Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Moving onboard today!

The lovely Liz at Weltonfield assured us yesterday that all the paperwork is completed, we have a BSC, we have insurance, now we just need to send off for our license! In short, we move onboard this afternoon! It all begins today!

Hopefully we'll be able to post from the cut via my phone, and we're in the process of sorting out wireless internet and other such technowizardry... Norway was a great and intense week, feels like we're just moving from one adventure to another at the moment! Which can't be a bad thing. We were in Oslo before and after our visit to Alta, high up inside the Arctic Circle, real wildcat country! And moose/reindeer/bear country too... Amazing place.

I've been poring over the waterways maps this morning, trying to get a feel for what we might encounter on this afternoon's first cruise! We don't yet know how far a tank of diesel will take us, nor precisely how often the pumpout will need emptying, nor how often we will need to fill up with water! I'm sure we will learn these things all in good time over the coming weeks...

Right, I've got things to pack! Next post will be from onboard our new home!


Saturday, 21 March 2009

And what's more...

In addendum to the previous post:

Never underestimate the sheer joy of discovering hot water pouring out of ya taps! Onboard what has been thus far a very chilly, damp boat for us, the excitement caused by discovering hot water in the system was quite immense!

Also, never underestimate the effectiveness of the switch marked 'WATER PUMP' for producing a result very similar in appearence to the phenomenon known as "fully working taps/showers/water points"!! Turns out that in order to have running water ya have to press THAT ONE! I felt like rather the fool yesterday onboard. Well, ya have to learn these things at some point! And it wouldn't have helped us a great deal on those two days we spent onboard, since we're treating the condition of the water tank as suspect for the time being, so no drinking water onboard yet either way. And now I know.

Also had a brief chat with the Morris's on NB Legacy as they manouvered their way out of Weltonfield, lovely folk!


A visit to Weltonfield today confirmed that both the boiler work and the engine service have now been completed! Nick showed us how best to use the central heating, top up and bleed the system, how they tinkered with our engine in the service and what exactly to look out for from our beloved chunk of BMC iron in the stern, what a top bloke!

Still just a gnat's wing away from actually being able to cruise, once Trevor has been down to inspect the work he will (hopefully) be able to issue us with the BSC, which we can get off to BW asap, along with our license application. That's one thing that those folk new (newer than us anyway) to boating or first time buyers might do well to bear in mind when looking at potential boats; see how much time is left on the current license and enquire as to whether or not the current owners would be willing to sign over the remaining time to you, could save some hassle. Not that applying for a license is a huge difficulty however... Just a thought.

I was thinking about setting up a list of; Things That the Näive Newbie Narrowboaters Never Expected to Pay For When First They Got Into This Lark (TTNNNNEPFWFTGITL, catchy huh?), one entry for which cropped up today in the form of the charge for the "rental" of the new gas bottle! Not the use of the gas inside it, you understand, just the canister - I'm not saying it's an unjust charge, it simply never crossed my mind. So down went our £30 to account for our third 6KG bottle.

We are also now in possession of our trusty BW key, and we located the hexagonal pumpout key, which had been temporarily lost in the excitement of unpacking bags, stocking galley shelves etc.

I'm on the lookout for a replacement rubber impeller for the raw water pump, so that we have a spare with us at all times. Spare filters wouldn't go amiss either.

In short, I think we're finally getting there, the boat is ready - at precisely the same time as we're off to Norway! Truly that is Sod's Law at work... But at least we'll be able to get straight onboard as soon as we get back! We'll be on the Northernmost tip of the European continent for one week, which means leaving Wils on a temporary mooring for a week, at further cost of course. We now know to leave triple the amount of time we think we need for anything boat related!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Our first nights onboard! Scrubbing Algae! Paint colours! Insurance! Still not cruising yet though...

HURRAY! The floating problem-child is finally ours for keeps! We completed the final purchase at the end of last week (with significant - albeit temporary - help from Jem's folks - Thanks Stuart & Jenny! You're lifesavers!) In short we're still waiting for the boiler work and the engine service to be done, Weltonfield are incredibly busy at the moment, and are facing the retirement of two of their engineers this week, right in the middle of their busiest month of the year! They seem rushed off their feet! So we just have to be patient...

We spent our first nights aboard Wils at the weekend, which was great, even considering that we were without running water, heating and toilet facilities! We had the lanterns burning brightly and some very strange jazz on the tape player (yes, we DID have a little power in the batteries!) courtesy of Mr Herbie Hancock, as we whiled away the evening in furry hats and scarfs and many layers of clothing, plotting heroically the deciding moves in Escape from Colditz the board game! It's a great game in fact, and looks set to become a regular feature onboard, so those who come and stay can look forward to a good ol' fashioned round of Colditz, and no mistake! All the efficient fun of the Third Reich!

