Monday, December 31, 2012

Funny hats and a rail siding

The heavens opened this afternoon and we had a deluge.  All this rain makes a change! Smile

Whilst walking around the local area I've noticed the occasional 6 foot white pole with what looks like a yellow and black stripped pitched roof on top.   There’s also a disused oil distribution terminal rail siding just down the towpath.  It has an abandoned look but still has an intact perimeter fence and working video surveillance equipment.

The rail siding and fuel distribution point

One of the local ‘live aboard’ boaters believes the cameras monitor his movements and there’s something sinister about the facility.  It’s some type of secret base!  I’m more inclined to believe it’s merely a disused siding and the surveillance cameras are on pre-programmed movements which just give the impression they are following your movements whilst walking adjacent to the perimeter fence.

The cameras appear to have an IR capability!

Everything started to appear more logical when on a walk I came across the GPSS facility at Padworth.  It’s located on the top of a ridge to the south of the canal.

The white poles with the coloured tops mark the location of the underground petroleum pipes.  My guess is the rail siding is; or was; linked to the Padworth GPSS depot.

Top arrow is the rail siding and the GPSS depot the bottom arrows.

The GPSS is the Government Pipeline and Storage System.  It was built by the government during WW2 to store and distribute light petroleum products for PLUTO (Pipeline Under The Ocean). This was the fuel pipeline that ran across the English Channel and followed the Allied armies.  There are almost 2500km underground pipelines around the UK linking various refineries and military facilities.  GPSS supplies fuel to the adjacent AWE (Atomic Weapons Establishment) and probably supplied the US Airforce base as Greenham Common when it was operational.  The GPSS isn’t exclusively used by the military and apparently the government is encouraging more commercial use of the network.

It’s possible to see the extent of the GPSS pipeline on the Linewatch website.

The GPSS pipeline network

The entire UK pipeline network. 

The government pipelines are shown in black and light purple whilst all the other pipelines are owned by petroleum and gas companies.  Makes you think about what’s under your feet and how there could be a disaster if an excavator dug in the wrong spot!

Jan just made the comment “This is a bit boring!”

Sunday, December 30, 2012

More data for Open Street Map

A morning Skype call to mum in Perth, Western Australia exposed the contrast in the weather we are each experiencing.  She is suffering 40°C+ days and the evaporative air-conditioning system can’t cope with the load.  Fortunately she also has a refrigerated air-conditioner but I’d hate to think what would happen to her if there was a power failure.  Hopefully she would run a cold bath and sit in it!  I must mention that during our next call.  Meanwhile, on Waiouru we’ve been buffeted by the wind during the night and there’s still the odd shower.  Funny to think the year started with a drought! 

I went for the usual Sunday walk this morning and when I reached the fields at the end of Mill Lane I realised I’d have to vary my planned route.

My footpath is now a lake! Sad smile

I had to backtrack and complete a 2km detour to reach the high ground on the far side.  Now the gps is back working I was able to record three small footpaths that are not on Open Street Map (OSM).  On my return they were checked in Garmin Mapsource before uploading and editing in OSM.

Gps traces in red

The new “lake” was also my route back to Waiouru.  Consequentially it was a longer walk than anticipated returning via Aldermaston Village.

The village hall.

I rather like this old house.  The timber bracing around the brickwork is decaying and there doesn’t appear to be a straight or vertical edge in the exterior of the structure.  The height of the white front door is less than five feet.  Were people that short when the house was built or has the level of the ground in front of the door been raised?  It looks the former!

Back at Waiouru Jan had visitors with Sue and Kevin (nb Meander) calling in to say hello.  They wintered over at Aldermaston Wharf last year.  This year Meander is wintering over at Overwater Marina just north of Audlem on the Shropshire Union.  It was nice of Sue & Kevin to make the effort to visit and we’ll possibility meet out on the cut sometime in 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A rattling sound

This morning I decided to do one of my routine checks of the engine and associated components.  However this time I had the engine compartment board up and the engine exposed whilst I started it.  There was an obvious rattle coming from the engine and I couldn’t find the source so I went and asked Nick, the engineer.  He listened to it and quickly identified the source as a loose alternator belt.  He checked both alternator belts after we had turned off the engine.  It was the large belt to the 175A alternator that was loose.  This has probably occurred during the “bedding in” phase of running the engine.  Nick suggested I tighten up the belt using a couple of 19mm spanners and test the engine again.  I don’t have any 19mm spanners and instead used a 19mm socket and an adjustable spanner.  Getting the 19mm socket and wrench back off the nut on the alternator bracket proved to be a devil of a job.  In the end I borrowed one of Nicks 19mm spanners to complete the task.  The rattle has disappeared but it’s obvious tightening the belt will be a regular occurrence.  It also means I need a couple of 19mm spanners.  Off to Google……..

