Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Boxing in pipes and visitors...

Well not the boxing in of visitors but you know what I mean.

After our near poseidon panic, Saturday improved rapidly and once we'd calmed down, I did a bit more boxing in - pending the arrival of Andy's parents to see the boat  visit us.

I had originally planned not to have any screws showing but have since decided at some point, I'll have to remove it to get at the plumbing or to run some cables so have done an 'honest' job of it, instead.

Another quick job I finally got around to was attaching an outdoor waterproof speaker to the rear radio - up until now when outside or cruising I've had to rely on either having the radio blaring INSIDE or chomping away through AA batteries on the portable... with the additional risk of knocking aforementioned into the canal at some point. 

I've used a telephone curly cable so it can be placed on the bank side for a balmy summer day in the middle of nowhere...  (I can dream)...

When his parents arrived, we went off for a chug - the river was up after the night's rain so we had no choice but to go the other way - it's a bit of a boring route but it was nice to have a few glasses of wine and give them a go on the tiller.

Andy is still not drinking so once I'd had a couple, he took over skippering and I pressed the buttons on the lock -  here's a couple of snaps of him and his mum "treading water" in the lock whilst waiting for it to fill.

We're really hoping for a warm and dry weekend so we can get some rust rubbed down and slap some primer on - we're both sick of the rusty bits now....  NOT helped by me drilling/cutting holes in the roof and leaving forgetting how quickly the swarf would oxidise!

btw- before I forget, we've had another "big" visitor across from us lately - The Freda Carless

She was enormous but made a lovely chugging sound when departing. 

Tomorrow night we've got "Rocky Horror" booked at the Theatre... alas we BOTH miss-read - it's actually a screening of the film 'sing-a-long style... it's going to be grim!!!

Until next time...

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Early morning sinking feeling...

well not so much a feeling as a blind panic!

I'll explain...

Last night after work we came to the boat as usual to cook dinner and watch rubbish telly.  It was blowing a fair old hoolie outside and once again, I was getting annoyed at the intermittent (but too regular) scraping noise one of the tyres we use to keep us off the bank was making against the side of the hull.  So - around 9pm, I opened the side hatch and dragged it up and onto the bank...  Silence (well ish)...

It occurred to me as we then slammed against the wall, I'd now need to tighten the ropes up to keep us hard a side  (if that's the correct term... you know what I mean).

SO, undies, crocs and head torch later, I was out pulling things nice and tight.

We retired around 10 to watch the last leg in bed -  I drifted off to sleep easily enough and woke around 3.30 when some fecking poles  enthusiastic chaps speaking foreign staggered past the boat on their way home/out partying or wherever.  I noticed my head sloping down hill a bit and went back off to sleep thinking I must work out where to place some ballast to counter the (now getting fuller) poo tank under the bed.  In my dreams I was taking up the bathroom floor and pouring concrete in ... dont worry, i WONT be doing that!

I awoke again around 5 - still thinking, I wonder if the bilge has taken in some water and the alarm hasn't gone off.... so, staggering down the now VERY badly tilting boat STILL 3/4 asleep, I put the bilge pump on and listened.... no water noises so I returned to bed. WHY it didn't occur to me that we weren't rocking at all is beyond me,

5.45 was soon there and my body clock had me up for work...  at which point I was a bit more with it and realised something was wrong... VERY wrong.  I carefully climbed out the back and once I stood on the bank was shocked to see the prop and rudder - not to mention one half of the boat up in the air - suspended by the rear rope.  I tried to loosen it but it wouldn't budge - I suppose 14+ tonnes of boat on a rope does exert a fair bit of tension... although nowhere near as much as I was feeling.  The starboard gunwhale was almost touching the water!!!

Thinking about survival first I ran to the front and banged on the doors instructing Andy to get out of the boat asap without arguing...  For once he did as he was told  asked - usually, we have to have a debate about it but I guess he must have been able to tell from the calm tone of my voice it was serious.

