But baby it’s cold outside

The canal has frozen.

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Which is very pretty.  But flipppin’ cold.  (Especially as heating remains something I have not fully got to grips with.  Or really made any progress on since I moved in.)  Neighbour-to-the-right tells me this winter is not a patch on the Big Freeze of 2012, in which a few boat owners walked from one end of the marina to the other on the ice.  Whilst I like the sound of that in principle, in practice I hope I don’t get to try it out until I have mastered the art of turning on my radiators.

There are other clues as to the current coldness of the boat.  Both the big and small bottles of olive oil have frozen, as well as the truffle oil Santa brought me not so long ago.  (The vegetable oil remains steadfastly liquid.  What a cooking oil.)  I no longer need to worry about privacy as the windows have completely frosted over.  And I have tried various strategies to combat the chill at bedtime:

1.  Hot water bottles.  A must.

2.  Going to bed fully clothed.  A handy time saver as well.

3.  Putting the next day’s clothes under the covers in the hope that they might get a little warm so I don’t feel like I’m stepping into a freezer when I get dressed.

The above have had varying levels of success, so last night I went a bit more radical.  I abandoned the bedroom, and made a bed of Thai cushions and duvets next to the stove. It is certainly the warmest I have been in recent days, though the makeshift mattress needs some work,.

So, in conclusion, I’m still looking for a perfect solution.  Though I think we might all know what that actually is.

Happy 2015 everyone – the year of live sporting events, less frivolous pimping and warmth.

This blog post was brought to you by the greatest Christmas song ever written ‘The fairytale of New York‘ by the Pogues and Kirsty McColl (I was a bit late getting festive this year).

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Don’t panic but…..

I had a visit last weekend from a couple of my favourite people, who happily turned out to be fans of my favourite boat. Eagle-eye Annie happened to notice a damp patch on my new rug, which I was all ready to dismiss as a spill. Being of a clumsy disposition, it was a plausible conclusion (some of my acquaintance might comment here on the strong historical evidence regarding this theory). But Eagle-eye Annie was not so easily satisfied with that explanation, and further inspection under the rug revealed a few damp patches along the joints of the floorboards.
My second theory was that this leak was in some way connected to the water tank. The affected floorboards were all the front of the boat, near where I fill up the tank. I had assumed that the floorboards were probably over the water tank – was it leaking? Was condensation a problem? How did I check any of this? Not knowing any of the answers, I took to the interweb.
My great neighbours have been mentioned previously on this blog; however it turns out I also have great cyber-neighbours. Within an hour of posting on a forum, I had several replies asking for more information about the leak and giving suggestions of what the problem could be. One of the first things I learnt was that is that the water tank is not under the floorboards but under the very front of the boat and was unlikely to be causing the problem. What many did suggest is that I still a whole in the floor to see how much water is sloshing about under the floor. (DRILL A HOLE IN MY BOAT?!) This suggestion was delivered in what I imagine to be a reassuring manner, but with undertones of ‘you may want to panic about the potential rotting and subsequent disintegration of your floorboards’.
Enter stage right neighbour-to-the-right. Had I had a look at the water pump? ‘No,’ I replied, ‘where might I find that?’ Neighbour-to-the-right pointed out a couple of likely places and a little investigation revealed a water pump dripping onto a very wet patch of wood. A little further investigation, and I had duly turned an intermittent drip into a regular, metronomic drip. I subdued my urge to panic while I tried to turn off the water, and then let it overwhelm me when I found that I couldn’t. So I went running back to neighbour-to-the-right who calmly switched off the water, and talked me through what I needed to do to replace the water pump.
Fast forward to today. A combination of work and Christmas fun meant that I have ignored the water pump issue, and that despite living on a boat – a place you would have thought water supply would never be a problem – I have been without running water as a result. But I could put off the job no longer and so got out my trusty toolkit.
About that. Who could have possibly foreseen that a pretty toolbox I bought cheaply at a music festival would not cut the mustard when it came to actual DIY? A borrowed screwdriver, a lot of elbow grease and an entire morning lost forever, and I managed to remove the old water pump. After all that, I couldn’t face trying to fit the new one (which might require ‘a little bit of replumbing’ thinks the shop-man. To his credit, he said that without any hint of suggestion that the job might be beyond me. That hint would have been more than justified.) so this is a tale in a least two parts – I’ll try not to keep you on tenterhooks for too long.

