In came the snow and ice in 2021. Is it cold on a narrowboat? Yes, it’s bl**dy freezing when it’s sub-zero temperatures outside, it’s first thing in the morning and the stove’s gone out!
However, once the fire’s lit (third time lucky , fourth time lucky…), the Webasto is fired up and we’ve got thick jumpers on, it’s lovely.
To be fair, we had plenty of warning. So, we had stocked up on coal (smokeless fuel) for the stove and diesel for the Central heating.
I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of snow and cold. “Everything looks so beautiful”, “I love a walk in the cold”, “It’s so invigorating”. I’m more “We’re gonna need more coal and diesel – it’s going to be expensive”, “The towpath will be un-traversable due to the mud”, “When’s it going to warm up?”.
But, for the sake of dispelling my churlishness, here are a few images. They are from the Marina, as in came the snow in 2021
The snow has all gone now, it never hangs around long and some warmer weather is among us.
A visual documentary of our last journey of the year lol! We move to get fuel, out of Whilton Marina, onto The Cut (sort of) and back – a few hundred yards. Perfect day for it tho’ – no wind, no rain and no boaters (The Buckby Flight is closed for repairs). She handled really well, we really enjoyed moving Silverdale.
Well, I ended August by locking myself in the Marina loo!
I had trouble unlocking the door to get in, getting out was near impossible. The key wouldn’t turn in the lock, no matter how hard I tried. I poked the mechanism with my key and continually tried the key many 10s of times but It wouldn’t budge. I opened the small window and waved and shouted to the Office which was mere yards away but to no avail. Eventually, someone else came to the door, unlocked it easily (I must have doe all the hard work and freed it up) and I managed to escape. I did let him know and the Marina Office and I obtained another key, just in case it was at fault.
No further lock-in episodes.
It turned out to be a glorious month weather-wise. There was sun, warmth and little rain. The mornings were colder but nothing too onerous. We purchased more gas in the form of a large orange cannister from the Marina Chandlery. I drove the old, empty cannister around and drove a new, full one to the end of the marina path. From there, mu and I manhandled it, rolling it along the path and nearly into the canal! Lifting and lowering it into the gas locker aboard Silverdale required Herculean strength. I had to slowly lower it, into the locker, not wanting to scape the beautifully finished inside. It had been cleaned and blacked by the marina before we bought it. The trusty Gas Spanner, purchased last time I had to do this worked a treat and gas was back up and running.
Beside the Seaside
This is also the month we made progress with our project. We’re making a game: Beside the Seaside. It’s going to be a pixel art seaside side scroller and beyond.
mu is busy creating pixel art. I’m learning to use the game engine we’ve chosen for this project and documenting it.
It’s our virtual visit to the seaside. You can follow progress here
We also met with Mark, a boat electrician who used to work at the Marina but was now self-employed – Weedon Narrowboat Services. He came to evaluate our electrical setup to see how we can solve a problem of flickering lights and diminishing 12 volt power. We’re hopefully going to upgrade a bit, bring it up to date.
He’s returning in October to replace the batteries and install a new Solar Controller. This will give us more visibility into what’s going on.
We’ve been watching Rain and Borgen on Netflix and had a lot of Drive-Thru coffees to keep us sane in these crazy Covid times. We also got a new, new Spin Dryer (don’t ask) and a new monitor.
Well, that’s about brings things up to date for September. It shot by but we got a lot of stuff done. October’s calling…
Well, we found two actually and when you’re living on water, the last thing you want is more water, in the form of a leak!
Friday 10 July and it was sunny, after three days of rain. Listened to Barclay James Harvest on vinyl. As it was a non-working day it meant I could do that type of thing.
The cratch cover cup feet we had ordered arrived (two were missing, presumably lost at sea canal). This meant we could put up the front cratch cover (soft canvas, no cratch board). This is important as we have no scuppers in the front well deck. This means that when it rains, the water gathers, has nowhere to run and consequently rusts the metal decking. We had it partially erected but rain gathered in the droop of its top. With the frame up, this would hopefully be taught and the rain would run off (no more trying to tip it off and getting soaked through). Success! It’s not my favourite look and we reserve the right to change to a hard cratch board and canvas cover in the future.
We went into Daventry and sat outside, at a socially distanced table at Coffee Number 1. This is the first time for over three months we have been to a coffee shop, sat down and enjoyed a cup of coffee – takeaway cups, masks before and after and lots of hand gel. How things change.
