Sunday, 31 October 2010

Communication and Entertainment

By now you will have worked out we intend to live aboard the boat; probably 4-5 years. The idea is to spend the first five years of our retirement on the boat constantly cruising the network. It’s therefore important we have the necessary resources to keep ourselves amused. Obviously we will be out and about during good weather, however there will be days when leaving the boat is a less than inviting idea.

We need to think how we might keep ourselves amused during these periods of confinement in our “steel pipe”.   What resources will be required?  I’ve already written about the TV and media centre setup. Additionally, we will want voice and data communications to maintain contact with family and friends. This is particularly important as I can’t see the postman chasing the boat down the towpath in an effort to deliver ‘snail-mail’.

One point I’ve noted from other boaters blogs is the frequency where a mobile phone signal can’t be obtained. In an effort to mitigate this problem we are going to fit an external mobile phone aerial to the roof of the boat. Being significantly larger than the UK; Australia has an even greater problem maintaining a reliable mobile communications network. It’s therefore quite normal to see outback vehicle fitted with with one or more aerials to increase mobile phone range. Our research indicates the UK mobile phone frequency spectrum is very similar to Australia.  As our 4x4 already has a large aerial mounted on the front “bullbar” we have decided to take it with us.



Whilst the aerial has a spring coil base it’s not sufficiently flexible to bend more than a few degrees. We’re going to need to pull it to a horizontal position when passing under bridges and other overhead obstructions.  Ben is arranging for a small steel plate to be vertically welded to the roof of the boat. This will be the base for the mounting bracket.  I noticed that Chris on nb Belle has done something similar as shown in this photo from his blog.

antenna mounting

Photo taken from nb Belle’s blog

The idea is the external aerial will be connected to a usb modem which will then connect to a wireless router.  This will give us a wireless local network throughout the boat.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

It’s Snake Time!

It’s almost summer and the wildlife has well and truly stirred from winter slumbers. Time for me to be particularly vigilant when walking through the bush as the local legless cold blooded creatures are awake, hungry and aggressive.  The temperature reached 32c during my walk and I noticed there were numerous small lizards basking on the rocks in the sun.  Definitely snake food!

Whilst walking up a particularly steep hill in the full sun I almost missed this fellow crossing my path.  He gave me quite a start until I realised he was harmless.  Well not quite harmless. A bite can cause pain, break the skin and leave a bruise but there is no venom and hence no long-term ill effect.


A Shingle Backed Blue Tongued Lizard

He’s about 10” long and 3” in diameter.  Actually he reminded me somewhat of myself.  Ugly, squat, fat, stumpy legs and dragging his belly along the ground!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Television and Music

Our intention is to constantly cruise the network but there will be days when we either can’t or don’t want to move.

We’ve already thought about keeping ourselves amused on wet and miserable days. Many of our favourite books are now in electronic format on our e-Book Reader. All the CD’s have been converted to MP3 format and stored on a hard drive. We’ve also converted all our DVD’s to AVI format and placed them on the same hard drive as the music files. The TV and hard drives will be connected to our Network Media Tank (NMT) which will stream the data on demand.  Our current NMT is a HDium Duo.  It is capable of holding internally a 3.5” SATA hard drive and can be linked to a maximum of two external hard drives.  There are also two internal TV tuner cards allowing us to record two separate TV channels simultaneously.  It has all the usual output sockets including the ability to join a wireless network.  It’s about quarter the size of a shoe box.

We intend to have a satellite dome fitted to the roof of the boat.

Camos 30cm Sat dome

30cm Camos in-motion satellite dome

The satellite dome will feed the TV via a set top box. We are still researching which digital set top box most suits our requirements.

The optimum position for viewing a TV is for the middle of the screen to be at eye height and most viewing is done whilst seated. I’ve calculated that the TV will have to be positioned almost 50/50 above and below the gunwale. A reasonable sized screen is also required to see the detail. Unfortunately in a narrowboat sitting opposite the TV means almost sitting on top of it. So we have decided to mount it on a swivel arm at the bathroom end of the saloon. It will be a 32” LCD flat screen and pull out from the wall at 70-80 degrees for viewing. This does create an obstacle if anyone wants to enter the bathroom. A compromise we will have to live with.

