Friday, 22 March 2019

The sweet smell of Cannabis - but what is it.

In the last few weeks of pottering on the mooring I have had the ever present sweet smell of Cannabis in my nostrils. Now I have been known to inhale every now and again, purely for medicinal use of course  - it is supposed to be good for Fibromyalgia after all.

On a related point I sat on a jury and heard a case regarding supply and conspiracy to supply a large volume of Cannabis and the defence of one of the accused was she was not aware it was being 'processed' in her house ! It is quite a unique smell - she did get found guilty as did others, as the foreman of the jury I was the one to give the pronouncement.  How do I reconcile the two as an occasional medicinal user and someone who sent someone down for supplying the likes.... well I think it should be re classified as in my opinion it is no worse than alcohol and tobacco.

Anyhow I traced the smell to this plant - it is not a Cannabis plant for sure but it does have a very similar smell. I have no idea what it is so any suggestions please?

Thursday, 21 March 2019

The force of nature

The saying goes March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, and so it is with storms racing across the Atlantic to batter our shores.

Of course it is how it should be. I see the storms as the viruses (I had to check that was correct as I wanted to type Viri)

"The verdict is: “The English plural of virus is viruses, not viri.” Merriam-Webster agrees, as does TheFreeDictionary. Wiktionary offers the following usage notes: The plural is often believed to be viri or even virii, but neither is correct Latin and both are neologistic folk etymology.9 Oct 2010"

 Natures way of clearing the old to allow for the new growth.

Anyhow I digress,  was out on one of my favourite walks into the valley and along the canal. To do this I have to cross the river Churnet and normally it is a gentle meandering river of no great consequence. Yesterday 14th March it was swollen and angry and charging through the valley trying is hardest to unseat the brave saplings and more mature trees normally perched high above its watercourse.

When I was working on the boat earlier this week the slapping of waves onto the side of the hull made it feel like I was on the sea. 

Nature and weather in particular inspire me but also helps me reset my place in this universe.

Monday, 18 March 2019

When sorry seems to be the hardest word !!

A motorbike post with a commentary on life and how sad it is at times !

Percy is my Pride and Joy (P&J) My other passion  - all my adult life is motorcycles. I've always had a least one on the road and when the kids were young I had a motorcycle and sidecar  - at least at the age of 7 and 5 arriving at school in a motorbike combo was cool !

So last week I returned from a ride on my latest bike a Honda ST1300, been to Luxembourg/Germany/France/Belgium on it last year - it's a great if not heavy bike. I parked it up while I opened the gate to get it into the temporary shed. As I walked back I watched as a visitor to one of the cottages reversed back towards it  - I was expecting her to stop as the beepers sounded but she didn't ( not reversing sensor or use of the wing mirrors ) so I watched as my P&J was knocked over and scuffed up.

It's now on its way to Hampshire to be repaired and I have a loan bike. However and no doubt under instruction I can't recall a sorry  - how sad is that. It just seems that in this culture there is a real fear of apologising in case it is used against you.... so sad least I get to try out a bike I have fancied owning for a while  .....NC750x  a bike that does 80mpg and is half of a Honda Jazz engine. Still not a Pan !

Friday, 15 March 2019

Drilling holes in the boat

I can confirm the steel on Percy is tough  - apparently old British steel is better than the new stuff of today. How that is so I've no idea but it took me a little while to drill and tap half a dozen holes to fit the final stage of the revised charging regime aboard Percy. 

I am turning into my dear old dad, he used to spend many hours pondering challenges (mainly DIY)  to come up with a simple workable solution. So it was with my simple 240v charging circuit utilising the new Honda genny in favour of using the engine. In fact I woke up early thinking about how to do it and in doing so saved some work and a few precious £££'s

So today I popped over to Percy to complete the install after receiving the new Victron 12/30 amp smart charger. This was the best bang for pound as I could not support getting a 50 amp jobbie and I wanted some decent kit to fit my do it once do it right retirement mantra ! Once again I went to On board energy as using JONOPROMO you get a 15% discount plus they give free delivery and even if selecting 3 day delivery usually get it the next day. The other positive is they offered good telephone support (for the Victron stuff I have brought)

I started by drilling holes to tap for small brass bolts to fix a 13amp (actually 10 amp) socket. The sellotape (sticky backed plastic if you remember Blue Peter ) is to catch the metal chips from the small 3.5mm holes... started with a 2.5mm drill to make it easier as I might have mentioned it was hard steel !

