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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Thirty Five Liters of Blue Water!

"Flutter your wings frail bird and rise an inch above the impossible." ~Anonymous

     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.
This is a shot of the Shropshire Union Canal at the bottom, winding through Nantwich. The lime green trail on the left is the way into town most boaters know: down the steps to Welsh Row and up Welsh Row to town. The pink trail on the right is a far more pleasant rout I discovered when moored beyond the aqueduct, towards Audlem. Leave the towpath at the children's playground. Turn left on Marsh Lane and just opposite the sign on your left saying Canal Close there is an unmarked footpath between two fenced yards with hedges. (Note: Images on Google maps were taken in 2011 and the new houses on Canal Close were not built yet but they are there now just next to the playground) Turn right onto the footpath. Cross Gerard Street and walk through the lot with all the storage garages on your left. You will come out on Meeanee Drive. Turn left and a McColls shop will be just up the street on your right. This is an easy walk for a weekend paper or a pint of milk. 
Here is the trail from the towpath past the playground, down the footpath, across Gerard St. through the lot with the storage garages and left on to Meeanee Drive. the red dot is the McColls shop. If you continue past the shop on Meeanee Drive you will come to Queens Drive and across the street is Mill Fields park.  If you follow the right hand path marked in pink above, it will take you over the river Weaver and curve to th left into town. If you take the aqua path on the left it will provide you with a pleasant walk along the river and over a foot bridge to the old town center. 
Left: the lime green trail up Welsh Row and into old town centre which is the red circle. If you continue past there and left around to Beam Street you reach the Bus stop and the Library. The alternative routes pick up across Queens drive in the park. The aqua path leads you along the river weaver, over a foot bridge, through the alleyway between the Crown Hotel and several shops and out to the old town center.  The pink path crosses the river, curves left and around to a driveway which leads out to Shrewbridge Rd. Turn left and walk up to the intersection. Follow the path to the right along Water Lode Street. Cross to the other side just before the roundabout. There will be a Laura Ashley store directly across from you. Cross Pilbury St. and Morrisons grocers is just ahead on your left. Across the street is an Aldi's.  This shot provides you with the relationship of the trails and roads to one another and the Nantwich town.
   I moored up in Nantwich three weeks ago, weak from having had the flu. I'd come out of Aqueduct Marina after some large boat repairs and ten days of illness. As I slowly regained my energy, I found short cuts depending on which end of town I wanted to reach. I walked twice a week for groceries (one weekly shop and a Saturday paper with a small top up of fresh fruit and veg.). I walked into town to catch the bus to Crewe for appointments and job searches. I was feeling better physically and emotionally although I had another big hurdle in front of me: Valentines Day Les' body was cremated last year on Valentines Day, forever marking it as a sad anniversary for me. The best thing to do I reckoned was keep busy and I am fortunate to have loving friends who planned to do just that.
     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. 
     Before I left I pulled the front stairs out, shut off water to the water pump, slid the stairs back in place, opened all the water taps on board and laid the shower hose and head down in the bottom of the bathtub so it would drain. I walked to the rear of NBV and flipped the water pump off and on about four times to push the remaining water out of the pipes and then I turned off all the electrics except the toilet fan.  I reasoned that I could leave the refrigerator shut off as it would keep things cold for eight hours and once the fire died down the interior of the boat would only be three of four degrees warmer than outside. I locked up stern and bow and walked away with Jennie and Chris, my heart in my throat.
     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. 
     Ed arrived and within minutes of pouring six cups of water in the header tank we identified the location of the leak: just a tad to the bathroom side of the wall which divides the head from the galley, just to the left of the washing machine and refrigerator.  After moving the washing machine out of the way, taking the toilet out of the bathroom (thank the Goddess for an Airhead marine composting loo! I undid the fly screws on each side and lifted it right out of the way and no smell even with a full solids compartment and without being hooked up to the fan.) and taking the false lower wall apart where the cassette toilet used to hook up with a labyrinth of pipes that snaked behind the sink, the tub and under the bed. Les had covered the hole with a board and then glued oak look floor planks over the top. Ed found the broken pipe, replaced it, joined the pipes up tightly with a collar which he crimped in place while lying on his side with most of his left arm contorted around behind the sink. Once the breach was repaired Ed refilled the radiators, burped or bled them repeatedly as well as the water pipes leading from the Ebi to the main heating system, and the Ebispacher itself. Then Ed refilled the header tank to the proper level, and he turned on the Ebi. worked! Ed was kind enough to give me a radiator key so I could burp them again as he said it would be necessary for the next week while the system worked the air upwards. Three hours and it was sorted....sort of. Since the initial repair the Ebi has been failing to pump and throwing fault codes the first time I started it up. Ed talked me through identifying the fault code (054--failure to burn) and clearing them from the system. Once I did this, the Ebi fired up and the radiators got hot. This has happened several more times however so Ed may have to make a return trip to try and sort it if it doesn't go away on its own.
     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.