There are plenty of potential suppliers but my criteria limits the range I’m prepared to consider.  One key criteria is price!  After trolling through the ‘hits’ I found a supplier on eBay at £5.85 each.  However after further searching I came across FFX Tools who were able to supply the spanners at £1.86 each. When the postage was added the cost of two spanners came to £5.67.  It looked to be the best deal so I’ve ordered two.  Of course I’ve no way of knowing whether the quality of the spanners will be sufficient for the task.  They may have been made in a field forge in remote China…. and look the part!  But looking at the price of other hand tools on their website I may just have received a very good price.

Nick informed me the belt to the larger alternator will need regular tightening as the alternator will be under heavy load most of the time.  I agree with his opinion as we have been using both alternators to recharge the domestic battery bank on a daily basis.  Of course the alternators are only working hard during the initial ‘Bulk’ phase of the recharging process.  I must go back and re-read the manual for the Sterling PDAR.  Some further research into the voltage level at each phase of the recharging process would also be useful.  The PDAR has an LED to indicate when the battery bank has reached the ‘Float’ phase but the PDAR is in the engine compartment and I don’t particularly want to keep going into the compartment to check on the charging status.  It may be possible to identify the individual charging phases by reading the voltage on the Smartbank gauge or even the remote meter for the Tracer solar controller.  This is also connected to the domestic battery bank.

Browsing through various websites indicates the state of charge for flooded wet cell lead acid batteries can sometimes be determined using the following voltage readings.

Voltage           SOC

  • 12.7+     100%
  • 12.4        75%
  • 12.2        50%
  • 12           25%
  • 11.8        0%

The battery needs to be rested (not under any load) for several hours (up to 6 hours) prior to taking the reading.  This is almost impossible to achieve on Waiouru because there is always a load on the domestic battery bank. 

Measuring the voltage to assess the battery state of charge (SOC) is apparently the LEAST accurate way. Measuring the specific gravity with a hydrometer is more accurate.  Unfortunately the restricted location of our domestic battery bank precludes the use of  a hydrometer.  Another accurate form of measurement is an amp/hour meter.  This will measure the amps put into the battery and the amps removed.  We know the capacity of our battery bank in amp/hours and could start recharging the batteries when 50% of the available amps have been used.  But the capacity of a battery deteriorates with age and use.  A little like me!  So over time our 450 available amps will reduce.  But we won’t know by how much!  The Smartgauge is clever enough to always know the current capacity of the battery bank and displays it as a percentage.  It’s a clever piece of equipment for dummies like me!  But an amp meter would be handy as it would show both our usage and rate of charge.

Friday, December 28, 2012

A very pleasant surprise

But first the bad news……. Sometime during the last 30 hours the chandlery was broken into and the till stolen.  It appears the thieves used a small rock to smash a window which set off the audible alarm.  They then hid on site waiting to see if there was any response.  I’m rather deaf and didn’t hear the alarm whilst Jan thought she might have heard something.  They then returned and used an even larger rock to break all the glass in the window before entering and stealing the till.  It was all rather pointless as no money is left in it!  Accordingly to Andy it’s not the first time there has been a burglary.  A youth was caught last time and received 20 hours of periodic detention. 

Jan wandered over to the office and asked if there was any mail.  She returned with a small package.  To our surprise and delight it was a dvd from Paul of Waterways Routes.  Apparently Paul supplements his small pension by producing canal maps and dvd’s.  We first met Paul and Christine on their aptly named narrowboat “Waterways Routes” when we were going down the Tardebigge flight of locks whilst they were going up.  Somehow Paul found out my name was Tom Jones and we rated a mention on their blog

The dvd contained a copy of the maps of the Kennet & Avon and Drotwich Canals along with a brief note telling us it should get us started on our canal boating adventure.  What a lovely gesture!  Thank you Paul. 

I’ve placed a link to Waterways Routes website on the left of our blog template.  Now I’m looking forward to being able to compare the map data on Paul’s maps with my own on my Google Earth trace.  I anticipate his maps will be more detailed and accurate as he has physically “covered the ground” whilst mine was completed in Australia by looking at Google Earth and “guestimating”. Smile

Another piece of good news is our Garmin Oregon gps was received today after being repaired.  I’ve already reinstalled the modified UK Open Street Map from Talkie Toastie and have planned Sunday’s walk.  When the gps batteries are recharged the route can be downloaded to the gps.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