The cabling is temp at the moment from the charger as it'll be in 15mm copper when I remember to take some to the boat ! 

So when I plug my new genny into the hook up we get power to all 240v sockets and can use the 12v as the charger is putting back in whatever 12v we take out. The real positive is I'm running a 49cc engine instead of a 3 litre donk. The donk does not like ticking over and the icing on the cake is the boat is quiet and the little Honda makes hardly any noise. I can see via my phone what the charger is doing via a Bluetooth link. 

As you can see the charger was putting in 20.5 amps but this dropped quite quickly to under 4amps which the general consensus suggests is a full battery bank when the charge rate is around 1% of the battery bank capacity. The Smartbank is generally considered the best device for knowing the % state of charge when under demand rather than under charge. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Built in obsolescence

.... is a phenomenon more and more widely experienced (by me but I can't be alone) as the need to keep the tat machines turning and money merry go rounds fed. Anyhow the canal link here is the little Flymo I had at Hunts that I passed to my neighbour Mandy of NB Don't Panic. 

When last summer she said it was not working I took a look and found and repaired a broken wire in the main cable near the mover itself. Fast forward two summers and while doing my batteries she brought it over as it has once again stopped working.

This time I took it fully apart to find and remove a lovely little mouse nest ...

Using my trusty multi meter I could not get a reading at the switch while plugged into my inverter. So I took it to Mandy and while connected to her genny she held the switch on while I worked my way up the cable bending it at 6 inch interval until the motor fired as I got to a section once again near the top with a hidden broken wire. Took about two feet off the cable and all was good again.

Now like me you must have been to the tip and seen that pile of old bright orange mowers with I would guess half if not nearly all of them with simple broken wire faults like this  - it makes me angry they will be scrapped when with a little time and patience they could be checked and repaired... rant over  !

Sunday, 10 March 2019

A little workshop project

Some time ago someone posted on the FB friendly narrowboat forum asking what people miss who live aboard. I would (and did) miss a few things, but of course there are many positives for being afloat also. However I know I'd miss my workshop and its slowly getting decluttered from moving two homes into one.

That declutter has allowed me to use it for the new battery box project. I did not have my new battery install blog up for long before I superseded the post with the sad news of Paul Macey's death. So it may be not a lot know I am ready to complete the finishing touches and that is a new cover - read about he Victron and batteries here 

I set off to B&Q with an idea of how I'd build it but I could not get the materials at a price I  was happy with and there would be a lot of waste of expensive sheet material and wood. However I noted the 18mm ply was a size I could get all the pieces out I needed so I repaired to the B&Q cafe for food and a drawing that I eventually got the pice cut with plenty to spare.

So an enjoyable couple of hours drilling screwing sanding got me my new battery box cover....

It need to go to the boat for a test fit and a cruise   - I know I will need to add some cable runs then unscrew it all, redo it with glue and screws then paint it  - Bobs your mum's brother as they say !

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Out with the old in with the new (ish)

You may recall I blogged about the donk surviving its open heart surgery, well to keep the metaphors in line the generator has had a heart attack and died on me !!

As I now have an amp counter I was going to see how the 8.3 amp DC outlet on the Trent Power generator worked but literally as I fired up the genny there was a puff of white smoke then it started to rev despite the econ switch being 'on'. I tried plugging something into the 240v outlet but nothing there.

Long story short it is the inverter module failed - common on these cheapish gennys but as its a solid unit with all components in a resin bonded type heatsink it's not repairable and they are over £200 to replace  - if you can get them ! So as Richard the engineer had advised using a genny to charge the batteries rather than the big old donk, on the premise its easier to service and repair a genny than a 3 litre engine (plus a cheaper on fuel option) I needed a new genny.