The bedroom will have a 15” ceiling mounted TV. It’s an automotive 12v TV and the screen folds up into the frame. The TV has suitable sockets to connect it to the rest of the entertainment network.  It will play a wide range of media formats which will be essential as we have converted all of our media data to compressed formats.

15 inch Ceiling TV

15” Car TV and DVD player

Thursday, 28 October 2010

We’re NOT ‘Hobbits’

A narrow boat is exactly that...... narrow! We thought it might feel rather claustrophobic and we needed to think of way to negate this aspect. Living in a steel tube completely lined with timber didn’t appeal. Although we’re originally from New Zealand, we’re not hobbits or woodpeckers. Having an open plan boat in the living areas will assist. So we have managed to design the boat with only three internal partitions and the combined galley – saloon area gives 21feet of open area. In this area we’ve included two side hatches; one of them of sufficient size to allow the removal and replacement of a large kitchen appliance; and two Houdini (roof) hatches. The portholes will be 15” diameter and double glazed. To break up the timber effect the floor will be covered with a marine grade carpet in the saloon and bedroom. The flooring in the other compartments will be vinyl. Rather than having timber veneer ply on the ceiling we have opted for matt finish formic panelling in a light cream. The idea is this will be low maintenance and further brighten the interior of the boat.

The saloon will have a couple of free standing ‘captains chairs’ with storage ottoman footrests that can double as spare seating. There will also be a diesel stove in one corner and a cabinet for the entertainment system.

At the rear (stern) of the boat the last cabin will be the combination utility room, workstation and spare bed.  We’ve named the area the wet locker as this is where we will transition between wet outdoor and dry indoor clothing.  It will have an extendable in-line double bed on the port (left) side with storage underneath along with a small 20 litre 12v chest freezer. On the other side there will be an electrical cabinet and calorifier (hot water cylinder) compartment with a cupboard for wet weather gear. Underneath this our plan is to have a combination washer/dryer. If the washer doesn’t fit then we will relocate it to the galley.  There will also be a small computer work station with folding desk.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The ‘Essentials’ and Toilets

If you are going to live on a boat and constantly cruise the network then; in my opinion; there are three essential resources you need to effectively manage.

Obviously you must have sufficient capacity to carry the fuel needed to provide energy to the boat. In our case there will be twin diesel tanks at the rear to provide fuel to the engine and Hurricane heater. Another diesel tank will be installed into the port bow locker to provide fuel for the stove in the saloon.

The second resource is potable water. At the least we will need to carry enough potable to drink and use for cooking. If we were to run out of either fuel or water then in an emergency we could take a container to the nearest supplier and obtain a minimal amount.

The third is the boat’s sewage holding capacity. For some reason boaters always appear to raise this topic. Initially we thought we had to choose between a cassette system or holding tank. The former can be emptied at no cost whereas the latter incur a charge to have it pumped emptied. I was reluctant to adopt the cassette option. Not because I’m squeamish about emptying the cassette, but rather because of the limited holding capacity. It would only take a few days to fill a cassette which would then need emptying. We could carry a number of cassettes but then that seemed to defeat the purpose of installing this type of system. I therefore started to do more detailed research into holding tanks.

Logically the tank gets heavier as it fills. If it’s not positioned on the centreline of the boat then the ‘Trim’ of the boat may be affected. The boat might start to list (lean) to one side as the tank filled. The only possible position on the box seemed to be under our bed on the centreline. Unfortunately this would adversely affect our planned storage area. Then I considered an idea where the tank would be against the side of the boat with an equivalent sized ‘flush tank’ beside it. The boat would be ballasted so that either the flush tank or the sewage tank would be full. That way the tank wouldn’t affect the trim of the boat. It had another advantage as we wouldn’t be using the drinking water from the main water tank to flush the toilet.

Next I came upon composting toilets. They seemed an even better idea. Human waste is more than 90% water and if this were evaporated off the residue would be very small. The composting toilet might only need to be emptied 2-3 times a year. They are larger than a normal toilet but with careful planning we could fit one into the boat. Just as I was preparing to make the decision I read on the internet some comments from people who had composting toilets (and were more ‘horticulturally’ orientated’) and had decided to remove them.

