Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Monday - Wednesday: Three days of challenges and pleasures

Initial project report continued:
On Monday we travelled from the top of Aston Lock to Mercia Marina. On Sunday we left Sawley Marina and travelled to Aston Lock. It is fortunate, I hear you say, that we left yesterday morning from where we ended up the previous night! That is true, and given the amount of wine consumed, it was pretty amazing. Last night we moored up in Mercia Marina (for free!) as we have an electrical problem to be sorted – more below.
Financial Update
The capex budget has taken a bit of a thrashing what with new batteries, and sundry other items (life ring*, life jackets for river wear, lump hammer, a claw hammer, a set of screwdrivers and spanners, lots of stuff for the galley, towels and sheets, plus bedding from Argos that arrived before we did), and an as yet unidentified amount for fixing some electrical hassles.
Milestone Status:
First cruise on the river:  Accomplished Sunday on the Trent from Sawley Marina with Jan and Dave C assisting, providing coaching, advice and support.  It’s big, it’s wide and flowing, and would be great fun in a jet boat or on a jetski, but it’s imposing in a long, slow, flat-bottomed narrowboat. Status: Clean trousers all round
First series of large river locks: Accomplished with minimal loss of face and embarrassment. These are very deep, very boisterous with large torrents of water coming in, particularly  from the gate paddles, which boats need to keep well back from to avoid being sunk by an influx into the forward welldeck. It was great to have Jan and Dave (both for us and some hirers that we shared locks with) as they could explain the sequence and speed (very slow and gentle) for raising the paddles to avoid disaster. Status: Green
First (and we hope, only) electrical drama: At one point on Monday, when we had the washing machine going, we stopped the engine to take on water at the water point. In that magic, unexplainable way of electrics, the whole system shut down – without warning, without permission. Status: Grey and red : gloomy and cross We were fortunate that, at the water point, there was a guy, Mick from Planet Boats, who phoned ahead to Mercia Marina to organise for us to get some assistance. He said MM was about two and a half hours away. Status: Amber with optimistic yellow showing through as we were reassured the problem would be solved. That 2.5 hours assumed trouble-free cruising. But no:
The Worst Weedhatch Wraparound:  If you haven’t narrowboated before you won’t be aware that a) canals seem to attract a huge amount of rubbish (not sure how it arrives – the evil band of rubbish fairies perhaps?), and b) the rubbish is inexorably drawn to the prop shaft where it insinuates itself round and round and round, and c) I don’t stop as soon as I notice the resulting change in steering performance when I am on a mission to get the electrics fixed.  
The upshot was that David spent almost an hour, bum up, head down, in the weedhatch removing a shopping bag’s worth of black raffia-like plastic strips from around the prop shaft. Photographic evidence exists. Dave C held the engine cover up, so it didn’t drop on my beloved, I got a deckchair out to so I could watch the action in comfort and offer encouragement and support – all done with absolute sincerity – if it wasn’t David doing the clearing, guess who it would have been! Result: zillions of brownie points for David. esp given that there was no water (no electrics means no pump, means no water …) so he had to clean up using wet wipes – hardly a manly finish to the operation. Please note though, that brownie points in a quantity approaching infinity have a half life of about 8 hours, i.e. any bad behaviour will have a blind eye turned to it for said 8 hours, and over the following 8 hours it’s a return to normal… Status: Red through Amber to Green.  Next action: Purchase a long handled tool to cut through the rubbish and release it from the shaft.
Clarification of Waka Huia’s electrics:  When we arrived in Mercia Marina we met two fab guys, Justin and Ian,  who in their respective roles as manager of Aqua Boats and marine electrician/engineer, provided much relief and reassurance. It turned out that a switch had melted – it was rated 100amps and should have been 250 amps at a minimum. A temporary fix was effected to get power back to domestic side: water pump, lights, fridge, freezer. We’ve had two nights here as on Tuesday, Ian did a proper repair and connected the batteries as a bank rather than as two separate. He has also explained the set up (notes have been taken) and we now feel a lot more confident in the viability of the electrical system. Status: Approving green from white with anxiety (Fingers are still crossed)
Mel’s charm effect: He is still a wonderful conversation starter, so he earns his keep, smilingly sitting in the life ring, which is attached to one of the mushroom vents with a redundant NZ power cord. I do explain that he doesn’t poo and doesn’t eat.  Status: Yellow
Brass polishing: Started on cleaning the mushroom vents on Tuesday arvo – they are looking decidedly dark brown. It will require several applications of Brasso and lots of rubbing – may be delegated to the first mate. Status: Verdigris with glimpses of brassy yellow
Naming of the boat:  The name produced by Peter Muller’s DAC team has not yet been affixed. I need a day that is calm in all aspects – warm, still air, and I need a calm demeanour – the latter is probably the most important factor... From the comprehensive instructions I received it sounds as though the task is akin to wallpapering outside with the additional complication of removing a backing paper first. Mmmm. At the moment, while I am not at my best in handling this boat, it is probably a good thing to be a bit anonymous – can pretend to be Australian that way … Status: Waiting.
Visitors:  Our dear mate Lesley (aka Old Darned Sock) is visiting today and bringing her dad. We are meeting them at Willington, hopefully lunching a the pub and, if it’s not precipitating too much, we may take them on a little out and back cruise.
Cooking:  Joe, I am recovering my memory for cooking – I did worry that after 3 years of your excellent rock star chef meals I would have totally forgotten how and what to cook. Fear not, it is coming back! When Dave and Jan were here we had B&B fruit salad and cooked breakfast each day. I made bread and cheese tart on Sunday morning, and over the last three nights we’ve had roast chicken and veges; cottage pie; and fusilli and passata with veges and sausages. All yummy. Yesterday I made pikelets for the workshop guys and took them over with cream and raspberry jam. Also made Ministry of Food cheese scones – if you haven’t tried them, look them up on-line. They are the world’s absolute best cheese scones. And if you don’t have full cream milk, put in a couple of tablespoons of plain yoghurt (or cream) to fatten up the milk.
First pump out: Politely known as the black water tank, but more commonly referred to as the poo tank – this morning, before we set off, it needs to be emptied. We have bought the token, read the instructions twice – status update later!

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