First concern was do I still need a 2kw (heavy) model. As I will be using it for battery charging and Dysoning I needed to check if a 1kw genny would run my Dyson... enter left my good neighbour Mandy from NB Don't Panic who has a 1kw Clark model. She fired it up and we tested the Dyson and it spun up and sucked ok so a result. I use it also for the lawn mover and  know Mandy uses the genny with the little flymo I passed to her a while ago so thats also covered. I did use to use it with the chainsaw but as I don't burn wood much any more on the boat of at home that will get sold so a 1kw jobbie is all that is needed - that'll help my back and my wallet.

Now second hand or new  Clark/Hyundai or a Honda - new at over £800 quid was out of the question so if I went Honda it would have to be second hand. The sage advice was go for a Honda based on performance, build quality and longevity. I decided that a good second hand Honda would still be worth a few hundred quid if looked after down the boat owing line whereas a cheap Clark or Hyundai would be worth not a lot and more than likely would have failed with the similar problem  as I have just experienced.

So I got on the hunt for a second hand Honda EU10i, a few about but these things don't normally get posted so I had to be realistic on collection and I wanted a good one. Some were obviously well used (did you know the Honda flashed its green electric light on start up to advise on the number of hours its been used for ?) Once again to cut a long story short I got a less than forty hours model, like new condition at a cost a bit more than a new Hyundai.

Let's hope it lives up to the hype... it certainly is a joy to move about compared to my old model and it's soooo easy to start.

Here is the comparison....

The other positive was it was purchased from a place north east of Sheffield so I had a great drive over to collect it.

That white dish centre left I think is Jodrell Bank !

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Talk about forward planning

Many times I have written about the benefits of blogging. I recently blogged about a little 'explore' of a canal new to us on Percy. As I type this on the 16th February we are moored up with just one other boat at Tyrley wharf above the locks after winding.

We were talking about the last time we were this way and I recalled it was the last cruise on our Share boat Sylph. In fact it was the last but one cruise (with Rachel) as I had a booze cruise with friends as the last time I was on Sylph.  It was in 2008 that we gave up our share on Sylph - a great boat and a good way to get into boat ownerships.

Anyhow the reason for this blog is on checking my Waterlily blog (we had Waterlily as well as a share for a short while) I re-read something that has come to pass.... excerpt as follows

"I really like the Shroppie, and could easily be persuaded to relocate Waterlily there, somewhere near Norbury Junction maybe? It is so atmospheric, when cruising I certainly feel so remote, which is perfect and a significant reason for being on the boat."

Well we are indeed just three miles from Norbury for all the reasons plus more in my observation from 11 years ago. I like it when a plan comes together !!

The blog from Waterlily is here if you wish to read it 

And the blog from the last trip on the lovely Sylph  - here 

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Well it seems the four counties can be an anti clockwise cruise ....

We have done the four counties a few times, on Sylph our share boat and Waterlily our second boat. One thing I recall when we did it on Sylph and Waterlily was we did it anti clockwise and suffered at the hands of the bottom Tyrley lock. It had a wicked by-wash, firing straight across the mouth of the lock on a very narrow channel. This has the effect of pushing the bow into the lock chamber wall. Brave boaters set off at speed slightly pointing to the bank and got 'corrected' into the lock. Get it wrong at speed and you got a massive bang - it was a spectator sport as most could see the challenge. !

Sensibly (at last) C&RT have put in place an effective baffle to push the by-wash down the towpath side. This has resulted in a easier entrance and more critically no damage going forward (in time) to the lock wall. Also looking at the photo below the erosion of the sandstone rock face across the canal is eased - very sensible !

I have a fancy at doing the four counties in April.... still under some planning.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

More sad news...

I guess many who may read this read other boat blogs. You may therefore be aware of Paul Macey's ex of NB Caxton passing on Sunday the 24th February. Sad in the fact he was taken by bastard cancer (his words and those of many others) as was his lovely wife Elaine a couple of years before.

We never met but I followed their blog from day one when they were planning a life change from living in Sydney to aboard a yet to be purchased canal boat in the UK.
One very poignant paragraph from their very first blog hit home with me when I re read it after hearing of his death... I am sure Paula and Elaine would not have minded me quoting them.

"The original time frame for these plans was going to be 3 years but after a boozy Australia Day in the pool, we decided to expedite our plans as - especially after a few champagnes - you realise that life is quite short and you really never know what is around the corner.  Anyway, we decided to take the Bull by the horns and go for it !"

