Late up today, a bit of a lie in. The defining wake up moment was a buzz on the phone stating that ‘My delivery would be between 08:41 and 09:41. Very precise and potentially in 15 minutes time. Then, the remembrance that an Engineer was to visit. He going to come and suck the residual water out of the bilges with a wet/dry vacuum, spurred us into motion.
Speaking of motion, there is very little on the boat. We are tied off well onto the pontoon and the marina acts like a harbour. There is the occasional sense of motion, when looking at other boats moored next to us, as they move back and forth slightly. It’s nice though.
The parcel arrived. It was a big box. It was heavy. I left opening it until later.
I opened the parcel. The excitement of a pro-level tool (I know, I’m easily pleased) was dashed as, upon opening the box, stroking the superfine Makita case, to my horror: the label said Drill! It was the wrong tool – completely. They had sent a drill and not a Multi-Tool – I have drills! It did look like a really good drill but it was not what I wanted and not what I had ordered. I now had all the issue of contacting the company who passed me off onto their Amazon Seller (a seemingly separate part of their company), contacting Amazon, waiting… It went on and still does. The upshot was, I had no Multi-tool – No Gear, No Idea.
Mu started some washing and then moved onto some more interior painting. I was planning on checking the engine bay, filling the water tank again (wanting to keep on top of things this time ), find out about diesel and purchase some diesel conditioner. The plan then was to clean the other half of the bathroom (we have a walk through bathroom: shower to port, toilet to starboard). I had cleaned the shower area yesterday. The best laid plans…
I had just connected the hose to the ‘welded on’ tap adaptor when a marina employee asked if we would be ready to move in 10 minutes. Move? As in actually start the engine? And steer and stuff? We were moving out of the work area (which was becoming busier by the hour) into a more suitably residential area of the marina. This was good news and sooner than expected. But still, move the boat? I don’t know…
Moving on Up
I abandoned the water tank fill, got into the engine bay (as I’d planned to do, just not to move the thing). It had been a year since I had done anything remotely boat-related but I did remember
Check the bilge and turn the stern gland greaser
Check the weed hatch was sealed
Check the engine oil
Check the engine water
I also had to turn off the 240 volt appliances, switch off the battery charger/conditioner and unhook the shoreline hook up (most important). The ignition sequence of this Isuzu Marine diesel engine was the same as the BMC Diesel in our previous boat. It started first turn and with the guy from the marina, I cautiously backed Silverdale out of the bay. I turned it around and moved it the whole couple of hundred yards to Pontoon 13. Silverdale eased in between ‘Purple Witch’ on one side and ‘Old Toby’ & ‘Capricorn’ on the other. Capricorn didn’t look like it had been lived in for quite some time and exuded a ‘Ghost Ship’ aura. We were loving our new mooring. The beauty of it was that the pontoon was now on the port side so we could get to the windows here now and clean them.
With the impromptu move accomplished (deftly I might add), we had to empty the toilet cassette again. Again? We only have one cassette and the marina Chandlery was only open until 14:00 (and they controlled the important Elsan key) so that was the next task.
A Walk, There and Back Again
The weather was great so we decided to go for a walk. Up the Buckby Flight from Buckby Bottom Lock (Whilton) – Lock 13 to Buckby Top Lock (Buckby) – Lock 7. This is a lovely stretch of the canal. It has a Cafe at Lock 13, a small shop in the middle selling canal art & brasses and ice cream and a pub (The New Inn) at Lock 7 (currently closed due to restrictions) – the perfect walk!
Back aboard Silverdale, the reluctant cook started making a Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie. Perhaps with hindsight, this should have been pre-prepared prior to the walk. Gordon Ramsey came out looking like Snow White! I will do more cooking but at present I’m the sandwich king, tea master and coffee barista. Our new mooring gives us a much more interesting outlook. There are multiple boats and ducks that frequent an as yet unused pontoon. The nearby but ‘not too close so as to mess up your boat’ Silver Birch provides a pleasant aspect and a perch for various birds. There’s even a small Pear tree starting to bear fruit.
