ropes are fraying after four years of heavy use so they will also be replaced. I picked up two new "nappy pins" as the mooring pins are called, one new mooring chain and one new mooring spike. I will be painting them bright colors so I don't lose them in the tall grass of the towpath when I am un-mooring, as I have done. It is amazing how rust colored mooring pins seem to disappear into the grass and become one with the dirt.
New side fenders, ropes and adjustable cleats. As a single handed cruiser I no longer have time to tie and untie fenders to the boat and adjust them when I am mooring up.  The adjustable cleats make this chore a snap.
Tidy bow. I can only manage to keep one pot of flowers alive for now. I am in training for next year when I hope to keep a roof garden going through summer.

    Solar Afloat is coming sometime in July to sort out the solar panels. The large 240 watt house panel Les installed in 2012 is too heavy for me to lift. I nearly took the tips of my fingers off four weeks ago attempting to get at the wood stored underneath. I cannot tip the panel to maximize solar gain and I cannot clean it properly. Everything on this boat has to work for me now, as a solo boater doing the work of two crew. I am replacing the large panel which will go to its new owner once Solar Afloat installs two new smaller 125 watt panels. This, combined with the small 100 watt panel we already have, will give me 350 watts--a gain of ten watts over what we have now, providing plenty of energy for the batteries. Just as important to me, I will be able to maneuver the smaller panels, clean them, and clean the roof underneath them. The current panels hadn't been cleaned in nearly a year. I did what I could and wow what a difference in energy readings! It is one more system on this boat that needs to be consistently cared for by me now--one more thing Dear Sir used to take care of for us once upon a time.
     I cleaned out the bow and stern lockers--Ewwww!!! My darling hubby was such a pack rat and collector of "anything that might come in handy some day!" Spiders large enough to harness and ride crawled up out of the bow locker prompting me to scream and the bloke on a nearby moored boat to ask if I was all right. 
     "Spiders! HUGE spiders in the bow locker!!!!"
     "Sorry I don't do spiders either," he said with a shudder of distaste, disappearing quickly inside his cratch cover. Dangerous times call for BIG ammo. I found a rusted hammer in the locker and pounded the bastards to oblivion. 
   I remember once when we were moored up at Apsley for a week, waiting for a doctor's appointment and blood test for Les in 2013, we noticed the woman on the boat in front of us came out every morning with a broom and swept her boat from side to side, end to end, stern, bow, and roof--every morning. Les wondered why she engaged in this peculiarly OCD cleaning behavior. I get it now; she was sweeping away the spiders. Good  move! 
...and after! I still need to go back and paint rust convertor on the locker floor.
     It is amazing what makes itself at home in the nooks and crannies of a boat. I gave one of those small, fat Go-Kart tires to Andy and Tina as I don't use them and we only ever had one.  I found it stuffed in the subterranean dark back corner of the stern locker. I didn't bother to look inside it as it never occurred to me there might be something in there besides spiders. Tina told me that when Andy picked it up later he found a bird's nest in it with several small baby birds, dead but still fresh, mouths opens for food that would never come. How on earth a bird managed to get inside the covered stern locker repeatedly, build a nest, and hatch eggs I will never know! Everything in the lockers is accounted for, cleaned up, locked up, and tidy. I am going to paint the insides of the lockers with a lighter green accent color so I can actually see what is inside them.
     After the winds of the second week in June finally died down and just as the heatwave was setting in, I cruised away from Napton Marina, two miles to the bottom of Napton locks. It was a sunny, calm morning and I started off early so as to avoid as many other boaters as possible. The North Oxford is a contour canal with few locks but a sinuously winding path around any and all hills and dales. Napton hill is quite large, spreading out for at least three miles around its bottom with a rise of 500 feet above sea level. The parts of the village at its feet are at 300 feet above sea level so this "bump" in the landscape commands one's attention. The canal was completed in 1774 and contouring or avoiding such obstacles by going around them is what gives it the winding twists and turns for which it is known. I winded (turned) the boat for the first time on my own, doing a splendid job if I do say so, and moored up in a lovely spot near the very end of the fourteen day moorings, just opposite a large sheep farm and its house sitting prominently on the brow of Napton hill. Two arms of the Napton windmill appeared beyond it in the distance. Not ten minutes later I received a text from our friends Mike and Phyllida Muir on NB Garnet. They were moored up in the pound just before the bottom lock. Off I went to meet them. 
     We last saw Mike and Phyll in 2012 at Brinklow where Les found a downed tree near the car park there and cut it up for all of us to share. Four years later we finally caught up with one another. Although born and raised in England, the Muirs spent over thirty years living in Canada and so they speak and understand North American! The next morning their boat moved down through the final lock and moored up behind me. Mike has extensive expertise in computer technology and he sorted Les' and my old computers, creating an external hard drive for me from my computer, moving all relevant files from old computer to new, and essentially cleaning up and wiping Les' hard dive so that the computers can be turned in to Curry's PC World for recycling. Thank you Mike! Another item ticked off the two mile long List of Things To Do.
Quelle surprise!! Mike Muir attempts to take a Selfie of the three of us aboard NB Garnet.
NB Valerie in front with bistro set and sun umbrella out and NB Garnet behind with BBQ at the ready.

