Old Boat, New Fix

If you’re absolutely glued to the fascinating world of boating and – more specifically – me boating, you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged in a while. This is not because I’m now engaged and utterly wedding obsessed and I can’t do anything besides look at ‘quirky’ weddings on Buzzfeed. It’s because we’ve been a bit tied up with Albion problems.

It’s nothing serious, just a few niggly little bits like not having any hot water or electricity.


Just everyday, standard boating stuff.

The lack of hot water isn’t actually a new issue (I wrote before about the water heating system being temperamental at best). Since our engine-heated calorifier isn’t working, the only option we have for getting hot water is the back boiler on the stove. Landlubber speak: We can only get hot water by putting our fire on.

Which is really fun in summer.

Which is really fun in summer.

Since we didn’t fancy melting to death this year, we’ve instead been having ‘kettle showers’. I won’t go into details but essentially you boil a kettle, mix some cold water into it, then pour it over your head.

Or, as we call it, Vintage Bathing.

Or, as we call it, Vintage Bathing.

…Which was fine. Until one day the shower pump (which pumps water out of the shower tray) broke. Meaning that after undergoing a Kettle Shower, one had to employ a complicated piece of machinery to bail out the shower tray into the bathroom sink.

Tupperware it's at.

…Which was fine. Until one day, when we were both hard at work, our plug socket began to make a funny little fizzing noise and everything smelled like burning and the fuse for our 12v circuit blew. So we replaced the fuse and went on our merry way.

…Which was fine. Until one day the fuse blew again. And it sort of seemed like maybe the 12v system had fried my laptop battery and phone. So we fixed my laptop, bought a new phone, replaced the fuse and went on our merry way.

…Which was fine. Until one day my laptop charger melted.

"It's probably time to have the electrics looked at."

“It’s probably time to have the electrics looked at.”

As everyone knows, three problems is too many problems to deal with so we decided to pop the boat into the lovely Darren at Cow Roast Marina and see if he could fix Albion up good and proper.


Solution: Remove ancient collapsed impeller from pump born in 1871 and fit nice shiny new impeller.

Status: Still not working. Why. WHY?

Solution 2: Realise old impeller has disintegrated and blocked all the pipes. DEPLOY PLUNGER.

Status update: FIXED! Yay! A shower you don’t have to hand-drain! Luxury.


Pictured: Old electrics system.

Pictured: 12v system.

Solution: Fit a shiny new inverter to change all our juicy 12v electricities into friendly 240v electricities that don’t hate gadgets.

Status: Still not working. Why. WHY?

Solution #2: Remind Carli that she needs to turn the inverter on.

Status update: FIXED! Yay! Electricity you can actually electric things with! Innovative.


Solution: Fit a new bleed valve to get air out of the engine cooling system, allowing hot water to be pushed from the engine around the hot water tank, heating up the hot water and making Carli a happy boater.

Status: Still not working. Why. WHY?

Solution #2: Fit a small pump into the engine cooling system to make sure water is pumping around the calorifier and heating up the hot water and ensuring Carli doesn’t cry throughout all of her showers.


Solution #3: Cry. Boil kettle.

Yes, while all of our other problems have been beautifully and wonderfully rectified, our troublesome hot water system continues to baffle even the canal’s finest minds.



We can’t work out why the engine won’t heat the hot water. Or rather, why it will sometimes and won’t most of the time.

So unless any of my readers have any bright ideas about how or why airlocks continue to block up our waterpipes, it looks like it’s back to the drawing board.

And 1812.

And 1812.


6 thoughts on “Old Boat, New Fix

  1. Carli – you need a Metal-Bucket-Bilge-Pump-Shower.

    You will need:
    Large metal bucket.
    Bilge pump with wire long enough to reach easily from bathroom to wall socket outside.
    A couple of metres of hosepipe.
    The shower head.

    Fix one end of hose to bilge pump and other end to shower head (you may need jubilee clips / PTFE tape etc. to get a good fit, it took me a few goes to get it just right).
    Fill bucket with water and heat to comfortable temperature on stove / cooker.

    Place bucket of warm water somewhere handy (on top of loo worked for me) – put bilge pump in bottom of bucket – stand in shower tray with shower head – get OH to plug in – and GO! Quick! Before the bucket of water runs out! You could station OH there throughout and shout ON! OFF! between soaping / shampooing / rinsing to buy you a bit more time.

    It’s better than a sink and a flannel (which blokes don’t seem to mind) and once got me through 3 months without an engine whilst holding down a London office job and pretending to be a Normal Person.

    Best wishes – Helen

    • Hi Helen! This is a great idea thank you! We’re all set for the winter now but as soon as summer hits us and the fire goes out we will definitely give this a try.


  2. Hi there and hello from Canada.

    I arrived on your blog whilst researching marine wood burners. We own an old Airstream trailer that we’d like to use earlier,and later, in the year without having to use the propane heating system – expensive and the furnace eats more power than our solar panels can reliably resupply on a grey autumn day.

    I lived on a boat for a while when I lived in London myself – that was 20 years ago when I was a student. The only full time boaters I knew at the time were a somewhat mad upper class boarding school survivor, an ex-cons, a vicar questioning his faith, an almost comically Italian Italian artist who spoke with an Italian accent and would only ever eat Italian food, a 100% mad ex-investment bankers who had had a nervous breakdown because of the unrelenting pressure and was now reinventing himself as a writer of erotic poetry and a used book store owner. Those were my immediate neighbours at the time, and a very lovely and entertaining bunch they all were. I can’t recall ever laughing so much in my entire life, or living in a more close-knit and supportive community.

    I greatly enjoyed reading your blog, wishing you an Ed all the best for your life together. My wife and I got married in Islington Town Hall eleven years ago and then went off to explore Cornwall for our honeymoon before returning to Heathrow, hopping on a plane and moving to Toronto where we now live with our three little boys.



    • Hi Andy and thank you! I’m glad you’re still keeping up the nomadic lifestyle. You’ll be glad to hear the boating community are still as mad and diverse as they were back then.

      Best to you and your wife with your project, I didn’t know what an Airstream was but having looked it up they look amazing!


  3. Thanks Carli

    You can see ours by checking the link on my name – there are a bunch of Airstream pics on my site. As far as heat is concerned, do you have propane on board? We heat water for the Airstream with a 6 gallon propane heater that’s small and fast – a shower is ready in 15 minutes.

    There are also now tankless systems on the market, with unlimited hot water on demand – unlimited of course is always a bit of a misnomer when you carry your water in a tank, but when you’re hooked up to services it means long hot showers just like you were on land, or for us, in a house.

    I remember struggling with the hot water situation too when I lived on my boat. Running the engine seemed like a massive waste of diesel and the back oiler, while lovely in winter, turns the boat into a sauna in summer. Maybe a small, dedicated, hot water heater would make sense.

    • Your Airstream looks great, what an amazing way to get around. We considered moving back onto land but doing something similar, perhaps a showman’s carriage. Maybe when we can get a little bit of land to keep it on!

      We have propane but just for cooking and the fridge. There’s a wood burner for heat and it has a back boiler for hot water but yes we have the same summer saunaboat problems! I wouldn’t mind running the engine for hot water because we have to do it for power anyway but we just can’t get it to work anymore. It is looking like a small boiler/water heater is going to be our only option. Time to start saving! (Again).

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