More Empirbus Configuration

I ask myself what we did today?  Jan went to Sainbury’s for essential supplies (custard filled doughnuts being one of them) whilst I stayed behind and pottered around Waiouru.  She staggered back to the boat around midday with a large shopping bag in one hand and a heavy day pack on her back.  I eased my conscience by reminding myself the exercise and free air was probably good for her.  In the saloon one of the hot water pipes had decided to migrate from inside the Finrad boxing out onto the carpet.  It just lolls about naked trying to pretend it belongs there!  We’ve noticed the pipe only appears when the cabin is warm and the water hot, so I’m guessing it doesn’t like the heat inside the boxing.  All this exposed bare skinny white sausage looks rather unsightly so I asked Andy for a few additional pipe clips and resecured it to the lining on the side of the cabin.  Then the screws holding the oak trim on the ceiling of the shower cubical needed replacing. The existing screws are mild steel and with the humidity in the shower will probably rust if not replaced.  Fortunately there’s only one piece of trim with exposed screw heads (the others have all been plugged).  It’s a 700mm longitudinal length between the ceiling and the side of the cabin concealing the wiring loom.  I removed all the screws and replaced them with stainless steel of the same size.

Yet another small step achieved today with further configuration of the Empirbus system.  The first thing I needed was a SIM card to go into the GSM Module.  If we are to communicate with Waiouru and she is to tell us what is happening. then we need a mobile communication plan.  All the communication is by text message so what I really wanted was a pre-paid, low cost, text only plan and of course they don’t appear to exist in the UK!  However I did the rounds of the mobile network providers asking if they had such a plan; and if they didn’t; what cheap alternative could they offer.  Eventually I opted to purchase a £5 SIM from Vodafone.  We will have to watch the time on the card to ensure it doesn’t expire before we top it up.

The last of the wiring to the GSM module was then completed and the SIM installed.  Where upon the module burst into life with LED’s flashing madly!

GSM/GPS Module - Arrows point to LED’s and SIM Card

Then I realised we needed to test the SIM to ensure it was working.  The obvious way was to insert it into a mobile phone to see if the SIM was active and whether it could send and receive text messages.  I inserted it into Jan’s old mobile phone….. “SIM not active” <Oh No!>.  Put it into my old mobile “SIM not Active” <double Oh No!>.  More thinking…….. We purchased both mobiles in Australia…. perhaps they are locked to Vodafone Australia?  Jan’s current phone is also originally from Australia but she had it unlocked when we moved to Plymouth.  Inserted the SIM into her phone <success!>.  So the SIM is active and works.  It was then inserted back into the GSM module.  More reading of the instructions and the “penny dropped”.  I needed to text the word Empir?? from our main mobile phone to the GSM Module.  This would start the module and recognise (remember) our mobile phone number.  Well that worked and I can now communicate with the GSM module.  The module is also sending messages to our phone.  At the moment it’s only the standard queries.  I send……

  • Volt?  -  It sends me the current battery voltage
  • Status?  -  Reports general information of GSM and GPS including number of satellites it can see
  • Pos?  -  It sends the GPS coordinates for Waiouru.
  • Waiouru will send a message if the burglar alarm is activated

I’m now working out how to configure some additional requests and alarms.  Initial ideas are:

  • Report when bilge pump is activated (the boat might be starting to sink!)
  • Report battery low voltage reading.  I think I’ll set it to 11.8V (don’t want the battery bank to be damaged)
  • Start Hurricane Heater (arrive to a warm boat)
  • Start Fridge (have the fridge cool [importantly the lager] on arrival)
  • Report change in location when alarm activated (boat to advise it’s being stolen?)
  • Disable engine on text command (stop the thief from making off with the boat)
  • Start/stop bilge pumps (remote routine emptying of the bilges)

What else could I get the system to either report or control remotely?  Jan has already suggested it could do the dirty dishes whilst we are out! Smile

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Alone Again!

For dinner last night Steven cooked the pheasant we’d been given by Graham.  He did it in a large pot on the gas hob with some sauce he’d made and then added a few vegetables.  It was actually quite nice!  All those pheasants running around the Aldermaston area better watch out!

Jan did her usual fantastic job in cooking Christmas lunch and Daniel was even quick enough with the camera to catch me making lumpy custard to go on the pudding.

There was even time for a brief walk

Daniel, Myles and Steven

We were awake at 3:00am this morning as the three sons had a taxi to Heathrow booked for 4:30.  They had already checked and there was no public transport available at that hour which would enable two of them to catch their 7:30 flight to Sweden.  They are heading to northern Sweden to see the Northern Lights, spend time on dog sledge rides and tour on snowmobiles.  The third son elected to share the taxi even though he wasn’t flying out from Heathrow.  He was catching the Eurostar in London with the intention of reaching Belgium.  We received a Skype call to inform us the Tube drivers were taking industrial action and as a consequence held changed his plans and taken another taxi into London at a cost of £80.  He’s the backpacker so that must have hurt!  It may be a coincidence but it appears rail industrial action frequently occurs during public holidays.  Last time we were in the UK the industrial action was at the airport.  The technology exists to automate trains and if the drivers persist with this type of action they may just find themselves replaced by a machine.

