Friday, November 17, 2023

Fire and frustration

Aware that we still had rusty patches on the hull that need needed scraping, sanding, de-rusting and painting, we returned to Kantara on Monday to find the marina under attack from a very strong, gusty wind. Squatting down to read the electricity meter on the pontoon, I was very nearly deposited over the edge. That was enough to tell me that the jobs were not going to get done. The rust patches I'd got as far as treating the last time we were there were okay, but still needing coats of paint. But it was most certainly not the the best weather for that.

Never mind. We'd committed to spending at least three nights there, so we resigned ourselves to frustration and made the most of it. 

One job that was outstanding (in the sense of "still to be dealt with", not of "excellent"!) was the Bubble stove. Whatever we'd tried, we'd not been able to get the oil to flow into the pot where it's burned. When we had a go this time, we failed again - unsurprisingly really, since nothing had changed since the last time we'd attempted it. In desperation, but with a flash of genius, Grace turned on the fan-heater and pointed it at the side of the stove, roughly where the fuel nozzle sits. After an hour of that, at least the boat interior was a lot warmer. 

We tried again. I turned the valve on, pointed a torch into the pot, and waited. Nothing...


A pool of diesel oil started to spread slowly out of the nozzle. All I had to do now was put a piece of  paraffin wax firelighter in the pool, light it, return the catalyzers and the flame ring, and voilà

Our extreme satisfaction was battered, however, when steam (or maybe smoke) started to pour out of the back of the stove. We opened the doors into the well-deck, then the openings in the cratch-cover, then some windows to cause a draught, then stood back to watch disconsolately.

We knew what was causing it. We'd had the stove disconnected from the central heating system a while back ("a while back" - have you noticed how the pandemic trashed our sense of time?) and the back boiler tank had been left in place. No doubt water was still lying in the bottom of the tank, and it was boiling dry - just how we wanted it to be. The smell was horrible, though, (anti-freeze in the water), and we kept our distance. Half an hour or so later it stopped, and we could close the doors and windows, and sit back on the sofa to enjoy the heat at last.

The "before" photo

The marina was very quiet. Very few boats were out on the cut, and those that weren't were deserted. We had the place to ourselves, it seemed. We did all the things that one is supposed to do to keep the boat going through a period of little or no use - checking oil levels, water levels, bilges, voltages, things to be tightened, things that need greasing, things that need to be cleaned. Who said boating's easy?

Feeling cheated by the weather, but nonetheless glad to have been there for a while, we returned to our house on Wednesday. We had some Nina-sitting to do the next day!

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Post Covid

Well, that didn't last long. Grace took a test when her symptoms had gone, and it came up negative. Mine was positive, but I had no apparent symptoms apart from fatigue. Five more days, and all was well. We were able to go to Nina's second birthday party!

At home, of course, there were things to do. No garden lies still when it's left alone for as long as ours had been. And we were not going simply to cut back and cut down. Ohhh no! Grace had long had a greater plan than that in her head, and this required a bog garden next to the pond and a new bed of mixed plants next to that. Oh, and new slated areas and paths around them. There's more to come...

Well, we've made a good start on that, but right now we're back on Kantara. She was due for her annual engine service. I say "was" because the man from RCR has just finished and left. So has Colin, our regular engineer who came to see why our water pump continued pumping long after the tap/taps had been closed. He's probably fixed it, so we're at the "wait and see" stage now. 

On Thursday we'll be visiting my sister, Jill, and her husband, Rod, whom we haven't seen for years. The thought of doing a bit of cruising while we were here has been crushed by an unfavourable weather forecast and the inescapable fact that there's still a lot of gardening to do if we're to avoid inclement late autumn and winter. After the visit, then, we'll be going back home. I might just get the time to wash the flipping boat roof yet again before we leave!

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Well darn!!

Grace and I have always shared everything. Today, on my 72nd birthday, she shared Covid with me! I've just tested positive. In fairness, it just had to happen, didn't it? We've not kept apart, so it was not a case of "will I catch it?", but "when will I?" But our symptoms are pretty mild, so we don't expect it to last long. The worst thing about it is having to keep away from others as much as  possible.

But I'm reminded that this might have happened to us while we were cruising and we hadn't had to return to the marina to get new batteries installed. Isn't it amazing how bad situations can sometimes turn out to be good? We're thankful.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Good timing, or what?

A week after we retuned to the house, Grace went down with some kind of virus; sore throat, cough, headache, fatigue. Covid? Nah. Where had she been, that she could contract that? In the Co-Op? In the boat with an infected electrician the previous week? Nah. He was healthy enough. We had no idea, but then there's no knowing what bugs you're exposed to when you're out and about is there?

She went to bed, head-achy, fatigued, tickly-throated and coughing. Covid? She took a test. Positive! Her symptoms aren't too bad. The worst thing is the tiredness. She's not had Covid before. Nor have I, but I seem to be immune. We're still sharing a bed at night, and I'm with her often during the day, but I feel fine.

But hey! How awful it would have been if this had happened when we were on the cruise we planned to do! Good timing, or what?

Kantara, you and the cruise can wait!

Friday, September 15, 2023

To cruise or not to cruise?

