Friday, 24 November 2017

Thoughts on a Narrowboat Part 3–Bedroom

Not all boat shells are built equal.  On the four occasions we hired boats I noticed the curve to the pointy bit at the front (the bow) started where the cabin met the cratch and I naturally assumed this was ‘the standard’.  It therefore came as quite a surprise to discover Waiouru’s curve to the bow commenced seven feet into the cabin and this is where we had planned to locate our cross over bed. 

After doing some measuring I realised one side of our planned king size bed was going to be 6ft long and the other 5ft10ins.  We had already ruled out a lengthwise bed.  There were two main reasons for having a cross over bed.  The first was that in a lengthwise bed one person is squeezed under the gunwale where it can be cold.  The second reason is a lengthwise bed usually results in a unused corridor which we felt was a waste of space.  A cross-over bed utilizes the corridor thus maximizing available space.  However we had a problem with the dimensions.

My solution was to remove the timber battens off the steel framing below the gunwale.   The timber battens were replaced with strips of ½” thick dense sponge foam.  The plywood lining was screwed directly to the steel framing with the sponge foam acting as an insulation barrier.  This enabled us to claw back 3 inches across the boat.  One side of the bed was them 6ft3ins and the other 6ft1in.  This proved to be quite successful, although if I were doing it again I would varnish the back of the plywood sheets to ensure there was a suitable vapour barrier.

The base of the bed had a footlocker at one end and drawers opposite.  There was a long term storage locker at the head.  I didn’t want the top of the bed frame to be solid ply because I was concerned about the memory foam mattress ‘sweating’.  To avoid this the bed extension pulled out over the walkway and locked into the lid of the foot locker.  It was a ‘comb’ design allowing air to circulate.  to further ensure all the contents of the drawers and lockers were kept dry and warm they were fitted with heater elements connected to the central heating system.  We installed heater panels in the two wardrobes either side of the cratch doors to keep those area dry and warm.  All this proved to work rather well.

Initially we had a problem with condensation forming on the inside frame of the Houdini hatch above the bed.  Whilst the portholes and hatches were double glazed we did get a small amount of condensation forming on the inside of the frame.  This only occurred during winter and Jan resolved it by making bungs to fit in all the portholes and Houdinis.  It made little difference to the natural light as there wasn’t any!

There isn’t anything we would have changed with the bedroom design.

Meanwhile there has been more progress on our Perth bed.  All the drawer fronts have been given a second coat of varnish.

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I have decided I will fit the recessed drawer handles before giving the timber a final coat of varnish.  It will mean I’ll need to mask the stainless steel handles but the advantage is the 3rd coat will conceal any marks from the handle installation.

I also managed to fit the oil catch can to the 4x4 today.  Obviously things have changed with vehicles over the last 40 years.  When I started tinkering around with my first car (a 1967 Vauxhall Viva) there was oodles of room in the engine compartment.  Today I’m just thankful I have small hands! Smile

The bad news is the full height glass panel beside the sliding back door shattered. 

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My fingers did the walking and today Colin from Newcastle came and replaced the damaged panel.

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Colin is originally from Newcastle (UK… not NSW) arriving in Perth via Auckland, NZ in 1990.  He told me he loves NZ but there simply weren’t the same work opportunities compared to Australia.  I understood having made the move for exactly the same reasons.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Thoughts on a Narrowboat Part 2–Bow and Cratch

The longer I researched continuously cruising the more convinced I became the boat would need a sizeable storage capacity for fuel, potable water and sewage.  With no planned home mooring we might get stranded (iced in) in a remote location. 

With that in mind I decided the entire bow would be an integral water tank.  Moreover we could create a second large water tank using the area under the cratch floor.  If necessary, we could adopt a water conservation regime which would enable the storage capacity to last 6-8 weeks.

Rather than have limited headroom and crouch in the cratch area (we planned to have a cratch cover) I opted to lower the cratch floor below the waterline.  This increased the cratch headroom and meant there was only one step when exiting the cabin through the front doors.  Doing this also meant we needed a separate small bilge and pump in the cratch floor.  Actually it was located in the starboard cratch locker.  Lowing the floor had two further advantages.  It increased the size of the side lockers and allowed people to sit in the cratch without their knees being around their ears.

