Friday, 29 December 2017

Fridge, new task and new family member

After a long period of searching fridge designs and then price Jan has selected an LG 620 litre French door fridge as her preferred new home appliance.  This model doesn’t have the “in door” cold water and ice dispenser.  Our last large two door fridge did (a Jennair) and it turned into a bit of a disaster.


As usual, she was also hunting for a discount voucher and free delivery, eventually finding an online supplier $175 cheaper than anyone else.  We now have an 8 – 14 day wait whilst it’s shipped across the country.

Knowing my sister is in the process of having a new kitchen installed I phoned her to advice her of Jan delight in finding a cheap appliance supplier.  I was informed during this conversation that she and her husband were heading to the hospital as their daughter-in-law had given birth to a 4.2kg female earlier in the morning.  Mother and baby are doing well.  It was during this same call we were informed our nephew has given the baby Chinese christian names.  I worked that out when I asked what they had named her and was told “Wee Dnt No”.  Unusual…. but then little Wee appears to be doing well, so who can complain!

Jan has been enthusiastically going through the boxes we had stored in Australia whilst on Waiouru and discovered more “stuff” we’d forgotten we owned.  Along the way we noticed the two cheap chest of drawers we’d purchased a couple of decades ago had started to collapse.  They are only made from cheap particle board and thin “quasi” plywood.  The bottoms were also falling out of the base of the drawers. 

You can see the sag in the top.


The boys have long departed (that was a struggle) so rather than buy new furniture I’ve decided to attempt repairs.  The drawers have been pulled apart and reglued (actually there was no glue in the originals)


I’ve now made a start on the first carcass fitting some dressed 42x19mm pine as strong back rails to the top and base.  This has removed the sagging in the top and base.  I’ll also use some of the surplus 4mm plywood from our new Jarrah bed to brace and square the back.


Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Another Job Done

Yesterday I made a start on the refurbishing of the BBQ chairs and swing which are made from tubular steel.  After six years in storage and a decade exposed to the elements the paint had faded and was flaking.  There was also rust underneath the flaking paint. 

The first step was to remove the flaking paint and some of the rust using the small angle grinder and wire wheel (thank you Aldi).  The was followed by the application of rust kill to the affected areas.  The rust kill cured overnight and this morning the frames of the eight chairs and the three seater swing were painted.   I was a lousy painter prior to narrowboat Waiouru but after our time touching up boat paintwork I would classify myself as mediocre.

IMG_2091 I know my painting has improved because there is more paint on the chairs than me!

There are now only two planned maintenance jobs.  The timber formal dining table has been water and heat damage whilst in storage and will have to be refurbished.  I also need to refurbish the legs and underneath of the Jarrah BBQ table. 

Oh, Jan bought a ticket in the major Lotto draw for 30 Dec.  If we wind there will probably be enough money for a narrowboat! Smile

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Belated Merry Christmas

This is the post I was supposed to write yesterday afternoon.  However it was so exhausting watching all the ‘little people’ unwrap their presents I went and had an afternoon nap.  So a belated Merry Christmas to our readers.

By now you will realise there are only 364 days to Christmas!


Don’t get me going about the very commercial nature of Christmas and those other festive holidays.

My brother and sister-in-law invited us to their family Christmas Brunch.  They also live in Perth, but closer to the ocean.  Whilst they don’t have an ocean view their home is cooler as they get a cool afternoon westerly breeze off the Indian Ocean.  If it gets really hot there is a nice pool to go ‘skinny dipping’ swimming in.  With the mercury over 30 I was tempted!


There seemed to be an almost endless quantity of presents for the little ones.


For the ‘wrinklies’ there was a ‘Secret Santa’.  Every adult was requested to purchase a present with a maximum value of $10.  These were all placed in a large sack.  A raffle was taken to identify the order in which adults selected one of the presents.  Each adult was required to unwrap their present so the other adults could see the present.  Each subsequent adult to select a present was able to exchange it with another who had drawn earlier.  Jan drew No1 and was therefore unable to exchange her selected gift.  I drew No2 and could therefore only exchange with Jan.  hopefully you get the idea.

My brother’s gift was a set of mouthguards.  Initially I thought they were sports mouthguards but eventually realised they were “joke” guards.  Each adult was required to fit a mouthguard and then read a sentence.


It proved to be darned hard work with very indistinct speech and copious dribbling! Smile

Jan thinks she saw this next one in the Daily Mail.


