*@#%ing &$£!

Today one of the engineers from the RCR came to oversee me servicing my boat engine.  An exciting day.  When we took off the floorboards of the engine room to reveal the engine, the first thing I noticed was a pool of oily water under the engine, ruining my cleaning efforts from a couple of weeks ago.  “I think I might have an oil leak,” I casually remarked.

The engineer did a little investigation, shaking engine structures that definitely did not look like they should be shakeable.  And the reason they were in their current non-stable state, and the reason my engine was spitting oil everywhere, was that there were five broken or missing bolts on the engine.  There is a flipping hole in my engine (which apparently looks like it has been there for some time).  I didn’t realise you could get holes in the engine.  Turns out, there are far more places in a boat you can get holes that I ever thought.

So let’s recap the holes in Double Fracture so far.

At number 1, the most recent find, the hole in the engine.  This hole likes to spray the engine room with oil and make a see-saw out of the alternator bracket.

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At number 2, another recent find, the hole in the stove collar.  This is the hole most likely to cause carbon monoxide poisoning (though I’ve been told the physics involved means that once the chimney heats up then it won’t really leak any more fumes than the door, as all the gases will be drawn up and bypass a hole that low).  This is also the hole most likely to be given a cheap fix with gauze and boat silly putty.

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Hole number 3: the most expensive hole so far.  The hole in the calorifier, which caused the second cessation of running water on the boat.  However, it did give me a greater understanding of how my hot water works on the boat so wasn’t all bad.

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Hole number 4: the hole in the floor I made myself on the advice of the CanalWorld forumites.  Definitely my favourite hole of the lot, and now comes with its own wooden spoon.

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And finally hole number 5: the water pump.  That was back in the days when I still took running water for granted, and assumed that the only thing a leak was proof of was a sinking boat (let’s hope I never write a blogpost in which that’s part of a list).  Water-pump-gate knocked out my taps for at least six weeks, but it gave me an enormous sense of wellbeing to fix the problem (almost) by myself.

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This blogpost was brought to you (appropriately) by ‘Holes‘ by Passenger.

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Orange chocolate brownies

A couple of months ago, I decided to live the dream and try to make chocolate brownies in my stove.  The results were edible, but not spectacular:

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Overfilling the oranges was clearly a problem (portion control is not one of my strengths), and the texture was more like a boiled or steamed pudding rather than a brownie.  It wasn’t the chocolate orange brownie revelation I was hoping for.

A couple of months later, Bekky was looking for a way to use a couple of leftover Christmas chocolates (spherical in shape and orange in flavour), and a chocolate orange brownie challenge was embarked on.  Based on a Green&Blacks recipe, this was a brownie worth the type II diabetes it may lead to in the long term.  (No photos as it just didn’t last that long).  This is roughly what the recipe was:

  • 300g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark chocoate
  • 200g orange chocolate
  • 4 large eggs
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 150 dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • juice and zest of one orange

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.  Line a baking tin with greaseproof paper.

Melt the butter, the dark chocolate and half the orange chocolate in a heatproof bowl suspended over a saucepan of barely simmering water.  Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together in a bowl until the mixture is thick and creamy and coats the back of a spoon.  Chop the remaining orange chocolate into bitesize pieces  Once the butter and the chocolate have melted, remove from the heat and beat in the egg mixture.  Sift the flour and salt together, then add them to the mixture, and continue to beat until smooth.  Stir in the orange zest and juice.

Pour into the roasting tin, ensuring the mixture is evenly distributed in the tin.  Sprinkle over the chocolate orange pieces evenly, pressing them into the mixture.  Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the whole of the top has formed a light brown crust that has started to crack.  This giant brownie should not wobble, but should remain gooey on the inside.

Leave to cool for about 20 minutes before cutting into large squares while still in the pan.  The greaseproof paper should peel off easily.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘I can’t help myself‘ by the Four Tops.

Boating costs: the good, the bad and the yet to be discovered

“Living on a boat must be cheaper than living in a flat.”  I hear this a lot.  (I did think it before I started doing research into boat living.)  And the truth is I’m still in the process of working this out.  However, this week, I have had two bills land on my floating doorstep which tell contrary stories about the cost of life on the canals.

I got my first quarterly electricity bill, and I had been a little worried how large this was going to be.  Have a guess. Go on.  I’ll give you a clue; it was not in triple digits.  OK, I’ll give you another clue, it wasn’t even in double digits.

£7.40 for nearly three months electricity.  Granted, a lot of this time I didn’t have a battery charger, I didn’t have running water and so wasn’t using the water pump, and had a few weeks away on holiday.  Even so, I would go so far as to say I’m thrilled with a utility bill for the first time ever.

But before you get too jealous of my cheap living, let me tell you about the other bill.  My calorifier had a small drip on it (I have been warned off calling it a leak, as this apparently makes it sound like I will wake up one morning soon to find water knee-deep around the bed) and so I got the brilliant Jim of Jim’s Mobile Marine Services to come to look at it.  What initially looked like a simple case of a weeping immersion blanking plug (his description; mine was more along the lines of ‘that round brass-looking screw at the bottom’) has turned out to mean a whole new calorifier.  £700 just for parts.  Sigh.  (And it now means, that once again, I am without running water till it gets fixed.  Normal service has been resumed.)

So some good, some bad.  And the undiscovered:  as I was writing this post, I noticed smoke escaping from my stove at the side.  Which I’m pretty sure is not meant to happen.  Closer inspection reveals a hole in the chimney – I don’t know if that has always been there (or if it’s part of the design even) but I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to pour out smoke (slight exaggeration) into the cabin.  The learning curve continues.

This blog post was brought to you by ‘Sunny afternoon‘ by The Kinks.

The start of spring cleaning

Last week was not an easy week, and when the going got tough, my boat provided me with a welcome distraction.  I had been putting off the task of cleaning the engine room ever since the survey recommended I clean it (to enable me to better assess whether the engine was leaking).  There was a lot of unpleasant-looking water underneath the engine and in the bilges, and it seemed like just the kind of awkward physical labour I needed to divert my focus for a few hours.

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One of my friends, let’s call her Bekky, is currently moving out and so provided me with lots of old clothes, particularly socks, to use as rags.  The socks proved to be particularly useful; I used them as mittens over my gloves (warning, shameless plug approaching: Unigloves, the finest gloves for the dirtiest jobs.  I don’t think that’s the actual tagline they use.)  This proved to be a great way of scooping out the muck and soaking up the water at the same time.  And boy, was there a lot of muck.  I told myself that it was just excess engine grease (as my stern gland is in desperate need of repacking) and tried not to think of what other things were a similar colour and texture.

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Under the engine itself, it just appeared to be oily water.  One of the very useful canalboat forums out there recommended nappies as a good way to soak up excess water, and they haven’t been wrong yet.  In my line of work, I come across some pretty messy nappies.  They are nothing on an engine nappy.

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A couple of hours later (and aching thigh muscles; I now know why people give up living on boats after spending decades on them – there is only so much engine cleaning your back can take) and I was reasonably happy with my afternoon’s work.  Whether the engineer who is coming to oversee me servicing the engine in a couple of weeks shares that opinion remains to be seen.

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This blog post was brought to you by ‘Cassy O’‘ by George Ezra.