Sunday, 16 September 2018

Sometimes a blog needs no words...

First start up after many years

Second try as Geoff kicked the diesel pipe out of the can

Should be up with the boat builder by Thursday




Friday, 14 September 2018

It's Black Up Your Bottom Time!

The boat builder and the engine builder both being on holiday at the same time was a bonus as we'd booked he slipway at Stafford Boat Club.

It's the second time we've had a week out here. Having enough time for two days prep, three days for painting and two days for curing is great when you're DIYing. I've heard plenty of horror stories of "professional" marina yards rushing this vital job, the worst one took boats out early morning in the summer and put them back in the evening of the same day with two uncured coats of blacking. Oh and they charge several hundred pounds more than the DIY route.  

And whilst the blacking is curing we're down in Poole eagerly awaiting the first run up of NB Ernest engine (well excited!!!)

Paul is back at work now so it'll be full steam ahead to the finish line...

  • I've ordered the double glazing units for the galley dog box.

  • Slabs of sapele for the engine beds are on their way from Worcester (unfortunately the timber supplier I use has moved from near Northampton to there)

  • The brass portholes have been milled and are on their way to the yard

  • Finally I've secured a winter mooring for both boats so we can get a head start on the build

Sunday, 9 September 2018

The Magic of Electrickery...

There's a fella who lives on the south coast who likes to try and help boaters out. Coming up to 77 years old he says hes not as fit as he used to be but is happy to drive up and help us fit out the engine room electrics on NB Ernest as long as we pay for his petrol and sort him out with a B and B. Pretty generous I think. He also drives up to London to help out with electrical issues for the women boaters of London and has even started running hands on training courses for them. 

Not many people around like Graham.

With our battery bank and charging we're having a major change from the norm. We're investing substantially in a Lithium (LiFePO4) system. Probably. 

There are some massive selling points for LiFePO4 battery systems...

If I was to explain it as batteries are a bath, the stored power is the water. My batteries now, and nearly all others in narrowboats (and camper vans and caravans) take a long time to fill and the fuller they get the slower the water needs to go in. So back to the bath. Both taps are full on for the first twenty minutes or so, then they get shut down to about 1/3rd open and steadily closed the more the bath gets filled. When the bath is about 80% full the taps get turned down even further to a very slow trickle. That last 20% takes hours and hours to fill. Now you can just fill the bath to 80% full and crack on having taken only a few hours, but if you don't fill the bath 100% full at least once a week, maybe twice, the bath quickly starts to fail (well the batteries do, losing irreplaceable capacity). So lots of us use solar panels to put that last 20% in to save diesel and engine wear/service money. On Ernest we don't want lots of solar panels, it's going to spoil the look we think. There will be a clear roof policy, just poles/planks/ropes as needed. This would mean with more standard batteries, charging for about 25 hours a week for what we'd use, probably as 3 hours a day and one day of 7 hours per week. That costs both in diesel and maintenance and engine life. 

So how long does the LiFePO4 'bath' take to fill. Well forget turning the taps on, there is now a fireperson with large bore hoze (no pun intended) standing over your bath, he/she will fill your bath at maximum pressure (techy peops we're looking to limit to 200a) until you say that's enough ta. You don't have to worry about filling to 100%. Ever. In fact LiFePO4 prefer to be between 20% and 90% full for longer life. So charging wise were talking about 3 or 4 hours a week instead of 25. Thats a saving of about 1000 litres of diesel and 4x engine services at maybe £100 each.

The time well looked after LiFePO4 batteries last compared to the cheapest chandlers special offers are immense. 

Cheapest Cheapo Charge Cycles = as low as 70 cycles

LiFePO4 Charge Cycles = as many as 5000!

No we're not going to be able to achieve that figure as we'll be cycling to a lower state of charge, probably 30% empty and that's about 2500 to 3000 charge cycles. Depending on what size we get that's probably about 15 years as opposed to cheapo ones at maybe 2 years if you're lucky.

