Gym Showers and Candlelight Dinners

Before we dive into this post, a disclaimer: we’re about to get real here. Unlike most of our stories, this one isn’t all rainbows and unicorns; there is some hard reality and a bit of venting heading your way. There are some silver linings as well; however, if you prefer the 100% positive posts, you may want to peel off and wait for the next one—no hard feelings. For the rest of you, we’ll pick up the story about two weeks ago as we were (finally) preparing to depart King’s Cross…

We were a bit sad to leave King’s Cross; it was a very nice area and—with gate-controlled access to the canal towpath and 24-hour area security—felt very comfortable. But alas, after returning from our Christmas vacation, it was time to move on. The voyage to the Islington/Angel area wasn’t much: just over one mile, with one lock and one quick stop at the water point. The highlight was the 1 km Islington Tunnel through which we had to pass. Everything started off fine; traffic was unusually light for a Sunday, so we shot straight into the tunnel. About 1/3 of the way through, however, I noticed that—despite turning on all the interior lights and having the tunnel light switched on—it was getting dark, really dark. Turns out, I never reengaged the tunnel light circuit on the breaker after returning from vacation. After a few moments of claustrophobic panic, Kiley came to the rescue by flipping the correct switch and we were safely guided to the other side by the glorious glow of our now-functioning tunnel light. Lesson #1 for today: Always do all the proper system checks before moving day.

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Exiting the 1km-long Islington Tunnel.

After exiting the tunnel, filling up our agua, and taking the water elevator down one level, we reached one of the busier stretches of moorings in London. We knew that we couldn’t be picky in selecting a spot because it could be a LONG time before we came across another. In this regard, we were lucky because a towpath-side mooring opened up just as we were approaching. However, it gave us pause because it was right outside the Narrowboat Pub, where Schaefer got bit on the first day we arrived in July—a shitty event that capped a long and stressful few days of moving. Nonetheless, the practicality of an available mooring in this busy area overcame the suspicion that the spot might be cursed (foreshadowing), and we slid right in. Overall, the area is very nice, and staff at the Narrowboat is great, and we’re a decent walk from all the amenities. Even so, an ominous sense lingered…

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View from our back deck.

Twenty-four hours later, the boat shuttered and the engine stopped. A terrible thing had happened: we ran out of diesel. Unlike most passenger-carrying vehicles, narrowboats generally do not have fuel gauges. The widespread best practice is to have a peek every month or so to guess the fuel level and fill up every couple of months—most boaters don’t even know the size of their tanks. In this environment, paranoia over running a diesel engine dry ensures that most boaters don’t; however, we aren’t like most other boaters and our ignorance won the day. You see, the reason most boaters don’t let their engines run dry is that it’s a pain to get running again. A diesel engine is a closed system, so any air introduced into the fuel lines must be tediously bled out before the engine will run again. This involves an endlessly-repetitive cycle of unscrewing nuts, manually priming lines, tightening nuts, and attempting to start the engine. I am told that this process can be especially difficult in certain older Beta Marine engines—we just happened to have a certain older Beta Marine engine. Anyway, the whole episode took almost a week to resolve: over one day for the fuel to arrive and another four to completely bleed the fuel lines, during which I’m sure that I inhaled more than the recommended amount of diesel fumes (and even tasted a bit during some syphoning). A big shout-out needs to go to our starter battery though, it was a true champ. Lesson #2: NEVER run your marine diesel engine dry.

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Mike’s home for the first week in Islington.

After getting the engine running, we celebrated by taking our first showers on the boat in a while. You see, without a functioning engine to recharge your leisure batteries, electricity becomes especially precious. This means turning off your fridge, water pump, and any other sources of power that aren’t completely necessary. [Interesting side note: such an environment actively discourages arguing, since one person has to hold the water jug while the other washes their hands, cleans the dishes, etc.] Thankfully, LBS has a nice new gym that just reopened with nice new showers that we could use as often as we pleased. Anyway, as we settled into bed on that evening, clean and happy in our newly-repowered boat, our joy was quickly dashed when we made a discovery that no boater wants to make: a wet floor. Potential causes for this range from the mild (a minor pipe leak) to the catastrophic (you’re sinking), but fewer things throw boaters into a panic quicker. After a bit of investigation, we were able to trace the water to a small leak in the water pump. The quickest fix for this was to replace the water pump; not ideal, but definitely on the mild side of the “wet floor spectrum of death.” However, during this investigation we made another unholy boater discovery: mold. This small leak was probably going on slowly for weeks.

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Making the most of the candlelight.

I spent most of the next day tearing up the carpet under our left (portside) sofa. There was quite a bit of new mold growth underneath, all of which met its death at a mix of hydrogen peroxide, mold killer, and elbow grease. The floorboard was soaked pretty deep, however, so we’re going to keep a close eye on it over the next couple of weeks. Blood drunk from this victory, I set out to inspect the rest of the boat and found some suspect spots in a few other places. Most of this was dead and likely left over from before we resealed our windows awhile back, but we weren’t taking any chances. Over the course of the following few days, more carpet under the bed and all of our soft wall pads got the boot. To better mitigate moisture in the future, we bought a bunch of dehumidifiers and air purifiers and made it a point to circulate the air more regularly. Lesson #3: If it’s winter, there’s moisture in your boat, you just have to find it.

The utter destruction as we killed the mold and replaced the water pump.

So it’s been a subpar two weeks here in Islington, but we’re taking it in stride. These are all things that happen while living aboard—ours just happened in quick succession (so we should be good for a while, right?). Through it all, Islington has been great. We’ve liked this part of London since first scoping out the city over a year ago. Although we haven’t explored as much as we’d like, we did get a run and a few long walks in. As soon as the weather clears up, we’re headed further east towards Broadway Market. The next couple of months should be interesting, as we head to some of the more eclectic parts of the city…

The Briggs (!) Building in Islington.

What’s that, Kiley? You say that our inverter/charger won’t turn on? Add it to the list! Lesson #4: When living aboard, expect the unexpected.


One response to “Gym Showers and Candlelight Dinners

  1. Pingback: Sunshine Blogger Award | sadiewolfblog·

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