August in England, when a young chap’s fancy turns to… sweeping the stove flue #narrowboat #boating #England

Flip of a switch today. Yesterday was lashing monsoon rains, semi-demi-galeforce winds and a certain coolness in the temperature. Today is on the civilised side of shirt-sleeve warm, albeit still breezy, but as bright as a button and seriously pleasant. I celebrated by walking the past ten days’ household (“boathold”) rubbish to the nearest bins – Barbridge – a four-mile round-trip, with a pleasant bench at the canal junction, world going by, watching, for the purposes of. Then I did some more watching the world go by at Cholmondeston Lock where a splendid queue had developed to go up the lock, something on the order of six or seven boats. Then I decided that the switch might be flipped again at any moment, and returned to the Cardinal to give Mr Stove some tender loving care.

I am super-lucky with the Cardinal in so many ways, just one of which is that the stove flue is a simple, straight pipe running vertically – easy to sweep. Not for me the mysteries of kinks and bends and wotnots. One pipe, up, down, done.

The flue, swept.

The tools of the trade: a stiff wire-brush lashed to an old boat-hook handle with some Duct Tape; a dustpan and brush; an idiot stood on the gunwales plunging aforesaid extended wire-brush up and down like a loon.

Take one stout and stiff wire-brush, Duct Tape it to the end of an old boathook handle and Bob’s yer Aunty.
Not thinking it through I rather rashly used my favourite dustpan and brush to sweep up the Cardinal’s roof after my flue-brogglings. Now it’s bit oily… 😦

Without his chimney-pot topper the flue is a very industrial-looking beastie, a huge chunk of iron set in the boat roof and carefully mounted and insulated in order to not transfer heat to the headlining or anything therein. The one on the Cardinal is well into its life but still serving the purpose nicely.

Where flue meets chim-er-knee pipe.

The oily staining all around ought to come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the top of and/or the inside workings of their own house chimney. Burning dinosaur remains in the form of “coal” briquettes releases a fair amount of oily nonsense and it has to go somewhere, there also being rather less somewhere on a boat than on a house.

Everything VERY carefully insulated and non-combustible near the flue.

It is, I ought to say, imperative to keep the stove itself well sealed during the broggling-out process, because gravity claims the detritus and – except for the clouds of soot and stuff that billow out into a chap’s face – it all ends up at the business end.

That which hath been swept.

Flame-trap baffle removed, checked and cleaned. Fire-brick liners removed, checked and eventually replaced in the correct order and positions. Stove glass cleaned. Door rope checked and looks fine. Half a bucketful of cr*ap to dispose of.

In the screaming depths of winter the Cardinal and I burn through roughly a 20kg sack of coal in four days – each day of course being the full twenty-four hours, Mr Stove is kept in all night. In fact, once we’re through autumn with its on-off-on-off weather Mr Stove remains lit right through until I am surgically released from my winter long-johns in spring.

Early in the season there’s generally a spot of a tussle with Mr Stove insisting that the weather is not cold enough to warrant his attentions and being reluctant to both light and stay lit. As soon as the weather turns properly though he’s in for the long haul, and so long as I remember to feed him every three or four (or sometimes five) hours, he’s h.a.p.p.y. enough methinks.

With the lighting of the stove – and that won’t happen yet, not until mayhap September and as late as I can make it – comes the change to stove-top cooking. The expenditure on coal provides heat throughout the boat and boils kettles and simmers curries and stews and even makes some varieties of bread. There’s room for two saucepans on the stove and the plates and dishes are generally set atop the ash bucket in front, to warm up.

Polaroid Picture Frame:
One from last winter. A curry (large pot) and rice (small  billycan).

Behind the stove is a coat-rack, cunningly placed to take advantage of the warmth of the flue-pipe so that coats hung there dry out quickly and even stay warm for next use.

In a peculiar, almost perverse, sort of way the placement of Mr Stove at the bow end of the Cardinal’s cabin is ideal for me – the daytime and sitting areas are warmest, my sleeping cabin coolest (which is wot I does prefer). To regulate and adjust the two though I have The Electric Snake.

The Electric Snake, forced air movement for the use of.

The shower room &etc discourage the free flow of air warm and air cool into the stern cabin, and The Electric Snake is simply some plumbing pipe and a couple of “computer” fans. Warm air is sucked in one end and blown out of the other. If the stern cabin is too cool of an evening in winter I just switch the fans on for an hour and temperatures are quietly equalised.

It seems most peculiar to be concerning myself with stoves and flues and suchlike in August, but as my time in the Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii taught me, a comrade must always be prepared for every eventuality that may lie ahead. Unsurprisingly, my (concurrent) time in S.I.S., Section 6, taught me much the same.

Besides, if I busy myself with the machinery of heating, perhaps the weather will stay bright and pleasant so that I can do a few of the other jobs on my (long, long) list?

It has to be worth a try.

IanHutson2018 (11)
Cardinal Wolsey at rest in a favourite mooring spot. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”
― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows.

Chin-chin for the moment, chaps.

Ian H., Cardinal W., & Mr Stoveski.


  1. All this sitting around watching, you’ll be mistaken for a Ging-gang-guley-guley-gamboozler or whatever the name for interested spectators of the boating fraternity actions is. Keep it up.


  2. Its all very efficient and ingenious. I’m glad you shared it.

    How soon can you return to a mooring after you have vacated it as per the black signs of CaRT.? Is it once and done, or some specific length of time?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, and therein lies the mystery, none will say (legally, they can’t say) and the 1995 Waterways Act doesn’t mention the matter, simply stating “no longer than fourteen days in any one place”… Place is, of course, not defined by the Act, either. 🙂 The weasel words written into the “terms” and “conditions” of my canal licence wax briefly lyrical (a neat but self-defeating feat if ever there was one) about moving from A to B to C and perhaps, these silly days, even to D – before appearing in A again, while still not defining the extent of the places A, B, C and D. Doubtless in a year or three the licence will stipulate visits to undefined areas such as P, Q, ψ and я as they continue, on some muddled quest to gentrify and commercialise – and privatise – public property.

      In England tis the case that a chap cannot sign away or be deprived of rights or responsibilities given to him by act of parliament, the law over-rides, and any contract or agreement must be fair to both sides and within the terms of law, otherwise it is null and void. Tis especially null and void if the terms and conditions are not even defined (because they cannot be, by law, it would exceed CaRT’s authority and remit). The canals are public property, CaRT was intended to be a public body, they can’t start imposing ideological or draconian rules like some “Gentlemen’s Club” – and yet somehow they do, and are getting away with it. No idea what’s going on, but it’s not legal.

      In short, I pootle and guess and do my best and – except when on the sticky end of snotty emails from CaRT as recently – just get on with my life and my glacial moochings. 🙂

      Have I said “harrumph” somewhere in there? Or even “tsk tsk”? 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Is it me or does Mr Stove have his ‘Yikes! That curry’s hot!” face on? I see faces everywhere and they don’t always smile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr Stove is often grumpy when being woken. Or when going to sleep. Sometimes in-between, too. I do my level best, but I have yet to find a reliable way to make him smile. This is a shame, because I am inordinately fond of him. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I have a certificate from the Director of this institute, Doctor Maddas Aboxofroggs, to say that I am almost sane. By the way, should you ever meet, his surname is pronounced “Fortesque-Smythe”. 🙂

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