This blog post was brought to you by ‘Say you love me‘ by Fleetwood Mac.

DIY job number two complete

One more, and I think I can officially call myself a handyman (handyperson?).

This weeks challenge was double glazing the main living area of the boat.  Condensation has become ever more prevalent on the good ship Double Fracture, but the good people of the canalworld.net forums assured me (actually some other guy a couple of years ago) that there were some easy fixes.  These include not keeping the kettle on the stove, keeping a window open as often as possible for ventilation and double glazing.

I should point out (though even new readers to the blog will probably have already worked this out) that we are not talking UPVC here (I can’t even tell you what that stands for, let alone attempt to fit it).  What we are talking about is double-sided sticky tape (Blue Peter would be proud) and glorified cling film.  And the all important hairdryer.

My Dad and Martin had come over for a lovely day out on the boat, little knowing, that hard manual labour was actually on the cards.  Dad dried the windows, Martin cut sticky tape and cling film and then five of my windows got ‘double-glazed’.  I then delegated the fun job to myself, and hairdryer-ed the wrinkles out of the cling film.

Two days later, and the windows are still condensation free.  Plus I now have a drum-kit of sorts (it’s all good fun till I get carried away with a drumming solo and smash/rip the double glazing).

This blog post was brought to you by ‘Make me smile (come up and see me)‘ by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel.

A series of unrelated thoughts (well, unrelated except for their mutual relatedness to boats)

I thought I had started to get a grip on the heating.  I was wrong.  My olive oil has frozen.

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(The vegetable oil is hardier stuff, and would now be my cooking oil of choice if I ever get to go to Antartica.)

My neighbours have continued to exceed expectations.  General acts of kindness are commonplace, and my mystery guardian angel neighbour has struck again.  As I left the boat this morning, I noticed that the front end of my boat is moored with a particularly complicated knot – definitely beyond the capability of Captain ‘One-Knot’ Sanders here.  The centre rope has also been retied, and probably as a consequence my boat is still where I expect to find it.

And finally…..the festive season has reached Double Fracture.  After spending the whole weekend complaining that Christmas starts too soon and generally being a bit bah humbug about other people’s decorations (though still happy to indulge in a Skandinavian Christmas buffet – my Scrooge-ish-ness will never extend to food), I have cracked today and put up a tree.  And grudgingly admit that it’s pretty nice to have in the corner.

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This blog post was brought to you by ‘Ghost‘ by Ella Henderson (as it’s definitely still too early for Christmas music).

Christmas is coming

Tonight was the official judging of the marina Christmas lights competition (winner to be announced tomorrow).  Sadly Double Fracture will not be receiving an award as her owner still hasn’t got her act together on sorting out the essentials (like heating) letting alone the festive adornments.  But the marina does look great.

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However, as I was walking to my boat from the shops, I got talking to another resident, who moors his boat on the East Bank, and it appears that not everyone is taken with the lights.  He was (understandably) very annoyed as East Bank had just experienced a power cut – no lights and more importantly no heating for those without stoves (and he was one without a stove).  And here we were, the residents of South Bank, not only enjoying warm boats, but revelling in the frivolity of Christmas lights.  And almost certainly stealing the electricity that was rightfully East Bank’s.  (I may be paraphrasing slightly.  Quite a bit.  It’s possible revelry was never mentioned.)

Have I unknowingly moved into a divided marina?  An East egg/West egg for the modern boating day?  (Not sure the Gatsby parallel really fits, but it’s the only literary reference I could think of – other suggestions on a digital postcard please). And if so, are there star-crossed lovers (human or canine – both equally likely), destined for heartbreak, caught between the feuding banks?

This blog post was brought to you by ‘Love Foolosophy‘ by Jamiroquai.

A culinary experiment

Having a coal stove opens up new cooking opportunities, and I thought it was high time to start exploring these on Wednesday .  ‘Start simple,’ I told myself, and so the humble baked potato was my dinner of choice, with the aim of building up to more adventurous open-fire cooking such as chocolate buttons in bananas, and some day aspiring to brownies cooked in orange peel .

I learnt a valuable lesson.  It is very important to turn baked potatoes to achieve an even bake.  (Though in my defence this was never covered by Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood.)

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This blog post was going to be brought to you by ‘It’s time’ by Imagine Dragons, until I realised they have done a cover of ‘Not giving in‘.  So its brought to you by that instead.