We were back to looking at the holding tank option and I really needed to establish how much waste needed to be managed. Google is great but it actually proved rather difficult to obtain the average amount of waste a human excretes daily. And I needed it by volume not weight! Well I finally found the information and then turned my attention to the type of toilet. After all our flying you’d think I would have instantly recalled the type of toilets fitted to aircraft. Well it took me a few days, but then I remembered the vacuum flush toilet. Could we get one that was both vacuum flush and macerating. Actually they are quite common in boats. That part of the problem was solved. We still had to find a location for the tank. I considered placing it under the floor in the bathroom. It would take the entire area and be very shallow. We’d have no bilge in that area and no underfloor insulation which would probably make the bathroom very cold. In the end I decided the major disadvantage would probably be an inability to fully empty such a shallow tank. Then I realised we could install the tank vertically across the boat against the rear bulkhead between the wet locker and the engine hole. It might also be possible to locate the pump-out and flush pipe outlets so they exited through the roof of the boat. Another thing we could do was rebate the top of the tank to form the first step into the boat.

More ‘googling’ on the subject led me to the blog of nb Belle which I discovered had an underfloor ‘blackwater tank’. The owners of nb Belle kindly responded to my unsolicited questions and advised they had no problems with the location of the tank or the ability to empty it. Moreover, they even provided the dimensions of their tank. This was good news and the underfloor option was back into consideration. However I decided it wouldn’t go under the bathroom floor as originally planned. The reason was that I’d failed to remember the shower tray would need to be sunk into the floor and I’d also need to find room for the pump that empties the shower. However installing it under the rear cabin floor was a option. More emails to boat owners and searching   online forums indicated the average bilge is approximately 5 inches deep. I thought we might manage with a tank that was 9 inches deep. This would mean there would be a 4 inch step between the back cabin and the galley and we would lose 4 inches in height in the back cabin. However we can probably live with that. A tank approx 5’x5’x.75’ will hold about 530 litres, or 60 days average usage for two people. 

So we now plan to have a pump-out system with the storage tank located under the floor at the rear of the boat.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Contract is Signed

Last night we telephoned the UK to discuss final contractual arrangements and then signed the contract for the construction of Waiouru.  After starting with a long list of potential builders we settled on Ben & Kelly Harp of Ben Harp Narrowboat Builders.  Ben impressed us with his confidence and approach to meeting our expectations (“I’ll build you what you want!”). We have heard of other situations where the builder builds you what he wants.
The shell is being constructed by Wilson Tyler whom we understand produces a very nice produce and is considered to be one of the best shell builders.  Hopefully this will add to maintaining the value of the boat.
Ben and Kelly have informed us the shell will be finished in mid November.  Meantime Ben and his team have commenced work on the cabinet work which will speed up the process.  They have informed us the completion date will be the end of February, only four months!  This came as a surprise and when asked “How can it be completed so quickly?” we were advised that the detailed specifications we had provided meant there should be no delays whilst waiting for decisions relating to the fit out.
Now that the construction has physically commenced I have created a project diary so I can keep track of progress.
There has been a change to the domestic battery bank.  Originally I had selected Trojan L-16 batteries rated at 495Ah.  They were slightly more than 500 pounds each.  After some further searching on Google I found a supplier who could provide them at just over half that price.  Then I read about Rolls batteries.  They also appear to have a very good reputation and come with a 7 year guarantee.  The battery I’m looking at is also rated L-16 but has a slightly larger capacity of 530Ah.  Whilst the price is slightly more than the Trojan I have concluded the Rolls battery is a better choice.
Rolls batteries  
The batteries are from Energistar

Monday, 25 October 2010

Which side of the bed

But first I need to mention the galley.

Six feet isn’t that long for a galley. To compensate we made it a ‘through galley’ rather than a ‘U’ style. This gave us an extra 2 feet of bench, however it restricts the ability for two people to pass.

Jan believes she can manage within this dimension and I’m sure there are other galleys of similar size or even smaller. Although the bathroom is a ‘through’ type we wanted a separate toilet. So the bathroom has a shower and basin in the main area with a separate smaller compartment for the toilet. It may mean backing into the toilet if one needs to be seated for the performance. Time will tell!

There will be a 5’ cross-over bed in the main bedroom with two 2 foot wide wardrobes either side of the doors to the bow. This leaves one foot either side of the bed as ‘wriggle-room’ to get around it. No doubt Jan will claim the side nearest to the bathroom so I’d better start practicing bladder control!

