After spending four days writing this post Blogger hiccuped and it was gone--lost in virtual reality somewhere beyond my reach. Already fighting a daily battle with depression and anxiety and all the other vicissitudes of life, it was like a lash across my writer's heart. I gave up on the blog to concentrate on other stuff. Staying moored up in one place for too long is anathema to me. I find myself sinking into a morass of unwelcome thoughts and feelings. Obviously it was time to move.
Having done so, I am moored up--not in a beauty spot--but at towpath moorings in a place called Henhull, just north of Nantwich. There is a very busy road bridge and a roundabout nearby. It doesn't exactly feel safe either but I know that has more to do with me than with the mooring spot. I can stay here for two weeks but I will only be here for five days and then I will head back into Nantwich, top up the water tank, dump the rubbish and moor up in town for 48 hours while I attend to two appointments on Thursday and Friday. Then I'm off again towards Hack Green for five or six days.
I will attempt to bring you all up to date on the past three weeks in a briefer format than I had originally written. I realize this sounds uncharacteristically like me, but I haven't the heart to reproduce the long, detailed blog originally written.
Back in November Jennie Gash (NB Tentatrice) called me and she and Chris invited me to come and stay at their home on Bromsgrove for three days beginning on February 4th. I was excited about seeing them both again and looking forward to the trip away. Jennie was giving a talk to the Worcester Birmingham & Droitwich Canal Society highlighting their trip in 2016 on the Canal du Midi in France. I was chuffed to bits to attend and I will write another post shortly which covers my visit with pictures; there is so much to cover and I cannot do it justice here. I had a lovely time with Jennie and Chris and really appreciate the opportunity to get to know you both better. Thanks for spoiling me!
I am pleased to say NB Valerie weathered three days without me just fine. I've never left her moored up on the towpath for an extended length of time so I was a bit nervous about it. I chose a mooring spot at the end of a line of permanently moored boats with a brand new Braidbar boat NB All Right Now moored up for a week in front of me on the visitor's moorings. The weather turned frigid the day I was set to head south with the Jennie and Chris. Temperatures dropped below freeing at night every day I was gone. This also worried me. Would the solar panels keep the batteries charged?
|Me stepping out of NB Valerie to greet Chris, Jennie and Monty. The new Braidbar boat All Right Now moored up in front of me.|
When I returned the canal had a thin rime of ice on the surface, it had been as cold as 26F/-3C for the nights I was gone and even when I returned it was just below 32F/0C. It didn't take me long start a fire, restore the water and check the battery levels. All batteries were fully charged. Brilliant!! But it did take twelve hours to fully reheat the boat and nearly everything in it because when one is not here to keep the fire going and the boat goes cold, EVERYTHING in the boat reaches the same temperature of a few degrees warmer than outside: clothes, pots and pans, books, upholstery, glassware, dishes, cutlery, tinned foods--everything. By now some of you boaters may be asking, "Well Jaq why didn't you put the Ebispacher radiator interior heating system on?"
February 1st was a chilly evening and I turned on the Ebi as I had done on many cold evenings previously. As the pump started its thump-thump-thumping, I strolled back towards the front of the boat. When I reached the galley I realized I could hear the faint sound (over the running engine and the thumping Ebispacher) of water trickling. I froze as I thought, "Wait a minute--there are no open taps in the boat; where is the water coming from and OH! Where is it going?!!!"
I raced to the stern, threw open the wardrobe and pulled my clothes out of the way. The header tank for our Ebispacher is attached to the bulkhead inside the wardrobe. It was empty! Merde, merde, merde!! I switched off the Ebi and the trickling sound died away. Now there could be more than one reason why this was happening. When NB Valerie was pulled out of the water at Aqueduct Marina, her bow was higher then her stern and it was possible that the fluid in the radiators (a combination of water and antifreeze) had traveled back from the front radiators, pooling in the rear rads and causing an airlock, but I didn't think so.
