Monday, 21 January 2019

Bits to fit ...

Like most well done jobs there is a sequence for best results. The cylinder heads from Percy's donk should be back fitted soon - will detail that when it happens. I have the Victron 712 battery monitor to fit and most likely new batteries. However it occurred to me the the day one of the reasons I am fitting the monitor is to see how I am charging the batteries so I think I'll lash it up on the old batteries to get a feel for how they are taking and giving out their charge. If for no other reason it'll be interesting to see how worked they actually are. I am still expecting to have to replace them and still not sure with what. I read about some peoples massive battery banks over 600 A/H, that would be close to 4 days all stuff going on my boat between charges.

I guess of you are a liveaboard CC'er that sort of capacity would be ideal, every three or four days cruising on elsewhere while topping up the next 3/4 days of use - not a bad regime.

So I hope to have news to report soon.... plus the 2019 cruising plans  need to be thought through....

Saturday, 5 January 2019

A cheeky topless shot !!

No flesh involved in this blog post thankfully. Percy's CS2 is having an eight year check over ready for the real hard work to come.

An overheated engine is never really good news for the head gasket. Having said that the general consensus from all the off grid lot who tend to use these engines across America is the heavy cast heads are quite robust.  However with the engine getting hot and it having about 1500 hours on it plus there was evidence of some very slight weeping on both cylinders I took the decision to wring my wallet out once again (see the end of the post for thoughts on this) and organised a top end strip by Richard the marine engineer who's mooring we took at Shebdon.

I used Richard as he was local, I was going to ask Paul at Tony Redshaws who has been helpful to date on a couple of parts and advice on the gaskets (thanks Paul) but the distance was a decider plus Richard had pretty much left us his mooring intact with all the plants and willow weave hedging, even down to the rotary airer ! We were so glad to be able to take this mooring after the break in at the end of the mooring so it just felt right for a bit of payback.

The original plan was for me to stay aboard after our New Year break but the flatteries put paid to that so in minus temperatures I met Richard and got the genny out to run the little heater fan to make the engine room semi tolerable plus coffee when the tap had defrosted.

It was interesting to chat to him as he has a lot of experience of all engine types and lots of stories to tell of breakdowns and other interesting stuff.

A couple of hours in and it was all done. The heads will go off to be checked, valves and guides included. The injectors might as well be checked also while the engine is in this state.

So Percy's donk is getting a bit of TLC - I'm pleased I did not try this, I maybe could have but to be honest I doubt I'd have had the confidence. I know my limits, plus I have a motorbike in bits at home, a service on my car, a service on Rachels car and new brakes on Rachels car....!

A real minus 4 type frost overnight 



Rocker covers off, rockers and pushrods removed...


Fuel lines off and injectors removed. I really want to get rid of that starter battery box !


 First cylinder head off 


Quite some size piston and not as much water cooling as I expected 


Topless donk. 


No hurry. I'll clean up the edge of the block where the paint has been removed by the coolant leak. the heads will get a repaint in mid Brunswick green as will the edges of the block. Hopefully by the end of Jan it'll be all back together and then I can set to on the batteries.

Now the bit in brackets above...boat costs. This will not be cheap, but I have to expect to pay if I cannot or dare not do it myself. I have to be pragmatic about it, I save on costs on my cars bikes and boat where I can by doing it myself. I recon I may have saved close onto £400 on the bike service  and half that on car services and repairs over recent time.

However when many come onto the forums asking about costs to live aboard and how much cheaper is it.... they really need to think about LTM as we used to call it at the University. Long Term Maintenance, it will need doing, so it needs to be planned for and saved for. I put £250 a month into a savings pot for license, insurance mooring and  maintenance, this year it'll need topping up despite the reduction in mooring fees with the move.

Then there is PPM - Planned Preventative Maintenance - the service on the cars, bikes and boat (and house - painting for one !) I used to save for this but now it comes out of the hole in the wall as and when necessary and is part of a wider household budget I have.

Finally reactive maintenance, the stuff that needs doing immediately as it is unforeseen, the water dripping onto the solar controller being an annoying but relevant RM cost !

So these things are not cheap. It would be cheap if it was just this boat as there is no council tax, water rates or duplicate heating and maintenance costs. Having lived on a boat for a couple of periods I know its not for me, I can spend long periods but I need the security of bricks and mortar and am lucky we can afford (just) both.

So look after your assets and don't think it'll never happen, these things are mechanical and need attention, even if it is a good old service that'll keep the money in your wallet just a bit longer.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

I blame Jono

Despite being an avid Blogger (and blog reader) I do follow a few of the hip people on YouTube. One such is a fellow called Jono. I met him at Fradley in the summer of 2017 and appeared in all my glory on this video - click me  about 3.30 in if you just want to fast forward to the star of the show !

