Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy Birthday Myles

Happy birthday Myles……… We won’t mention age! Smile

Patchlead

Well following the advice from Craig at Telco Antennas in Queensland, Australia I have placed an order for the ‘patchlead’ that will connect our Samsung Galaxy mobile to the external aerial.  I’m optimistic it will work out and I will no longer have to leave the mobile outdoors on the pole to get a signal.

Today we were able to make two Skype calls back to Australia and speak with some of our family.  We had read on Facebook our eldest son’s dachshund had to be put to sleep after he became paralysed in the back for the second time.  They paid for an expensive back operation after the first occurrence and whilst “Fritz” didn’t fully recover he was mobile and active.

Jan is very upset as she recalls the loss of one of her own dachshunds with the same condition.  Apparently it’s a generic problem which is particularly prevalent in Dachshunds due to their long backs.  I did read they are now attempting to minimise the problem with selective breeding.

Good luck in your next life Fritz.  Hope you catch some of those cats……. and stay away from the snakes!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Relaxing

First a photo for my favourite mother-in-law.  These were going very cheap in a Nantwich shop and I was unable to resist the temptation.  Bet you have difficulty buys them in this quantity back in Australia!

A while ago we were moored on the towpath basking in the late afternoon sun.  It was time for a fruit juice.

A tasty little merlot from Chile.  Looked at the wines from Oz but the exchange rate makes them rather uncompetitive.  Jan didn’t want her photo taken.

And this smelly fat old tramp just sat down and started to eat the cheese and snacks whilst partaking of the fruit juice.

Why is it some boaters think when the bow of their boat has passed the stern of your moored boat they can increase their speed?  There is also a wash from the stern!   And it’s not just hire boats that go past at speed.  All of this has made me aware of the need to carry some medium size plastic fenders on Waiouru.  I also have an idea for a more substantial towpath anchor point to reduce the possibility of the pins being ripped from the ground. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Great Day

Well we certainly can’t complain about the weather today.  It’s pleasantly warm and sunny!

The front and rear doors are open on Kelly-Louise and I’ve rolled up one side of the cratch cover.  The breeze is now passing through the full length of the boat.

Jan has been playing ‘galley slave’ and baked apple and custard muffins.  I have the odious job of chief tester!  Smile with tongue out

I’ve already completed the testing of the peanut butter muffins and they have now all (unfortunately) been consumed.

Readers should not get the impression I don’t do my share!  I’ve peeled the apples; which have gone into the apple sponge pudding currently baking in the gas oven.  Waiting to go into the oven next is the roast pork we are having for dinner.

Whilst all of that is happening I will walk in to Nantwich and purchase more essential supplies.  On top of the list is the ice cream to go with the apple sponge. Smile

Later in the evening a boat a butty went past when it was almost dark.  I continue to be impressed with the Canon camera and the lens.  I’m a very poor photographer yet the camera more than makes up for it.  The following photo’s will give you some idea of the quality produced by the camera.  Remember the photo’s were taken when it was almost dark.

You wouldn’t think they were taken in the dark with no flash!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Missing Link

Waiouru was always going to have an external internet aerial mounted on the roof and we carefully researched the antenna ‘gain’ and required telephone frequencies before bring with us the aerial off our 4x4.  Prior to us leaving Australia we also purchased a Huawei usb internet dongle which had an external aerial socket and a ‘patchlead’ to connect the dongle to the external aerial.

All this has proved to be a success and we currently get a very good internet signal from the aerial mounted on a pole beside Kelly-Louise.  However, it has proven impossible to get an internet signal inside the boat and the voice signal is also poor.  This started me thinking about how I might improve the mobile phone reception.

To my surprise I discovered our Samsung Galaxy S mobile phone actually has an external aerial socket underneath the back case.  You can see it in the following photo.

Apparently the socket is used by Samsung technicians to test the signal reception.  However it is a functioning antenna socket.  In order to connect the phone to the aerial I needed to find a supplier of a suitable ‘patchlead’.  I know the aerial has a FME socket however the socket on the Samsung appears to be a propriety size and type.

Eventually; and to my surprise; I found two suppliers of a ‘patchlead’ back in Australia.

