Wednesday 27 April 2016

The Wall...

Good Evening -(7.25pm)  please note the time... I'm home from work in reasonable time today...

AND I've had a bath too ;-)

So - "The Wall" - it's nothing exciting... just a wall in the guest room that we're sticking,pinning or wedging 'stuff that might be useful on'

There's something quite nostalgic about sticking stuff on a wall with blue-tac.  It takes me back to my youth with my  Kim Wilde and Stephen Tin Tin Duffy ( I mean, what kind of a name is that?) posters... 

Ignoring 80's pop icons  for a moment, it's a great place to shove stuff that you don't want to have to go digging for in the future - I do feel quite rebellious too as I've even used some sellotape to hold the boat plan to the wall.  If you look closely enough you can see my first attempt at the heating circuit.  I have since began drawing a proper on on my laptop... which I'll share when I eventually have a boat to begin fitting it to!

If you've been reading this for a while, you may remember I mentioned my "12 v bible" - well, one of the most useful things related to that was a snippet from either "Canal" magazine or "Waterways World" :

It's a readers question but the useful part is the formula for calculating voltage drop - to determine the correct size of cable for a given appliance  

Another thing that might be of interest is a residential (as in on the boat) Helmsman's Course with Bear boating... effectively a weekend away for 2 people, doing the helmsman's at the same time.  

They're quite local to us and we saw the boat out and about last year on the Leeds & Liverpool... it looks quite swish... it's expensive but WILL come in useful.  More about that in the future.

Quite by chance, we've also pulled out the Waterways profile for the Aire & Calder Navigation (where our mooring is located)

  - I used to collect these  and stick them in a folder for future reference... however it was decided a while back, it was just more "clutter" we didn't need and ditched them...  it does seem sensible to keep this one though - ready  for our first explorations!

Until next time...

Tuesday 26 April 2016

The Stanley Ferry...

Pub that is..

Well it's closed until the 18th May for Refurbishment...

How do I know this? - well, I've just finished a 14 hour day working on that ruddy ride and rather than faff about in the kitchen, I decreed "we're off out of tea" as I walked in the door...


'nough said!

Detour via Sainsbury's (other supermarkets are available) and we've a rack of ribs, selection of chicken strippers and jacket spuds in the oven - just enough time for a quick bath or proper blog posting ...  hmmm...  decisions made - I've chosen the bath and a glass of wine :-)

Until next time...

Friday 22 April 2016

Quick update from the builder... and crane hire costs.

Sorry about the other day folks - I must learn to handle lazy cretins colleagues, with more grace and understanding...  it's not them it's me ... ... ... I think not!

Anyway, ignoring all that (in-spite of it taking up 16 hours of the 17 I'm awake each day) for a moment, I had an update today from the boat builder.

At Easter, I'd sent an email asking a few things - namely when did he want us to meet up and pay some more money over.  I used my email as an opportunity to also enquire whether the boat might be ready in October - this because having now spoken with the boat yard at Stanley Ferry (where the mooring is), it turns out they schedule their main "Crane Out" of the grp's in October... and if we can tie lifting "Ellis" off the truck and into the water then, it would save money.  Quite a lot of money - it's circa £1500 for a solo crane hire or £350 for a share...that's 1150 quid back in our pocket... well when I say our pocket, what I mean is 1150 quid to spend on more useful stuff.

It transpires we've had  wires crossed somewhere along the line and the earliest expected completion date, is the period between the end of November and the End of January 2017 :-(

As you can imagine this is a bit of a bummer.  On the plus side, he did half suggest they might be able to bring things forward but decisions would need confirming ASAP in regards porthole positions.  I thought we'd already agreed on that.  I got back to him straight away and we now need to try and get a trip over there arranged asap - which isnt easy given the state of things at work AND the fact he's tied up for the next 2 weekends anyway.

During a few more email exchanges, I also thought it a wise option to remind him about a bigger water tank.  Initially we'd agreed to have the standard one  (stainless steel 300 litres) but having visualised this (by looking at the hot tub half full) have agreed to increase it to a 500 litre stainless steel one - at an uplift of £250 (ish)... it's very hard to tie him down to prices.  THAT said, he has agreed to glaze the side doors/hatches at a reduced price of £500 each instead of the quoted £600 - which I suppose almost offsets the cost of the bigger water tank.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting to hear back from him again to firm up which Saturday afternoon he can accommodate us and as you know, I'm the most patient, laid back chap in the world ...So that's good!

Until next time...

Tuesday 19 April 2016

I want my life back...

