Tag Archives: morso squirrel

Must-haves for a boatbird..

3 Sep

Totally top of this boatbird’s list of must-haves is a working wood stove in winter…


And sometimes not necessarily just in winter. Call me a wimp but I don’t do cold so the trusty hot box was fired up earlier this year. In July ffs.

On a more seasonably warmer day when the burning cupboard wasn’t required, I heard the unmistakable sound of the door popping open. Odd; especially as I was nowhere near it and neither was anyone else. Spooky.

And, annoyingly, it would not stay closed. Consensus is that old age and heavy use (allegedly to the point of blistering the external paintwork) had worn down the latch…IMG_20170903_154704

To the point that it won’t… latch that is.

The baffle plate also needed replacing, the flue pipe needed re-sealing where it enters the stove via the collar, chimney needed sweeping and the whole lot would benefit from a stiff rub down and re-paint.

Given the chilly evenings, it needed to be pretty soon.

I’ve been onto Jones Boatyard, my trusty chandlers, who were as usual most generous with their time and knowledge, helping me with the diagnostics. They may be in Cambridgeshire – an hour’s drive away these days – but still top of my pops when it comes to a bit of old-fashioned service.

They’re here

They agreed that it was a wear and tear issue and ordered a new latch, to be delivered to them the next day. I tootled off up to St. Ives on receiving their call to collect this and other parts I’d ordered – and pick their brains some more.

I took the door assembly with me because I could not see how the hell to remove the old, dysfunctional latch, let alone fit the new one – even drew a blank on You Tube. Their boat-dwelling stove expert took one look and declared it was welded in by years of heat and gunk, would need to be punched out and (big thanks to the river gods) that they would do this for me if I could leave it with them… of course I could.

Perhaps predictably, was the phone call a couple of days later to say that they had broken the glass. Whilst they’d be happy to fit a new one free of charge, the door was so corroded that it wouldn’t ever seal properly and – long story short – I needed a new door.

Yeah right, I hear you say and my initial thoughts too, but I trust these guys. Whilst I didn’t have spare cash for this, or particularly want to spend unbudgeted £100’s, it was a no-brainer. As sure as metal will rust and wood will rot in this watery world of ours, a poorly sealed stove will kill you.

So, I may be a little poorer but have a beautifully functional stove door, complete with glass that’s cleaner than I can remember my stove glass ever being. The baffle plate is fitted, chimney swept, flue pipe sealed and all is now repainted and smarter than smart. And, most importantly, is safe and good to keep me warm and toasty for years to come.

If you’re paying attention, you will have spotted that I now have knobs that don’t match but, fear not, I still have the older round one and may or may not swap it back. The look is important to me but the newer more cylindrical one does seem to have more leverage, so we shall have to wait and see which will win out – aesthetics or OCD.

Now, as the season changes and all our thoughts turn to making winter as comfortable and bearable as possible, I must build the coal mountain…


And amass wood…


Keep warm and stay safe boatie folk.


I can feel a fire coming on…


Bow Locks…

17 Sep

Yep, it’s that time of year again…005That time when we poor unfortunate boat dwellers shiver inside our damp, cold, leaky metal tubes that drip with condensation, are dim, uncomfortable and uninviting. We have to bundle ourselves up in many, many layers to keep the elements at bay and eat gruel to try and keep body and soul together and rue the day we took to the water.

We long to visit friends whose houses are spacious, warm and welcoming, have proper facilities, modern technology, are safe, secure and free from rats and plague.

Believe that? Nah, course not. Load of rubbish. Although still a popular misconception. Curious passers by often quiz me about the lifestyle and one of the first questions they always ask is…. “Is it really cold in the winter?”

Truth is…

It’s really not. This is the warmest, cosiest house I’ve ever lived in, thanks to my Morso Squirrel stove, and I do have a fully functioning bathroom, kitchen, all mod cons/technology and the comfiest bed ever. I’ve never seen a rat on board either, nor do I suffer with colds (hardly ever) let alone the plague.

Don’t tell anyone though – they’ll all want to move onto the river. And that would spoil all the fun.019

John here is sitting in the ‘hot seat’, usually given away after a short while in exchange for somewhere cooler or, if no takers, it has been known for him to strip off. Good enough reason to leave him sitting there I’d say…

Often I’ll have to fling open the front doors and maybe also the hatch. Honest. Even when there’s snow on the ground. But the boaters among you will know that.