There will be a full width locker above the bed with a slight arch in it where is passes over the porthole.  Either side of the bed will be small lowboys and the will also be drawers under the bed.  The length of the bedroom is nine feet.  Not much, but then most of the time spent in the room will be on one’s back examining the inside of the eyelids.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

DC Switches

I strained my shoulder yesterday hence no post. 

When pressed the switches in the canbus DC power distribution system merely send a pulse of electricity as a signal to the node. Unlike a conventional on/off switch the canbus switch has a ‘momentary action’. Essentially, they have a bell press mechanism. The advantage is that as they carry no load the wiring can be very light.  Data cable will do! For switches, I looked at a number of European manufacturers specialising in canbus systems.  Unfortunately all of them seemed very expensive. Then I realised the major Australian manufacturer of AC switches and sockets was located in our home city. A quick check of the Clipsal website showed they had an propriety AC canbus system named “C-Bus”. After looking at their ‘Saturn’ range of switches we decided we liked the ‘Ocean Mist’ faceplates with the LED backlight switches.

Light switch 7

The problem was the LED’s were 240v AC and we would have a 12v DC system. The switch mechanism would work but the LED would not illuminate using 12v. Could I disassemble the switch and convert it to 12v DC.  The local distributor was able to sell me one switch which I disassembled. The short answers is “Yes”! I pulled the switch apart and replace the existing LED and printed circuit board with a small LED and resistor. The switch comes with a warm blue light which I can replicate. However I can also fit another coloured LED inside the switch if desired. So I’ve decided the light switches will have a blue LED and all other switch will have a red LED. The LED is activated when the switch is pressed on.

My first effort resulted in too much illumination leading to ‘bleeding’ around the button

Switch with clear top & red LED copy

A second attempt achieved a better result

Black top switch illuminated

All I now have to do is disassemble and modify another 32 switches!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Planning for the cold

We know that we are going to be seriously affected by the cold weather. For the last twenty years we have been living in Australia where we have experienced a warm and dry climate. The locals have no idea of cold weather. In winter they dress in anoraks, beanies, scarves and gloves. In comparison, I will be wearing a T shirt and shorts. They talk about the frost on the ground which in reality is dew! However we are old enough to remember years of living on New Zealand’s North Island volcanic plateau where we had snow drifts and biting winds. Insulating the boat is a priority. Most new boats are spray foam insulated on their sides and ceiling. We will have the same. However I also want insulation under the floor. The problem was finding room for the insulation. Any insulation must have a gap between it and the underside of the timber flooring. There must also be a gap between the ballast and the floor to scour the bilge. Unfortunately there didn’t appear to be sufficient clearance to achieve this. We could reduce the headroom in the boat, however I hit upon another idea. By increasing the thickness of the baseplate and its weight I could reduce the amount of ballast. After doing some calculations I specified the baseplate thickness at 20mm which is double the conventional thickness. The increased weight of the baseplate halved the amount of ballast and provided sufficient clearance to fit 1” Kingspan foil backed foam sheeting between the ballast and the flooring. I also read a magazine article where foil backed bubble wrap was inserted between the spray foam insulation and the wall and ceiling panelling to provide double insulation on the walls and ceiling. So I’ve included this in the boat specifications.
It’s not sufficient to rely solely on insulation to keep the boat warm. We need active forms of heating. The boat will have a Lockgate diesel stove in the saloon. The location of the saloon means the stove will be reasonably central and we hope this will assist in keeping the boat warm while we are awake and not cruising. The central heating system will be a combination of finrads at floor level and smaller heater panels in the wardrobes. When cruising the heater source will be the engine, otherwise it will come from a Hurricane heater. The Hurricane is designed and manufactured in Canada. It is more expensive than other available options, however my previous experience with Canadian cold weather equipment has been very positive and we are hopeful the Hurricane will prove to be a good choice.
We will know if the heating and insulation plan has been a success if the boat is warm in winter whilst the exterior is coated in snow.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Fitting a Canbus System

I’ve previously mentioned the boat DC distribution system will use canbus technology. It’s slightly more expensive than conventional wiring but provides greater flexibility for output control.

