Wednesday 31 December 2014

12 months later .....

We have just had a  nice last 2014 meal in which we reflected on the last year and pondered our 2015. We were not sure where we were this time last year... checking back on the blog we were actually on board for the New Year in 2013, without any forethought or inkling what 2014 would deliver.

It is ironic that in 2014 I posted on 48 (including this one) occasions - less than one a week and I lived aboard for 6 months of the year - I think that says something, not sure what ? Last year it was 94 posts....

So for my record we were in a cottage in the South Downs for the New Year 2014.... lets hope we are all fit and well to blog about where we are New Year 2015.

One thing that has been missing in 2014 is motorbike miles,  (certainly compared to 2013) last time I rode the Pan was in July  - ironically a week or so before we moved out of the house. It would have been so much better if we had got a place with a garage down south but the place we have costs enough so that might be on the wish list for 2015.

Anyhow, tomorrow Rachel is at work so I will do my annual review of the year, always a good time to fully reflect and plan for the New Year. As she is on an early we will be asleep when the New Year arrives so I will end with a wish for one thing to you all, good health as without that the rest is much less important.


Saturday 20 December 2014

One more day to go....

We moved our Derby base to Staffordshire on the 9th July. I guess you could say it was all downhill from there.... well light wise it was  and until you live on a boat for an extended period of time you do not understand how dark the experience can be !

Ok so not a doom and gloom post but the reality of living while still working on a boat is you get up in the dark and come back in the dark. No daytime cruises to get your vitamin D. I spoke to Kev my neighbour and he casually said it is an existence over the winter aboard. This is much the case when you are off the grid and living on 2 leisure batteries. It can be cosy, it can be romantic(not when you are on your own mind) but it is bloody dark most of the time. The irony is I bet when I return to land living in the spring (good timing !!) to sort out the house to sell I will miss the boat I guess, even more so as the days will be getting lighter all the time.

So why the post today.... well I pushed across to water up and empty the cassette, and then decided to give the batteries a real good top up as well as top up my vitamin D with some wind blast sunshine and rain. We only went to Alrewas and back for winding but it was a challenge in the wind. Talking of winding, the Alrewas winding hole can be a pig if the wind is in the wrong direction, today it was and would have caught me broadside and slowly pushed me onto the far bank if I had not passed the stern rope to Rachel whole kept the stern near the armco while I winded - almost felt like I knew what I was doing!

The one more day is tomorrow up to 23:03 when the earth's orbit sees it lengthening the exposure to the sun in our northern hemisphere

The winter solstice itself lasts only a moment in time, so other terms are used for the day on which it occurs, such as "midwinter", or the "shortest day". It is often considered the "first day of winter" or the "start of winter" (Lidong in the East Asian calendars), although in meteorology winter spans the entire period of December through February. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days

So from 23:03 tomorrow night the days get longer and the nights shorter and it feels like survival, only some consider tomorrow the start of winter and as we all know we have yet to have a blast of cold weather for any sustained period. 

Bottom line is we moved the boat today, we are together now for 16 days, it's Christmas in 5 days time and goodness only knows what 2015 holds for us !

Happy Christmas and a safe and secure New Year to you all.

It's on its way..... !!

Friday 12 December 2014

They came through ....bloggers and friends in one

Fellow bloggers. Totally remiss of me not to have posted while I enjoyed the hospitality. Being on board part of the time now I do get to intercept the bloggers I know as they come through.

It started mid summer when John and Louise brought Ploddin'Along through Fradley....

I got an invite for drinks and a show around what is a really well spec'd and comfortable boat. I am sure it will get many lock miles under its baseplate in the coming years.

Next invite was from the 'A' listers on the cut, Doug & James from NB Chance. I was welcomed aboard as if a long standing friend, the red wine was top class as was the boat and company.

The next invite was for a curry in Alrewas with Halfie and Jan from NB Jubilee while they were out as part of their first decent retirement cruise, as I recall I think Jan had technically retired either that day or that week. Anyhow we had a great chat over food and back on the boat.

After Rachel departed one Sunday for her long drive south I went looking for more long term live-a-board bloggers, Lesley and Joe of NB Yarwood They had just had a new Refleks stove fitted and I was interested in the install and the performance. We had a really good chat and I walked with them through to Common lock after watering at Fradley. Fletcher and Floyd put up with Leia while we talked ......

Our most recent visit was to Geoff and Mags from NB Seyella We hailed Geoff as we were walking to Woodend lock last Sunday and he kindly invited us in for tea on our way back (plus home made cookies !) Look at the symmetry of those logs on the roof... you can spot a long termer by his logs !!

We were alarmed to read that Mags had been in the cut at Colwich seems apart from some bruising she is ok, now that is a tough lady.

So if you are passing invite the cuckoo aboard.... ;-) Or if the lights are on and the smoke is being made breast up below Hunts lock and demand Tea !!

