Sunday, 28 November 2010

Mercury falling

Minus 9 here last night. No wonder Brian was trying to get under the covers instead of sleeping on top of the bed. The canal is seriously frozen today. Yesterday a few ice breaking types crunched their way through. Today all was quiet except for ice skating ducks.
Eerie creaks and groans accompany my movements through the boat as it rocks against the embrace of the pinching ice sheet. I can't imagine what it must have been like to hear and feel real ice floes crushing your wooden hull as Shackleton and his crew experienced on Endurance in the Antarctic.
For my own endurance test I've finally donned my reserve fleece. So I waddle into Harry wearing tee shirt, long sleeved tee shirt, lightweight sports top, high neck fleece and finally zip neck fleece (fortunately an extra large purchase from the charity shop). Plus thermal long johns and my great new Heat Holders socks. And Thinsulate lined woolly hat. And 'magic gloves' from the local market. Another great buy - thin, loosely knitted that trap the warmth with the bonus of 'knobbly' grippy palms so you can wear them while working. (They don't like getting wet, though.)
Battening out is going steadily on Harry but this weather will cause a problem if it lasts. You can't sprayfoam insulate if the interior is either running with condensation or wreathed in ice!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Not a three pairs of socks day any more

Spotted these "Heat Holders" in my local Wickes and my frozen feet demanded I buy them. Best five pounds I've spent in a while. They actually work! I've gone from three pairs of socks to one and my feet are warm. Well, not cold anyway.
They're big, thick sort of quilted socks; very soft and very warm. Take up a bit more room than regular socks - but no more than three pairs do.

Brian begs to differ

It's all very well him saying he wants more snow. Bet he wouldn't think that if he had six inch long legs and just one thin coat. Three pairs of socks and four jumpers. Huh! Got chucked out for a pee this morning and almost got my willy frozen.
I'm back to my bed and I'm not getting up again until there's some sunshine to lie in.

All white now

The snow has finally arrived. Got up this morning after a tense hour listening to Strauss and Cook scratch their way through to the close of play in Oz and the world had turned monochrome overnight.
Not a lot of it. Just an inch or so but it sounds like there's more to come. Bring it on. A decent covering will put Harry under a nice white overcoat and hopefully make things a bit warmer inside. I'm pretty much on my limit of socks and jumpers without turning into the Michelin Man.
Spent yesterday squashed up under the tug deck devising fixings for the battens. Came out feeling three feet tall. Had to spend the next hour persuading my knees to straighten out.

Friday, 26 November 2010


Ice on the cut this morning for the first time this winter. Some consolation in hearing England's half-decent performance down under but it's going to be a cold, cold day in the steel bowels of Harry.
Yesterday the concrete ballast slabs I'm standing on felt so cold I came back for a third pair of socks. I'm not sure I'll be able to get four pairs on!
More battening out today - I'm under the tug deck now and trying to work out how to hang battens on fresh air in some places.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Now for the inside

Hmmm. When in doubt stop for a cuppa and pretend to be thinking

With the outside looking reasonably shipshape it's time to go inside. First job is fitting the battening that the inside surface panels and boards will mount to. Even in the seminal narrowboat builders book (seminal because it's actually the only narrowboat builder's book) and called unsurprisingly The Narrowboat Builder's Book, battening is dismissed in a few paragraphs. Which isn't a great help when you're confronted by some random tags sticking out of the sides which the battens fix to and rather more empty spaces where you think there should be more.
Even the all-seeing internet isn't much more help. The dozen or so pictures of battened out interiors I found were all quite different. Every shellbuilder prepares differently and every boatfitter has his favourite way of doing it.
So after much musing, some swearing and general advice seeking I think I've finally worked out how to do it. Or I hope I have.

Before and after

Well here's Harry! Aside from a touch of red oxide acne on the front, it actually looks like a proper boat at last with its steelwork repaired and its portholes polished.

And in case you've forgotten what it looked like a month ago, here's the 'before' picture.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

So what's been happening?

Quite a lot. Despite the cold, damp, windy and decidedly horrible weather. Mark has kept bashing on with the welding - we now have an enlarged rear hatchway, welded-on mushroom vents, answer pins (shackles at the back of the boat) and decorative rings on the front bulkhead and lots more.
Vicky has been painting away to seal all the new metal up against the weather and finally I fitted the windows. Now that was a game. The portholes had all been removed before we got the boat. Innocently, I thought screwing them back on would be a doddle. BUT the six screw holes in each rim proved to be in slightly different positions. Sooo...matching a window to the existing screw holes meant offering up one of the nine existing windows to one of the seven surviving window holes (the other two had been re-cut on new steel) and then turning it through each of the six possible positions. Nine windows, seven holes, six positions on each. That's a lot of permutations - and some of them were frustratingly similar to each other.
But I got there in the end and then drilled and tapped the holes for the four windows that mount into new steelwork. Now the job's done and they look great - no pictures, though, until we're out of the work bay next week when we can reveal Harry in all its glory.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Hand signals!

