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  • Mike and Jane Burgess

Notes from Other Boats- Drumsara

Mike and Jane Burgess wintered with us in the Arsenal in 2007-2008. When Spring came they headed south, and last January, Mike emailed us this very funny note about his adventures as the captain of Drumsara.

G'day Thought you may appreciate an update on my idyllic life on the french canals.

Well, since we returned from Oz my back has been playing up. Now this is not a new occurrence but I must say it was worse than normal and eventually I submitted to Jane's demands and took myself off to the chiropractor (by taxi coz I could not really walk). Anyway after a good massage that afternoon I felt much better and looked forward the first good nights sleep in many weeks. Alas the next morning I could not resurrect myself from the horizontal position on the bed. Eventually I slid to the floor like an old carpet snake and hoisted myself up vertically with the aid of a well positioned cupboard. So now it's of to the Docs (bloody Chiro) and from there to the X ray clinic utilizing my best french as I go. (Well actually Jane's best french) Then, back to my favourite medico for the final assessment. Aahhaa, the expert opinion, Your back is rooted. Like no joke! tell me something I didn't know. What have you been doing to yourself? So I explain my 18 year heroic military career accompanied by the appropriate sympathetic murmurs from the medico. Aahha well I suggest you go to see the chiropractor was the resultant educated diagnosis. Bloody great. Now I digress.

I know you are a bit of an expert on boats so I won't go into the mechanics of hot water systems in to much depth except to say Drumsara was cunningly designed to have 2 separate and independent hot water systems, an immersion heater that works just like a domestic household hot water system and also a hot water boiler that runs on diesel. You probably also understand the curing properties of hot water running down a very crooked back. Well here is rub, at this point in my shattered life the immersion heater element decides to pack it in. Not only putting an end to the hot water but also shorting out the 240 volt breaker. No problem, with a flick of the switch the good ol' diesel boiler comes to the rescue. However being one that like to be fully prepared a decision was made to undertake repairs to the hot water system asap.

After adequate scrutiny, it became obvious that part of the wet exhaust had to be removed to allow access to the element, no problem given the extremely confined space with a stuffed back. At last, here it comes, christ a lot of entrained water pouring out into the bilge. No problem I'll mop that out later.

Did I happen to mention that water into the bilges runs into 5 separate compartments, all well hidden under the engine, gensets and a maze of other equipment, wires and hoses. You have to be a bloody hobbit to get in there. Anyway, back to the element, problem!!! no tool to remove this huge nut that is deliberately recessed to make it totally impossible to extract it with any other mechanical component short of dynamite.

Now in the process of wrestling with the element, I inadvertently and purely unintentionally leaned against a pump, a portion of my damaged body must have made slight contact with the mass of confusing pipework leading from the good ol' diesel boiler. Shit where is that water coming from. Never mind a huge monkey wrench will fix that little problem.

Oops that seems to be making it worse, time for the hammer !!!! Now a smart man knows when he's beat but I'm sure with one more good tug I can stop it. Bugger, now it's leaking from the top of the seal too. Jane, call the plumber." What have you broken now?" she cries. Never mind that just get the bloody plumber. The plumber, on being advised that the boat was almost sinking kindly agreed to rush over within a day or two.

So now no immersion heater and no boiler. By the way did I mention to you that the boiler also runs all the heating radiators on board. No, well it does. What the weather forecast Janey? 3 degrees, not too bad could be worse.

Of course the other minor problem, it has been necessary to shut off the water basically to stop the engine room from flooding. No water ?????, No showers (Too bloody cold anyway) No toilets ??? Ooopppss !!!!!

Soon (37 hours 17 minutes and 23 seconds) my bestest friend in the whole world, the plumber, arrived. Armed with an even bigger monkey wrench and a set of the correct washers, the good old boiler was fired up and we set about defrosting Drumsara. Of course he will also fix the immersion heater. What do you mean you don't have the right tool? Use the bloody dynamite. Ok, I will order the tool from the UK and you will return to fit it when it arrived. Tray bon Mate.

By this time under the skillful hands of the chiropractor I was now able to raise myself on all fours. An amazing feat. Given that there was going to be a week before the extremely technical tool would arrive it was decided to evacuate the afore-mentioned water from the bilges. Only took 2 hours and then another 3 visits to the Chiro, now aptly renamed the master of pain.

Should only be a couple of days now before that tool arrives, what can I do while I'm waiting? I know the genset needs a run. Now I think I did mention previously about removing part of the wet exhaust to get at the immersion heater. I sort of forgot that the genset also discharges through this system. Aaahh, 20 litres of water pumped into the bilges by the time I was able to scamper up to the wheelhouse to shut the generator off. Oh well, still a couple of days before the tool arrives and the plumber returns. Plenty of time for another Houdini act and recover the water from the bilges and another couple of visits to the Chiro now known as Atilla, the inquisitor.

At last the tool arrives and my true buddy (le plombiere) returns for the delicate operation. In a matter of seconds, with one deft turn of the tool the delinquent element comes loose and with it, 50 litres of water pours into the bilge. The plumber gives me a wry smile and mumbles an apology, the prick. If my back wasn't so bad I would have picked up that huge monkey wrench and wacked him with it.

Well that's life on Drumsara so I cannot dally any longer I have bilges to clean and then its of to see Aldof the macerator.


from a very horizontal captain and engineer

Mike and the rest of Drumsara's scurvy crew

Mike & Jane Burgess Drumsara Somewhere in France " The advantage of being lost is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries."

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