Sing, don’t whistle

A rough looking boater asked me this week, “so what do you waterways chaplains actually do?”

“Well”, I replied, thinking of the various things from assisting with benefit claims to helping them through locks, “amongst other things we lock people up”. He looked pretty concerned until we both realised the ambiguity in my response.

Apart from passing the time of day on the tow path the boat has been getting a bit more TLC, not that it will notice. A wise sage said to me if it is not broken then leave it alone. However some things do need a bit of attention even when you really don’t want to do it. In this case it involved a bit of up-cycling and dress making to get started.

Having treated the drinking water tank for rust about three years ago I thought I would have quick check to see that it was OK. Most of it looked a bit rusty, but it seemed to be infested with big brown snails. They had rust brown trails and curly shells. If you popped them they oozed rusty liquid which drifted down into the water, the clouds of brown spreading like a fog through the water.

So I decided it did need looking at. Now this is not just a simple job of a touch of paint, more like climbing inside the boot of a car, closing the lid then trying to paint all surfaces without getting paint on yourself.

The hatch is a 16inch square that I can just squeeze through. It is too shallow to turn round and too short to roll over in, plus it has sharp corners of angle iron to jab into your head and elbows, so a bit confined.

Having washed and dried it, two coats of rust converter went on easily enough. But having had enough of squirming around I decided to get a quote for a flexible plastic tank liner rather than paint it. £830 for a big plastic bag, you must be joking!

So how do you paint the inside of a boot without gassing yourself? I found an old rucksack that had been discarded, stitched in a pair of goggles and a ventaxia pipeline. Connected the pipe to a bilge fan, zipped it around my neck and voila! a respirator that looked like a bank robber’s disguise.


As long as the pipeline was not tangled there was not even the whiff of paint. In fact it was almost cozy in the tank, although cramped. At one stage I found myself singing and what a sound box a steel tank makes. Carefully making sure I did not paint my self into a corner I finished up lying in the unpainted patch under the hatch. That was a mistake! As the tank is less than 18 inches high, it should have been obvious that it would be impossible to lie directly under the hatch and then be able to sit upright to get ones head out. It was a sort of one man game of Twister with a board of wet paint.


Following 2 coats of red oxide paint then 3 coats of bitumen for potable water tanks the job is done. I have two resolutions, I am never getting in that tank again and I really will not be drinking that water.


Why not drink it? A little bit of dirt won’t do any harm but the tank is under the front deck. The hatch is in the deck. One walks on the deck. One walks on the tow path. On the tow path dogs walk, and do other things. The filling hose lives on the deck. Spiders and earwigs live on the deck and like crawling into things. The filling hose goes on the tow path taps. Others use their hoses for flushing toilet tanks. If that is not enough, the taste of bitumen will last for several tanks, so no, I won’t be drinking from it.

And as for whistling, you can sing with a vapour mask, goggles and respirator, but a whistle is silent. At least there were no witnesses otherwise it may have looked like trying to blow a kiss to my paintwork.