Thursday 29 July 2010

Gas and CO Detectors.

Gas and CO Detectors.

Rosie is fitted with the usual home type of smoke detector fire alarm. As an additional precaution I am looking at installing a couple of the gas sensor type alarms aboard as well as a carbon monoxide detector. CO, carbon monoxide is an odourless, tasteless and silent killer. We have a gas central heating system (Aldi) on board as well as the wood burning stove highlighted in my previous post. So CO and well as gas leak detection are a must.

For CO or Carbon Monoxide I have chosen the following detector. The Zeta  ZD-CO-9X. This is a domestic Carbon Monoxide alarm. It comes with a six year "sealed for life" battery. Price: £29.32 from Discount Fire SuppliesPDF Data Sheet

Liquefied Petroleum Gas or LPG is potentially explosive but is heavier than air and smells strongly. Liquefied petroleum gas (also called autogas) is a flammable mixture of hydrocarbon gases used as a fuel in heating appliances. Varieties of LPG bought and sold include mixes that are primarily propane, mixes that are primarily butane, and - most common - mixes including both propane C3H8 and butane C4H10, depending on the season, in winter more propane, in summer more butane. A powerful odorant, ethanethiol, is added so that leaks can be detected easily. You should be able to detect any leaks by the strong acrid smell.

The pressure at which LPG becomes liquid, called its vapour pressure, varies depending on temperature. LPG is heavier than air, and thus will flow along floors and tend to settle in low spots, such as bilges on boats. This can cause an explosive ignition or suffocation hazard if not dealt with. If a container leaks, the LPG first spreads out as a super-cooled liquid. Then it boils into the atmosphere and become an oxygen-displacing gas, which asphyxiates anyone in the affected radius. This gas spreads out to cover several hundred times more area than the liquid from which it comes.

For The LPG gas detector I have chosen the Pilot Gas Mini (PLT1) 12v Marine LPG Alarm / Detector with remotely mounted detector head. Features a 95db Loud alarm & warning light, 3.5m of cable with sensor head, which can also be linked to a 12v Gas cut off switch. The alarm will continue to sound as long as the sensor detects a dangerous concentration of gas vapour.

Purchased from Caravaning online  Price £119 See here.


Tuesday 27 July 2010

Wood or Coal.

We have a wood burning stove on board Rosie that has never been used from new (6 years) We also have a wood burning stove at home that we only use throughout the winter months. I can usually obtain enough wood for free to keep the system going through the winter. However, we discovered that there is wood and there is wood for burning. Not all wood is suitable for burning in a stove. All wood will burn if it is dry or "seasoned". Some wood will burn if it is still wet or "green". However, the heat given out bt the wood will vary quite a bit.

Wood is a carbon neutral fuel, as it is part of a natural cycle of trapping carbon and then releasing it when the tree dies and rots. In theory it is an ecologically sound and sustainable energy source if the same, or preferably more, trees are planted for the ones cut down.

Note: All kinds of wood will burn better when seasoned and some burn better when split rather than used on the burner as whole logs. If you try to burn green wood, the heat produced by combustion must dry the wood before it will burn, using up a large percentage of the available energy in the process. This results in less heat delivered to your home, and gallons of acidic water in the form of creosote deposited in your chimney.

Often just lighting a fire can be a problem.

Tip: Two sheets of newspaper twisted into a taper and a little bit of cooking oil will light a stove. I have a plastic box with paper that has been used to mop up cooking oil after use in the kitchen. Oily paper works much better than firelighters. The key to starting the fire is to use small pieces of wood as kindling to get the fire going. Small dry branches, log bark or wood cut into small pieces can easily be used for kindling.

Tip: About once a month, I light a fire just using just coal briquettes for a day or so. The stove pipe gets much hotter than normal. This helps to flush out any tar buildup in the stovepipe.

Tip: I have been experimenting by using a mixture of wood and coal on a log burning stove. I start the fire in the normal way. (as highlighted above) Then when there is a good bed of burning wood and the stove is hot. I then place a single layer of coal briquettes on top followed by another layer of wood. I can easily keep a fire in all night on a slow burn using this technique. This then keeps a decent level of background heat available in the cabin throughout the night.

Rule of thumb: - If it grows naturally at the waterside it will not burn well. Wood like Willow, Poplar and Alder who like to grow in meadow conditions are typically very poor providers of heat when burned as logs. However, Willow is grown and harvested as a biomass production of coppicing. This works well when turned into small pellet form. Alder, Willow and Poplar all rank as poor firewood owing to their high water content, unless well seasoned.