Hi Ade and Karen.  Merry Christmas and have a safe New Year.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Another Anniversary

Monday was our 45th wedding anniversary.  Of course I had to give myself a little pinch just to remind myself how lucky Jan is to have me.  After all I had my pick of the girls and she was the lucky one.  Ladies it just goes to show if you play your cards right you might catch that handsome prince.  People who know me will realise she was attracted to my modesty.  We celebrated by having lunch out; an “all you can eat” salad bar at Sizzlers.  

We’re also thinking of Paul Macey (The Manly Ferry) and hope his operation went well!

Jan has been busy knitting baby blankets.  Not for us….. we just practice these days!  She has knitted a number in various patterns and they look rather good.  I continue to work on the 4x4 ands have now installed the power cable to the trailer, the electric trailer brake controller, dash camera and TPMS.  The latter is giving me a few problems.  I’ve wired it correctly (I hope) but it’s making beeping sounds when I turn the power on.  There’s nothing in the manual about “beeps” so I’ll have to do more research.


TPMS controller box.  The template to the right is for the three way switch panel.  I used the Lidl dremel to cut the hole in the base of the glovebox.


The left switch is for the 2way radio, centre is the TPMS and the right is for a future lightbar which might go on the front grill.

The last three days have been very hot with the air-con struggling to cope.  Christmas Day is going to be 30+     No sign of frost here, let alone ice and snow. Smile

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Like a cat on a hot tin roof

The weather was supposed to be cooler today so I decided to do something about the disconnected air-con duct in the master bedroom.  This is the duct I previously (and unsuccessfully) attempted to reach through the roof cavity managing to put my foot through the plaster cornice during the process.  The cornice has been repaired but I still needed to do something about the detached duct.

The new plan was keyhole surgery through the roof.  Like many older homes in Perth, the roof is clad in tiles.  The tiles on this roof are concrete which obviously gives them some strength.  However they are heavy which mean both the roof frame has to be strong and you need to be strong to move them.  I paced out the location of the ceiling vent on the bedroom floor and then aligned the ladder on the guttering outside the house.  My measurements were spot on and when I finally managed to move four roof tiles I could see the flexible air-con ducting in the roof cavity.  It was immediately apparent that my expanded six-pack (it’s now a keg) wasn’t going to allow me to squeeze down through the narrow gap in the stringers.  However there was a piece of wire attached to the roof truss holding the duct up and by repositioning the wire I was able to drop the end of the duct over the vent outlet.

By now the heat from the sun on the roof tiles was making its presence known.  I have one burned elbow and a burned knee.  My T-shirt also blew up my back in the wind leaving me with a touch of sunburn.  But at least that’s another maintenance job completed.

It appears the proposed course of action to router the narrowboat scene on the bedhead isn’t going to work.  The idea was to make a template by cutting out the scene using a ¼” router bit.  I’d then use an 1/8th in router bit with a ¼” shaft.  The plan was to use one inch blocks of pine to hold the template away from the surface of the bedhead.  The ¼” shaft of the router bit would be guided by the ¼”  grooves in the template and the 1/8th inch tip would cut the final outline in the bedhead.


After cutting some of the template I’ve realised it’s likely the ¼” grooves are going to be too wide and the template will fall into pieces.  It appears I may have to cut the outline freehand.

Meanwhile, I need another cool day to pull the dash out of the 4x4 and install the wiring looms I’m made.  Once the wiring is complete I can install the 2 way radio and the vehicle will be finished.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

A change on the way

We’ve had yet more days over 30C.  Even the locals are starting to complain about the weather.  Well that’s about to change as the forecast is for thunder and lightning today and tomorrow.

Yesterday we went back to Tass1 Trees where Jan bought a Peacharine tree.  Her intention was to buy a Nectarine but the lady at the orchard informed the temperature is too high in the suburb where we live.

The hole in the ceiling plasterboard has been repaired and given two coats of paint.  I’ve also sanded down the top of the Jarrah BBQ table and given it five coats of oil.


It now needs to be turned over so I can restore the underside and legs. 

Meanwhile I’ve been making progress on the 4x4.  The dashcam has been installed on the windscreen along with the aerial for the TPMS sensors.  


I’ve identified the brake light sensor wire at the brake pedal and partially finished wiring in the electric brake controller.  The Redarc remote has been fitted into a blank on the dash (far right knob in the photo below) and I installed the controller unit on the parcel shelf under the steering column.  The shelf is as useful for storage as hip pockets on a singlet so it seemed a good spot for things rarely touched.


The brake controller is on the right.  I’ve also fitted a small fuse box (left) for the accessories being supplied from the VSR.