The lead looks like this

And the socket on the end of the aerial looks like this

I will need to drill a small hole in the back of the phone case to allow me access to the Samsung aerial socket. 

Our current mobile phone plan is with 3 Mobile.  We have selected a pre-paid 15 per month plan which gives us 300 minutes of voice, 3000 text messages and unlimited internet data.  We’re making very few phone calls and sending almost no text messages but the unlimited internet data is something we’d really like to use.  This is because the Samsung mobile can be configured to act as a wireless router.  Now you will understand why I want to improve the Samsung phone reception inside the boat.

It will also enable us to purchase a sim card from another internet provider for the usb dongle.  This will give us alternative internet coverage.

Just to complicate things I’d like to connect both the usb dongle and the Samsung mobile to the external aerial.  This can be achieved by purchasing a FME splitter as shown in the following photo.

But at A$86 I’m not sure if it’s a priority purchase.

So what are we doing at the moment!  Well I’ve used plastic cable ties to mount a 2 litres ice cream container to the pole (see photo below).  I then placed the mobile phone in the ice cream container. Of course I had to eat the ice cream first (a difficult job, but someone had to do it!).  When the phone is in wireless router mode is rapidly consumes battery power so I plugged the Samsung into the 240v using the external charger.  The ice cream container keeps the Samsung out of the rain but the down side is…… I can’t hear any inward calls!

So the patchlead for the mobile phone will allow me to have both the usb dongle and the phone inside the boat and connected to the external aerial.  This will improve the internet and voice reception.  Plus, I will be able to have two separate internet provider signals connected via the same external aerial.

Great theory…….. wonder if it will work! Smile with tongue out

Monday, September 26, 2011

Solar Panel Mounting

Back to considering the need for solar power on Waiouru.

A search on Ebay has identified a supplier of 100 watt Monocrystalline panels (1200 x 550mm) at a very reasonable price.  The same company is advertising an MPPT regulator for £59.93.

If I am to maximise the available sunlight the panels need to be rotated and tilted towards the sun so obviously the mounting frame needs to have this functionality.  Today I experimented with Google SketchUp and produced the following drawing.

The rotating top portion is show above the lower roof mounting and sits on a pivot point.  The two 100w panels would be hinged together with a piano hinge and mounted horizontally sitting between upper and lower  “C” sections.  An adjustable brace to the rear allows the panels to be tilted towards the horizon.  I also need to identify a way of ensuring the frame can be locked in place when aligned with the sun. I don’t want the breeze to turn it into a “wind turbine”Smile

The entire frame and panels collapses and folds flat onto the roof when not required.  My idea is the majority of the frame can be made from 38mm box steel.  The roof frame would be mounted on four rubber “engine mounts” to allow clearance for the curve in the roof.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Damned Keyboard

The laptop didn’t pose any problems whilst living in Australia, however I became somewhat frustrated with the keyboard layout when we arrived in the UK.  I’d failed to realise there was a difference in the keyboard layouts between Australia and the UK. 

The major issue has been the lack of the pound (£) symbol with the keyboard having the dollar ($) key. I’ve finally overcome the problem by identifying it’s possible to create the £ symbol by holding down the right Alt key and then pressing in sequence the 0163 keys on the numeric keypad.

The other think I’ve managed to work out is how to create the photo-frame border around the blog photo’s and make them all the same size.  You might also have noticed I recently started adding the boat name in text to the bottom left of each photo.  I thought I’d be clever and include the copyright symbol (©) to the text.  However those of you with an eye for detail will have noticed the symbol was appearing as the @ symbol.  I’ve finally worked out how to fix that error.  The symbol can be create in Windows by holding down the right Alt key and concurrently pressing in sequence the 0169 keys on the numeric keypad.