Once he was out, we went to the rear to survey the scene together and decide the best course of action - NOT being sure at what point it would tip over, we kept off the boat and I rummaged in my car for a knife, expecting to have to cut the rope in the hope it would slide back in and be well.

Before destroying the rope however, we formed a 2 man tug of war team and pulled to release my knot. There was an awful scraping noise and "Ellis" lunged back into the water properly with a few clattering noises coming from inside.

What had happened was that when the river is in flood upstream, the automatic gates close us off and through a combination of leaks and feeds for the lower pound, our water lever can drop about 1ft quite quickly.... this had obviously happened last night- leaving us high and dry (well one side) on the shelf.

As you can imagine, the tyre is now well and truly back in place and I'm enjoying the reassuring scraping sounds its making!  SO much so, I may attach an additional length of para-cord to ensure it doesn't get snapped off easily should I park badly! at any point lol.

No photos of this I'm afraid as I didn't have the nerve to go back in to get my phone.

Until next time...

Monday, 13 March 2017

A Boat full of gas???

I've said all along that I don't like gas... it's dangerous and volatile stuff - hence my reluctance to do the connections myself!

SO on Saturday morning, a "proper man" came along and connected everything up.

As originally planned, we had a bubble tester in the gas locker - I'm glad we did because when I tested it last night... it bubbled!😠.

Having HAD the gas on for 24 hours and cooking a rather good (even if I do say so myself) Sunday lunch  -  I was a bit worried the bilges would now be full of gas.    With that in mind, I obviously turned it off at the bottle and removed the floor sections that we'd taken up last weekend to remove ballast - with the door and windows open and the floor up, I'm reasonably confident that gas will have blown away... at least I hope so.

This morning, I sent the chap a text message to say we had a leak and what I'd done to trouble shoot it's location (turning off  the individual isolation taps).  I asked if he'd like me to nip up everything "up stream" of them or would he prefer to call back sometime to take a look - Given I've not booked the BSS man yet, there wasn't really any panic.  He replied immediately saying NOT to touch it and he'd call over as soon as he could.  

You could have knocked me down with a feather when he phoned about half 3 to see if he could come over...and to his credit he arrived about 5 and quickly found the tiniest leak - apparently so small it wouldn't have shown on the drop tester thingy (or whatever it's called - I think it's a manometer?)...  it would certainly have been within the acceptable tolerance in a house.  He, (like me) however agreed NO leak is acceptable on a boat.

Anyway - he quickly traced it to the little "t" junction from the main pipe to the appliances and it's now sorted.   I'm very pleased about that.

AS for cooking in a Thetford Prima Midi oven - THAT will take a bit of getting used to.  To start with it only comes with 1 shelf (I have now ordered another one)... the bottom of it is basically cold - I know this because on Saturday night we tried a quick oven pizza and chips and after 40 mins on the bottom, the chips were only just defrosted!

When it came to the chicken on Sunday - it'd been in for nearly an hour before taking it's cardigan off!

Patience was key though and in the end, it all turned out ok - INCLUDING Yorkshire puddings... NOT bad for the first effort in a rubbish oven.

In other news, my trip to the hospital on Friday went ok - the facet joint injections (6 in all) were bearable but as yet not much has happened...  I can go back in a few months for some more apparently - yippee.

Meanwhile, I take as much gabapentin and oxycodone as I feel I need to... hmmf,

Until next time...

Friday, 10 March 2017

Budget Bilge Alarm and porthole shutters revisited...


It's a rare day when I'm not at work by this time (currently 7am)... I've had a lay in and will be off to hospital for the injections into my back later.  I've no idea what that will entail but I'm a brave ginger soldier so whatever they do... HAS to be nicer than a morning at work!

