Wednesday, 30 January 2019


Boat plans eh?

Earlier in the year we set out a plan to have our first Christmas aboard LJ. 

We knew that she'd be on the sales market early spring and we have had quite a few "Last time we'll ... on LJ" moments over Summer we thought we'd add Christmas to the list.

Jess was going to meet up with us for a bit of boating mid December, pop back home for a week of work and then come back for some more boating leading up to Christmas. We were heading up to Birmingham to spend a couple of weeks in civilisation and looking forward to some restaurant deals (we we're on the cancellations list for Birmingham University College Restaurants gourmet dinner), Christmas markets, Classical recitals, and maybe the odd band if we could find anything beyond our usual free jazz doo's. 

Time was getting really tight and with the imminent launch of NB Ernest we needed to moor close to a railway station on Wednesday the 12th for a possible launch day. The launch happened on Thursday, as per a previous post, and we we're chilling out on Friday with a bottle of wine working out where we could pick Jess up on the way to Birmingham the following week to get some extra locking hands. 

That's when it dawned on me that, with us wanting to be out of Birmingham a bit earlier now Ernest was safely tucked up in the paint shed and with Jess needing to get back to her car and head back to work; we'd be boating up through the 30 odd locks, staying for two and a half days and then turning around and coming back down. Adding winter weather into the mix, that didn't sound like a lot of fun.

Plan B

We'd stay somewhere around Fazeley to Alvecote, and get the train into Brum for a day of markets and fine dining. If it was nice weather for Christmas we'd head out to Kingsbury Water Park for the day in the peaceful countryside. Sorted. Just a bit of boat work, planning and shopping to sort out now.

Plan C

We get back from a long hard day working on Ernest, including an hour each way on the motorways. It's border-line too late for charging the batteries but we can replace a few amp/hours before the 8pm curfew. The boat is cold, the fire had just kept in over the last 12 hours. Deb goes to the airing cupboard to restock the empty loo roll holder. Its all damp... "I think we have a leak!"

Buggah!. It's quite a compact space and to have a good look the airing cupboard needs to be emptied, the lower door needs to come off alongside the hinge mounts before the shelves can come out. The bathroom starts to look like a war zone. With the inspection lamp it's not too difficult to spot the issue. The insulation has exploded off the side of the calorifier (hot water tank). It was an ex-calorifier, it had ceased to be. 

There was one saving grace though. Recently the pressure relief valve had been dribbling causing the pump to come on a few times an hour. As a quick fix I put a pump isolator switch in the galley so the pump was only ever switched on if we needed water. If I hadn't done that we'd have come home to 600+ litres of fresh water in the bilges as the pump would have kept pushing water through the hole in the calorifier. 

With engineers on Christmas breaks and chandlers low on stock it looked like we'd have to go into emergency mode for water. And as we have a macerator pump-out loo, for that too. We have all the kit; portaloo, 2 x 10L water containers, 9L hand pump shower. Not a drastic situation for us but we weren't sure how Jess would feel and of course that meant going a bit basic for Christmas.

Exploded calorifier

I already had a new accumulator tank to fit so I fitted a new expansion tank and pump at the same time

We rarely have indulgent Christmas's but there are a few things that are non negotiable. Lots of games, lots of cocktails including buckets of egg nogg, home cured Gravadlax and relaxation. Walking to water points and driving the portaloo cassette to the local marina (as the Canal and River Trust has closed the only other one in Fazeley) was never part of the festive plan. We all agreed that with three days to go we'd go to Jess's house in Poole. 

The problem was Jess had nothing in and she was working. Every supermarket delivery slot was booked and I couldn't face a four hour drive and then going shopping at the peak time on the busiest day. The decision was made that we'd buy all the non perishable food and drinks the night before setting off and go to Asda in Tamworth at 7 in the morning to get the rest before driving down.

Duduley does like the car

Apart from the lack of decorations, Jess usually squeezes at least three Christmas trees into her small place. It was indeed a relaxing and very enjoyable Christmas. I even managed to negotiate an upgrade from a daily stroll to a walk once we'd defined the parameters of a walk and involved a pub stop. A few we're dangerously close to a hike but I got away with it... Just. Will we get next Christmas on a boat? Who knows, far too early to foresee what state Ernest will be in by then. I think my vote would be somewhere sunny and warm.


Why do I wait until Christmas to make Gravadlax?

