Before the 'helper' bits ....
We had a lovely evening on Saturday. The day had been hot, but the
evening was comfortable - balmy, even. We were all British
boats on the mooring, except for one, and they had organised a little
concert. Anna sings like a dream, quite low down in the register.
She writes her own songs which verge on the folky - a bit reminiscent
of Kirsty McColl, perhaps. She accompanied herself on guitar, again,
very competently - a lot more than the mere strumming of 2 or 3 chords.
She is normally accompanied by a few more musicians, so a few of the songs
hiccupped in the middle as she waited for one or other of the non-existant
musicians to do a solo. At the end, most folk toddled off to bed.
Then Carl, her partner who 'arranges' things brought out a battered old
trumpet. The valves were a bit sticky, so he stripped them down
and doused them in cooking oil. All set? Kerpoww ...
He blew a note, slurred it up to the one he wanted and set forth on the
key riff from 'Basin Street Blues'. I got out my bosun's call, the
kazoo and a bottle of Pastis, and Anna brought out a whirling tube and
a 'Clanger' type whistle (half whistle - half trombone), and we all made
music till the wee small hours. It reached its best about half way
down the bottle, and then deteriorated somewhat. We left after Carl
told the story about a drunk man who claimed to be able to make love to
3 women at once. "Prove it" they said, so he dropped his
trousers to reveal a matched set of three. "Amazing!"
they said. "What's your name?"
"Bill," he said. "Cherno Bill."
I mentioned that there are two talkers here, and that I thought one of
them niffs a bit. This is now confirmed as a definite. Speculation
continues as to whether the niff has genetic origins, or whether it is
a matter of personal hygiene. My money is on the latter, but how
to prove it.
The other chatterbox is also a helper - one of those people who dishes
out handy pieces of helpful advice - often at the wrong moment.
I'll call him ... Charlie.
Geoff, a good diesel engineer, who has worked in boat-yards, who knows
boats, and who is on the good ship 'Cathy', wanted to replace his 2 rear
engine mounts. He thought they were too hard, and had blagged some
softer ones. He had mentioned that his plan was to place a baulk
of timber over the engine compartment, and place a car scissor jack on
top of it. A chain attached to the front of the engine could be
led over the top of the jack, and down to the rear of the engine.
Hence, when the scissor jack is wound up, the engine will be lifted.
A good plan, I thought. Most of the time would be taken up with
disconnecting the bits 'n' bobs attached to the engine, which inhibit
it being lifted. The great day came a couple of days ago.
I saw that he had started, so I went over to say that if he wanted a hand
I'd be available all day, as I hoped to be listening to the Test Match
- and could we have a drink together in the evening, as I'd probably need
Charlie saw that something was happening on 'Cathy' and went over to 'help'.
"What you doing?" he asked. This means that Geoff (being
polite) has to stop what he's doing to explain. "Well,"
says Charlie "Why don't you ..." and offers an alternative plan.
I managed to entice Charlie away, and spent much of the day keeping him
occupied and away from Geoff, who managed very comfortably on his own.
I'm sitting with my back to the front door, computing (as I am now).
A new boat had recently arrived at the mooring. Charlie got onto
my boat and peered into the front cabin. (Most of us respect the
privacy of others, and would never DREAM of setting foot on another person's
boat without a specific invitation, and take great pains to avert our
eyes from open doors and windows).
Anyway, Charlie then shouts over his shoulder "Ah! We can't
disconnect Bill from the electric supply as he's computing."
Me: Sorry? Why does my computing mean you can't disconnect my electric
He: Well ........ er ......
Me: If someone needs to disconnect me from the electric hook-up, I like
to be asked, so that I can make the necessary arrangements. As it
happens, my system is good enough to cope. So if you need to disconnect,
He: Oh! Are you sure?
Actually, Charlie was rushing around arranging a hook-up for the new arrival,
because he (Charlie) doesn't think that the guy who owns the moorings
is very good at his job, so Charlie tries to do it for him!
A couple of boats have left, and some more are arriving. It makes
sense to move the boats (mine and Charlie's) to make one, long, continuous
space for the arrivals. Charlie starts his engine, and does his
little move, moors with the assistance of his missus and the boat-yard
manager, and shuts down the engine.
I've done this lark before. I need to move back one bollard's worth.
The bow line comes off its bollard, and is taken back to be tied to the
new bollard. The bow will swing out when I pull the stern rope -
but I can always pull it in again.
I went to loosen the stern line, when HE appeared.
He: Aren't you going to start your engine?
He: It's easier to do it with the engine.
I took the stern line off its bollard, and applied my body weight to it.
Rosy started moving backwards, and the bow started to swing out.
I tied a bowline on the end of the stern line, and as soon as I could,
dropped the loop over the bollard. Nip down to the front of the
boat to pull the bows in, and to take 2 turns round the bollard so that
I could stop Rosy's backward movement. Then onto the front deck,
to secure the bow line to the front T-stud, and there is the bow moored
- but with the stern hanging out a bit. Back to the stern.
Untie the bowline in the stern line, and pull the stern in.
At this point, Charlie is on his knees by the bollard, which has his bow
line wrapped around it. He is desperately pushing the turns down
to the base of the bollard, to leave room for mine at the top. Why?
It is (I thought) an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) that new arrivals
always put their lines under those that are already there (hence allowing
the incumbent boat to recover their lines without disturbing the newcomer's
The boat yard manager had a Stone Boats catalogue, filled with narrow
boaty goodies. As I borrowed it, he said "Charlie has given
it to me".
So there I was, looking through it, when Charlie arrived. He immediately
bent my ear with a long and complicated tale about how, if I needed anything,
a friend of his brother-in law was visiting Stone in the next day or so,
and could ... I'm sure you can guess the rest. At the end
I said "Really?!" in as non-committed a voice as possible.
Then he said "Looking for anything in particular?" "Exhaust
stacks," I said. "They're nearer the back of the catalogue."
he said. "Really?!" I said in a particularly well-controlled
I carried on looking through the catalogue, until I got to the chimneys
and stacks. Charlie was beside himself with exasperation that I'd
taken so long to find them. "There they are!! There they
are!!" he said. "Really?!" I said, successfully holding
back a giggle.
He: Do you want me to arrange to get you one?
Me: No thanks. (Adding, foolishly) They're the wrong size.
I need one that's 2 and a quarter inches in diameter and these are 3 and
A couple of hours later, I was accosted by Charlie.
He: I've been thinking about your problem.
Me: Really. What problem?
He: Your exhaust stack. The ones in the catalogue are £20
to £30. It's much easier to get a length of 2 and quarter
steel tube and weld a bit of half round bar to finish off the top nicely.
I was pretty speechless. Was he winding me up? Was this him
Me: Er ... It might be easier for you. It's not easier for
me. What I want is a 2 and a quarter inch exhaust stack, neatly
finished (I care not how) at the top, complete with 2 or 3 brass bands,
and the whole topped off by a cutter.
I currently have such a stack, though the cutter
is not there, having been broken off by the previous owners. Since
it is there and in existence, I assume that it was bought somewhere.
One day, I'll open a catalogue, and see one the right size. At that
point I'll think about buying it.
He: Fair do's.
I foolishly asked him how often he cleaned his brass portholes.
He: Oh! Not often. Every now and again.
Is that an answer? English can be a precise language, and yet we
twitter on, using such absurd and meaningless expressions. It took
a considerable amount of questioning (complete, in my mind, with rubber
truncheons and electric wires) to get it down to 'every month or so'.