Pip and Mick said...

Hi Jaq
I think our bows may well cross in about a weeks time. We will be working our way back along the Shroppie and hope to reach Nantwich next weekend, we'll then be carrying on southwards towards Wolverhampton slowly. So hopefully we'll get to meet properly rather than just passing by.
We hadn't checked our bilges for a while on our old boat and got a shock when Mick opened up the inspection hatch to find it full with water. We'd had a water leak months before hand and hadn't checked. It's scary when you realise how much extra water you can carry.
Enjoy your Lamb, I've had a joint of silverside beef on top of the stove all day, slowly pot roasting, here's hoping it's tasty.
Hope to meet you soon

Unknown said...

Do you know your original blog is there, underneath? :)


Jennie said...

I am so pleased to hear that Ed managed to sort out the link - I hope the Ebi stops playing up. Chris and I really enjoyed our time with you and relished the chance to get to know you better. You have indeed survived just over the year without Les and done it well under very difficult circumstances. Your ability to cope when things go wrong is an inspiration. Good luck with the job hunt, Jaq and we hope you will come and visit us again one day. Jennie xx

Anonymous said...

Oh wow it's mind boggling to me, now a land lover, to read all the details of what you are going through to keep NB Valarie in very good shape. Cheers lady ... you've survived and done things in the last year that you never thought you could do, or wanted to do. May this seemingly endless series of trials and troubles and anguish shut down as spring slowly arrives. Dinner sounds yummy. On a brighter note, Valentines Day for me is our wedding anniversary (Jim and I). And tomorrow (the 19th) is the anniversary of 2nd husband Charley's death. Our lives are filled with happy and sad anniversaries ... and mean while life goes on. As will yours dear Jaq. Karen

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Pip and Mick,

I am so excited now! I will be in Nantwich on Friday for an afternoon appointment and then I plan to leave Saturday morning after getting my paper. I hope to moor up at Hack Green for a few days. It would be brill to meet you both after all this time. When looking for our boat there is no name or sign writing on her. Look for the green boat with three solar panels mounted near the stern end and a redwood stained roof box near the front. There is a Rosemary plant on the bow locker.

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Julia,

No I didn't know. I have no idea how to find it on Blogger. It was having trouble saving my changes and it was a long post with a lot of pictures. I was having issues with the text moving itself around--jumping up several lines and then back again. Then suddenly the page went blank and saved itself! I hit the back button and nothing happened; my post space stayed blank.

Kind regards,


Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Karen,

Belated happy anniversary to you and Jim! As yo say life does go on--whether we think we want it to or not--until one moment life stops and we are gone.

Yes it boggles my mind as well to consider all the things one needs to know and do to keep a boat going in good nick. I regret not having realized this when Les was alive and thanking him for all he did. he did it so well, without complaint and with happiness in his heart so I had no idea how much work it was. On the very bad days the boat gives me a reason to get out of bed and for that I am thankful.

Love and Biggs big hugs to you my sweet!

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank you Jennie, for your friendship, kindness and loving care and for spending time with me I so enjoyed those three days with you and Chris--and Monty too. I will treasure our time together and look forward to a time we can see each other again.

I hope in sharing my feelings, thoughts, and deeds that at the very least I can let others who may be experiencing something similar that they are not alone in feeling, thinking or acting in a certain manner while coping with devastating loss. Life does go on, we somehow manage but as I said to you on our visit, it takes an enormous amount of energy to force one's self to get up, put on clothes, brush teeth, wash face, and more through each day when one is carrying depression and loss and trying not to let it show every moment. It has been 13 months now-and 24 days since Les died and I wish I could say life is easier now but its not. So I keep getting up each day and maybe in time it will be. That said, I am so very blessed in having friends who understand this journey is difficult and I am doing the best I can each day and who love in spite of it all. I know you and Chris are two of them.

Love Jaq xxx

Oakie said...

A hah.... another interesting blog to read Jaq. Always good to know where you are on the cut and I have enjoyed stays at Nantwich several times in the past, although it is a bit far to walk to the town if you have a dicky hip or arthritis as I do. The nuclear shelter at Hack Green is interesting to visit and very close to the cut. I am always scared of losing any text on my blog too, so I always write in Word first and then copy and paste, which also saves time spent on the internet. My photos are in a separate folder, so they can be replaced easily on the blog if it does a "runner". Spring is on the way and I am considering how long I need a CRT licence for this year. As last year, I will be at Cannie Cavalcade in early May and Braunston Hysterics in June, so do hope to see you and NBV again when the weather warms up. Have fun. Ray OAKHILL.

Jennifer said...

