Safe and sound?

“Do you feel safe on your boat?” is a question I get asked a lot.  Most people are referring to the probably-easy-to-smash, single-glazed windows, or the less-than-savoury reputation some canalside areas have.  No one, so far, has really considered the possibility that the boat might be a carbon monoxide haven, or that the fire extinguishers might have lost their pizzazz when called into action.  Happily, it is a requirement that all boats have a safety check every four years to make sure they are fit to be called home.

I have never seen Double Fracture through a Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) before, and was not sure what to expect.  The very long lost of checks was daunting, filled with technical language and some things I was pretty sure, but not 100% certain, that I didn’t have.  Neighbours to the right had recommended a local boat examiner, and said that he was very thorough.  I was nervous.

The one thing I did know I had to do in advance was secure the gas bottles in the front locker.  The locker had come equipped with a long bar to keep the canisters from sliding all over the place when on the move, and had never been attached since I bought DF.  (In my defence, everyone else is doing the same thing.  I’m just following the crowd on this one.)  However, having recently fallen off my bike and battering my knee to the point of needing stitches, kneeling on the side of the boat to fix the bar in place was no easy task.  And it was also bucketing down with rain.

After much swearing and grinding of teeth that seemingly simple job was hopefully completed to examination standards, and I was so exhausted that I decided to wing it through the rest of the list and have a cup  of tea.  I mean, I’d made it this far in one piece – the boat must be reasonably safe (and idiot-proof), right?

Marc, the friendly neighbourhood BSS examiner, got straight to it when he arrived.  No time for tea or chitchat, there were fuel lines to check.  I found this reassuring.  Even more reassuring was that all the diesel was in the right place and not in puddles under leaky pipes.  Likewise, I breathed a sigh of relief when Marc confirmed all the fire extinguishers should still have their va-va-voom if faced with a small inferno.  The electrics seemed to be in order, and the fireplace was up to scratch, so it was just the gas to go.

Whilst I had adequately fixed the gas bottles in place, I had not connected both of them to the pipes – only the one that was open and in use was hooked up.  Turns out this is a safety no-no, and so there was more swearing and grinding of teeth as I made a meal of a very simple job.  Gas bottles connected, Marc went about checking the lines and the hob.  All present and correct and burning gas as efficiently as they should.  Double Fracture was nearly at the finish line.

“Your ventilation appears to be blocked,” Marc announced.  Hmm.  We unscrewed the ventilation panels on the front door and found that there were two very carefully cut out pieces of cardboard that perfectly fit the ventilation spaces.  “That could kill you,” said Marc as he threw them in the bin (lest they be replaced for insulation purposes on his departure).  I made exclamations of shock and innocence – I had absolutely not put them there and had no idea it was so serious.  (Helpless female to the fore once again.)

I did not tell him that I had known they were there.  When I locked myself out of the boat a few months ago, the ventilation panels were removed in the breaking-in process.  I had assumed that if the cardboard was there, it must be an essential piece of kit (long-standing boaters had put them there after all).  They were carefully replaced and screwed into place, and I didn’t give a second thought as to why the panels in question were called ventilation panels.  But Marc doesn’t need to know any of this.

Now Double Fracture was fully ventilated, Marc was happy to sign her off as safety compliant.  And I am now far less likely to have an emergency admission to A&E with carbon monoxide poisoning.   That’s one productive afternoon.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Stand By Me‘ by Ben E King.

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