Apple and Pear – burning slowly and steadily with little flame but good heat. The scent is also pleasing.
Ash – the best burning wood providing plenty of heat.
Beech and Hornbeam – good when well seasoned.
Birch – good heat and a bright flame – burns quickly.
Blackthorn and Hawthorn – very good – burn slowly but with good heat
Cherry – also burns slowly with good heat and a pleasant scent.
Cypress – burns well but fast when seasoned, and may spit
Hazel – good, but hazel has so many other uses hopefully you won’t have to burn it!
Holly – good when well seasoned
Horse Chestnut – good flame and heating power but spits a lot.
Larch – fairly good for heat but crackles and spits
Oak – very old dry seasoned oak is excellent, burning slowly with a good heat
Pine – burns well with a bright flame but crackles and spits.

As can be seen from these old English poems below, the best wood to burn is Ash, beech, birch, sycamore, oak, holly, apple and cherry. Nearly all the coniferous woods burn freely when really dry. Sweet chestnut, elm, oak, and larch are less poplar on open fires, as they throw out sparks and splutter as they burn.

Wood for Burning. (Poem)

Logs to burn! Logs to burn, Logs to save the coal a turn!
Here’s a word to make you wise. When you hear the woodsman’s cries.
Beech wood fires burn bright and clear, Hornbeam blazes too’
If the logs are kept a year To season through and through.

Oak logs will warm you well, If they are old and dry.
Larch logs of the pine smell. But the sparks will fly.
Pine is good and so is Yew. For warmth through winter days,
But poplar and the willow too, Take long to dry or blaze.

Birch logs will burn to fast, Alder scarce at all,
Chestnut logs are good to last If cut in the fall.
Holly logs will burn like wax, You should burn them green.
Elm logs like a smouldering flax, No flames to be seen.

Pear logs and Apple logs. They will scent a room,
Cheery logs across the dogs, Smell like flowers in bloom.
But Ash logs all smooth and grey, Burn them green or old,
Buy up all that come your way, They’re worth their weight in Gold!


Beech-wood fires burn bright and clear, If the logs are kept a year;
Store your beech for Christmastide, With new-cut holly laid beside;
Chestnut's only good, they say, If for years 'tis stored away;
Birch and fir-wood burn too fast, Blaze too bright and do not last;
Flames from larch will shoot up high, Dangerously the sparks will fly;
But ash-wood green and ash-wood brown, Are fit for a Queen with a golden crown.
Oaken logs, if dry and old, Keep away the winter's cold;
Poplar gives a bitter smoke, Fills your eyes and makes you choke;
Elm-wood burns like churchyard mould, E'en the very flames are cold;
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread - So it is in Ireland said;
Apple-wood will scent the room, Pear-wood smells like flowers in bloom;
But ash-wood wet and ash-wood dry, A King may warm his slippers by.



Thursday 22 July 2010

On the Ropes.

The ropes or lines on Rosie are in reasonable condition, (rope, is also called a line or warp when used aboard a boat) however, I am tempted to purchase some longer replacements. We want to spend some time cruising the river network which will require Rosie to have longer lines available. I also want to be able to configure the boat to enable single handed trips if needed. Longer lines will make the tying up in locks much easier single handed.

I did look at one or two items of rope that were on offer whilst walking around the boat show at Crick. But  did not make a purchase. In the main because I was not sure which of what was available would be useful to me. I was not knowledgeable enough about the charateristics of lines. I figured it was time to go looking on that font of all knowledge "Google" on the tinterwebbie!

This is not a masterclass on ropes, lines or warps it is just a collection of notes taken from my research reading so far. For instance, it would seem that a rope or line is classified by whether it is made of natural or synthetic fibre, it's physical construction (including the number of ply) and diameter and breaking strain.

Rope can be further sub-divided into two groups – laid and braided. Laid or three-stranded ropes are most common on leisure boats. Braided ropes have a core at the centre that carries the load. The rope has an outer braided cover or sheath to protect the core and make the rope easier to grip.

I shall concentrate my google research on laid rope rather than braided.

Main Synthetic Rope Types.

Also known as Terylene or Dacron. Polyester is the stuff from which most boating rope is made of. It is resistant to rot and ultra-violet light, it also sinks in water. 3-strand polyester rope is a rope used mainly for mooring and anchoring. Even when wet polyester retains full strength and remains easy to handle. Polyester stretches very little and is excellent in resistance to abrasion. It is easy to splice and can be used for lanyards, fenders and fender lines.

Has more stretch than polyester. Polypropylene floats in water and will over time degrade under ultra-violet light. 3-strand Polypropylene rope is the most versatile rope that's manufactured. Polypropylene rope is strong and great value for money. It is a good all round rope that can be used for a variety of tasks.

Dyneema lines have the highest strength to weight ratio. Polyethylene lines don't hold knots well. Dyneema is a synthetic fibre based on ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, 15 times stronger than steel and up to 40% stronger than Kevlar.

