This is a very sad and difficult post to write. Yesterday afternoon Bosco went to sleep and never woke up. He had always had a weak heart and it seems like yesterday it gave up on him. I don’t think he felt anything.
We will miss him forever but we will also remember that we took a scared, scrawny, half-feral kitten and let him blossom into the happiest, friendliest and most personality-filled cat in the world. And although right now that thought makes us smile and cry, hopefully soon it will only make us smile.
Rest in peace, kittenpuss.
The weather is warm enough now that we can’t really use the line “oh, but we’re going to start building our new bedroom as soon as it warms up” anymore.
The time had come to “shit or get off the pot”, as my Dad would say.
The first step was to empty the ballast water tanks which are under the floor of our future bedroom. So we lifted up two floorboards, and James cut a hole in one of the interconnected rectangular tanks (the same design as those which store our fresh water and have given us so much trouble).
The water looked worse than it actually was due to the shavings from cutting the hole. But I still wouldn’t want to drink it, or find it in the hull 5 years after we’d built our lovely room on top of it…
Then we dropped the submersible pump into the tank and let it pump the water overboard, which surprisingly only took a few minutes to empty.
Like most things on Hendrik, we’ve found that whenever we remove something, we find hidden surprises left there by the Kanotel’s former patrons. This time, we found empty weed packets when we lifted the floor boards! I can just imagine some teenager hiding the evidence under the floor…
So after draining the tanks, we had a wonderful 11 days driving all around France, and when we got back, we used our newfound vigour to demolish the port bunkbed room (so our friend Josh was officially the last to sleep in a Hendrik bunkbed!).
Happily, we discovered there was an arm’s length air gap between the hull and the wall back there, so my future sewing room is going to be a tad bigger than I’d imagined!
It actually only took us a morning to take down the whole room, plus bag up 4 bingbags full of Rockwool to reuse in the interior walls (we’re putting Celotex against the hull), and stack up the refuse neatly in preparation for the skip.
You can see the “before” state on the right!
The next step is to similarly demolish the starboard room, the central linen cupboard, and a metre or so up the hull on both sides. And the celiings over all that space.
We had a few neighbours round to get their opinion on the state of the hull (and to show off. Ok, mostly to show off!) and we heaved a sigh of relief that it’s looking better than we had expected:
The general consensus is that it just needs some wire brushing to get the loose paint off, then a good dose of hammerite before we can put some nice, new Celotex against the hull.
Though Bosco did have to have some sulking “alone time” when he’s discovered we destroyed Treat Lady’s room, which was one of his favourite cat caves, snuggled under a duvet on the top bunkbed…
He doesn’t have many responsibilities, but those he has he performs diligently.
For a closer look at this year’s pumpkin…
We’ve developed a mornng routine over the last few weeks. When the sun comes up, Bosco comes thumping down the stairs, hops over our heads, settles on the boxes on the shelf behind the bed and purrs loudly, filled with pride at his night full of exploits.
Recent exploits have included “scaring away a fox,” “jumping sylph-like from boat to boat” and “scaring off the other cats to become King of the Moorings,” so he always has something to tell us.
Which is why it was a surprise when he was a no-show this morning. So at about 4:30 I poked my head up into the wheelhouse, expecting to see him snoozing on the sofa up there. Oh well, I tried to convince myself, he’s still out `splorin’ and he’ll be back when he’s hungry. I’d already been out twice the night before tracking him down when I had a bad feeling, and Melissa is starting to call me paranoid. So I went back to bed and dozed for a while, keeping one ear open for the sound of a relatively graceless cat thudding back in through the open wheelhouse window.
By 6 I was getting really worried – and was that a meow I just heard? So I threw on my dressing gown, fully expecting to see him catching sun on the roof, and trundled off to look for him. First positive sign: pawprints in the dew on deck, obviously he’d been around since sunup. First negative sign: The unholy wailing coming from under the collar barge next to us. I managed to squeeze into a position where I could look down and sure enough, a very bedraggled Bosco was literally hanging on for dear life. Only the top half of him was out of the water and we know how cold that river is. He was panicking and yelling and even when I called him I don’t think he knew what was going on any more.
The next few minutes is a bit of a blur. Fortunately he’d given us some warning that he was Captain Clumsy of the Klutz Corps by nearly taking a dip last week, which prompted me to go to Decathlon and buy the biggest, sturdiest fishing net they sell. I ran for it – barefoot, nearly slipping in the river myself – and ran back, extending it to full stretch as I went.
If you’ve ever tried to net a panicking cat with a seven foot pole out of fast-flowing water, you’ll know exactly what happened next. At full extension, the pole wasn’t strong enough to hold his weight, so it bent, leaving him back at square one. I decided I couldn’t do it myself so I ran back to give Melissa a rude awakening. I definitely used some bad words in describing the situation. She came flying out, grabbing a barge hook on the way.
When we got back to the end of the collar barge, Bosco’s howling had woken up the new neighbour’s kids, who were watching the situation with concern. I managed to get under the walkway between two collar barges (this is suicidally dangerous, never do it) and use the now five-foot pole to try and net him again. Fortunately this time it held and with Melissa’s help I was able to get him safely out of the water. From the noises he was making, being in the net was not a significantly better option.
