Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Loads of links, and potential misery

I am a very non-competitive person. In fact I am an irritatingly uncompetitive sole. I did not mean to have more narrowboat links than Granny but I just thought that there were some good ones that Granny hadn't included. I mean, Pickles no2 wasn't even there. But this is not a competition, there is no prizes for having the most links, no glory, no prestige, no benefits. Just because I've got more than Granny doesn't mean anything (other than the fact that I've got more, ha ha ha!!! Sorry forgot myself for a moment). The fact that I've got another seven on my feeds awaiting assessment and adding to my links means absolutely nothing whatsoever. OK, some links may be a little spurious, some maybe a little irrelevant, some a bit inapplicable but they all need constant checking and no doubt someone else will find a broken one or an irrelevant, spurious or inapplicable one.

The boat has been visited, but not attended to, over the past couple of days. No good for my premise of the thirty day fit out. The 'I told you so' merchants will be out in force and saying, “I told you so”. Well sod off. I'll start the thirty day thing again when we move on board. Oh dear. That's in two days time. What a miserable failure. “At least we'll be happy” says Lisa. I'm not so sure that we will. It will be difficult in the short term but at least we will be afloat and at least I can dedicate 100% of my time on the rest of the fit out. Unless of course, I get side-tracked.

The house has taken priority for the last couple of days but on the up side, we are planning our first cruise as live-aboards. All the way down to Marston Junction and back on Sunday morning. Well you have to start somewhere. Even if you have no water, no 12 volt electricity, no 240 volt electricity, no comforts, no chairs, no bed, no nothing. Not even enough of the boat below the waterline. Welcome to our brave new world.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

New wheels

Arrived at the boat yesterday and found that my workforce had scarpered in Gypsy Rover. Well the gratitude. You provide work and a livelihood and after two days their off. Taking advantage of my good nature I reckon.

Got a bit more wiring done and identified the positions of all the electrical items like sockets and switches. Once I've got the relevant wiring completed I can finish the lining out. Maybe next week (then again maybe not). Today Lisa took Derek and Dot (50% of which is my ex workforce) to the NEC for the boat show. She reported back that they seemed to enjoy it. I was too busy dismantling what remains of our house.

I have finally got rid of our old ex ambulance camper van. It was virtually unusable as it was too thirsty. I've now got myself a nice little ford white van thingy which I am very pleased with. I did a swap with the guy and he give me £200 on top. Unusually this is not the first instance of people giving me money lately. The Post Office, which have insured the new van, are sending me £50.00 for buying their insurance making the premium £116. I'll believe it when it's credited to my account,

Hope the guy who bought the old camper has more money than sense in order to fill the thing up with petrol. Mine will need a new clutch sooner rather than later but is generally in good nick. Strangely the screen washer was not working on the either the old ambulance nor is it working in my new van and neither party informed the other. Poetic justice on us both. It's already been well utilized in running rubbish to the recycling centre and such a lot of rubbish I can get in the back. We've to finish clearing the upstairs of the house by end of play tomorrow (more unrealistic goals).

By the way. I have increased the number of links to narrowboat blogs on my links bit on the right hand side of the screen (no good to those using feeds) and there are now a total of about about sixty (even more than Granny). Go on. Try a new one today.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Revolting workforce

Derek and Dot from nb Gypsy Rover hadn't made a fast escape during the night and were still there when I arrived for work (but it's not real work according to Lisa) this morning. Derek found that his gearbox had again spilled its contents into the bilges. The good news is that he believes that he has identified the problem and where the oil is coming from. A call to Ashby boats found a local gearbox engineer who will hopefully be able to help cure the problem once and for all.

Derek bounced on board again and declared his interest in helping for the second day. Not one to refuse help, he was put straight to work putting in the 12 volt electrics. That done he tackled the spray foam for the rest of the day. The spray foam has been a real pain in the bum and I had never read that anyone has had so much work to do to get rid of the excess foam. It would have taken another three days to remove a sufficient amount to enable the lining to be completed but on Derek's suggestion, I battened above the gunwales with an extra 9mm using spare ply. It seems to have done the job and should be ready to finalise the electrics and then finish the lining out. Dot again provided the bacon butties but this time without the eggs. I obviously ate them all yesterday.

There doesn't seem to be an easy method of removing the foam but it was admirably tackled by Derek who is now an expert on spray foam removal. Research completed, he can currently be found writing up his thesis on the subject on-board Gypsy Rover. He saved me several days hard graft and I am extremely grateful once again.

