Wednesday, 19 March 2008

I'm used to seeing plenty of wildlife from the boat, but it's good that I'm getting more in my own back garden, mainly due to the fewer number of cats around nowadays. I like to think this robin is the same one I've been seeing for a few years; this winter I've hung a bird feeder from the cherry tree, and he's been pretty good about chasing off any other customers... a bully, but a tiny cute bully, I guess.

Boat trip back to Langley is possible this weekend, if anyone is interested...

Sunday, 16 March 2008

It's a steel front deck! A nice job too, unsurprisingly. Doors & stove to follow, rain permitting.

Meanwhile, I did some long overdue measurements on the alternator. It gets to 14.0v - barely adequate (and when the diode splitter was still in, no damn use at all), but only at fairly high revs, possibly even higher than a slow cruising speed. This is something I'd been idly considering away from the boat, and on inspection, it could certainly do with a smaller pulley wheel on the alternator (largwe one visible top left in picture). One of the problems with using them human powered is getting them to run fast enough., Slower, it doesn't generate enough power for it's own field coils and the voltage drops drastically. The previous owners had the previous alternator changed, presumably on some very bad advice, to solve charging problems. There's some curious voltage drops within the instrument panel and ignition switch; as soon as I rewire & rebuild all that the better. I also intend to investigate modifying the alternator to get closer to 100% charge, hopefully including some kind of automatic system to switch these out to go back to a better 'float' charge level.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Fingers crossed, there's a new steel front deck & front doors going in as I type, replacing that lovely bit of shuttering ply you can see above. It'll probably rain, though, or something.

I did a trip into Paddington on Tuesday to Travis Perkins - despite being right next to the canal, once I'd found the one guy who knew anything about wood (not to mention customer service) they don't have any trollies, and he had to get special permission to help me carry a big sheet of ply down to Tortoise. I wanted to get some timber too, but found it easier to buy it in B&Q the following morning and carry it over myself. Anyway, that, and the 12.5% central London markup they add will mean I stick to Warrens or Albion Timber in Brentford as usual. I did get to dispose of some rubbish in the skip, though, and hoisted out a lovely set of metal drawers of all sorts of shapes & sizes, which turned out to be Mick's which he dumped a few days ago.

Having acquired the ply, I could replace the temporary side floor in what was to become the toilet 'room'. Having done that (and got the battening from B&Q) I put in the only internal bulkhead on the boat, separating kitchen from toilet - a simple frame of 34mm sq timber around the edge and a couple of cross braces (one in the right place to support the Morco water heater, too). I also fitted a plinth for the loo itself (the outer thirds of the boat floor slope, remember). I can't help speculating how long it'll be until I put a proper door on this - coud be a while - but an old shower curtain will do fine for now, right? ;-)

Once the front & the stove are welded, and I can finish off the lining around the front, and hopefully rationise the stash of bits of new & old ply I have - especially old, which however have come in useful over the months. After that it'll be building the galley unit and she'll really start to feel homely again. I'm keen to build the galley base as a unit removeable in one piece, rather then bodged together screwed to otherbits - of course it'll be screwed in, but I like the idea of it being removeable easily if necessary. I'm not entirely sure why as there'll be easy access to all services (run under the gunwhale bar the waste outlet, of course), but at least it'll make sure it's solid.

I've also been reading up about lead acid batteries & alternators; I need to do some volatge measurements, I think. I've also been working on stuff for the cycle powered sound system which is eriely crossing over into this territory...

Sunday, 9 March 2008

When I bought the boat, one of the small rear windows was already broken, covered internally with wood. This was a low-priority job, but once I'd stripped out the sides etc and decided on the new window layout, it was worth getting it sorted. First attempt was a local glazier, who said they could do it, but ended up fitting a wonky piece of laminated glass that cracked, and the frame was out of square. I was reluctant to drill holes for it whilst in that state, so it stayed half-fitted for a long time. Recently I got on the case again, swent it off to Channelglaze who have redone it properly, albeit it at six times the price of the local job. So today I was able to seal it in, removing the ugly peice of ply that's been screwed over the hole for the kitchen window. Finished result visible, the most central window.

I briefly mentioned painting in the last post. A neighbour at the moorings had painted his boat with a roller without laying off, leaving a more matt finish I quite liked. When I went over the roof, I did the same. I'm still undecided about the aesthetic effect, but one point to notice was after a short but heavy shower today, it really showed up the difference - matt on the top right, there. The gloss finish resists water better, and also allows the surface water to flow away, rather than sitting in small patches, as visible here. I think it'll be back to laying off, but it was worth the experiment.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Tortoise is currently lurking in Kensal Green, working her way up the queue for Mick to do more work on her – new steel front doors, and also a steel self-draining front deck. Not only a great improvement for security & structurally, but pure vanity – I won't feel obliged to leave the front cover on, which is frankly ugly; she's a much prettier boat with it off.

