Big drip

Soap operas and other serials rely on some version of the cliff hanger to get their viewers (East Enders, not a fan), readers (Dickens original publications, can be hard work) or listeners (The Archers, I only hear it because Radio Four happens to be on at the time, honest) to come back for the next instalment. That is not what I am up to with this little saga of water inside, as well as outside, of the boat. This is just an update on progress, hopefully the last you may say.
The potentially leaking window has been tackled. Vactan, the rust to iron converter, has been applied followed by red oxide primer and top coat Union blue. The paint now has to dry completely before the silicone sealant is, reluctantly, applied. The inside is gradually drying out and it has not been possible to see the source. So today I decide to carefully detach the wall panel nearest the window to confirm the source of the leak. Careful detachment is not how I could accurately describe the removal of the sheet of plywood that has been there for 35 years and built over by subsequent refits. Gentle persuasion, turned into assertive prising which ended up as aggressive ripping out. But at least I had the answer, the source of the water was not the window. There was very little dampness, which could probably be further decreased by changing the loose fitting one inch polystyrene sheet to two inch sheets that there was room for.
I had shifted the toilet to get the board out and back again so popped it on a vinyl sheet in case, for some obscure reason like me not tightening clips up, its plumbing dripped.
Finishing up I made some soup and was about to take a rest when I spotted water ousing from under the lower bunk. To be honest it was dark against the bare boards and looked like one of the scenes from a murder story where the victim’s blood is coming out of a packing case, for example Keeping Mum with Maggie Smith, do watch it if you get chance.
This time it must be the plumbing. Yes I hadn’t adequately re-tightened the supply. I switched off the valve, and got a wet hand. Ehh? The valve shouldn’t be wet, it was not leaking yesterday when I checked it. Turn – dry, turn – wet, turn – dry, wet, wet, dry. Oh I get it, an intermittent leak on the water supply that is there when you are not looking and is not there when you check it. So it has been slowly dripping for weeks, but when it was frosty and I isolated it, it got worse. It may even have been distorted by being frozen but did not want to own up to me that it was knackered.
Problem solved just pop a new valve in, dry the place up, and re-seal the window just in case.


Floored by the floor

Well the good news is that there is no visible water below the floor boards, in board that is. Thus the boat is not sinking, but where is the water coming from?
One technique that I was taught was to ask opposing questions such as: where is the water, where isn’t the water; when does the water appear, when does the water not appear; who is around when there is water, who isn’t around when there is water. So let me thy that.
The water was on the floor not the ceiling, it appeared when I wasn’t looking and can’t be seen if I don’t look, the water is there when I am and I haven’t got a clue if it is there when I am not, but I guess that it is. I don’t think that method has helped for this problem.

So I tried another technique, i.e. what had changed just before the problem occurred. Well it was OK six weeks ago and since then it has been frosty, rainy, windy, I had moved the boat and I accidentally left it unlocked for a few days. So it could have been a frozen pipe, rain driven in through a vent or leaky window frame. It could have been some strange form of vandalism where the only damage is several litres of water poured on the carpet. Nope that method didn’t help either.
What if I could see where the water was coming from? The problem is that when you have a big patch of water stretching to the side walls and that patch is under a vent and also the toilet plumbing it could have come from any of these directions, as long as they were down hill. I pressurised the water system, oh joy no leaks but no help either. I sat as it rained and looked for drips from the vents, no. I felt around the windows, no. Then I heard it, the unmistakable drip, drip of water. At last I was on to it, like a detective flowing the trail of clues. I stealthily followed the sound, hardly daring to breath. Near the window, no a bit further back, towards the back, near the door, somewhere just up the steps. I followed it, by now I was putting my head out of the door, this can’t be right. Somewhere over the side maybe. Pushing my head between the canvas canopy I looked along the side of the boat and saw the rain drip, dripping into the canal. Yes, a false trail again.
It’s no good, the source has eluded me this time. So tomorrow I am arming myself with a gun and intend to bung up every little channel and crack that I can see on the outside with silicone sealant. And if that doesn’t do it I may consider solving the problem by mooring the boat in a deep part of the canal and drilling a big hole to let the water out.