After the last few days Waiouru now seems to be quiet and empty.  There is a mountain of bedding to be laundered and stored in vacuum bags.  We’ve been from one end of Waiouru to the other cleaning and vacuuming.  The additional folding chairs have again been stowed and the ‘bits and bobs’ returned to their proper places. 

We’ve also noticed a decrease in the amount of condensation forming on the aluminium windows and hatch frames.  Five people produce significantly more moisture than two! 

Whilst it was mild and dry at 4:30 this morning the weather changed for the worse after dawn with rain and gusts of wind.  Consequentialy we started the Refleks diesel stove and settled down in Waiouru for the day.  We will stay where we are until the river and canal conditions return to normal.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

This isn’t going to be a long post as we are all trying to recover from lunch.  There were five of us inside Waiouru devouring turkey, roast veg, yorkshire pudding and gravy followed by Christmas pudding with custard. Then there was the alcohol and chocolates.

Time to go and sleep it all off! Smile

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

After a brief period of indecision all five of us caught the train to Reading and spent the day shopping (mostly window).  It’s the first time Jan and I have caught the train to Reading as we usually use our seniors bus pass.  The bus takes ¾ hour and the train ¼ hour.  However, for us the bus is free so there is no contest!  However the ticket collector mentioned we could purchase a group ticket where four travel for the price of two so it wasn’t quite the expensive journey we’d anticipated.

Travelling in to Reading the most noticeable thing was the amount of flooded ground around Theale.  We’ve never see so much water in this location.  Fortunately we have decided to stay where we are rather than going for a cruise, The locals tell us Waiouru is safe in the pound between Aldermaston and Padworth locks.

Reading Railway Station is in the midst of being refurbished.  The new steel, glass and aluminium structure provides a marked contrast against the original steel frame timber clad cover over the platforms.  The city didn’t appear to be very crowded although there were plenty of people shopping for last minute Christmas presents.  Dan needed a new power supply for his iPad which led us to the Apple shop in the Oracle Shopping Mall.  Debenham’s and John Lewis received a visit as one of us was looking for leather gloves.  Lunch was in a pub where three of us sampled some English ale specially brewed for Christmas (name of the beer was Hob Goblin).  I can see this English beer is an acquired taste!  Steve’s search for underwear took us to Primark where he managed to find what he wanted.  Apparently Bella (their daschund) has acquired a taste for his “jock’s” which has resulted in him having a shortage of essential clothing!

Whilst waiting for the train Dan gave me a 10 minute lesson on how to use our expensive Canon DSLR camera.  He is quite artistic and has also taken lessons on photography.  As we walked around Reading he would say “take a photo of that” and “Your photo should tell a story!”

The above photo tells the story…….. I don’t know how to take a photo Smile

I’m trying slightly harder with the Christmas tree…… but it’s still awful!

He didn’t tell me to take this photo and I personally think it’s the best of a bad bunch!  I like the second and third floor architecture  but on reflection should probably have taken a close-up.  Got to keep practicing.

It looks like we might be going to the local pub (the Butt Inn) tonight for a family dinner.

Christmas Day is the last full day with the three sons before they head off on their separate ways with two going to Sweden and one to Belgium.  They are getting back together in a fortnight for some skiing in Austria.  

Jan and I wish all those hardy souls who bother to read the blog a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

2½ hours of my life wasted

The four men currently living on the boat went to Newbury today to see the film “The Hobbit”.  Peter Jackson excelled himself by producing a 30 minute film which runs for 2½ hours.  Whilst the NZ scenery was spectacular one has the opinion the NZ government was subsidising the production.  Some of the scenes were also predictable if you’d already viewed “Lord of the Rings”.  A film we don’t recommend!
However it was good to spend time with the sons.
Myles, Steve and Tom
It was after dark when the bus from Reading arrived with Dan on board.  We had walked to the bus stop and patiently waited in the dark (and drizzle) for him to arrive.  Apparently his flights with China East Airlines were interesting. At short notice it departed Sydney one hour early which left him in transit in China for five hours before his connecting flight to Heathrow.  Both flights were full.  However he is a seasoned traveller and arrived with less jet-lag than the other two.
Room aboard Waiouru is tight so we’ve come up with a novel approach to the sleeping arrangements.
Myles and Steve are on top in the best berth because they are wearing their Qantas FIRST CLASS pyjamas.  Apparently Dan didn’t get any pyjamas in cattle class with China East Smile


They obviously didn’t inherit all my genes!  At least Myles and I are slightly more sensible!
Because they have been so well behaved Jan and I have decided we’re going to let them do the toilet self pump-out!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I’ve never been known to be a pheasant plucker