We awoke to Sun. Well, it was Sunday. We ordered a Simploo. As you do. As discussed previously, we have a cassette loo at present but the composting loo presents a greener option. We were also hoping to get a little more mileage out of it, as it were. We had decided upon Simploo a while back during discussions. Its has a simple design, a small size and an affordable cost – we feel it’s fairly priced. I’ll review more when it arrives.
At 10:00 Whilton Marina Cafe opened, its second day of socially distanced takeaway. We walked around to the door of the cafe which is now the counter, in the sun. An employee with full visor and gloves took our order of two Vegetarian breakfasts. While we waited, we shut the lock gates for Tim whose narrowboat was towing the Butty Bakewell.
The Socially distanced Full English (Vegetarian) breakfasts were fantastic! Served on bamboo plates in cardboard boxes to keep them warm with toast on compostable plates and tea & coffee in disposable paper cups – all recyclable. We sat at a table by the side of the Cafe, by ourselves in the sun. We chatted, at distance to Stuart who was walking Hettie (his dog) about the local Cruising Club for Whilton boaters past and present (Old Whiltonians?). It was a pleasant Sunday morning. the proprietor of the Cafe came out to check all was well with the meal – as always, it was.
We thoroughly recommend Whilton Marina Cafe and are so pleased with its attention to detail to social distancing and green credentials. The Cafe’s location by the Buckby Flight Bottom Lock makes it an ideal stop for walkers, cyclists, boaters and Marina locals alike. I can see we’ll spend quite some time there (we’ll need that Simploo) 🙂
A day of cloud and rain showers interspersed with sun. If we had been at sea, they would have been squalls. It was a fitting setting for a trip to Thetford. As anyone remotely conversant with narrowboaters and narrowboat life knows toilets are a common and frequent topic of conversation. I say conversation* I suppose more akin to discussions between Celtic/Rangers supporters or Liverpool/Everton supporters. There is rivalry shall we say. And yes, there is more than one type
Pumpout – think of a slurry/holding tank meets Mr Dyson‘s worst nightmare
Cassette – no, not the music format of the ’80’s but a small box that fits into a toilet-like affair
Compost – conjuring up the garden idyll of everything coming up roses, except that it’s your waste
We didn’t actually travel to Thetford. We currently have a Thetford Cassette toilet. It looks brand new. It looks like a normal toilet right up until the little indicator thing on it goes from green to red. Then it becomes a pain in the somewhere a lot lower than the neck.It’s a simple affair to empty: turn the toilet around, fiddle around looking for some kind of release mechanism (I wore gloves) and lift out the cassette. Could I do this? No!
I eventually found the catch (after Mu had cranked up YouTube – be careful what you search for) but it wouldn’t budge. It turns out I had the flap open rather than closed (could have been fatal if I had forced it). Flap closed, it came out with ease. It was heavy. We drove around to the sanitation point (Elsan point). No point in struggling by foot, parading what you are doing if you don’t have to 😉
I have carried out the above procedure before in the past. It’s not for the squeamish but after cleaning commodes for a living at one point, it’s old hat. With the cassette back on the boat, I cleaned it to within an inch of its life and clipped it back in.
It’s Simploo Delightful
Mu and I have decided we are going to get a composting toilet. We think the Simploo suits our style. A composting toilet separates fluids from solids, at source. The fluids are more easily emptied, the solids dry out (shrinking down by 80% of their original volume and can be bagged and binned. If you are interested in more detail (no, not that kind of detail) this YouTube video is the one to watch.
So, next time you go to the toilet, spare a thought for us. Oh, maybe not.
On loftier news, our oven shelves and oven grill pan arrived today – no more singed arm! The sun came out later after lashings of rain and we went for a walk along the canal towpath. It was windy but gorgeous. It meant that afterwards, we could sit out and enjoy our evening meal on the stern. Still using the baking tins.
The wind stayed into the evening. The trees by the canal swayed in their uppermost branches and the water rippled past between our boat and the one moored next to use. It gave the feel that we were were on a river. the clouds glowed pink against a blue sky and the sun fell.
*The ‘discussions’ on the merits of the different types of narrowboat toilet are fiercely debated and opinions are rigorously held.
Twoses – doesn’t have the same ring about it but I’m going to make it a thing!