There are a number of companies who manufacture and supply canbus systems and the one we rather like is from Empirbus. The UK distributor is Atlantis Marine and they have been of tremendous assistance to me in planning the system. With conventional wiring the cable runs from the power source through a fuse to a switch and then the outlet. From there a wire runs back to the power source. The greater the distance between the power source and the outlet the larger the diameter of the wire. Moreover, each set of power outlets requires their own wiring back to the power source. With canbus two heavy wires run the length of the boat feeding ‘nodes’. These nodes then supply DC power to the outlets. The nodes are also connected to the switches. Unlike a conventional system where the wiring for the outlet must first go to the switch, the canbus switch wires only send a data signal to the node when the switch is activated. The size of the wires can therefore be considerably smaller. Additionally, the wires only terminate at the nearest node rather than going all the way to the distribution board. Finally, the nodes have inbuilt digital fusing thereby eliminating the need for a DC switchboard fuses, MCB’s etc. The switches in the canbus system are linked to the power consumers by configuring the programming in the node. Additionally, a switch can have more than one function. The nodes are linked together with a data cable.

This is just the basic principle for the system. There are other advantages I will write about at a future date.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Talking about my generation


Sorry, couldn't resist the temptation to adopt the subject heading from the lyrics of the song. You'll know what I mean if you are a child of the 60's!

It's all very well having a large battery bank however it's equally important having the capacity to charge it. The rough rule is the charging capacity should be between 25-30% of the battery capacity. We should have 630Ah of usable capacity in the domestic battery bank. So we need to generate between 160 & 210 Ah. The combined alternator output is 225A so that part of solution appears to be alright. The Alternator to Battery Charger (ABC) under consideration (Sterling) has a maximum capacity of 210Ah which is also acceptable. We appear to have a solution that will work.



Sterling Alternator to Battery Charger

I've added a SmartGauge to the specifications as I believe it is capable of accurately displaying the percentage status of charge of two battery banks. In our case it will be the engine start battery and the domestic battery bank.


SmartGauge Battery Monitor 

Next, the DC distribution system.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

We will need electricity

Our electricity will come from a large 12v DC battery bank located in the engine compartment.  The batteries will be charged from the combined output of the 50 and 175Ah alternators driven by the boat engine.

After a considerable amount of research we have decided to fit a domestic battery bank consisting of conventional flooded lead-acid wet cell traction batteries. 

Trojan Battery

The batteries under consideration are Trojan L16H deep cycle traction batteries.  They are each 6 volt with a capacity of 420Ah.  The combined capacity will be 1260Ah and total weight is 342kg.  In order to retain the life of the batteries they should not be discharged below 50% which leaves us with a maximum output before re-charge of 630Ah.  Interesting I subsequently read that another kiwi couple on nb Gypsy Rover had previously installed a similar domestic battery bank.

It is important that the batteries are correctly connected so as to produce a ‘balanced’ discharge when under load.  To achieve this I plan to have them connected as shown below.

6 batteries

My energy audit suggest this should provide sufficient electricity for 3 days without requiring any recharging.

Our plan is to produce 240v AC power using a 3500 watt combi inverter. There will actually be few 230v appliances on the boat. Washing machine, microwave, TV, media tank, laptop and some power sockets for small galley appliances. The the lighting will be 12v LED and we plan to use a CANBUS system to distribute and control the DC supply in the boat.

There will be a shoreline input socket on the boat should we be in a location where we can connect to the main 240v supply. 

Next, the battery charging options!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Boat Specifications

We started to get serious about living on the canals in 2003. 

One of the first decisions was “do we buy a used boat or build”.  Buying a used boat has the same implications as buying an existing house. You never get exactly what you want!  We decided on the build option.  This leads to another choice.  Opt for a standard specification boat or go bespoke.  The standard specification option has the same implications as a used boat (you don’t get exactly what you want).  Bespoke would give us the freedom to develop our own unique design.

A bespoke boat needs detailed specifications, or so I thought at the time!  Living on the far side of the world meant there would be little opportunity to visit boat builders and gather ideas.  Other boats blogs were read and the internet was scoured.  Over the next five years I developed a comprehensive set of specifications running to 20 pages. Even then I was not fully satisfied with the level of detail.

