Saturday, 2 March 2019

And A Bit More Progress

(Boat "Flamingo" - posted by Alan)

A week or so back Cath and I managed to spend a couple more days up at the boat, and further progress was made with the 12 volt electrics.

I'll gloss over the bits that went less well than expected.  I hadn't expected to break my only 6mm tap when trying to cut threads in a bulkhead in the engine room, but when I did I was inevitably forced to suspend operations long enough to drive to the nearest Screwfix for a replacement.

Then the next day, when I hoped I had stopped drilling holes, tapping threads and routing conduit in the engine room, and was actually ready to start wiring in the new cupboard in the main cabin I discovered I had no Lucar connectors sufficiently large to go on some of the cable sizes involved.  They were not an item I could have got at Screwfix, at least, but another trip was needed to a Toolstation.  First Daventry, then Northampton - I know how to live!



Anyway, by this point I was never going to get as far as I hoped I might, but on the final day, did manage to get much of the wiring sorted out within my new cupboard.  So far it is only the basics - cabin lights and pumps, but it is all ready now to the point that adding circuits for 12 volt power points and the headlamp should be straightforward.

I have relocated the SmartGauge that attempts to predict the state of charge of the batteries onto my new panel - it's very much easier to check it in the main cabin than to have to clamber into the engine room to do so.  I've also added a very basic (and cheap!) digital read out that shows the current being consumed in total by everything in the main cabin.  It's dead easy now to see exactly what is being used at any point in time.


The final bonus is that for the very first time since we have owned it none of the cabin lights flicker when either the fresh water pump or the bath emptying pump is running - indeed not even when both are running together.  The reasons why this used to happen were clearly understood, and I expected new very much heavier duty would fix it - it has.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Slightly More Progress.

(Boat "Flamingo" - posted by Alan)

We had not expected to be back on Flamingo for a while, but with the night-time temperatures dipping lower and lower, I was getting concerned about a water system that has not been winterised.  So we decided to go up at the weekend to put some heat on, and check nothing was suffering in the extreme cold.   ll was, of course, fine, although as it was just 2 degrees inside when we got there, we spent some time inside heavily wrapped up in outdoor clothers until the stove started to make things more tolerable.

Anyway, as we were there we decided to get some more paint on the new electrical cupboard and associated shelves.  In fact we also planned to paint cupboard doors in the bathroom.  However Cath came over quite unwell once she started to paint, and I had to take over.  Because the "quality" of my painting is never much appreciated, (!), I didn't push my luck beyond the electrical cupboard, and the doors will have to wait for a next visit.

I also took some time to study the 12 volt wiring, switchgear and fuses in the engine room, as this will need some modification for the new arrangements, and I wanted to be sure I had in stock all the necessary bits and pieces I think I will need to do the job.

Friday, 1 February 2019

The Constraints of Major Rebuilding in the Winter Months?

Area prepared with a switch having been moved.
There are not many still active blogs being written by people owning historic narrow boats, or at least not many that I'm aware of.  In fact I noted a recent post by Sarah, owner of "Chertsey", who has recently revitalised her blog for 2019, which said that none of the handful of us that were doing it had produced any output in months.

In the case of "Sickle" and "Flamingo" it is not that surprising, as our blog has always been mostly about our travels, occasionally wandering on to topics about the history of either boat, or our attempts to maintain and improve them.   Unlike some of the other bloggers, we rarely go beyond that to "life, the universe and everything".  So no travels generally means not much blogging.

However it has always been my intention to also try to give some idea of what you let yourself in for if you buy an historic boat that has been allowed to get into a state where it needs a major refit throughout.  (That said, I'm never quite sure whether such material will be of great interest other than maybe the very small number of people who have bought an historic boat that has been allowed to get into a state where it needs a major refit throughout!)

Trial fit of first pieces
Anyway we have found that there are limits to what can reasonably be achieved in the winter months if you need to be reasonably comfortably whilst staying on the boat and pulling things apart.  Certainly no stripping out and refitting of heating systems is advisable, and that is something we need to do in order to make it possible to remove hull linings on the right hand side of the boat, where the stove and radiators are, and where central heating pipes run most of the length of the main accommodation cabin.  In fact, as we also want to take a very extended trip on "Flamingo" throughout most of May and much of June, it is now unlikely that any major stripping out can occur until the summer.   Obviously external paintwork and other renovations can't be tackled mid-winter either.