Nope, wouldn’t swap it for any mansion, no way, no how.

It won’t be long now before I start to keep the stove burning 24/7, which ensures I don’t have to get up in the freezing cold in the morning. I hate to be cold. I’m not too keen on mornings either but that’s another story.

But for now I’ll spark it up late afternoon (or earlier if it’s a bad day) and let it burn out overnight.

So I came home from work today and got the fire going (definitely the first job) popped the kettle on top and by the time I’d sorted myself out it was boiling, ready for afternoon tea in my nice, warm front room.

Out on the back deck as I start up Hobo’s engine to top up the battery bank (and in turn anything else on board that needs a charge – phone, laptop, dustbuster) and I see this through the fug of the chimney smoke…004Not quite sure that I believe what I’m seeing – could there really be someone out there on the lake sailing…?003Seems so on closer inspection. All very patriotic sporting the red, white and blue. Don’t they look great?

You may have gathered, having waded through the above, that nothing much exciting is happening down by the river, just thought I’d wax lyrical about life on the water talk Bow Locks for a while.


They do say that the weather might pick up by the weekend and, John willing, we could be off to Bow Locks… a place that has long fascinated John (though initially provoked a perhaps predictable one word answer from me) but I am warming to the idea.

We’d both like to poke around the East End a bit and this might be a good place to start.

Watch this space.

Home again, home again!

4 Mar

Once more installed into my cosy cocoon that is Hobo and all is well with the world. Two weeks have gone in the blink of an eye and my life resumes the rhythm of the river. Effortlessly. It’s almost like I was never away as I seamlessly slip back into the familiar routine and all that goes with living on the water.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not still special. Some things will always lift my spirit and make my heart sing: opening the blinds in the morning to reveal the river right there outside my kitchen; the morning mist on the water; sun streaming in through the windows, reflecting pretty pools of light on the ceiling and bouncing rainbows all around the boat; my fabulous Morso Squirrel wood burning stove belting out heat to the point I have to fling open doors and hatches so as not to spontaneously combust;

My Squirrel stove

and, like last night, the rain pitter-pattering on the metal roof as I drift off to dreamland. I shall never tire of these things.

I could go on but this is the real world and it hasn’t all been plain sailing since I returned. For starters, my all singing all dancing Victron inverter has been playing up, (that which converts 12v to 240v and runs the fridge, tele, washing machine and so on). It also charges the batteries when running on shore power (as opposed to running the engine) and that seems to be where the problem lies. It’s overcharging. There was a hiccup with the supply while I was away and, to cut a long story short, I think this has upset the electronics. After conversations with its supplier, much help from my friend Reg involving trial and error diagnostics and endless paranoia about battery acid smells on my part, I think we’ve finally cracked it: seems two of the four batteries are cooked. I don’t understand why this is but running on the other two seems to be working fine. But not before I developed a nervous twitch by constantly checking the monitoring panel.

Then the round hatch fell off the back of the stove, potentially releasing carbon monoxide into the boat. My part-time neighbour, Pete, soon fixed this for me though by way of making and attaching a new lug. And the car battery was dead, but as I’d nursed it through much of last year,  this was no surprise.

But the weather has been kind to me and  I’ve enjoyed walking into town along the road and back along the towpath

A nearby lock

while the car was out of action. I might just make it a regular thing.

Checked out some of my rare breed neighbours as I walked up the lane and noticed new life in the field opposite. I know there’s turkeys too (I hear them), chickens, donkeys (occasionally trot past the boat), Shetland ponies and a pack of yappy terriers and jack russells that attempt to terrorise we humans. Not to mention the boaters and campers…

My rare breed neighbours..

New life opposite

My resident kingfisher has returned to the willow tree that overhangs the boat; first spotted in 2010 but not seen since. He is magnificent, so colourful, but sadly very shy. Every time I so much as think about reaching for the camera he’s gone.

Dog dirt alley is sporting a new feature too, currently being sculpted by a neighbour. The snowdrops are out and the gate has been fixed.

I found my treasured Zippo, thought lost in transit, and John thinks he’ll be back by the end of the month.

How good is that?