The starboard locker became the paint locker and the port side was constructed as a diesel tank for the Refleks stove.  I’d previously discussed the idea of the diesel tank being in this location with a boater who already had one.  His held 40 litres so you can imagine my surprise when we filled ours for the first time and discovered it held 185 litres.  We subsequently discovered the tank had sufficient capacity to last a winter.

Between the bow and the cratch was a Bow Thruster Locker.  One of the boatyard engineers and I had a disagreement regarding the positioning of the bow thruster.  He wanted it in the middle of the tube and I insisted it be at one end thereby providing more unobstructed storage capacity.  His argument was the bow thruster needed to be in the middle in order to provide equal thrust on both directions.  My argument was the bow thruster  pulled and pushed water.  Moreover it took just as much energy to do either.  Assume the tube was four feet long and the thruster was in the middle.  It would do 2ft of pull and 2ft of push.  If it were mounted 1ft from one end it would either do 1ft of pull and 3ft of push or 3ft of pull and 1ft of push.  It didn’t matter where the bow thruster was positioned as there was always going to be 4ft of resistance.  I was the customer and it went where I wanted it to be.  I also insisted on a bow thruster weed hatch.  I think my argument regarding the location of the bow thruster proved to be correct as we didn’t notice any difference in thrust to port or starboard.  I also specified the largest 12V electric bow thruster I could find.  Most bow thrusters are built for light plastic boats and in my opinion an underpowered bow thruster is almost useless.

Part 3 to come

Today I managed to complete the routering of the eight side drawers and assemble them.

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Last two sitting in the jig whilst the glue sets.  The centre panel is '”floating” (ie not glued) so it can expand and contract.

I’ve also completed one of the centre panels for the large drawers.

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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Thoughts on a Narrowboat Specifications

Whilst lying in bed last night counting a large flock of sheep jumping a fence it came to me I’d not documented my thoughts about the design and specifications of Waiouru.  What did we think we got right and where did we go wrong with the layout and specifications.  I’m going to try and rectify this over the next few posts.

Background.

Although we had hired narrowboats on four previous occasions we’d never inspected a ‘live aboard’ boat.  Being on the other side of the world might have placed us at a disadvantage however the internet is a source of information, albeit any assumptions or deductions need to be carefully validated.  I found the posts from Maffi regarding the construction of The Milly M quite useful and read the entire blog twice.  My own experience in Antarctica was useful when it came to the insulation and I was also grateful to those boaters whom I contacted asking for information. 

With my employer easing me out of employment I had plenty of time to write 32 pages of detailed specifications.  Little did I realise it would scare off 90% of the boat fitters I approached!

The contractual problems with the first boat builder have been well documented and I don’t intend to touch on them again.  Rather, I’d like to provide any reader thinking of having a boat built what we did in the way of specifications… and why!

The Design

One of the first things identified was the need to ensure we had a “good” shell.  It’s considerably easier to alter the interior of a boat, so you want to get the exterior shell right.  We were very happy with our shell builder  (Tyler Wilson).  Actually we were so pleased with the quality of the shell their website link remains on our blog.  I think we opted for almost every extra (Boatman’s Beam, Recessed Panels) apart from the Josher Bow which frankly I didn’t understand.  If I’d known what a Josher Bow looked like we might have added it to the specifications.

If you are going to live in a 6ft diameter steel tube it’s likely to feel claustrophobic.  Therefore we wanted an ‘open plan’ layout where you could see the full interior length of the boat.  We selected portholes for three reasons.  The first was security thinking the average thief might find it difficult squeezing through a 1ft diameter porthole.  The second reason was it would give us more wall space.  Finally, it offered more privacy.  We obtained additional natural light by having three Houdini hatches.  Subsequently we were advised most thieves enter via the doors or hatches.

