By SARA’s volunteer hot water urn overseer, Jim Casanova
By 1990, I knew of rogaining as my daughter, Jenny, had been to events with Kay Haarsma, and maps had been displayed, but that was all. As part of the 1990 Easter Orienteering Carnival, my wife, Dorothy, and I were entered in the 12-hour rogaine at Dutchman’s Stern. This resulted in a steep learning curve in larger area/smaller scale map reading, plus working out distances, pace counting and re-locating. Our night navigation left a lot to be desired (and we left rogaining alone for a few years after that).
The next contact with rogaining was when Dorothy was asked to help on the hash house for the 1996 12-hour at Karinya, near Truro and therefore I was present as her transport. Standing there, and not knowing what to do, I gravitated to the hot water urn like a moth to a lighted candle or a fly down the chimney of a lighted kerosene lamp. I thought I could be useful by looking after it – a simple job and I should not get into trouble.
Here I digress; back in 1958 I was an acting fireman – I had passed the Fireman’s Mechanical exam – on Eyre Peninsula for the South Australian Railways (otherwise known as “Second-‘And Railways” because much of the equipment and infrastructure was recycled and improved from other rail networks. An example of this is the Faegol Railcars. The SAR had bought some road buses in the 1930s, but these proved unsuitable for metropolitan service so were converted to narrow gauge rail and sent to Port Lincoln where they operated on the Eyre Peninsula rail network for 40 years).
Firing T Class steam engines, I was required to keep a full and hot boiler by managing the fire, which involved: shovelling coal, cleaning the ashes from the firebox, blowing the sediments and salts out of the bottom of the boiler (at a siding), filling the tender with water, and of course I had to keep a watch out and communicate with the driver. An engine was only as good as its crew!
This is where my quotation comes from “It is a poor fireman who can’t fill his boiler up and maintain a full head of steam”.
Operating the urn at a rogaine hash house is an almost identical task: when starting from cold, if possible, begin with a small amount of water and as it comes to the boil, add some more. Adjust burner, keep urn hot and full but not boiling madly, as more steam means more water wasted and thus more needed, and water may be as scarce at a rogaine as on Eyre Peninsula at the height of summer. Either add water or reduce heat, but when adding water never put in more water than takes 5 minutes to boil again; preferably 1 cup out and 1 cup in.
The only real difference between a steam train’s boiler and the rogainers’ urn is that rogainers drink the salts left by evaporation…
After the 1996 event, I felt safe to commandeer the urn whenever possible, as nobody really wanted to supervise it. Besides, this gave me a sense of usefulness and wellbeing, so I jealously guarded my position. Using the above techniques, I was able to comfortably keep the hot water supply going, for 400+ people at the Asthma Foundation 6-hour at Para Wirra in 2015.
My crowning achievement was volunteering at the 2016 World Rogaining Championships at Ross River in Central Australia, when the caterer told me that he didn’t have to worry about the hot water while I was there J
There were a couple of problems though. The first was minor, as I had to make a jug/dipper for water out of a 3-litre milk container. The other was that power was touch and go, with 3 electric urns (rather than SARA’s usual gas urn) and a generator-based power supply. One extension cord was too light for the job and so the cord would overheat and that urn would never boil. Plus, every now and then the whole show went out on overload and the only indicator was that things were off the boil. This was routinely followed by a mad scramble to get power again.
I enjoy the companionship around the urn, plus I am always amused when there is steam emitting and yet people slap the urn and ask “Is it hot yet?” to which I reply “Stick your finger in and see!”.