The downside is of course the cost. The difference between a decent lead acid set up providing maybe 1000 cycles and what we're planning on doing is somewhere in the region of £5000 for the same usable capacity. Yikes, said it was an investment!

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Keys in Cambodia and The Bronze Propeller Award

We are still here, honest.

We've been doing a little bit of boating...
a little bit of boat maintenance...
a little bit of trading and socialising...
and a little bit of planning...

Oh, and Dudley learns to cope with no 'nads

So the boat work went better than expected. I tried to keep to all the methods Phil Speight had drummed into us the weekend or so before. 

The chosen part of LJ for a makeover and practise session was the rear doors and surrounding area, rear deck storage lockers (which were never done properly) and the rearmost section of cabin top that was chipped and scratched by windlasses and mooring pins. 

We're still debating whether or not to do the whole cabin top, but at the very least we'll sort out any chips and nicks with a cut back to bright steel and three coats each of primer, undercoat and topcoat. 

Our Aldi detail sander wasn't up to the job of stripping off the old rollered topcoat. A quick trip out in the car to invest in a nice new random orbital one from Axminster in Nuneaton soon kitted us out with what we needed. 

Blessed with pretty good weather I was able to get the primer and undercoats done before we had to shoot off to Alvecote big weekend. 

And a cracking weekend it was too. Only a handful of us traders but it was such a great atmosphere and were always made to feel most welcome by the Burge family who own the pub and marina. The historic boat owners didn't disappoint and the old ex and still current working boats were beautifully presented. 

Highlight for us is always the winding competition, seeing these old boys working their boats alongside the new generation is heartwarming. I think the youngest participating historic boat owner was about 19 and the oldest probably well into their 80s. 

Paul our boat builder was taking part too. I've mentioned the importance to us before of having a boat builder who knows how boats handle and actually uses them now and again. The competition which was made particularly tricky this year was judged by 4 keen historic boat steerers and guess who won again (his name appears several times on the trophy)... Yes it's Paul 😀

Planning wise for NB Ernest, we've been looking closer at boat electrickery particularly battery tech and power management with the help of a retired engineer from the south coast. Think that's going to be a separate blog or three...

Paul is away on his holidays for a week or so from the August Bank Holiday (yes he's gone boating) so little to report on the steel side, we did have a cracking visit last time though and lots of little bits are taking place. One of which was the space for a cabin top hatch (somewhere between pigeon box and dog box sizes) that'll be in the galley. Measuring up the inside it looks like everything should go just about where I planned it. The only other addition will be a gunwale height rubbing strake that will be painted the same raddle red to delineate between black hull side and gunwale top and hopefully will look a bit like the timber tops on the working boats.

The guys rebuilding the engine should have the injector pump back by now and hopefully the engine will be test ready by about the middle of next week. If it is, it will fit in well with our timings as we're out on the hard standing at Stafford boat club from Sunday 9th and if all goes to plan Thursday and Friday that week will be curing days.

We we're hoping to get some measurements of the engine to Paul so he could start fabricating the engine beds. I used photoshop to convert a photo of the engine to a line drawing so I could illustrate what I wanted measured and Geoff emailed me back that he'd sort it all ASAP even though they were on their summer shut down... an hour later came the apology email that accurate measurements wouldn't be available for another week as Martyn had taken the security keys with him on his family trip to Cambodia. Not an issue as fluky enough it's coinciding with Pauls holidays too... Phew

First coat of primer on the worst bits
New sander and lots of undercoat

No doors on the boat for 4 days, good job it was nice weather

Starting to get shiny

What a difference

Fazeley Mill and shade for painting

Paul on Whitby executing a perfect manoeuvre

Trading neighbour Chris and his hand made ukes and 3 string guitar

Long standing traders Mike and Geraldine on the Cheese Boat

Us on the Sunny Saturday

Working and ex working boats and buttys

A well loaded Jaguar, we hope to get a bit of elm from its base plate to turn into pens next year. Paul replaced it for steel recently