That reduces me to more contained internal tasks that don't put major systems out of action for any significant period.  Recently I have been making doors for the bathroom area - it now has proper doors at both ends, meaning that people actually have a lockable barrier between them and the main accommodation when using the "facilities" - no longer are the sole doors just curtains!  I've also put doors on the cupboard that now contains the calorifier, (the hot water tank), and associated plumbing.  I'll get some pictures once Cath has finished painting it all up, (I do carpentry, but she is not a fan of my painting - or "dobbing" as she calls it!)

Getting there - 2 shelves above the actual cabinet.
However recently I have finally turned my attention to the topic of Flamingo's 12 volt electrical system.   Although the previous owner had told us he had rewired it, the reality when we started exposing wiring was something quite different - metres and metres of unsuitable cabling all jointed in completely unsuitable connectors.  In fact we didn't need to expose anything to know there was a significant problem - the way the 12 volt lights pulsed from bright to dim as either the fresh water pump or bath draining pump emptying were running had already told me the wiring was totally inadequate.  (Don't ask about how bad it got if both pumps were running at once!).

In fact I have already upgraded much of the cabling, and the lights now stay bright with pumps running, but this has only been achieved in the short term by retaining bundles of connections buried in the voids where the cables run along at gunwale height.  My plan for some time has been to establish a 12 volt electrical "cupboard" at the back of the main accommodation cabin, fed with a hefty supply from the battery bank in the engine room, and then to introduce a proper breaker panel with circuit breakers, each handling specific parts of the cabin 12 volt electrics.  The obvious location was on the right hand side of the cabin at the back, as that's the side the batteries are on, and also the left hand side at the back has already been grabbed when I rewired the 240 volt electrics.  Having the distribution point for the high voltages segregated from that for the low voltages is clearly a good move!

The cupboard part, showing cable ducting behind
So for much of the three days sent on the boat recently, I have cleared the relevant area and started constructing my cupboard.  The opportunity is also being taken to construct some much needed book shelving in the space above it.  In fact by the time we left progress was more advanced than any pictures I have taken, and primer was already starting to be applied to the woodwork by Cath.  Pictures of the more complete object will have to wait until a subsequent post, but I have broken the back of the construction part, although the actual rewiring part is likely to take some time once the cupboard is complete and fully painted.  At that point we will have to manage without 12 volt electrics for a while.  This isn't too much of a problem on the mooring, as we also have some directly fed 240 volt lights.  The biggest annoyance will be any periods for which the fresh water pump s not available, but we will be able to ferry water in from a tap outside, (provided it hasn't frozen up in the sub-zero conditions are ongoing at the moment).

Friday, 31 August 2018

Water saving measure? - Hard to see it!

(Back with both boats being moved together - posted by Alan)

Setting off from Newbold.
Today we were simply continuing the steady progress back to our home mooring, and it was mostly a very straightforward day.














Waiting our turn for the middle lock at Hillmorton.
The Canal and River Trust have taken the decision to shut one lock in of each of the 3 pairs  of narrow locks at Hillmorton, supposedly as a water saving measure.  However, unless this is actually deterring people from using the locks altogether, it is very hard to come up with any rational argument that there will be water saving, and there are plenty of easily thought out scenarios where it can definitely cause additional water to be wasted, particularly where traffic in both directions is not balanced, as it wasn't today.


Finally through it!
What it is doing is introducing otherwise unnecessary queuing through the lock flight, and we actually had to wait a very long time with one boat at the middle lock.  Generally people were taking this with British stoicism, but I did witness one bit of "canal rage" where someone with more engine power than skill managed to reverse full tilt at someone else's boat, when there was not a lot of space foe a queue at the top lock.




So typical of the Northern Oxford
Our target for the day was Braunston, but it is always tricky arriving late in the day to find a space for a near 72 foot boat.  Cath went ahead to at least try to find a space for Sickle, but actually found one just long enough for Flamingo.  The canal was wide enough at that point that we could moor both of them breasted together,

Newbold to Braunston
Miles per boat: 11.2, Miles both boats: 22.4, Locks: 6
Total Miles both boats: 265.3,  Total Locks both boats: 107

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Generally towards home, but with a detour.