OK - I know this isn't really the place to post this and it's got buggar all to do with the pre-build or boating... it's just that I've had enough today... enough of "people" standing around watching others working and causing a nuisance...enough of that ruddy Estonian trying to provoke me into arguments - over any subject... enough of  people standing behind me, watching whatever I'm doing and telling me I'm doing it wrong .... THE next person to do that is going to get whatever tool I'm using (whether it's a planer, circular saw, reamer, drill or just a plane old paint brush) shoved firmly where the sun don't shine!

The thing I'm most cross about is that whilst every principle in my body is telling me it's not my problem and I should walk away.... Financially I can't...  we need to save another 20k or so to ensure we can complete the boat properly... and even after that, we'll need to save some more to get something in reserve to pay the mortgage if the hotel boat thing in year 2 doesn't work out as well as expected.  So I'm stuck working 70-80 hour weeks and only getting paid for 40, to make sure it all gets done.   Despite the marital disharmony it's causing - I SO wish I didn't actually care about it...  didn't worry at 3am about all the things outstanding ... but I do so there we are. hmmf!

I hate money.

Now I know we're not the only people in this position - the world is full of them.  IF you are lucky enough to be in a "proper" job.. with "proper holidays" a "proper pension scheme" a "proper sick pay scheme" AND you get bank holidays - whatever you do, hang on to it with every breath in your body... Unlike I did, 'thinking' the grass was greener... it wasn't...  or rather it was, but it it still grows in shite  muck!

On a slightly more positive note, the solar panels on the house did quite well today - in fact, I think they topped their highest record yet , generating 20.59kwhs.

If you find this kind of thing interesting, you can take a look at the website which monitors the Omnik inverters all over the world.  Take a look here

I'm going to bed shortly - the alarm is set (as usual) for 5.30 now - although the birds are doing their bit to get me up about 5 these days...


Until next time...

Sunday 17 April 2016

Life Laundry...

Sorry I've been quiet this week – you may recall, I work in  vintage fairground restorations these days and we’re racing towards our first of two ridiculous delivery deadlines…i.e., we have to complete, test and install a massive 48 seater chair-o-plane – by 11th May.

This has meant both a loss of weekends and longer, physically (and mentally) exhausting days since I ranted about it a couple of months ago.

My ranting of course has done nothing to help – nor has a stroppy Estonian joiner… who I have to say is the most difficult person I've ever had to deal with in my 43 years so far.  I’d go as far as to say, that if HE is “typical” of the nation – they can stay where they are …  … …. I'm sure it’s just HIM that’s a bad egg.  Anyway, I've given up on social interaction with him now – sticking to “Sven please can you do this and please can you do that” type of days… they drag and the atmosphere is awful but everyone else feels the same way and the bloke has effectively sent HIMSELF to Coventry.

No matter – the job will get done and THEN we have to fire back to the Brooklands track which is currently lurking on our shelving.   On a more positive note, here are a few photos I took so you can work out the scale.

We initially tried to erect the centre pole using our forklift and a scaffold tower – luckily my self preservation head kicked in and I stopped proceedings, in favour of a hi-ab from a local firm we use. Incidentally, if EVER a company employed the RIGHT people … it’s these guys.  They are total stars… NOTHING phases them and they muck in.  They have a few drivers but the main ones we've dealt with are Kevin (in the photos above ) and Dave.  Dave calls everyone “flower” and is the nicest, most friendly bloke you could ever meet.  I've a lot of respect and appreciation for them all.

See – I've done it again.... I might as well change my middle name to Tangent!

LIFE LAUNDRY was my  planned topic....

Yesterday  afternoon (Saturday 17th April ) after I finished work, I rushed into town to bank a cheque I’d had sent by ‘Experian’ in response to a form I filled in on the Money Saving Expert website (thank you Martin Lewis)…now I don’t normally join in with these sort of things, but I read an article about them bundling in an insurance policy with their premium… without telling folk.  In 2013-2014, I’d been paying their monthly fee for access to my full credit file, so I could clean it up after  the mess I’d made in the preceding years – without being too candid here,  I’d been in a bit of a pickle debt wise which took the best part of 7 years pay back and sort out.   I learned the hard way and as such, I'm now very sensible with money (well apart from this whole boat thing) …    ANYWAY … I got this nice refund along with a bit of interest.

Feeling flush (see how little it takes these days?) I decided to buy some new socks – Socks are good… Socks are something that no matter how fat your arse,belly,legs, and love handles are getting, they’ll always fit.

