German canals - bulletin five
THE SANITARY STRUGGLE - BATTLE OF THE TITANS.
Few who bother to read these bulletins can have failed to admire our perpetual struggles to maintain decent sanitary conditions. Of all the culprits, none is more culpable than the lavatory next to the main cabin and wheelhouse. Those who know the crew of 'Deneys Reitz' and many of their visitors will readily appreciate that this facility is heavily used and receives many a visit by day and by night. The miserable contrivance, aware of its central position in shipboard affairs, has for years abused its power, culminating in a devastating blockage in the downpipe some five feet from the toilet pan and the 60 gallon holding tank - roughly equidistant between the two. These details are not in any way superfluous, as they will both inform readers of the lie of the land in the battle about to unfold, but also satisfy the avid curiosity of June Barnes, our Sanitary Sage, who has asked specially for no details to be spared.
The crew, Charlotte and Don, had engaged in a heroic battle to clear the blockage, composed (we believe - a bit like intelligence about Weapons of Mass Destruction) of several sanitary wipes, cunningly cemented by limescale, but had been violently repulsed by the fearsome 'Blowback' phenomenon and had retreated seriously soiled. So for several weeks the sanitary sod had basked in its victory, smirking at its replacement, the Camping Gaz Platinum Mk. 2 chemical toilet, sad symbol of our defeat.
The tale of heroism and fortitude about to unfold has as its central hero Paul Watts, engineer extraordinaire, not a man to be deflected from his central purposes: total war and crushing victory. Watty had come as Avenging Angel to bring the criminal toilet to justice (He has come for a holiday, poor man - Totty).
He addressed the troops: "This recalcitrant bog must be brought to heel!! We will continue through thick (mainly), with doubtless a fair smattering of thin, until Victory Is Ours". BT -miserable wine swilling surrender monkey - was heard to mutter about 'Leaving the job to winter', but received little change from the brave Watty. Charlotte pledged body and soul to the noble cause (What?! Totty).
The first move in the titanic struggle was simple, to dismantle the toilet assembly and poke an exploratory tube into the downpipe. This was, as before, repulsed with little difficulty. Watty's next play was original - he fabricated a little hook out of wire, cunningly attached it to the tube and wiggled it back and forth. No dice.
This was total war. Watty gathered his troops and addressed them; "We`are going to have to dismantle the whole toilet system right back to the tank. Charlotte, please remove all the food and dry goods from the larder and all the sanitary materials from under the wash basin. Don, stop whining about never getting it back together and attach some string to the pipe".
At this, he took up the whole cabin floor and wriggled into the bilges to pull the 12 foot pipe clear of the toilet and into the cabin. At last, what Don and Charlotte failed to achieve - a clear push at the blockage! No go!! It remained immovable. Time for bigger guns, the boat hook, six feet of stout wood, was co-opted with a nail and wire wiggly thing attached to its end, thrust violently into the pipe and revolved rapidly. Success! We managed to extract two sanitary wipes and a lot of lime scale, together with quite a lot of liquid, but still the main blockage remained. Both sides were now so locked into the titanic struggle that even Don stopped whingeing and joined in with gusto - a longer handle was secured by dismantling the deck swabber and an even more elaborate wire wiggly hook attached. But the toilet system resisted stubbornly, the blockage remained immovable.
Readers may like to imagine the sight in the cabin, buckets, kitchen roll and newspaper were spread all about, the floorboards and carpet were taken up and three people sweated furiously, one thrusting a six foot rod down the pipe, one holding the pipe in a vice-like grip and one wiping up the effusions that emerged from it from every thrust with a cloth. Passers by marvelled at this amazing Danse Macabre! (In fact, by this time a large crowd of German onlookers and Grockles was assembling to watch the Lunacy of the Brits).
By this time, two hours had passed and the score was roughly: Sanitary Sod 3 : Dyno-rod Demons 1.
Then Don had a moment of inspiration. "I know, said he, let's use 'Mr Big'. Paul and Charlotte reeled at the sheer audacity of the proposal. The 'Mr. Big' in question was the sail stiffener, 14 feet of thick bamboo. The logistics were awesome - in order to insert the massive pole into the pipe, the rear hatch would have to be opened and someone would have to stand on the cabin roof outside and push it in. Don volunteered for this perilous role and Watty attached an even more fearsome wire wiggly to the pole end. At last they were ready for the Final Solution. Two great heaves and suddenly the breakthrough! The blockage palpibly shifted. Watty called for the extraction of the pole - the curious Grockles observed the melee with alarm and began to drift to a safer distance from the boat. Then, he put his mouth to the end of the pipe and blew mightily. With a palpible 'plop' the blockage flew into the holding tank. Our total success was signalled by a nauseous stench from the tank up throught the now clear pipe.