Until today…….!  Graham knocked on the side of Waiouru and offered us one he’d shot yesterday.  Now you don’t get pheasants in Australia but despite this both sons said they were pheasant pluckers and volunteered to take on the task.
Steve demonstrates his technique having dressed (more accurately…undressed) a rabbit just before leaving Australia
The trusty Leatherman knife proved to be very useful.
Myles also shows his plucking skills
Back at Waiouru preparing it for the pot
Ready to be turned into deboned breast and drumsticks
Now everyone is searching the internet looking for the best way to cook it.  Consensus is that in overall appearance it looks very similar to rabbit.  All we need to do is to remove the smell from inside the boat.  And thank you Graham!
The weather has been rather miserable today so only one brief walk down to the lock where we explained its modus operandi to Myles and Steve.  We’ll do the same for Daniel when he arrives later tonight.  Tomorrow we plan a very (very) short cruise down through the lock, wind, and then return to the same mooring.  We’ve just received a phone call from Daniel to advise he has arrived and is now on the bus from Heathrow to Reading Railway Station.
Waiouru is now starting to get rather crowded.  The spare berth was tested last night by Steve & Myles.  They report the mattress is very comfortable.  Although this may be due to jet-lag!
Their eyeballs are starting to look less like a London streetmap Smile

Friday, December 21, 2012

Phew… Hot stuff!

Until yesterday we’ve had to remove some condensation off the inside of the porthole and Houdini frames.  The volume hasn’t been great and no condensation is forming on the actual double glazing.  Obviously we are creating the humidity from perspiration, breathing or the cooking.  However we’ve noticed a significant decrease in condensation over the last couple of days and it coincides with the running of the Refleks stove.  The little stove is really belting out the heat despite it being on the lowest possible setting.  The inside of Waiouru is now so warm Jan occasionally opens the side hatch for a few minutes to lower the temperature.  We obviously have a very warm boat.  Which of course was part of the plan.  The thick spray foam, underfloor insulation, double glazing, extensive central heating system and diesel stove have all contributed to achieve this desired outcome.

We may turn off the Refleks tomorrow and go back to the Hurricane just to see what occurs.  It would also be a good idea to fill the diesel tanks and get an idea of consumption.

Richard and James were aboard to redrill the holes in the floor for the extension to the spare bed in the back cabin.  The original holes were covered with vinyl when Martin laid the flooring.  I’ve been thinking we need to fit a rug or some carpet over the holes to prevent them from getting clogged with debris.  Due to the almost continuous rain there was no further work on completing the exterior painting.

The first of the sons arrive tomorrow.  We’ve seen their comments on Facebook and noted their upgrade by Qantas to First Class.  Only way to travel Smile  The marvel of modern communications means we can follow their progress.  However son No 3 is a hardened international backpacker with short arms and deep pockets.  He’s travelling with China East Airlines (cattle-class) and is probably eating boiled rice with chopsticks.

Unfortunately all this rain means we are unwilling to go for a cruise and the Kennet & Avon is currently looking a little too fierce for novices with a new boat!  Oh well…… Another day.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On Display

A couple of interesting things have recently occurred and we now appear legally ready to start cruising.  Our boat index number transfers from The Graphic Boat have arrived and Darren kindly applied them.  Jan watch closely as she will be responsible for applying any future graphics (Although she doesn’t yet know this!)  Jan and Darren decided on the precise location to display the number.  they are frequently displayed high on the semi-trad handrail but Jan though the numbers might get damaged by the pram cover.  Consequentially she has moved them forward of the recessed panels.

They were accompanied by a very amusing letter which I would love to reproduce here if I could only find it.  Somehow in all the moving of furniture and chattels it’s gone astray! Sad smile

CaRT also banked our cheque and mailed us our annual boat license labels.

Oh…. Did I mention it has been raining? Smile

The license labels have been laminated <reminder note to self to purchase a cheap laminator> and Jan then stuck them on the inside of a porthole window either side of the boat.

One thing puzzled me about the license and as a consequence I’ve written back to the Boat Licensing Team.  Did you also notice the same thing as me?

We applied for the license in November even though it was apparent Waiouru wouldn’t be finished until December.  One option was to delay the application until Waiouru was finished but we felt we were in the water and should therefore have a license.  The annual cost of the license for our first year was almost £800 <ouch>.  So we were really grateful that CaRT has apparently given us a license for two years!  It’s nice to be valued as a new customer !Smile

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Cold but now comfortable

The Garmin needed some exercise after it’s recent heart transplant, so we went out together in the morning.  For some reason it always choses to take me on the most muddy of footpaths and after 4 hours of slipping and sliding I returned to Waiouru wet and cold only to find Jan sitting in the cockpit with the doors to the cabin firmly closed.  This wasn’t what I either expected or wanted.  In priority, what I wanted was a nice hot shower followed by something to eat!