Mu spent most of the day looking for a ring (not the one ring), to connect the water filler cap key, so I don’t drop it in the canal. It’s innthe lock-up somewhere…
We insured Silverdale today. It’s a lot easier than insuring a car (cheaper), we have belongings cover included. We used Collidge & Partners as we used them before to insure our previous narrowboat: MIRRLESS. We feel better now.
I discussed yesterday’s incident with the lost nozzle with the Marina Office and they said they would get someone onto it. A little later, true to their word, Tim knocked on the roof. I explained the novice boater mistake . He went off to get a torch (a long thin one). He came back (phew!). He looked in the tube then went off to get a tool or implement or something. He came back (double phew!). I left him struggling to retrieve the nozzle from the pipe. There was little help I could provide. After some time, a hand pushed open the door, holding the offending item. It meant success! I just can’t thank Whilton Marina enough – thank you Tim.
I continued filling the water tank (without the nozzle this time). It filled much quicker with the obstruction removed. The nozzle was consigned to the spares box. Everything was back up and running and working as it should. Oh, I fixed the horn! A bit of sandpaper on the terminals, re-connect and the horn tooted! We can go in tunnels and warn oncoming boats they are about to ram us or vice versa. Does this qualify me as a Marine Engineer now?
For evening repast (we skipped fourses) we had barbecued pasty- unintentionally. The oven is an Indesit gas oven. It’s full size, fully functional and really pretty good. All except for there being no oven shelves or a grill pan. It makes using it tricky. Toast is effected by holding slices of bread in a frying pan, under the grill by hand. The frying pan we have, while not cast iron certainly feels like it in weight when you hold it at arms length for any length of time! I have no hairs left on my right arm due to singing. The aforementioned pasty had to sit in the trusty baking tin (it’s a multi-functional marvel). The trouble with this was that the tin was in direct contact with the base of the oven. This is also the source of the heat i.e. gas flame. The pasty cooked quickly but with a black base. Charcoal would be a good descriptor.
We have now ordered oven shelves and a grill pan.
Nineses – a cup of tea and a chocolate from the box in my hamper. Then off to bed to officially read Lord of the Rings (I’m inching my way through it).
It was overcast to start with. Then it started to rain. It has been so hot and sunny so far that it was quite a shock. Work defined the day. That was until I got a call to explain I had to take an unpaid two week break to satisfy regulations. Hey ho! There’s plenty to do on Silverdale – as I was about to find out.
In the afternoon, we drove up to the marina office on our way out, to B&Q to collect what we had clicked. At the office, a package had arrived for us, so post is getting through. B&Q is in Northampton, a nine mile drive: scenic route there , ‘A’ road back. This was interspersed with me queuing in the rain in a queue of one, me. Collecting what I’d forgotten we had ordered and it transpiring to be three blinds and what looked to be 25 gallons of Brilliant White emulsion! Mu had ordered the large or rather gargantuan pot. It brought a whole new meaning to supersize me. We have enough paint to cover all the narrowboat interiors in the marina!
Back on Silverdale, the water pump that had worked flawlessly since it had been switched on started to run for longer when we ran the tap. Water flowed but it stayed on for longer. It hit a point where it just stayed on. I flipped a switch (that skill coming in handy again). We surmised it was that the water tank was running low. I unpacked the new blue, food grade, flat water hose and stepped out into the forward well deck. It was raining.
I connected the hose to the tap, unravelled the flat hose and connected the nozzle to put into the water tank inlet. Said inlet was opened via a white plastic key type thing, designed specifically for the job. I turned on the hose at the stand pipe which was just at the end of the pontoon, by the path. Water flowed, forcing the flat tube into a tube shaped tube and then, the hose shot off from the tap. It had left the attachment on the tap, the tubing coming loose from the collar. I fixed this by pressing it into the crimp and tightening the collar. Water was back, flowing down the pipe. A fine mist sprayed from the tap/attachment interface but nothing too onerous. Now back to the business end.
Water was flowing into the tank via the inlet pipe. I knew this was the correct location as it had a sign: Water, not Pump Out (don’t go there) or Diesel so we were on the right tank. I was stood in the drizzling rain. Suddenly I was soaking wet! The pipe had pulled out of the inlet and was flailing about, like some angry blue snake. Worse still, the nozzle was nowhere to be seen. I managed to wrestle the snake into submission and then check the inlet. My worst fear was confirmed, the nozzle was at the bottom of the very long inlet pipe into the tank. With no way of getting it out! The tank could still be filled but only very slowly due to the added constriction.