We undertook a trip to the UK in 2009 with the express purpose of meeting a shortlist of potential builders and discussing our requirements. Imagine my surprise when most of them were disinterested in my specifications.  One gently pointed out that most boat builders would want a specification consisting of a couple of pages of dot point items.  This has caused me a great deal of anxiety.  I have difficulty in accepting the notion of signing a contract for such an expensive project based on such a brief description.   My 20 page specification has now been reduced to six pages of dot points.  And how I worry over them!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Boat Interior

Some time ago Jan and I started to consider the boat’s interior decor. Now I like timber with ‘character’ but when you’ve lived in a country with the largest pine plantations in the Southern Hemisphere you’re not all that interested in pine cladding. Moreover tongue and groove planking is something that went into New Zealand houses during the 1930’s and 40’s. We want the boat to be light and airy. Too much timber is likely to make us feel like we’re living in a log!

The ceiling is going to be a matt white formica wallboard. It’s water resistant and easy to wipe down. We considered painting the walls above the gunwale line with carpet below. Then considered washable vinyl wallpaper above the gunwale. In the end we have opted for a light coloured veneer timber plywood. If this doesn’t work we can revert to our earlier ideas. The floor covering will be vinyl in the back cabin, galley and bathroom with a suitable marine grade carpet in the saloon and bedroom.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Research and yet more research!

One of the advantages of having more than five years to research and plan the boat is the ability to read other boat owners blogs and consider their ideas.

One idea we have adopted is to lower the height of the foredeck in the cratch area. Conventionally the water tank goes under the foredeck. However by relocating the water tank it is possible to lower the deck height. This reduces the number of steps required to enter the boat, increases the height of the cabin doors and provides a large storage area under the deck.  Lesley and Joe, the owners of nb Caxton recently extended their cratch area and created a storage compartment under the deck.  Our intention is to have something similar.

Caxton Cratch Hold

Photo courtesy of nb Caxton blog

Lowering the deck also increases the head height in the cratch area. The lowered deck may mean it is below the waterline and we have yet to finalise how any water entering the cratch might be removed.  A cratch cover will resolve much of the problem.  The options for removing any leakage into the storage area include a pipe through to the bilge in the engine compartment or we may fit a separate bilge pump.

The water compartment in the bow will be spray foamed lined.  The primary purpose of the spray foam is to protect a flexible bladder tank from abrasion.  The bow will still have a conventional hatch cover under which will be a sealed access plate.  The plate will incorporate the filling point.  Alternatively, we may relocate the filling point inside the cratch as this would avoid the hassle of accessing the bow hatch.  Yet another decision!

Friday, 15 October 2010

We need Scale

We needed to get an appreciation of the scale of each compartment. To do this I used Excel, but first I found a top elevation photo of a narrowboat. I then created a number of worksheets in Excel and named them:
  • Top elevation (my main worksheet)
  • Roof (so I could see the vents, etc)
  • 240v and 12v Sockets
  • Lighting
  • Heating
  • Power calculations etc
Then I adjusted the rows and columns to the same width to provide me with electronic graph paper. I then inserted the the top view photo of the narrowboat I’d found into each of the Excel worksheets.  By stretching the photo to length and width against the scale I had created I was able to produce an overlay of our boat dimensions.  Next, I needed to erase the existing information inside the outline of the photo so all I would see was the actual top elevation outline of the shell.  I did this by drawing blank boxes over the top of the photo so only the outline of the hull could be seen. Then by using the symbols function in Excel I was able to draw in all the cabinets, fitting, wiring, heating, etc. Moreover I could group the finished shapes to create each compartment which I could then drag and drop. Excel gave me a 2D drawing of the boat and greatly assisted in the planning.  We moved the compartments around experimenting and considering the advantages and disadvantages of different layouts until we found a layout we both agreed on.
The problem with the 2D drawing was lack of perspective. 3D would be better.  I then came across SketchUp, a free 3D CAD program from Google. Using SketchUp I was able to complete a 3D drawing of the boat. I could spin, turn, tip, and zoom in and out. It was even possible to take a virtual tour through the boat. SketchUp allows the user to export their 3D drawing as a 2D JPG file.
Port Side
Looking from starboard
Starboard Side
Looking from port
As I experimented with SketchUp I learned to draw other parts of the boat.   

