Nothing’s ever as easy or straightforward as it should be. It’s so frustrating.
I’ve just had a Sterling Pure Sine Wave 1600w inverter fitted. It’s more than enough to run the smaller electrical appliances I have on board. It will run my laptop, iPad, two mobile phones and the television. I could switch to a 12v television but as the one I have is perfectly serviceable and is fixed to the wall using a bracket designed for that particular television, I’m not going to change it. The inverter will also run a small vacuum cleaner if necessary. While the inverter is perfect for what I want, unfortunately the mains wiring I have in James is not. It needs replacing before the next BSS test if James is to pass.
Added to the rewiring headache, I also need to get part of the original floor boards replaced. On Thursday we had a local flooring company arrive to remove the existing carpet and replace it with imitation light oak plastic planks. They don’t sound very attractive the way I’ve described them, but they look great and what’s more, they’re practical. They’re easy to clean and they’re waterproof. The proper name is Colonia English Oak.
All of the original ply flooring appears to be in very good shape considering the age of the boat and considering that it spent over a decade neglected on a mooring. but a section of flooring has suffered from the neglect. In the centre of the boat, aft of the galley there are side and roof hatches on both port and starboard. James originally had a wooden cabin with wooden hatches. The roof hatches perished during the decade of neglect and allowed water to drip onto the ply beneath.
There’s a section about two feet square which needs replacing. Of course, the replacement isn’t straightforward. When James was built, as with all boats, the flooring was laid before the fitted furniture in the cabin. Full eight by four feet ply sheets were fitted in place over the boat’s bearers. The section that’s damaged is between two bearers so if the section is cut out, there’s nothing to support the new piece. The solution is to fit a new section of ply over the damaged part and secure it to the surrounding undamaged ply. This repair will of course raise the level of the flooring by the thickness of the new ply. It’s not going to be a quick job to ensure that the repair doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb.
It’s a job for another day. In the meantime, Mark from Floors 4 Less has laid all the flooring apart from this one small area. He’ll come back to fit the small section once the remedial work has been done. He’s done a wonderful job and has justified his £250 fitting fee for a full day’s work. He was with us from 8.30am until 6.00pm and worked none stop throughout the day. We are very pleased with the work and at £640 including the fitting, it’s not a bad price.
Just to make sure that we didn’t have any peace and quiet on Friday, we also arranged for Tim Davis from Onboard Solar to fit his ever so popular 300w solar panel system for us. Tim has been professionally fitting solar panels on narrowboats now for just over a year. He did a huge amount of research before deciding on the configuration he uses now. His services have proven very popular. He’s fitted 150 systems so far with more and more orders coming in every day, and for very good reason. They work extremely well.
If you’re considering spending long periods away from a static mooring, solar panels offer you enormous benefits. We don’t live in the sunniest place in the world but, with recent technological advances, solar panels can provide you with free electricity even on dull winter days. Solar panels allow you to moor in a spot that takes your fancy for a few days without having to run your engine to top up your batteries. They should save me a fortune on marina electricity charges as I currently pay 20p a unit when I have my shoreline plugged in.
I had high expectations of Tim, and I’m delighted to say that he was a real pleasure to work with. In an industry where shoddy workmanship and poor standards are all too common, Tim provided an excellent service. He phoned me on Thursday to tell me that he was coming and at what time. He arrived on time, was polite and ever so friendly, worked exceptionally hard and fitted three 100w solar panels and the associated electrics in about three hours. And that included getting the wiring from the roof, through two cabins and into the engine room. James’ original cabin has been overplated with steel, so Tim had to drill though the steel, through the two inch polystyrene filled gap, through the original wooden cabin and into the engine room. There was a little good humoured muttering as he threaded the wiring through the cabin tops, but it didn’t take him long.
The solar panels are now installed and look quite attractive on the boat roof, but they’re not there to look pretty. They’re there to provide me with free power courtesy of the sun. How are they doing?
It’s early days yet but the signs are very good. I haven’t seen any sunshine since Tim installed them. On Friday the weather was about as dull as it’s possible to get with thick cloud and fog. However, the panels still produced something. 1.6 amps is better than nothing. Today, there’s still no sun but the day is brighter than when Tim was here. I’ve just checked and I’m getting 3.2 amps. Actually, I’ve just been outside and tilted the panels into where the sun would be if it was out, and now I’m getting 4.7 amps. It’s enough to power my fridge. Yippee!
While he was with me, Tim also reconnected the rev counter and the engine temperature gauges that are set into the pigeon box just in front of Tim in the photo. They were disconnected when the pigeon box was removed during the cabin overplating. Unfortunately the wiring wasn’t labelled when it was disconnected so Tim had to spend some time experimenting. He cracked it in the end though. I knew he would.
I also took advantage of Tim’s mechanical knowledge while he was here. I have a problem with my engine or rather, with my gearbox. When the boat’s moving the propeller is turning intermittently. One possible cause is low oil in the gearbox. I know it’s not that though because I’ve recently had it topped up.
