Archive: Year 2 - Friday, November 30, 2007 #8: "Fire and Ice"

As I write this it is 14 degrees outside, 1 below with the wind-chill.  The highs for the past few days have not escalated much above 20, and everyone from school kids to carburetors have noticed.  Last night was the first time since March that I have had to wake up in the night and crack ice from around The Road’s hull.  It’s interesting, but in many ways I feel like this 2nd winter on the river is rather a lot like the 2nd child – there is a little less panic about them.  I remember a mother I knew once saying that, with her first child, she would come into the nursery in the middle of the night and hold a mirror to her mouth to make sure she was alive.  The 2nd child, on the other hand, she forgot twice at daycare…  I’m the youngest of three.  

I certainly wouldn’t describe my state of mind over these past freezing days as “calm”, but there is – at the very least – a familiarity with the season this year that has kept me outside the category of “hysterical”.  For example, as I came home Tuesday night, the temperatures were in the low teens, certainly cold enough to freeze the river - had, in fact, the previous two nights.  I didn’t turn my bubblers on, however, because I casually assumed that it was windy enough to keep the boats moving and therefore unfrozen.  At about 3AM, I rolled over in bed and heard the deafening scrape of the ice along the hull.  It should be noted that ice so much as a quarter inch thick – while not damaging – does make sounds that echo through the boat like god’s own thunder.  This is made even worse when in quarters below the waterline… such as the cuddy.   Like sleeping inside a bell.  

I got out of bed immediately, bundled and went outside to turn on the bubblers.  They dutifully sprang to life, breaking up the ice immediately.  However, now each tiny broken piece of ice was tapping along the hull as it was pushed out into the marina.  I re-bundled, having only gotten partway through the process of retuning to my already-chilling bed, and broke the pieces of ice into smaller portions with a pole, and then pushed them out into the marina with an old paddle.  Good workout.  Makes me want to buy a condo with a gym, tho.  

When I did finally returned to bed, however, I was grinning.  It was my first ice-breaking of the season – and if all goes well, my last.  The first time I had to do this last winter, I went to bed haunted with the fear that it was an endless task that may not make any difference anyway.  This winter, I can return to bed in peace.  It may be marginal, but it is progress.  

And progress cannot be underestimated.  The furnace, for example, has made significant progress this week, and although not yet running, it has had a trial run in the shop and is currently resting in it’s new home aboard The Road.  My space heaters have been keeping the interior comfortable despite the falling temperatures, but not without blowing fuses and making me an investor in Exel Energy.  

To this point, there have been many obstacles between me and my new, fully-operational furnace.  Yesterday, for example, my daily trip to the compound for mail revealed Martin and Troy standing around my furnace looking like they had just found a lump…

“What’s wrong?”  I asked.

“This furnace is 12 Volt.”  Martin replied.

I gave him the predicted vacant expression and he explained that this will mean that the furnace will run off a battery – much like a car battery – rather than be plugged into my electricity.  This is the power necessary to run the systems within the furnace, the bulk of it’s heat, however, is provided by the propane.  Batteries, of course, burn out – especially in the cold, when the furnace is running the hardest.  Happily, The Road is already equipped with a battery charger – a device that automatically recharges it much like in a car; sadly, it is a 10 volt recharger which would still prove inadequate on those -20 days… which are near upon us.  

Martin assured me this was not an undue hurdle, but would require purchasing a 15 amp power converter (about $30 at Radio Shack) which would allow my battery charger to do the trick.  

“…and while we’re on the subject of you shopping…”  

Martin informed me that if I were to make a trip to Home Depot and purchase a handful of the materials, it would save me A LOT in what the marina up-charges.  As this sounded both logical and convenient, I hit the road with a list drawn up for me by Troy.  An hour later I returned with the following:  Two T-joints, circular, 4”, galvanized.  Six elbow joints, circular, 4”, galvanized.  10 pieces of duct pipe – 4” X 5’, galvanized, and lastly, 25’ of plumbers tape.  The accolades I got for successfully running an errand were oddly satisfying, especially considering that part of my usual job involves literal applause upon completion.  More satisfying is the fact that these very elements, touted proudly home just yesterday, are currently on board and arranged in some sort of order.  

Troy, and his new assistant, Darrin are – even as I write - cutting holes in my walls.  While this goes against my every instinct, I am watching with pride, anticipation, and an endless supply of coffee.  

Right: When mechanics discovered my wig box…

Next Post: January 20, 2008 #13: "Wind Chill"

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