THIS week - despite work being a total pig, I've done a couple of jobs on the boat on an evening... yesterday was a new low work wise though as we had a "Quest TV" film crew in doing a bit about rescuing scrap items for a new series.  Luckily for me, I'm working on the wiring on the cars from the last ride... faffing around with pick-ups and diodes so managed to avoid being interviewed - they were more interested in the current caterpillar project.  It did mean a pretty frustrating day not having the radio on or being able to hammer/drill/saw/grind - or even whistle!  I think it was the first time in many, many years I've had to endure a whole day with nothing to distract me from the voices in my head ;-)

Anyway, back on the boat, having already tried with a supposedly "decent" bilge alarm (which didn't work) I bought a couple of budget models that run on 9v batteries (think smoke alarms) to trial in the cabin (dry bilge) and engine (also dry unless something goes a bit wrong)

Having already taken the floor up at the cabin's lowest point, I figured that was the best place to fit the sensor as should any pipe or pump spring a leak, it will accumulate there quite quickly.... without an alarm, the first we'd know about it would be when it came up through the floor.

These are the things I bought - only a fiver each so a gamble worth taking.

They come with a metre or so of wire which I extended using speaker wire - it said "any" wire would do so as I've not yet fitted the 2nd car stereo, I stole purloined a bit from the speaker box.  Using a couple of choc blocks to secure it to the bearer and another to stop the wires being able to touch and trigger false alarms when the boat is moving.

I printed a little label, and stuck it under the battery holder with the date the battery went in.

I'm going to do the same with the engine bilge but as I need more wire for the sensor, that will have to wait.

As you can hear - it works with a drop of water.

At some point, I might fit a little led against each alarm so as to easily identify which one (hopefully neither) ever goes off...  but given the engine bilge is easily accessible, it might be simpler just to open the flap and look rather than faff around more.

ONCE I've fitted the engine one, I'll ensure I test it each week when doing the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure the battery hasn't failed on us.  

I've also prettified (for want of a better word) the lounge porthole shutters this week.  Having "cut" my own mdf circles last time for the shutters, I discovered pre-cut ones on ebay for about a tenner for 5.  

I've cut them in half, and painted them with cuprinol before glueing them to the shutters.  I think they improve the appearance... and can easily be repainted when we fancy a change of colour.

I STILL need to find some sturdier hinges but can't rely on mail order for that as I need to feel them...

Right, I need to go fill in the medical questionnaire to take with me today.  When I finish at the hospital, I presume I'll need to rest a while and hopefully I'll be ok to work on Monday - I'm NOT going in tomorrow despite pressure from the boss...  if he can waste us a days work with a film crew, I can take time to recover!

THAT said, all being well, the gas man  is coming tomorrow so we may have an inaugural Sunday roast on the boat.

Until next time...

Monday, 6 March 2017

Retirement planning & slow progress...

Some would say that at 45, I'm too young to be preparing for retirement...  those would be the people who don't have as many bits falling apart as me!

It dawned on us a while back that most of the world is full of people needing the latest, best, fastest, most elegant "whatever"...  of course when I say needing  I really mean 'thinking they need'.

Luckily for us, we worked out a long time ago that's  all a load of  bollocks cobblers.  When we first decided narrow boating was for us (some 7 years ago now) it hit like a bolt out of the blue.  We went on an early season hire holiday with Andy's parents from Skipton on the Leeds & Liverpool canal... the holiday came at a bad time for me work wise which meant I was wound up before we began and didn't really have my 'chill out and relax' head on.  THIS meant, that for whatever reasons, the group didn't all get along harmoniously!

Ignoring the tension this created, it occurred to me that having a holiday boat - or rather a Hotel boat, would be a great way to finance a move away from our traditional employment to something more rewarding... I actually thought  the concept was MY idea - I was gutted to find narrow boat hotels already existed.

Undeterred, we began our savings in earnest and here we are today with the boat on the water and in the process of being fitted out the way we want it - ie. with "guest accommodation" at the front complete with access to the master bathroom and "crew accommodation" at the opposite end (complete with a loo in a cupboard).

It's on this basis we plan to offer 'some kind' of skippered holiday to folk who may otherwise be unable to spend time on the waterways... only a max of 2 at a time - if they're a couple they can have the front cabin and if singles travelling together, they can have the rear.  We did the sums and worked out that even by "offering" a reduced level of service than a typical hotel boat (for a reduced price) we should still be able to finance our lives, working 12 - maybe 16 weeks of the year.