(Both boats being moved together - posted by Alan)

Leaving Ansty - as seen from Sickle
We  continued our journey home with both boats, but had arranged today with Brinklow Boat Services to take Flamingo down what remains of the Stretton Arm.  There is a troublesome pair of welds where the "cloth shaped" front part of the cabin joins the main "box shaped" accommodation cabin.  We had had these welds remade at Brinklow a couple of years back, but for some not easily explained reason they quickly failed again.  The cracks only form over a curiously short length, but because all the rain that lands on the "top plank" part of the front cabin runs back to that point, a lot of water was getting in, making reconstruction of the woodwork inside the boat at that point a fairly pointless exercise.

Work in progress on Flamingo - sister boat Otley on the inside.
The journey down the shallow Stretton arm is always a challenge.  Boats being worked on mix with boats being lived on and boats just being stored, and usually at least one will need to be shunted out of the way to get through. Sometime it is narrow boat Tetris!  Not wishing to make the congestion even worse, we managed to tie "Sickle" up at a point before the junction to the arm, so that only Flamingo need travel down ot.  We only had to get one boat moved, but there was a further delay whilst the guys at the yard shuffled some others to get a different one against the wharf to be worked on.

The same, but viewed from the other end.
Our welding was quickly attended to, although first I had to strip quite a bit of woodwork out inside, and then stand guard with bucket and fire extinguisher, just in case the unexpected happened, (it didn't!).  A decision was taken to leave the welds raised and linished off, rather than grinding them flat, to give the strength of additional metal - hopefully the cracking will not re-occur.  Dave, who did the work, is threatening to cut the whole front part of the cabin off if it re-occurs - perhaps because e once tried to buy Flamingo, and that is what he would have done with it anyway!

David assists the turning operation with the long shaft.
There is always an interesting mix of boats being worked on.  We were particularly interested in Otley - recently  purchased by a very well known historic narrow boat researcher.  It is the same "Large Northwich" type as Flamingo, but has now had the start of a cabin conversion that was being built on it by a previous owner removed  It will once again be an unconverted boat.






Threading our way back out.
More "fun" ensued as we then had to take Flamingo the remaining length of the arm to turn it, ready to come out again.  This passage is between smart well presented boats with barely a mark on them, and their owners are keeping a firm eye in case you do anything to change that situation!  There is little margin on turning at the end, and it is too silted to have much success using the engine.  We found it generally easier to use the long shaft, or generally pull on roeps.  (Well, I found it easier, as it was David on the shaft and ropes!).


Motorised butty Hampton suffered damage to its hydraulic drive and missed Alvecote.
Once back up the arm, I "hovered" in the entrance whilst Cath and David wet to fetch Sickle.  Once underway again, we would have liked to go on to Rugby but felt we might fail to find moorings for both a 72 foot and a 40 foot boat, after which there are few suitable deep moorigs for many miles.  So we decided if we could instead stop in Newbold that we would do so.  Space was available, so we called it a day there.



Cath motors Sickle past the end of the Stretton arm, ready for me to follow.
For our evening meal we went to the Barley Mow.  We were last there for the wake after the funeral of the well known historic narrow boat owner and steerer, Trevor Maggs, when it was completely packed out.  Tonight was a much quieter affair.  The food was very OK, and significantly cheaper than many of the canal-side pubs we have visited on this trip.






Ansty to Newbold (Oxford Canal)
Miles: Sickle 7.7, Flamingo 8.4, Miles both boats: 16.1, Locks:0
Total Miles both boats: 242.9,  Total Locks both boats: 101

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

A Short Day

(Both boats being moved together - posted by Alan)

Typical of the start of the Oxford - the modern bridges are often nor pretty.
We made a deliberately late start this morning, as David wished to visit a shop in Nuneaton that didn't open until noon, and that was little over an hours boating from our overnight stop.  The sole unusual happening before Nuneaton was that overhanging and very low-hanging  branches, (of which there are too many on the Coventry!), managed to sweep my stern rope off the top of the back cabin, and deposit ut into the canal.  We were by no means certain it would not have sunk to the bottom, but after a long and noisy reverse, we found it still afloat, and managed to retrieve it.  At least it will not end up fouling somebody's propeller.

