The Morso Squirrel
You really only want to read this if you have a coal fire or are planning to get one.
We are getting to grips with the coal system, and several times each day there is something that must be done if we are to stay warm at our mooring at Aylesbury Canal Society.
There is a delivery to the area on Wednesday or Thursday, and if we ring up with a credit card on Monday or Tuesday our order will be left near the gates to the basin. For the moment we are using Homefire Ovals.
There are various trolleys, trucks and barrows we can use to get the coal to the boat, where we can stow it carefully either in the bows or on the roof so that the boat does not list.
Bringing it onto the stern deck
To avoid trying to wrestle with bags of coal in the rain or snow, we bring it in, one bag at a time, under the pram hood on the stern where it stays dry.
Filling the coal hod
To get the coal inside the cabin we use a coal hod which we fill on the back deck by tipping the open bag of coal towards the hod. This makes a loud thudding noise so we try to avoid doing this late at night. Sometimes a lump of coal goes astray making a mess of the back deck. This doesn’t please the ship’s first lady.
Bringing it into the cabin
We lug the full hod through the double doors, down three steps, through the galley, past the dinette and into the saloon, where it comes to rest beside the fire, ready for use. It sounds a long way but it’s only about twenty feet, (6 or 7 metres for those of you of more tender age than I)
Feeding the Morso Squirrel coal fire
Two or three times a day we shovel some more coal into the fire.
Riddling and poking
There is a device on the fire called a riddler. This a rod which can be pulled in and out, which in turn swivels the bottom grate, causing the coals to settle and the ash to drop through to the pan underneath. This is not completely effective, so additional action can be taken with the poker to rummage among the coals, making the ash drop away. It is helpful also to lift the coals with the poker to allow air to reach all parts of the fire.
Adjusting the air flow
There is a ventilator below the grate to allow air in. The more this is opened, the faster the fire will burn. There is also a door to the ash pan which can be opened ajar to let even more air in, for example when first lighting the fire. There is a further ventilator above the level of the fire which allows air down inside the front of the glass, theoretically preventing a build up of tar on the glass.
Changing the ash tray
We have bought an extra ash tray, which fits neatly underneath the stove out of sight. When the tray in use is nearly full of ash, and before the riddling and poking exercise, we take it out and exchange it with the empty one from under the stove. It takes an hour or two to cool off. We need to do this before riddling and poking, otherwise we have hot bits of fuel among the ash, which gives off carbon monoxide and sets off our alarm. If the alarm is not working we die.
Removing the ash
When the full ash tray has cooled enough, we take it to the stern of the boat where we empty it into our ash bin, a small dustbin with a lid, which we line with a plastic shopping bag. This makes a bit of dust, which doesn’t please the ship’s first lady. If the tray has not cooled enough, the plastic shopping bag melts, which makes even more mess. The now empty ash tray is then returned to it’s place under the stove.
Emptying the ash bin
When about six ash trays have been emptied into the ash bin, it is fairly full, and the plastic shopping bag full of ash is tied and placed carefully into an empty coal bag. Hopefully the small holes common in plastic shopping bags do not line up with the holes often found in empty coal bags, otherwise there is more dust, which doesn’t please the ship’s first lady.
Dumping the ash
When the coal bag has several ash bags inside, it is time to take the entire bag over to the dustbins by the marina entrance.
Other related jobs
Apart from these regular jobs which come under the loose generic term “coal and ash management”, there are ancillary tasks, such as: kindling management (acquisition, storage and use), firelighter management (acquisition, storage and use), cleaning the glass, dust management (sweeping, collecting, disposal, vacuuming.
So what shall we do today? Oh! It’s 5pm already!