So I bought myself 15 pairs of socks – costing 25 quid (bargain or what?) and agreed with myself, to pay the remaining bonus cash off the mortgage… I’m doing  a lot of that actually… anything NOT already destined for the boat fund (such as monthly interest on the savings and the money from the solar panels feed in tariff) is paid straight off the mortgage.

As I walked back home, if began to think about the future – more specially, when we are living on the boat full-time,  I’ll never really be able to justify buying so many “extra socks”… in fact, I’d think 15 pairs of socks will be the TOTAL number I’ll have.   The storage space on “ELLIS” is modest at best… perhaps the equivalent of 1 double wardrobe between us on the whole boat and even then, the bottom of it will be partially obstructed with things like the piping for the loo or bedding storage etc. 

When I got home, I opened the wardrobes and took a long look – if you ignore the “clutter”… you can see we have WAY too much stuff.  It’ll have to go.  

By now my brain was in overdrive - panicking a bit more when I took my work gear out of the washer and headed to the tumble drier in the garage

We are going to have to begin getting rid of stuff... the trouble is, I'm one of life's hoarders... my brain is wired to think "I'll save that bit of whatever - it might come in useful" - they call it 're-purposing' these days....  

In the past,  I have been known to climb into skips for  a good rummage  - AND come out with some pretty useful stuff.  Perhaps it's time to do that in reverse!

Until next time...

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Boat Transport by Road...

Now I know following on from my solar panel posting the other day, the natural progression would be to investigate Solar Chargers…

I’ve every intention of doing so in a future posting but I’d rather leave that until the weekend, when hopefully it will be sunny so I can demonstrate in photographic form, the difference in charging current obtainable with  pwm and mppt  charge controllers.  We seem to have one of each in the garage from my "camping experiments".

Until then however, I've had a good conversation today with a haulage firm in regards, getting the boat from Lymm to Wakefield by road -I had emailed a couple of other  folk a while back to ask but no one got back to me...

IT turns out it’s not so expensive after all – the quote for the transport alone, is £720 inc vat.  I'm quite surprised at what good value it is – especially given that it allows 2 hours loading and unloading time EACH side of the journey.

Now I need to get a price for the cranes either end of the journey.

 There IS a permanent one at Wakefield Warf on the river Calder just before the weir near the Hepworth gallery …

I'm struggling to find a contact telephone number for them though - all I can find is dissolved companies  on Companies House website...  I think a walk to "find a bloke" is in order.

This will probably be the easiest option – assuming they’re happy to lift the boat off the back of  a lorry on a blind bend on a busy road…  the thing that scares me about this though is that onec  on the water, I’lll be taking my first run on our new boat 50 yards away from a weir!  Now ok, the engine is new and should work perfectly but what  it It conks out or something before I reach the safety of the flood lock a little while upstream?

Being “plonked” straight on to the river, would also force us get an anchor on board immediately.  I’m not too sure HOW big an anchor we need  but we  WILL need one anyway so that decision will need making and the said piece of equipment purchasing  AND attaching to a secure point on the bow BEFORE the boat is even lifted!

I’m sure in time  I won’t think twice about such a journey… for now, as you can probably imagein, I’m quite apprehensive about it.  Perhaps it might be a better idea to see if we can get the boat craned in, nearer the mooring… to give us chance to test things out properly on the safety of a canal.  With that in mind, I’ve emailed Stanley Ferry Marina to see if they have a crane or can recommend someone /a company locally who can do it.

Until next time…

Sunday 10 April 2016

Solar Power

GOOD Morning (afternoon or  evening),

Following on from my energy audit the other day, I've been looking at solar panels for the boat.

As you may recall, (actually I'm not sure if I've covered this or not come to think of it) we had a 4kw system fitted to the bungalow last year.


This has been quite useful to us, in that we've already learned how much... but more importantly, how LITTLE power you can get from them.  Now ok, when the sun is out, they work well... the salesmen (on the whole) told us that even in low light conditions they perform well.  Whilst that's NOT exactly an "un truth" it's a bit of artistic licence.

The last photo above, shows that on a bright but not sunny day they can produce just short of 1kw - ie 1/4 of their potential.  When the sun is out however, between about 11am and 4 pm, 'ours' CAN kick out the full 4kw,.. the rest of the time they do ok in bright light but on cloudy days, tend to hover about the 5-600 watt rate.    This is ok though, as a side from the hot tub, we're on "free" electric from about 8.30am - through the winter and 7am - 8.30pm in summer time.  We set the washer to come on about noon, followed by the dishwasher for 2pm.  If one of us is home, you can get  another load of washing done for free and even  through the tumble dryer.  It takes a bit of organising the way you use power, but you CAN make good use of it.