It was gently explained to me that although I’m now a qualified grumpy old curmudgeon, I apparently can’t always have things my own way.  This was a revelation! I petulantly stamped my foot followed by a small sulk.  None of it did me any good.  However before been evicted from inside Waiouru Jan had seized some bread and cheese which she dutifully fed me.  She then explained shortly after I’d left to walk the Garmin, Martin (the carpet layer) had arrived and was inside laying carpet and vinyl.  Hence our inability to enter the cabin.  All afternoon we sat in our perambulator under our pram cover “wigwam for wimps”.  It wasn’t warm but at least we were protected from the wind.  Every so often we’d open the hatch cover slightly and peer inside to see what was happening.  Ahhhh builder’s crack…. puts you off your cheese sandwich!

Martin (Martin King Carpets & Flooring) worked solidly on his own all day preparing the floor and then laying the carpet and vinyl.

If the floor didn’t have glue on it then Martin would be laying and cutting the carpet or vinyl.  Darkness came before Martin finally took pity on us and allowed us to sit in the bedroom. Waiouru wasn’t on shore-power and every light was on, the vacuum cleaner was being used and the radio was playing.  Tom (me) was wondering about the state of the domestic battery bank?  It was after 7.00pm by the time Martin had finished.  Whilst Jan attempted to reposition furniture and chattels I frantically checked the SmartGauge.  64%…… <phew>  Andy had recommended the Flotex carpet as being very hard wearing and quite appropriate for a marine environment.

Jan is an Autumn colours person and had chosen a motley grey swirly blurry pattern.  My suggestion of burn orange shagpile to liven the saloon was ignored.  Apparently I have no sense of colour!

The galley, back cabin, and toilet have vinyl which is another shade of grey.  It’s also non-slip.  A deliberate decision on Jan’s part!

There are a few large off-cuts which we will put to good use. 

Jan also informed me a small package had been received whilst I was walking Garmin.  It contained the LED’s I’d ordered from Bedazzled.  Following advice from Richard at Bedazzled I’d changed my plans regarding the size LED’s from SMD 12’s to 8’s.  Richard recommended the 8’s as being sufficiently bright for Waiouru.  He is quite correct and 12’s would have been so bright they would have “scorched our bleed’n eyeballs”!  Of course, being over keen I had to fit them that night.  Jan just sighed as I moved around in the dark with my head torch removing halogen bulbs and replacing them with LED’s.  At least the domestic battery bank will love me!

I just hope I didn’t make a mistake with the ‘cool white’ light in the galley and bathroom.  Last night I had a nagging feeling I was showering in the fridge under all that white light. Smile

Just as we’ve started to get excited about departing on our first cruise our plans have been dashed by an email from CaRT advising Widmead Lock has been closed as it’s in urgent need of repair.  So we can’t cruise any further west than Thatcham and to the east the Thames is on RED boards after all the recent rain.  Bugga!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Umbilical Cord

Well we’ve cut the umbilical cord (shore-power line) and been running on the batteries.  Heating has come from the Hurricane central heater which is also heating the water in the calorifier.  The Hurricane can be controlled by the Empirbus system.  We can turn it off/on from the back cabin, a switch beside our bed, a button on the remote key fob or; when I get the GSM module configured; by mobile TEXT message.  The Hurricane has a thermostat control on the wall in the saloon and we have been experimenting with the desired settings. At the moment it’s programmed to run if the temperature drops below 16°C at night and below 20°C by day.  Thus far it has been starting and stopping correctly.  The plan is to run it continuously for 48 hours and then top up the diesel tank so the average hourly consumption can be establish.  The heating pipes under the bed, in the footlocker and inside the wardrobes are keeping all the clothes warm and dry.  After testing the Hurricane we will run the Lockgate Refleks for the same duration and check it’s fuel usage.  The Lockgate doesn’t require 12v to operate (gravity fed) and may therefore use less energy.  However it isn’t thermostatically controlled and runs continuously.  So it may actually burn more diesel than the Hurricane? 

I’ve also been regularly checking the battery state using the SmartGauge and the Tracer solar controller.  Both give the same battery voltage, although they disagree as to the state of charge.  After running solely on the domestic battery bank for 5 hours the Smartgauge reports the batteries at 95% charged and 12.7v.  The Tracer also reports 12.7v but states the batteries are at 46% charged.  The Tracer is obviously wrong!  However the Tracer can report the temperature of the batteries and also the amperage flowing out of them, which at this time is 0.7A  I’d like to know the amperage being produced by the solar panels but it only appears to display the voltage.