The Master Painter indicating how many coats of primer she has applied...

I think!

Night callers

Each night at around ten we get roused from our pre-bedtime doze by loud rapping on our galley side hatch plastic window.
Bang, bang, bang it goes - loud enough to make you jump.
But it's just our night callers, the local family of swans - ma, pa and two youngsters - rapping for their supper.
I must admit I'm not generally a great fan of swans. Beautiful they may be but they shove in front of any other water birds if there is grub around – and then thank you for your offering with some aggressive hissing and threatening. But this noisy family are the exception with their noisy nightly calling.

Getting better all the time

Spot the difference - several coats of primer and undercoat and 'planking' lines angle-ground into the deck have turned Harry from a charred hulk to something resembling a handsome tug. The master-painter at work, below. And in case you're wondering about why only part of the boat is painted, this is just a holding coat to protect the new and repaired steelwork while we get on with the rest of the work. The paint job proper comes next spring.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Worx

Meet my new favourite tool ...

This brilliant little device lets you boldly saw where no one has sawn before. You just push the oscillating head onto a piece of wood and away it cuts. Perfect for cutting box shapes out of sheets which would previously have meant drilling holes and fiddly cutting with a jigsaw. Or in my case cutting away just a small part of the tongue and groove lining in the back cabin so we can enlarge the back hatch - a job that would have entailed ripping down most of the woodwork before.
I want one. Hint, hint Santa!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Granny takes a trip*

A visit from daughter Nancy and grand daughter Martha gave us a break from boat duties and as part of the grand-parenting entertainments we took a little trip up to Fradley Junction for some duck feeding and tea & cakes in the cafe at the old BW yard there.
I never fail to enjoy a visit to Fradley - there's always an assortment of interesting boats to see and usually something else going on as well, usually centred around The Swan. This Sunday it was the venue for a classic car meet with a selection of gleaming fifties metal in the carpark.
The tea room is great too with a fine selection of extremely eatable cakes and pies. There's a little gift shop on the site as well but the potential is surely there for something much better. The new Waterways charity needs to take a leaf out of the National Trust's book and create a range of quality souvenirs, gifts and books for outlets like these. At the moment there is precious little to separate holidaymakers, visitors and gift hunters from some cash bar a few nick nacks and postcards.

*Only grannies and grandpas will be old enough to get the gag in the headline - Granny Takes A Trip was a psychedelic boutique opened in the Kings Road during the 'swinging sixties'.

True grit

While we've been busy spending money on 'extras' we have managed to make a substantial saving on our budget by deciding not to get the shell grit blasted. With nearly half the boat now new steel and the rest actually looking in not too bad condition we decided to go the labour intensive hand prep route instead. And chief painter Vicky has thrown herself into the job (and thrown the power sander into the cut - fortunately it worked again after dripping dry!) Her hard graft with the sander, the linisher and much elbow grease has already made great improvements.

Spot the deliberate mistake!

No we didn't fit the wrong doors. Having re-hung the right doors with new hinges we then decided that an eyebrow roof hatch would be a great thing to have. And it is...but it does mean the doors have had to be re-made and re-hung. God job we bought a few spare hinges.
The doors will lead down into the galley via steps with drawers in them unashamedly copied from the Norton Canes tug Resolute that Dave Moore generously spent a morning showing us round. Thanks Dave!

The planning process

Having been put on light duties for a few weeks following my eye op I spent my time (well such time as wasn't spent watching dvds or surfing the web) trying to plan out the interior of Harry.
And discovering that planning out a narrowboat isn't as easy as it might seem. At least it's not if the living space is just 20 feet long. That's 20 feet in which to crowbar saloon, galley and bathroom. The bedroom goes under the tug deck of course.
Twenty feet wouldn't be so bad but all the damned windows seem to be in the wrong places! The bathroom portholes leave no obvious location for a shower. The galley hatches are in the wrong place and so are the ports.
Not that I'd want to change any of them - from the outside everything is elegantly symmetrical.
So on we went filling page after page of squared paper with floorplan variations. Each one seemed perfect when we closed the page and went to bed but I always woke up thinking of an irreconcilable problem. But now I think we may have got it - though I'm keeping it secret until we finally start the fitting out and discover if it really does work.