Thursday, 14 October 2010

We Need a Tardis

Having reached to point where we had decided on the type of stern, the overall boat length and the sequence of the internal compartments we needed to decide on the size of each compartment.

Very quickly we realised what we wanted was a boat the was bigger on the inside than the outside. We needed a Tardis! Deducting 8 feet for the stern and 8 feet for the cratch/bow from 58’ leaves 42’ in which everything must fit. As we expanded and then contracted the lengths of various compartments one thing became apparent. Expanding any compartment almost always resulted in a contraction in the length of the saloon. Yet the saloon was the area we would spend the majority of our conscious hours inside the boat. If we wanted room to move in the saloon we were going to have to be ruthless with ourselves and be minimalists with the other compartments.

Eventually we settled on the wet locker, galley and bathroom all being 6’. The bedroom would be 9’ leaving us 15’ for the saloon. I then realised we needed 6’3” in the wet locker if we were going to fit an in-line bed. However the planned layout meant I’d reduced the number of internal partitions to three so I claimed back 3” from the 6” I had originally allocated.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Wild Bears in the Woods

This afternoon I spent a pleasant few hours walking through Black Hill and Morialta Conservation Parks.  Three reasonable sized hills were covered in an effort to burn off lunch.  On two separate occasions kangaroos jumped out of the bush in fright and bound across the trail in front of me.  It all happened so quickly that there was no time to take a photo.  However I was far more successful with the Koala Bears.  It’s early summer and the mating season is over.  The males sit around looking weary after doing their duty whilst the females are caring for their new babies.  
Old Koala  
This old fellow was perched in a tree out on a limb.  He opened one eye as I stopped to take his picture. Whereas the female with the baby on her back in the next photo started to climb the tree as I approached.  She then settled herself into a fork just out of reach.  Not that I would have attempted to touch her.  They are wild and in order to climb the trees their claws are long and needle sharp.
Koala mum & baby 
You can just see the baby behind mum’s head.  The photo’s were taken using the camera my the Garmin Oregon gps which is my excuse for them being so poor.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The compartment sequence

What style of stern would the boat have? A traditional stern really only provided room for the person steering, but does give limited shelter during inclement weather.  Coming from a warm dry climate we knew we’d suffer from the weather! All our previous experience has been on hire boats which had cruiser sterns. It has the advantage of providing room for more than one person steering - and we wanted to be together. But the area would be very exposed during inclement weather. A semi-traditional stern has the advantages of a cruiser and also provides some protection from the weather. So we opted for a semi-traditional stern. The next step was to consider the sequence of the internal compartments. The boat would have a main bedroom, bathroom, galley (kitchen) and saloon (lounge room). We anticipate family and friends will join us during our time aboard so we need to consider that requirement; albeit as a secondary consideration. If necessary they can sleep on the saloon floor. We also recognised that during winter and inclement weather it would be an advantage if we had an area where we transition from wet outdoor to dry indoor clothing. This would avoid bringing wet clothing and footwear into the boat living compartment. We consider it unlikely family and friends will visit during winter so this space will have a dual purpose as a changing area and spare bedroom. Now we needed to decide on the sequence of the compartments. We were used to our hire boats having a conventional layout with the saloon in the bow, followed by the galley, bathroom and bedroom. Jan had already identified this layout had previously resulted in the bedding getting wet when entering the boat from the cruiser stern. The obvious solution was to place the wet locker/spare bedroom at the stern. We also identified that most of the time we would be exiting and entering the boat from the stern. Having the saloon at the bow would result in having to walk through the entire boat to get to the saloon. The compartment that would be used the least during the day was the main bedroom. Logically that should be the forward compartment. The next least used compartment is the bathroom. We could either place it in front of the wet locker or behind the main bedroom. In either position it would be accessible to the main cabin and any visitors. As it was likely to be a ‘walk through’ compartment we decided to place it behind the main bedroom and saloon. This meant the obvious place for the galley was immediately in front of the wet locker with the saloon in the middle of the boat. So our planned layout from the bow would be: main bedroom, bathroom, saloon, galley, wet locker.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Basics of Planning the Layout

It appears there are two strategies when arranging for a boat to be built.