Meanwhile Jan has been playing with her organ.  It quite amazing the noises she can make when running her fingers across it.  Actually Jan was slightly concerned when she noticed white spots on it (the organ).  Then she realised it was from the plaster off the ceiling that I’d sanded the previous day.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Creating work….

Jan pointed out the aircon vent in the master bedroom was producing far less cold air than the other vents in the house.  “Nonsense!” says me who then goes to check it.  Looking up through the vent I could see daylight….. #$%^^&*!!!  That’s when I realised the flexible ducting had partially dislodged from the vent.  The aircon was cooling the ceiling cavity and then the wider community of Perth.  OK, another maintenance job!  I used the new step ladder to climb up and removed the ceiling access panel in the passageway and then climbed into the roof cavity armed with a torch and a roll of duct tape.  It was at this point I discovered the head clearance in the roof cavity was exceptionally low.  Moreover the large flexible aircon ducts provided a great barrier for fat elderly men.  I managed to scramble over one but the second defeated me.  I was simply unable to cock my leg high enough.  Old dogs will know what I mean.  Having realised I wasn’t going to be able to reach the affected area I attempted to extract myself and go back down the access hatch.  Unfortunately (for me) my arthritic heel caught the plaster architrave.


Rather than fix a problem I’ve created a second.  <ggrrrrrrr>

I’ve made a mould from a couple of scraps of pine and covered the inside with masking tape.  The tape was then given a liberal coating of beeswax in the hope the new plaster wont stick to the paper.


The mould was then clamped in place and I started the multi-stage process of applying layers of plaster to fill in the damaged area.


I can’t do it in one go as the plaster will fall out of the hole.

On a more positive note I’ve replaced the valve stems in the 16 inch steel rims I purchased yesterday.  They had conventional valve stems and the tip of the stem protrudes outside the profile of the rim.


I’m going to fit TPMS sensors to the ends of the stems and I’m concerned they will get damaged when going off road.  The idea is to fit a shorter valve stem which will result in the sensors being inside the steel rim where (hopefully) they will have better protection. 

The first step was to remove the existing valve stems.  I achieved this by using a pair of molegrip pliers.


That proved to be considerably easier than I’d expected.  Moreover the valve stems don’t appear to have been damaged in the process so I now have spares.

The new valve stems are definitely shorter.


Some liquid soap was used to lubricate the new valve stem


And then I used a 4 Way Valve tool to pull the valve until it seated correctly


I’m rather pleased with the final result.  If I’d taken the rims to the tyre shop they would have probably charged me $30-40.


As you know it’s getting close to Christmas and Jan has been making decorations from anything she can find.

Xmas Decorations


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Wheels and Tyres

This post is going to provide an explanation on why I intend to replace the current 18 inch alloy rims on the 4x4 with 16 inch steel rims.

Our Isuzu MU-X My17 4x4 came with 18 inch alloy wheels and 255/60R16 AT tyres.  This figure 255/60R16 is a combination of metric, percentage and imperial measurements.  The R16 means the diameter of the wheel rim the tyres fits is 16 inches.  The 255 is the width of the tyre tread in millimetres.  The 60 means the height of the sidewall of the tyre is 60% of the width of the tread.  So the height of the sidewall is 153mm (255x60%).  Converting 18 inches to millimetres =  457.2mm.  The overall diameter of the current wheel and tyre is therefore 763.2mm.

In Australia you are legally allowed to increase the ground clearance height of a vehicle by 50mm without requiring any special permission.

Some people believe you can increase a vehicles ability to operate off sealed roads by fitting wider tyres with aggressive looking knobbly tread patterns.  Whilst these tyres are good when climbing steep rocky terrain or driving through mud, they perform poorly on sand or out in the desert.  For this type of environment a narrow tyre with high sidewalls is better.  When travelling on soft sand or desert tracks it is important to reduce the air pressure in the tyres.  This increase the tyre tread “footprint” on the ground thereby spreading the vehicle load over a greater surface area. 

The footprint of a “fat knobbly’ tyres looks like this 


Whereas the deflated footprint of a ‘skinny high sidewall’ tyre looks like this


The “skinny” tyre footprint looks very similar to that of a tank or bulldozer track and that is what improves it’s performance in sand or soft dry terrain.