Out With the Old
Out with the old chair, in with a new one. The old one was too big and it wasn’t adjustable. I ordered a gaming chair – it is something to behold. More on that in a later post.
Leak Number One
Wednesday 15 July saw a potential change in fortunes – we found a leak! This one was under the sink, in the bedroom/bathroom area. It must have been there for some time as lifting the old carpet (it needed lifting as it was old and horrible and was going to be replaced), found a small amount of moisture. There was a tiny leak, a drip from the water pump. Me jumping in would have turned a drip into a flow so I consulted with the Marina Office. Once again, they were extremely helpful and would send someone to check it out for us.
A couple of Marina mechanics arrived, knocked on the hull of Silverdale and Tim proceeded to address the pump leak. After a look, a walk back to the workshop and return with an O-ring and some grease, the problem was solved. The leak was resolved and it has been bone dry to this day.
Leak Number Two
On to leak number two. The second leak was actually the first we found but was addressed after leak number one, hence leak number two.
Leak Number Two was in the front well deck. On top of the port gunnel is the water tank inlet. From here, a pipe leads down into the water tank. We had no idea the type of tank as it is completely sealed away and thus, inaccessible. Down in the well deck, a pipe comes out of the deck and out, through the hull, into the outside and canal. Or at least it should. This pipe was the water tank overflow outlet. It had corroded with age and when filling the tank, excess water leaked into the well deck. So, even when it’s not raining, the sell deck gets to rust! Barry took control over resolving this issue. It was a thorny one.
The reason the issue was a thorny one was that the pipe was short and badly corroded, leaving little in the way of being able to weld to. Worse still, his evaluation showed the inlet pipe would at some point go the same way. That ‘some point’ would be sooner rather than later. However, deciding upon what to do needed a view of the tank and this was hidden away, behind panelling, inside the boat. The well deck floor, as far as could be seen through the rust was sealed and impregnable. Inspection would have to be from the inside. Barry called in Adrian- the resident site woodworker.
Eve of Destruction
Adrian brought a multi-tool with him (I’ve got one of those). As it was getting late in the working day, he decided to cut a small inspection hole – simple. Not so. Behind the pine panelling, thicker boarding was revealed (from the boat’s Anglo-Welsh days we think). After a lot of cutting, a small part of a tank was revealed. This was good news as the existence of a tank meant the water wasn’t held integrally within the hull.
With very little to see, it was decided to call it a day and return first thing in the morning to cut a larger inspection hatch, after removing the steps. All mu’s hard work on painting the panelling a pristine white looked like it was all going to be undone.
A Window on the World Beneath…
Thursday 16 July saw Adrian arrive early (just as he said he would) to remove the steps, cut through the panelling and then through the older, thicker boarding. We had a window on the world beneath our well deck. This revealed a stainless steel water tank – hurray! This was a result. Barry returned with Tim. Adrian nearly disappeared into the hold but thought better of ‘full immersion’ as he would have probably have got stuck. It seemed strange to see legs and feet sticking out of the front of our boat where the steps had been.
Barry commented on the ‘novel’ pipework around the tank but set to coming up with a solution to our overflow outlet pipe leak. A welder was called in to cut both the outlet and inlet pipes and then Barry connected flexible hosing. A new outlet via a new skin fitting (higher up the boat) was made by Tim, leaving the old skin fitting as a hole to be welded over at a later date. It was a neat solution that would mean years of trouble-free water tank filling. I do admit, there is a bit of work I need to do in fixing up all that rust 😉
All Finished and Then Nothing
After tidying up, the water pump was turned back on – nothing! We ran the taps – nothing! Basically, after worrying, fiddling about and worrying some more, it all suddenly worked. It was most probably an air lock.
Adrian would return the next morning and fix the boarding and steps, leaving the access hatch easily accessible – just in case…
Phew! We had found a leak! Well, two in fact but both were addressed by Whiton Marina and we couldn’t be more grateful – fantastic job guys.
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.
We got up early to face the packing of the car in readiness for moving. It took a long time. A VW Golf is not that well known in moving circles, it’s not the ‘go to’ vehicle. It strained and groaned at the extra weight after being used to its minimal aesthetic. With the task eventually completed, we set off approximately on time, as planned. However, we had to fill up with petrol and then stop off at the Chemist. We finally got off and drove slowly so as not to shift the load. The route was familiar and Guns and Roses accompanied us as we made our way to Northamptonshire.