The next morning I called George Palin (WB Still Rockin') to ask his opinion about this turn of events. It turns out George has a Webasto heating system not an Ebi but he talked me out of jumping off the back of the boat and inhaling a large amount of canal water on the way down! George said he would call Geoff (NB Seyella) about it. Geoff has had his Ebi apart many times over the years and knows them inside and out. George would ask Geoff to call me. Meanwhile I called Jennie and Chris to tell them as I was worried this turn of events meant I could not leave the boat. I didn't want my internal radiators to freeze and burst while I was gone. Unbeknown to me, the Gash's were with Ken and Sue Deveson (NB Cleddau) and Ken soon called me to hear about it all direct. Geoff called me and we talked for a good while. He was so helpful in teaching me about the rads, the Ebi and how the system works generally. Thanks everyone for your advice and common sense. I owe you all a Golden Ginger Cake or a batch of the World's Greatest Brownies at the very least. Just put in your order via phone and let me know when you want it!
Les didn't use the Ebi unless ice was forming on the inside of his eyelids. I had to beg him to turn it on when I was cold. Of course, Les was the most hot blooded person I've ever known. They say each human body generates approximately 700 watts of heat. Les no doubt kindled about 900 watts and I do notice the difference on the boat without him. I determined that I could put this issue aside until I returned from my visit with Jennie and Chris and that is exactly what I did. Once back on board, unpacked and settled in, I retrieved the Pela Pump from the engine hold and set about emptying the bottom stern step. All of the steps--front and back/bow and stern--have lift up tops and all of them are filled with stuff Les and I stored away.
For those who are not familiar with narrow boats, underneath the floor is the metal hull and some kind of ballast. Every boat should also have an access hatch or hole somewhere near the stern to check this area which is called the interior bilge. It is not unusual for water to build up under there. Where does it come from you ask? It is condensation. The average human being exhales three gallons of water daily. Add all that moist exhalation to steam from showers, dishes, cooking, and wet clothes drying by the fire and very quickly you can see it has to go somewhere. How the water transforms from steam to water and makes its way below the floor to the interior bilge is one of those great mysteries of life--at least to me! I am happy for it to stay that way. Suffice to say, one checks the level of moisture in the interior bilge throughout the year and pumps it out occasionally. This had not been done on NB Val since before Les died. I wasn't looking forward to it. The boat builder had cut a small round hole in the floor inside the bottom step which is fine for looking for water in the bilge but not so great for trying to get something down there to pump it out. I have very small hands and my fist barely cleared the parameters of the bilge hole.
I emptied the stair, pulled up the bottom board, and was amazed to find that Les had made the hole considerably larger. When he did this I will never know. Like so much else on this boat, he addressed what he could with his ebbing strength, bless him. There was water in there all right--a whole lot!! It was nearly up to the floor board!! I set a six liter pail to one side, put the Pela pump together and started pumping. I would know quickly if the water in the bilge came from the heating system if it was bright blue and slick feeling from the anti freeze mixed with it. The pump filled up with six liters and I poured it into the pail. Yep--bright blue. Thirty five liters of bright blue water and three pails later, and the interior bilge had very little in it. What was left would soak up in the rolled up newspapers I laid down and summer's warm temperatures would do the rest. Time to call heating specialist Ed Shiers of Four Counties Marine Services to come and sort things out.
|The inner bilge hole in the floor of the stern bottom stair. The Pela makes short work of any issue like this and I am so grateful to friend and fellow boater Ray Oakfield (NB Stronghold) for putting me onto it.|
|Each band measures one liter.|
|The first of three buckets of bright blue water.|
So here I am, out in the relative countryside, moored up and filling out on-line employment applications, doing a bit of interior boat cleaning, catching up the laundry, and making Tzatziki for tonight's dinner of roasted lamb wraps. I enjoyed watching Nigel Slater's Middle East and I am using his recipe for this evening's meal which is a departure from many months of bags of crisps and gummy bears, sandwiches, uninspiring salads, and half baked attempts at cooking regular meals which either burned or simply did not taste good for whatever reason. It has occurred to me with stunning force that I have actually survived a year in this country without Les. I am still alive though a bit more frayed around the edges. NB Valerie is still afloat and I have managed to catch up years of overdue work on her and stay just ahead of repair work not unusual for a boat just over a decade in age. She is all I own in this world and while I have finally reconciled myself to the fact that Les is no longer here on the boat in any form except ash, I take what comfort I can from the knowledge Les loved me and NB Valerie, and his memory lives on.