The following is a list of all those symbols for which I’ve be able to identify keystrokes

  • Alt + 0176 = ° (Degrees)
  • Alt + 0162 = ¢
  • Alt + 0188 = ¼
  • Alt + 0189 = ½
  • Alt + 0190 = ¾
  • Alt + 0178 = ¹
  • Alt + 0178 = ²
  • Alt + 0179 = ³
  • Alt + 0163 = £
  • Alt + 0169 = ©
  • Alt + 0174 = ®
  • Alt + 0165 = 
  • Alt + 0177 = ±
  • Alt + 0247 = ÷
  • Alt + 0166 = ¦
  • Alt + 0149 = •
  • Alt + 0134 = †
  • Alt + 0227 = ć
  • Alt + 0151 = — (m dash)
  • Alt + 0150 = – (n dash)

I’ve now worked out how to add the name and copyright text to a recorded macro in the photo management program and with one click I can resize the photo, add the border followed by the text.

One important fact that has been confirmed to us as a result of our recent cruise is the need for a small freezer on board Waiouru.  It’s rather a relief to confirm this as we had already purchased a 32 litre Engel Fridge/Freezer prior to arriving in the UK.  Even more fortuitously is the fact that the Harp’s declined to take delivery of it from the supplier.  Otherwise it would be yet another expensive piece of stolen equipment!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

“Oh Jan, I have a wee job for you!”

“And again please Dear!”
Another lazy start to the day leaving the Prees Junction around 10:30.  I’m starting to get used to these casual days! Smile
We made our way down to Whitchurch mooring just beyond the lift bridge on the 48 hour moorings and then walked into town.  It was Jan’s first time into Whitchurch so we spent some time exploring.  There is a Tesco but it’s probably too far from the canal to make it worth shopping there for anything other than essentials.
The church in Whitchurch
High Street
Jan was quite disappointed with Whitchurch.  She felt it had no “atmosphere”.  I just thought it was a shame they had filled in the top end of the Arm.  There appeared to be plenty of available space to build a basin and attract more tourists to the town.
There was no internet cover on the mooring so we moved further on to the moorings above the Grindley Brook locks where we were able to successfully connect to 3 Mobile using the Samsung Galaxy mobile.  Having mentioned the mobile I’ve just read it has an external antenna socket under the back cover.  Apparently Samsung technicians use it to test the phone, however it’s a working external antenna socket so I’m now thinking of purchasing a “pigtail” cable to connect the phone to our external high gain aerial which will be mounted on the roof of Waiouru.  If I fit a “splitter box” it should be possible to connect both the usb dongle and the Samsung mobile to the aerial.
Meanwhile Jan has been looking at both the “tired banana” and the remains in the bottom of the peanut butter jar.  Today she baked banana and peanut butter muffins in the new cupcake trays she purchased at Tesco Ellesmere.  They taste more of banana than peanut butter, however there is a slight ‘crunch’ from the odd piece of nut.  The empty jar is now being prepared for some “foraged jam”. Smile
Late in the day we passed nb Bendigedig and Elsie popped her head out the side hatch to say hello!  So again we have passed without having the opportunity for an in depth conversation about living afloat.

Friday, September 23, 2011

To the Prees Branch

We had a lazy morning rising late (7:30) and having a casual breakfast before heading to the laundrette.  We’d only been there five minutes when another couple arrived with their laundry.  The cork float on the end of the keys gave them away as fellow boaters and when they spoke we immediately recognised them as Australians.  Not only were they also from Adelaide, South Australia but only two suburbs away from our home.  Small world!

Jan went back to Tesco for the meat where she purchased a large and expensive roast having misread the price.  In large bold print the sticker stated “Discounted” and “£3.19”.  In small print it stated “per pound”.  The roast was actually £9.  I don’t think either of us will fall for that one again!.  I then made a trip to the end of the Ellesmere Arm to watch a boat wind. 

This boat attempted the turn in the same direction as I did back in 2001 when I did a 20 point turn. Smile

However, unlike me he quickly realised his mistake and reversed the direction of the turn and successfully exited the Arm.

Back to Kelly-Louise and I headed down to the end where I did my best turn to date (two point and I didn’t touch the bank).  We then took KL to the BW Facilities where the water tank was filled and the rubbish disposed.  Feeling “cocky” after my ‘winding’ I then reversed off the facilities point (in a straight line) before turning the bow 130 degrees to port and heading back towards Hurleston Junction.

The country around Ellesmere is particularly attractive.

We decided to stop on the 48 hour mooring just beyond the Prees Branch junction.

