Black times 

This week has brought me to pastures newer and dryer, as Double Fracture is having her hull blacked at the moment. (In a dry dock. That was the dryer reference.)  This has meant many small alterations to daily life, including walking the plank every time I enter or exit my home (and no inviting tropical waters for me to fall in should I stumble, oh no, it’s cold hard concrete for me should I not pay attention or tie up my shoelaces.  But on the other hand, I walk the plank every day.  Brilliant.). I am currently only a 10 minute walk from work, which means I have been late for work every day so far. Disconcertingly, there is no gentle sway as I walk from the dining room to the sitting room, or wobble as I lurch on and off the boat. Just complete stillness. And the guys undertaking the blacking have turned off my batteries, which means it have no lights again. I don’t know why they have switched them off, but I am not brave enough to flick the ‘on’ switch in case they had a very good reason for plunging me into darkness, such as saving me from electrocution.

I had considered blacking the hull myself – I had read about it on the internet and it seemed like quite a straightforward job. And whilst I’m not ruling it out for future blacking events (it needs to be done every two to three years, so volunteers will be required on a semi regular basis), I’m very glad I took my mum’s advice and ‘paid a man to do it’. (I don’t think her sentiment was meant in the sexist way it came across as I just typed that. I’m sure paying a woman to do it would have been equally acceptable. Though there is quite a lack of women running boatyards.) Anyway, unsurprisingly it transpires there is much I don’t know about boat hulls and covering them in bitumen. (You’re not surprised. Neither am I.)

I had the obligatory conversation with the boat yard owner, in which doubt was cast over the robustness of my boat.  Electricity from neighbouring boats might be fizzing holes in the hull, he warned me.  And there was water in the bilges – there shouldn’t be water in the bilges (which directly contradicts what another boat professional has told me).  Had I noticed that my rudder wobbled?  (By this point my heart had sunk to about knee level; I gave it a shove down to my feet by asking him about the occasional fountains of water that periodically erupt around the tiller.  It was the face to face equivalent of three exclamation marks in a text).  However, none of the above was as disastrous as it initially sounded.

A job that had not been anticipated was removing lumps of rust from the side of the boat before it was painted.  I had an afternoon to spare and a willingness to help, thinking it might involve a bit of light wire brush work.  I was handed a hammer, and told to hit the hull really, really hard.  This is a piece of metal that is a mere 6mm thick.  Less than a centimetre of steel is the difference between bobbing along on top of the canal and languishing at the bottom.  And I was being told to hit it with force that would surely lead to punctures.  Once again I had seriously overestimated my own strength, and underestimated the substantial nature of Double Fracture.  I didn’t come close to denting the hull, let alone piercing it.  I did manage to send several small lumps of rust flying, which comes with no small amount of personal satisfaction.  It took me two hours to make my way around the whole boat, and was somewhat embarrassed when Ian then did the same thing in a fraction of the time.  (I like to think I did the hull-de-rusting equivalent of loosening the jar lid for him).

And so now all those unsightly blemishes are being covered up, and I’m assured that my home is actually in pretty good nick.  For now.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Semi Charmed Life‘ by Third Eye Blind.

The Narrowboat Olympics

Over the weekend, I have been lucky enough to watch two of tennis’ finest ever players compete, listen to England inflict a comprehensive Ashes defeat on Australia and read about the record attendances in the women’s Premier League.  So much to celebrate, but I have noticed the glaring gap in the sporting horizon – the lack of narrowboat involvement in any competitive arena.  And so I have taken it upon myself to suggest a few modifications to various sports to allow Double Fracture to show off her athletic capabilities (once she has wrapped up the FIP 2015 title).

Narrowboat cricket

In many ways, a narrowboat is ideally shaped to form a cricket pitch.  The air vents provide additional challenges for bowler and batsman alike, not to mention the rocking from side to side whenever either player moves.  The rest of the cricketing ‘field’ would be formed by a marina, with the outer fielders jumping from boat to boat, and the fielders in the slips on canoes.  Sky will be dedicating a channel to this.

Narrowboat tennis

One that can be played in the confines of the marina, or if you are looking for more of a challenge, whilst cruising down the river.  Four narrowboats will be required to sail in formation – one player will be on each of the outer canalboats, and will need to aim to make the ball bounce on the inner narrowboat closest to their opponent.  Serve-volleying is encouraged, and comes with a proportionally higher risk of falling in as you leap from outer to inner canalboat.  There should be a change of ends whenever a lock is reached.  It is anticipated that this will not be as well suited for television audiences as narrowboat cricket, but will pull in the live crowds for its dynamic play and scenic routes.

