Friday, 15 August 2008

Day Thirteen- Load of old bilge


River Thames

0 miles, 0 locks

In which the Duck and its crew have another Day Off (this time enforced by the river), visit the lovely town of Abingdon and spend much hard earned cash in the local Swindlery, before playing host to Maffi and Bones once again.

Another day off- and another lie-in! This time there was a reason. The Thames was still Yellow Boarded- the EA don't advise navigation. We could have gone, but it was far more sensible to stay where we were in Abingdon and explore the area, stocking up with some useful bits and pieces. Bones was also at work, but would be returning later- so we wanted to wait for her to return.

We're right on the end, the last narrowboat- Maffi's boat, Milly M, is third on the left, as we moved back into an empty space in the morning.

The morning was spent relaxing and reading. We used the well deck properly for the first time- an airer full of washing was drying, but there was space enough for us both to sit in the folding chairs and put our feet up. There's space, if one positions the chair correctly, to sit in the gap between the well for the doors and the gas locker, looking out through the open doorway, and having a prime view of the river.

After a nice lunch of cheese on toast (with posh cheese and herbs, Amy should really open a restaurant!) we headed into town. There's a profusion of charity shops, and we visited several, but didn't see anything particularly worth buying. We did visit a large tat shop, buying several packs of biscuits (labelled "99p value" on the pack, with a price tag of 35p- can't say fairer than that!) along with some baskets for tools and wood, and to generally keep the boat tidier. We also bought several pairs of tights and some cat litter. I'll reveal the purpose of these two items soon- in the meantime, I'll keep you guessing...

This coot had nested just in front of Abingdon bridge.

On the way back, we visited the Swindlery- sorry, Chandlery. There were a number of things that we needed. We only had one lifejacket in the boat- which could have led to difficulties had things got serious- and so another was an essential purchase; we managed to get a manual one for £54. We also had no chain for the anchor, just a rope.

To work properly, an anchor needs to be horizontal along the bed of the waterway. To do this, it needs to have a heavy line to the boat- often, a length of chain is attached to the anchor and then this is attached to a cable or rope.

Our anchor is really too small for the boat, but new ones are highly expensive- so we improvised. We bought 5 metres of very heavy chain (at £4.25 per metre) to make our inadequate anchor sit squarely on the bottom and increase its effectiveness.

Why an anchor, some people might like to know. Well, the Thames is a big river, and should the engine stop (which, given that the intake blocks with depressing regularity, isn't entirely impossible!) then we can anchor ourselves securely so as not to be swept towards a weir or into a bridge pillar, until we can fix it or get help.

We also bought a few other bits and pieces. Amy wanted a belt for her trousers, and rather than pay £9 plus for one in town, we made one! Simple really- a metre length of webbing (in red, yellow and blue- the same colours as the Duck) and a buckle later, and Amy was the proud owner of a belt that co-ordinates with the boat (or should that be vice versa?) for the princely sum of £2.50.

The rest of the day was passed in cleaning, tidying, and generally relaxing. I chopped up a lot of wood from the pallet that we found into useable lengths, so we now have a coalscuttle full of 9" by 1 inch square (approx!) bits of wood, and a basket full of smaller pieces to start the fire.

We also put the tights and cat litter to use in cleaning the engine bilge. It was full of a fantastic cocktail of engine oil and water- hard to get rid of. We poured cat litter inside several of the (knee-high) tights, and knotted the ends, to form highly absorbant sausage-shaped "bilge socks". These were placed in the bilge, and they've done a good job so far of removing the detritus. Because the oil is absorbed within the cat litter, too, it makes it a lot easier to dispose of.

Finally, after an attempted dinner of baked potatoes (after two hours in the oven at its highest temperature, they were still inedibly hard! We had cereal instead) Bones and Maffi came over for an evening's carouse. They brought a bottle of plonk, we provided glasses, and a convivial time was had by all. Bones tricked Maffi into agreeing to build her a bed like ours in her boat, as she loves the design so much- except that she wants a five-drawer chest of drawers, as one-up on our four-drawer chest!

And so, late, we retired to bed after a good day. The boat felt much tidier, we had used the well deck properly, and we're now better equipped for travelling on the Thames.

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