Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Return of the Traveller

Janis is back, bless her and I’m so pleased to see her. It’s good to have my little travelling companion home.

In anticipation, on Monday I de-winterised ‘Roots and Wings’ by filling her with fresh water and connecting to 240volts to warm the little ship through with strategically placed bar heaters. It took the winter’s chill off at least, which would make my lady's home feel more welcoming when she arrived.

On Monday morning apparently Janis had been luxuriating in hot Thai sunshine of some 40 degrees. So in contrast, she felt distinctly cold as she stepped off the train at Warwick Railway Station when I met her at 2330 with the temperature only reading two degrees Celsius. But at least it was above freezing point and I do think she appreciated being home nonetheless.

Apart from the colour of her skin, which was a dark shade of mahogany, quickly it became very apparent that she hadn’t changed at all in the four months she had been away, as we talked well into the early hours of Tuesday morning and even then I found it difficult to get off to sleep with the elation of it all.

It had been a longer day too with other unplanned excitement.

It was so trifling that I cannot now remember for what reason I needed to do it, but in the morning I wanted to get something out of ‘Futurest’s stern locker over the swim and to do that I had to lift the lid over it, which is hinged outside at the after end of the counter. The idea is that when the lid is down and the two after doors of the Boatman’s Cabin are closed above it, the hatch lid is then drawn over and all is locked. From the outside the trap door cannot be lifted and all inside is secure.

But because there is no clearance between the sides of the trap and the hinged edges of the doors, to open the former, one has to make certain that the two doors are fully open and secured back to the rear bulkhead of the cabin.

On this occasion I didn’t check this important item and began lifting the trap just as the starboard door decided to swing closed. As the lid came up, it caught the bottom of the heavy steel door, lifting it completely off its two hinging pintles. The door, which was then free, bounced noisily once only on the counter before sliding over the side and into the canal before I was quick enough to grab it.

It didn’t float of course but sank very quickly, just like …….. well a piece of solid steel, but I knew I had to retrieve it. The after end of my boat was completely open (or half anyway) to anything that might be inclined to enter, including the cold weather which was blowing strongly at that time from the right direction.

Neither I nor Kate Boats had any tool really suitable for this job, so I seriously began to prepare myself for the necessity of a quick dip(hopefully!) in the Grand Union Canal.

Otherwise the only tool I possessed was my boathook and with the generous assistance of Chris working on an adjacent hire boat, who brought along a second boathook, we managed between us in half an hour or more by prodding, to locate the door in the deepest water at the centre of the cut and then manoeuvre it slowly towards the side. However this was not easily done because of the suction of the mud holding fiercely onto it and not wanting to let go.

But after sometime and with great patience we managed to do this and as Chris got his hook around the edge of the door and lifted it up, I plunged my arm deep into the freezing cold water and groped for it. It needed quite a few attempts at this before I finally and very gratefully found the hard cold edge with my hand and we were able between us to lift the heavy door ashore. I have to be quite honest, I had not fancied a swim.

The door was a bit muddied with grey slime and the paint was a little chipped around the edges where we had damaged it with our hooks but I was so grateful that I had it back.

So now it is safely returned in place and Janis has returned, the little fleet can begin thinking optimistically about its 2013 cruise. It is the beginning of March next week and we should be on our way.

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