Lisa came down at the end of the day to inspect progress and surprisingly announced she was very pleased. I can't imagine why as she has to move onto it in seven days time. Perhaps it hasn't hit her yet or she thinks we are moving onto another boat. We'll see.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Bloggers forced labour

You see. The system works. You shout for help and help arrives in the form of fellow bloggers Derek and Dot from nb Gypsy Rover. I was heading down the tow path with far too much conduit on my shoulder and watched their boat pull into the moorings in front of Pickles No 2. We exchanged niceties and Derek announced that he wished to help me out today. Probably out of sympathy for a poor unfortunate, incompetent DIYer but still, I readily accepted and got him straight to work.

We jumped in and completed the conduit for the wiring and the 240 volt circuit including stripping back even more spray foam. By half past four we had finished more than I could ever have done by myself and I am eternally grateful.

“Now, tomorrow I want you to complete the 12 volt wiring and plug it all into the fuse board then wire up the lights and plug sockets. I'm sorry. What do you mean you're leaving to continue up the Ashby. There's much more work to do you know. Well, I'll have to do it myself then.”

Cheers for the help Derek and Dot for the tea and bacon butties (I know I ate Derek's bacon and egg cobs but that's my prerogative as the guest).

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Some photos

Some photos from my phone. I've never done this on the phone before but now know how to. Apparently I need a new data card for the new camera as the old one from the drenched camera is the wrong one. Completed the final coat in the water tank today and went to Vehicle Wiring Products for the cable to start the wiring tomorrow.

Legal at last

More chaos

Chaos again

It's ok. I've got ten days before we move aboard.


Monday, 18 February 2008

Licence arrives

The licence arrived today in an oddly long shaped envelope. Opening it produced the identification number plates with 516513 written on them and two tax discs. Lisa and Terri (up from the big smoke for a funeral) decided that it was a lucky number. I reluctantly agreed whilst rolling my eyes. I had applied and paid for the licence on the 21st January so four weeks seems a reasonable amount of time for the thing to arrive.

Am I the only boater (for that is what I am) who doesn't care if other boaters have a licence or not. It seems to be an obsession with many boaters that there are some others who don't have them. My thinking on this is that it has absolutely nothing to do with me. If you think that, all of a sudden, if all boaters unexpectedly bought one that your licence fee would go down is cloud cuckoo land. We are all turning into the French. A country where everybody grasses up everyone else on any matter, however petty and where their whole culture is build on collaboration of one sort or another. Well if you want to be French get collaborating and get on that licence evasion hotline whose number (bizarrely) is printed on the back of your licence holder (01923 201122 for those who only speak French). Anyway haven't had a rant for a while and that buttered my biscuit.

This house clearing thing is really taking up my time. After several rubbish runs to the local recycling centre I went down to the boat to check the first coat of blacking in the water tank and found that it was still tacky. I decided to give it another 24 hours for completion. That was a dreadful job. The first coat involved me climbing into the depths of a tank barely larger that me in the foetal position through a hatch one foot square so as I could reach all the nooks and crannys. It only took an hour but I have spend better hours. In fact I have spend better hours in mud filled ditches in the pouring rain being shot at just outside Crossmaglen in South Armagh or in a snow hole in northern Norway at minus 43°. It all seems more fun in retrospect.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Is it another week already?

It was half term week this week and we took advantage of the fact that both of us were at home and started to box up the house. This was not something that I had taken into consideration when I began this project and had believed that it would have magically happened while I was fitting out the boat. Not to be. While our home has been placed in boxes, the boat has slowed to a crawl but I have started the plumbing with the hot and cold water systems on the go and all the relevant parts now having been purchased and many of them in place; calorifier, pipework and pump.

Tomorrow I am tackling the delightful task of painting the inside of the water tank. Not something I have been looking forward to and something every other person has detested. I had a taste of things to come today when I was mopping out the old rain water and canal water from the tank that seems to have come in through the unsealed hatch (well I hope it wasn't coming in from the bottom). I was filthy from cleaning the rust ready for the first of two coats.

Next week I am left to my own devices again during the day and am starting the electricity. Not something I have ever professed any amount of competence in but one that should be relatively logical with the help of Tony Brooks. I have already bought and put in place the battery bank so the next big item is the Victron combi 3Kw inverter/battery charger that I have decided on after pondering all the alternatives.

Unfortunately, as I expected, this blog is sadly neglected at the present and our time is spent with all aspects of the impending move and my soon to finish monthly tussle with Talktalk (soon to become walkwalk). We are now dongled up(or dingled up as Lisa says) with a Web n' Walk package from T-Mobile so we have no fears about mobile communication as it is now fully tested in the comfort of our home. Downstairs we have GPRS and up there is 3G.

