Feeling hot hot hot

Let’s set the scene.  It was a beautiful day on the Nottingham and Beeston canal.  All he necessary ingredients were there – blue skies, sun, snacks and good company.  And a boat.  Me and my crew of four were taking a lazy trip back to Sawley after two weeks ‘wild boating’ by Sainsbury’s.

We were not far from Beeston lock when I heard a beeping noise that was unfamiliar.  I checked the inverter, which seems to beep periodically for a reason I have not yet worked out.  But it was not the inverter.  And then I saw the red flashing light on dashboard.  It appeared the engine was overheating.


So we moored up by the bank, hammering stakes into the grass to hold us steady.  Initial inspection of the engine revealed it did seem pretty hot.  Running at about 80 degrees is normal, though the thermostat was now showing 100 degrees.  My personal heat sensors are not so finely attuned that I could tell the difference.  I was about to take the cap of the coolant tank when I remembered that it would possibly be full of boiling liquid and releasing it would not help the situation.  Underneath the engine appeared to be a blueish liquid – it looked and smelled like antifreeze.  I probably had a leak.

We decided the best thing to do would be to make a cup of tea, eat some biscuits and ignore the problem for an hour.  It has often proved a fine plan A with previous boat problems.  The engine had cooled somewhat by this time, and I took off the coolant cap.  There seemed to be a decent amount of liquid in there.  I had a look at all the pipes I could see (having no idea which were cooling pipes, and which were other kinds of pipe) and could not find any obvious leaks.  I was beginning to suspect I could not fix this myself.

So I gave up and called River Canal Rescue.  I had not been a member for a couple of years and so had to pay a fee to get someone to come to look at the engine.  There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing about this – they initially said 2 hours, and then they said the next day (by which time I would be elbow deep in placentas at work*).  I played the ‘two-small-and-grumpy-children’ onboard card, and they reluctantly agreed to send someone that night.

The engineer who turned up recognised me.  The last time he had come to my boat he had found the hole in the engine that had put a similar-sized hole in my savings to fix.  He checked the antifreeze, checked the pipes and ran the engine for a while to see if it was overheating.  And couldn’t find anything wrong.  Not a sausage.  He said as far as he could see I should be able to get home just fine.

So there was nothing else for it.  I went to the pub**.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Feeling hot hot hot‘ (obviously) by The Merrymen.

*Not literally.  It sounded like a pleasing phrase when I first wrote it, though now I am reconsidering its aesthetic value.

**And for those concerned about my wellbeing, I got back to the marina incident-free a couple of days later.


Two weeks in the wild

I felt like I needed a break from the marina.  There are many pros to living in a small community, but over recent weeks I had found I was becoming increasingly antisocial (not in the ASBO way, in the pretending-to-talk-on-my-phone-to-avoid-small-talk-with-real-people way.  I am approaching expert level at faking phone conversations.)  So me and the good boat took a trip down the river to my favourite mooring spot outside Sainsbury’s.

It was only meant to be for a couple of days, but I was enjoying myself so much (relative anonymity, 5-minute cycle to work, easy access to baked goods), I decided to stay the full two weeks.  Bliss.  However, it was not without drawbacks.

Hot water as the first.  In the marina I use the shower block (have I mentioned just how great the showers are?) and boil the kettle for the washing up, so a lack of hot water in the summer doesn’t really matter much.  (I only have hot running water when I have run the engine or the radiators.)  However, it matters a little more when that means the only local showering option is decidedly cold.  There’s only so long I can convince myself that is character building.

Second is washing.  I have no convenient onboard laundry facilities.  (The sink seems arduous and messy, the river seems counterproductive.)  I have just enough underwear to last two weeks (if I didn’t I wouldn’t be admitting it here), and I ended up wearing scrubs a fair bit at work when I ran out of uniforms.

During the two weeks, I had planned to go away for the weekend.  Not a problem in the marina – it is the most secure place I have ever lived.  But I was nervous about leaving DF unattended just moored up by the canalside in a public place.  Luckily, two friends volunteered to check in on her while I was away.  Emily (of Stuart the Swan fame) said she would swing by on her way home to check everything was in order.  Richard (of broken lock fame) offered to stop in and make a cup of tea to make the place look lived in.  I was much reassured and skipped off to Wales.

I didn’t tell one about the other.  I got a text from Emily saying there appeared to be someone on my boat.  (I didn’t get this until a day later when burglars could be long gone.)  And Richard reported hearing an odd conversation between two passersby, who were surprised that someone seemed to be on board.  The boat was still there when I got back, so I think Em’s public announcement of the non-emptiness of my home worked a treat. As did the actual non-emptiness of my home.

The last issue was that of the fridge.  Without mains electricity, all my appliances were being powered on the solar panel alone.  Which could just about handle three hours of fridge time.  Milk turned to yoghurt in no time at all.  At least I was only 20 metres from a supermarket.

The two weeks in the wild were lovely.  But I don’t think I’m quite ready to move out of canalboat suburbia yet.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Just Can’t Get Enough‘ by Depeche Mode.

The pupil becomes the master

Most of my boating career, I could accurately be described as clueless.  But over the course of the last couple of years I have been slowly accrueing clues and other titbits of knowledge.   So it was a proud moment a few weeks ago when I got to show off my burgeoning expertise. (Too much?)

I had enjoyed a charmed day so far – I was single-handed heading down the Trent but both Sawley and Cranfleet locks had been manned, much to my great relief.  There was only Beeston lock left to negotiate, and that one is easy to moor up at and not that deep.  My favourite kind.  I was just heading into the lock, when a small group of people asked if I would like any help.


“Umm, what do we need to do?” they asked.  My heart sank a little.

“We’ve just bought a boat, and need to learn about locks,” they continued (they spoke as one, clearly).  My spirits rose a little.  This was my chance to shine, to become a narrowboat font of knowledge.

So I talked them through closing the gates and closing the sluices.  I remembered this time to tell them not to let go of the windlasses (last time I told a crewmember what to do the windlass nearly went flying).  And then, with childlike excitement, they worked out all by themselves what needed to happen next.  I considered getting out of the boat to help, but I decided it would have ruined their fun.  So I carried on drinking my tea as they dashed about the lock for me.

They thanked me as I drove out the lock and I tried to look gracious and wise.  (It’s not a well-practised look for me, so who knows how it turned out.)  I then realised I had forgotten to tell them to close the gates behind me, and felt slightly annoyed they had only done half a job.  Had they asked for feedback and not just disappeared, I would have given them a C.  Passed, but only just.

I think I’m going to make a mediocre boat teacher.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Doctor Doctor’ by the Thompson Twins.