This picture totally fails to show the mass of boats that soon surrounded me!
The canals have been fairly busy much of the day, but it was at Hawkesbury Junction that real mayhem started.  I had to stop just after the old stop lock on the Coventry before attempting the 180 degree turn onto the Oxford, but other boats then completely blocked the old stop lock behind me.  This meant boats that had turned from the Oxford onto the Coventry had nowhere to go, but were also blocking the area I needed to move into before attempting the turn.  Then just as I was ready to go, the steerer of a boat about to come through the bridge told my crew he was heading to Coventry, (so not into the already log-jammed bit of cut).  He was giving us duff information, and actually also turned towards us into an area where there was already no space.  I gave up, and started my turn, despite nowhere to put my back end to have a chance of getting around cleanly.  Needless to say I didn't get around in one!

Cath was round OK, but the other boat didn't do what they said they would.
We are booked to go with Flamingo down the Stretton Arm tomorrow to Brinklow Boat Services, to have another attempt at a welding job that did not succeed last time we were there.  There are few opportunities on this stretch of the Oxford to moor deep draughted boats against the edge, but needed to find a spot before Stretton that would mean only a short additional run tomorrow.  We managed to get in at Ansty, which is quite unusual, though given the state of the bank we have tried to put stakes in to we nay not still be moored by the morning.

Cath worked out what looked like an an excellent circular walk for the dogs, mostly on footpaths mostly through fields.  However the fields had mostly been ploughed, the footpaths  were mostly hard to guess, and there were only about two signs all the way around  We did get back, but could have done with a sherpa!

Springwood Haven (Coventry Canal) to Ansty (Oxford Canal)
Miles per boat: 11.3, Miles both boats: 22.6, Locks: 2
Total Miles both boats: 226.8,  Total Locks both boats: 101

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Homeward Bound

(Back with both boats being moved together - posted by Alan)

We have had a cracking time at Alvecote, but I must admit very few pictures got taken so it isn't that easy to do posts about the actual event.  I might try and do it retrospectively, but for now will just concentrate on the first day of our return trip.

Cath was working Sickle up the locks largely on her own
In true Fincher style we left far later than planned, and having largely got through the weekend with no "navigational errors", I managed to make a spectacle of myself by getting caught by the cross wind in the marina, and ending up with Flamingo resting on the bows of other boats, rather than making a neat exit.  Needless to say many old hands were watching, proving the old adage that the more you are observed, the more likely you are to cock it up!


I was following with Flamingo, seldom more than a lock behind.
Generally our standard way of working now is for Cath to lead with Sickle, and me to follow on with Flamingo.  This works well, ut as Sickle is the faster and more maneuverable boat Cath does need to watch she has not got too far ahead of me.

We moved along well, but were not surprised to find a queue of  boats at the foot of Atherstone locks.  Sometimes this would represent a big delay, but most of the crews were people who were working fast and efficiently, and it cleared relatively quickly.

Just short of halfway up, and about to moor up to go shopping.
The big difference from our outward trip with both boats is that we now have David with us.  This doesn't change much when we are on long lock-free lengths, other than we can summon him to assist if we need to stop and tied up.  However it means locks can be tackled far more easily, and we can go up flights with both boats at the same time.  Today at Atherstone this involved David on a bike, with both dogs in pursuit, as he raced to try and set up locks for both of us.  Cath did a reasonable amount on her own with Sickle, me rather less so with Flamingo.

Restarting after our shopping.
Half way up we tied up for a while and went shopping for vital supplies.  After the stop nobody else seemed to be moving, so all locks had to be "turned" twice, but with David working hard we got to the top quickly.

We then covered a few more miles leaving Atherstone and passing through Mancetter.  This stretch has a surprising number of bends that are tighter than they look, and it does feel like a bit of a work-out sometimes.  We had tied up at Springwood Haven on the way out, so aimed to do the same on our return.  Ut has proved to be surprisingly full up here, but we found a stretch that would accommodate both boats without much problem.

Same lock, different boat.
We had an evening meal on the boat - something that happened little at Alvecote, where the food in the Samuel Barlow regularly proved to be too much of an attraction!

The dogs meanwhile seem to be completely exhausted by David insisting on them covering all his mileage lock-wheeling, and both are now fairly motionless in their respective beds.

Alvecote to Springwood Haven (Coventry Canal)
Miles per boat: 10.3, Miles both boats: 20.6, Locks: 22
Total Miles both boats: 204.1,  Total Locks both boats:99