New forest drinks after a soggy 5 miles

Windy, and hilly. Although not as hilly as a lot of the South Coast Path

The footpath in the centre used to look a bit less drastic

View towards Swanage from the top

On the way back down to the pub, I thought this would make a nice composition in Black and White at some stage

A very agreeable pint brewed next door to the Banks Arms, one of my favs down here

A Christmas day swim for Dudley...

... and this girl, it did say keep off the Groynes though.

Hengistbury Head

And the sun came out

Christchurch Harbour
Quick stroll around Poole Park after Mary Poppins in Bournemouth

James Ward

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Launch day

Whoop whoop, launch day is here...

Well it was a while ago ​but I'm still a long way behind with the blog. 

There's a few vid clips here that should take you to YouTube. Suffice it to say, the launch went swimmingly and our maiden voyage in reverse via boat pole was uneventful largely due to the very calm conditions for the journey to the paint shed.

Paul's skills don't just lie in the direction of boatbuilding, he's also a dab hand with all types of boat moving machinery. 

He even moved another shorter shell using a fork lift truck at each end, balancing the boat between the two to get into the building shed. Not impressed? Well nobody was driving the second (reversing) truck, Paul did the whole thing himself!!!

We didn't have a ceremony for wetting day, well probably do something naming wise in springtime. 

We were dead chuffed to see how it actually looks out of the shed, it's always hard to tell without taking a step back.

Paul's job isn't finished yet though, he needs to sort out...

Another set of doors
The dog box
A rudder trim
Lorry drive shaft
Getting the engine going
and a bit more hull blacking

Not sure where I'm up to now, but in the not too distant future expect a few blogs covering...

LJ breakdown
Back cabins and lots of painting 😀

Friday, 11 January 2019

We Have Snow On The Trent!

...Well ok not outside but definitely inside.

That spray foam is flippin messy stuff. 

The two man team from cosy home wasn't an even split. One stayed outside monitoring the tanks and making sure lines were not snagged. The other was taped into a slightly crusty suit, ushered into the boat, sealed in and only allowed out a couple of times to replace his removable visor once he couldn't see anything, not my Idea of fun. 

For the first half an hour the guys tape up the timbers on the bearers and windows, and door surrounds. Not for the first time on this build did we hear "got a lot of doors and hatches hasn't it!"

Two and a bit hours later they'd finished taping the 9 portholes, pigeon box, dog box, front and rear doors and slides and the 6 other side doors and hatches. I do keep reminding everyone that it was due to be an extra pair of doors/hatches in the galley too. 

We'd been told by our back cabin fitter Steve (works independently at Paul's yard) to bring a wedge of cash as that's how they work for this kind of price, about £1400 to £1500 depending on what we want done.

The cosy home guys weren't aware of that, and that price was for their usual 58 foot cruiser stern (so 6 foot less aft cabin) well decked (so 8 foot less bow) kind of boat. 

Now NB Ernest is 70 foot (well 69' 10.75" to be exact when we measured it) and with a fuel tank under the back cabin floor not under the back deck I wanted foam right to the very back as far as they could reach. The cocooned inside guy said he'd managed to get a 'lick' around the whole of the back including the weed hatch - a lick is what they do for an adhesion coat before the proper insulation layer, they lick the whole boat then start again from the beginning; it's not a thick insulating coat but it'll stop condensation forming.

As we will have some sort of bed under the tug deck (looking more likely to be a pull out rather than a crawl space due to head height) we wanted to spray as far forward as possible too. With no water tank in it was fairly easy to get to so we ended up with all 70 foot insulated instead of their usual 46 ish feet. 

We shook hands on £1350 cash and I gave an extra £10 so they could stop off for a pasty at the bakery in Long Eaton before their drive back to Wales.

So was it a perfect spray foam job? Well not far off, there were some small gaps when we started stripping back to the timbers in the back cabin. These seemed to be mainly at the top of the pieces of wood on the cabin sides near the cabin top, so an easy fix with a can of foam from Tool Station, although I will have a thorough check over and see if a proper kit may be better value if I can find any areas that are too thin.

Steve was due to start fitting out the back cabin soon after spray foaming was completed so we got to stripping some of the over spray from the back cabin and engine room, this is not an easy job and not a quick one. If cabin height wasn't an issue we would have cut the foam off from the timber cross members and extended the batons by 6 or 9mm to keep more insulation in place and save time and mess trimming back (I may still do this in the rest of the boat forward of the engine room, but I'm conscious of the fact that we'd already dropped the cabin sides a while earlier - link here, see the last paragraph).