The good news was that some water had made its way into the tank and the water pump now cut in and out as it should. Low water causes the pump to be used more. To cap it all, the cap on the tap for the hose to connect to, it wouldn’t come off! It was as though I had welded it on 🙁 I went in to change my wet trousers.
I did have another try at filling the water tank (very slowly) but it was cold and still wet so I abandoned it until tomorrow.
I didn’t fancy watching Waterworld so we watched an episode of Breaking Bad and suddenly, the hose pipe incident seemed trivial.
Water reflected light skittering of the roof interior of Nb Silverdale. Another glorious day. Coffee on the forward well deck.
Mu used the washing machine today. It is a Superbrite AGP1445 Twin Tub washer spin dryer and is a 240 volt machine (not 12 volt as we had originally thought). After a thorough cleaning and pouring of excess water, from the hose onto the carpet, the wash went well. The tumble was started, just as I answered a call from work. The tumbling started out as more of a grumble and built into a full blown argument. It thrashed and banged. At the same time a high speed train shot by on the line, up above us, on the embankment. Then another shot past in the other direction. Mu realised she hadn’t put the little ‘hat’ (her word) onto the washing, as it span. This reduces the noise to whisper levels. I was falling about laughing, trying to keep the call together.
I don’t think Matt on the other end of the call knew anything about the chaos at this end. If he did, he didn’t let on. Priceless!
After washing, the excess water has to be drained into a bucket. As we are only using small amounts of nature-friendly washing products, we can empty the bucket straight into the canal. You are allowed to empty grey water into the canal as it does not affect the wildlife.
The washing machine now sits toward the back and to starboard, next to the steps – in readiness for its next wash and tumble. It’s tucked out of the way until next time. For a small footprint in both size, water requirement and electrical usage, we recommend it. With its little hat on.
The Dawn Chorus is loud. It is also very early. I don’t know the exact earliness (it obviously varies depending upon the Dawn). I didn’t (couldn’t) get my phone out to check the time but it was early. Too early. Early as in ‘I’ve just gone to bed, closed my eyes and here’s the Dawn Chorus’ early.
After getting up (after being awoken by the Dawn Chorus – not that I’m bitter) we went to the Chandlery. This is going to be a regular occurrence due to it being a small food shop as well. We were greeted by good news – the Whilton Marina Cafe, which is just next door will open for takeaways this coming Saturday – yay!
Today is my first workday – post retirement but not really. Working remotely, everything is working. It is a beautiful day once again. We have the louvre windows open to extract a breeze where we can (I love the louvre windows). In the background, the droning sound turns out to be Silverstone and not a bluebottle (Silverstone race track is not too far from here). Once you realise this, it’s quite comforting in a way).
We’ve Got Mail
A Birthday card from my team arrived. It had a narrowboat on it which was nice. A large Retirement card arrived also. It had a large (too large) picture of me on it, taken at Uffington White Horse last year. A smaller image of me on the back was taken at Dartmouth and Nb Silverdale pre-overplating adorns the inside. These were pulled from my Social Media feeds. I never thought they’d be put to such clever use – thank you Simon.
After work, mu and I went for a walk around the marina. The Buckby Flight Bottom Lock is literally just off the marina basin. Nb Darth Wader was just coming down through 🙂
The evening meal was partaken out of baking tins as our plates were still in the lock-up. We could have walked over there but it was hot and the route is very dusty, due to its crushed hardcore nature. Think of it like going to Glastonbury Festival (a sunny one, not a wet one) but without the music or the Cider bar or the village. We rolled up the stern cover to let in a breeze and a view of the marina – tranquil waters. A duck sat quietly on the end of the pontoon we were moored to. It had found an idyllic spot.
