Monday, 31 August 2009

Battleship Grey

Or, rather, International Yacht [and narrowboat, toolbox, fuel can, and all manner of other objects] Primer grey.

I finished, after 6 days of work, stripping all the paint off the roof and the upper part of the sides of the boat, as well as the rear bulkhead. We had painted parts of the roof as we went along, and today, I used a marker pen to mark any unevenness, and then angle ground off the paint from that area, before using metal filler to smooth over the areas of pitting, weld lines, etc. John had given me a lesson in mixing the grey filler with the tube of hardener, and how to apply it smoothly and evenly. After some work with the sanding block, the roof came up nice and smooth in the area.

We had a patch-repaint over those areas, and any of the areas of the roof where the first primer coat hadn't quite covered all the rivets and awkward areas.

In the process, we found traces of the Duck's previous paint schemes, including a traditional-style curved design on the rear bulkhead.

Amy also went blackberry picking- very bucolic! After a visit from Paul, an avid blog-reader- making a special trip to see us!- we had a visit from another set of friends, Richenda and Dave, and again we had a lovely dinner and really nice Kentish cider.

The plan is for me to put on another coat tomorrow, weather permitting, before going back to work on Wednesday. I can legitimately say that I have achieved my aim of painting the Duck's roof during the holidays- but only just in time....

Sunday, 30 August 2009

A proper Sunday

Today began for me with several house of cleaning and sorting, to reverse the effects of CHAOS (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) brought on by a week of anglegrinding. A layer of fine red-brown powder had descended over all surfaces near any windows, and this had to be removed before our friends visited. The roof is, however, fully primed, so the next step is the next coat of primer.

At 3:30, James arrived back from Cambridge, with our friends F and E. A short tour of the 'estate' turned into a kite-flying session with some of our neighours and getting to know the resident sheep.

After these excitements, we retreated back to the Duck for tea and I started cooking dinner. We are still enjoying a glut of courgettes, beetroot and tomatoes on the mooring vegetable plot, so I roasted an assortment of brightly coloured vegetables, potatoes, and a gammon joint with a brown sugar glaze, which was all very tasty.

During all this, Lyra was the centre of attention, as our visitors are great cat-lovers. SO she got very fussed over and throughly enjoyed the attention!

All in all, it was a very pleasant way to spend the best day of the week, with good fun, good company, and good food!

Tomorrow we have more visitors but we're hoping to get some painting done too!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

One In, One Out

Recently, James and I signed up to ReadItSwapIt, a site that lets users swap books with others, for only the cost of the postage. For us, it seems like the perfect solution: We get to read new books and discover new authors, and our total number of books remains the same. We have, as you can probably imagine, very little book storage space, so the idea of simply replacing ones we've read with one we haven't is very appealing. So far we've swapped four books and are waiting for them to arrive.

But there is opposition to the concept because book swappping deprives authors of sales. This is true, but I have been reading about this on the web, and there are in fact many authors out there who endorse it because it gets their name known, and encourages people who might not have otherwise read their books to try them. I know that if I discovered an author through this scheme who I absolutely loved, I'd be desperate to get hold of all their work somehow, and might even buy them. So I think that it does have its advantages even for authors. The other side to it is that used books are not like pirate DVDs, they have a much greater moral legitimacy, and there is great pleasure and precedent for keeping, lending and swapping used books. And this is reflected in the price, which surely allows for lending and resale. I really don't see any difference between bookswapping and buying from second hand book stores. Also, to be available for swapping, copies have to be printed, and there are unlikely to be more books printed unless more people take a chance on the book than those who want to keep it permanently.

For us though, the fact remains that we firstly couldn't afford to buy books new and secondly, if we decided to buy rather than borrow/swap every book that James and I enjoy, we would have no need for ballast, and the Duck would probably end up sitting on the bottom of the Cam!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Colours of the Duck


This weekend, I have been doing a lot of angle grinding. No, wait, "a lot" doesn't cover it. "Enough to take most of the Duck's roof back to bare metal" is much more accurate.

At first, on Saturday morning, I used a twisted-wire brush on the grinder, and Amy attacked with a hand scraper. We managed to do a few square feet,but it took hours and the rest of the roof looked daunting.