We arrived at 15:00 and met Harvey of Whilton Marina by the socially distanced window. “How different from when we were here doing this last time”. We had been here in 2018 at approximately the very same time purchasing Nb MIRRLESS.
Paying for Nb Silverdale was simple (too simple). Just like that we owned a narrowboat again! It was a beautiful baking hot day. We were told Silverdale sat at a pontoon by the workshop and was ready for handover.
Whilton Marina via Harvey had purchased a flexible, food-grade water hose, on our behalf as the Chandlery only opened until Midday due to Covid-19 restrictions being in place. We would have had to go through the weekend without a way of filling the water tank. They kindly refused payment for it! A nice boat warming present but it wasn’t the only one.
Unbeknown to me, my team from work had arranged for a hamper of delights to be delivered – a Birthday/moving aboard present 🙂
I felt we should have been piped aboard but it doesn’t work like that. We drove down the drive by the marina and pulled up just outside Silverdale. Down metal steps to the marina-side, and onto the pontoon, The windows were open, the doors were open and a faint breeze blew through from stern to prow. We stepped onto Nb Silverdale – home. Our Nb Silverdale. Stepping down through the open doors, the new Morso Squirrel multi-fuel stove, replete with fire bricks gleamed black in the corner, by the entrance.
We shunted bag after bag from car to boat, the VW sighed and relaxed. It was still hot and continued to be so into the late evening and eventually, our things were aboard. So far, so good.
It became apparent , very quickly how clueless I was regarding the dark art of boat electronics. However, before I enter into the murky world of bespoke narrowboat electricals, I feel I have to mention the sink. I believe it is in part allied to the electrical as will become apparent. To cut to the chase: it was blocked. No problem, we were prepared. We had a plunger and to hand. Big mistake!
That Certainly Doesn’t Smell Like Teen Spirit!
The plunger brought up foul-smelling ichor, as though from the depths of Davy Jones’ Locker (straining the metaphor as it’s a canal and not the sea but you get my meaning). Now this would have been fine, had the plunging released the blockage, to be flushed away by flowing water. There was no flowing water. This was due to the sink being connected to a Whale Gulper (don’t ask) and said Whale Gulper requiring electricity to run. What we were now left with was the whole boat smelling as if something had died aboard it. Quite some time ago.
The 240 volt hookup was working – we could plug anything we liked in: vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, Laptop, curling tongues, juicer, grill… You name it, we could plug it in. However, the lighting and the water pump runs on 12 volt and that wasn’t working. I flipped switches and flipped them back again, I really did. Nothing happened. The Dodo had more life.
Our new, gleaming 12 volt fridge and 12 volt freezer we had purchased and had the marina install on our behalf, cooled nothing. They weren’t on. They were 12 volt. I flipped the switches but nothing.
If you need someone to flip switches, I’m your man.
After the Cool Hand Luke locker-like stifling heat of the sun, its descent, as evening came was welcome. However this bought a new challenge: the lack of light. We started to bumble around like moles with no whiskers but our trusty torch saved the day. We had used this on our previous boat: MIRRLESS and it had never failed to illuminate our way.
And So To Bed
The bed. Ah, the bed. The mattress we were to discover, although extremely comfortable, resembled an 8-piece Tangram puzzle, with multiple solutions. All of which didn’t just quite fit correctly.
It was very quiet and peaceful. Lights at the marina provided a subtle illumination. I managed to snatch a few paragraphs of Lord of the Rings via torchlight before the day had faded into sleep.
Just got news that the stove aboard Nb Silverdale has to be replaced – with a new one!
As part of the Boat Safety Scheme certificate, the multi-fuel stove comes under its purview. Ours fails as it’s not up to scratch so, Whilton Marina are fitting a new one. They are awaiting its arrival and it may delay the move aboard but this is good news.
A stove forms an integral part of the narrowboating experience, it becomes the heart of the boat. Whether it’s burning foraged wood, smokeless coal or briquettes made from recycled waste wood. Only a small amount is required to warm a 50-something foot long, 6 foot 10 inches wide metal tube. Its temperature can be regulated by using the vent in conjunction with a thermometer. It results in a smaller footprint of use.
We’re thrilled it’s being addressed and we get a new squirrel as it means we probably have another day for that final preparation.
Yesterday saw us hire a van, load it with our worldly possessions and drive up to Northamptonshire – to our soon to be new home. The reason? To deposit said possessions in a locker, in readiness for moving next week.