Just a quick fridge and freezer update – they weren’t working but now they are (see Moving Aboard Silverdale). Both the fridge and freezer are Shoreline products and were kindly fitted by Whilton Marina before our arrival. They are 12 volt appliances and so run directly off the batteries efficiently (hopefully). 12 volt appliances are a lot more expensive than their 240 volt counterparts. For reference and the stats geeks out there, we have
Shoreline RL 102 Larder Refridgerator 12/24vdc White
Shoreline RU 102 Upright Freezer 12/24vdc White
Both fridge and freezer have settled in well. A little too well! The fridge is cool. Supercool! In fact, the cider cans were frosty. The back of the fridge was glistening with ice crystals like something from the ice queen’s castle. It will need defrosting every other day at this rate!
Time passes – a eureca moment dawns…
Panic over. It seems that we were turning the dial in the ‘Arctic Expedition frozen most northerly point’ direction, rather than the ‘sunny Bahamas beer fridge by the beach’ direction. It’s calmed down now. We won’t have to de-frost every other day 😉
I heard ducks in half sleep and awoke to a vibrant day. It promised to be just as wonderful as yesterday. It was cool and pleasant, thus far. We had mugs of tea (yes, we had the wherewithall to achieve this). Mu pottered, arranging and re-arranging or I should say squirrelling stuff away. She has it down to a an art form. It wasn’t the works of art I was hoping for but useful – nevertheless.
Time Stands Still at The Iron Hill
Cleaning was the order of the day and would be for multiple days. We were obviously adjusting to non-house living. It involves a change in mindset, from instant everything to instant nothing. It is a challenging but rewarding transition to make. Canal time is a thing. It is mooted as: an appearance of time passing slowly, slower than experienced in a town, say. Here on Nb Silverdale time stands still! The clock’s battery had run out . It’s second hand, stuck in place flicked like the clock had a nervous tick. Time is forever a quarter to twelve.
Cleaning continued briefly and then we made our way to the chandlery. Whilton Marina Chandlery is a cornucopia of narrowboating miscellany but most importantly, it sold Thatcher’s Gold! We purchased a cap for the top of the boat’s stove exit. We will eventually get a chimney (the old one died and had been resigned to the scrap heap) but the cap would stop the rain getting in and ruining the Squirrel’s beautiful newness. However, we were not expecting rain, nor lighting the stove anytime soon. We also purchased some Thatcher’s as it would have been rude not to.
It was now sweltering. We also purchased some WMC Non-toxic Toilet Fluid. We had bought both the cap and fluid last time we were here with MIRRLESS in 2018. We had lost the cap early on in our journey as I veered into overhanging foliage. Cap number one is at the bottom of the Grand Union Canal somewhere. When the fluid ran out, we could never find anything as nice to replace it. As we plan to stay here a while, we should be able to enjoy both for longer.
The day was hot. The electrics were still not working (no amount of switch flipping had worked). Chris: a Whilton Marina employee was on duty over the weekend (although the Marina was officially closed Saturday & Sunday). We had met Chris last time we were up and had chatted. Having discussed our woes of no water and no lights, he offered to take a look. This would be after seeing someone out of the canal, via the diesel pump, to set off for London and blacking a boat. This was a tall order as the afternoon was moving on.
Meanwhile, the heat continued to rise, the sink continued to stink and the lights continued to not work.
The people for London left, the boat for blacking got blacked and Chris, true to his work came by. At the stern of the boat (the technical end) he assessed what we had. He decided to start the engine: an Isuzu Marine block. He turned the key in the ignition. It started! This was good news. We had an engine! It also meant at least the Starter battery was working. After head scratching (he scratched his head, I scratched mine. After all, we were socially distancing and it would have been inappropriate to scratch each others) it was decided to flip the fuse box switches. Each switch was in a green state and we flipped them to – white! Not red as expected. We tried this first with the Horn fuse – but nothing. We tried one more – the Lights fuse. They worked! We tried the Water Pump fuse, the water flowed like a river. The Water Pump kicked in. We tried the Tunnel Lights (there were two), one worked and one didn’t. It didn’t matter Everything was working. The new fridge and freezer purred into life once the switches were thrown.
Life had gone from Bronze Age to Post-Solar System Travel in a few flicks of switches – life was good. We rejoiced. Our choice of narrowboat had been vindicated. Thanks Chris.
Chilli, rice and Cider on the stern, under the canopy – our first meal. Afterwards, we went for a walk around the Marina, up over the bridge that spans the mouth into it. The sun started to fall, it was a little cooler now. It had been a successful first day in marina life.