The last few days of cruising has confirmed to us the need to have sound insulation in the engine compartment.  Kelly-Louise is quieter than all our previous hire boats and; unlike the hire boats; we can communicate without shouting.  However it’s almost impossible to hear other boaters or people on the towpath.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Retail Therapy

I took Jan window shopping in the morning.  Fortunately Ellesmere doesn’t have a large number of shops so it didn’t take too long.  Before we left the boat I had checked the internet to see if there was a laundrette in Ellesmere but could find nothing.  Jan asked in the TIC and there is one on Victoria St next to the fish 7 Chip shop (handy).  The hours are 7.00am to 7.00pm 7 days per week.  We will probably use it tomorrow.

Then it was back to Tesco.  Immediately it was apparent we would be doing two trips.   Actually, looking at how the trolley was filling on the first trip I started to envisage multiple trips between Tesco and Kelly-Louise.  However the first trip actually went well and I managed to push the trolley all the way back to the boat.

Jan’s only posing…. I pushed the trolley! And yes……. I took it back rather than park it in the canal.Smile

It was only when I returned the trolley into the rack that I saw the sign stating the trolleys can’t be taken beyond the “Red Line” and the wheel on the trolley would lock if you attempted to do so.  Well it didn’t!

The basin at the end of the Ellesmere Arm looks very quiet at night.  However I did notice the surveillance camera, so someone keeps an eye on the location.

Tesco by Night

The Basin

Ellesmere by night

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ellesmere

We woke to the sound of rain on the roof of KL and decided as were weren’t running to a timetable we’d stay moored and watch the hire boaters struggle past.  The rain stopped after lunch so we set off at a casual pace with KL ticking over around 1000rpm.  Lift bridges came and went.  At the Pees Junction we met nb GO FOR IT heading the the opposite direction and only managed to call out a greeting to Colin & Tina mentioning we were blog readers.  Colin called back that we’d enjoy the canal ahead.

Bit of a panic on one bend when we met a boat & butty.  Jan grabbed the camera and managed a couple of photo’s however I was concentrating so hard on the steering that neither of us remembered the boat’s name.

We arrived at the outskirts of Ellesmere around 5.00pm and moored for the night.  I walked the 500 metres to the Arm and basin to see what was there; instantly recognising it from our first canal holiday in 2001.  I was also able to establish it was possible to get a 3 mobile data signal at one of the moorings.  The obvious plan was to move into the Arm and onto the mooring the next morning after some of the boats had departed.

Ellesmere Junction.  Nantwich to the left and Llangollen to the right

The British Waterways depot and facilities at Ellesmere

This is what the Ellesmere Arm looked like in the evening.  Reasonably crowded but there were a few moorings at the very end near Tesco.

And now we are safely moored in the Arm with an internet signal.

Gone for a Cruise

We’ve taken stock of our concerns and decided to go for a short cruise on KL heading up the Llangollen to Ellesmere.  The weather on the first day was a mixture of sunshine and cold breezes off the canal.  It was actually a good day to be on the water.  Not freezing and wet or hot and sweaty.

We stopped for lunch at Wrenbury having successfully negotiated the route through the electrically operated lift bridge.  We were one of four boats which did create a slight queue of cars whose drivers waited patiently.  It was a reasonably tight turn made more difficult by the moored bows of the hire boats from the Alvechurch boatyard protruding into “my” manoeuvre space.

Moored at Wrenbury for a late lunch

After five previous trips on hire boats it is such a pleasure to be able to cruise without a timetable. The locks at Grindley Brook proved interesting.  not because they were particularly complicated but rather watching the boaters jockeying to get up or down the flight of six.  The first lock going up is on a blind bend with a bridge.  At first Jan couldn’t work out if it was a lock, bridge or tunnel.  Meanwhile I’m on the back of the boat with a running engine under my feet.  This resulted in a period of failed communication with Jan talking to me from a distance of 50 metres whilst waving her arms.  I was unable to interpret the information and responded in my best parade ground voice “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”.   The arms waved more furiously and I thought she was going to take off at one point.  In the end I decided to take the boat forward and we successfully entered the first lock.  A boat was just exiting the second lock however we were unable to enter because the crew of the boat following down immediately closed the gates and refilled the lock.  It wasn’t a problem for us as we weren’t in a hurry and the crew did apologise for “stealing our lock”!