So why am I telling you about Jono... he is an avid Victron fan and is fitting Alice out with Victron stuff - including Lithium batteries. In fact I think he now works in some capacity for Victron !

Anyhow he has a code that gets 15% off all Victron stuff at Onboard Energy click here I got a solar controller that I have already blogged about and have just ordered the first part of my new battery set up  - the BMV 712 battery monitor. Done some homework, for a lazy man wanting quality stuff this is the one. The Bluetooth works for me and I can see down the line me getting an inverter/charger from them also as I continue my enlightened journey to all things power  - charge and use etc

I'll not fit it (the BMV) until I have my new batteries and I'll not have them until the event that starts tomorrow is over - yes its boating and it'll be interesting   (well it will for me) so keep reading  !




Monday, 31 December 2018

For the record we were on board New Year 2018

A bit of a cheat of a post really as I wanted to get to 62 for the year beating previous years. But I also wanted to record the fact we were having a different NewYear 2018 compared to 2017.

We are spending it quietly on board at Shebdon. Rachel is getting over the cold that is doing the rounds that has made her very tired which is unusual. I had it before Christmas and soldierd on as blokes do !!

This time last year Rachel’s Mum was very poorly in hospital that saw us turning round on the M40 and returning to the cottage on New Year’s Eve. The result was on New Year’s Day I did a 450 mile round trip to collect the cat from Chichester ! Hopefully this years turn of the year will be less challenging.

Food is in the oven, the donk is running to give the batteries one last hurrah before they go to the scrappers in the New Year.

Let’s hope it’s a quiet one if you want such and a merry one of that is your bag, regardless let’s hope it’s a healthy one as that is really all we need.

Friday, 28 December 2018

The flying of time - my career(s) in X words

In reviewing my years blogging i found this draft that should be shared for my kids - excuse the indulgence and the fact it was written in the last few weeks of my employment ...

As some will know this blog is a small diary of interesting (to me) things I would want to reflect on when I am in my nursing home. I have kept a blog for many years and have one year put into a book and intend to have all years put into print to pass to my Grandkids so when they do their genealogy down the line my story will be easier to tell. 

So this is a wordy post really to my grandchildren, but you can have a peek if it interests you .....

I started work on the 4th September 1978, Monday. I was a print apprentice at RB Macmillan, an old family firm of label printers. I was on a 4 year lithographic print apprenticeship. I had turned down three electricians apprenticeships in favour of this job as my mums friends'  next door neighbour worked in print and was well paid !! Jobs were plentiful and those jobs were skill and craft based.

I was introduced to my mentors for the day Malky Stevenson (master printer) and Herbert Bramley (machine assistant and chief clown) my god those days were full of trepidation but fun and learning by decent blokes. It was a good time to get work, good trades were on offer, skilled crafts. When I was banged out see here for info on that ceremony I was a journeyman printer after a four year apprenticeship.

I stayed for nine years printing and then in the technical services section. It was a good place, lots of history and good people. We had fishing clubs, football clubs and the odd after work drink and curry club!

I saw a job to set up an Inplant print operation at the then Derbyshire College of Higher Education. I was interviewed at the Green Lane College of Art and got the job.  


Once again I set to work with some decent people, lots of happy memories of the other technicians, the cleaners and porters. It was a family, all working for each other looking out for each other. It is experience like that that form people and I have tried to do the same, looking out for colleagues, working with people rather than against then all my working (and private life) since. I know a good few are no longer with us, some taken far too early, some took their own lives and some still taking the pension.

I did leave to help set up what is now a multi million pound printing business Plan4 Print  - now Excel Print  It was a good but hard time as I was stretched. Just had Tom my oldest and I was leaving in the morning when he was asleep and getting back in the evening when he was still asleep. I decided family comes first so left and was lucky to get back to the college with the help of Dave Bush, a top bloke and someone I owe a lot to. Both Dave and Kelvin the owner of Plan 4 Print  (now retired and spends half his time in Portugal !) came to my retirement do which I really appreciated 

Coming back could be seen as failure, I saw it as an opportunity to rise as far as I could and I did. I put three hard year in to get my MSc  - success does not come and should not come easily. I wanted to prove my experiential learning was as good as theoretical so I got both. I was very proud of myself and my qualification, one of the highest you can get - not bad for someone who left school aged 15 with three 'O' levels and three cse's (Certificate of Secondary Education)

Sadly the university did not practice what it preached when it comes to the need and use of high level degrees and my career hit the buffers, not for anything else ironically other than one person did not like the fact I'd not adopt their style of confrontational leadership. A terribly  hubristic egotistical person, the antithesis of who and what I am and I am very proud to not be like that person and proud I held my principals and ethics despite the damage it did to my career.