Nylon is very stretchy and used for anchor ropes and towing lines. Its stretchiness makes it very good at storing energy. Then if it breaks, all that stored energy is released extremely quickly. This can cause serious whiplash types of injury.

Synthetic Polyhemp.
Polyhemp or Hempex Rope is a 3-strand synthetic rope made to look like a natural fibre rope. This soft handling rope is easy to grip and is soft on the hands. It has excellent breaking load, good resistance to abrasion and will not rot. It has low stretch and is easy to splice.

Pros of synthetic line: very strong, has excellent resistance to rot, mildew and deterioration, and it is extremely resistant to harmful sunlight U.V. rays and weathering. Another pro of synthetic line is its elasticity in applications where that is an important factor.

Cons of synthetic line: slips much easier than natural line so it is not ideal for knots and for use with deck fittings, its elasticity can be dangerous if it parts during a load bearing operation such as towing, and it is susceptible to chafing from rough surfaces.

Main Natural Fibre Rope Types.

Real Hemp Manila.

Hemp, Manila, Sisal and Cotton are all natural fibre rope. Little of this type of rope is made now, and for that reason  it is quite expensive. Because it is a natural fibre rope manila will shrink when wet and lengthen when dry.
Cons of natural fibre line: Poor performance in load bearing applications such as towing, it is not resistant to rot, mildew and deterioration, and it has poor resistance to chemicals compared to some synthetic ropes such as polypropylene and polyethylene.

Pros of natural line: Strong (but not as strong as synthetic), resistant to harmful sunlight UV rays and weathering, and it is resistant to abrasive surfaces.
Common Rope Diameter.
6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 14mm, 16mm, 18mm, 20mm and 24mm
The Breaking Strain of a rope or line will vary with the material used as well as the construction of the rope. Remember that over time the rope will also weaken through everyday usage.

Tips I picked up along the way.
  • Rope now comes in different colours, so by using different colours you could help to identify different rope lengths for instance.
  • The rope must be much weaker than the weakest fixing point on your boat. That certainly applies to any towing points or anchor points if these ever come under any significant strain.
  • The correct way to clean a length of rope is to put the rope in a pillow case with the end tied, and then place the pillow case in the washing machine.
  • Natural fibre line should be uncoiled from the inside of a new coil in order to prevent kinks.
  • It is possible to reduce the wear and tear on a rope by use of clear soft plastic pipe which can be slid along the rope to the point of abrasion. Some people also use bicycle inner tubes for the same purpose.
  • There is no such thing as an old or disused rope. Old rope can be used for internal stuffing on buttons and fenders. So there is money to be saved for old rope.
  • Forward mooring ropes should when required be tied off to a length not long enough to reach the propeller if they should fall into the water.
  • Floating rope such as Polypropylene can be used to help keep longer ropes away from the propeller if they should go into the water.
  • Keep a short length of rope (six feet should do) on the stern dolly with a large foot sized loop and a spaced series of large knots as hand holds. This can be used to help you climb back onboard if you should accidentally slip over the side into the canal. You need to be able to reach the rope from the water.

Some Rope Suppliers.

Sharp and Enright
Trafalgar Marine
English Braids
Cheap Ropes
Rope Locker

Want to tie a knot?


Friday 16 July 2010

Signwriter or done in vinyl?

I have started to attend to the paintwork on Rosie, it is going to be a busy long weekend. The Memsahib is away in Birmingham with Doctor Steph annoying the itinerant tradesmen as the "la masure" is brought up to her exacting standards. For me, that means a "relaxing" weekend starting and finishing jobs on a whim! Playing with the satellite TV set-up and slave driving a work colleague Phil who has foolishly volunteered to put a few hours into the T-Cut of the paintwork.

I was up and about at 6:30 took the dogs for a good walk along the tow-path in brilliant sunshine. A long hot shower followed by the traditional English breakfast set me up for some rubbing down. We have another boat Zindagi belonging to Dave and Val that is visiting the moorings.  Zindagi is moored in the spare slot, so I have made a start on  the starboard side. When the other mooring comes free (currently under a BW auction) I can haul Rosie over to get at the other side.

Had a quick chat with Dave off Zindagi whilst making a first pass of the T-Cut regime. I was not sure if it is the same Zindagi who's blog I have come across in the past. Maybe I should have asked,  however, when I went home to feed the cats I did a quick check on-line and it was! They have some visitors aboard today so I shall leave them in peace. I might get a chance chatter more before they leave tomorrow.

It looks like there are several layers of Mer plus a layer of wax or some other protective coat. It looks like it is going to be a long job getting back to the original layer. I got in two hours and two panels before the wind and rain arrived. So I started to watch a bit of the golf from St Andrews. That's when John, Tracy and Holly arrived. So I missed out on some of the live golf. Looks like being an evening with the highlights.

Talking of paintwork, I started to look around on the tinterwebby at possible local sources of signwriters because I want to get some signwriting updated on Rosie. When I came across this site with interesting samples of the work of signwriter Tim Hobbs. Unfortunately for us, Tim is a bit remote from our present location - that is unless we plan a trip to the Kennet and Avon at some time in the future. I have also looked around at the vinyl graphics option on the web. However, I was not impressed by what I had found so far. Well that was until I found that Tim has a section on his website on high quality vinyl graphics.

As Tim says "Many boat owners these days are finding that either a good Traditional Signwriter is hard to find or the cost is prohibitive. As a result more and more are taking the vinyl option. As a Traditional Signwriter myself I am finding this to be the case, certainly in my locality. There are many suppliers of vinyl graphics out there but can you find something that not only looks the part but gives you something completely unique to your boat? Now you can. I can now produce graphics in cut vinyl that reflect all of my own experience signwriting boats on the cut. Have a look at Tim's Vinyl Gallery by clicking here."


Thursday 15 July 2010

A motorcycle used as everyday transport from a narrow-boat.

What is the best motorbike to use as everyday transport when living on a narrow-boat? This is a bit like saying what's the best length of string to have. As a biker who enjoys anything in the two wheel realm for recreational fun or the commute to and from work, I shall try to answer the question from personal experience.

The Honda Dax (Monkey Bike) might be one option. However, these machines have an almost cult status and command a high price. The carrying capability of such a bike is very limited. It might come down to what you can carry on your back using a rucksack.

There are Chinese copies of the Honda Dax available which seem to be more and more popular with the younger end of the biker spectrum. Prices are far lower than the original Honda Dax.

If space is at a real premium then you should consider the Honda dax or one of the Chinese copies with folding handlebars.

You can fit just about any type of motorcycle to a narrow boat. After all some people have even had cars such as the Mini or the Fiat 500 onboard. However, in the human world - size matters in most things.

Link Narrow Boat Belle who's design was modified to have room for two motorcycles.

Here the criteria we are looking at is to bring aboard everyday transport over modest distances, say 25 miles radius. With no or very limited modifications required to be made to the boat.

Q1. Where is it to be fitted on your boat?
If you have a Trad or Semi trad narrow boat the front cratch area is going to be the limitation. On a cruiser style depending on layout you might have other space options available.

Q2. How heavy a motorcycle can you manage on and off the boat?
The simple answer here is to look for a motorcycle with the lightest weight for a given engine size. NOTE The bigger the engine size the more the bike will weigh.
Q3. What if I only have a car licence.
Lightweight motorcycles come in two flavours. Moped (often automatic) with a 50cc engine, single person limitation, which can be driven on a car licence. Small motorcycle between over 50cc and under 125cc (manual or automatic) which you will need to do a one day training course for (CBT) Compulsory Bike Training at a training centre. You can't carry passengers until you have passed your two-part motorcycle driving test.
Q4. I know nothing about motorcycle maintenance?

Motorcycle maintenance is the biggest rip-off on Britain's roads. Most run of the mill maintenance will involve changing the engine oil, occasional oiling of the chain and changing the odd bulb. Small motorcycles built in the far ease are legendary for covering huge distances whilst overloaded and with minimal or no maintenance.

Q5. So what is available that will do the job?

My preference would be for one of the Honda Cub C50, C70 or C90 or one of a number of similar bikes. These bikes also have some rudimentary leg protection from the elements. A C50 if you have a car licence, or a C70 or C90 if you do the CBT.

JAMES MAY (AKA Captain Slow) of the BBC Top Gear show said "The Honda Cub is a thing of beauty and long may it endure - throw it in a canal, come back in 10 years, and you can still ride it to work."

In fact he had a great deal more to say on the subject. Here is a much shortened version of his thoughts on the Honda Cub. "A while back, America’s Discovery Channel conducted a series of destructive tests on a Honda Cub motorcycle, rather in the vein of the films we made at Top Gear on the Toyota pick-up. They drowned it, blew it up, set it on fire, ran over it and generally tried to suppress its dogged, willing spirit, but by the end of it all the Honda still worked. They therefore declared it the greatest motorcycle ever made."

"Let’s look at the figures. In the last 50 years, more than 60 million Cubs have been built in 15 countries, making it a best-seller to make other best-sellers look like mere fads. But it’s more than that. Most will have had several owners, and in Asia many of them will be transporting three or four people at a time. It’s therefore conceivable that a body of humanity the equivalent of America’s population has been granted its freedom by a single-cylinder step-through runabout. Liberating armies rarely achieve that. 

Because it was designed for poor people in rural Japan, it will go anywhere. Second gear is a town-biffabout ratio, third is for the cruise, where you might achieve 40mph. But first is so low that the Cub will climb Fuji. It will do this slowly, maybe at not much more than walking pace, but do it, it will, even with a fridge on the back. I believe, too, that Honda knew that Cubs would never be maintained properly, because a Cub will still work when everything on it is technically broken.

As a two-wheeled institution the Cub will probably never die, and as an individual bike it won’t either. You can throw one in a canal, leave it for 10 years and then fish it out and ride to work. It even looks good in brown. It is a thing of humble beauty that will endure forever."

Many examples of the Honda Cub C50-C70-C90 can be found on eBay. From around £200 upwards depending on year and length MOT.

Total length 1,800 mm (71 in)
Total width 660 mm (26 in)
Total height 1,010 mm (40 in)
Wheel base 1,175 mm (46.3 in)


Stop Press (Update Here)

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Solar stuff.

I have been looking further into cheap renewable energy provision - one thing that is clear is that cheap and renewable are an oxymoron.  See previous posting "Piss power for your boat"

So what's available in the Solar Power market.

Solar panels use light energy (photons) from the sun to generate electricity through the photovoltaic effect or photo-electric effect). Most modules are usually rigid, but there are some flexible modules available, based on thin-film cells.

One type of solar panel is the polycrystalline which is made from a block of silicon that has multiple crystals. These panels are square in shape, and have a surface that looks like a mosaic. Polycrystalline solar modules are less efficient than a single crystal wafer. However, they are much simpler to produce, and cost far less to manufacture. This makes them much less expensive to purchase. That means twelve percent of the energy in the sunlight that strikes these panels is converted into electricity.

The second type of panel uses a thin film layer of material otherwise known as amorphous. More recently, improvements in construction techniques have made amorphous solar cells more attractive for large-area solar cell use.

The last type is monocrystalline. Monocrystalline panels convert sunlight with a higher efficiency than polycrystalline and thin film amorphous panels. This means that fewer panels are required to produce a given amount of energy. They are often used when space is limited, or when there are high costs associated with installing a lot of panels.

The durability and longevity of polycrystalline panels are comparable to monocrystalline panels. Generally, polycrystalline panels have approx 12% conversion efficiency.

It should be remembered that standard ratings are not always indicative of the conditions in which you will be using your panels. These panels assume relatively cool climates, and are rated on a standard of twenty-five degrees Celsius (about seventy-seven degrees Fahrenheit). Very few solar panels incorporate any design features to decrease panel temperature.

Panels operating at a higher temperature – fifty degrees Celsius or more – will be a lot less efficient. That may sound like a lot, but these are dark coloured panels in direct sun. The likelihood of them rising to those temperatures is much greater than you think.
Expect the panels to lose somewhere between fourteen and twenty-three percent of their power converting capacity in these conditions. It should be noted that these tempreture standards apply to all types solar panels not just the polycrystalline, amorphous or monocrystalline type.
Since cell heating reduces the operating efficiency it is desirable to minimize the heating. Panels that are set at an oblique angle to the sun, in very hot locations can sometimes generate more power because they operate at a cooler tempreture.

Most solar cells are capable of producing electricity for at least twenty years without a significant decrease in efficiency.


Tuesday 13 July 2010

Victoria Quays canal festival.

I went along the canal to the festival at Victoria Quays in Sheffield on Sunday. There seemed to be a very good crowd in attendance. However, I chose not to take Rosie up the canal. I chose instead to enjoy a good hours walk along the towpath from the mooring.  With Mags, two dogs Poppy and Bonnie, as well as John and Tracy and their dog Holly.

There are a set of  (BW?) marina style moorings with jetties just behind the Don Valley Stadium. However, they seem to be totally unused with little sign of any activity. There is a good crop of weed growing in the area. Could make for an interesting stop over free mooring point if attending any of the Sheffield Don Valley Stadium events. However, we were on the towpath side which is the wrong side of the canal to get the best view.

When we arrived at Jonathan Wilson Boat Builders, there was a new boat that had been slipped into the water recently. It came complete with a full set of scratches along half its length. However, as there were several different colours of paint it was obviously not just a single instance of a coming together. If that had been my boat, I would have been seriously pissed off to say the least.

I have no idea who might have caused the damage, however there are few if any hire boats in this section of the canal. So one can only assume that the deed was done by owner drivers! For me, the bit that sticks in my craw  it that damage created by unskilled hands on the tiller, is seen elsewhere by some boat hire businesses as being "perfectly acceptable".  However, I don't accept the notion that it is acceptable for their clients to damage someone's boat in the perpetuated hogwash that there is some unwritten "rule" about narrow-boating being a "contact sport". I have insured the boat this year with the mafia,  so I give fair warning - if you hit me - they will hit you.

Me and John and the three dogs had a brisk walk back to our mooring and we arrived just in time to watch the Formula One British Grand Prix. John however, preferred to watch the annual onion sellers push bike race around France on Channel four. C'est la vie each to their own.

There was must laughter later in the marina when Holly the dog was fitted with her doggles ready to ride home with John and Tracy on their 650cc Suzuki Burgman scooter!


Monday 12 July 2010

Paint refurbishment.

I have been and purchased some T-Cut paint restorer ready to give the boat paintwork a good spruce up. The paint has had several coats or Mer and other paint shine protection products used on it in the past. There is a slight discolouration when viewed in a certain light. Its a sort of translucent grey sheen on top of the deep red. A bit like the pale dusty covering you see on fresh untouched black grapes.

Paul and Donella's boat Dunroaming who share our jetty at Tinsley also have the same colour paint. Paul has T-cut the paint back to the original and it looks stunning. Now, I need to cut the paint back to its original state and bring back the boats true shine.  T-Cut has come on in recent years and the manufacturers actually do an almost direct colour match version for Rosie's paintwork. Then I want to go round and touch up a few scrapes and rub marks round the rubbing strakes.

The brass-work on Rosie has been well looked after in the past. Rosie's brass has that great discolouration called patina that can only be produced by weathering and regular light polishing. So there is little more needed than a cursory quick polish of all the brass work.  I will be adding a small catch to the back cabin doors so that the dogs can be locked out of the back deck area whenever required.

Then we will be having our names coach painted to replace the previous owners names as well as adding our home location "Lundhill". Only then will Rosie seem to be "our" narrow-boat.

I have purchased a satellite TV system to install on-board. The electrical control panel has a satellite fuse point already installed. I managed to install a short mast to mount the dish on. However, due to the proximity of trees the Dish has to be at the far end of the boat away from the TV installation. At some point I will install one of those video sender units which will help to reduce some of the cable runs. So when the Memsahib goes off again to Birmingham, I shall be busy doing a few little jobs on the boat.


Friday 9 July 2010

How much is enough.

How many cabin lights is enough in a narrow-boat?

I was looking through Rosie's manuals and in particular at her electrical systems last week. I wanted to start to get a reasonable understanding of her power consumption and to get to grips with her extensive set of manuals. The one thing that I did pick up on was the number and type of lights. In common with most boats Rosie has two systems. The mains or high voltage side and the battery powered low voltage side.

In general, home lighting is achieved by the use of incandescent filament or fluorescent bulbs or tubes and this process has barely changed in more than 100 years. Costs and efficiency of conventional lighting have not been questioned until recently, because most people are unaware of any alternative means of lighting. However, environmental awareness and change in attitudes have meant that new alternatives in lighting technology have been produced.

 A "normal light bulb" has a very thin tungsten filament that is housed inside a glass sphere. They typically come in sizes measured in 10, 25, 40, 60 or 100 watts. The idea is simple, electricity runs through the filament. Because the filament is so thin, it offers a good bit of electrical resistance to the electricity. It is this resistance that turns electrical energy into heat. The heat is enough to make the filament glow white hot, and the "white" part of the glow is light. The problem with light bulbs is that the heat created is wasted electricity. Heat is not light and the purpose of the light bulb is to give light. So all of the energy spent creating the heat is a waste. Incandescent light bulbs are therefore very inefficient.

As an example the wall lights in the saloon on Rosie has four 25 watt mains bulbs. Its a small saloon and 100 watts of wall lighting seems to be overkill. So I shall be looking at some alternative solutions that I can use. Solutions which can be provided by using fluorescent, halogen or the latest LED type light bulbs. The criteria being to use less mains generated power via the boats inverter or when used on a shore line. LED based household light bulbs (which are much improved) are beginning to used to replace the old incandescent and halogen lighting that you will find in most homes. I did consider replacing the bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs. However, low-energy light bulb replacement, using LED bulbs are a better alternative for providing an effective low power consumption lighting.

There is some confusion about how much light you get from different types of bulb and how much energy they consume. Compared to a normal incandescent bulb,  compact fluorescent will use approximately 20% of the power to generate the same amount of light. e.g. An 11 watt compact fluorescent is equivalent to a 60w light bulb.
A halogen bulb uses about 50% of the energy of a conventional bulb to generate the same amount of light. They can however become very hot
Led Replacement light fittings have advantages over standard light fittings as they produce minimal heat and use between 50% and 80% less power compared to their standard non LED counterparts. LED technology is improving all the time with new technological innovations.

This then started me thinking, should I look at converting all of Rosie's (mains 240v) lighting circuits to a low voltage operation. I could use compact fluorescent bulbs as they are more efficient and also have long life durability, better than most other bulb types. However, compact fluorescent bulbs should only be considered as the main stay for all you’re lighting needs in the home. The typical bulb size tends not to lend themselves to boats and there are only a limited number of profile types to chose from. I have a good low voltage power system available on the boat, so other methods may be cheaper and more practical to achieve.

Some of the benefits of a low voltage lighting scheme should be considered but are less well understood. Here are a list of some of the main points that I considered.
  1. 12 volts is inherently much safer for children and pets.
  2. A bigger range of good quality, smaller fittings to choose from.
  3. A better range of lamps to choose from which are brighter, whiter, more efficient and longer lasting.
  4. Some 12 volt lights are twice as efficient as their 240 volt equivalents.
  5. Low voltage systems can absorb transients such as those caused when a lamp blows and are, to a degree, tolerant of earth currents arising from a bit of damp in light fittings.
  6. DC cable losses would not be a problem in my case.
  7. LEDs only require tiny amounts of power to operate efficiently.
  8. Consider systems that could be run from solar or wind generated power.
  9. Total extended life per unit with minimal degradation of light output.
  10. Reduced cost of periodic re-lamping and maintenance.
  11. LED operating temperatures are typically 60°C rather than the 300° - 450°C operating temperatures of conventional lighting.
  12. LEDs do not produce ultraviolet light.
  13. LEDs are not subject to sudden failure, vibration or burnout as there are no filaments to burn out or break.
  14. Incandescent light sources are subject to sudden failure as there are filaments to burn out or break.
  15. Halogen bulbs are small lamps which generate considerable heat so they can only be used in light fittings designed to cope with high temperatures.

We already have a 12 volt TV, CD player, Radio and Satellite systems. Our only need to use mains power either through the Victron inverter or shore line is for a small 700 watt kettle and a 700 watt microwave. There may also be a need for a small vacuum cleaner in the sub 1000 watts range later.

Rosie has a reverse layout, the saloon is at the back, followed by the galley, then the bathroom and the bedroom is at the bow. Therefore our battery bank / inverter is located adjacent to where the majority of the power will be consumed. We only have two mains sockets installed forward of the galley. There are also two mains voltage wall lights in the bedroom area.

Rosie also has six, ten watt low voltage lights in the Saloon, four in the Galley, four in the Bathroom and four in the Bedroom. So I went through and took out half of the lights in each area except for the bathroom. It was hard to detect a significant difference in the light level. We actually preferred the apparent lower light ambiance as being a much more comfortable lighting level. Many of the lights were removed from our eye-line and made reading and watching TV much more comfortable.

We also have a galvanometer fitted which measures earth circulating currents when connected to the mains on the jetty.  A galvanometer is an instrument for detecting and measuring a flowing electric current. It produces a deflection in either direction of pointer in response to electric current flowing through its coil. I noticed at Strawberry Island that there was some small deflection on the meter which gives pre-warning of currents that can eat away at the steelwork. Most boats have sacrificial anodes fitted to protect the steelwork. However, on the jetty at Tinsley I noted that there are no circulating currents at all. So that's a plus.


Thursday 8 July 2010

First voyage (resumed) III

Saturday 3rd of July 2010

Up at 5am, walked the dogs through some very pleasant scenery at the Don Gorge. Then we set off at 5:30 as we need to do some catching up to the boat we are to share the locks with, on our journey up the Tinsley flight. When we spoke to the lock-keeper at Tinsley yesterday he told us the name of the boat was “One Day At A Time” and that she was currently moored at Eastwood Lock. She would be underway for Tinsley at 8am. We gave ourselves an extra hour of travelling time just in case of any problems along the way.

We locked through the very large Mexborough Bottom lock with some minor operational problems with the sluice gates. Then we proceeded past the popular "Pastures moorings" and onto the Mexborough top lock which we did without problem.

The glitches started at the next lock which is “Waddington's” or Swinton Lock. This lock was very problematical. The whole area is filled with laid-up barges waiting for a change in trading circumstances. It is at this point where the disused Dearne and Dove canal joins the South Yorkshire Navigation. Waddington's boatyard uses part of the old watercourse as a dry dock.

There is a group interested in opening the canals again, and the details can be found here.

The automatic Waddington's lock, was somewhat less than automatic. The lower gates would only open an inch at a time and then the water level light would go out and everything would draw to a stop. After waiting a couple of minutes the lock would inch again and then stop once more. I tried to phone BW on the telephone on the lock wall, but it had been flooded out with rain water at some time and everything was dead. So much for an emergency telephone! We found out from another boater that the problem had been reported some days previously. We lost over an hour just operating this lock!

