Saturday, 14 October 2017

Inginuity and Inventions.

The English language is often confusing, even to the English themselves. The British and the Americans are often described as two nations divided by a common language. Never is it more so than in the Yanks Humor or as we Brits prefer to spell it Humour.

Here stick your Moniker on this, is how we might ask someone to append their signature. Ah, Monica – give us a tune old girl, is how we make a play on someone's name. But its not only reserved for the girls. Taking the Michael or the Mick, is how we describe someone having a laugh at our expense. A proper Charlie, is how we might describe someone making a fool of themselves. A Rupert, is how the soldier likes to describe a senior rank.

However, sometimes whole nations are targeted as the butt of all jokes. For the Brits is the Irish and for the Americans it seems its the Polish. So today I have extended British coverage to include the Swiss. This is because we have a Swiss owned caravan parked next door. The adorable German speaking couple seem to have taken humbridge. Because we parked our motor home to one side of our allocated plot. So our motor home is actually casting a shadow on the edge of their plot. On the other side of us is a delightful German couple who have been supplying us with - ad hoc - translation services. My command of German is limited to the stuff I read about in children's comics as a kid.

So today, 'Herr Gruber' turns up again and suggest that we should comply to his request and move the motorhome two metres further over. So, being me, I have complied with the camp commandants request. We are now parked right on the edge of our plot and much closer to his sun lounge which is now totally in the shade. Well gosh and golly, I do believe Gruber is even more miffed. So while Gruber is busy strutting up and down complaining. I said, to the German couple next door.

'Did you know that the Germans discovered Kepler's laws of planetary motion and discovered Goethe's Theory of Colours. The Germans also invented the rocket engine. At the same time in the UK Marconi invented radio, Sir Frank Whittle invented the Jet engine and Sir Isaac Newton discovered Gravity. While the Swiss claim to fame is  to have invented the Cuckoo clock.'

I thought he was going to die laughing. He even went round the site sharing it with all the other Germans. Now, I keep getting thumbs up and cuckoo calls whenever Gruber is around. The Swiss guy is now totally perplexed and wondering WTF is going on.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Workshop Tools

To the uninitiated the boatyard  workshop can be an intimidating place. A place that is full of tools you may not know what to do with. To help, here's a helpful explanation of some common workshop tools and their everyday uses. This is a short inventory of equipment that every well stocked boatyard workshop should have.

Drill Press:
A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your mug of tea across the room. Denting the freshly-painted project which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.

Abrasive Wire Wheel:
Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench at the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers. All done in about the time it takes you to say, "Oh,Merde."

Skill Saw:
Contrary to its name, this is a portable cutting tool often used to make all kinds of engineering studs too short.

Hand Pliers:
Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters. This is an often bloodstained hand tool, used to begin the process of rounding off bolt heads. (see Mole Grips)

Belt Sander:
An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

Hack Saw:
One of a large family of hand cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion and the more you attempt to influence its direction, the more dismal your project becomes.

Generally used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand. (See Hand Pliers)

Oxyacetylene Cutting Torch:
Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your workshop which are not already on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the tiller hub out of which you want to remove a bearing race.

Table Saw:
A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood or metal projectiles for testing wall integrity.

Hydraulic Floor Jack:
Used for lowering a boat to the ground after you have installed your new tiller. Whilst at the same time trapping the jack handle firmly under the base plate.

Second Hydraulic Floor Jack:
Used for lifting a boat off the ground to free the trapped jack handle from under the base plate.

Band Saw:
A large stationary power saw primarily used in most workshops to cut good steel stock. Usually into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge. 

Two-Ton Engine Hoist:
A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect prior to beginning lifting operations.

Phillips Cross Cut Screwdriver:
Normally used to stab through vacuum seals and prising under paint tin lids. Also used for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt. Can also be used as the name implies, to strip out Phillips Screw heads. 

Straight Flat Bladed Screwdriver:
A tool often used for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws and at the same time butchering your palms. 

Pry Bar:
A tool used to crumple and scratch any painted metal surrounding. Usually when removing a stubborn jubilee clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace the rusty cheap item with another non rusty cheap item. 

Hose and Piper Cutter:
A tool generally used to make flexible hoses or fixed pipes too short for the available gap. 

Ball Pein Hammer or Dudley Screwdriver:
Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts, located adjacent the object we are trying to hit.

Stanley Knife:
Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door. Works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes, into workshop cleaning rage.  Usually achieved while the clothes are still in use.

The Electric Hand Drill:
This machine is used to spin pop rivets in a hole until the earth comes to an end. It will also spin out of whatever hole and make a crazy pattern on whatever you don't want marred faster than you can blink your eyes.

A B*stard Tool:
Any handy tool such as a metal file that you grab and throw across the workshop whilst at the same time yelling "B*stard” at the top of your lungs. It is also, most often, the next tool that you will need to continue with the job at hand. Also known as balm or mechanic's lube. Usually applied verbally in hindsight, which somehow eases those pains and indignities following our every deficiency in foresight.

Workshop Light:
The mechanic's own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, "the sunshine vitamin," which is not otherwise found under boats. Health benefits aside, its main purpose is to consume 40-watt light bulbs at about the same rate that the apprentice can exchange them. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat misleading.

Air Compressor:
A machine that takes energy produced in a coal-burning power plant 200 miles away and transforms it into compressed air that travels by hose to a Pneumatic impact wrench that grips rusty bolts which were last over tightened 50 years ago by someone at Liverpool Boats that neatly rounds off their heads.

A Socket Set:
A precision engineered set of tools still supplied in Metric and Imperial sizes guaranteed not to fit any nut or bolt that requires urgent rotation. Whitworth Sockets were once used for working in older British workshops. They are now used mainly for impersonating that 9/16 or 1/2 socket you've been searching for the last hour.

Sump Plug Wrench:
A specialist and much sought after tool for enabling you to direct hot and dirty engine oil down your sleeve.

Hand Spanner:
Sometimes used as a colloquial term of derision. The hand spanner pretends to fit then will slip under maximum torque ensuring maximum damage to bolt heads rendering them knackered to the point that no other device will grip them. Also extremely good for damaging knuckles, often resulting in maximum blood loss and infection when mixed with grease and oil. (see Sump Plug Wrench) Damage = Torque squared i.e. (d) = (t)2 N.B. It is normally safe to fling spanners across the engine room. Only the curved ones will return according to Sod's law of the boomerang effect. (See Socket Set)

Circlip Pliers:
A specialist service tool for releasing captive circlips back into the wild.

First Aid Box:
Where the tea and coffee are usually kept.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Pet Passport

We have a Pet passport that we use every year for EU travel. Our dog Poppy is a seasoned traveller and is now due for her first rabies booster. I thought it might be useful information for anyone else thinking of taking a pet abroad.  So first of all, it's only cats, dogs and ferrets that have to have a EU pet passport and strictly speaking they only apply to travel to and from the rest of the EU.

There are other countries that have accepted the EU pet passports regime. The full up-to-date lists are on the Government's website.
Take your pet to an issuing vet with its existing vaccination and health records. Your pet will need to have already been chipped and then vaccinated against rabies. You must also keep the vaccinations updated

If your pet has any vaccinations or treatment abroad, make sure the vet enters those details into the passport too. This is most likely going to be when treating a dog for tapeworms, which is compulsory when returning to the UK from all countries except Finland, Norway, Ireland or Malta.

It's worth pointing out that all dogs born since April 2016 have to be chipped before they are two months old anyway. So make sure it's right! If something isn't right, your pet could be placed into quarantine when you re-enter the UK, so it's worth double-checking everything.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Accidents Happen

Accidents happen, how many times have you heard that?

Well I think we are all aware of that little epithet. Usually as someone scrapes their hire-boat along your gunwale. Shouting falsehoods like 'Its a Contact Sport' which it will be if I can get my hands on you. I discovered long ago, that accidents start quite early on in life, usually around the time of conception. Though any memories of that event are thankfully vague.

Then there are also other things that we define almost as being 'Laws of Nature' that help us to reconcile the unwanted outcome. Its oft said that 'Toast always falls buttered side down." In other words and if an accident was not enough - the unintended consequences, also add another unwelcome element to the outcome.  Many years ago, I had this conversation with my then young daughter. She enquired "If toast was not buttered on one side did it spin?" We made extra toast and put it to the test. No, it does not spin, we tested the idea several times. Then we buttered one side, it was dropped to the floor and we discovered a new 'Law of Nature." Buttered toast never even hits the floor. As Paddy Murphy our erstwhile dog dashed in, grabbed it in mid air and then dashed off with the research evidence.

Boaters are no different to other people - just occasionally wetter.  But there are those who seem to want to tempt fate. Quite early on in my boating career I was advised to always empty your pockets when going on deck. In the unlikely event that you might slip and fall into the water. Things like electronic car keys, wallets containing pre-plastic notes and mobile phones have a much better chance of survival. Its such and unlikely an event is falling in, isn't it? Two people we know have actually disproved this theory by falling in within the last month. One claimed that it was for the first time in 25 years as a boater. The other has been known to do this previously - despite all the usual protestations.

I few years ago we were moored up in Thrupp on the Oxford canal. Its a popular place for the nearby cafe and to sit and watch the antics of inexperienced hire boaters. particularly when coming under a lift bridge and making a sharp turn at the same time.  There are also small boats available for hire in the same location. A stunningly attractive and well dressed young lady, accompanied by her boyfriend turned up. They decided to hire one of the small boats. The young fellow got into the boat first, without mishap. Sitting on the side, feet into the boat and then slowly transferring his weight into the boat. He then clung onto the side holding the boat into the edge, while his lady friend (she must have missed the briefing) just stepped straight into the boat.

Well to be more accurate - one leg stepped into the boat and the other remained on the side. The gap between side and boat started to widen as did her legs and with a splash, she was in an instant in the water. A couple of us gentlemen boaters (suppressing our laughter) rushed to her aid. Getting her to turn her back to the side, so that we could hold one arm each and with little effort hoist her from the water. It concluded with us, depositing her sitting on the wharf side. Where she should have been in the first place.

She was a good sport, she was quite good humoured about what had happened. She was chuckling away and shaking her head at her own predicament. Her carefully groomed hair now plastered to her face.  She sat quietly for a few seconds  in a small but growing puddle. Then she started to remove things from her pockets - car keys, and a few other things, then came a rather expensive looking mobile phone. The chuckling stopped with the realisation that her most cherished item - like the Norwegian Blue Parrot was now very much deceased and very much dead. A few boaters gathered round and brought towels to help her dry off. But her face now was filled with bitter disappointment for her much loved (and now angelically heading for mobile phone heaven) Smartphone.

But I digress.

Exposing anything electronic to water is just about the worst thing you can do. Certainly the worst thing that could happen to your smartphone is being given an unexpected bath in canal water. Now some mobile-manufacturers have started to construct water resistant phones. I have never found a true definition to 'water resistance' other than a number of metres and for a period in time. Because its only relative to what you are comparing it to and like the toast, its also subject to external circumstances. I treat such claims with a large shovel of salt. 

I am something of a sceptic when it comes to devices and the protection from external elements. I had a wristwatch that was supposed to be Static-proof, Waterproof, Anit-magnetic and Shockproof. All of which are good selling points. However, in my case the watch caught fire. Apparently it was not described in the manufacturers literature as being fireproof.

But I digress again.

I had a trawl of Google the "Internet Know-It-All" and the worlds most popular place to drop a phone into water, is apparently the toilet. Though it did not state whether that was pre or post flush. But it seems that there is now an IPR (Ingress Protection Rating) to give some idea of how waterproof your phone is. IP ratings start at IP11 all the way through to IP69. The first number tells you the protection offered against dust and dirt while the second number indicates its protection from water ingress.

Look, no matter the claims of the manufacturer. Its not a general invitation to take your phone into the sea, bath or shower with you. Its like those cork balls for your keyrings. We all have them and quite often we then ensure that there are sufficient keys attached to sink the ball with ease. So some people apply belts and braces technique and have a key float with two balls attached. However, if one ball is hard enough to accommodate in your pocket, two is practically impossible. Then there are those one-use-self-inflating key rings that are supposed to inflate like a life vest if you drop your keys in the water. Unlike one ball or two, you can't actually test them for working - without testing to destruction.

You could get a waterproof case for your phone, but the case will then add weight and size. No manufacturer so far supplies their phone with self inflating mini life vests or one or more cork balls. Smartphone waterproofing has its limits. Your waterproof seal can wear away and speakers can still sound muffled after everything dries out. Nothing in life is ever guaranteed only death and taxes.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Samuel Langhorne Clemens

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, is better known by his pen name of Mark Twain. The name taken from the sounding line used when testing the depth of water under a vessels keel. He was an American writer and humorist. Mark Twain wrote the classic American novels 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' and 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.'

I read them and 'Pudding Head Wilson' several times as a child. I have gone on to read much more as an adult. He honed in his writing a distinctive narrative style, friendly, funny, irreverent, often satirical and always eager to deflate the pretentious. He would certainly be on my bucket list of dinner guests for a convivial evening.

Well known for his one-line-quotes such as: 'I don't like to commit myself about heaven and hell - you see, I have friends in both places.' He was also know for his short pithy comments such as: 'Go to Heaven for the climate. Go to Hell for the company.' He was revered in his lifetime for his political observations such as: 'Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.' 
Not forgetting a quote that seems so true today: 'The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.'

Before turning his attention to writing for various newspapers. He was a boater of sorts and in real life for a time a river boat pilot on the Mississippi. Often his writing would have a waterways influence in it.