Sunday, 19 August 2018

Feels a kinda slow week

In reality it hasn't been, it's just felt it. 

After getting back Sunday evening from my painting course I set about consolidating some of my notes and trying to source some of the advised items from Phil, nothing exciting, just some of the basics that he has always used. 

I was hoping that there'd be a couple of decent decorators in Tamworth which would be our destination in a few days. One of the things I wanted was a brush mate, a clever little box with it's chemical sachet that stops used brushes that are hung in it from curing. It keeps a wet painted brush wet for it's next coat of paint. Looking at places in Tamworth the cheapest listed on websites was £28. For £17 I could get one from eBay and have it delivered to Argos for collection. I'd have preferred bought local but a day trekking around different shops just to spend more money wasn't inspiring me. In the end I had all six items that I wanted to buy delivered to Argos in Tamworth ready for our arrival in a few days.

It was looking like a later than intended start to Mondays cruise as Deb had to take the car to Fazeley and get a train back from Tamworth to Stone before meeting me back at the boat. In the end we decided to leave it to an early start on Tuesday morning. 

Tuesday to Great Heywood

Wednesday a quick pit stop in Rugeley and a massive queue getting through the locks in Fradley. We arrived to  the boat in front of us telling us to stop and pull over behind them. 

  "Why I asked" this was about five boats off the visitor moorings at Shade House Lock.

  "They're all in a queue" Mrs boater replied, whilst Mr grew animated on the towpath as they were stuck on a bolder.
  "What ALL of them?" there were probably sixteen boats that I could see. "What even the ones pointing the wrong way?"

I really didn't want to get grounded on a blowy day so I said we'd go on ahead and breast up with another boat and wave them through. As it transpired, three of the ones in front had managed to get a mooring spot and said they'd stay the night and, funnily enough all the ones pointing the wrong way had no intention of locking down so there were just eight of us in the queue. 

So a fairly decent pace from Great Heywood to saw us waiting over two hours to get through Fradley. We filled the water tank on the Coventry Canal and called it a day just passed Huddlesford Junction, at a nice mooring with wide grassy towpath and low evening sun... sadly right on top of a wasp nest. We soon shifted on a bit and had a fresh smelling farm for company. 

Thursday to Fazeley Junction close to the now empty Peels Wharf and back to the car. And now we've moved on just around the corner to the Tame Aqueduct so we can get some noisy boat jobs (sanding/prepping/painting) done without disturbing the residents of the flats we were moored opposite. 

One of my favourite events next weekend, The Alvecote Big Weekend... Historic boat gathering, bands, food and drink at the Samuel Barlow and of course a handful of us selling our wares.

Boatwise - Paul has been busy with other pre planned jobs in the yard for the last week or so. A New bow thruster tube (sounds like the other one was days from failing and sinking the boat) and a repaired boat for a fellow trader. He's back on it now so we'll go up for a visit some time next week before he sets off for Alvecote. 

In other news Dudley is spending his last day with his gonads tomorrow. We've tried explaining to him but I'm not sure he's understood. It'll come as a bit of a shock as he'll be going to his favourite squeaky toy shop vets, I wonder if the experience will put him off it at all.

Moored on a wasp nest

And quickly moved on a bit to a very 'fresh' farm

Opposite Peels Wahrf

Around the corner to a less built up bit

One day left with my whats?

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Whoa! That was a pretty intense weekend!

Just a quick one! Boat painting. 

I'll no doubt add more to this post by way of a part two (or more!)

So paint on boats, No#1 it protects the steel from corrosion. There's absolutely no point in having a nice shapely new boat with loads of thought into how it's going to be used, and not protect the bugger from the nasty British weather. 

Up until Friday the colour scheme for NB Ernest was pretty well decided. Quite an industrial colour scheme with a red raddle type mat paint for cabin top, hand rails, decks and probably foredeck and cants. Cabin sides were to be a nice darker grey and a lighter mid grey singular rear panel would have the boat name in large, bold, fairly square tug suitable font at the rear. 

Decent paint for narrowboats costs a decent amount. The Aircraft blue that we've just bought two 750ml tins of for touching up the gunwales of NB Lois Jane cost us £33.95 each, that's just over £3 per square metre per coat! How many coats? I don't know, I haven't the foggiest. It's no surprise that getting a pro to paint a boat does cost a little bit to a lot, depending on who's doing what to it. 

Now we've always wanted to have a paint scheme that was simple for us to keep looking fairly good. We've tried really hard and done pretty well to keep LJ's painted cabin looking nice through the years mainly because the only option would have been a full repaint. We hope NB Ernest will be a little easier to repaint in sections when we really need it rather than pay, probably £10,000 (some are up to £15,000) for a pro paint job that we're paranoid about damaging.  