Our Isuzu has been delivered with rims and tyres that are a compromise between bitumen and off road work.  The majority of 4x4 vehicles never leave the bitumen and therefore the manufacturers fit rims and tyres for that environment.  I therefore need two different sets of rims and wheels.  The original tyres and rims will be for normal use.

for off road use my solution is to fit smaller rims by replacing the alloy 18” with steel 16”.  This will then enable me to fit “skinny” tyres with a high sidewall.  That way I can deflate the skinny tyre to achieve the desired caterpillar footprint.

I’m rather fortunate that many base model light utility vehicles are sold with 16 inch steel rims.  Steel happens to be cheaper than alloy.  Moreover many young male utility owners don’t like the ‘basic’ look of 16 inch steel rims and replace them with larger after market alloy rims and big knobbly tyres.

Today I was able to purchase four 16in steel rims from a young male utility owner who now has larger alloy rims.


In my opinion a steel rim is superior to alloy for off road movement.  The alloy is certainly lighter and just as strong a steel.  However if you hit a rock with a rim it can bend and steel is much easier to bash back into shape with a club hammer of axle head.  So for off road work I prefer steel.

A 16 inch rim diameter means I can increase the tyre sidewall height.  I wrote a small spreadsheet and calculated the best tyre for the 16in rim is a 235/85R16.  At 235 it is 20mm narrower than the current tyres on the 4x4.  The diameter of the combined rim and tyre is 801mm which is an increase of 38mm over the existing combination.  It’s also less than the maximum allowed 50mm.   So this should result in the desired narrow and long footprint when the tyres are deflated. 

There is one other advantage of using a ‘skinny’ tyre.  It means the sidewall of the tyre is less likely to be damaged (eg, staked or punctured) when travelling in the tracks of a previous vehicle.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Threatened industrial action

It would be rather nice if some of those narrowboat bloggers would send some of that weather this way.  The temperature at home has been over 30°C for the last 10 days and the house air conditioning unit is now murmuring about industrial action.  When it’s cold you can add more clothes, but when it’s hot there’s only so much you can take off before scaring small children and old ladies!

I’ve been doing more work on the car.  Not full-time as the sun on the garage roller door turns the garage into a furnace.

My brother kindly gave me a piece of box tube steel and I then used our angle grinder to cut out a strip of steel to make a mounting bracket for the 175A Anderson plug which will supply power from the 4x4 alternator to the trailer battery.  I’ve ‘over engineered’ it because the alternator is rated at 100A and probably only produces around 70A.  So at 175A the plug is more than capable of taking the maximum electrical load.


I filled the back of the plug with silicon to reduce water egress and have the red cap on the front to keep out dust and water (I hope)


With the rear of the vehicle complete I turned my attention to routing the wires into the cabin.  There is a rubber cable duct grommet on the passenger side firewall, however there wasn’t sufficient room for all my additional cables.  This was solved by cutting a slit in the grommet for the cables.  The cables were sprayed with silicon to ease their passage through the slit.  I didn’t pull through the final 4 inches until I’d given everything a good covering of silicon sealer.  the final part of the cables was the pulled though and tension applied to the cables inside the cabin whilst the silicon set.


Wires waiting to go through the grommet


All sealed up

Whilst the silicon sealer was setting I mounted the automatic resetting circuit breaker which goes in the positive feed cable to the trailer electric brake controller.  I was concerned about the bare terminal studs and needed to find a location where they would be protected.  Eventually I found a spot adjacent to the battery underneath the mudguard frame.


All you can see of it are the mounting bolts.

Then I turned my attention to fitting the dashcam to the front window along with the aerial for the tyre pressure management system (TPMS).  The wires were tucked under the 4x4 headlining (an easy task).  To route them down to the dash I removed the trim off the driver window pillar.


By now it was just too hot to continue.

A final thought regarding the blacking on Waiouru.  We opted for a two pack epoxy over the standard stuff and it proved to be very successful.  The boat had two full coats and a 3rd coat 30cm above and below the waterline.  During three winters we broke ice and the blacking wasn’t damaged during these movements.  I attribute this to three possible reasons

  • The quality of the product
  • Jan and I applied the blacking and had a vested interest in ensuring it was done properly
  • The blacking was applied approximately four months before Waiouru was launched allowing plenty of time for it to cure.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Thoughts on a Narrowboat Part 8–The Stern

This is going to be the final part of my thoughts on a live aboard continuously cruising narrowboat layout.  If I’ve been boring you there will now be a change of topic.

Narrowboat sterns tend to be either ‘Trad’ (just room for the steerer), ‘Cruiser’ (an open stern deck) or ‘Semi-Trad’ (roughly a cruiser stern but with sides so it looks like a Trad when viewed from the side.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  Many hireboats have a cruiser stern because it provides an open area where hirers can congregate and socialize.  Trads maximize the internal cabin space and shield the lower half of the steerer in inclement weather. 

