Sunday, 11 March 2018

Bathroom Progress 1

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

We managed to grab rather less than 2 days on board last week, allowing me to make a start on the bathroom rebuild.

In this case the pictures can largely tell the story so far, and further words probably don't add much, other than saying that things didn't always go as smoothly or as fast as I was hoping they would.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Seriously Gratifying Wanton Destruction!

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Ever since I saw the oversized bath in "Flamingo" I have hated it, (see previous post).

We have already reclaimed about 3 feet of main cabin space by reducing the bathroom back to the size that it was before the previous owner decided to modify it from "very large" to "ridiculously large".  As a temporary arrangement we had simply moved the bath 3 feet further forward as well - it could be used as a large shower tray, at least, and we had more urgent tasks to attend to.

Now, however, we were ready to start a refit, and replace the bath with something not taking up such an excessively large part of our total accommodation.

We knew a great deal of damage had been done getting it into the boat.  The only way in had been through a side hatch, but it wasn't big enough, and quite a bit of the ceiling lining had been hacked away to make it possible - damage that was never repaired, and is still with us.  So I was not prepared to do further damage, or risk my repairing hernia operation to try getting it out in one piece.

So out came the angle grinder.  I knew ground up GRP would make a mess - and it did.  However I have to say this bit of wanton destruction was one of the most therapeutic things I have done in ages!

Goodbye bath - I hated you!

Friday, 2 March 2018

How any baths would you actually like, sir?

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

I have been trying to order a new small bath for "Flamingo", (see previous post)

The cheapest firm I could find with reasonable customer reviews said it was on 3 to 4 day delivery, so I ordered and paid for it, (payment number 1). They then told me they couldn't after all supply for 10 weeks, so I requested a cancellation and a refund.

I then contacted another company, and made very specific inquiries that they definitely had it in stock - no problem, they said.   So I ordered and paid for it, (payment number 2). They then contacted me and said they had managed to sell the one they had, between my asking and them receiving my order, (a couple of hours only), and could not get another in for for 6 weeks, so I requested a cancellation and a refund.

So far then, I had fully paid for two baths that were claimed to be available, but was nowhere closer to having a bath to install.

I tried contacting several other suppliers, but none had stock - it seemed these had to come from the factory, and the factory can not supply at the current time.

In desperation I ordered a completely different bath from a third company, (payment number 3) - it wasn't quite as suitable, but was cheaper and would do.

So I had somewhat of a surprise when this turned up on a lorry today, because it was the type I had paid for and had been told I couldn't have for months (twice). The van was from a plumbing supply company I didn't know to be involved, and the driver had no paperwork to give any clue as to which of the two companies who had said they could not supply had now actually managed to by an unexpected route.  (It couldn't be the final bath I had ordered, being the wrong type).

It took a fair amount of detective work, and quite a few phone calls to locate the company who's van had delivered.  Initially they insisted they do not deliver on behalf of other companies, but, after keeping my cool rather more than I felt like keeping it, I finally managed to get them to do enough looking on their systems to see that my company number 2 above had asked them to deliver directly to me on their behalf.

An apologetic man at company number 2 took several sharp intakes of breath, and kept muttering "it's supply chain you see", or "I don't know how some people actually manage to get themselves up, dressed, and go to work in the morning".  I said I sympathised, but now as potentially going to end up with 2 baths!

Anyway I now had the bath we initially wanted, but was told I couldn't have.  So I tried to cancel the third bath ordered.   I was told it was already dispatched, and we could face carriage charges of up to £80 as they attempt to retrieve it back to their depot.  I wasn't a happy bunny, but obviously they are the one company in three who had not got things wrong, and it seemed unfair to be cross with them when it was the other companies that had caused the problem.  Fortunately they have since rung me and said it had not got very far, and I will probably not be charged.

I would actually have liked to be a fly on the wall at company number 2, but I don't suppose I will ever know quite what went on here.

At the moment my credit card account shows I have paid for three baths, but I currently only have one.  I suspect I'll be making more phone calls!
Incidentally, purchasing a wash basin, mounted on a cabinet, (from a different company again), has fortunately proved far less problematic.  They said they had stock - they did have stock, and it has been delivered undamaged!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Planning In Progress

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

When we bought Flamingo, without a doubt the most unsightly and messed about with part of it was the bathroom, (or more accurately the war zone claimed to be the bathroom).