BEFORE we dare do this however, we have agreed to save up 2 years worth of mortgage payments on the house (although the tenants rent should just about cover it)... this preparation however is proving a very hard pill to swallow with work the way it is/has been/will continue to be.    On the first day of each month I now toss a coin as to whether to chuck it all in.  Luckily thus far, I've not had to call my own bluff...  We'd really prefer NOT to have to sell the house but if we have to, we can... and we'd still be a lot better off than many folk but more importantly we'd be free from what stresses us most.

For now however, it's another month of slogging on and biting my tongue.   To be part-retired within  18 months-2 years is the plan.

ANYWAY - back to the weekend ... Ahem, well, progress WAS made - albeit as predicted rather slowly.

My fault as for some reason I got it into my head that NEXT Sunday was mothers day and as the gas man is booked to come, it would mean I'm unable to go and see the crinklies parents.  SO, first thing Saturday morning we took a drive up to the Yorkshire Dales, stopping off for a bouquet of fresias.

Apparently next Sunday ISN'T mothers day - it's the 26th March... well in that case, I shall send a card nearer the time saying "see recent flowers"😏

On return home, the plan had been to go out and have a Greek mezze for a late lunch - alas, the restaurant didn't open until the evening and that didn't fit with our planned works.

So, instead I did some jobs and nattered to passers by whilst Andy did something on his kindle.

I Sikaflex-ed a couple of planks to the bulkhead in the gas-locker before screwing in bottle securing straps I'd bought off ebay the other week.

They tighten up ok so should do the trick.

I then set to and cut another hole to remove MORE ballast - we got carried away this time and took out another 7 blocks.  

It has made the back end a much better height now - I should think once the lockers have another bag of coal in them it'll be about right.

This 2nd hole is going to double as a cold store - I plan to make a frame around it (for support) and also make up a couple of steel drawers to slide under each side of the dinette to sit on the base plate... mainly to keep wine cool and the occasional vegetable when we've forgotten the size of the fridge and over bought.  

Once I'd had a bit of a tidy up *read put the floor back down* I ran  a couple of cables from the Thetford power supply, under the kitchen worktop to wire up another usb socket next to one of the chairs.  It's the perfect height for plugging in another of those Ikea bendy led usb lights for reading with - using about 1 watt they are brilliant!

By the time that was done, the weekend was about over so we called it a day and returned to the bungalow... which despite having the heating on constant felt very cold compared to the lovely cosy heat provided by that little stove on the boat... that REALLY was a good buy - buttons compared to the cost of the Morso but a brilliant little burner which is easy to keep in over night - in fact, when I get up, the lounge is still about 20 degrees c with the back cabin being about 17 thanks to the eco fan.  
Work is all consuming again this week although I do have Friday off to look forward to as I'm having some kind of injections in the facet joints in my lower back at the hospital - 'can't wait!

until next time...

Friday, 3 March 2017

Weekend plan...

Just a quickie - I'm heading out the door to work.

Jobs on the list for this weekend include:

Prepping the gas locker ...

Cutting another hole to remove more ballast...

Fitting a new engine cover board and sound proofing (the hospital silencer works well on the towpath but NOT so good stood over the engine clattering)...

A bit more boxing pipes in...

fitting another usb charging point...

...WHO am I kidding, we'll drink tea watching the fire and occasionally pop a head out the side hatch to feed someone else's dog a biscuit!

THIS is the life!

Until next time...

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Ballast and cunning squirrels...

Don't worry - the two are NOT related!

It's typical isn't it? - Friday was a lovely dry (if windy) day that'd have been perfect for sawing wood on the tow-path... Saturday on the other hand was grim at best - ruddy awful for most of the time.

AS such, it rather put paid to my original plan to do some more boxing in of the pipework.