Over the last 3 months of winter into early spring, our system generated

459 kwhs which is equivalent to 5.46 khws each day... which isn't brilliant but is better than nothing.  
In winter, THAT's the approach you have to take with "SOLAR" - whether it be on a house OR a boat.

Our plan is to get as many panels on the roof as we can practically fit on... without them getting in the way.  The intention (for now) is to keep the panels to the front half of the boat - using the centre line as the cut off point.  I'd still like to be able to either walk down the middle or either side of the panels.  This means finding 'thin' ones.  Which is a bit of a pain as the better value ones, tend to be on the fatter side.  The ones on the house which kick out 265watt each are 1640 long by  x 992mm wide- a bit big really.

Assuming there will be 6m worth of space (length wise) available down the boat) we're thinking of various layout options:  2 lines of 2 of  these 
which would give 640watts.

They're quoted at being 668mm wide by 1455mm long which would give scope to have all 4 down the centre of the boat and STILL not encroach beyond the centre line instead of having 2 x 2 down side.

The advantage of having them down the side however is scalability - in that, if/when we find 4 of them producing 640 watts (max) is NOT enough, we can easily add 1 or 2 more each side, scaling up power production to potential  970 or  1280 watts respectively.

SO - we're on the look out for panels about this size which can be linked in series and connected to a MPPT solar charger - more about that later.

Meanwhile, the sun is out this morning and I've an appointment in the greenhouse with some seedlings to prick out.

Until next time....

Wednesday 6 April 2016

The dreaded Energy Audit...

Something I've been putting off doing for ages is our energy audit.   That's just a term given to describe the calculations involved to work out how much power/energy we'll probably use each day on board 'Ellis'.

Initially, we'll use her as a weekend and holiday boat.  Longer term however, we DO intend living aboard full-time (renting out the bungalow to cover it's own costs) whilst we save up for our YEAR OFF!

So, with that in mind, my "sums" assume we're there all the time,

12 Volt Appliances:

Lights – (assuming only half are on for 5 hours a day)
 10 * 5 watt =                                                                                                                          20ah

Water Pump (rated @ 8a) working for 30 mins a day=                                                           4ah

Webasto Thermo Top (central heating) on 5 hours “full” at 3.8a =                                       19ah

Inlander Fridge-Freezer @ 2.1a average =                                                                             50.4ah

Shower pump @13a used for 10 mins a day =                                                                       2.16ah

Phone chargers @ 1.25a for 1 hours *2 =                                                                                2.5ah

TV/dvd @ 1.7a (see earlier post) for  6 hours ON + 18 standby @ 0.07 =                            11.46ah

Bilge Pump (hopefully not used much) @5a for 1 minute a day =                                          .08ah

Inverter Quiescent current (don’t ask)  @5a for say max 2hours “use” + 1ah for “standby”= 30ah

“Car” radio/cd/mp3 thingy @ 3.3a for 10 hours a day =                                                           33ah

240v Applicances:

Tassimo Coffee maker rated at 1300watt for 9 mins daily (3 cups each) =                             32.5ah

Laptops * 2  @ 5.41a for 3 hours =                                                                                         32.46ah

Washing Machine 1.8kw rating – 1.08kw per cycle @ 90ah ONLY WHEN ENGINE RUNING

DAILY total Excluding washer =                                                                                237.56ah 

You may recall, our battery bank was initially planned to be 440ah... but on order, we increased it to 540ah.  Using the above calculations, that only leaves 32.44ah "spare" each day in the kitty... and THAT assumes we start each day fully charged! WHICH of course we won't.....

Oh  dear.

This is not good news!  Now, OK, you could argue that not all of that stuff will probably get used to the extent quoted each day, but it might.

What writing it down HAS done however, is made it crystal clear we need to re-think the battery bank capacity...AND try and become less power hungry...AND set up a good charging regime through a combination of engine running, solar panels and perhaps a generator to keep engine hours down.

IT is of course a worse case scenario and I suppose before we spend a fortune on "stuff" we should suck it and see.  The upgraded engine already comes with a 150amp second alternator which is a good starting point AND does at least mean the washer should be OK when it's running.

I've also been playing around with solar panels for years - making my own from cells bought in Germany... Apparently I'm NOT allowed to stick any of these on the boat but they were only ever a prototype anyway

You may notice the little solar charge controller on the tent floor - it was only a cheap one from ebay but it did the trick - the 400watt halogen heater could be used for about an hour before the inverter began screaming but it was safer than the aforementioned gas fire that nearly killed us.

oh heck - I've gone off on a tangent again.

SO - to summarise: we need to use less .... and store and generate more power!