We are still being kicked out on the 29th of this month so there is no time for dilly-dallying around. If I'm not doing the work my mind is racing around the thorny issues at hand and the pros and cons of the various problems I've come across. If I don't return in 24 hours, send out the search party. They'll probably find me covered in black paint in a tiny tight space at the front of the boat screaming that it's all too much. I've got the hang of the new camera but haven't had the inclination to place phots on here yet. Maybe next time.

See ya.

Friday, 8 February 2008

First set of lining complete.

Both sides are now lined below the gunwales. It will be the engine bay that gets the next treatment so at least I won't have to contort my aching body over the engine to enter the boat. It's an accident waiting to happen. This manual work's no fun and I'm very tired in the evenings hence the short entries.

I have bought a new camera and phone at under a hundred pounds for both. I am highly impressed with both items but haven't had the time to work out how they operate as yet. Terri is back this weekend so I'll ask her. Hopefully I'll be taking photos again next week and mightily interesting they will be too. I should have taken one today as I had to move all the tools, wood, cookers, heaters etc to one side and the boat was almost at tipping point (well it seemed that way). It is a disconcerting feeling when it was tipped over to that extent. There's also a few more boats moving about in the good weather although I haven't had time to enjoy it.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Lining going up...slowly

The lining is going up very slowly as the first lot of grip adhesive for the battens did neither grip nor did it adhere wood to metal. In fact it remained in the same state that it was when squeezed from the tube for 48 hours. I had to re-do all the battens. It seems o.k. now. Never buy anything that says 'Trade' on it. An excuse for inferior quality if you ask me. I'm not surprised that the building trade gets a bad name it this is kind of rubbish they use.

The one side has been nearly completed below the gunwales and has been oiled and varnished to protect it from my clumsy footwork. Port side tomorrow. Now I've got the hang of it it'll be a dawdle from now on. Maybe.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Battens in

The battens are glued into place ready for the lining which I will start tomorrow. Some of my tools are also installed in the boat but only the essentials. I will also be starting the generator tomorrow for the first time so I hope that it works ok.

I'd love to have photos to show but unfortunately when I took a dunking the other day the camera was in one pocket and my mobile in the other. It's just bits of wood glued to bits of metal so not very exciting. You'll just have to use your imaginations. Electronic devices don't seen to react well to canal water but hopefully next weekend I'll spend some of my fitout money on new ones. Just don't tell Lisa.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Ashby at last

It's been over a week since I last posted. The boat is finally on the Ashby. At last. There were adventures aplenty on the way back involving breakdowns, freezing nights, falling into the canal and twelve hour days at the tiller (I may have whet your appatite).

We picked up the boat on Saturday morning as we had planned to. Final checks complete we had to reverse the thing five hundred metres to the nearest winding point rather than driving an hour down the cut and an hour back. I know that all you experienced boaters will be thinking, so what. That's no big deal. This was the first time I had driven the thing. Never mind the first time in reverse. All sorted we set off. After a couple of miles at Stoke Works I noticed the oil pressure was getting a little low so pulled to the side. The engine bilge was full of oil and I thought this is not good. Checked the dip and there was enough to see us to a boat yard on the map at Stoke Prior. On arrival I went to the local chandlery to buy some oil and to see if there was a mechanic around. Fortunately there was. A certain Ashleigh Pinder of JL Pinder & sons Boats. He was kind enough to come and have a look. The diagnosis was that the oil pressure sender unit had a cracked coupler between the unit and block and required a 1/4” BSP male/female coupler that was leaking oil (I thought all engines nowadays were metric. Apparently not). This was something that the New Boat Company was aware of before hand as their first handover was postponed due to a faulty unit. It obviously had not been replaced as I had been told.

We spent the night moored by Black Prince hire Boats and Ashleigh came back the next morning at eight thirty and blocked the relevant hole with a suitable plug. He said that he would sort it out with the N.B.Co. but we insisted that we pay him for his work as we did not want him to be out of pocket. I've got to say that Ashleigh is a top man and I would recommend his skills to anyone. Since I have heard nothing but good reports about the man and his boats. He charged one hours labour for the work and we were ecstatic to be able to get through the Tarrgebigge before the closures started again on Monday. This involved a certain amount of work, mostly on Lisa's behalf. She worked through the locks like a trooper, every one of which were against us. We started at nine o'clock. And finished at five o'clock opposite a hire base but I cannot remember which one or where it was (Alvechurch Boats at Alvechurch I think) as my 10 year old Nicholson is still on the boat as I write this. Check out the photos and see if you recognise the company. We went for a pint at the Weighbridge Inn and something to eat. Good home made fayre. We also came across some editions of Waterways World from 1993 in the bar which made for entertaining reading, especially the prices of boats.