It has been good meeting you all and you have helped me settle into what can be a challenging and sometime lonely existence. I will look out for you when the ropes eventually are untied and Percy starts his system voyage.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Do you agree with my thinking here...?

Frustrated from Fradley needs some advice!

I trumpeted my battery swap out here....Clicky Over the last few weeks I have been frustrated with the performance of the new batteries, any small load (TV 25w ) sees big %'s drop. initially I put it down to the Smartgauge calibrating the new batteries, but the solar controller was giving me its verdict of half empty batteries too often.

I began to suspect I had a bad battery. So last night after watching a dvd via the Mac HDMI link to the tv I went to take Leia out and the Solar controller was giving me the red light and the Smartgauge was saying 47% dropped from 74% and a voltage of 12.2  That % drop was not consistent with running a 25w tv for 3 hours with a few pump cycle and little lighting as we had the Christmas tree lights on !!

So this morning it was on with the overalls, the genny was set to charge the computer and Ipads up while I investigated. The multimeter said the starter was sitting at  12.76 v and the two leisures were 12.74 v so I disconnected the two leisures and they were showing  12.58v and 12.91v Now they were new together so you would expect them to be close to similar voltage when not connected (am I right here?)

So I swapped the starter with the lower (questionably faulty battery). Gave the engine some TLC, the 1929 design means an oil can rather than oil pressure lubricating its workings... and started the donk up.

It went to EP  - engine battery priority, basically putting all the alternator output into the starter battery  (for those who would be interested in the Smartgauge/Smartbank system the manual is here ) I expected this as the questionably duff battery was low and starting the engine would draw it lower so the system gives it all the alternator output.

It then went into connected mode (CON) meaning it was charging both starter and leisure, however this went on far too long indicating to me that the starter was not taking the charge as it should, the smartgage was detecting this and keeping it connected (via the relay) to try and get it to an acceptable level (am I right here?)

So the test will be in how the two leisure batteries hold up over the next week. I am not a power user, water pump, shower pump some low power lights, no fridge at the moment just the 25w tv. I'd expect the two 110a/h batteries to cover this with loosing only a few % each evening?

Any advice or observations welcome.

PS.... I drafted this last night while out at my sister in laws, came back to the boat at 11pm from leaving at 3pm to find I had left the inverter on and the engine room light.... only lost a few % on the SG so that looks promising.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Not bad for the month I dislike the most

I was not looking forward to November, it is the month I least like in all the year. II can't think of anything that is good (apart from the respect the country shows on the 11th) Anyhow the sooner it is over the better. But it does not mean I have been standing still, far from it, just s busy as ever s here are some images of my November.....

Started in East Dean with a beautiful walk in the woods. This area of the South Downs is beautiful and it feels unpopulated which is surreals when you look on the map, but a lot is huddled on the coast and off to London. One excellent offer is the footpaths and bridle paths, well marked and lots of them.

It was a really early start back to work on the Monday, the university has a leadership day each November and as a 'leader' ;-) I needed to be in Derby for 8am so the alarm went off at 4am and I was rolling in the CRV at 4.30am

Don't worry readers I am able to look after myself this is the sort of meal I provide for myself, I follow the habit we have always done by eating at a table.... no lap dinners, one concession is the laptop with Netflix on it as we would normally converse over food and I only have the dog, and she never answers back !! The pizza made two meals as did the salad and beetroot.

Next day we had the first real frost of the year.... was I cold, only walking to the car. I kept the fire in most of the month, softy that I am a toasty warm 24c aboard most of the time and fridge like in the back cabin - my winter fridge.

Then is commute, work, commute until Rachel comes back, but due to shifts this was not until Saturday am so the weekend was a little short as a couple. 

More frost at the start of the next week but the fire was doing a sterling job.... and I am thinking of taking this out why?

Leia was found to be taking some liberties, she was wacked from a long walk and took to MY bed !!

So it was back down to Chichester middle of the month for a really lazy wet weekend where we just lounged about..... a few walks some shopping but the weather was so bad we just stayed put really....

Then after a 400  mile round trip it was back to this....

Too much coffee too much paperwork and too many emails.... but it pays for the lifestyle so I should not complain (too much)

Highlight of the week was attending a lecture from Simon Weston.... a real inspiration, someone who has overcome so much and still has a smile and sense of humour.

The last weekend in Staffordshire was spend at work would you believe... overseeing our largest open day on Saturday, followed by a trip to the theatre (another venue owned by my university and a site I visit often) to see 'little Voice' excellent I am always in awe when I am entertained so well by good actors. Getting back to the cold boat at 11.15 was not so good, but I had set the fire. I cut those light and forget logs in half - makes a jumbo fire lighter and they burn hot so we soon were tasty warm, plus a hot water bottle - did I mention I don't like to be cold !

Sunday we woke up and pondered our day.... I had seen a Facebook post from a biker friend (Coops) who was off to the NEC bike show. We have not been there for many many years so as we were half an hour away we went....