Until next time...

Monday 4 April 2016

"Banned Topics"...

Ok - I'm not normally one to sit on the fence (as anyone who knows will me will vouch) but recently on Canal World Forum,  2 subjects have been "banned" as topics of discussion - AND any postings which reference them are deleted, locked or heavily moderated.

The decision to do this has been made by the site owner - as is his prerogative.

Unfortunately, this has lead to a lot of folk feeling angry about having the freedom to discuss or reference these things, taken away from them... and I suppose if pushed, I'd say I'm a bit peeved about it too.

NOT that I particularly WANT to talk about the subjects per say, but at the same time,  I don't like being told I can't!

We've got friends involved with local politics, and a couple of vicars  (1 a friend and the other my nieces father-in-law) and whilst we don't share each others opinions on many issues, we all get along nicely and respect each others views.

As you  might expect quite a few of the people who DO feel aggrieved by this, were having a bit of a moan about it on Saturday evening and of course the thread eventually got locked - but NOT before one of them had posted a link to a NEW discussion forum he decided to set up ... where anything goes (well anything NOT illegal/immoral I suppose).

This new forum is called THUNDERBOAT - and I've signed up on there too - NOT in a bid to get away from the original site  - it's pretty much universally accepted that Canal World is the number 1 place to to find help and information about just about every aspect of boating...  It's been a god send to us in our planning and I suspect it will continue to be the first place I ask for help.  THIS is because the people on there genuinely WANT to help and share their vast knowledge.  I do hope this continues.

I also however, hope that folk will use BOTH forums rather than choosing one over the other... whilst I totally understand the site owners decision to "keep" the original site BOATING oriented, from a long term boaters point perspective, I can understand them WANTING the freedom to chat about NON-boating related matters, WITH other boaters...

People are complicated aren't they?  Let's all try and continue to look around through good eyes and respect each other - whatever our opinions are eh?

Until next time...

Saturday 2 April 2016

AED... (Automatic External Defibrillator) & Darren Day...

We've all seen casualty haven't we? - well you may think we're being overly cautious here but on our boat shopping list is an AED.

You may remember, a while back the grim reaper paid us a very close visit thanks to our own stupidity.  That experience (see carbon monoxide posting for full details) opened our eyes - perhaps for the first time, to how vulnerable we ALL ARE.

"Life" hangs in the balance and can  be taken away with a seconds notice... it was difficult enough calling for help when we could give a rough address to the ambulance service but supposing either of us... or perhaps worse still, a visiting guest/family member/passing jogger suddenly collapsed with suspected heart difficulties in the middle of nowhere - it's one thing to be able to call for help ... quite another to be helpless whilst waiting for them to find us!

With this in mind, we've agreed to spend a substantial amount on an automatic defibrillator... the sort that will ONLY give a shock when one is needed and can be administrated by anyone.

I hope that by getting one of these on board 'Ellis' it will mean we never need one... and whilst I can think of far more pleasurable things to spend a thousand quid on  I CAN'T think of anything that will give as much peace of mind... CALL me a worrier if you will - I suppose it's the control freak in me... always needing wanting to be prepared but I really don't want to be in the helpless position or watching someone die in front of me when, with a bit of planning, we could have done something - ANYTHING that might have saved them.

Having watched a few instructional videos on the subject, I've found the shortest - most useful one that might be 3 minutes well spent.  

I like the fact they come with voice commands - that might keep you calm enough to follow if ever required.

Something ELSE that has occurred to us - probably as a result from living in and around older people, is that 9 times out of 10, if someone is going to be taken ill, it's going to be in the middle of the night. 

With that also in mind, we've already got a gps device (a couple actually) so that we can note down our exact location at the end of each days cruising... and it's our plan to write down both the GPS coordinates AND road/bridge numbers in the ships log  AS SOON AS WE SWITCH OFF THE ENGINE.   

Please don't think we're willing things to happen but for the sake of a "30 second chore" each day - we can all sleep sounder in our beds.

Oh - btw,., When I finished work today, I called into Halfords to buy an exhaust bandage (the lexus has a bit of a blow on it  and as I can't justify the money for a new one, decided to silence it the cheap way)... and who was in the queue in front of me but Darren Day - oh it's ok ... he didn't recognise me and make a fuss ;-) ... he was buying a bulb and new number plate for his car.  Poor chap didn't look comfortable and had there not been a big queue, I might have said hello.... instead, I did what all good Brits do - pretended not to recognise him and carry on with my day as usual.

Darren - if you're reading this...  ditch the cowboy boots... they're a bit too clompy!

Until next time...