Friday, February 26, 2010

Say what you like, but we do like a challenge.

You know that long blog silence and accompanying mega lull in activity Ms Ann wise over Christmas? Well, I’m about to (at least partially) justify it. There were many reasons to mothball our creation, not least the fact that I temporarily lost the plot again, which is one of those things that seem to happen with alarming frequency, and I AM taking my medicine again thankyou so much, goes well with a glass or two of red. But no, not that; in a rare moment for this blog I’m going to let you in on a little tiny bit of the kind of things we get up to outside the boat. The single biggest demand that made things quiet on board over Christmas was Becky’s fledgling business, the largest part of how that pertains to me (apart from having to live with a completely horse-mad-workaholic) has so far been this thing…

It’s The Yard’s outdoor horseriding arena. I finally finished it yesterday and had the immense satisfaction of seeing a horse ridden upon its brand new surface for the first time ever. It measures 20 by 60 metres and a combined total of 570 tonnes of material has gone into it. 240 tonnes of aggregate, an eventual 300 tonnes of silica sand, and thirty tonnes of chipped rubber. Oh, and a whole bunch of telegraph poles too. Trust me, there’s some science in how that surface has been laid. Almost everyone we know seems to have taken part in its construction in some way or other, so my most heartfelt hats off to all of you. It has taken over three months to build, but it had taken our lives over so much that it actually felt like forever since we staked out the site with some string and a vaguely remembered maths lesson involving some long dead Greek bloke, Pythagoras, that’s the one. It took too long, cost too much, forced a steep learning curve and made us both cry at various points along the way. But it’s all done and now I feel a profound sense of relief that it’s complete and usable, and more than a little pride in the achievement too.
No rest for me though, I’ve got a kilometre of telegraph pole fencing to complete round some fields. Oh Bloody Hell.

Hmmm, apart from the horse bit it all sounds a mite familiar doesn’t it?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hame and Hearth.

The picture is nothing to write home about but sod it; I’m going to do it anyway. Last Monday I spent an extremely physical few hours making two of these things…

This one’s in the old engine room, and the other, which is a slightly different shape (sort of a bit narrower, but much thicker) is up forward.

They are destined to be the hearths for our woodburners. Of course they don’t look like much being merely two shitloads of freshly laid reinforced concrete in wooden shuttering. The easiest thing to say about concrete is that it’s quite heavy. Never mind actually getting the raw materials on board in the first place, for which I did at least have some much needed help in the form of tough girl Becky; who got away from the demands of her farm for a half day only to have to barrow ballast over rickety bridges with me. I’ve worked out that together they weigh over 400kg, which is surprising because they’re not huge or anything. So you’ll probably believe me when I say that actually mixing and pouring the stuff in a confined space by hand fair near snapped me in half. It’s for these reasons that I now suddenly have a renewed appreciation for cement mixers, and also for sites where the materials are conveniently unloaded by HIAB, or by other people.
Once they’ve cured these monoliths will have to be tiled and finished and the woodburners brought on board ready for the big flue building weekend. The only issue here is that I’ve never actually laid so much as a single tile in my life, never mind, there’s a first time for everything, but my wallet has that doomed feeling that it’s time for even more new tools.

It should be quite obvious to the reader that yes, we are starting this AFTER the worst of the winter has passed. For diverse reasons we couldn’t get it done before the temperatures dropped below silly last year, so by starting now I figure that we are at least in with a reasonable chance of being ready for next winter (I’m also sure I’ve made this kind of rash statement before). After the winter we’ve just had (er… and the one before that) I am determined not to be such a dummy that I’ll be living without heating on board for one moment longer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Popping my Engineering Cherry.

Two weekends ago I was back on board Wendy Ann again, taking out the mothballs with the help of my friend Supersam. Among the more important discoveries we made whilst doing so was that my generator would start only with fairly extreme persuasion, indeed I flattened one starting battery whilst attempting to get it going, luckily I keep a spare fully charged just for this kind of eventuality. Except for the ship’s stereo and a fairly pathetic pair of 12v fluorescents that I run off an old car battery, our vessel is unfortunately currently completely dependent on that lovely big machine for all electrical power- so sorting this engine starting issue was an immediate concern.
Working on the restoration of our boat has taught me an awful lot of skills so far, but since we’re devoid of a main engine diesel mechanics is not one of them. Luckily however while I was working on the tug Storebror I did learn a few basics, although I must stress that I cannot by any stretch of the imagination call myself an engineer. One thing I undertook regularly (but admittedly usually with supervision) was filter changes on Storebror’s engines, including her own generator which had a three cylinder perkins engine for a prime mover.
Although I was worried that something bad could’ve happened to Wendy Ann’s generator I decided that the best course of action would be to start simple, and undertake a complete oil and filter change; which I figured was about overdue anyway and therefore couldn’t do any harm. A quick visit to my local agricultural plant suppliers armed me with the correct replacement parts and I approached my task with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. Overalls on, I drained the old oil, turned the fuel valve to ‘off’ and began- all the time reminding myself to take it slowly and to be methodical. After changing the oil and fuel filters, filling the day tank to the top and cleaning up, I loosened off the three fuel lines to the injectors and cranked the engine over to bleed them through- which seemed to go straightforwardly enough. That done and everything once again checked for leaks I crossed my fingers and cranked her up in earnest.

No, she still wouldn’t start, same as before, loads of smoke and no soap. I stilled the rising sensation of panic and tried to think calmly. I thought, ‘now, what does an engine need to make it go? Fuel, lubrication…. and air! you dummy!’ In a proper eureka moment I realised that my generator has an air filter too, so I took the big air inlet pipe to the engine off of it in order to test my principle and behold, one three cylinder Kubota D905 with 8kW of generator started first time and running sweet as you like. You can really hear it sucking without the muffling effect of a filter over the intake. Out came the big old air filter from it’s casing and I mused about how best to clean it, or whether I should attempt the purchase of a new one, and also whether or not I could run my engine with no air filter for a day. So I phoned a friend, no- I phoned two. Jon of Griffin Towage and Bill of Becky’s Dad both provided me with some further illumination to add to my learning and now I’m considering a couple of extra small engineering projects as a result, so thanks to them both for their helpful insights.

The success of this little adventure meant I could get on with making a beginning at some work for the rest of Sunday, Sunday night and Monday. I had a tiny little bit of welding to do in order to provide some bearers for something big I’m working on, a bunch of stuff to organise/move about, and two tons of water ballast to pump off from those pesky IBC’s to provide some much needed space in the engine room for something else I’m about to begin too…

Yes folks, we’re back.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I Dream of Wendy.

Yes I do.

Things a go on. Patience, patience...