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 ! 

Monday 11 February 2019

What a tool !

Not me, well some might say ......

Hopefully the cylinder head will be going back on Thursday so this week is full on boat week. Last week I was over in the cold putting the Victron BMV-712 battery monitor head unit in place. I wanted it to look like it was put in when I did the Smartgauge, it should have been as the Smartgauge is good at telling you what you have left but it does not tell you when the batteries are full...

I had to swap out the 15mm copper tube to 22mm, which lived for many years in the loft of a large house (sons flat) in Blackheath London. So I like to think it's retired to the canals. Anyhow the copper is used as a flashy conduit and needed to take two control cables and some power cables for the Smartgauge.

Incidentally I liked the BMV-712 as the head unit is powered via the control cable so no need to run power up to the head unit. The power goes from the two battery banks to the shunt.

Today I was on the boat painting the the block to make it look a bit tidier before the heads go onto it. I set to getting the wiring ready for the shunt. The shunt will have to live on top of the battery bank on a small wooden platform. I've invested in a decent bus bar  (with cover) that'll help me wire up the shunt. This will live on the wooden platform with the shunt. (pics to follow)

One small annoyance was the shunt has M10 bolts (it's a decent shunt) but the batteries and all the cabled to them are M8. So the Bus bar is all M8 bolts x 4. But it still means I needed to make up a couple of battery cables M10 to M8 .... so here is the reference to the title, my crimping tool.

A few battery jobs back I ended up at Streethay Wharf as I need a specific length battery cable. I took the cable and they charged me a tenner to crimp two ends to it.... jump forward to my next job, IIRC it was a re-cable of my leisure batteries to make the charging as level as possible, I invested in a hydraulic cable connector clamp.

I spent an enjoyable hour making up a couple of short cables to get the M10 to M8 to and from the shunt.

I have a fairy light box (yes that is what I typed) that I am going to use as a cover for the shunt to tidy the whole install up. What I should have also said is I spent this morning altering the battery box cover, which also is a step in the engine room to take the extra height when the shunt is on top of the batteries. I intend making a complete new cover as this one is not now ideal but I was pleased I did it out of a piece of reduced decking from B&Q.

I had enough to make a shelf for the bench grinder that was on my workbench but vibrated it so much stuff fell from all over while I was using it !!

Back tomorrow to complete the install and add some more paint to the block.


Wednesday 6 February 2019

Really worth a watch... says so much about canal life

I know I know I made some observations recently about  Blogging v's Vlogging but one of my favourite Vloggers have recently posted on their vlog about their 5 secret  (observations) for a successful narrowboat life.

It resonated with me, their advice and observations are spot on and well worth a viewing. So many think it is the perfect life but don't understand the compromises. I could not (at this stage of my life) accept all the compromises and I am lucky enough to be able to have alternatives. I did try it out  - not fully but two years afloat taught me a lot about my life and my boat.

I have massive respect for those that do live a life afloat - especially those cc'ers and those on line moorings with limited facilities such as my friends at hunts lock and new and old friends at Shebdon.

One thing that is critical is if you have a hankering  - go for it with your eyes wide open, regret is a difficult bedfellow.

I revisited one of my posts on a heavyweight life decision I took in June 2017  - early retirement and hopping off that hamster wheel of marketing/commercialism and 'normality blanket' never regretted it and so glad I did not wait as others have and still do. You may be reading this thinking smug git  - easy for him to say, but such decisions are in your control, even it its altering spending habits to achieve an early work exit, downsizing, if you want it enough  you will achieve it.

Here is the link to Rich and Fran's excellent vlog

Here is the link to my big decision post in June 2017 

Sunday 3 February 2019

Well that was a waste of time !

I've have the bits in my car to start putting the Victron monitor into the engine room on Percy for a while. On Friday I was free after a few family challenges and bad weather to get over to Shedbdon. On the way I took  a route variation to Market Drayton to drop off the valve guides I have purchased to the shop that was checking Percy's head (all good apart from some wear in the guides apparently)

When I brought Percy Tony ran me through the lubrication of the donk - but I don't recall him advising on lubrication of the valve stems. No doubt a contributory factor to the wear. On reading one of the maintenance manuals it says fill the valve recesses with a little oil to keep the stems lubricated  - I have been doing such is now part of the pre-start lubrication regime on the donk. 

Anyhow on getting to Percy I took my battery drill out to drill two holes into the steel engine bulkhead so o could tap them for a couple of pan head copper bolts that would be used to hold the box the Victron battery monitor display unit. All went well until the drill started to slow so pushing my luck I added a little bit more pressure and twang the 3.4mm drill broke !! Not the first time and I now have one partly drilled hole. Not the biggest problem  - especially as I realised I'd left the shunt at home also.

I checked the bilge, made a cup of tea (its great the water point being next to my boat so I don't have to turn on and then drain down the water system just for a cup of tea or a wee !

I'll go back next week and complete the job having ordered more drill bits and charged my electric drill up  (both batteries).

Hopefully the head will soon be ready for re assembly and then I can properly sort out the batteries.