We got him back inside and started towelling him down:
He was so exhausted and traumatised at this point that he wasn’t even Bosco. I’ve never seen a cat so tired that his tail is literally limp, but his was so lifeless I was worried he’d broken a vertebra on the way down. Every so often as we had to move him he’d howl five or six times and start trembling again. I don’t know how long he was in the water, but he was cold. It took us a good two hours to get him even close to properly warmed up again.
It took plenty of grooming (to make the fur dry faster) and liberal application of the hairdryer and electric blanket, but finally about 8am he had the strength to crawl into his Safe Place under the bed and stay there for a couple of hours licking his (luckily metaphorical) wounds. He must have been starving because he was so busy snapping cat treats out of my fingers that he chomped into my thumb and drew blood. Never mind biting the hand that feeds you, trust Bosco to bite the hand that drags you out of a freezing river and then feeds you.
A visit to our friends Pip and Rob at the weekend brought home something about Bosco: at a year old he’s twice the size of their fully-grown cat. And he will probably grow for another year yet, at least if his appetite is anything to go by. Yet he’s still young enough to be kittenish in nature. Which is a euphemism for “a bit stupid still.”
In the last six weeks his confidence has grown enormously and his favourite new sunning spot is the deck in front of the wheelhouse. We leave the windows open so the plants don’t make it too humid and he’s happy to hop in and out for the purposes of adventure, food or attention. Unfortunately with his new-found love of the wheelhouse we’ve discovered that Hendrik’s previous owners left us more than just duvets, thermoses and tiny frying pans.
One of the crew in Hendrik’s former life was a dog who was by all accounts very friendly and happy. But on recent evidence I think it’s fair to say he was a bit of a fleabag. The astonishing thing is that it’s been at least four years since Hendrik did summer duty and yet this whole time there’s been a ticking timebomb of itchy death waiting to spring out at us. The combination of a few warm days and a lazy cat brought them to fecund, irritating life again.
So yesterday I had to seal up all the windows, put powder down in the wheelhouse and set off nerve gas in the captain’s cabin. Bosco took being locked out surprisingly well. After an initial ten minutes of unease and a comedy leap into a closed window, he relaxed and came to investigate the salon a bit more. But the real surprise came when I saw how he gets back onto the salon roof: A flying leap at head height from the top of the collar barge next door. That’s at least 4 feet across and a foot up, into a gap between railings only about 9 inches high. Close inspection of the streaky pawprints up the side of the superstructure there reveal he’s been doing this daredevil act for a while now. All this from a cat who, a scant six weeks ago, wouldn’t even poke his nose out of the wheelhouse window.
Once the cabin was aired out, he retook his rightful position on the bed, although when the clean sheets arrived fresh from the tumble dryer (thanks Padoue!) we couldn’t resist giving him a quick blanket toss.
He wasn’t amused.
After living on Hendrik for over a year now, I had a “first” yesterday – I fell getting onto the boat. I was carrying a huge and heavy box (a big shipment of whole foods from Goodness Direct as part of our Apocalypse-proofing) which meant both arms were occupied and I couldn’t see my feet, and on top of this it was drizzling and we were tilted because it was low tide. I’m not sure whether my foot slipped off the gunnel or just missed it entirely, but I twisted and fell into Hendrik’s sidedeck, falling hard on the outside of my left thigh in the process. Luckily a passing workman rushed to my aid (as I was pinned down by the big box and still in a bit of shock that it had actually happened) and I’m absolutely fine, but just left with a very sore and patchily bruised vastus lateralis. Luckily it was after the race and not before, and I seemed to have gotten off a lot easier than James did when he had his fall.
In brighter news, we’ve got two big events coming up that we’re busy prepping for – this weekend is Open Garden Squares Weekend so we’re busy baking and making bunting to get everything ready for the public party atmosphere! If you’re interested in attending, please leave a comment and I’ll email you details of how you can get in to see our mooring.
And then on the 21st we’ll be celebrating Hendrik’s 75th birthday (on the day itself – we’ve got the bill of sale that shows the date!) and so are readying the BBQ and put together a photo scrapbook for our friends to look through on the day…
And while we may not be any closer to actually climbing up to the wheelhouse from the Captain’s Cabin without going outside (ladder sourcing problems!), I’m happy to report that Bosco is!
There’s always been a random steel shelf just inside the Captain’s Cabin door and underneath the wheelhouse floor (which he’s happily perched on in the above photo). James extended this with a bit of wood and now our little scaredycat is happy to jump from it up into the wheelhouse through the cabinet door. He’s even ventured out onto the back deck when we’re up there and open the door for him! Considering that he wouldn’t even go near an open door a few months ago, we’re very happy with his progress.