The 1600 BMW felt good, but there was so much tech on the bike I could not imagine it being safe to ride - far too distracting. But if I have a benefactor out there who wishes to have one delivered to East Dean step forward !!

The Triumph Trophy was interesting and I have asked for a brochure.... stopped short of a test ride. It did feel a little remote but it does have the right amount of rider support.... I can see a bimble out maybe at some point !

Now this felt right..... note the smile of a man who knows he already has the right bike ! Honda ST1300 Pan European, and we have taken ours to Europe and hope to again next year - destination Colditz

Being of a certain age  did try a Harley.... but my arse would not take the riding position.

This one caught my eye.... 1100cc different from my much loved CB200 but it looked very similar to me...... happy days

Finally I tried a GSX750 ... nope but it reminded me of my VTR1000 Firestorm

... And then it was back to the 40 mile a day commute......I did take my Quadcopter up to get some images of our sites.....

Went to the cinema to see Interstella  on Wednesday night with my eldest son Tom - excellent film and entertainment

Thursday evening it was revisiting the 'road to hell' I certainly know what Chris Rea was thinking when he wrote it !

So up to date..... today we got the bikes out for a 17 miles blow out around the South Downs. I picked a treat of a route .... more pics rather than words.

Not sure what tomorrow will bring.... it'll be cold next week so the fire will earn its keep.

Around 2000 driven miles and 17 cycled for November !

Goodbye November..... see you next year hopefully !!

Tuesday 25 November 2014

There really is a Santa (NOT) ;-(

I have recently joined the Narrowboat User Group facebook pages, lots of friendly posts. Last night someone posted an Amazon offer - one of these brand new for a quid plus 3.99 P&P

I was outbid for a second hand one off EBay a few weeks ago and I was going to pay £35 plus a drive to Nottingham to collect.

Got the email confirmation late last night for a December delivery. It'll be ideal in the forecabin for times we need to get our smalls cleaned, not as convenient as a front loader but no install worries and literally no cost.

Thanks Narrowboat User group, top link.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday 16 November 2014

If only...

.......they had build a canal in the New Galloway forest I'd be sorted !!

A few weeks ago I took a road trip from Chichester to Stranraer  - 480 miles, covered it using the Honda, CRV - 4 wheels rather than ST1300 -  2 wheels, never mind, this chapter of my life is bikeless which is sad.

It was for a trip to see my good friends John and Carrie and their two little dynamo's. I had provisionally agreed it when I thought I would be homeless while the boat was painted, this is now July 2015.... when I should be larging it up back in the homestead, no commute, bike in the garage, as much electricity as I want to waste as well as water and heat etc, anyhow that is next years story maybe.

So I set off Monday am and got to their farm house in the twilight of a Scottish winter - just in time for the tail end of hurricane something or other to whip through....

We had a great time as it was the kids half term....

My kind of beach.... all to ourselves.

We had a day in the Galloway forest.....and had all seasons in half an hour

The farmhouse location is stunning...

The only hiccup was when messing about with the radio controlled planes and quadcopers John's plane lost its valiant battle with an unexpected wind. We build them with sophisticated flight controllers that have GPS and altimeters in them but even though the plane knew where it was trying to fly back to the head wind was pushing it back up the West coast of Scotland. We thought we got a Ltt and Long fix as it was running out of battery but we suspect after the last broadcast is was blown a long way off form this last fix.... ouch !!

All in all an excellent and restorative break. Thank you John and Carrie

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Leave my boat and do not darken its doors ever again....

.... and with that the old batteries were swapped over. When we got Percy there were a couple of 85 amp/h batteries installed with a 90 amp/h starter. Kev my neighbour had a couple of 110's he had got under warranty from Norbury I brought off him and they lasted a just short of a coupe of years and were never looked after.

Even with my modest power demands they slowly lost more every evening and last time Rachel was aboard we killed them to the point the bath pump would not operate.  So they were replaced with a couple of 110 sealed types and as there was a deal on at MC I replaced the starter at the same time.

They are doing very well, I have not run the engine this week... the solar topping them up and the fridge is off as the back cabin is now may fridge/larder for the rest of the winter. In fact it is colder in the back cabin than the fridge was! One of the benefits of Percy is its compartmentalisation.... lots of doors. This keeps the bathroom/bedroom kitchen and saloon warm with the engine room buffering the back cabin. Fridge in the back cabin currently 26c in the saloon.

Anyhow a before  picture....

....and the after picture

One benefit was the threaded posts rather than clamps.... tidier and tighter fit and safer when installing as you can see they are close to the bulkhead. It is a job to to when you are not in a rush.

Lots of other stuff that I should have blogged about but when you send so much time aboard there seems less time or maybe less inclination to blog, shame really.

Monday 6 October 2014

Mooring by moonlight

Just took Leia for a before bedtime wee..... the mooring was beautiful and misty after the rain..... so I got the camera out with the tripod.

For best effect click on them to get the full size image.