I think even the most hardened and experienced of boaters learn new things everyday on the river. It is one of the most beautiful things about this lifestyle – that never-ending sense of developing and acquiring new knowledge and better ways of solving the same problems. I can see why some people I have met in my life have recommended the practical path so strongly to me. There is something as complex, compelling, infinite and challenging about simple, practical problems as there is about the most abstruse problems in mathematics or literary criticism, say.
Our recent experiences with our Morso ‘squirrel’ wood-burning stove have shown this to me. Of course there are some boaters who would “bah” at us for not knowing this sooner, but with boating as with life in general, you must make your own mistakes and learn your own lessons. Excellent advice is easily lost on deaf or uninformed ears.
The Morso stove is the perfect case-in-point. We knew that the stove we inherited with the boat was not performing optimally. It was a strange creature – I don’t know where Richard got it from. It had gone through several hands, and therefore several designers. Someone had angle-grinded a large hole at the back of it (presumably to fit a back-boiler), and had since covered the hole with a sheet of loose iron. Someone else had gutted the inside of the stove and removed all its parts – probably to sell on. (Morso parts fetch a high price on the market, even on ebay, it is hard to find one of these well manufactured Scandinavian parts for less than £30.)
Despite this, it was still possible to build a fire inside it that could get hot enough to burn coal fairly well. But we did not know enough about boats and woodburning stove too know just what we were missing out on.
Over the past five days Gideon has been treasure hunting. Scouring the online marketplaces and official stores we have put together the wonderful internal steel jigsaw puzzle of a Morso stove. We bought stoves ‘bricks’ (not at all like normal bricks it turns out), we bought an internal ‘grate’ and a ‘riddle’ (for riddling coals and sifting ash). Best of all we bought a ‘baffle’ to help insulate and protect the stove as well as help draw the heat better. Our handy new vehicle ‘Rocinante’ the trailer, played his part in all these purchases.
Today, on one of the blissfully clear, cold days that has blessed the south of England recently, we assembled her. The transformation is astonishing and even more noticeable that I expected.
Before, even when I built a ferocious fire the actual warmth produced was only noticeable in the immediate environs of the stove. We both were usually wearing more than two jumpers in the evenings. Our bedroom, by the prow of the boat, was still freezing, and worst of all, a little damp. Now after just twenty minutes the entire boat is so warm that we are walking around in T-shirts. Even our bedroom is temperate. Clothes hanging up by the fire dry in a matter of minutes.
Our life has dramatically improved for the better. It is as significant a moment as when we finally changed to a dependable 12 volt circuitry for our lighting. Now we have heat and light and plenty of fuel from felled trees and stray logs in Wick Wood. I can finally imagine lasting out this winter – our first winter on Hawisia.