The boat layout evolved into a semi reverse layout with the bedroom in the bow followed by the bathroom.  The saloon was the largest open area with free standing furniture.  Next was the galley and then the back cabin.  All our hireboats had a corridor down one side and numerous partitions.  We didn’t like this because the ‘Tumblehome’ (the sides of the boat above the gunwale lean in towards the roof) meant we tended to ‘crab’ our way down the corridor otherwise our shoulders wouldn’t fit.  The corridor was also wasted space.  Finally it meant one side of the boat was lighter than the other thus requiring ballast to level (trim) the boat.   Waiouru was designed with a central corridor down most of it’s length.  The corridor was slightly offset where it passed through the bathroom.  This reduced the problem of ‘trimming’ the boat.

Early on I identified 57ft was the maximum boat length if you wanted to get around 99% of the network.  I thought we would just managed with 58ft and this subsequently increased to 58ft6in after I realised I’d failed to allow for the thickness of internal partitions.

Part 2 to follow

I wouldn’t want you to think I’ve not been making progress on my projects.

Today I used the drawer handle template to router out the first rebate in the Jarrah timber.  But first I had to mark the location of the handle on the Jarrah.

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With the first rebate made on all 10 drawer fronts I started making the next template which will be used to cut the deep recess.

Meanwhile a courier arrived to deliver the oil catch can I’d purchased for the 4x4.  It wasn’t cheap but I’m very impressed with the quality.

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It’s made from thick stainless steel. 

The purpose of the oil catch can is to filter the oil from the diesel engine blow-by vapour.  As part of the emissions control system the blow-by vapour is recycled back into the engine for a second burn.  The problem is another part of the emissions control system returns hot exhaust gases into the engine.  These hot gases contain carbon and the carbon will combine with the oil to form ‘sludge’ in the engine inlet manifold eventually choking the engine.  None of this would be a problem for owners who only retain their diesel vehicles for 3-5 years, but this will be our second to last vehicle (the last being an electric mobility scooter :-) and therefore I want the 4x4 to have a long life.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good

Great news, the test run on the BBQ was a success.  On average I produce a good end product.  This means they are either raw or burned to a cinder (so on average OK).  We cooked a quarter side of lamb and to my surprise it was delicious.

The butcher had marinated it in what was described as and ‘Argentinian Sauce’.
I managed to tape the A3 sheets together and get an idea of the potential size of the bedhead carving.

In the photo below you may be able to see where I have erased parts of lines in an effort to avoid the template falling into pieces when I router out the lines.


The Bad

Halfie will be surprised to read I’ve joined BCF and now have my bright blue membership card.  Interestingly, they want money!

We’ve had a couple of noisy teenagers hanging around the neighbourhood.  It’s obvious they are teenagers as they keep choosing an inappropriate tree on which to perch.  Although it’s possible they might be looking for internet cables to munch on.


there isn't anything much much noisier than a couple of courting Galahs.

The Ugly

Yesterday Gary the postman delivered the recessed handles for the bed drawers and today I started making the template. 


The recess in the timber has to be larger than the handle to allow for the thickness of the collar around the router bit. 

Attempt 1 – Failure

Attempt 2 – Failure

Attempts 3,4 and 5 – Failure

Attempt 6 – Success

Now set up ready to commence routering out the recess for the first Jarrah drawer handle.
However after six hours of failures I’m taking a break and will probably continue tomorrow.