So I tried using the sandpaper disks, with a flexible backing, and they just tore through the four or five layers of paint. Still hard but methodical work, but by 7PM, I had stripped the entire roof back to level with the chimney. We then both hopped onto the roof, and with the new International Yacht Primer that Amy had ordered online, we started methodically priming. We finished just as the sun was going down- good timing!

Finishing off on Saturday

The results were impressive; the primer has very good coverage, and it's not so much paint as lots of zinc in a paint suspension, so we're really cold galvanising the steel.

It's been pointed out that we could have left the paint on the roof, and just roughened up the surface. We decided to go the whole hog, and take all of it back to bare metal, because the paint on the roof had degraded a lot in the sun (fading from a scarlet to a pinkish colour) and we didn't want the sandy non-slip surface. There were also a lot of flaking patches, and a bit of rust where the coats had been scraped down to the metal, from where we loaded the bikes onto and off of the roof often, and also a few patches where the rust had pitted the steel.

So we decided to take it all off, so we knew that the steel preparation was high quality.

On Sunday, we started at 10:30 (having checked when our neighbours were planning to wake up!) and, by 5:30, I had taken all the paint off right back to the side hatch, which is about 70% of the roof done. The pigeon box, morco chimney, and all the mushroom vent bases have been given a through going over.

Neat grey primer- far better than the old paint!

The plan for the future is to finish off the roof tomorrow, and then work on the red sides which have a fair few patches where paint was scraped off, by Fotheringhay bridge, etc. etc.... In order to get a good finish, that has to come off too. So it will. I'm also planning on taking off the yellow strip, which has got a lot of rust bubbles underneath it, in order to fully prepare for painting. For now, the dark blue will stay as it is.

The overall plan is, one day, to have a cream or grey roof, and the sides of the lid in light blue, with the sides of the boat in dark blue. And some nice signwriting, too.

For now, the roof looks great. John and I are going to attack the rest tomorrow, so we'll see how far we get!

Friday, 21 August 2009

New Chimney

The Duck has a shiny new chimney, thanks to a neighbour who no longer needed it! This is very exciting, since our old one was quite rubbish, so thankyou John III!

We are also crossing our fingers that the weather holds, as we now have scrapers, brushes, a tin of Yacht primer, and a whole weekend to repaint at least the roof of the Duck!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Painter's Apprentice

Yesterday James helped John Pippin angle grind and prime Pippin's roof. He thoroughly enjoyed getting his hands dirty and using noisy grinding tools. I arrived at the Clayhithe 48s where the repairs were being carried out, and somehow managed to write a few emails for work on Pippin's computer while the boys carried on working. I was quite happy for James to help John because it meant that he would learn a few tips for when we carry out the long overdue repaint of the Duck, and indeed earn a favour or two in case we need John's help! When all bare metal had been painted, we all cruised home on the mighty Pippin for a dinner of (in our case) bacon pancakes!

While out with John, he also bought a great value pack of three Purdy brushes, reckoned by those who know (including master narrowboat painter Phil Speight of Craftmaster) to be the bee's knees. And today I bought a 2.5 l tin of grey International Yacht Primer, which is excellent stuff as well apparently, so this weekend or thereabouts we can get stuck in to preparing and painting the Duck's flaking roof!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

And now the Rutland Forecast

...issued by Lucky Duck, on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, at 19:30 on Sunday 16th August.

South River Cam and Lode, West one-point-two amps, average, gusting two point six. Occasionally three amps at first, decreasing zero at times.

Moderate to slight, passing historic sailing craft and swimmers. Good.


To explain, John Pippin remarked that when you get a Rutland wind generator, you start to categorise the wind speed by the number of amps it produces. Gone is the Beaufort scale, replaced by the Marlec Scale from the gentle 1 amper to the 13A gale!

While we were relaxing beside the boat this afternoon we saw several beautiful historic gaff-rigged wooden sailing boats, as well as one swimmer - Jackie Pippin's brother was visiting and is a keen 'wild' swimmer. It was a lovely day but we didn't feel inclined to jump in too!

Dinner was enhanced by some lovely vegetables grown by a neighbour at our mooring in their vegetable patch!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Changes Afoot

We have recently had some good news about our position on the waiting list. We are not at the top yet, but we are much closer than we thought we were. I'll know more after the Camboaters meeting tonight, but things are looking good. Although, to be honest, I love our current mooring, so won't be too upset if we don't get a mooring in Cambridge for a bit and have to stay here for a little while longer!

