Sunday, 19 April 2009

Brewing and all the rest!

We seem to be stretching out in both directions at the moment, on the one hand we've got our mobile internet sorted onboard, very 21st Century of us - on the other hand we've got no running water! Which drags our waterways profile back a hundred years or so! Which isn't proving to be a problem, slightly inconvenient perhaps but no problem. We're passing water taps on a regular basis, so with our four water carriers (25L, 15L x2, 10L) in hand we can easily gather enough water to see us through.

Our trouble with the alternator belts has continued, but we've got it figured out now, this isn't an engine you can leave for weeks on end and forget about! Which is great for learning. The latest diagnosis is that at least one of the bolts maintaining tension on the starter alternator is not doing its job properly. I tighten it up, it runs fine, we stop for an hour (or less) and the belt starts screeching on start-up again... Luckily we've got the art of removing the steel steps in the stern down to a fine art with both of us hauling on particular corners at certain angles! Luckily, being an ex-hire boat, Wils has plenty of room in the stern, making engine access very (okay, reasonably) easy.

Having checked the transmission oil for the first time a few days ago and found it to be rather low, we bought a generic transmission oil, and now I don't know whether or not it can be mixed with the stuff that's already in there... Waiting for the opinions of the wonderful lot over at Just Canals on that front!

Interior painting continues, most of the red and white in the saloon is done, and the panels in the Grand Hallway are primed and ready for colour...

We've made some excellent progress on removing the rust in the stern. We got the lid off the water tank in the bow and discovered the most disgusting sight... So we sponged out the remaining water and it's had a very good chance to dry out since then with all the sun we've got right now... It's clear why the tap water was coming out brown! Good thing we've never used it. So we're trying to work out what the best thing to do would be - do we apply a bitumin based paint and use the tank as it stands OR do we investigate having a stainless steel tank custom built and fitted? Sounds expensive to me... We'll see.

Our first pumpout at Yardley Wharf (where I grew up! Well, not the wharf itself but the village above it) proved that the access hole in the starboard side does not connect to the pumpout tank... That would be the hole on the other side, the one MARKED PUMPOUT. :D So some nifty manouverings had us spun around the right way to get poo pumped. Also filled up with diesel and declared 60/40 split.

Yet ANOTHER trip to Halfords and B&Q had us buying an enormous tarp, which has helped to keep the rainwater off the stern, where the boards are in poor condition. Yup, that's another job for the list...

We've got plans for tearing out the wardrobe setup in the bedroom, not to mention the 7ft or so of table and the sink (in the bedroom?!) to make room for an effective use of space!!


1st May 2009:

Didn't get around to posting the last entry, so here's two together, latest news is:

Currently in Cosgrove, we had our first diesel fill-up from the working boat this morning, and spoke to the folks running fenders/ropework/rag rugs/BW Warden(ing), who are moored a short walk up from us. Seems like it's possible to buy all the diesel/gas/coal you could want from the small companies still working on the canal, which is great since it keeps trade on the canal and keeps the workboats from becoming transformed into fully fitted floating apartments for weekend use... Nah, I don't really have a problem with weekenders, but I might in a couple of days, this being a bank holiday weekend, we're prepared for rough seas! :D I just love the old workboats truth be told...

The only issue was that because the 13KG gas bottles are far more common than the 6KG bottles, we haven't been able to get hold of refills for the gas yet, and it's becoming more and more apparent WHY nobody has 6KG bottles out here... They tend to retail at about £15 for 6KG, about £20 for 13KG and an even better rate for the HUGE bottles. Note to self, perform proper research before a marina does ANYTHING!! The boatman's cat calmed us down by making our roof his home for half an hour or so...

The gas locker is not big enough to hold 13KG bottles, so unless we want to spend some time with an angle grinder and a cutting disc, we're stuck with 6KG bottles. Which isn't a disaster because we're only using the gas for cooking on from now on. We haven't had the heating on for more than an hour or so since that first week when we ate through a bottle in about 5 days... Summer is cheap!

Exciting progress yesterday as we began our first attempt at homebrewing onboard! The demijohns may be relatively small but they're both bubbling away furiously! We should be able to sample the finished product, in the region of 12 pints if all goes well, in about 2-3 weeks time and we've got the fun of bottling before then.