So a couple of hours ago I arrived back from my weekend training/intro 'how to paint you're boat' course run by THE Phil Speight. Phil is an  absolute master coach painter, classical sign writer and decorative artist extraordinaire! This fella has been hand painting the important bits of narrowboats and the odd rather impressive vehicle for decades, as well as being involved with video production on narrowboat history and heavily involved with the production of first class coach painting and sign writing paints and protective finishes. Phil's current job is a 1913 bread van painted using, and for Craftmaster Paints, a company that he has an awful lot of history with. 

So what did I learn on this classroom based weekend hosted by Bollington Wharf up in Cheshire? Well an absolute load from how to look after and repair damaged paint, to prep and application of the nine plus coats needed on a new boat. I'm not going into depth about what Phil says to do... go on his course you tight buggers! £135 for the weekend including all the tea and biccies you can manage and thoroughly hearty home made lunch.

Phil did take us through the process for most coverings and I took a few pics of his progress once it got interesting on day two with his taste of what he thinks any methodical boater with half a brain (and his next course of sign writing) can achieve with enough time in a paint dock. 

Needless to say I'm now in a bit of a quandary as to whether to keep with the industrial style or look further into a trad trad and what I may be able to achieve with some further tuition. Here's some pics

My Sketch-up plan of Ernest

Day One, how to get from steel to this and why

Cabin panel lines, arcs marked and sketching
Lettering begins

Half a panel lettered

Scroll work


Ran out of time for the Liverpool

Drop shadow work

Highlights in off white

Close up

And yes he thinks we can do it, more importantly he really wants the tradition carried on.

Hmm decisions decisions

Sunday, 5 August 2018

So What Is Paul Building For Us?

The Pen Maker's Boat Mk 2 - Narrowboat Ernest is taking shape!

So here's the vision... A full length (or there abouts) trad tug. Think quite industrial looking rather than Rosie and Jim.

Our inspiration boat, only no false rivets on Ernest

Stern Counter - 

3 to 3'6" - nice upsweep, simple weed hatch access system.

Boatmans Cabin - 

10'6" - Traditional layout but extended. A properly dimensioned one is about 8'6" and has a much narrower bed hole, ours should end up close to 4'6" and leave room for a couple of skinny wardrobes before you get to the engine room doors. At the moment rather than oak coloured scumble glazed panelling we're thinking of a lighter ash colour and substituting the brightly coloured roses and castles for a more muted pallet. Porthole to starboard side and a bulls eye in the cabin top. Most likely will be a traditional boatmans stove/mini range but we've had diesel fittings added to the under floor 450L tank in case we go for the diesel version. A long engine room and 50hp motor need a big prop so Paul will be fitting a 2" lorry prop shaft to connect the engine and sizable 24" compensated (over sized paddles) propeller that's being made by Crowther right now. 

Engine Room

6'6" - There's room to make changes if needed here. We went for a longer than needed engine room in case we ever had a longer engine, seemed logical to me. As the engine excl gearbox (which sits about half way through the floor) is only 34" long there should be loads of room for making decisions as we go. Now some of those are... central engine room doors which if they're all opened up will give the back of the boat a much more open plan feel. Possibly 25' down the middle if the workshop has the same. Other options are using the space for a separate generator, having lots of storage and maybe housing the hot water tank. The engine room will also have a small pigeon box for light and ventilation in the cabin top and matching doors with lift hatches both sides.

The Pen Maker's Workshop

8' - I must say, we're quite looking forward to this bit. Not finalised any dust control systems yet but there are options! The least they'll be is step-over door thresholds to stop bits blowing along to floor from one area to the next. Deb will be setting up business in here too finishing traditional board games and making ornaments and puzzle type things using a scroll saw and, if there's room, a band saw. This space will have  a cabin top prism for light when the doors are closed (there will be loads of powered lighting for working) and matching doors to the engine room and the plan is, that when the moorings are deep enough, we'll just be able to open the engine room doors and workshop doors on the towpath side and have the pens all displayed in displays built into the door linings. 

So that's the end of the industrial bit of our home, next onto the living bit and how we may be able to marry the two parts together.

The other style that we're planning on which will hopefully marry up with the industrial side is a Victorian/Steam Punk slant. Hopefully we'll pull it off ok.

Shower Room - (no not heads, we're not at sea)

7'6" - The SteamPunk/Victorian theme starts here. These are only Ideas to give you a flava so no plans are fixed.