Thursday, 16 November 2017

The bedhead and the router

Phew…. 34°c today which is why working outside ceased at 1pm.   This can be considered a technical post so if that bores you I apologise.  However I have to write from the outset I’m delighted with the outcome of today’s effort.
I’ve already mentioned the planned narrowboat scene on the bedhead and today I took another major step on that part of the bed project.  The scene will be freehand cut out with a router on a sheet of 4mm plywood following a paper pattern which will be glued to the plywood. 
Yesterday my sister kindly let me use her home printer to produce the paper template on six A3 sheets.  These are now awaiting trimming and taping together.  Jan and I visited Bunnings (B&Q) where we purchased an aerosol spray can of adhesive which will be used to glue the paper to the plywood.
The completed plywood template will then be laid on the Jarrah panel and I plan to follow the grooves in the template using the router and a ‘bushing guide’.  My problem is the shaft on the bushing guide that came with the DeWalt router is too big.  It’s 14mm in diameter and if I were to cut a 14mm groove in the plywood template it would remove so much material that the template would fall to pieces.
In the photo below you can see the DeWalt metal bushing guide in the Perspex base.  To the right is the Porter-Cable bushing guide that came with the Leigh Dovetail Jig we purchased back in 2008. 
IMG_1979 DeWalt bushing guides are a rare as rocking horse droppings, whereas the Porter-Cable guides can be obtained in Australia.  The obvious solution is to fit the Porter-Cable guide to the DeWalt router base.
Easier said than done.  I quickly discovered that at 35mm diameter the Porter-Cable guide is too small for any of my three DeWalt bases.
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After looking online and realising how expensive a solution was going to be, I decided to make a base for the DeWalt router using the scrap of Perspex my brother gave me.  I think the scrap is from an old railway carriage window.IMG_1983
After marking the outline of the base on the Perspex I cut it out using the jigsaw clamping it in place and using a scrap of timber as a guide for the straight edges.
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The mounting holes were countersunk and then drilled. 
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The next issue was making the hole in the middle of the baseplate.  It needed to be 35mm on the bottom and 30mm on the top with a 3mm rebate.  I didn’t have any 35 and 30mm drill bits so I went searching online.  That’s when I noticed one of the ‘hits’ was for a Forstner bit.  These are 35mm in diameter and used to drill the holes for cupboard drawers AND I remember I had one from a project back in 2009.  The plan was to place the Forstner bit in the plunge router and cut a 35mm hole 3mm deep in the Perspex.  But I needed to secure the Perspex so it didn’t move during the operation.  I tried sitting it on two strips of paint masking tape hoping this would achieve a friction gripe.  It didn’t!   Then I realised I could probably tape down the new baseplate.
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I was rather pleased when it worked
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Next I realised I had a problem aligning the 30mm router bit with the centre of what was now a big hole.   In the end I realised the solution was simple.  I would screw the new baseplate to the router and cut the hole using the router.
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It’s worked out perfectly.
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However I’m not convinced the Porter-Cable bushing is small enough, so after even further online searching I’ve found an Australian supplier that has a set of three Porter-Cable compatible bushing for $20.  The smallest of them is ¼ diameter.   
porter

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Getting there…. and a reader!

OK, we’ve now experienced the hottest Perth November week on record.  Every day has been over 30°c and when I made a trip to the hardware store last Thursday the local temperature outside the 4x4 was 40°.  Jan is missing the English winter!  When it’s cold you can add more clothes….. but when it’s hot there’s only so much that you can remove before being arrested.

This morning I made a start on routering the rails and stiles for the bed drawer fronts eventually finishing them mid afternoon.  The bed project has now come to a halt whilst I wait for the drawer handles.  The drawing for the bedhead has been finished and is waiting on access to an A3 printer.  I plan to tape the sheets of A3 together to form the 1200x700mm canal scene and the paste it to the remains of a sheet of 4mm plywood which will form the template for the bedhead.  The timber merchant has confirmed they can source a plywood panel (2400x1200mm) with a Jarrah formica laminate on one side.  I plan to use this as the bedhead.

Mid-morning Perth based reader Ken call in and introduced himself.  He also very kindly gave us his spare gas bottle which will enable us to start BBQing in the near future.  We had a great chat with Ken discovering he has already experienced one canal holiday and is keen for another.  Longer term he’s thinking of joining the Antipodean Club buying a narrowboat and spending the Australian winters cruising the inland network.   Jan already envies him and I’m starting too as well.

The TV recording pc I made from old parts (MythTV box) decided to have a mind of its own.  I repeatedly reinstalled the linux operating system only for the pc to go on strike.  EVENTUALLY the problem revealed itself.  The DVD drive was the culprit.  Once I’d disconnect the power to the DVD drive the pc decided to resume normal duties.  However by then I’d erased the entire MythTV setup which means the pc will have to be reconfigured.  Meantime I’d decided to see if I could complete one of the other projects.  Our youngest son’s internet router is “bricked” and won’t work.  Actually it’s rather dead!  I’ve previously attempted to breath life back into it using MS Windows which proved to be unsuccessful, so today I attempted the same but using Linux.