It's a stunningly beautiful May Day here in sunny Cosgrove! We're going to plant our veg and salad seeds this afternoon and hopefully get into the woods at some point to forage something delicious... I would post a few photos but our connection is not great, so that'll have to wait! We may not have seen much of the canal system yet but this is one of the spaces I could probably be persuaded to moor up at for a few months... Only not yet!


Sunday, 12 April 2009

We're On!

What a fortnight!!

What follows will not be a coherent chronological sequence of events, but rather an avalanche of recollection:

In our first two weeks onboard we've had a vertical learning curve to get to grips with, we knew the engine was a slow starter but we figured that having just had a service she would hold out for a little while, giving us time to get up to speed on the general maintenance of our beloved chunk of BMC. How foolish we were! The very day after leaving Weltonfield she was having none of it and simply would not start so we promptly joined River Canal Rescue and were visited that afternoon by Jim who pointed out the madness of trying to turn over a slow-starting engine using a 110a/h leisure battery alone. Now we know how to jump the starter battery from the leisures, using a windlass if need be, though I think it was the helpful boater moored up next to us a week ago that taught us the windlass trick... Jim got us going again, advising that we buy an 800a/h starter battery, which we have since done and installed.

That was not the last we saw of RCR, we had got as far as Stoke Bruerne, successfully negotiating Blisworth tunnel, aware as we went through of the screeching sound that was beginning to creep into the engine tone... Opening up the engine bay later revealed the black rubbery dust of shorn alternator belts, not good. Attempts to replace/tension the belts were stressful, believing that we needed more tension than we could achieve by hand/hammer handle/mooring pin. RCR arrived and revealed that the day's cruising we'd had under the belts we'd tensioned ourselves had been not too loose but too tight. Now we know the correct tension and running the engine this evening revealed minimal screeching, so a little tinkering with tensions is required tomorrow. RCR also advised that the reason she's a slow starter might be down to old glow plugs that need replacing, or even that we might be losing compression due to pitted valve seats, which is not a particularly easy or quick job to fix, and is certainly out of our capability for now.

When Jem went to wash her hair the other day it was discovered that the shower pump was barely functioning. Having moored up beside a great pair of characters, Phil and Sue, who are cruising in convoy on Black Rose and The River Gypsy, we had bucketloads of advice which we promptly scribbled down! They recommended we check the filter in the line that leads from the base of the shower tray to an exit point in the side of the hull. An hour's awkward fumbling around under the shower led to the removal of a small mountain of gunk and hair! Ain't boatin' bootiful?! So this evening marked my first hot shower onboard! Which felt seriously GOOD!

The issue with the water tank goes on, we're waiting for a spell of dry weather which should allow us sufficient time to get the hatch off, sponge out remaining water, remove as much of the rust as we can, paint liberally with bitumastic paint, wait to dry and refill with water! Then hopefully we will have water that doesn't come out of the taps a horrid red/brown colour. Good thing we bought those plastic water tanks for the time being...

Painting has begun on the interior too, cream and volcano red! It might be a small space but it's fiddly, Jem is mastering the cutting in so we'll have it done in no time! I can't wait to remove the corner cupboard in the saloon and start building the surround for the stove.

We're becoming grandmasters at Escape from Colditz the board game, and our first foray into hand washing onboard was a success, we tested out our newly acquired copper posser and the 'washball' device that was onboard before we were. Both were successful, though the posser's Victorian charm won me over as the more satisfying method. Drying clothes has been the real challenge however, and our search for a mangle begins now!

We have no way to monitor how much fuel we have left, so I think the next couple of days will see us getting our first pumpout and diesel fill. Our first filling up with water was a success, if a slightly soggy success! And now we know that taps covered in BW security boxes require a hose pipe, so mooring up miles and miles from the water point then arriving plastic containers in hand (sans hose pipe) will lead to much cursing and a trudge back to the boat for the pipe! Boaters be ye warned...

We keep telling ourselves that had we bought a boat in better condition, we'd not be learning half as much about how they tick, and, taking the water tank as an example, once we have clean running water and a new drinking water filter, it'll seem like absolute luxury! And as for the shower, they seem to have installed a cunning device specifically for reducing the inevitable discomfort of stepping from a conventional shower into a colder bathroom - it actually reduces the temperature of the water in the shower so that when you step out there's no discomfort at all! SPACE-AGE OR WHAT?! :)

This Easter weekend we're hoping to get our mobile broadband sorted, and tick off a few more items on the ongoing shopping list...