Not that I did not still enjoy my work and the good people I worked with, they will know who they are as I shared the fact I blogged prior to my retirement.

So a 'work' without waiting for the phone to ring with a problem. Or sitting penned in to emails and judgment calls. Keeps plates spinning or balls in the air -choose your metaphor. But I am ready. I need to let go of that nut... see here for that blog post, but I like the story so much I am pasting it below

In order to catch spider monkeys, hunters in South America simply walk through the jungle and drop heavy containers on the ground. These containers have very a narrow top and a wider bottom. Inside the containers the hunters drop a special kind of nut which is particularly attractive to the monkeys. Sometime later, the spider monkeys come down from the tops of the trees, smell the nut, but the tops of the containers are so narrow they have a tight squeeze to get their hands inside. Once they grab the nut at the bottom, their fist is too large to remove if through the opening. And the container is too heavy for them to carry.
So instead of letting go of the nut, the monkeys just sit there until the hunters come back, pick them up, and throw them in a bag.
The spider monkeys are not prepared to let go of a small nut in order to gain their freedom.
See where this is going.... it does not take too much of a leap of imagination to transpose the nut for much of modern life.... we grab hold and are afraid to let go, but when we do we get freedom.
Anyhow that's why I retired - just letting go of the nut !!!

So the clocking off clock will be changed  to be a counting up clock. I have made pension decisions that mean I have to live long to beat the system and I hope to do so.  I hope the next stage of my journey is fun, it should be full, you can share it with me here in this blog.

One final thought  - our universe will live for 19 billion years. It has been around for 14 Billion and has about 5 billion to go. If I get to my predicted expiry (currently 83 years !) I would have been part of this Universe for 19 billion divided by 83 so by my maths that makes my life...... forget the maths... a minuscule portion of time in the great scheme of things.... as the title says in a slightly rearranged way, time flies - please please make the most of your time


Happy New Year !

Thursday, 27 December 2018

The care of batteries

I am a member of the 12v boating group on Facebook. They are a group of knowledgable and very helpful individuals who are happy to help with good and detailed advice.

The mantra of the group when it comes to batteries is know how to care for them - first and foremost. There are many many types of batteries, charging systems and installs but it all comes back to knowing your batteries and what is going in and going out. The other message constantly made is know the power demands - do a power audit ....

So one thing I am looking at now from my recent learning it how many amps are going into the batteries as part of the charging process - this gives a good idea of the state of charge of the batteries. I do have a Smartgauge and this has been very helpful on Waterlily and Percy in helping me manage my batteries - the % SOC is, I have read around, the 'best' way to know when to charge. This I understand is because the system is doing many calculations on charge and discharge over the batteries life so it adjusts the SOC % to account for the natural 'ageing' of the batteries. Many ask for the banks combined AH and use that as the starting point for calculations, not ever changing so not allowing for the reduction of AH capacity over time = incorrect information ( my understanding)

However I'd still like to see that amps in and out.

Now my understanding from this group - thanks Brian, is I need a (at least) a DC clamp meter to read the amps on the main cable to the batteries to see what is going in at any point - and I guess on the same cable to the 12v side to see what is going out etc. £20 - £35 so not too much but very manual.

Now I could fit a BM2 or Victon or Phil meter ...... all three do what I am looking for  -  I'm less fussed about the % remaining as I have the Smartgauge which I trust for that. I guess it could be down to the install ease and also the ability to get the information... meaning the Victron with its Bluetooth is best here as i can  be around the boat and get the info I need  = lazy man

So I guess the two questions I need to resolve is can I fit either the BM2 or Victon alongside the Smartgauge and should I cut my costs and just buy a cheapish clamp meter and take occasions readings  (meaning opening up the batter cover - not a big job to be honest? )

I did have this post scheduled for automatic posting on Friday.... however I have just got into some deep reading of an excellent thread on CanalWorld forums about this subject. So now I have volt meters and ammeters to think about.... I may yet edit this post again before it's posted....

Here is the link to the post I am reading - its long !



Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Well worth a follow for all BCN enthusiasts

If you are looking for a bit of Boxing day canal entertainment I can recommend Andy Tidy's new mini Youtube series on the lost 60 miles of the BCN. 

As someone who has shamefully never visited the BCN it's an excellent watch and a strong encouragement to get to cut end and use the Wolverhampton 21 to this hidden jewel.