The previous owner had decided to take the very oversized bathroom that was already in the boat when he bought it, and rip down bulkheads to make it even longer by about an additional three feet.

A very large bath had been put in.  I hesitate to use words like "installed" because it hadn't been.  Although never properly fitted, the side panel that went with it had already been smashed and crudely glued back together.

Where tiling had been ripped down we just had frayed plywood where it had once been, and black plastic had been taped over much of the damaged area.

There was no chance of heating sufficient water to fill a full sized bath, and, anyway, the main fresh water tank really didn't have the capacity to support that either.

There was no wash basin.

A bizarre underfloor heating system had been hand crafted from large bore copper pipe, and the main radiator circuit diverted to include it, thus destroying any natural flow assisted by gravity.

Some time back we had spent much effort relocating the bulkhead at the rear end back to where it had once been, thus still giving us a very large bathroom, but giving us 3 feet of extra kitchen space rearward of it, (ultimately the whole kitchen will be moved forward, to give more living space behind).  We had to decommission a radiator, (because it had been placed where we moved the bulkhead back to), and we also ripped out the underfloor heating.  Much ingenuity was used to get rid of most of the wall damage.

However because we were not ready for a full bathroom refit, we had temporarily reused the massive bath, but moved forward by 3 feet.  We couldn't really bath in it, but it could still be used as a large shower tray.  We have survived this way for several trips, and general living aboard at the mooring.

However we have now decided that refitting the new bathroom should be our next priority.  My previous post explains that we have already had to move the calorifier, (the hot water tank), to one corner of the bathroom.  Some space has been used up, as a result, but it was really the only way we could put back a system that worked, (and could be worked upon).

So thoughts have turned to how the rest of it should look.  We have decided to retain a bath, but a much smaller one - it can mostly be used as a shower of course.  I find modelling ideas in the free version of SketchUp to be highly useful for visualising how things will fit together.  I can rotate the model and view from any angle, taking in and out individual elements.  I can even "walk through" the bathroon if I choose.  What is reproduced here are of course just 2 dimensional images, but the whole tool is remarkably powerful.

We are happy we have a way forward.  Unfortunately actually getting our preferred parts has proved harder, and we have not been able  to order up our first choice of bath in a time frame that is acceptable.  So in fact the sketch-up images already need modifying, as the alternate choice of bath will not now be one with a seat in it.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Some Progress Made A Little While back

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

General arrangement looking forward.
Back in the early part of last summer we went to the boats to investigate a number of issues we knew we were ignoring on "Flamingo".  High up that list was that we knew that somewhere in the mess of plumbing and tanks that the previous owner had installed under our main bed at the front of the boat was a leak.  We had chosen to keep this part of the circuit isolated unless we tried to use the hot water tanks, but each time we opened up the taps joining the rest of the boat plumbing to it, there was intermittent running of the water pump when there should not have been.

Header tank (top) and expansion vessel (red)
The leak quickly narrowed down to the fact that one of two hot water tanks he had installed had a hole in it.  It was obvious he had known this, because he had stripped the foam insulation off the tank, and attempted a bodged repair that has not worked.  As soon as we stripped the replacement lagging he had hidden it with off, we could see water jetting out of the tank!

Further inspection showed the hot water tanks used, (there were two), were not proper boat calorifiers able to stand the pressures found in a boats pumped system, but were simple domestic types only tested to a much lower pressure, (almost certainly contributing to the original failure).  These were tested to 1.4 bar, whereas the pressure they need to withstand is more than double that figure.

New calorifier made to order and delivered next day!
So with the tanks declared useless, and all the plumbing around them a complete rats nest of different pipe and connector types, with about 5 times more joints than should have been necessary, a decision was taken to scrap the lot.  It was only removed by partial destruction of the bed, which had been constructed over the top using nails, making it impossible to access the plumbing and tanks and remove them without use of both jemmy bars and a sledge hammer!

Copper pipe is to boiler and radiators, domestic hot water in plastic.
Reluctantly we decided the space available was too small and cramped to fit any single proper marine calorifier that was likely to be useful, and (importantly!) to allow access to it afterwards.  So we decided a new  hot water tank would have to be relocated to the bathroom - disappointing, as it would take up very good storage space, wheres the space freed up under the bed is not really much use for day to day storage.

Our stove has a large back boiler connected to pipes that both heat the water tank and also several radiators throughout the boat - this all had to be drained down of course, making the stove unusable  However we thought we would have no issue getting a new installation in before we needed to have heating available in the winter.

