After Miss Inexperience had owned her boat for about two years she came up with a theory regarding things breaking. She had observed, as no doubt many others had before her, that things in a boat tend to go wrong one after another. So, she surmised, if you picked something you could do without and left it broken that should break the chain. She traced back through the list of things she had fixed or had had fixed on the boat and realised that the first thing she had ever fixed was the flush on her porta-potti which she could definitely have done without. Damn.
That aside Miss Inexperience has finally gained some fairly important skills. She can now check that there is enough oil in the engine, knows where to put the extra oil in and what level it should be at. She knows that there should be coolant and keeps it topped up. She knows that batteries need poking occasionally to make sure they’re still there, she knows that her stern tube needs greasing. Other than that everything runs pretty much as well as it ever did. But it’s normal now because she’s got used to using a shower that you have to jump in and out of like you’re taking part in some demented variation on the hokey-kokey as it passes through ‘the right temperature’ briefly on its way to either scorching or freezing. She is aware that the engine must be run if she wants to use anything that requires 230 V because the inverter kills the batteries, and cold kills the batteries, and having a shower kills the batteries…
But the longer she lives on the boat the more things she finds that really need a tweak.
The first thing Miss Inexperience did when she bought the boat was put in some book shelves. Although she knew she wouldn’t be able to take the whole of her library she couldn’t possibly survive without any books so she put some shelves into the only empty space. They were badly executed but they were sturdy enough (mostly because each shelf was held up by the books below it).
Unfortunately, as anyone who’s ever been on a boat will know, putting a lot of weight (say a couple of hundred books) on one side of a boat will tend to make it list in that direction. Miss Inexperience fiddles ineffectually with the for’ard ballast, moving the whole lot to port, she then straightened the boat up the rest of the way with bags of coal, which is fine until you need to use them.
Eventually, after Miss Inexperience had been in London for about a year, a friend asked her why there were always five bags of coal (around 125kg) on the port side of her roof.
“Because they counteract the book list.” He gives her a funny look and returns sometime later with two rather hefty lead ingots which she hauls into the boat and places carefully as far to port as she can manage. Sadly, even the weight of these did not solve the problem but it did reduce it to the point where she could get away with three bags of coal (around 75kg as ballast); she is still using this system even though when she uses it at the beginning of the season it means she ends up listing again.
One of the very early things that Miss Inexperience did to her boat was fit an inverter. The previous owner had had one, and had put the wiring in place, however it was disconnected at both ends as he’d managed to buy a 24 V inverter rather than a 12 V one. (No, two 12 V 110 Ah batteries does NOT equal 24 V and 110 Ah mate) Without thinking too much about power consumption (she’s still quite new to this boating lark) Miss Inexperience purchases a 600 W inverter which will run her laptop and printer (though not necessarily at the same time). It’s a modified sine wave inverter as pure sine is way out of her price range and anyway she’s not convinced that it’s necessary – so far nothing appears to be suffering ill effects so perhaps she’s got away with it.
This she wires in to the existing, hideously over-sized, cabling because she doesn’t know any better. Although there is some complicated bodging done with connectors to make it work – probably not the best plan when you’re not sure what you’re doing eigh Miss Inexperience? No one died. And nothing got set fire to.
When Miss Inexperience bought the boat it had an elderly 6 CD multi-changer car stereo and for unknown reasons three speakers: one aft and two for’ard. The whole unit was very bulky, and Miss Inexperience mostly connected it via a stereo cable to a portable DAB radio anyway, but it worked and Miss Inexperience is not one for replacing things unless it’s actually necessary. However, once the CD player element died, it was only a matter of time before Miss Inexperience decided it had come far enough up the list to warrant replacing. There are always many things to spend money on on a boat; the problem is, in general, one of prioritisation.
Eventually the radio started sporadically doing some very odd things; then, one day, without warning, it let out a single agonal breath and remained nailed to the perch. MsB and Miss Inexperience were caught slightly off guard by this, as they had come to the conclusion that this was a zombie stereo and just poked it occasionally to see if it was still going. Fortunately they had a fair idea what was wanted so they set about working out the specifics and finding a good price for it. Once the magical noise box had arrived Miss Inexperience set about her first complicated piece of boat maintenance – changing the stereo. It went fine, but did involve some rather nasty discoveries about the state of the wiring. Namely, some of it was quite chaotic and in other places people hadn’t bothered to shorten the wires so that vast amounts of cabling had to be removed in order to work out what the hell was going on underneath.
This was also when she discovered that not all of the lights were on the same circuit and that she had absolutely no idea what any of her fuses did. In the end she gave up trying to identify the correct fuse and turned the power off at the isolator switches instead. It wasn’t like she was planning on doing anything else like make coffee, or put lights on, while she replaced the radio now was it?