Instead however, I decided to fit come recessed handles I'd ordered from our Chinese friends (at less than half the price of the identical things from Ironmongery direct).    I can't for the life of me find a photo of them but they're about 50mm in diameter that sit flush with the front of the door...of course even though they're now fitted, HABIT means we are still opening doors using the top and bottom corners!  These are the things.... good value for money

Having taken a good look at the doors it occurred to me it was no wonder they were looking grubby....I remembered that I never got around to varnishing them properly... SO - I made a note to do them on the next dry day... mainly because they'd need to go outside for a proper sanding.

As the weather was still manky, in a bid to progress with the "gas" I finally got around to making  list of the the various adaptors I think I'll need to connect it all up... spending the best part of 100 quid before the bubble tester and regulator.  With this in mind, Andy decided that whilst I THINK I am capable of doing it, he would be happier with a proper man on the job (the cheek) so I was ordered encouraged to find a gas-safe registered chappy with the appropriate "tick" in the boat box!  - he's coming at the weekend to quote... I know when to concede defeat.

THAT said, I decided to sort out the wiring and switches for the ignitions  - 230v for the hob and 12v for the oven.  That meant a trip to Halfords for some more fuses and B & Q for a couple of single patress boxs and spurs.

Whilst buying fuses, I also got sufficient for the various 12v car sockets/usb feeds that have been popping up around the boat (ahem - which up until now I've ignored

This is in the back of one of the kitchen cupboards - ignore the slightly wonky socket... my back is bad at the moment so it was a bit of a struggle.

I've gone around the other ones and connected in-line fuses with a 10 amp mini fuse in each.

Feeling rather pleased with my "electrickery" connections I finally got around to looking at the ballast. 

Soon the gas will be connected and cooking will be more civilized... although I must admit, on Friday night I again, cooked dinner on the fire -

this time a stew with dumplings and various vegetables... and I suppose using FREE energy given the fire was on to heat the boat anyway.  On a morning now, I'm able to get out of bed to a warm boat, chuck a few sticks on and a log and within 15 mins, have a cup of tea from water boiled on the fire...

. . . . . . . . . . 

So about this ballast...LIKE most boats, Ellis sits lower to the rear thanks to the engine /fuel tank and calorifier.  The builder had ballasted it accordingly but didn't take into account the extra weight the dinettes and 3 or 4 bags of coal/3 jerry cans of diesel sitting in the rear lockers.  With this in mind, I took my multi-tool to the floor in a bid to remove some of the blocks.

WHAT an awful job that was.  Having built the cupboards and dinette seats on top of the floor, it meant I could only cut a small section under the rear hatch.

Access to the blocks was difficult to say the least... in the end we managed to take out the 3 you can see here, followed by 1 each side "under the floor".  It's only an estimate but I should think they weigh somewhere between 20-25kg each and for now they are in the gas locker.  The effect has been to allow the rear (skeg I think it's called) to lift about an inch - it "looks" less severe now but could still do with a few more blocks taking out to lift it further.

Given that we can't reach any more from this section, it'll mean ANOTHER hole being cut a further forwards to gain'll have to wait until the weekend though as it's too physical a job to do after a hard days work - work which we're not talking about presently as grinding us all down.

With the 5 blocks in the bow gas locker, the boat IS sitting much nicer at the front which leaves me with a bit of a dilemma .  Ideally, I'd like to keep the weight in there but they blocks are a bit bulky.  I intend taking up some floor in the front bedroom to see if there is any space to accommodate the blocks but I very much doubt it ... I DO recall seeing an advert somewhere for some steel ballast that purports to be heavier and smaller than the blocks.  This might either sit in the locker better, or be able to fit on top of the blocks under the floor...  Another job for the weekend.

Oh -before I go (the bath is nearly run now and it's been a very long day) on Sunday morning, about 7 am I was opening the shutters and spotted a ruddy squirrel helping itself to Andy's "squirrel proof" bird feeders.

Unfortunately, my old Nokia (think "Fisher-pricer my first phone") doesn't take very good videos but if you DO  have good eyes, you can JUST about make out the little git  cutie, having his breakfast.

Of course I made the appropriate noises pretending to try scare him off but if the truth be known, I like squirrels so will just buy MORE nuts to even things out!

Until next time...