Sunday, 9 August 2009

End of the Line

Today, Amy and I awoke late and luxuriated. Our first "proper" Sunday, since Amy left her shop job.

We felt that we needed to Do Something, and so we decided to head off to King's Lynn, at the end of the Fen Line.

Unfortunately it wasn't as seaside-y as I thought, but more estuary-ey. Oh well. We pulled in to a very nice station, but the local buildings didn't seem too promising. WIth industrial silos on the horizon, litter, graffitti, and a very large Morrisons supermarket, we were reminded straight away that this was- and still is- a working port.

Undaunted- I do like a bit of disused industrial squalor- we set off to explore. The town centre seemed unpromising, a mixture of chain shops, discounters, and some hideous crimes, such as a modern plate-glass Topshop shopfront grafted onto a lovely Tudor building.

We found a photography exhibition in the church, but whilst Amy was happily appreciating the pictures of old ladies and broken boots, dew-covered flowers, and windmills, I was more interested in the Napoleonic anchor.

But the older part of the town, along the quay, was much more gentrified in places. It was a nice mix between the still-working port, with coasters loading with grain and waiting for the tide, and a cleaned-up and "restored" early 16th century wharf, with the recent addition of a small "floating" harbour- i.e. a little harbour with a closing guillotine gate, so small boats stay afloat. Just the right size for the Duck, too- but one look at the fast-flowing tide outside the gate convinced me otherwise!

As the day went on, the sun came out, and after looking a a few purposeful fishing boats, we walked back to the station, via a very pretty park.

We're now at home, listening to the low drone of the wind turbine, which has been producing on average two amps in a reasonable breeze. I'm considering moving it from its current position over the bedroom, because despite the 25 mm of rubber between the base of the mast and the roof, it's still transmitting vibration. We're considering moving it so it's over the saloon, but we'll see how we do. I'd imagine we'll get used to the noise, because it sounds like a motorbike passing a long way away.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Whistle Down The Wind

Today was momentuous, because I noticed last night an email from Midsummer Energy- our new batteries had arrived, and were ready for collection, hooray!

So we dragged ourselves reluctantly out of bed, out into the cold, misty fenny morning. Autumn seemed to be just around the corner- but at least it wasn't raining, as last night we had been utterly soaked to the skin, walking home from the station in a biblical downpour.

Once in town, Amy and I split up. She headed over to Mackay's for a couple of small items, including a thick sheet of rubber to soundproof the turbine mast, and I went off, sack trolley in tow, to the industrial estate home of Midsummer Energy and Outspoken cycle couriers; the two businesses, run by fellow narrowboating friends, share office space.

After loading up with three Elecsol 100 AH leisure batteries, I attempted to get back to the station. The first bus driver rather grumpily stopped me from boarding- "can't take them, no batteries". I pointed out (because it was a long walk, and because I'm a bit of a git) that they were the sealed type, and as they were strapped securely to the trolley, they were safe. Certainly no more dangerous than the starter battery in the bus' engine bay!

No go, though, so I started to walk- and tried my luck on the following bus, where the driver let me on without a comment- he even offered me a hand to get them on board, because they looked heavy! Seeing as people in the past have been banned from Cambridge's buses for carrying a sealed tin of paint (I wish I was making it up, but I'm not...) it seems likely that batteries are against the rules.

Still, although we missed the train we wanted, we managed after a wait at the station to return home. I attacked the top of the old rowing blade, that formed the mast for the turbine, drilling holes for the turbine to mount into. We had lunch, and then I labelled and disconnected all the electrical connections and removed the old batteries. Then, I tried the new ones for size in the secure plastic crate.

Success! All three fit in perfectly, with space for a fourth to fill all the remaining gap. At the moment they're in an L-shape in the large rectangular crate, so maybe we'll get a fourth to fill the gap exactly.

I then set about connecting up the batteries. It was a bit of a race against time, because I knew that we needed to get some length of wire from Ely Chandlery to connect to the wind generator. I connected them all up, and we raced for the train. Once in Ely, we jogged down the waterfront and made the Chandlery with five minutes to spare. Here, we got 9 metres of 6mm squared cross section wire. It's quite a big cross section, because there's a long distance to cover and we don't want any volt drop down the wire.

