Return to the Houseboat

I have just come back to Nooksak to light the fire. Made an appointment with my home, in fact, to warm her up. I’m not used to this kind of dependancy. Responsibility? Restriction? All self-imposed and effecting no-one but myself.. perhaps the term I seek is self-discipline.

There is no thermostat on a cast iron stove. It is either hot, or cold. And hot is good: it not only heats me, but also the water in the backboiler that heats the radiator at the other end of the boat. The backboiler is actually a miracle of basic physics. Beautiful physics. One box welded to the stove, two pipes, slanting upwards away from the stove, and a radiator far away. Stove gets hot, water gets hot, hot water rises, hot water goes up the up pipe, through the length of my boat, into the radiator. Cold water in radiator sinks, goes down the down pipe and back to the stove. Truly, it brings me joy every day.

Anyway, to get that water circulating, you need a roaring fire. Which means the living room roasts. You also, obviously, need water in the radiator system, which I duly fill and check every day for fear of losing the smallest iota of potential heat during my sleep. It seems I was over-zealous: at 2am I woke with rusty water pouring on my head as the radiator fill point, and overflow point, did exactly that. Thus I learn the lesson of thermal expansion.

So there I am, 2 am, rusty water teetering at the very level of the overflow jug. You know how water teeters? It was teetering. Ready to gush forth at the slightest wrong solution. I needed a siphon. I needed a tube. Where is my lab now?! (So much rubber tubing…) Okay, no tubing that I can think of. A cup? A bottle? A jug? A towel?

An egg cup. That was the wee hours solution and there I was, egg-cupping half a pint of water out of my overflow jug.

I am not, in the slightest, complaining about the heat. O no, every day I battle with my inadequacies as a fire builder. Every day sees me squatting in front of the stove, almost prayer like, egging it on (that’s it for eggs, I promise). And every day, that sense of triumph when the flames finally dance.

My second day back I managed to keep the fire going continually for almost 24 hours. I came home to empty the stove and there were still red hot embers inside. What satisfaction when a log dropped on top bursts into flame! A word for the wise, however: don’t empty hot ash into a plastic bag.

I am still a nervous boat dweller.

I walk on, along the plank, like a princess scared of water. And dropping her valuables in it. I jump at the slightest rustle or crackle. I don’t like gas flowing when I’m not around. I shower at work to avoid fixing my own. And I am yet to move her, properly, on my own. To go through a LOCK. Only when I have overcome these challenges, will my home be my home.

It was Spider Season when I left in October. Big ones, little ones, behind the curtains, under pillows, sticky pockets of egg clusters in every crevice. I gained a new morning mantra: my head is a feather duster. My Head Is a Feather Duster. My Head Is a Feather Duster. It got me through the length of the boat every day.

Two and a half months of peace and neglect, however, seem to have done Nooksak little harm. The most amazing success is that my batteries were full when I returned. For this, I have my friend Andy Rankin from Midsummer Energy to thank. I love my solar panels… even in winter! (Yup, the step-by-step guide shows photos from when Nooksak got dressed in solar.)

There are, however, some noticeable changes. I’m not sure if they’re due to time away, or new season. For one, the spiders are all but gone. There are a couple of flying fly things but that’s about it in terms of critters. It’s almost lonely…. but no, there is still life. Life in the form of Mould. I was worried for my clothes but they’re weirdly fine. Instead, I found the green stuff around my stove, in the window ledges, on a plastic serving spoon, around the outside of a bottle of balsamic vinegar, and all over one backpack that was stored under my bed. But just one.. everything else under there seems fine! I don’t entirely understand the selectivity, nor do I know how I should be avoiding it, so I guess I just deal with it as I see it.

What else? Oh yeah, wood swells. My bathroom door swolled. And I got stuck on the wrong side.

1 thought on “Return to the Houseboat

  1. I’m sorry, Rhian, but I love the visual of you emptying out the excess water with an egg cup…

    Sorry about the mould. The location selectivity is very odd. I’m afraid I can’t offer any words of wisdom there.

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