Narrowboat athletics

I feel that most of the track and field disciplines could take place on and around narrowboats with just a few tweaks.  Imagine Usain Bolt sprinting down the length of five narrowboats (ten for the 200m), having to carefully adapt his stride length to avoid tripping on mushroom vents and make a smooth leap from one boat to another without losing momentum (it may be a bittersweet moment for Carl Lewis to witness, as it would surely have been the event that he would have excelled at).  And how much more job satisfaction high jumpers would have knowing that instead of a functional but dull mattress to land on they would get to splash into the canal instead?  Due to a moderate risk of injury in each event, the heptathlon and decathlon titles may become competitions in which the last athlete standing gets the gold.  And staging the marathon and other longer distances might require the coordination of too many narrowboats to be practical, but as the sport increases in popularity, greater minds than mine can surely solve that problem.

Narrowboat rugby

Not for the faint-hearted.  The scrums in particular are likely to be brutal, and there will be minimal protective gear (unlike Narrowboat American Football, which will feature an uncountable number of fenders per boat).  Each boat will have a driver, and a player on the roof – should the player have the ball and fall in, then this will result in a penalty to the opposing team.    As with wheelchair rugby, each team will be expected to provide their own welder for emergency patch ups.  Expected to have a small but fanatical following initially, narrowboat rugby will command the respect of sports analysts worldwide as its grueling but thrilling nature increasingly gains attention.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Eye of the Tiger‘ by Survivor.

That moment….

When, after a modest but not insubstantial amount of celebratory beer, you are faced with crossing two boats to get to your own.

When life seems to resemble a computer game in which a frog jumps from moving lily pad to moving lily pad to get from one side of the river to another, avoiding sharks along the way (I’m sure that was a game from my youth, and the avoiding sharks part is not as far away as I might have hoped).

When you make it onto the first boat with a sigh of relief, and then realise you are rocking someone else’s home, and they have just noticed.

When you hastily leap onto the next boat, congratulating yourself mid leap for judging the distance so well, and then inadvertently giving another sigh of relief as you narrowly miss the rope that you didn’t realise was there.

When you finally make it aboard your own boat, and give yourself a congratulatory metaphorical pat on the back. It may be dark, you may be tipsy and there may be trouble ahead, but at least you can make it home in one piece.

That moment when you think the hardest and highest hurdles are behind you, and you trip over your front door steps and land in a anatomically confused heap on the floor. This is going to hurt in the morning.

This blog post was brought to you by ‘Come as you are’ by Nirvana.

The towering inferno

Several weeks had passed since Martin fixed the hole in my chimney with some fire cement, and it was looking very dry and hole-free (the same could be said of the remaining fire cement – some halfwit had not put the lid on properly and it was looking equally solid.  I doubt that halfwit was Martin.)  I thought it was time to put the fire cement to the test, and on a cooler day in June I re-released the pyromaniac in me.  It started promisingly enough – the paper caught fire at only the second attempt – so I closed the door and watched the fire cement intently.  I was watching the wrong part of the stove.

Smoke started billowing out of the door.  It was coming from around the glass and where the door met the rest of the stove.  Water was quickly thrown on the flames and windows and doors hastily opened.  (The fire cement had held up admirably, so the exercise did at least meet its initial aim.)  My smoke alarm remained resolutely  silent, even when wafted around in the foggy kitchen.  (The test button did make the ‘everything’s-OK-here’ bleep when pressed afterwards, so at least that bit is working.)

On closer inspection, I thought perhaps the rope insulating the door and the glass pane was getting a little worn, and could well be the cause of my woes.  A little proud of my powers of deduction, I bought the fire rope (and after prompting from the sales lady, the glue to actually stick it in place) and thought no more about it for a couple of weeks.

That is until Benjy and Hats came to stay, and I included this story in my compendium of amusing boat anecdotes for evening entertainment.  Oh, how we laughed (and slight concern was raised about my lack of functioning smoke alarm).  Later Benjy lifted something off the top of the chimney, and mused whether the chimney rain cap might be the cause of my woes.  I had to concede that it is possible that an item forming a near airtight seal over the exit spout intended for fire fumes may well have had a part in the smoke finding an alternative means of escape.

So tonight I tried the fire experiment again, this time without the rain cap .  There were flames, there was smoke, and none of it in the cabin.  And all without any need for fiddling with rope (which would surely not have been stuck in the right place, and caused the problem I was trying to fix).

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Jimmy Mack‘ by Marth Reeves and the Vandellas.