I successfully tricked the computer into thinking one of the usb ports was a serial port which enabled me to connect the router to the pc. 

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One end of the usb cable has been modified to connect to some terminals on the router printed circuit board in an effort to directly communicate with the router.

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This is the point where I had to stop for the day.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to make the ‘handshake’ between the pc and router which will allow me to resurrect it from the dead.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Got that wrong…. oops Erred in my judgement

You may recall I mentioned the house around the corner where the wife tried to kill husband and the rest of the family by setting it on fire.

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I also mentioned the insurance was void because the fire was deliberate and nothing would happen for months.

Well I erred in my judgement.  This morning a tracked excavator arrived and started work.

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By midday

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And at the end of the day

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Well it’s all excitement around here.  I did mention the drive-by shooting several months ago.  Well they returned an attempted to set fire to the house with Molotov cocktails and also managed to shoot one of the three male occupants.  The other two male occupants operated the kebarb shop in the local mall.  That was also firebombed and gutted on the same night.

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The house taped off and the garage boarded up.

Last night there was a riot two streets away.  I slept through all the excitement (one of the few advantages of being slightly deaf).  Jan knew all about it!   A group of youths had decided to hold a ‘post school’ party which was gate-crashed by several hundred other uninvited “guests”.  The police were there in full riot gear along with horses and dogs attempting to break up the gathering.  Apparently it turned into quite a fight with the youths throwing rock, paving stones and bricks.  I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a British Army sergeant who had served in Northern Ireland. “Rubber Bullets….. I fired rubber bullets when they threw rubber rocks!” 

I guess you have to expect these things in a country founded by convicts! Smile

Friday, 10 November 2017

A delayed plan

Today’s plan was discarded when we received a telephone call from the mattress maker to advise our mattress had been manufactured and was ready for collection.  There was some muttering from Jan about “I’ve just finished making the bed!”

This is the borrowed bed we have been using since arriving in Perth.  Note the position of the pillows.  This will be relevant when you look at the last photo.

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The new mattress consisted of the following components

  • soft sponge foam frame
  • outer material casing
  • fake sheepskin topper
  • waterproof liner
  • heater element and control (2)

The first task was to remove the old bed from the room and make a start on fitting the drawers back into the new bed frame.  I had to do this before positioning the bed otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to reach the runner screws at the bedhead end.  In the end I decided to fit all the drawers before positioning the two halves of the bed.

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The two halves we clamped and then screwed together

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The next step was to fit and screw the 12mm plywood tops to the base

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I decided to run a length of duct tape down the central join.  It probably isn’t required and I’m likely to be ‘over engineering’ the project.

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Jan and I fitted to soft frame inside the material outer case and I then installed the two heaters.  But not before first testing they worked!  Again I used duct tape to secure the heater and cables.  It wasn’t in the instructions… but that’s just me!

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The waterproof membrane then goes over everything.  The idea is it will contain any water should a bladder develop a leak.

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We then spent 45 minutes filling the water bladders using the garden hose.  Each bladder was ¼ filled in turn.  Then ½, ¾ and full.  Don’t fill one bladder first as it can push the other bladder out of alignment.

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With the bladders filled to within 10mm of the top of the frame it was time to ‘burp’ them.  Jan sat on each bladder at the bedhead end forcing the air to the foot of the bed where I attempted to extract it.  There will be plenty of remaining air bubbles so we are going to need to burp both bladders a few more times.  I then added the supplied water conditioner to each bladder.  We don’t buy water conditioner from water bed shops as it’s rather expensive.  Instead we go to the chemist and buy copper sulphate crystals which do a very similar job and are much cheaper.

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The sheepskin topper was zipped on before we made the bed for the first time

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Remember I mentioned the position of the pillows on the original bed.  Jan thinks Keith & Jo (nb Hadar) could sleep sideways in the bed.  Actually there’s probably plenty of room for Paddy and Marmite to join them!

I’m waiting on the drawer handles to arrive from China before continuing with that part of the project.  I also have to visit the local timber merchants to look at a sample of Jarrah panelling for potential use on the headboard.

Oh, Jan has stated she thinks the bed is too high and might struggle getting onto it.  I might need to make a ladder or stool. Smile