Let there be fuel!

The days and also the nights haven’t been very cold recently but it’s still too cold on the boat to sit there and consume Youtube videos at only 12 or 13C room temperature. That means I’m having the stove on every evening and most mornings too. That needs fuel of course. The short burst in the morning to drive the chill out only requires two or three wood logs but in the evenings the heat should stay on for four or five hours. At night I don’t need any heating.

When I passed Tottenham last time (mid September or so) I stopped and got six bags of kiln dried hardwood logs (mostly birch) which I’d been using last winter with great success.

The winter can come - I've got new wood for the stove!

Further down the Lee I also stopped at Springfield Marina (hated by most because of their grumpy stuff – they aren’t the most welcoming people but if you treat them well they thaw up and are actually quite helpful) and bought some overpriced coal (2 bags each of Homefire and Phurnacite) to accompany the two old and wet bags from last year I still had on my roof.

A recent top-up with two bags of softwood logs from Tesco in Bow (now sold out) maintained my fuel stock.

Slowly running out of wood and with the first one and a half bags of coal (the wet ones, they work absolutely fine) gone I took the chance of being near The Little Boat Shop in Mile End and bought 4 bags of Excel and 8 bags of kiln dried hardwood logs. Nikki at the shop has good prices and is conveniently located near the canals. Help her, she’s running the only chandlery in Central London and is now cut off by the closure of both the GU and the HU.

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The 2nd run to the shop…

Six bags of coal and nice bags of wood will hopefully be enough well into January when I’ll have to find a coal boat or any other way of delivery.

By the way: if you buy logs make sure they are at least seasoned or better kiln dried (which of course requires heat, ecologically not perfect) as they won’t smoke and you also don’t get any tar running down the side of the boat from the chimney.

 

Battery problems II

The old batteries were apparently due to be changed. I ordered a pair of 110Ah Numax leisure batteries, pretty much the standard in the boating world and with just short of £150 including shipping they weren’t too expensive.

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Wednesday in the morning I replaced the old with the new ones and left for work. Even though they hadn’t been fully charged (12.6V idle voltage after first connection) and the fridge being on all day on a low setting the voltage meter still read 12.5V in the evening, not going below 12.4 even under load with the water pump running. I charged them anyway for about an hour and went to bed with them reading 12.8V. The next morning the voltmeter still showed the same value, showing 12.5V in the evening and 12.3V this morning, which is a very good result after 1.5 days with dark clouds and rain (aka no charge from the solar panels).

So far so good! The old batteries are only 16 months old and look like new. The water levels are fine (never had to top them up) and the acid density indicators show green, so all should be good. But with them having been fully discharged many times the lead plates might be sulfured, sulfur crystals form on them and block them, restricting the charging and discharging process and so reducing the capacity. I’ll try to charge them again off the boat at a low rate for some days and see if I can have them checked somewhere afterwards.

Grand Union Canal closed!

Not the entire canal of course. It’s been shut off between Old Ford lock at Victoria Park in East London and the Limehouse Basin and also partly dewatered to allow for strengthening works of the banks on the Mile End stretch which were apparently due to collapse. As the Hertford Union Canal, the one which runs along the south of Victoria Park, is fed from the Grand Union Canal that one has been shut too, although the water level is being maintained to prevent the banks from collapsing due tue the lack of water pressure… Both this and the shut GU bit won’t re-open before the 18th December.

The partly de-watered pound below Old Ford Lock on the GU. Vandals kicked the fence over the edge last night along most of the closed stretch.

The partly de-watered pound below Old Ford Lock on the GU. Vandals kicked the fence over the edge last night along most of the closed stretch.

The dam in the Hertford Union Canal (left of the dam) at the junction with the GU (right).

The dam in the Hertford Union Canal (left of the dam) at the junction with the GU (right).

A big pump constantly pumps water from the GU into the Hertford Union to maintain its water level

A big pump constantly pumps water from the GU into the Hertford Union to maintain its water level

Those who expected the badly leaking lock gates at Old Ford to be repaired at the same time will be disappointed though, no works are planned on the lock itself. That also means the annoying self-opening bottom gates won’t be dealt with either.