Bec, one of the delightful locals, passed by yesterday and very kindly gave us a roll of carpet off-cuts out of her loft.  We’ve used it to make mats for the tops of the cratch lockers.  It was very generous of her and yet another example of the benefits of living in a small community.  In many ways we will be sorry to leave Aldermaston Wharf.

 Starting to cut the carpet to shape

Meanwhile Darren has been down the blunt end applying the last coat of light grey paint to the stern deck.

The blunt end is now finished!

Oh,  I should mention it’s our 41st wedding anniversary today.  At least once a week I open one eye first thing in the morning and eye my girl.  Then I give myself a little pinch just to remind myself how lucky she is to have me.  Of all the girls in the world I chose her and I should really remind her of this more often!  Perhaps I should also skip getting her to proof-read today’s post?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Google Analytics

Every so often I look at Google Analytics to see where the blog traffic is originating. Mostly it’s to identify other boaters blogs as we are interested in their experiences.  Yesterday I found Narrowboat Sokai and have now placed Beryl & Dave on our blog roll.  I’ll follow their posts with interest.  If you have Waiouru on your blog list please send us a comment and I’ll cross link.

Analytics reports 7493 people have visited the blog and 56% of them have come from another site whilst 25% arrived directly. The remainder arrived via a search engine. On average the visitor spends 1 minute 19 seconds looking at the blog. Well that surprised me…… I’d expect it to take far less time to skim through this rubbish! Winking smile Looking at the visits per day there was a 33% increase on the 25th November. After going back and reading the content of that post I’m now confused as it had almost nothing to do with boating. I’m sure the data in Analytics could be used to increase the target audience. But I don’t have any targets. The blog simply contains the ramblings of a retiree.   LOL.

Back to boat building.   I had a meeting with Andy yesterday during which he suggested we test more of the systems on Waiouru before our planned departure at the end of the week.  It made sense so yesterday I turned off the shore-power at 4:00pm.  The intention was to see how much the battery capacity dropped by (as a percentage) over a 16 hour period.  We would then run the engine and recharge the domestic battery bank.  This would give us an indication of how long on average the engine needs to be run to recharge the batteries.  My idea was to turn the engine off when the batteries reached “float”.  From there on I wanted to see if the solar panels could complete the charging.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Familiar Story

 

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work,  instead of living on public assistance."

Cicero - 55 BC

Not much changes! Smile with tongue out

I have been asked on a number of occasions “What happened to Ben Harp?”  So this is an update.

Following our complaint to the police of actual and attempted theft Ben Harp was arrested and questioned by the police.  Apparently he claimed he couldn’t remember much about what had happened because it had all occurred so long ago.  The police did tell us the UK wheels of justice turn very slowly.  Almost a year later the police gave the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).  In the UK the police don’t make the decision to prosecute.  We were subsequently informed by the police several months later that the CPS had decided not to prosecuted.  The reasons given were:

  • Ben Harp had to be given the benefit of the doubt about stealing our equipment that was in his possession. (The complaint of theft) He claimed someone else had taken it.
  • We were not the victims of the attempted boat theft as the insurance company had paid our claim.

Our insurance cover was with a broker specialising in leisure marine with the actual risk being spread amongst three major insurance companies.  We were advised by the broker the main insurance companies were declining to make a complaint of attempted theft to the police as they believed there was almost no possibility of recovering any monies from Ben Harp.  Basically they couldn’t be bothered!

At that time we were informed that Ben Harp would be charged with the breaking of the document server’s car windscreen.  This occurred when he attempted to serve our High Court order on Ben Harp.  The document server was a former police officer who; unlike the insurance companies; was prepared to make a complaint.

I found this situation unsatisfactory as it ignored our own substantial financial loss (the gap between the actual loss and the insurance cover).  It also ignored the fact that the attempted theft was of our boat.

Following my representations the police requested the CPS have a more senior lawyer review the case.  Three months later we were advised the CPS had confirmed they wouldn’t proceed with a prosecution.  We were informed that whilst one of the values of the police was to offer a “service” to the public the cost of prosecuting ran into ten of thousands of pounds and the CPS would have done a cost benefit analysis as part of their review.  One assumes the inference is……… there were no victims as the Joneses had been reimbursed by their insurers and the insurers were no longer interested in the matter.

Returning to the matter of cost benefit analysis.  It is possible to look at the CPS statistics online and I’ve looked at the figures in October 2011 for Staffordshire.  October is the month the CPS declined to prosecute Ben Harp.