     That evening Mike and Phyll treated me to dinner at The Folly pub. I can highly recommend the steak and cheese pie. It was delicious and a good time was had by all as we repaired to their boat for wine and chatter. Sadly the heat wave was building ominously each day, and I woke with a hangover to wilt in the steaming weather. No more wine for me then...suffice to say I spent the next three days in hell, extremely ill from the effects of the ridiculously hot and humid weather. I have no ability to function in hot weather. It sucks the life right out of me. I literally burned my way through my water supply, taking three cold showers a day, and spending the rest of the time stretched out on the bed with nothing but a pillow case soaked in cold water and rung out, draped over me, while I dreamed of snow. June 18th was our sixth wedding anniversary and my first without Les. I did my best to keep busy. I fixed dinner for Mike, Phyll and I: Les' favorite Nevi's Nooner sandwiches (poached chicken, cooled and shredded; crisply cooked streaky bacon, thin avocado slices on bread spread with mayonnaise mixed with diced fresh Tarragon), potato salad, and brownies.  We played a round of The Great Game of Britain and toasted Les' memory. 
NB Valerie with a fresh line of laundry out to air dry.
     Finally as the heatwave prepared to ebb, I rose and said goodbye to the Muirs. I was off again to fill up with water, dump my rubbish and visit the dentist for an exam. I was also looking for a quiet place in the countryside to hole up as the middle to the end of June is a tough time for me; June 18th ushers in two weeks of memorable misery and I am not fit to be in the company of others. June 24th marked five months to the day since Les died. June 27th is the one year anniversary of the death of a brilliant, funny, and amazing woman--my cousin Joanne--from lymphoma, and the following day, June 28th, is the one year anniversary of the oncologist sitting us down in her office and informing us that Les had cancer in his bones and it was terminal. Too many unbearably sad anniversaries to survive back to back. It is a good time to work on my book manuscript rough draft. The memories of Les on every page momentarily lighten my heart and remind me viscerally of how rare and deep is our love and how fortunate I am to carry the love of an amazing man all the way down to my bones.
     I managed to scrape and treat the rust spots on the towpath side of NBV.  Thankfully the weather has turned cooler once more, bringing with it rain. The sky leaks water and so do my eyes. My momentary remedy is afternoon naps and back-to-back reruns of the Big Bang Theory on E4. They make me laugh out loud at the smart, absurd comedy inherent in putting four science geeks together and watching the absurdities they get up to. It is lighthearted, frivolous telly, and for awhile my heart takes a rest from breaking.


Arthur said...

We just love your Big Game adventure! We suffered the same during the heat, but now on the Trent and Mersey in the showers, might just relish it again.Nice to see you are managing just the way Les knew you could!

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Arthur,

The Great Game of Britain is a blast--all the more so if anyone is a train enthusiast. the more players the more madcap adventures occur. Several bottles of win certainly don't go amiss either. :) I hope to be on the T & M soon. Perhaps I might catch you up at some point.

Love you and Jen, Helen and Phil xxx

Anonymous said...

Across the pond in Pullman I've never heard of the Great Game-but Amazon has it and Google has 1,250,000 hits. So who knew. Sounds like you're doing amazingly well Jaq - yea, triple yea! I was in Sacramento this week - 109!! You've got it good there lady! Over 90 in Pullman. Me - I don't do humidity - that's what wipes me out - hope you have portable fans in NB Valerie.
I'm kind of dismayed that you have so many projects on your list - small and big, easy and hard. Good luck with all that. It's great to know that friends are helping. A day at a time. Be well. Karen

Steve and Angela said...

We have just had new solar panels fitted by Tim at
2 x165 watt panels and MPPT controller. They are mounted on tiltable brackets which take no effort to move. They can also go over the top of mushroom vents. He uses armoured cable and security fixings. He does the whole job and it only took him about 2 1/2 hours. £995 for cash, location makes no difference to price. He has done about 1000 boats.