Then our son Michael broke his ankle spectacularly, and we were hardly able to get near the boat for several months.  We were rapidly facing the possibility the boat would be uninhabitable in the winter months.   However we finally managed to get on board for several short stays of only 2 or 3 full days at a time, and, having ordered up a custom made marine calorifier, I set about reinstating everything in a new location, including relocating a radiator in the bathroom, and adding a new one in the bedroom.  By some mercy much of this went into November, but it was just about mild enough that we could survive a few days without heat.  Finally it was back together enough to refill, (thankfully there were no leaks!), and to try out.  It works, and now produces hot water very much better than the appalling arrangements we were forced to rip out.

Looking backwards - radiator is reused, but relocated.
This was a job I had hoped to avoid for a year or two, and having to do it now has stopped us doing other things.  However once we found unsuitable cylinders had been used by the last owner, we really had no other option.   Much of our efforts have not been on renovation or refit of the boat as it was before the last owner acquired it.  Far too much in fact has been it reversing the stuff that he did to it - it really would have been far easier to take on the boat that he bought at the start of his 7 year ownership, rather than have to deal with the "improvements" he believed he had made to it!

Finally I regret not having taken pictures of the original arrangements, hemmed in by a bed constructed over the top in a way that could not be taken apart and which allowed almost no access to sort out problems.  It was a maze of pipework and joints almost beyond belief, and I should have kept some record of it.  Instead I filled up quite a bit of space at Northampton recycling centre, with no permanent record of what was in the void we now have - so the opportunity for "before" and "after" pictures has been lost.

Monday, 1 January 2018

2017 - Another Year That Did Not Follow a Plan

(Boat Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

We always knew when we took on a boat needing as much work as "Flamingo" did that we would have some years where we did far less actual boating than we were able to manage in the past when we owned our relatively modern leisure boat "Chalice".

However we could never have bargained with quite how many non boating related distractions there would be to keep us not only from boating but also quite often to also stop us getting on with working on the boats.  Since buying "Flamingo" we have had to deal with the deaths of Cath's step-mother and more recently her mother, whilst I have had various health complications, fortunately non of them life threatening, but certainly involving surgery to eyes, (twice) and a shoulder operation.

We hoped 2017 would be the year we would make more intensive use of "Flamingo", because, although there is much to do, the engine side is now fully sorted, and she could be used with far more confidence than in previous years.

For "Sickle" we had taken a decision to replace her engine with one we had originally agreed to buy for "Flamingo", hoping this would also guarantee trouble free boating.  This work had yet to happen at the start of 2017.

We had ambitious plans to take both boats to multiple festivals and gatherings, including Rickmansworth, Foxton Locks, Braunston and later in the year Alvecote, as well as doing one much longer trip with "Flamingo".

We started well, but eventually things did not go to plan................

In February, we managed to work around planned stoppages to take "Sickle" to Brinklow Boat Services.......

Cath takes "Sickle" down Hillmorton - last trip with 3 cylinder engine.

The fitting of the new engine proved not to be quite as straightforward, and hence rather more expensive than we had hoped.  The end result, however. looks very tidy.......

"Sickle" now sports a Lister HA2, (replacing a Lister HA3)

In March we broght "Sickle" back to her mooring - on that trip all seemed OK........

Alan in charge at Long Buckby locks.

In April we did what proved to be by far the biggest trip of the year, taking just "Flamingo" on a tour of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, and principally to the Historic Narrow Boat Club gathering at Brownhills on the Wyrley & Essington Canal.  This proved to be quite challenging due to the condition of some of the Birmingham canals used, but was a perfect shake-down for "Flamingo's" engine that had not yet seen much use since a total rebuild in late 2016.  It passed with flying colours, and, as the year worked out, we are very glad we stretched ourselves to do that intensive trip.......

Lapworth on the Stratford Canal - Still some way from Brownhills!

In May the idea that we would do a long tour with both boats kicked in.  First stop was Rickmansworth Festival - there are a lot of locks travelling South from our home mooring to "Ricky", and we took the opportunity to prove that "Flamingo's" much improved performance, (and stopping power!), allowed us to work flights with both boats breasted together.......

Travelling breasted at Marsworth locks means some fairly impressive bends .

The Rickmansworth Festival passed without issues, but only a few locks into the return trip things started to go wrong.  "Sickle's" gearbox, (part of the deal with the "new" engine), started to lock so it could not be taken out of reverse gear.  A bit of examination showed it would not be a quick fix, and that plans for the next two events would not be possible.