So we'll have a shower cubicle, either swivel glass screen or a curtain with suitable Victorian theme. A composting loo (well a pre composting loo - keeping it simple, Tapatahi remember! A simple white hand wash basin either on an antique wash stand or as part of the structure below.

The plan is that this is just about big enough for a dressing space so we'll be having cupboards in here. To keep the industrial elements I'll be building (well putting together) pre cut scaffolding tubes (possibly painted) into a rack like system that pre built 18mm ply boxes will slide into and fix onto. As we make them we can decide what box has what function. Some may have drawers, some maybe just a hinged cupboard door and the top ones probably top hinged, caravan style. k
Now there's a very good reason for choosing this box type system. Debs sister and other half have recently bought a rather large CNC router/milling machine. Its about 10' x 5'. With some guidance we should be able to email them the design, order a stack of ply and get the magic machine to do it's thing. Our very own flat pack!

The bathroom will have two very nicely machined solid brass drop back portholes and I'm planning on an extraction system linked to the kitchen using a 12v bilge blower. Flooring will probably be something like black and white diamond shape lino.


7'6" - Not as big as we're used to but hopefully enough and lots of storage. Two full height larder units with a mixture of cupboards and drawers. Possibly using the same tubing shelves. Built in cooker, washing machine (in their flat pack boxes) and ceramic round bowl sink  (in it's cupboard box) to port, The second larder unit, 12v fridge and hopefully an antique low dresser or art deco drinks cabinet to starboard. Brass drop back portholes and a decent sized dog box in the cabin top.


12' - roughly. We're trying to get this area as flexible and open planned as possible. From the galley, a small multifuel stove with a fireside chair opposite it. His and hers sized armchairs and probably something like a barley twist legged drop leaf table. Four drop back portholes and another set of side doors about in the middle. Hopefully from the milling machine we'll also get a library steps/stool that can be used for dining and access to the side hatch. 

Clever init? chair flips over into steps!

Under the deck

9'6" A close to floor level bed hole (possibly slide out). in front of that will be a 1000 litre water tank and storage accessed from the deck


4' with just the gas locker.

Well that's the rough idea, lets see how close we get! No doubt there will be loads more to come. 

Here's some pics from Paul's facebook page of the actual hard work bit. here's a link to his page, great pics this week of a rather rotten bow thruster tube. Paul's Facebook Page

It was at this stage that I called Paul and had a minor melt down. I realised that working to the internal height of Lois Jane's 6'5" wasn't going to suit this style at all. Paul had previously stated that he was going up to the max on the cabin side panels and then adding ladder handles on the top as well, so we'd been warned!
Never mind, re measured and by the time we'd arrived at 9 the next morning a plan for dropping the whole cabin top between 2.75 and 3" was in place. Thank gawd we chose the right builder"


Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Life after Saharan nights

Whilst it's definitely nicer to have slightly cooler weather there are down sides.

Stripping and varnishing the front stable, double doors on Lois Jane, I find myself casting an eye upwards far too frequently waiting pescemistically for the first blobs of rain. 

So far so good and no rain but also very little sun for the solar panels to charge our batteries and power tools. I guess we can't have it all ways.

Lower solar amps in, and resulting lower percentage battery capacity leads to more sketches, notes and workings for power systems and usage on NB Ernest. It's time to revisit my power audit spreadsheet and see what we anticipate using in the way of battery power as both 12 volt and 240 volt. The power system in NB Ernest is going to be wildly different from what we're used to, lots to learn and quite a bit to unlearn too.

Deb and I have spent some time apart this week. Probably further than just about any other time this year. Whilst I've been varnishing at the bow, Deb has been paining at the stern. 

Laid out on the swim my query of "having a little sleepy?" resulted in a few well chosen, but rather rude words. I promptly did as suggested and went forth to the bow to carry on varnishing and left Deb to finish priming out the engine hole. 

We've still got plenty of time (and plenty to do) until Ernest is ready for the (part) fitter. There's also a delay on the engine side of things, the guys are waiting for the injector pump to be rebuilt and tested. 

Paul has a couple of preplanned jobs coming into the yard over the next couple of weeks which will slow things down for us nicely. As we're less likely to be needed for a while we're off at the weekend doing a bit of boating aiming for Stone to get within easy traveling distance of a training course I need to attend the weekend after. 

Next blog, what Paul's building for us... promise 😀

Dudley wondering where his rear deck floor has gone.

Dudley can't quite get the reasons behind why Deb is down there

Deb apparently definetely not having a little sleepy