The Double Fracture Disco goes Brass Band*

The inaugural voyage of 2017 was heralded not by the usual pop music from a travel speaker, but by something a bit louder and, I like to think, classier.  Passing boats would have been serenaded by a sometimes in-tune, but more often squeaking, saxophone.  Maybe it was fortunate that it was January, and Double Fracture largely had the River Trent to herself.

A new year has brought with it new crew, and Steph was keen not only to get to grips with the locks, but also reacquaint herself with the brass instrument of her youth.  I still had a saxophone after a half-hearted attempt to learn as a teenager, and whilst Steph was a flutist primarily, she had saxophone-y ambitions also.

So there we were, making our merry way down the river, trying desperately to string two recognisable notes together, as well as make our lunch date in Beeston on time.  And look cool.  Our timekeeping was better than our music-making (and we were 15 minutes late), which in turn was more successful than the looking cool.  I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to play a brass instrument and maintain just the one chin, but it is not that easy.

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(That said, Steph pulls off the boating musician look annoyingly well.)

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Our lunch date was at The Victoria in Beeston with a fellow midwife, Annette.  And what a lunch.  This is food worth travelling at three miles an hour down the river for (it would also be worth getting in a car and driving 20 minutes for).  Smoked haddock and prawn lasagne with liberal dollops of cheese and crème fraiche is my new favourite dish, and will be burning in a boat kitchen near you soon.

Back on the river, I realised I hadn’t accounted for the sunlight.  It was an overcast day, so when the sun dipped below the horizon, darkness followed very quickly.  Happily, by this point we were chugging down the Meadow Lane section of the canal, and street lights lit the way.  And even more fortuitously, Forest had been playing that afternoon (and won – the stars really were aligning) and so the City Ground flood lights guided us to a mooring spot by the bridge.  Without them we would have relied on phone torches – I am not confident that puny ray would have picked out the mooring rings.

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Securely tied to the steps (or as secure as my knots get), we could get on with the saxophone encores.  I’m sure my neighbours will be thrilled to learn of my new hobby.  If I ever see them again.  The return trip is going to be without crew, just me and five locks not to drown in.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Baker Street‘ by Gerry Rafferty.  Obviously.

*Brass solo really

Start the year as you mean to go on

With a boat maintenance win.  (Or fail depending on how you look at it.)

Last night the diesel heater stopped working.  I knew it must have worked at some point that day as the radiators were a lukewarm when I got home, but it definitely wasn’t working anymore.  When I flicked the switch to bring warmth into my life, there was a whirring, a clicking, and then nothing.  (The whirring and clicking are supposed to be there – they are precursors to the really loud whirring that means the heater has properly got to work.)

I had another heater malfunction about a month ago.  That time there was no whirring or clicking either – the sound effects had disappeared along with the heater’s functionality.  I had panicked at this, turned to google for emergency help and phoned a random man who the internet claimed could help.  Lucky for me the internet had not lied, and Jason of Argonaut Boat Repairs  was the man for the job.  That time, a bearing on the fan had broken – a relatively inexpensive fix (a first for Double Fracture).

My first reaction was to send a panicked text message to Jason.  But then I thought ‘Hang on a second, you could just do what he did and solve the problem yourself.’  (‘Optimistic’, I hear some of you say under your breath.  ‘Idiot’ is what the rest of you might be thinking.)  So I did what Jason did and looked up the Mikuni troubleshooting guide.

I really like a flow chart.  A nice, no loose-ends, comprehensive flowchart.  And the good people at Mikuni seem to share my enthusiasm.  ‘Does the light on the on/off switch flash?’ was question one.  I followed the ‘yes’ line and got to ‘Is the diagnostics light on the control box flashing?’  This was not as easy as step one – the on/off switch is on the wall, whereas the control box is in the corner of the engine room behind a panel and a step.  However, my enthusiasm for seeing the flowchart through to its satisfying conclusion had me wriggling about on my belly and craning my neck to find the control box.  Another trip down the ‘yes’ line and Mikuni asked me to count how many flashes.

One flash.  This brought me neatly onto a new flowchart. ‘Does the water pump start?’  I assumed that was the whirring, and moved down.  ‘Does the air motor start after approx 40 seconds?’  The whirring does change tone a little and become a bit more screechy, so I went with my gut instinct and selected ‘yes’.  Does the fuel pump click?’ Definite clicking.  100%.  I am making short work of this flowchart.  ‘Does combustion start? (roar from exhaust)’ There was no roaring.  Time to follow the ‘no’ line.  ‘Check fuel is present.’

Ah.  A dipstick into the diesel tank suggested that fuel was indeed running low.  (How low?  My stick isn’t really equipped to give me that kind of information.  It’s due an upgrade this year, and by upgrade I mean felttip pen marks on it.)  With visions of completely running out of fuel in the middle of the marina whilst on a diesel run, and aimlessly crashing into several plastic boats and causing untold amounts of damage, I took  a risky decision to top up the tank in the marina.

This is taboo because of the risk of diesel spill and damage this does to marine wildlife.  But I thought this counted as an emergency (I was cold).  And I had just the jerry can for such an emergency.

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This can was bought ten years ago in Botswana as an emergency fuel supply for crossing the Kalahari desert.  Me and my two road trip buddies thought that crossing a desert sounded difficult and we would definitely need back up rations (which included 12 bottles of water, several packets of biscuits and 25 litres of diesel).  It turned out the Kalahari had a very well-maintained highway, with numerous fuel and food pitstops along the way. We didn’t come close to a fuel emergency.  This jerry can has been waiting a long time for its moment in the spotlight.  That time had come.

I carefully tipped the contents into the tank.  There was a tiny spillage, which started to expand across the water at an alarming rate – almost in the shape of an arrow to give away the culprits location.  I’m hoping the rain will dilute the evidence of my guilt.  Now back to the flowchart.

‘Does the heater now start and run?’  I flicked switch nervously.  There was whirring.  There was clicking.  There was a pause.  And then the really loud whirring started.  I triumphantly followed the ‘yes’ line. ‘Problem solved’.  A boat maintenance win.  (Is it really a win to let your boat run out of fuel?)  Happy New Year everyone.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Its the same old song’ by The Four Tops.