I then remembered Peter had mentioned there were a pair of “walkie talkies” on KL so I asked Jan to retrieve them.  Whilst this certainly improved our communication we need to discuss the formality of the voice protocol and simplify the range of words used.  “Yes – No – Move forward – Stay”.  Entering into long conversations only results in confusion.  Particularly when the steerer is slightly deaf!

The last three locks are a staircase and we were assisted by the BW lock keeper who was ex RAF and had served in the Falklands War during the early 80’s. 

Whitchurch appears to have turned its back on the canal.  Walking up the arm to the town it appeared that the upper two thirds of the arm had been filled in making the walk into the town longer than necessary. 

Tomorrow we head for Ellesmere

Monday, September 19, 2011

Puffball Mushroom

Whilst foraging along the towpath I was given this piece off a “puffball” mushroom.  The puffball mushroom was the size of a human skull and when first shown it I though that’s what it was.  I was kindly given a fifth of the mushroom to bring back to the boat.

One entry in Wikipedia states none of the puffballs are edible whilst another states they are.  Jan cooked a small portion at lunch and fed it to me.  She closely observed me all afternoon and as I was still walking by dinner she cooked the remainder; which we ate it with potato's, carrots and peas.  Very tasty it was too!  Another thing to look for when out walking.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wiring Problem

The domestic battery bank doesn’t seem to be charging on KL when she is not connected to the shore power.  When I disconnected the shore-line and attempted to run the 240v AC from the Sterling inverter the alarm on the inverter sounded.  

Another thing Jan mentioned to me when was when we cruised to do the recent pump-out she could hear an audible alarm from within the boat.  Up to 800 RPM it is a constant sound.  From 800 to 1000 RPM there is a “chirping” sound.  The sound disappears above 1000 RPM.

The shore-power charges the two separate battery banks using CTEK chargers.

Note in the photo above that the top charger shows the starter battery fully charged after running the engine for the day whereas the bottom charger shows the domestic battery bank as being charged despite the engine running for the day.

The engine has two alternators.  One charges the starter battery and the other the domestic battery bank.  I could see the starter motor alternator was charging the starter battery.

My initial thought was the second alternator wasn’t charging the domestic battery bank.  Perhaps the alternator was faulty or a battery was defective.  The alternator belt might also be slipping.

However the domestic battery bank had been fully charged by the shore-power and yet the inverter alarm sounded indicating the domestic battery bank was flat.

It seems to me there is a problem with the configuration of the wiring circuit.  Peter agreed, and mentioned he recently had the domestic battery bank replaced as part of some major work.  I contacted the company who had completed the work and they sent out a serviceman to check the work.  He “jiggled” the isolation switch to the domestic battery bank and the alarm stopped.  He also measured the voltage at the alternator and advised it was fluctuating outside normal tolerances.  He recommended replacing both the isolation switch and the alternator.

Peter and I discussed this and agreed there appeared to be more to the matter than replacing the expensive alternator.  Working on the principle of “Look for the simple thing first!”  Peter decided to purchase a replacement isolating switch.

Today the repairman from “Snap-On” came to fix the fault whilst I employed my management & supervisory skills.

This is the new isolating switch.  A cheaper option than buying an new alternator.

OK…. by now you should have worked out the Snap-On repairman is Peter.  It’s quite a squeeze getting into the engine compartment (something I will have to get used to in the near future). 

Peter replaced the switch and “Voila”…… We still had the fault!   “Bugger!” Another theory shot full of holes.    The old switch received a squirt of CRC and Peter re-installed it.  Then I turned the inverter ON and OFF whilst Peter employed his superior sense of hearing catching the sound of an electric arc on a terminal.   Digging further back into the wiring loom Peter found a corroded and loose connection in the wiring between the isolation switch and the inverter.  He cleaned and re-tightened the connection before coating it with petroleum jelly.

Now the inverter works correctly.  No requirement for a new isolating switch or alternator.  Just goes to prove…….. “Look for the simple things first!”