That was the question. It's been quite a while since I last posted on this blog, largely because our lives have been necessarily focused on our house and family, and our connection with Kantara has simply been an occasional quick visit to make sure she's okay. But I did say in that post that we had booked time provisionally for a cruise in September, and last week was the time we chose. The weather was extremely hot, the occasional rain was extreme, but we're boaters! Real boaters don't care about the weather, do they! Off we go then...

The day we arrived, we stepped off the pontoon down onto the well-deck, under the cratch cover. The thermometer there told us that the maximum temperature had been 56.4℃, and it was currently 31.9. Down in the cabin, the max was 35.8 and currently it was 23.7. Tolerable, but we opened doors front, back and centre, and allowed the gentle breeze of the through-draft to cool us. Time to look around to see what needed to be done.

The outside was the worst. Leaves, spiders alive and dead, and spider webs also full of leaves and spiders alive and dead were to be found in every nook and cranny. The roof was filthy.  When was the last time I'd washed it? July! It looked just the way I found it back then; sooty on top of stickiness. I feared for the condition of the paintwork under it.

"Hey!" I told myself. "At least she's still afloat!"

There were very few folk in the marina, and not many of the boats out on the cut. We put that down to the weather, and people still on holiday. The ducks and swans came to visit with their offspring, all of them almost ready to leave the family. I was surprised to see so many swallows fly-fishing as they swept low over the water. I would have thought that they'd be gone by now.

We were back and ready to cruise.

The heat continued through the day, and bed-time was uncomfortable, too. The early morning was rather cooler, however, and we hurried off to the local Co-op for provisions for our trip.

After the usual engine-check, and the checking of the diesel fuel for stickiness or diesel bug (all was well), we set off.

Cruising again after such a long time was brilliant. There were very few others on the water, the air wasn't too hot, and the canal was beautiful, as always. What a day we were having!

Until the bowthruster stopped working. And then the horn. We pulled over and moored to look into the problems. It didn't take us very long to decide that we had no idea why these failures had occurred. We could carry on without the bowthruster, though there's no denying that it can be very useful at times, but the horn was a different matter. They can be essential on bends or approaching bridges, and, equally importantly, it's illegal not to have one.

We turned around, skipper Grace demonstrating how to do that without a bowthruster, and we moored shortly afterwards. There was only one other boat on this lovely stretch of mooring, and we had a silent night there.

After a boaters' breakfast (fried egg, bacon and tomato sandwich) early the next morning, we set off again under a much cooler sky. We were in no hurry, we just soaked up the beauty of the scenery we were gliding through. Again, were were pretty much alone.

Back on our mooring, I phoned Simon, the guy who last dealt with our bowthruster battery some years ago, and told him our problems. He said he could look at it the following Tuesday.

Our own further investigations found that the horn was not working at all. It was defunct. A quick visit to Midland Chandlers resulted in a replacement, and we fitted it. We're legal now!

Then the battery monitoring system started to sound an alarm and show a red light, advising us of low voltage. The boat has six lead acid batteries. Which was/were faulty?? The 12v domestic devices - water pump, toilet flush, TV, shower pump, central heating, lights and fridge - were all working fine, so we just turned the alarm off and ignored the warning. There was nothing we could do about it, but the problem surely had to be the bowthruster battery.

To cut a long story short, Simon came on Tuesday afternoon and found that, indeed, the battery was dead; it was old, we'd had it right from the very start of our Kantara adventure. Then, when I started the engine for him to test a circuit, the starter battery died, too! Simon left with a promise to return within two weeks to replace the batteries. We're unlikely to be there at the time, so he'll do it in our absence.

The rain had poured heavily while Simon was with us, and carried on afterwards for hours. The next morning, I had a pleasant surprise. It had washed the roof clean for me!

We're back in the house now, looking at the garden and hoping the temperature falls soon. It'd be good to get all of these jobs done quickly enough to return to Kantara and do that cruise!


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Just a quickie...

I'm very pleased to say I now have permission to tell you that the writer of "Beggars' Dust" is actually Grace, my wife. C G Maskell is her pseudonym. So, go take a look on Amazon, read the sample, and buy the book for just £3.99. It's available for Kindle Readers or any device, using the free Kindle app. I've never read anything quite like it!

"A story of gods and their people. Or of people and their gods.

When history is suppressed or rewritten, when the stories of how-things-came-to-be are twisted or forgotten, then the people have no defence when events begin to repeat themselves.

A thousand years ago, a being of ancient evil was trapped, bound, and buried by the Elders of the Nerehin, the ruling class of that age.

Now, in a new era, where history has become the stuff of myth, the Nerehin forgotten, tales of good and evil consigned to children's stories; now, that old evil is stirring, waking, ready to begin spreading corruption and discord once more.

Driven by dreams and premonitions, one man, the last remaining scholar of long hidden Nerehin writings, conceives a desperate plan. Using the mystical 'amhrazine', stones that once were said to encapsulate the spirits of the Elders, he will recreate those heroes in children yet to be born, and when they are grown, they will come to him to learn of their task - their destiny.

But he is old, and the evil one is already moving to infiltrate and control the highest in the land, to thwart any who would oppose him, to wipe out any last vestige of the Nerehin race...

The scholar's death comes too soon; he is still unknown to his chosen children. Without him, can they ever discover what has been done to them? Or will the evil one succeed in crushing and vanquishing them before they have the chance to realize their true purpose and fulfil the task for which they were created?"