Backseat Punter

Whenever anyone writes an article about boat life – which they do with alarming frequency and are presumably usually underpaid for – they will invariably begin their piece with that old Wind in the Willows quote we all know and love:

“…there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

This – is misinformation.

In fact, there are several hundred things more worth doing than messing about in boats. Reading, for example, or watching films. Or having baths. Or being clean. Or having electricity.

I can tell you from experience, dear reader, that the joy of messing about in boats is severely depleted when you have to do it every day or it’s a Thursday morning and the engine has broken down AGAIN and you have a casting to get to and tons of work to do and no power or hot water. AGAIN.

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“I can smell you from here.”

As you may or may not know, depending on whether you’re a stranger or one of the many people I complain to on a daily basis, Albion’s been a bit poorly of late.

It all started ages ago when we noticed that the engine wasn’t sounding great and decided to be super proactive and ignore it for a few months because the sound was the sound of something that sounded expensive.

Unfortunately, engines don’t take too kindly to being ignored when they’re feeling ill so – partly to punish us and partly in the spirit of Halloween – ours promptly died.

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“Bet you wished you’d fixed me noooooooooow.”

Luckily, Ed is somewhat of a dab hand at being pretty darn smart (and making things up as he goes along) and so – with assistance from my mum’s ever patient partner, the kindness of CRT to allow us to stay put for a while, and several hundreds of pounds worth of parts – he managed to get the old beast going again.

Very good, you might think. Nicely done. Off you pop then, you might say. Job’s a goodun, or something to that effect.

But oh, dear reader, you’ve been reading this blog long enough to know that wouldn’t be the end of it, right? (Unless you haven’t in which case please feel free to travel back through my posts and enjoy other instances of me complaining. There are quite a few about poo, sorry.)

You didn’t think we’d be boating off into the sunset happily ever after did you?

You did?

You must not be a boat owner then.

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Boat owners usually look like this.

No, what OBVIOUSLY happened is that, after a month or so of being absolutely fine, the engine suddenly become extremely and tenaciously not fine again (are you enjoying how much my engineering knowledge has come on after four years of living on a boat?).

I went to run the engine one day to top up our batteries and, while it started up okay, it very sadly petered out soon afterwards. Remembering the old rule of boat engineering, I vaguely wiggled some stuff that was on and around the engine but it was all to no avail.

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Em-woe-ji is me.

At this stage we had exhausted our collective engineering knowledge, which is 100% contributed to by Ed, and had to turn to The Experts.

The Expert this time being the lovely Darren at Cow Roast Marina who already knew us from when he fitted a very good and extremely electric-y invertor on our boat a few moons hence and therefore agreed to take a look at the engine for us.

BUT THERE WAS A CATCH.

Darren’s tools live in Cow Roast Marina. Albion was not in Cow Roast Marina. Albion was one lock below Cow Roast Marina and currently without the engine that was required to get her into Cow Roast Marina.

Which brings me neatly back to the futility of messing about in boats. You see, there was a way we could get Albion to the marina on time: via the extremely scientific technique of dragging. And also punting. And then dragging and punting some more.

I can tell you now that it was about as fun and easy as the last time we had to drag the boat somewhere.

I only wish I’d had my phone to capture the moment Ed discovered his vocation as a world-class gondolier. Having left me on dry land so that I could have a rope thrown at me once the boat had been steered to our desired landing point, Ed punted like a Cambridge University degree depended on it. Occasionally he nearly fell in. My heart, if not quite in my mouth, was certainly higher than is biologically normal. It was like watching The Fast and the Furious in slow motion. It was The Slow and the Furious.

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It was *exactly* this.

I also discovered at this juncture that I am a first-rate backseat punter. I could see, from my safe place on dry towpath, exactly how the boat ought to be punted right a bit or left a bit here and there. I occasionally helpfully yelled that Ed should avoid crashing into other nearby boats.

After being stoically ignored for several minutes, I decided to shut up.

Finally, after one lock, a tension-filled punt, and much top end muscle work (One Carli-and-Edpower is equivalent to about the same as one three-legged-horsepower), we rode triumphantly – if glacially – into Cow Roast Marina.

You’ll be glad to hear that Darren was then able to diagnose the problem and begin the long process of sourcing the correct parts to fix it (summin about fuel pumps?). You’ll be equally pleased to hear that we’ll only be without electricity and hot water for just a few weeks this time!

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Until next time readers, although you’ll probably smell me before then.

p.s. OPPORTUNITY: Are you a reader who also happens to be a millionaire? Would you like to be part of a unique opportunity to a) Give us heaps of money to fix up Albion or b) Buy us a house? If this sounds like you – get in touch with me in the comments!

Please!

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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.

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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.

PROBLEM #1: SHOWER PUMP BROKE.

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.

PROBLEM #2: 12v SYSTEM ZEUS-ING THE HELL OUT OF ALL OUR ELECTRICAL GOODS. 

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.

PROBLEM #3: NO HOT WATER NOT EVEN WHEN YOU ASK THE CALORIFIER REALLY NICELY. 

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.

Status: FIXED! YAY! WAIT! NO! IT STOPPED WORKING. WHY. WHY?!

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.

THE CANAL'S FINEST MINDS.

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.

Progress

Things are happening on Albion! People who understand tools are building things I’ve asked them to build!

Here she is in the dry dock the other week, having her insides all nice and warmed up with spray foam.

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For those of you who aren’t currently trying to turn a floating fridge into a bedroom, spray foam is a type of insulation that will hopefully stop us freezing to death in our sleep. Yay!

The rest of the bedroom under the deck is taking shape and we now have a nice curved ceiling and wooden walls which will soon be joined by an insulated floor and some shelves for the keeping of important boat equipment.

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Important boat equipment.

It also has a hobbit hole for a bedroom door, which is great for shouting things like “”We don’t want any adventures here, thank you!”

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I am now going to speak solely in Bilbo Baggins quotes.

The other big project is the bathroom, which we have decided to pretty much rip out and start afresh.

So far our builder has taken out the old shower tray to put a new one in…

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…and chopped the top off this cupboard to make way for a sink (more on that another time).

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Soon the bathroom will be decorated by these lovely, lovely tiles…

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…this copper shower…

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…and this very specifically-labelled copper tap.
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For all your women-washing needs!

It’s all very exciting!

And expensive.

Mostly expensive.

For example, did you know that mattresses cost more than one hundred pounds? Even at IKEA where you can get a lamb shank for £2.95.

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Luckily Sweden did deliver on sofas, and we found this excellent one for £95.

And those of you who saw the DFS Winter Sale adverts know there's nothing I love more than a bargain sofa.

And those of you who saw the DFS Winter Sale adverts know there’s nothing I love more than a bargain sofa.

Anyway, our builder reckons we can move on in about a week and a half but until then there are a million other little jobs that need doing so we’ll be back and forth with our NEW TOOL KIT…

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EAT YOUR HEART OUT BOB.

… so that Ed can get on with lots of DIY and I can get on with putting pictures of it on the internet.

More updates soon but I’ll leave you with this picture of Mother Nature just loving the hell out of us and our new boat.

Was the QEII blessed with rainbows? I don't think so.

Was the QEII blessed with rainbows? I DON’T THINK SO.