Only an expert eye would know all is not quite as it should be inside here.

We had to temporarily abandon "Sickle in a local boat yard, whilst the supplier of the engine and gearbox sorted out how to resolve the failure.......

People power to get round gearbox issue.

We decided to still do the Foxton and Braunston events with just "Flamingo".........

Down to one boat - Stoke Hammond Three Locks
Our first time on the Leicester in many years - Watford Locks

We then took "Flamingo" to Braunston.......

 So back the other way through the Watford staircase locks.

"Sickle" was repaired before the Braunston show, but it was far too late to get her there to join "Flamingo" - we did however manage to squeeze in a move up to Berkhamsted, (which also stopped us having to pay for more Marina moorings)........

Cath in charge - Winkwell swing bridge.

After a successful Braunston with just "Flamingo" we took her back to the home mooring......

In Braunston locks

We then took "Sickle" to the Linslade Canal Festival........


And then back to join "Flamingo" at our home moorings......

It's starting to look like Cath did all the steering.
We thought we would make good some of the lost time by our big final trip out of the year, that should have sen us taking both boats to our favourite historic boat gathering at Alvecote in August.  We got as far as being on the boats and ready to leave.  Then we got a fatal phone call that resulted in all other boating for the rest of the year not happening.  Yes, we really were unable to go nowhere in any of August, September, October, November and December.

The reasons are covered in a post previous to this one, but are summed up by this image......

What our son Michael managed to do to his ankle in August.
We are very glad we got as much in as we did in the early part of the year, but still only managed some 500 miles, whereas past boating has seen us do at least twice that in many years.  We really are hoping 2018 will be better!

Totals for 2017 Miles: 544, Locks: 437

Thursday, 9 November 2017

For those who don't know - why there has been no blog since August

(Posted by Alan)

OK, I know we are not really very good at keeping the blog up to date, but at least this time I have a fairly good excuse.

The year had already not gone to plan from a boating viewpoint.  The temporary failure of the gearbox on "Sickle's" replacement engine early in the year meant we had to abandon plans to continue taking both boats together around a series of festivals, and instead just do much of what we had planned at that time with just "Flamingo".

However August was meant to see us at least a bit back on track, and the plan was to take both boats to our favourite festival of the calendar, namely the historic boat event at Alvecote.  On the last day we could set off without a big rush to get there, Cath David, I and 2 large dogs travelled up to the home mooring, with two cars well filled, and loaded up the boats.  Only because of delays due to road closures had we not already set off, when I took a call from our other son, Michael.

Before dislocation dealt with
"Hello Dad - I've broken my ankle playing five a side, and I'm on my way to A&E".  I don't think any of us immediately realised quite how momentous those words would turn out to be, but the immediate result was we had to throw as much stuff as we could into one car, (including all of us and the dogs), and set off for Watford General.

Realigned, but still swollen.
The reality, as things unfolded is that he had sustained a very bad 3 part fracture, (a "trimalleolar" fracture), and that once they had manipulated it to get everything back roughly in line, he had to lay with leg heavily elevated for 6 days before the swelling had even subsided sufficiently to allow them to do the necessary surgery.  He then acquired 2 stainless steel plates, and necessary fastenings, apparently enough to guarantee setting off airport body scanners. It rather looks like parts purchased from Screwfix.

2 plates and lots of screws
Although discharged quite soon after the operation, he has not  been given permission to try any load bearing on it until the very last few days.  So for around 11 weeks he has been largely unable to do very much for himself, requiring crutches or a walking frame to get about at all.  Obviously throughout he has remained unable to work, (and even when he can return, will not yet be OK to drive).

Same time, different angle
So this has very much taken over our lives, and not only did Alvecote not happen, we have until recently been unable to get to the boat to start to reinstate the heating and hot water system, most of which we had scrapped earlier in the year, assuming we would have time to put it back before the weather got too cold to be on the boat without heating,

Fortunately Michael's improving situation has allowed us three brief trips to "Flamingo", during which time we have often been cold, but the weather has been unseasonably mild, and I have been able to make much progress on the revised plumbing, to include a new calorifier, (effectively the equivalent of a domestic hot water cylinder), and revised radiator layout.  Of which, no doubt, more to follow in a subsequent posting.

Anyway - that's why absolutely no boating has happened since I last completed a blog post.