Just a thought Jaqueline re the error codes, our Mukini boiler won't fire up properly unless we've got the engine running, and the system voltage is above 13v - anything less results in a smell of unburnt diesel and white smoke. Normally in cold weather we only use the boiler twice a day, 1st thing in the morning, and last thing at night while the engine is running to charge the battery bank. If we're hooked up to a shoreline then obviously we don't start the engine.

Hope you don't mind me just saying :)

Geoff and Mags said...

Hi Jaq
Gald you found and sorted that leak. Ed is such a good guy, isn't he. Jennifer's point about voltage is well made, when on the start cycle the Ebi will draw 11-12 amps, and if your batteries are a bit down anyway the voltage could drop to below 12v and the ebi will not start. It shouldn't result in white smoke though, the unit detects the low voltage and doesn't even try! Fault code 11 will be shown in this case.
Fault 54 indicates a fuel or air supply failure, I think. Might be a partially blocked fuel filter? Is anything in the way of the air intake? (next to the exhaust outlet on the bottom of the unit)
BTW, we often stop near Henhull Bridge, handy for a Tesco delivery, No problems thus far...

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Ray,

Nantwich is a lovely town and the people here a very friendly. I am sorry to hear that your hip is giving you trouble. Any chance of a replacement? Next time you moor up in Nantwich try mooring near the children's playground and using the alternate route I tracked on the pictures-- the pink or aqua routes through Mill Fields. There are no steps, mostly flat, even ground and benches along the way to sit a spell. Much easier than walking up Welsh Row.

I bet you are pleased to be considering your spring and summer cruising plans. I saw your picture again last week, can't think of wherenow, maybe the latest Tillergraph? The one of you at Braunston last year.

Take care. Hope to see you someday soon.

Jaq x

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Jennifer, Thank you for sharingthat info with me. I could run the Ebi on the solar panels once the batteries have a full charge each daybut I prefer to run it when the engine is running just to be on the safe side, so great minds think alike!


Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Geoff,

Ed is a lovely bloke and he does such good work and he trustworthy and reliable. Sadly for us boaters he is leaving the work on heating systems behind as there isn't a lot of money in it, and he is going to focus on installing solar panel systems onboats. Whatever Ed does though, boaters can trust it will be done right. Dalt of the he is.

Thanks for the info about the fault code. I've checked and I don't see anything blocking the exhaust. It seems to be working fine now, fingers crossed!

Oh yes The moorings at Henhull would be perfect for a grocery delivery.

Love and hugs to you and Maggs and many thanks for your advice,

Jaq xxx

Cuddlesceridwen said...

Hi Jaq, a quick hello from Turkey. I loved welsh row when I lived in crewe, I remember once going to the huge Sainsbury’s in Nantwich and my daughter remarked something about wow don’t you have a big Sainsbury’s in crewe and the check out lady said, Nantwich dear, we are Nantwich. Hahahahahahahaha. I am so glad to see you are gaining in confidence and strength, but then, I knew you would. Enjoy your cruising, and good luck with the job hunting. Big hug to you. Mwah. Carol xxx

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Hi Jaq darling,
You do have an amazing range of kind and helpful friends - such a blessing at all times, but especially now, over the last couple of years and for the couple of years to come.

My heart warmed when I read about Ed coming to sort the Ebi out - he is a gem, isn't he?

Have you done the walk by visits to local employers yet? (I had a chat with our son a few days ago and he said he'd got a full time job [he's been doing contract work for a year or so] - he had been applying for things on line, but decided to phone some electricians local to him, was asked to send in his CV, phoned for an interview and got a job - with a firm probably not even formally advertising a vacancy.) By the way, I do know all too well how hard it is to ask for help when you most need it, and it will be almost as difficult for you to approach businesses and ask if they have a vacancy that only you can fill. So I am not underestimating the task - however, the payoff is probably worth the price of having to gird your loins and put on your brave smiling face to make the approaches.

And I didn't see the sign in NBV's window advertising haircuts either!

Biggs hugs, darling friend,

M&D xxoo

Anonymous said...

Well, an oldish post, so we hope you and VALERIE have survived the cold "snap", or as the Brits are calling it, the great freeze. We are actually more concerned with NBV as a casualty than you personally, as you have had enough hardware problems for this winter, you can go for a brisk walk to warm up, NBV can't!
Back in Coventry for the weekend, another medical procedure tomorrow, hey ho.
Mike & Phil, nb GARNET,

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Carol,

Thank you my friend for your confidence in me. Job hunting continues apace. I think of you often in turkey, an expat learning to love your new country.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Marilyn,

Yes indeed, Ed is a precious one. Kind, funny, honest, and helpful.

No doubt about it--I am deeply blessed by my friends all over the world!

I have done a walk through of Nantwich and Crewe. Not much in the way of decent jobs. I found out about a position with Holland and Barrett so I applied but I did not get the job. Had an interview with the University of Chester last week. It did not go well. I have since applied for a job with a local sixth form college today.

Hugs and love to you and Dave,

Jaq xxx

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs