Sunday, 22 March 2009

What we've been up to

It's been a while since I posted - the original idea was that the blog should be for the cruising, but in fact I now realise that lots of things have gone on and I wanted to put them somewhere.

Boat modifications
The Calorifier
After the problems with a freezing cold shower in October in London, we decided to fit a calorifier, so that we had more than one way of producing hot water. So Alan started to measure up and get in the materials he needed. He sawed a hole through the bed top, and over a week or two, working in very cold conditions at the back of the boat he fitted the new calorifier under our bed at the back of the boat, as this was really the only place that we had the room.

How it works
- The diesel engine generates heat and needs to be water cooled, with the heated water passing through a skin tank under the water line to radiate the heat gained before it is returned to the engine. The effect of this is that the heat from the engine is lost into the canal. The calorifier takes some of the heated water from the engine (instead of it going to the skin tank) and passes it through coils in an insulated tank in much the same way as a domestic hot water tank does.

The calorifier (55 litres) and expansion tank (red)
going in under the bed.

The washing machine
- we saw a post on the Canal World forum that someone was looking to get rid of a very small twin tub washing machine. I'd always fancied the idea of being able to do some of your washing while cruising, without having to find a launderette. It can be difficult to find a launderette near the canal (there is a list published by the Aylesbury Basin Canal Society) the only one I've ever used is the one at Braunston marina, which is very useful, but right next to the pump out - and if you have to sit there for an hour or two while you do your washing and drying....well, it helps not to have any sense of smell!
We spent some time measuring up at the boat to see if there was any way it could fit into a corner in the bathroom, even though we'd had to try to estimate some of the dimensions from a web-site picture. Then a bit of investigation made it clear that it really wasn't worth our while going to get a second hand washing machine from the middle of London. The outlay in fuel would be fairly high, and even the owner had no idea whether it worked, as it had been 'inherited' with their boat. So we decided to forget about it - but then once an idea takes root, it niggles and works at you. Alan did a bit of investigation on the Internet and found a cheap
supplier of the washing machine - so one was duly delivered.
Alan began trying to fit it into the space in the bathroom. He built new shelving and eventually fitted the washing machine as well as a small fold out drier, as well as room underneath for a spare toilet cassette and a bucket. In addition the shelving gives us somewhere to put towels and clothing while you are showering - something that had proved a little difficult before. After all Alan's hard work I ended up with the task of making a new 'shower' curtain for the front of the shelving.

The washing machine takes a small load (up to 1.5 kg) and we have fitted it so that it can be filled from the shower hose, and emptied into the shower tray.

the finished bathroom

The electrics

Of course - there was a problem with this. We had the smallest inverter possible. The boat has four batteries, all of which are charged when the engine is running - one is the starter battery, the other three are the domestic batteries, and these supply all our electrical needs while we are cruising - the lighting, the water pumps, the TV, the... well, that's it - there wasn't anything else. Occasionally we wanted to charge rechargable batteries, so we had bought a piddling little inverter - but the washing machine required more power - so we needed a bigger inverter. Not only did this mean a bigger inverter it also meant that the inverter needed to be installed at the back, near the batteries (instead of at the front of Chalice, at the end of a long cable), and new cabling would need to be put through to the bathroom for the washing machine. Well, of course, while Alan was doing that it seemed like a good idea to install new cabling throughout the whole boat, so that when we are at our home mooring we can plug into the shore power and run lights, power tools, vacuum cleaners, etc from the 240V supply. So he recabled the boat.

The Bunk Room
Chalice was bought nearly 4 years ago - with a childrens' bunk room taking up 5' 9" in the middle of the boat. This was not really ideal for our sons - David is 6' 2" and Michael around 5' 11", so there is no way that they could fit into a bunk room as small as this. So the room got used as dumping ground. We'd arrive to go on a cruise and put toolboxes, clothes and boot bags in there - and it would get into greater and greater disarray as the trip progressed. The plan was that we would 'do something, someday'. Well, after Christmas, Alan decided that it was time to start doing the 'something'. We talked through all our ideas - and came up with the idea that we wanted
  1. somewhere to store the stuff we needed to have on the boat in a more orderly way
  2. somewhere to sit and/or eat away from the front of the boat - because sometimes someone wants to read away from others who are watching TV, and because we may want to have the double bed left up at the front and still have somewhere for people to eat.
Alan drew some nice plans using Sketchup, and then we went down to the boat and started to rip out the walls to the bunk room. The whole process took several weeks - as all work on the boat seems to.

At one point the weather turned really cold - down to -11 degrees one night - and we hadn't drained down the water system for winter as we thought we'd need to have water while we were working on the boat. This meant that we had to go down and light a fire every day, to ensure that the boat was warmed up enough that the pipes didn't freeze overnight - no matter how tired, no matter how cold.

Anyway - eventually it was all finished, with new cupboards and wardrobe and a new sofa - for which I was recruited to do the upholstery - rather more than the curtains and cushions I've done in the past. Alan adapted the Desmo leg table, so that it can be put in two different positions in the boat.

The new sofa

Having done all of this work we took Chalice to the Canal World Forums banter at Bulbourne on the 28th February 2009 - where we managed to get 19 people on Owl.

Some of the 19 people who abandoned the pub when the band arrived to cram onto Owl.

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