Replay: January 2009 First Trip to the Pump-Out

I’m reposting three posts that appeared on MyT in January 2009 and putting them all together. I’m not claiming any wonderful literary qualities, but they remind me of how it felt then when I was just getting used to das Boot, and just how cold a boat can be in winter with the doors open…

Open Waters

I had imagined my first sortie in das Boot as a gentle and short one. Enough to convince me that I am worthy of my Helms(wo)man’s Certificate without being too challenging.

However, the toilet on das Boot dictates otherwise. Either it’s full, or something more serious is amiss. So, in a couple of weeks it’s off to the Pump-Out. The Environment Agency has sent me a lock key that I desperately hope I shan’t need. I have yet to study the map, so I am keeping my fingers crossed there’s no lock along the route.

Pump-out means emptying the tank. I’m assured it’s not difficult and I shouldn’t worry, but of course I am. Gillian McKeith would probably think it a good day out. I’ll reserve judgement.
It may turn out that the tank is not full, but that something moved where it shouldn’t have gone during das Boot’s transportation. If so, it’s a trip to the boatyard. In Putney, a young man at the chandlery where I was buying fittings for the electrical hook-up, told me that boat stands for Bring Out Another Thousand. It’s a phrase that has been proving alarmingly true.

So, do I regret my purchase, my adventure? Not a bit. Das Boot has opened a door onto another world. A world I hadn’t realised existed. It may cost me my savings, but so what? Money in the bank is just money, but this is about being alive and taking risks. It’s already giving me pleasure as well as the base I wanted for visiting my mother.

Maybe in a year’s time I’ll be calling it a day. But whatever happens I’ll have moved out of my comfort zone and learned something. Bring it on!

Pump-Out Minus One

I’m hoping that it will solve the problem but I don’t really believe it. Somehow it doesn’t make sense. But I should be positive. I managed to leave the Smoke promptly and missed the worst of the Friday getaway traffic. It was still daylight when I got here and I got everything onboard without any problems, including my new emergency toilet which is great. I’ve had a good meal. a mini bottle of wine, my bed is aired and I’m warm and toasty and now I’m listening to Elvis Costello and playing on the computer.

Hunky dory. No worries. Except that I learned a couple of hours ago that my escort plans to abandon me at the pump-out and I’ll be helming solo on the return leg.
Of course I’ll be fine.

Won’t I?

After all it had to happen sometime. I’ve loved the little experience I’ve had so far, so why should this be any different? Well, this time I’ll be on my own.

So, could everyone please keep their fingers crossed for me?

I hope that tomorrow I’ll wondering why it seemed such a big deal and raring for the next opportunity, but at the moment I feel like a chick who’s just been told to leave the nest.
Sweet dreams.

Pump-Out Plus One

I’ve had days that have got off to better starts . First, I knocked over a glass of water and drenched the socks I was intending to wear and the only pair of trousers I had with me. Next, I could not get the gas ring to stay alight long enough to make my scrambled egg, and I wasted so much time and matches that my coffee grew cold. I was disconsolately eating some toast and jam when Dan arrived. He does enjoy a problem. I explained my woeful face and how I’d done my Miss Marple act already, checking the fridge was still working so the gas hadn’t actually run out. But it seems the fridge can run on the dregs of a gas bottle and stay cold enough to freeze the mushrooms into stony versions of themselves, while the hob is more demanding. In several shakes of a lamb’s tail, the bottle was changed and breakfast was back on the menu.
I trotted off to the loo on the marina and by the time I returned Dan had the boat in a different place. I clambered back on board, and he then guided the boat out of the marina and onto the river. I must have looked a bit vacant, as he asked me quite sternly if I was watching to see how he did it. Watching, yes. Understanding, no. He made it look so easy. With no boats to hit on the open river I was happy at the helm. A swan took off in the field to the right and flew in front of us. Slightly further along a heron took off from the fen on the left. It was almost enough to make me forget how cold I was. In a fit of optimism, lulled by the blue skies and the warmth of the boat, Dan had turned the heating off. It took very little time for the true temperature of the day to fill the boat. I could hardly feel my feet. I got so cold that even when we warmed the boat up again I continued to shiver.
But it was beautiful. At first hardly anyone was about. We passed a couple on a narrow boat eating their breakfast in the open air. They must have been wearing several more layers of clothing than I was. As time went by, the early morning dog walkers appeared, muffled in their coats, scarved and hatted while their dogs raced about with their breath condensing in the air.
I was getting quite confident and Dan was busy checking out my television when suddenly, round a quiet bend, were some rowers. My squeak brought Dan back to my side. I had visions of capsizing them with my wash, changing in a moment from sensible Ratty to irresponsible Toad, a menace on the river….
That pair of rowers was like the first birdcall in the morning, heralding the full dawn chorus. For some masochistic reason there were hundreds of rowers out in the cold. I must find out what gloves they have. Bizarrely the busier the river became the more fishermen we saw. I yielded the wheel to Dan without a murmur.
The pump-out was fine. I distinguished myself by having both the key for the pump and the holding tank to hand. I also distinguished myself by my unwillingness to leap from boat to land more than six inches away. The Moleish side to my character.
Unfortunately, the toilet valve still seems to have a problem, so das Boot is at the boatyard. But it meant I didn’t have to face the fishermen and rowers again on my own.


8 thoughts on “Replay: January 2009 First Trip to the Pump-Out

  1. How nice to learn about your early experiences with Das Boot. What a good decision you made and what adventures you’ve had since!

  2. So glad you’re reprinting these. I missed the early ones on MyT. Going to read properly tonight but I love your optimism and sense of adventure – breaking from the norm! 🙂

  3. Great posts about the beginning of your adventure with “boot ownership”…..I imagine you feel as if you’ve come a long way from that point to this – and hopefully you and das boot have worked out all the kinks in your relationship! It must be wonderful to have a lovely getaway on the water. It sounds cozy. Any pics among your prior posts of das boot? Would love to see it.


  4. I’ve had great fun reading your account. I’ve got the real feeling of a “first time” out on one’s own boat on one’s own!

  5. I’m glad you enjoyed reading this. I don’t go out on the boat very often. It is more of a floating base. But I do enjoy staying on it.
    I get very bored very quickly at the helm, so if I go with people who like to helm it’s great!! That way I get to look at what’s going on by the river, gaze through the binoculars, daydream and take pictures. Much more satisfying.
    I don’t like driving very much either. I remember after passing my test, I drove all over the place and then realised that I preferred to be a passenger.
    There are some pix of my boat n old posts and this little video of Cat listening suspiciously to sounds ashore:

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