Tim thinks that it is the gearbox clutch plate. He told me that if it’s the clutch plate that’s the problem, the symptoms will probably disappear when the engine warms up. I tried it. He’s right. All I need to do now is get a reconditioned gearbox fitted. Remember the B.O.A.T. acronym? Bet On Another Thousand. Don’t you just love boating?
I’ve had an idea. I hope you like it.
I regularly receive emails from potential boat owners. They’ve done their research. They’ve trawled the internet looking for information, subscribed to canal magazines and bought books. They’re ready to start looking at boats for sale in earnest… and they’re confused.
There are over 1,000 narrowboats for sale at any one time. Most of them are advertised somewhere on the internet, often on the excellent Apolloduck site. The prices range from less than £10,000 to well over £100,000. You can buy a boat that’s so new that the paint’s barely dry or one that’s so old that the paint is all that’s holding it together. There are boats with bedrooms at the front, bedrooms at the back and no bedroom at all, boats with cruiser, semi trad or trad sterns, boats with vintage engines or modern engines, boats with fitted furniture, free standing furniture or no furniture at all. There are even empty boats that you can finish yourself.
The adverts for the boats often include plenty of information. Too much information sometimes for those new to boating…
As I said, I’ve had an idea. Here it is.
I’m thinking about adding a new section to the forum. If you’re a potential narrowboat owner and you’ve reached the stage where you’re seriously looking at boats for sale, you can use this section to introduce yourself and let other site users know what you want to use your boat for. You can say whether you want to use your boat for limited recreational cruising or as a full time home on either a static mooring or for continually cruising the network. You can provide a link to the boat advert you’re interested in and ask current boat owners to offer the benefit of their experience.
There are hundreds of boat owners are now registered on the site. Some of them are very active on the forum. I will add observations about the boat for sale based on the information provided in the advert. I will ask other boat owning forum members to do the same. By reading the response to both your own posts and posts by other soon-to-be boat owners, you’ll be able to build up a pretty good knowledge of the terminology and the specifications to look for in a narrowboat advert.
What do you think? Is it a feature that you think you would use? I’m more than happy to set it up if there are enough people interested. It’s up to you to let me know one way or the other. I’ve created a very quick two question survey here. It will take you less than a minute to cast your vote.
Since last week’s newsletter and the article about stove fuel, a number of site users have emailed me with additional information. I’ve created a dedicated post for the stove fuel test and additional comments. You can read it here.
There are dozens of helpful and interesting articles on the site, but have you found them all? I thought you might appreciate a list of the more popular articles that you can glance through and click on the ones that take your fancy. Here it is.
Historically “bridge hopping” – the practice of constantly moving a liveaboard narrowboat backwards and forwards between two points in the same area – has been largely ignored by the authorities. It’s against the rules but British Waterways didn’t have the resources, or the inclination, to tackle the problem.
Continuous cruisers don’t have to pay for a home mooring. As many moorings, even none residential moorings, cost in excess of £2,000p.a. it’s quite a saving but continuous cruisers have an obligation to cruise continually. They must move their boat, as part of a progressive journey, every fourteen days.
Bogus continuous cruisers often over extend their stay on short term visitor moorings, on water points and on the bollards reserved for boaters entering and leaving locks. We had one very annoying example at Calcutt last week. A “continuous cruiser”, complete with a roof overflowing with coal, logs, planters full of weeds, bikes and a wheelbarrow, chained and padlocked his boat to one of the bollards at the entrance to Calcutt Bottom Lock. (He clearly wasn’t the brightest of buttons. The chain was secured by a heavy duty padlock to the bollard at one end, but simply tied on to the boat with a rope at the other end). His boat prevented easy access to the lock for five days. His attitude demonstrated a complete disregard for other boaters.
The Trust recognises that it’s a nuisance caused by a minority group of boaters which causes problems for the majority of law abiding boat owners. They are taking steps to tackle the problem. Here’s the latest information from Damien Kemp in the Trust’s latest edition of the Boaters’ Update, and here’s the Trust’s interpretation of BW’s Continuous Cruising rules.
Now that the forum login problems have been resolved, forum posts and visits have seen a dramatic increase. There’s a wealth of information on the site in general, but if you’re struggling to find the answer to a particular issue, the forum is the place to find it. I’ve listed some of the more popular posts below but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, ask your question on the forum. If you don’t know how to create a post, or if you can’t log in, please let me know. I’ll be more than happy to get you up and running.
Living on a Narrowboat: The REAL Cost of a Life Afloat – Narrowboat costs explained in detail. My own maintenance and living cost on narrowboat James for a full year. Use this information to work out your own costs.
Find out what parts of the canal are closed and for how long. Essential cruising information for you.
Do you need to find a home for your boat? Here’s a comprehensive list of the narrowboat friendly marinas in the UK
Do you want to see where these marinas are on a map? Here it is.
Here’s a map of all the canals on the system to help you plan your route.
Newsletter Archive – Browse through a wealth of useful content in the newsletters over the last year.
Click here to get a FREE copy of “Living On A Narrowboat:101 Essential Narrowboat Articles”
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