And then, finally, we made it home and things started coming together! The battery wiring was finished, the holes for the wires to exit the mast drilled, the wires installed in the mast, the regulator neatly put onto the bulkhead- until, in a final burst of activity, we raised the mast to have the turbine proudly at the top. Phew!

But there's no wind whatsoever to turn it. Not a breath.


Thursday, 6 August 2009

Before the Mast


Having recently purchased a Rutland 913 wind generator, we had to find a way of mounting it on the boat.

It needs to be mounted up high, to get a nice clean airflow over it, and to avoid turbulence from the floodbank, other moored boats, etc. So we had to organise a mast of some sort.

Getting the actual mast itself was easy. Traditionally, people often use a piece of scaffolding pole cut to length. It's cheap to get hold of, but it can be heavy and unwieldy, especially with a very heavy wind generator on the end.

So I racked my brains- could I think of an alternative? Then, in the middle of the night, it came to me.

An old rowing oar! Perfect. A nice, 12' long carbon fibre tube, slightly tapering for that elegant effect, that's massively strong and resistant to bending forces. And is also light weight and easy to work- and, in Cambridge, easy to get hold of.

I contacted the boatman at my old college, and he had just the thing, so I took it back home on the train. That was great fun, I can say- it just fitted in, diagonally, across the vestible of the carriage.

The original plan had been to use some mounting brackets for scaffolding pole, and drill and tap the rear bulkhead of the boat to fit. This would have made a nice strong fitting, with no guy wires. Unfortunately, the blade turned out to be too big to fit in scaffolding clamps, so Plan B was formulated. This involved buying a lot of wire, thimbles, wire grips, turnbuckles, and other gear from Mackay's so the pole could be mounted on the roof.

A quick trim of the end ensured that the Rutland would fit on top, and so we secured all the wires, adapted the pole with some brackets, screws and Jubilee clips to take guy wires, and erected it on the roof. There's a few more wire grips to put in place, and we've got to get the wire for the generator and attach it on top; but, for now, it's attached and it's nice and solid, and should happily hold the very heavy generator in a nice clean stream of air. The guy wires are attached to existing fittings- the fairleads in the centre of the boat, and the rear steps, so we've not had to modify the hull in any way.

And then there's soundproofing- as the mast is directly above our bedroom, we've got to get hold of some thick rubber and ensure there's no direct metal-to-metal contact, to transmit vibration.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

What I Did on my Holidays

Dear Readers,

I do like my new home, now that Female Food Providing Human and Lazy Male Sleeps Until Midday Human are letting me outside.

The world out there is good fun, but there's a lot of horrid wet stuff that I don't like. And all the juicy grass that I like to nibble (which really confuses the Humans) is right by the edge, so I have to lean right down.

I was exploring my floating cruise liner the other day, wandering nonchalently down the ledge-bit on the side, when I saw one of the massive big whitehissyflappythings that think they own the place. I hissed at it, it hissed back, and tried to peck me. Just as I was about to land a powerful blow with my nice sharp claws, a gust of wind caught the big black flappy canopy thing at the front of my liner, and it knocked me into the water.

Well! I was most aggreived. The humans jumped up and ran outside, but I just did a kittypaddle to the other end of the boat, climbed up the bank, and ran inside to shelter in my cosy place and dry myself off on LazyMaleHuman's clothes. FemaleHuman insisted that she swathe me in a big towel, but I was quite capable of cleaning myself. They've hung a mat off the side of the boat now, so I can get out more easily if I fall in again.

A couple of days later, I was chasing a tasty looking SmallFlappyFlyingThing, and it flew up by a big willow tree. Of course, I count Shere Kahn and several Tygers amongst my ancestry, and so using my superb sense of balance and control, I rushed up the tree after it.

Unfortunately, getting down was a lot harder, and I kind of got stuck the wrong side of a large branch. I miaowed a lot and eventually the Humans noticed. They tried to call me down, and MaleHuman got a ladder to help me get down. He helped me past the big branch but then I jumped off all by myself, just to show them that I'm perfectly independent and capable, thankyou very much, and that a wonder cat like myself doesn't need their help at all.

Anyway, MaleHuman is just coming back, so I'd better hide this magic box thing before he discovers I've used it.


Saturday, 1 August 2009

A Year Afloat

On the 1st August 2008, exactly a year ago, James and I began our life afloat.

Its quite incredible to look back on the adventures, catastrophes and achievements of the past year, and the people we've met along the way. Here's to the next one!