CPS outcomes by principal offence category fordshire

Total Prosecutions

Successful convictions

% Convicted

A Homicide

0

0

0

B Offences Against The Person

214

161

75.20%

C Sexual Offences

22

20

90.90%

D Burglary

34

33

97.10%

E Robbery

13

9

69.20%

F Theft And Handling

229

216

94.30%

G Fraud And Forgery

13

8

61.50%

H Criminal Damage

62

47

75.80%

I Drugs Offences

56

51

91.10%

J Public Order Offences

114

97

85.10%

K All Other Offences (excluding Motoring)

38

34

89.50%

L Motoring Offences

431

399

92.60%

Admin Finalisations

13

0

0.00%

TOTAL

1239

1,075

86.80%

Data available here

As you can see the CPS achieved a 94.3% conviction rate for the month.  Comparable figures were also achieved on the remaining months in 2011.  But of course you can make statistics say whatever you like.  In my opinion if an accurate measurement of crime is to be identified the success percentile should be measured against the number of cases investigated by the police rather than against those selected for prosecution by the CPS.  Adopting the latter approach could potentially lead to accusations of “picking the easy cases” to achieve a high success rate.

Did you know the CPS operate an employee performance bonus scheme where a percentage of the gross annual salary budget is available to be distributed if performance targets are met?  This could also potentially lead to the “picking of cases”.

At the end of the day the losers in all of this are you and me.  We all either directly or indirectly pay for insurance.  The insurance companies spread the risk amongst themselves.  Their premiums rise to cover their loses.  CPS bonuses are paid for achieving targets.  The police appear to waste a considerable amount of time investigating and preparing cases only to have them refused because they not 95% guaranteed.  It must be morale sapping for the frontline police!  The politicians like the statistics as it demonstrates to the general public that the UK is obviously a safer place.  The criminals like it.  They only have to throw a slight doubt into the case against them for it to be discarded. 

Many years ago I was taught “Justice delayed is justice denied”.  The wheels of justice turn so slowly these days it appears to be justice denied!  I was also taught “If you don’t stamp out the small violations then the environment will steadily deteriorate until you have a very significant problem”.  Crime was rife in New York until the mayor directed the police to get tough on all petty crime.

I reviewed our own situation regarding our complaint to the police and had to decide whether we should continue to battle for justice.  Whilst I would be prepared to battle on to stop Ben Harp from doing to other what he did to us, I don’t intend to spend my time trying to fix the British criminal justice system.  So we are cutting our loses and will focus on canal boating.  The name Ben Harp has been mentioned on this blog more than enough times that should he ever start building boats again any potential customer who uses Goggle should be warned.

This coming week should be our last tethered to the wharf.  The plan is to cut the umbilical cord (shore power) and slip the mooring lines.  Inland waterways here we come!

 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Working on the wiring

The morning was mild and clear which enabled us to get out and do some Christmas food shopping.  This proved to be a good decision as in the afternoon the mercury dropped and the sky opened.  The freezer is now full and the cupboards fully stocked with dry goods.  All we will need to shop for over Christmas is fresh fruit and veg.

Back at the yard a letter had arrived for Jan.  It was from the Royal Mail notifying her a parcel had arrived from Australia and the assessed VAT plus delivery charges came to £29.  The parcel contains some old (used) knitting patterns which belonged to my mother.  The patterns are worth less than the VAT so there is no way we’re paying the £29.  The advice notice states unless the £29 is paid within 20 days the parcel will be returned to sender.  Looks like it will be clocking up some air-miles! Smile

During the afternoon I made a start on the GSM module wiring.  I’m taking this very slowly as the last thing I want to do is damage the module. 

Top to Bottom.  Wireless receiver/transmitter, GSM/GPS Module, Empirbus GSM node. 

After taking this photo I’ve been able to wire the transmitter/receiver and validate it works.  The wiring to the GSM and GPS aerials are also now connected along with the wiring to the midships Empirbus node.  The outstanding work is to complete the wiring between the GSM module and the GSM node.  The system then needs to be configured and tested.

I’ve also been thinking of further ways to utilise the power of the Empirbus system.  The are a number of spare output terminals on the stern node. It should be possible to use one of these to control a 12v relay.  The other side of the relay could then be cut into the Beta engine stop button wiring.  This would enable the Empirbus system to remotely stop the engine either by using the master isolation switch; the remote key fob; or by sending the boat a text message.  Why do this?  Well the Beta ignition key seems to be very generic and at the moment it would be possible to start the engine with almost any Beta key before motoring off with the boat.  Provided the thief didn’t enter the cabin the motion detectors wouldn’t be activated.  Of course the GSM/GPS module would send a text message advising the boat was moving and keep updating it’s location in real time.  By adding the engine immobiliser into the system it would be possible to remotely stop the boat once the police had arrived on the scene.  Am I going to an extreme?  Perhaps; but then the cost of a 12v relay is just over £3 and that’s the only additional equipment required to install the proposed functionality.