I won’t lie; hooking up the diesel stove was a long and tricky process that wasn’t over even when we thought it was over, nor the two times after that we thought it was over. We almost got blown up once and gassed twice to boot. And more than once the bottle of meths we keep to light it has started to look like the only way of keeping warm. But finally it’s up and running and it looks like this:
Even just getting it lit the first time seemed impossible. To even get to that point we had to re-route the flue which came up behind the old wheelhouse – now conveniently placed under a walkway which we nearly cut through but ended up putting a cartoon-style kink in the chimney instead. We had to trace back the old stove’s diesel line only to discover it came up right next to the hot flue – and the batteries! So instead we installed a pump in the engine room (and of course, the pump is 12 volts and our DC system is 24 volts so there’s a bodged-up voltage dropper feeding it) and ran new pipework. Which leaked time and time again and I spent a very frustrating New Year’s Eve trying to replace a foot long stretch of pipe that had kinked. But now the occasional satisfied clonk of the pump indicates that diesel is dripping into the pan.
Let me explain how diesel stoves work, in the hope of saving some other diesel neophyte’s arm hair. Liquid diesel doesn’t burn so it has to be persuaded to evaporate in a wide pan at the bottom of the stove. To do this you pour in a bit of pure alcohol and light it. The alcohol burns for a minute or two and warms the pan up to the point where the diesel vaporises and starts to burn on its own. After a few more minutes the diesel is keeping everything warm enough and the stove self-sustains. Once the stove is warm enough a temperature probe opens a valve in the regulator to let diesel drip feed into the pan – before this point you have to hold down a lever to bypass the valve and let diesel in at maximum flow. In normal use the stove uses hardly any diesel so this lever can let rather a lot of diesel into the pan before the stove is self-sustaining. Working out how long to hold it down for is an art, not a science. Once the stove is lit, air for the flame is supplied using a tilting hatch at the back with a little counterweight to keep it not too open, not too closed. Too open and too much air gets in, the flame burns bright yellow and deposits soot everywhere. Too little and the diesel can’t burn properly and the stove becomes unsustainable.
What you definitely don’t want to do is leave the regulator open and hold the lever down to check for leaks, then try to light the stove with whatever you find in your plumbing kit with a ‘highly flammable’ warning label on it. And you especially don’t want to do all this with the hatch wide open, because the combined effect is to massively overlight the stove, fill the room with smoke and cause a huge roaring cone of flame to threaten to blow the whole thing to smithereens. Instead, soak up any excess diesel with a kitchen towel, use methylated spirit (not white spirit!) and expect to have to turn the stove off, wait for it to cool down, and readjust the hatch several times before the flame burns properly. And expect the cat to act stoned from the smoke. Although the level of camp when we tried to wrap my niece’s Christmas present can’t be attributed to the same.
So with the stove keeping us warm (when we remember to keep the diesel tank topped up) the captain’s cabin is feeling quite the cosy home. Except for the old shelf which was exactly at head-cracking height above the sofa. The old owners weren’t exactly beanpoles but surely they must have found it as uncomfortable as we did?
A couple of brackets and a few minutes work with my second-favourite toy, the power saw, plus a quick run to B&Q for a spirit level, and we’d saved our skulls and created a Bosco-proof top shelf for precious things.
However if you’ve never seen a cat look miserable, I recommend you take down the shelf that lets him run up and down in front of the windows getting the only view of the outside world that he can because he’s too much of a wimp to go outside. He looked so unhappy that I dug out another bracket and made a kitty perch:
I need to tidy up the edges and varnish where I’ve cut, but finally we can watch telly without causing irreparable curvature of the spine. Ha, I made it sound like we have time to watch telly.
Last Friday, somewhat reluctantly, our new morale officer, chief vermin catcher and inspector of impossibly small spaces came aboard. It took a while to persuade him to accept the King’s Shilling, and I have the bite and scratch marks to prove it. Please welcome Bosco!
His favourite game is Hide And Seek And If At All Possible Do It While James Is Late For Work. His favourite place is inside the box through which the steering chains pass on their way to paw-trappingly tempting pulleys. His favourite food is anything as long as there’s lots of it. His favourite way to scare James to death is to try and climb up the flue for the diesel heater. He’s slowly getting used to people – tonight he came out from behind the washing machine without even being bribed with cat treats – but when he does get a bit of attention he absolutely loves it.
He’ll be living exclusively in the Captain’s Cabin with us for a few more weeks while we get him snipped and chipped, and then we’ll unleash him on the moorings. Our erstwhile nighttime visitor (who I recently discovered is called Bosun) doesn’t know what’s coming to him.
Meanwhile, today was a busy one. We cleared off the last skipload of rubbish from the deck – our third – and then spent half an hour taking all the fittings from the old copper piping that’s been torn out during the renovations. Copper’s worth a fortune these days so we’ll be carting it all down to the scrap metal merchant. We redid our ropes, pulled the old diesel stove out of the Captain’s Cabin and added a wireless access point in the wheelhouse so we might be cold in here but we can still check our email. Melissa made applesauce and a lovely crumble.
We’re still collating pirate party photos and we promise to post some soon! If you have any you haven’t sent us, please do send them over – we were too busy being excellent hosts to take any!