We had prevailed!! The warriors embraced deliriously. The Grockles watched in amazement.
There now only remained the massive clearup operation, re-assembling the cupboards, floorboards and toilet assembly.
There is now a large notice in the toilet compartment: ANY PERSONS DEPOSITING ANYTHING OTHER THAN YOU-KNOW-WHAT AND TOILET PAPER WILL BE KEEL-HAULED.
The Art of Impeccable Cruising, Part Three.
Mooring on the Mosel
Cochem, on the Moselle river - a beautiful medieval town nestlng between precipitous vine-covered banks, overlooked by a castle that must have been the model for Disney's 'Magic Kingdom'.
The notorious Twin Screw Motor Yacht 'Deneys Reitz' and its dangerous elderly crew have just arrived, following a hard day jousting with locks and mighty barges and being harrassed by aggressive 150 meter long hotel boats. The crew are exclaiming with delight at the beauties of the environs and the prospects of a little wine possibly followed by a meal out. Navigator and Deck Officer Totty had just tripped on to the wharf with characteristic grace and artistry and is fiddling with the stern ropes. Helmsman and Sanitary Engineer BT had stumbled ashore at the bow and is holding the forward mooring line, awaiting further instructions. He is fascinated by the fantastically turreted castle.
The crew of the Dutch boat just in front are taking their leisure. Bottles are evident in profusion on the cockpit table and glasses are raised and lowered with Dutch thoroughness and precision. The sun is sinking behind the mountainous banks, leaving a delightful orange glow tingeing a cloudless blue sky. All is well with the world - but is it?
Nobody has noticed the silent approach of a fully-loaded 3000 tonne aggregate barge.....
Huge heavily-loaded barges tend to push an enormous volume of water in front of them. As they pass a specific point, water rushes ahead of the barge, and, as it passes, rushes back again to fill the great void caused by the bulk of the vessel. The result is a powerful surge, first in one direction, then in the opposite.
Don is jolted out of his reverie about magic castles by a glimpse of the barge out of the corner of his eye. Computing with amazing accuracy, he predicts that the surge will cause twenty-five tons of 'Deneys Reitz' to leap forward, unless it is rapidly restrained. His incisive cry "Quick, Charlotte, there's a barge approaching, get a bloody spring on to stop it going forward" is considerably dissipated by a sudden loss of memory about the word 'spring' and failure to mention the barge. The order emerges as "Bloody hell, Oh shit, get the wotsit rope on quickly" The clarity of this exhortation is further dissipated by his decision to drop the bow rope and try to leap aboard 'Deneys', start the engines, go hard astern and save the boat in front.
Charlotte just fails to get a spring on in time. Don manages to start one engine, but not get it in to reverse.
'Deneys Reitz' completely unrestrained, leaps forward like an unleashed Pit Bull terrier upon a domestic moggy, and crashes anchor first, followed by half a ton of bronze fairlead and twenty five tons of solid wood into the much smaller Dutch metal motor boat, causing a shuddering jolt to run the length of the hapless victim. Cries of shock and dismay ring out from the cockpit.
A wine glass flies into the air, and, slowly performing a graceful parabola, arcs into the river, disposing its red contents on the occupants of the Dutch boat. Also audible above the shouting is the crashing of plates and bottles.
A shocked silence falls. The owner of the Dutch boat stands up. "I'm awfully sorry, says Don," But you see the barge caught us just as we were mooring..." He lapses into silence.
After a short conversation, Don and the Dutch skipper shake hands. The Dutchman humbly apologises for leaving his boat in such an exposed and inconvenient position and presents Don with a bottle of Cochemer Goldbaumchen Mosel Saar Ruwer Reisling Trocken Spatlase Qualitatswein mit Predikat. Don accepts the offering with grace and dignity.
Those wishing to get the inside story on what happened between Don and the Dutchman will have to wait for the publication of our eagerly anticipated book, "Essential Social Skills for Long-Distance Cruising".
BT and T