In under a week we purchase Nb Silverdale if all goes to plan. So, with little to no time to effect a move, due to Coronavirus mayhem we headed to the shire. It was the first time out for a long drive in a long time…
We were up early on a bright sunny morning that was forecast to be cloudy with showers. We picked up a van from goselfdrive.com in Frome, a totally no contact, socially distanced transaction. The Ford Transit Custom was upgraded to a bigger Ford Transit but we weren’t complaining, we had stuff to haul. I stalled it on a roundabout on the way back to load it but apart from that, it drove really well.
Loading took place in the bright, hot sun. Better than in the forecast rain but it was hot work. A break for a cup of tea and a yogurt replenished the lost body fluid. then back to it. A second cup of tea, a few final items, then we were ready for the off.
Coffee Stop, Yes There Was One
We set off at approximately 11:15. We stopped at Solstice Services in Amesbury and Costa were selling socially distanced drive-thru coffee and a cinnamon bun – Cinanabon! Refreshed, we drove on and on and on.
We arrived at Whilton Locks and the marina at 14:00. All was good. We obtained a locker and then spent an hour doing the exact opposite of what we had done back in Wiltshire, we unloaded the van of all our worldly goods (well, most of them. Some things had forgotten to pack themselves).
We hired the locker for one month. I felt like a character out of The Sweeney with an East End Lock-up. We were lent a fat-off lock which had me spending 10 minutes trying to figure out how to lock up the Lock-up. With the unloading eventually all finished and locked up, we drove around to the marina car park and went to pick up the receipt/agreement.
The fridge and freezer we had ordered had arrived and were scheduled to be installed in readiness for our move aboard. Things were getting real! A parcel had arrived.
Whilton Marina Cafe was closed due to Covid-19 restrictions therefore we went and sat in the van and had a sandwich . Looking out across the marina, it was then that we realised this was to be our new home. It was quiet, peaceful, with birds singing – idyllic. Oh, apart from the trains thundering past on the nearby high speed line. Ah well, with Covid-19 restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, at least there might be less of them for a time 😉
The drive back was uneventful apart from the services being closed and us being unable to source a coffee or a tea. We had to wait until we were back. Tea was welcome as we unwound from the run by watching a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad. I tried to draw some parallels between our plans and the series. Thankfully, I couldn’t!
Time inches nearer the move aboard Silverdale. It is going to be our home sweet little home. The boat is vacant possession so we can move our possessions aboard when we arrive.
Homes come in all shapes and sizes: from mansions to micro-flats and they come with varying degrees of craftsmanship. Some houses are ugly and some are beautiful but rarely do you come across one as exquisite as this one from nature
mu found this ‘home’ in the garden, on the path at the foot of a tree. It had obviously fallen out. Hopefully it had been used and the birds hatched then, fledged. It is so perfectly constructed with moss, hair, twigs and even a small piece of plastic. It’s using recycling!
We believe it may be the nest of a Long-Tailed Tit, small and as mentioned, exquisitely formed. However, they are usually bottle-shaped with an entrance hole rather than open. If anyone knows, please let us know in the comments.
If we can make Nb Silverdale anywhere near as comfortable and beautifully appointed as this home sweet little home, we’ll be happy. We certainly can’t complain about space…
Time is on our side – it just doesn’t seem like it at the moment. We’ve been waiting and have been extremely patient throughout these uncertain times. It can’t have escaped anybody’s notice (except the couple who had been at sea for months and had missed all the news) that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused havoc with plans. Whether of men or mice.
Time has ticked inexorably on like a one-handed Grandfather clock and much of the anticipation of our purchase of and move to Nb Silverdale has had to be stifled. We make plans, not daring to hope they will come to fruition in our desired time frames. We have purchased items and packed them away in readiness. A dialogue with Whilton Marina and especially Harvey via email and phone (keeping more than the 2 metres social distance required) has been kept open.
One thing that helped jolt time out of its complacency was an email from Harvey on 30 April 2020. It contained a picture of Nb Silverdale overplated, blacked and *anodes added. Thanks Harvey!
A lot of things have to come together for the purchase of Nb Silverdale and timing is important. The uncertainty of when, can be a great disabler. We press on, with our goal in mind hoping against all hope. However, through all this we do have time. Time to prepare, to think, time to reminisce. We’re trying to make the most of our time.
The Stones recorded it aptly in Time Is On My Side
*Anodes: sacrificial anodes are chunks of metal welded to the underside of a narrowboat (or other metal-hulled boat). They are a different metal to the hull and as such, erode in preference to the hull. We welcome this 🙂