This closure means that there’s no connection between the River Lee and the Grand Union Canal other than via the Thames and Brentford which is a long way around which takes two days to get from one side of the closure to the other.

On 4th January the 3rd (easternmost) Camden Lock will be closed for three months to allow the repair of its gates! I’m now at the West end of Victoria Park and will have a mooring over Christmas at St Pancras to then continue my way westward before that closure at Camden.

A new pet

Last winter I earmarked a lot of work that I wanted to do in Summer. Now summer is here and I’m still sitting on the sofa every night!

At least I’ve finally fitted the new Morso Squirrel (the pet!) that I had bought back in May at the Crick Boat Show for £250 below the usual price. While the job was quite straightforward this wouldn’t be on a boat if everything went ahead as planned!

First thing was to remove the old Boatman stove which was more than 15 years old and was one of the first that had been be built by Eddy. There wasn’t anything really wrong with it but it’s rather small and doesn’t take the usual wooden logs or at least not more than one.

To remove it I had to first get the flue pipe out which was cemented into the roof collar (which is made of cast iron and bolted onto the roof) and the collar on top of the stove. After undoing the stove’s retaining screws on the floor I started with rocking the old Boatman forth and back and sideways to loosen up the cement, then went on with picking the stuff out with a hammer and a small screwdriver. Finally the old fire rope, that made the seals gas tight and also held the pipe in place, were accessible and could be driven out.

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That done the fluepipe could be lifted out through the roof. The rather light Boatman (30kg I reckon) was out on the frontdeck in no time, a quick post on the London Boater’s page on Facebook saw Tom coming around within 5 minutes and he picked it up for his boat where it’s going to serve appropriately in the boatman’s cabin in the back of his long boat. Time to put the much heavier (70kg) Squirrel into place and finish work for the day. The rain at night revealed that all that hammering on the roof collar had helped the old silicone sealant between the collar and the roof to loosen and let rain drip onto the new stove.
Next stop: taking off the roof collar. To access the bolts I had to cut out little bits of the roof lining which will later be covered by the original wooden plate. The collar came off with a little prying with a big screwdriver and revealed quite a bit of rust. I had expected this as there were always small amounts of water running down the fluepipe when it was raining heavily.

wpid-imag0015.jpg So I removed the rust as good as I could with using coarse sanding paper and an old screwdriver for the bigger bits. Behind stayed a pitted surface… I painted two layers of iron oxide red primer, followed by two layers of a white undercoat, the collar itself also got the same treatment on the underside where it makes contact with the roof.

After three days of painting and drying it was time to put everything back together. First the Squirrel had to be fixed in place to prevent it from moving when accidentally hit or when the boat hits something as that would also loosen the sealing cement on the flue and would lead to fumes coming out on the top of the stove, leaking lethal carbonmonoxide into the cabin. As the stove legs are not fitted with lugs or any form of fixtures and the stove only needs to be prevented from shifting (it’s too heavy to tilt, at least unless the boat isn’t being used on the Channel) I fitted sturdy plastic discs behind two legs that hold the cast iron box firmly in place. I’m not worried about them melting away as it normally won’t get hot enough underneath the stove.

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wpid-wp-1436819290269.jpegNext step was bolting the roof collar back in place which was easy enough to do, of course I applied a good amount of Plumba (a heat resistant silicone sealer, up to 250C which is enough at the top of the flue) around the cutout, the bolt holes and also around the circumference of the collar plate.

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After inserting the flue pipe, which I had sanded down before for a later treatment with high heat resistant paint I fixed in place with different diameters of ceramic fire rope filling in the gap between the collars and the pipe.

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When all was sufficiently sturdy I sealed the remaining gaps up to the top of the collars with fire cement (heat resistant up to 1250C) and smoothened the seals for a nicer look.

wpid-imag0062.jpgNow only the wooden cover went back to the ceiling and also the decorative brass ring. Job done!