That was Thursday 31st March 2011.

What was around their corner is all within their well written and funny blog, the fact they only enjoyed just over 5 years for Elaine and a little longer but no doubt lonelier time for Paul. They are hopefully reunited somewhere, laughing, enjoying life  - even if it is in our thoughts. 

So as I blogged about making life changing decision in June 2017 - here  take the plunge, take a risk, seek out the dreams, Paul and Elaine did and how great they had five years together exploring, taking risks seeing a different type of life and thank goodness they did.

RIP Paul and Elaine 

The Victron BMV-712 and batteries go in

Ok, there are cheaper but when I retired I made myself a promise if I'm going to do something I'll try and do it with as little compromise as possible.

These things are supposed to be easy to install, and I guess they are but I added the complication of a complete swap out of my batteries and at the same time a reconfiguration of my battery positions and therefore wiring.

I may have mentioned I added a battery box some while ago so I could have three 110 a/h flooded leisures and one starter. It worked but I never liked having the engine room cluttered up with the extra yellow topped battery box. So when the batteries became flatteries after 4 years and 2 months (they went in in November 2014 - no doubt to coincide with my first winter living afloat) I decided to reorganise.

To get them all back in the battery box - picture empty below...

... I needed to up the A/H of the two leisures I was going to put back in. Much research and reading around pointed me to AGM batteries (Absorbed Glass Matt) A compromise on deep cycle traction batteries which need a higher charge - 14.7 to 14.8 volts and more concerningly need to be cycled every now and again to 'gas' to force off the deposits that kill batteries (all my own words) This gas is hydrogen that is explosive and needs venting. In my small install it may not have been an issue but I did not like the idea and they also need topping up with water - and I'm lazy !

So the AGM's were focussed on as they are fit and forget and will take a deeper discharge (not advisable) and also take a charge more readily so should top up quicker. The largest that would fit physically were Leoch Adventurer range, they call them 160's but really they are 147'c at C20. So x2 gives me 294, not quite 330 but I'd take that.

Got them from Alpha batteries for £220 each including the screw in battery terminals that I did not subsequently need, this also included next day delivery. (I note looking at the link they have gone up a fiver each since I ordered. ) TNT bloke delivered them and my they are heavy 40kg each (I weighed in my old ones for scrap and three were 69 kg so 23kg each) I was quite pleased out new mooring gets the car directly next to the boat, I could not imagine wheeling these to my boat and crossing the lock gate with them.

When I fitted them it was my lucky day, the measurements were always tight but they fit with what I understand to be called an interference fit.

Much labeling of the old cables and a bit of making up new cables saw me get it all done with a bit of help from Onboardenergy  - link here  I sent them ( and the 12v facebook boating group) my schematic for my batteries and they advised on a small change and all was ok.

All sorted  - it was interesting to see what amps the batteries were taking when I started the engine to check the charging. It was down to about 3 amps (1% of the total battery bank) which the combined wisdom of those that know would suggest the AGM's came pretty much fully charged.

I got chance to stop aboard earlier this week to 'test' the batteries and it was great to have the fridge on and the TV and the batteries took it all in their stride. I did spend a daft amount of time on my Ipad checking the data from the comfort of the sofa as the BMV712 has built in bluetooth !

So just need to build a new battery box cover and do an oil change and this phase of emptying my wallet is over !!

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

An anniversary cruise

We have been further afield in the past and had romantic weekends away in various hotels around the country for our wedding anniversary. We have also spent quite a few of them aboard our various boats.

For our 34th wedding anniversary this year we just timed the engine works to be completed  so we could have a few days aboard.

As usual we got to the boat later than we planned but got off and had a lovely if short cruise to the Wharf tavern at Goldstone. Never one to miss an opportunity to not cook we booked a table and had a nice relaxed meal in the pub.

The next morning saw us make the next short 1 hour cruise to above Tyrley locks after winding. We took a energetic walk into Market Drayton and suitably coffe'd and cake'd up plodded back to listen to the owls calling across the canal...

We needed to be elsewhere on the Saturday so had to plod back to Shebdon in a slowly improving day temperature and weather wise.