Next morning it was an early start as we wound our way to Birmingham. This was to be the shortest day of the trip and we were moored up by four o'clock after a fairly uneventful lock free journey. We did come across our only blogger boat in the form of Mr David at Gas Street.

Then on to farmers flight the next morning. This was quite interesting as much of it was subterranean under the buildings of Brum. Farmers was fine if slow but when we got to the Aston flight, the control unit fell apart in reverse just as we were leaving lock 4. I managed to arrest the backwards motion and tie up before killing the engine. Taking the thing apart I found the offending bolt and tightened it up ready for onward movement. We got to Fazely junction after a marathon journey that partly took place at night with Lisa madly waving a head torch from side to side whilst me driving in pitch black finishing at six o'clock where Lisa had a RV with a lift home as she had to be at work the next day.

This left me to complete the journey by myself from Fazely to the Lime Kilns on the Ashby and I decided to do it in a day. Silly me.

Up at seven, breakfasted, dog walked and ready to go at 7.45. This ended up being a twelve hour marathon at the tiller with a twenty minute break for bacon sarnies at eleven o'clock. I was freezing. The ice on top of the boat took an age to thaw. The two locks on the Coventry out of Fazely were the first I had done by myself but were not as difficult as I had though they would. They were against me but I worked out how to do it albeit the hard way. The Athestone flight were a different story. I was more eager to get through them as fast as possible and by then had worked out the fastest method of doing them.

Inching the boat into the lower gates I would nudge them with the bow to see if there was any water in the lock and if not with a bit of power they would open. Inch onto the top gates once contact made, into forward gear at minimum revs. Lift dog onto the roof, close lower gates and open top paddles. Boat lifts, one paddle down boat opens gate under own power assisted by me, I jump on the counter and once the stern of the boat passes the gate put boat into reverse and jump off to close the gates. Boat moves about 10 metres into pound then slowly reverses back to me, lift dog onto counter, jump on and into forward gear which besides thrusting the boat forwards also closes the top gate. Onto next one.

Gongoozelers were somewhat amazed by the fact that the boat was going forward into the pound with no-one aboard only to return thirty seconds later when I jumped aboard. It worked every time. But of course you've all done it before, got the tee-shirt, seen the video and a have in turn used it for dinner party conversations. But I haven't.

I have always considered Atherstone a complete dump, full of scronks but boaters always say it is an adorable oasis of calm and tranquillity. I now see why. From the canal it is. Not like Nuneaton. Atherstone shows its best side to the canal, Nuneaton shows its spotty, white, hairy ass to boaters. Not really a place to stop for a picnic. I at least wanted to get on to the Ashby before stopping and I ain't stopping here. Children hanging from bridges (no not from ropes, (more's the pity) from their fingertips) screaming "give us a lift mate". "Err, I'm not sure I'm going in your direction". "Haven't you considered that your parents may wonder where you are."

By the time I got to the Ashby it was almost dark but stupidly I was determined to finish what I had started and wanted to end up at the Lime Links pub near Hinckley. This was particularly stupid as I was driving at night without headlights/tunnel light. Time to rig it up. This completed I rang Lisa and said I would be there a within the hour. Light rigged I went onto auto pilot. I was frozen to the bone and stamping my feet on the counter merely told me my feet were actually where they should be and did nothing to warm up my frozen 6' 4” frame. The world is a different place in the dark and steering is a completely different experience. Foliage jumps out at you and the cut feels very narrow. Bridge 6,7,8,9 oh god will this ever end, 10,11, I can see the A5 road, 12,13, that's it I can almost smell the beer, 14 and here we are. I pull into the water point to see if there is room right outside the pub. There was. Untie, step forward to reach the centre line, splash. What was that!!!!! It's you you fool, you've walked into the canal up to your bloody waist. Shocked I climbed out but have the presence of mind to tie up the centre line. It must be something below zero. Checked to see if anybody else saw me (ego first). Releived, I climbed inside over the uncovered engine, rummaged in my bag in the pitch darkness and changed into dry clothes as fast as possible. Without a pause I threw the thing into gear and went through the tunnel to park right outside the pub where Lisa was waiting. “You may be wondering why I am wearing this slightly exotic collection of clothing and squelchy shoes, Well.....”

I squelched into the bar and ordered the inevitable pint. No-one seemed to notice who was leaving that slightly damp canal like smell about the place. The tiredness really hit me. I had been on the tiller for exactly twelve hours, had only one bacon sandwich and one cup of tea all day and was frozen. I have a tendency to be a little obsessive and task orientated on occasions and it seems that this was one of those days. I slept reasonably well in my own bed that night. Lisa said I was an idiot. You always get the best support from the ones you love.