A few photos:


Our advanced water system!


We have been carefully analysing our options for licensing, and for a long time we were tempted by the trading license, in the catagory 'shop or workshop' or something like that, because it would enable us to sell what we make directly off the boat. But of course, in true headlock-capitalist spirit, if there's any chance of one individual making money, then a whole slew of other people are legally entitled to make some too, as a result. The trading license in question, which bizarrely is relative to the size of the vessel, was more than twice as much money as the standard license. And them licenses ain't cheap to start with! All for selling the occasional handmade rug onto the towpath...

In all fairness, there is a 55% discount for traders that make less than £65,000 a year, which we would qualify for by a gazillion miles, but the very idea of keeping the books, and having to deal with that kind of business mentality is, frankly, repulsive. So we shan't be selling directly off the boat for the time being, because we can't afford to. We can't afford to make money, apparently. We'll put up a link on here to our Etsy shop as soon as it's open!

We have made many, many journeys by car to the marina in the last week, now most of our stuff is onboard. Just a little logistical juggling to do in order to bring the remainder of Jem's things up this way from down south.

We managed to find an insurance company that were willing to insure us without a BSC, given that we don't actually cruise her until the work is done to bring her up to BSC standard. Waiting, waiting, waiting...

I'm trying every day to learn something new about our engine, our electrics, our plumbing, and I have two books on the way on those very topics, so that there might be at least a small chance that we can maintain Wils in top condition, and fix the bits that (will) go wrong (eventually)!

In an attempt to rid ourselves eventually of water pumps and electrical plumbing systems, we're hunting around for second hand beer pumps, the kind that get discarded from pubs quite regularly apparently. One day I want to have beer pumps instead of water taps in the galley, and perhaps one pump next to them feeding from the cask-conditioned homebrew! That might be a long-term plan! The pumps that is, not the homebrew, that's priority number one!

We're also looking at paint colours for the inside, we're siding on a dark red and cream for the saloon and possibly something different for the bedroom!

Scrubbing the algae off the roof goes on a little bit at a time, as does investigating the electrics to try and get the tunnel light and the horn working again! We're going to have emergency backup horn and light in the form of a handheld air-horn and a powerful torch too! Advanced stuff!

As we're hoping that our first trip will be southwards down the Grand Union, we're hoping that the stoppages at Buckby Lock will be cleared up soon. Officially they are due to end tomorrow, I don't know how often BW manage to stay on schedule.

It seems like every day we get a bit nearer to our new life on the water, here's hoping it won't be too much longer!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Still on dry land...

We're still land-bound for the time being! For now, we've decided to have the gas boiler repaired instead of removed entirely (for now), which gives us some time to construct the surround for the stove and have it fitted, during which time we'll be able to live onboard and have some kind of heating! Always a plus, one might say...

It turns out that if we want to have the back-boiler on the stove feeding the fin radiators, we'll need another pump onboard to get the water around the system between boiler and radiators - if we want gravity fed radiators from a back boiler, we'd need to have conventional radiators fitted in place of the fins, which adds cost and significant time to our moving in date. If we have gas heating we're reliant on gas, which is something we distinctly want to avoid if possible, but that's what we've chosen for now, as a temporary measure. Once we get the stove fitted, we're hoping that it will be enough to heat the entire boat, which is what we've heard from various people, and, having thought about it, that must be the traditional way of heating a canal boat?

So the repair of the boiler is imminent! Also, due to corrosion inside the water tank we won't have running water from the tank when we move on, and we'll need some good weather to empty, then clean, then repaint the tank - before we can use it at all! AGH! We've been going over numerous ways around it, such as using a large, very strong, inflatable plastic container for water, positioned inside the tank, but obviously connecting that to the plumbing would be very difficult I imagine. There is not enough access space to fit a stainless steel tank either, which would be preferable to storing our drinking water in a tank coated with bitumin-based paint. Hmmmm. But the bitumin-painted tank looks like our only option. So initially we'll be on constant runs to the water point with our new 10 and 15 litre tanks!

Once the boiler is fitted we'll have the gas test done, which will determine whether or not the cooker works! Fingers crossed... Also, Trevor can swoop in heroically once the boiler's done and issue us with a BSC.

Also, insurance is a fun thing, generally speaking we can't seem to find insurance for a boat that doesn't have a BSC, so we can't complete the final purchase until this order of things is completed:

  • Boiler repaired
  • Gas test performed
  • Gas work checked and BSC issued
  • Insurance issued
  • Final purchase
Or something like that. Apparently it's possible for an insurance company to insure a boat without a BSC under certain strict conditions, so we're investigating those conditions...

The exciting list of things we need to find for the boat / jobs we need to perform on the boat is over 30 items long now... Seems like the more we do, the more needs doing! More to follow soon!