Charmaine said...

You and I are walking the same path,Jaq, in that we'really both having to become adept at equipment maintenance. I'm confident a builder/woodworker, as you know, but with machinery, not so much. My new little RV, which I am calling "my-Pod" instead of "our/R-Pod," has so many systems and appliances to understand and maintain that I have decided to explore them one at a time. My next system is the refrigerator. I have used it when I have my-Pod connected to an external power source, but still haven'the dared to run it using propane. I'm taking off on another trip on Sunday; it's the Propane-powered Refrigeration Tour." Rock and roll on!

Charmaine said...

Oh, and I recommend fans for hot, humid weather. I've survived summers in Pensacola, Puerto Rico, and Illinois by sitting in front of a fan. Put it in an open window at night to pull cool night air into the boat.

Unknown said...

Obviously the horrible emotionally and that dratted heat and humidity as well are to be gone.
Tomorrow is July 1, Canada's 150th birthday. I attended Expo 67 with my
parents and now red necked Texas dwelling brother. In 1867, the railways mounted
an exhibition train which toured Canada. Nothing like it this time around.
CP is doing something similar however are being selective as to what locations
they visit and nothing in Quebec. I predict in 50 years Quebec will not be part of Canada and the
country shall have thankfully reverted to one official language, English unlike the other official
language being French. Far too many immigrants who have their language;
French and English will be outnumbered by other dialects.

It is said time heals all wounds; perhaps however first time around is often the most difficult.
As to the spiders they like dark places, that are somewhat damp; friends with large sailboats also seem to have the spider problem. With the warm weather and damp they seem to proliferate. Best use a vacuum to suck them up their cobwebs and all.
I drop some mothballs down the vacuum spout first which kills the spiders in the collection bag quickly, it makes the exhaust smell nice too.

Simply move at your speed, ensure the canal wardens area are somewhat of your wanderings. Appliances on most floating devices be they a dinghy all the way up yo those Panamax vessels all require updating their rigging over time. It just seem it all has to happen at once on NB Valerie.

We communicate later, eh?

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Karen!

I am so pleased to hear you did a bit of traveling but crikey 109F!!! Ridiculous temperatures. My daughter told me it was in the double digits in Portland last week too. I am with you--it is the humidity that sucks the life right out of me. No portable fans on NBV. They require a lot of wattage over a long period of time and I haven't found any 12 volt fans.

The To-Do List is long but it is good in that it keeps me focused for awhile on something other than grief which is good.

ILove Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi NB Tumbleweed (Steve and Angela),

Thank you for posting about Onboard Solar. it turns out I couldn't actually use the services of solar Afloat--nice folks though they are. Their mounting system will not clear mushrooms vents and require specially made roof boxes to go over the cents. I already have a massive box on my roof and I don't need to pay for two smaller specially made ones to replace what I have. I've contacted Tim at OS and he will be fitting out the new array, so many thanks for letting me know about him. I sincerely hope our bows meet someday!



Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Charmaine,

Rock on girlfriend!! I am not mechanically inclined but i am learning how to do the simpler maintenance on the boat. I find it satisfying to take care of these things. I am getting professionals to do the things I am not capable of tackling, like electrical wiring. Painting a boat requires knowledge (I have picked the brain of a professional who is a friend of ours) and just getting stuck in and doing it.

As for fans, that is not so easy. There are 2 electrical systems on a boat: 12 volt which runs off the battery bank, and 240 volt mains which requires engine power.I haven't found an 12 volt fans readily available. I wouldn't want to run a 240 volt fan as I would have to run the engine the entire time the fan was running, or I would have to have a 300 watt inverter on for mains power and that is a waste of battery power. I might look into a 12 volt fan though!

As I cruise along on my own, I often think of you and wonder where you and what you are up to these days?

Stay safe!

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Bryce,

Happy Anniversary Canada!! I will sweep those spiders away each day, even though I know they will return overnight. Vacuuming spiders daily is not an option as the vacuum is 700 watts of mains power and requires I run the engine and inverter while I run the vacuum. Yes systems do need updating and it has all come due at once with NBV because Les was not able to tackle these things in the final years of his life an I couldn't attend to them as I was taking care of Les.

I hope you have som good news for me on the health front. I've been sending you healing energy every day.

Love Jaq xxx

Steve and Angela said...

Glad you got sorted with Tim. He does a very efficient service. We have been moored up for 48 hours and the batteries are showing at 100% on the SmartGauge. You do start to feel smug!
We have been repainting the roof today and it was easy to get underneath the panels with a brush or roller.

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs