Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Boat Improvements (3)

As always things in life undergo gradual change. This started me thinking about what changes I could make to the boat and its equipment to improve life aboard. My old boss had a rather interesting question that he put to the staff at meetings. It would go something like this - "I know that we may not all be happy working here. But if there was one thing that you could change to make things better what would it be." Over the years some changes were made to working practice as a result of ideas being expressed.

Like my old boss, I would never make a change just for the sake of it. There would always need to be a tangible benefit from making any change. Since we purchased the boat, we have made a few small but significant changes. In this instance because of the readily availability of strong magents. 

Do you have one of those popular aluminium windlass. Lighter in weight than the traditional steel windlass for carrying around. Just the one problem, with them. If you drop it in the water, there is no way to recover it with a sea searcher magnet.  We have a couple of them and over the years we have lost and recovered the odd steel one. I remember going fishing at one lock and recovering someone else's windlass as well as our own. 

This started me thinking, of how to make an alloy windlass magnetic. I tried first by fitting a small steel ferrule on the end of the handle. Made from a short one inch length of steel conduit. I tested it with our sea searcher and it works. 

I have also seen a hole drilled through the end of the handle and a steel spring clip (like the ones on a key ring) threaded on the end to provide a magnetic bit. Take care that the clips are not stainless steel which is not magnetic.

Then I had a better idea. I have a selection of small but powerful magnets that have been recovered from various computer disk drives which I mechanically destroyed for security purposes when I made then unreadable with a lump hammer. 

We all know that nothing attracts a magnet more than another magnet. So I drilled a small hole, slightly larger than the diameter of the magnet in the end of the handle. I was able to put three ex computer magnets together, slide them into the hole and then with the hammer gently close up the end of the handle to stop the magnets from coming loose. It would just about support its own weight when hung from a steel object.

Then I remembered on eBay seeing some small round Neodymium magnets for sale. These are very very powerful magnets and are very cheap to buy. I sent off for some which were 10 mm diameter by 5 mm in length. The magnets are very powerful and you have to take care when handling them not to nip your skin. (I have a blood blister as evidence)  I drilled a 10 mm hole 32 mm deep in the end of the handle. I put 6 of the magnets in the hole which had been smeared with a bit of lock tight but any glue would do. I knocked over the end of the hole by way of extra security. Then filed the end down to make a smooth flat finish.

Now if the sea searcher comes within an inch of the end of the handle the windlass will slide along the floor. A few tests have been done and all seems OK - However so far we have not been forced to test the system under several feet of canal water and covered in mud. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


I woke this morning a bit later than usual. I could not be arsed to wait to make the equivalent cup of percolated coffee - which is the equivalent to a Capstan Full Strength cigarette as a non smoker can get. So it was to be the instant Nescafe original for my first fix of the day. The coffee container had been placed on the kitchen counter top, with the back facing outward. 

Looking closely at the back of the bottle, as I stood in my boxers waiting for the kettle to boil, I noticed that the label on the back said - 'Part of the Nescafe plan is to manage all waste in our UK coffee factories, achieving ZERO waste to landfill.' When I turned the bottle round to make it face the right way it said in bold lettering 50% extra free.

Is it me?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Smartphone Apps for Boaters (36)

No matter which genre of smartphone you own or are thinking to buy. The apps that are available will have an influence on how happy you are with the phone. There are plenty of top quality apps that you can download. However for me There's always a remarkable sub-selection of apps that are totally free. 

The wonderfully named 'Android' phone seems to have cornered the market in the same way that VHS did with tape systems. Android's open source strategy is the main factor for its success. Being a free platform has expanded the Android device install base, which in turn has driven growth in the number of third party multi-platform and mobile operator apps available.

Worried about speeding cyclists on the towpath. You and a lot of other people need to collect evidence and make it available to the Canal and River Trust. As cyclists use applications like Strava to record their best high speed performance time. Boaters can also use SmartPhone applications to record the speed of passing cyclists.

  • Turn your android device into a full-automatic speed camera.
  • Speed measuring of moving objects.
  • Measure and save the speed of cars, trucks, bikes, planes...
  • Works like a velocity measuring photoelectric sensor.
  • Works from nearly any direction (best from the side).
  • Can measure m/s, km/h or mph.
  • Takes photos with speed information for viewing later.

Anyone who can take a photograph. This app will help to make you into a speed camera operator.