Ups and downs

I was looking at some ponies in a field on a very rainy and windy day. They just stood and bore the weather. Were they hoping that it would abate, were they thinking back to the sunny days just gone and looking forward to spring? Were they thinking anything or just reacting as a leaf reacts to the wind that blows it? I have no idea if animals have any concept of good days and bad, the ups and downs.
However I find it really makes a difference to try to balance the down days with the knowledge that all is relative to the good days, unless of course it is all very bad all of the time. I used to cycle in the fenlands, there were no hills to struggle up, but no glorious down hills to swoop carefree down. But even then there were head winds but turn around there were tail winds to push you back home.
I have never been a good hill climber on a bike therefore in Wales or the Lake district I frequently found myself wondering why or why was I struggling up another hill. The view from the top and the descent would briefly remind me, until I got to the bottom of the next incline.
So with the weather, day and night, summer and winter, rest and busyness there are natural balances, feasts and famines, the cycle of nature.
The rain this week needs to continue if we are not going to suffer a severe shortage for the canals, and everything else, in the south east this summer. So it has been quite pleasing to see it. On a dry day I spent some time along the tow path in my role as a Waterways chaplain, that is looking out to give what ever help we can offer. I finished by visiting the my boat for the first time in a couple of days. Taking my muddy bike shoes off on the rear deck I descended looking forward to getting warm and having lunch aboard. At the bottom of the steps inside my chilly feet immediately got colder on the mat. To be precise they got colder because they got wet. The mat was wet. The carpet tiles under the mat were wet. The floor boards under the tiles was wet. The the floor of the aft/stern/rear half of the boat was wet. Was it rain entering through a leaky window or driven in through a vent. Perhaps domestic water leaking after a frost? Maybe those old disused deck skin fittings letting water in, or a hole in the hull?
Oh well, lunch would have to wait and if it had been caused by a rainy day, at least there would probably be a dry day coming along when it could be fixed and dried out. I”ll change my socks first though.

January sun

Locking down towards the sun


Catkins, backlit, are draped as a pelmet above the path.

The brilliant white light of the sun’s reflection erupts from the dark pound waters which are cracked apart by parallel flashes of the ripples.

The winter brown of the woods is edged by the verdant green tow path edge and the sun fights a battle with the afternoon shadows made by the leafless trees.

Crunching footsteps of walkers are accompanied by the constant gush of whitened water leaking from the gates.

Against this background can be heard the first singing of a robin, staking his claim on the territory. And then the rattle of steel against steel, followed by familiar but unwelcome clanking as the paddles are raised. The gush is itself drowned by the torrent of white water, seemingly steaming and hissing in its haste to fill the lock. Once the lock has filled peace returns. The final eddies chase each other on the lock surface. The gates, with their darkened wet wood and bright white beam heave a sign of relief and begin to swing of their own volition.

And yes peace returns to this place where man has trod, not too heavy, on nature to bend it to his will. And oh that I could sing as that robin, not in conflict, but in thanks to all creation’s Creator.

Burning issue

Interior winter 2011_12

The topic of air quality is itself ‘in the air’. My boat like many others is fitted with a solid fuel burner which can burn wood or ‘smokeless fuel’. There are alternative ways to heat the interior, but which to choose.

Burning solid smokeless fuel releases CO2, sulphur and smoke particles. Burning dried wood, produced locally and in a sustainable manner does not add to CO2, but still adds to smoke pollution.

One could fit a diesel heater but that also emits CO2 but less smoke and I have no idea about the particle production.

One could fit a propane heater. That does not add to particles or smoke but propane is a fossil fuel and adds to CO2.

One also has to consider that the manufacture of a new heater adds to global warming.

There are two other options, one is don’t use the multi fuel stove, just switch the gas oven on and put up with the condensation, CO2 production and possible CO poisoning. The other is don’t use any form of heating, don an extra jumper,  feel cold, smug and miserable.

Do you remember Fagin’s song in the Oliver Twist musical .. “I am reviewing the situation”? The following is my version, though not a very close copy.

I am reviewing the situation

On how to heat my boat without the smoke

Coz Mr Gove says my stove

is bad and wood will have to go

so I can put in a gas burner

which burns a flame that is much cleaner

but uses up a fossil gas

which adds to all the carbon mass

and canals dry out for lack of rain ……

I think I’d better think it out again.

I am reviewing the situation

On how to heat my boat and still be green

By using local kiln dried wood

the carbon footprint can be good

but there is still a little smoke

on which the passers by may choke

instead of logs in my pile

should the trees be left a while

and leave the forests just the same? …..

I think I’d better think it out again.

I am reviewing the situation

On how to boat while being warm and green

If I don’t use a wood burn stove

I can then please Michael Gove.

If I just don another woolly

with all flesh covered fully.

But what about the frozen milk

and all the bugs to make me sick

and I’ll end up with aches and pain,

I think I’d better think it out again.

Feeling drained

A cold spell is coming so off I went to ensure the boat’s plumbing will not be not damaged by the water freezing in the pipes and equipment. All it takes is to drain down the domestic plumbing. You know the sort of thing, open a drain valve and open a tap and let the water run out. Except of course the drain valve is at floor level of the boat and the floor of the boat is below the water line outside. Water does not drain up hill.
That is where my modification comes in, I put in a tee piece and air vent before the pump so I can pump the water uphill to a sink and let it run out. Well that was the first modification. Valves and tee pieces are fun inventions I think, the meccano set or lego set for the amateur plumber.
The other winter I decided that it would be useful to have a gas water heater for when the water tank had been drained. The water tank had a valve each side of it, so by adding a couple of tee pieces and a couple more valves I could switch over to the gas heater without refilling the tank.
That worked.
After a while I realised that if I had been using the tank, but it was tepid I could run water from the tank through the gas heater to get it hot enough for a shower. That needed a couple more tee pieces and a valve or two, my third modification.
Last winter it took ages to empty the tank ready for winter using a drill pump, but I got this idea that if I created a loop using hose pipe, from the bottom of the tank to the inlet of the domestic pump I could pump the tank dry in no time. But I had to add another valve.
So there we have it, the only thing I had to do when I got to the boat was to connect the hose and find the coded instructions which I now need to tell me which valves to turn to get the combination that I currently need. With valves A to G in the wardrobe and three others elsewhere I can easily drain the system, flood the floor or blow up the tank depending on whether or not I get it right.

This is the last month that I am keeping the boat in Apsley Marina. It has been OK for the last 7 years but I have not really got the value out of it. One of the things that the marina has, and it is outside the security fence, is an elsan disposal room. As an aside, the “security” fence is one of those low chain fences that you can either step over in the daylight or trip over into the canal at night.
Anyway the elsan point is in its own room which I have used quite a few times. I nearly always forgot to take my CRT key to open it, taking instead only the marina “security” gate key. Over the years I have remembered at last. At least once out on the canal I would still be able to use the elsan point, many boaters do because the nearest other one is a hour away by boat.
This week I went to use the point for the last time and I remembered to take the CRT key.
This week the lock has been changed to take a marina key. A key that I will have to give back when I leave the marina.
How is that for Murphey’s law?

Dividing Paths


For those who look forward to a read I must apologise for being silent recently. For those who just read these posts out of some sense of loyalty then thanks for hanging in there and I hope that you enjoyed your break. I am back “on-line” with a few things to write hopefully for your amusement or pleasure or information. All sorts of things are whirling around in my head from global warming, diesel emissions, plastic …

When I say these things are in my head I really mean the topics are, I do get a hot head sometimes, and plastic and diesel particles have been found about everywhere so they may be in my head as well.

I also promise to post a few more cheerful and practical things but first of all I wanted to put to bed a musing that has been on my mind. It does not fit into the normal facebook type blog, you know the type where everything is wonderful and isn’t life great. It is a musing on loss which is itself a part of life that these days we try to ignore. The problem with that approach is that when loss strikes we can be unprepared and do not know how to carry on.  Accepting loss as part of the journey would enable us to be better prepared to carry on in a more positive manner, knowing that we should not feel regret or guilt at enjoying life in our changed situation.


The two of us are walking side by side, along a country path with green pastures on every side.
The path has grass growing down the middle, she walks to the left of it, me to the right.
As we walk quietly on, the grass in the centre gets taller, until it begins to brush our hands, it is then that I realise that that we are gently touching hands, lightly holding them, and have been for longer than I remember.
We walk on and the grass is mingled with wild flowers but also gorse, nettles and thistles that occasionally prick and sting, yet we hold on. Gradually her path begins to veer away from mine, the green partition grows, the thistles increase and I tighten my grip.
She seems to be totally accepting that she is now on a different path, focused on where she is going.
As the paths continue to diverge our arms reach out further to keep our hands touching, until it is just our finger tips touching. The hedge, for that it is now what it is, is so high that occasionally I loose sight of her face for a moment.
We have to keep walking and I know that my path does not yet lead to her destination.
Then her path takes a slight dip and our fingers loose contact, I can’t see her any more.
My whole body is filled with a silent scream, a scream containing all the things I never said or did, all those missed opportunities. The scream is echoed by an empty silence as I stare at the green divide, there is no sign of her. I walk on with no awareness of where I tread.
Now and then, far ahead, I get glimpses of what might be a divergence from my path. I wonder if it leads to her destination, I wonder how peaceful I would be, no, will be, at turning aside from this path. But for now I walk on, slowly beginning to notice anew the green of the grass, the smell of the hedgerow flowers, the buzzing of the bees and the gentle breeze in my hair.