Either you find a builder and pay for a build slot then work with the builder to identify you requirements or you decide on your detailed requirements and find a builder. We’re in the latter group. Unfortunately this brought its own problems as the ‘tyranny of distance’ precluded us from visiting a range of builders where we might obtain information that would enable us to crystallize our requirements. The internet proved to be invaluable.

One of the first decisions was the length of the boat. We wanted to cruise as much of the network as possible but still have sufficient room onboard to be comfortable. After all; we would be living on board. Research indicated that a 57 foot boat could cover most of the network. However some owners also reported they had been able to get their 60 foot boats around the same canals by positioning their boats diagonally in the shorter locks. We decided to compromise and selected a length of 58 foot 6 inches. We allocated the 6 inches for the thickness of the boat’s internal partitions which gave us 58 feet of boat to fit our ideas into.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

A walk through the Adelaide Hills

On Sunday I usually attempt to go on a medium length walk through the Adelaide Hills.  The exercise does me good….. or so I’m told! Today I walked in the Cleland Conservation Park going to the lookout on Mount Lofty and then back to the car via ‘Eagle on the Hill’ and Mount Osmond.  It sounds rather strenuous but the “Mounts” are no higher than 850 metres.  Actually there are no real mountains in Australia, it’s actually rather large and flat!
The suburbs of Adelaide in the distance
The warm spring weather is encouraging the flora and fauna to proliferate.  The call of a male Koala seeking a mate is similar to the bellow of a bull and in one sunlight glade two kangaroo’s were boxing to secure the attention of a female that was 20 metres away waiting patiently to find out who her new partner would be!  As I headed down the track towards Mount Osmond an Echidna crossed in front of me and then curled into a ball of spikes.  Echidna’s are similar to hedgehogs and porcupines.

By the time I made it back to the car it was starting to get quite warm.  In a few weeks I’ll be starting the walk at 7.00am to avoid the heat of the day and I’ll be carrying at least two water bottles.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

In the Beginning………

CAVEAT.  There will be few photograph at the beginning of this blog. Primarily because work has yet to commence on construction of the boat!
Where to start? Actually I blame FMIL (Favourite Mother-in-law). In July 2000 I spent four weeks backpacking my way through South America and on my return suggested to my darling wife (Jan) that the following year that she should select our next holiday destination. She subsequently informed me the destination was to be the UK and so I started planning our trip with input from FMIL. We would hire a car and B&B around England, Wales and Scotland. All very interesting, however I was looking for something extra, an adventure, and then I noticed the canals on a website. FMIL was agreeable although Jan had reservations as she isn’t fond of water. Nevertheless, we booked a one week canal boat holiday on the Llangollen Canal. All too soon we were departing from the Antipodes heading towards Singapore where we were joined by FMIL for the long flight to Heathrow.
The first week passed very quickly and before long two of us were excitedly standing in the marina car park looking at the boats. Jan was already declaring herself sea-sick just staring at the water. All too soon we were aboard and attempting to steer out of the marina. I rapidly learned a long thin pencil made of steel with a small engine at the rear doesn’t steer that well. No doubt the dents in the marina banks are still there. But they’re not all mine! Having made the tight turn onto the straight portion of the canal I was able to open the throttle and see if I could get this boat to plane. The first thing I realised was how noisy the engine was, I could hardly hear myself! Then I could hear Jan and FMIL screaming at me from the bow. I couldn’t hear what they were saying over the roar of the engine but they were furiously pointing in the direction of the marina. Looking back I could see marina staff also waving and shouting. Oh; they wanted me to slow down! I cut the engine rev’s to idle (well the boat was never going the plane) and received a right bollocking from Jan. No one told me you had to go slowly! Actually travelling slowly was quite relaxing; although I couldn’t look at the scenery. The moment I took my eyes off the bow the damned boat would develop a mind of its own and attempt to ram the banks. I was also concerned about Jan. Would she develop sea-sickness and suffer a week of misery. An hour later my fears were allayed.  If she had dropped dead at that moment it would have taken the mortician a week to get the smile off her face. We were both hooked and at the end of the week had agreed we must do it again. Every second year for the next decade we made the long journey from the far side of the world to spend time on a hired canal boat. Moreover, with each trip the hire period became longer. Finally we decided it was silly to keep making the journey. Let’s have our own boat built and do it full time for a number of years. And that’s how it started.