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Last thing to do will be painting the flue pipe but as the paint needs to be heated up in order to bind with the surface I’ll do that at a later point when the evenings start becoming chilly.

EDIT: I just found this post saved as a draft since about two months, I thought I had published it long ago! The fluepipe has been painted long since, all is fine. There’s much more room inside the stove for loads of – also bigger – logs. Spending the money on a Squirrel was apparently a good idea 🙂

Battery problems?

Lately my batteries perform a bit strange. While I didn’t notice anything when we had sunshine all day which kept them charged via the solar panels, with the grey skies as of late I have to run the engine regularly to charge them. While I normally get one and a half days out of them (the fridge is the biggest consumer) with no sun it now happened two times that they were empty after a few hours.

So I charged them yesterday in the evening for more than an hour and had a shower whilst the engine was running. Later the voltage meter showed 12.8V when I went to bed. In the morning, when I turned water pump and radio on, they went suddenly down to 9.8V! How can that happen?

Luckily the fridge has got a battery protection built in, so that it won’t run when the battery voltage is too low (11.0V). On the voltage meter I can see the idle voltage, which is regularly above 12V, but when the fridge then starts they go down to 10.2V or so and the fridge turns off immediately. All good, by why did the batteries lose that much charge over night? Last Sunday, when I was on the boat all day, I had the engine running in the morning for 1.5hrs or so, batteries were fully charged. The radio was on all day but apart from that I didn’t use anything and still they were empty again at 7pm.

It seems I need new ones! Bummer.

(the water/acid level is fine in all chambers but there’s a very thin dustlike grey layer of something floating on the surface…)

One year afloat!

Today one year ago I moved on Talisker! Happy days! Quite a lot happened, there were exciting trips, a leaking toilet tank, a stolen solar panel, a stolen bike, a new stove and many wonderful days onboard Tally!

Living on a boat is quite different from living in a house, that’s for sure. It wasn’t entirely new for me as I’d been living in a self-converted removal lorry in the past but that wasn’t fit for use in London.

Living on a boat means:

  • no endless electricity, in fact a very limited supply from two or three car-type batteries which are being charged by either the engine’s alternator or solar panels. The latter ones won’t work sufficiently on dull days especially in the winter.
  • no endless water, even the biggest tank (mine is 800l) will need replenishing sooner or later, in my case every 4 weeks.
  • no endless hot water: in my case water is heated up by the engine and stored in a very good insulated tank (calorifier). To heat it up for a shower the engine needs to run for about 25 minutes, which I can’t do between 8pm and 8am, although some ‘fellow’ boaters don’t care about those rules. Rather soon I will finally connect the Webasto Diesel fired water heater that also can heat up water and also run the radiators which I fitted last year.
  • no heating by the flick of a button or by just opening a radiator valve: when I’ve connected the Webasto heater it will indeed only be that but that device needs electricity which is sparse on a boat… so for heating I’ll rather use the stove which radiates out a very nice warmth (and often enough too much of it 😉 ). But the stove generates a lot of ashes which in turn especially when it’s being cleaned out will settle on all available horizontal surfaces…
  • as long as you haven’t got a home mooring the boat can’t be moored in one place (neighbourhood) longer than 14 days or even shorter in some places. You need to be on the move, cruising in fact. That means changing ways to work every so often, higher commuting cost, less convenience when accessing public transport or the next supermarket and so on.
  • No washing machine (no room and by far not enough electricity) means long ways to the next laundrette every so often.

The list could go on with points like restricted storage space but then it would seem like this is a very poor way of living which it isn’t. In fact I love it, every little bit of it. It makes you much more aware of what you’re having, of how much water/heat/electricity you normally waste when living in a house and of course there is a certain amount of freedom. It’s not the unlimited freedom some might associate with it, by far not. There aren’t canals everywhere you might want to go, there are rules and laws to comply with, there’s cost involved for maintenance and licences and dependencies from supplies (and if it’s only water which is even free for boaters).

Still, I would do it again, without any doubt! One year afloat, yay!