As with so many plans the weather changed and was too cold/damp for Steve to finish his paint job over in the shed to start our timber work on time so we had an extra week of fettling and needn't have stayed one cold night until 9ish scraping the cabin top filling pockets, ears and noses with dusty white deposits, and no it wasn't making me feel festive! Dudley wasn't too enamoured by it either, it was his first time in the boat as the yard was shut and after a quick walk around trying to shake off 2 foot long pieces of spray foam that had adhered to his paw, he sat in one position staring into space for the next 3 hours. Patterdales must have this special mental state hardwired.

There is one area of insulation concern that needs some thought. The back cabin top has steelwork bending in two directions. It has the standard curve from left to right (as you're stood at the tiller), but also curves up from front to back to give the cabin its traditional shape. This construction needs steel fortification underneath, now these rows and rows of steel are about as deep (a couple of mm less) as the timber cross members so as we scraped back a few bits were exposed (and since covered with canned spray foam). This is the absolute last thing we want as it'll be where the condensation gathers, tracks across the cabin top and down the sides. 

The simplest solution is a flexible thermal wrap type insulation roll with aluminium tape between the joints. Next would be small batons and Celotex type insulation which goes down to about 12mm. Time will be a consideration as we will have to fit in around Steve's tight schedule.

Whichever way we go, we'll be bulking up the insulation in any possible gaps for the rest of the boats length as we go. It seems prudent to spend a a few hundred £££ more now even if results aren't guaranteed. It may seem a bit paranoid but we struck lucky with LJ. Even in last years -15°C our only heat source being out Arrow Bunny multifuel stove it was never cold. Today its about 6°C outside and with the stove just about as low as it'll go in the very front of the boat, its 25°C in the galley and 19°C right at the back. This can only be down to the insulation/combination of spray foam and solid oak cabin lining.

Well the blog is getting closer to 'up-to-date' so next post will probably be launch day :)

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Nearly launch time!

We really enjoyed our time working on Ernest in the shed. It's nice to be part of it at this stage and help free some time for Paul and the guys to get on with the skilled work out in the yard. 

It's been an amazingly busy time here for boat repairs. The historic boats seem to be less problematic. Paul can spot exactly what needs doing from the wear marks and pulling rivets. Rot behind the knees, cut it out rebuild it, and weld or rivet as required. Re-black, three days curing and then relaunch and move on to the next one.

It's the leisure boats that seem more tricky and subject to massive time changes. "I need blacking and I've got a small leak" turns into a full week long job of cutting out decks and drains and plating subsequently rotten base plates. And that's the rule rather than the exception.

Now the outside is shot blasted and primed it's time to do some inside sorting out before the spray foam team arrives. We've then got a week or so of fettling before being transferred to the paint shed until late January to early February when one of Paul's own boats is coming in.

Our #1 priority then will be getting the steelwork fully protected and the shell watertight so we can head to our temporary spring mooring once the stoppages have been lifted.

The engine was only a day or three away from being hauled into position so a proper go over the mounts and bilge was needed. 2x primer, 2x bilge paint. It was more awkward than it looked to do and we kept finding debris in every corner.

Those with a keen eye may notice that the beds look off centre, that's because they are by about 3 inches. Having a 2 inch to lorry shaft lets us have the engine off centre to increase walkway size a bit.

We carried on priming the whole of the rear end ready for fitting. The swim lines look great from this angle. The 450L diesel tank will get some Kingspan insulation. Storage drawers are planned for behind, either side of the shaft.

The tug deck and bow have ended up just as I wanted. Nice full lines for the bow with a decent amount of gas locker space, enough for 3 bottles. 2 domestic (that's about 6 months cooking) and 1 for a converted petrol geni. Gas locker hatch is vintage diamond plate. 

The usable deck is about 8'6" with a 2' by 4' storage locker. It was important to keep the whole deck fairly flat so it's usable for seating in good weather.

Luckily the gas locker is of a particular size, apparently its bigger once you're inside.

Stern gear going in. The downside to a big old engine 15' in front of the prop is a meaty drive system. Prop to gearbox won't leave us any change from £3,500+

View from the engine room across the traditional boatmans cabin. Techie bods may notice that the swim sides aren't vertical but taper out just like the working boats designs. Shaping the swims and the subsequent odd shape skin tank took the best part of a week!

Brass builders plaque on the rebuilt Dorman

Just finished in time for the spray foam gang