Nice to be moving and to explore a bit more .... sadly the cruise was marred (to be expected) by the flatteries giving up the film we were watching as they ran out of steam for the telly. No bother it was the last ten minutes on the laptop (Netflix)

Lilly the cat enjoyed the second nights moorings above Tyrley locks. The pub mooring was too bright for her to go hunting  !!

Monday, 25 February 2019

The donk seems to have survived its open heart surgery

D day last Thursday  - D for donk as the Lister CS2 was reunited with its heads that had been off to have its valves ground and its injectors cleaned and checked as well as a through de-coke (it was not too bad for about 1400 hours. )

The only part(s) needing replacing were the valve sleeves as they had a little wear. I don't recall Tony telling me the recesses where the valves sit need filling with oil to lubricate the valves. I read this in my CS2 original handbook that I purchased then found the Indians has photocopied it to A5 and included it with the engine. Needless to say they get filled as needed as part of the lubrication regime.

Incidentally the manual says de-coke every 500 hours ! I guess this was in a time when fuels were nothing like as clean as we have now. The engine was not at all bad for saying in my tenure a chunk of the hours have been low load battery charging - more on that in another blog. 

I watched Richard the engineer use his experience to get it back together with such calmness it was really (for me) a pleasure to watch him work.

We ran it up to temperature to check for leaks and all was well. Not the cheapest but not as expensive as I had thought, I painted the block and the engineering company who did the clean and other bits on the head painted that so it looks nice and shiny again.

Yesterday we set off late as ever for a couple of days re-exploring this part of the system. I think the last time we were up here it was on Waterlily just after its paint job when we did the four counties.

Here is the block and pistons after the decoke

Then it was time for the bump test. heard about it but never watched it done 

Gaskets on 

Heads on and torqued down 

Valve gear in place with pushrods added

We took the opportunity to clear out the fuel filter that was not too bad, one of the benefits of having a day tank I guess.

All the bits were put on and the water/antifreeze topped up, tappets set  and after bleeding no2 pump she fired up and ran lovely.

One frustration with the Indian Listers is they have removed the centre studs that are another torque point for the heads, I think they have been removed as the engine is bored out from the original to give it more power 20/2 instead of 16 2. I think these missing studs do not help the pulling down of the heads to the block. Nothing much to do about it I guess.

....Next the flatteries

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

A two canal sort of day

Monday, Tuesday and today saw me on Percy. There is a spring feel in the air, but  I doubt it'll last as March always seems to come to teach us a lesson  

The job list was to paint the block ready to match the head that is due tomorrow and to get the Victron battery monitor fully installed. 

The former was easy.... the latter, well I did my research and planning and had it all ready, then at the last minute had some sort of 'brain dither' that saw me leaving it semi-working to return today to install as I originally planned and it was working as it should.

The shunt is covered by the fairy light box ! To make the job a bit easier I added the bus bar for the other connections (and as previously noted to remove the need to change the fittings from 8mm to 10mm) It needs a decent tidy up, still got some options as and when I replace the flatteries !

I needed to add some height to the cover and step  - it'll get painted when the weather is warmer. I may make another cover but that is part of the plans for the battery bank.

Cousins side by side, one to tell me when the batteries need charging and the other to tell me when they have enough charge.

I rewarded myself with a lunch at Norbury Junction (sadly no photos  - must do better) Then it was a 50 minute trip across North Staffordshire back to the cottage and a walk into my valley. 

I was intending it to be a round walk, down by the falconry centre under the railway,  over the river and then back along the canal. Just as I reached Consall lock I heard the lovely sound of the steam train heading down the valley. 

So I confused Leai and turned 180 degrees and retraced my steps, catching the Loco on its return under power. Certainly an impressive sight.

  On my return up the valley side I stopped at the top to drink in the views and atmosphere of the  fading light of a warm (ish) February day. The Peacocks belong to the nearby Falconry centre. 

During the autumn and winter months the views into the valley present themselves. It does take a decent camera to see where I walked to and back....

Consall lock is down there top middle of the picture. Click on the pictures and you'll hopefully be able to see the canal !

It was poor light but the super zoom on my camera takes me back to my walks terminus.

Back to the boat first thing to meet Richard the engineer who will hopefully get the donk working again so I can see how bad the batteries really are !