It's a nice area to be moored, surrounded by London bridge-hoppers, a great bunch of characters. I realised it would be dangerous to name names (and boats), but they're all there – the snob with the big shiny new boat covered in fake rivets, for a start. He was deriding Tortoise for not being 'traditional' – 'a fun boat' he patronisingly said. My boat is at least twenty years older than his, and I'm quite proud of the fact I'm giving an old boat a new lease of life. I'll have put far more work into her than he'll ever do with his, too. What does 'traditional' mean, anyway? ;-) There's also the student couple, a guy with a falling apart boat, always on the scrounge. Favourites though were the couple with two boats – he has a 20' boat – tiny inside, as it has a semi-trad back deck, space for a bed, kitchen worktop and shower. Someone else mentioned he has to run the small one as she won't let him sleep on the larger one due to his snoring – quite sweet, really.

It's also great to have towpath access to the side of the boat, which I don't normally have, moored alongside Breeze in Iver. So far I've done bits of filling & repainting along the gunwhales, also some work on the roof. After seeing the results on another boat recently, I tried applying the topcoat with a roller but not laying off, for a fairly matt finish. I'm not sure if I like it or not, but it's certainly an experiment worth trying.

Back in January I finally managed to do Tony Brook's engine course; I originally booked for October, but cancelled it to attend (and photograph) a civil partnership. It was well worth doing, and I just wish I'd done it earlier, recommended for anyone who gets a boat, in fact. Bouyed up with the confidence from this course, I seem to have successfully changed the oil in the engine, long overdue. I'd only found expensive electric oil extractors online, but Screwfix - my main shopping venue at the moment - had a hand pumped vacuum one, so that was deployed with a certain amount of strange satisfaction - visible on the back deck above. I still need to do the gearbox, and find & fit replacement fuel & oil filters, but it's a start.

I've long been wary of the engine electrics, but I've now started tracing things through properly. Working out the mess of the wiring in the instrument panel (currently living in it's rickety wooden box loose on the deck), I saw that the wire supplying currently directly to the glow plugs (50A?) was decidedly thin. A quick test of switching them on and a voltmeter between the battery and glow plugs themselves showed a 0.97v drop - that's a lot of wasted power, and certainly not helping the amount of time it takes the engine to warm up and start. I know I'm trained in electronics, but it does amaze me the things that are done to boat electrics; as well as this mess, pretty early on I removed the diode splitter from the charging circuit - it wasn't a sensing alternator, so that's a 0.7v drop on the charging available. The solution to both problems will be a small neat relay installation - one powering up the glow plugs with a healthily butch piece of cable, one to charge the domestic batteries and one on the same drive signal that will provide power to the fridge - if I bother to reinstall it - only when the engine is running - seems a reasonable compromise. Some of this work of course doesn't have to wait until the welding is finished, but I'm hoping that will be a few days away anyway.

Although I have a perfectly serviceable BMC diesel engine, I've always had half an eye on electric propulsion, as a quiet, clean and green alternative - diesel is my main 'carbon vice', really, although it obviously depends on where the electricity is coming from. So it was with great pleasure, cycling back to Leamington Spa station along the canal after a quick social visit, to spot Happy Home, the solar electric boat of Richard & Alison, and children Eleanor & Rufus (and indeed Babs the hamster). They pulled in for a chat, made me coffee, and let me peer at their battery banks, and tiny Lynch motor. They get about 10 miles a day cruising on solar alone, the batteries give them a bigger range but would need to be charged by solar or other means to get back up to full capacity. It really shouldn't take much to push Tortoise along at all, with her v bottom and strange sloping swim, she slides through the water very easily. Power against a river, tidal or otherwise would need to be considered, but it may be a good thing to consider, and almost a certainty if the BMC fails terminally.

next jobs - at least rudimentary painting on the new front doors & front deck, and a protective & tiled surround around the stove. Then a custom kitchen unit will allow me to have the gas cooker refitted. I'm really tempted not to bother with the Morco gas water heater, but to install a calorifier for hot water; but it may be as well to refit it for the time being.

I'm hoping to have enough done to be able to take her to Little Venice for may bank holiday; I know Jim & Mary, the previous owners, want to have a good look around. ;-)