All the boats we hired had cruiser sterns and it was a miserable feeling being at the tiller soaking wet from driving rain and wind.  We opted for a semi-trad stern for four main reasons.

  • By installing a pram cover over the stern it created an area where one could get out of wet clothing before entering the boat.  It was also a reasonable area for drying wet coats, hats, etc when moored during inclement weather.
  • The area allowed us to fit lockers on either side.  One was for our two 13kg gas bottles and the other held the central heater header tank and starter battery.
  • There was some protection for the steerer when cruising in bad or cold weather.
  • Room for two or more people.

The engine bay was well set out with the Hurricane central heater forward on the port uxter plate with the hospital silencer behind it.  The starboard side had the calorifier  and the large traction battery bank sat across the stern.  The propulsion train consisted of a Beta 43 connected to a python drive and thrust plate.  A Vetus water lubricated stern gland eliminated the need to grease the drive shaft.  An Axiom propeller powered the boat. 

There were two lockable diesel tanks at the stern.  The propulsion tank had a capacity of 295 litres and the heater tank held 90 litres.

I had specified a steel bulkhead between the engine compartment and the cabin.  It provided a strong waterproof barrier to deck level.  My idea was that should the engine compartment spring a leak it would take longer to sink the boat.

I was pleased with the way the thrust plate on the Python Drive directed all the force from the propeller into the hull rather than into the gearbox/engine and eventually the engine mounts.  The engine appeared to be very happy with this arrangement

If we were to do this again the only thing I might change is the Axiom propeller which was quite expensive.  Because this was the only propeller we had during our time on the boat I have no way of assessing whether it was better than the conventional propellers.  However it certainly didn’t give us any problems.

Another thing I would look at changing is the location of the diesel tanks.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I’d look at fitting them under the floor of the main cabln.   I would stay with the 20mm thick baseplate which both eliminated the need for ballast and would provide room for tanks under the floor in what is usually the bilge.

The attention we paid to ensuring the boat was well insulated kept us warm in winter and cool in summer.  It also reduced our heating bill and ensured we always had a dry bilge.  

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Next Project–The Teak Table

I’ve just realised I wrote this blog post and never published it

With only the final two draw fronts to fit onto the bed I decided to make a start on the damaged Teak Table which we purchased back in 1981 whilst living in Singapore.  Over the years the Teak has seasoned (dried out), shrunk and the colour in the timber has stained or faded.  A split appeared in the top around a decade after we’d purchased it and I’ve been delaying any repair thinking it would be very hard. 

The split has widened after a further six years of storage in the shipping container whilst we were on Waiouru.

This morning I turned the table over and closely examined how it was assembled.  It appeared to be held together with large old fashioned wood screws and bone glue.  After removing the securing frame I was able to take the carved top out of the surrounds and examine the split. 

IMG_2021 It was obvious I would need to remove the end leg.  The leg wasn’t damaged, but a gap had appeared between it and the table frame.  Some of the securing Teak had also broken away.


After removing the leg I realised the split was both vertical and horizontal.  Actually this was probably good news as I’d be able to glue in two planes which will hopefully strengthen the final bond.


Second split

I wanted to do a test clamping to see if it was possible to realign all the breaks.  The problem was the shape of the table.  It’s oval!  How do you clamp an oval cable?  In the end I decided to try using one of our cargo securing ratchet straps.  I didn’t want the metal hooks and ratchet to mark the timber so I cut some small pine blocks which I used to keep the metal away from the side of the table.


The ratchet strap worked rather well in combination with some clamps applying local pressure.


Once I was confident the clamping method was going to work I removed the clamps and applied copious quantities of PVA glue.  The clamps were then reapplied and the excess glue wiped up with a damp cloth.  It will now be left for 48 hours.

Three days later I’ve sanded back the top and sides before applying two coats of satin varnish.  All that is now left is the sanding and varnishing of the legs, then we’ll be able to refit the glass top.


Whilst searching for the cargo strap I noticed our magic keg.  It’s a great little device which we bought from a cooper in the Barossa Valley, South Australia.  You pour cheap rough port into it and wait six months.  Smooth liquid gold then comes out the tap.


The keg is made from Oak that has been recovered from used red wine casks.  Unfortunately six years of being stored empty has resulted in the seams opening so I’ve filled it with water (who wants to waste cheap port) and left it in the laundry tub for the timber to swell.