We made good time to Kilnhurst Flood Lock, which was closed even though the river is at a low level due to the lack of rain over the last few weeks. However, the lock worked without problem for a change.

Aldwark Lock and it was now ten past eight. Damn! the lock was set against us again. Even at this hour the weather was beginning to warm up and the sun was strong and so I was soon basting myself in sun cream! We soldiered on as best we could eventually clearing the lock in 20 mins. we would have liked to visit the Supermarket on the canal side. However, we were running very late.

Eastwood lock. When we arrived it was now just turned 9am. Once again the lock was set against us. We cleared the lock in good time. However we had to moor up above the locks to let the dogs stretch their legs. I had a quick scan up and down the pound to see it I could spot the boat we would be locking with. However, they had by this time set off. As we had a good mobile signal I rang up the keeper at Tinsley to make him aware of our difficulties. We now went into standard travel mode as there was no way we could make up time over the remaining distance.

Tully's Moorings was the next point of interest along our route. The water level in the canal was low and we were asked to flush some water through the lock at Rotherham as one or two boats were already sat on the canal bottom. Just past Tulleys moorings is where the Humber Princess moors up to off load her oil.

Rotherham lock. The lock was back to hand winding with the windlass. The sluice gates at each end were already part open flushing water into the lower pound. Access on and off the boat is not easy on the low side of the lock. The debris in the lock was building up behind the lower gates and it was a struggle to get both gates open enough to thread Rosie through. I pushed up to the front gates and then gave a long burst on the prop to flush some of the debris through into to the lower pound. Once we had cleared the lock, we gave a quarter of an hour flush of water through the full open sluices to raise the bottom pound level a bit. Then we lowered them down to about two notches from the bottom. The pound between Rotherham and Eastwood locks is very long and our flush would have done little to raise the level. But with the sluices cracked open to give some flow, it would help a little over time.

We were now reaching my childhood playground section of the canal. See previous posting for details.

Ickles lock had not changed from the way I remembered it as a child. The lock here was leaking and we had to keep Rosie away from the front gates or the front cratch would have been filled. Other than the lock was set against us, there were no other problems. We set off along the pound and met up with a couple of American visitors who were walking the towpath we had a good conversation as we went along.

Between the Ickles and Homes Lock we passed the Rotherham and Sheffield Canal Association moorings.

Holmes lock was our next point along the route. Homes lock was set against us. The lock was very heavy and the paddles stiff to operate. However, before I could get off the boat, a young lady (a towpath fairy) walking along the towpath came to Mag's assistance. She provided some welcome help with opening and closing the gates. She watched us up through the lock before giving a cheery wave and set off on her way along the towpath in the opposite direction.

Jordan's lock was passed with ease and we set off at a gentle pace towards Tinsley Bottom Lock. We knew the keeper was bringing a boat down through the locks and it would be another hour before he arrived.

Tinsley bottom lock number 12 was where we first saw "One Day At A Time" we breasted up with her as the lock mooring is quite short. A good chat ensued with the couple on  One Day At A Time and we soon made friends whilst we waited for Dave the "lockie" to arrive. Time for a welcome cup of tea the crew on One Day At A Time had already had a brew so Mag's went into the galley to do the honours.

Soon we were on our way up the Tinsly flight. Starting at the bottom lock number 12. Working as a team, one person setting the locks, one person closing the locks one person managing the ropes and one steering on each boat. Two and a half hours later saw us reach our destination. One Day At A Time carried on to moor up in the Victoria Quays marina in the Sheffield Canal Basin.

In the image Tinsley Locks 1 to 5 can be seen. Tinsley boat club mooring can be seen each side of lock 2. We are currently moored on a jetty in the pound between lock 2 and 3.

Distance today 11 miles, 22 locks 0 swing bridges.
Running Total 83 miles, 33 locks and 8 swing bridges

Wednesday 7 July 2010

First voyage (resumed) II

We left Doncaster at 20:10 in the evening on the 2nd of July 2010.

I did one of my better reverses out into the canal, I'm starting to be good at this. Our first challenge came instantly when we met with the very large "Humber Princess" on a tight bend near Greyfriars Wharf just before Doncaster Town Lock. She was returning empty from off loading oil in Rotherham.

See UTube video here.

When we got to the Doncaster Town Lock the lock was set against us. However, we eventually passed through the lock with a few minor problems with the entry gates sticking. There are some major works being done at this point and the three contractors boats are moored on the lock moorings, leaving little room for getting crew on and off the boat safely.

It was at this point that we started to use a pair of walkie-talkie 446Mhz radios just to keep in closer touch with each other. The locks on this section of canal are so big that we found that we were sometimes out of earshot and sight with each other.

Once we got through Doncaster Town Lock we made good time towards Sprotborough. Whilst heading up river we met up with the Lady Wyre on a booze cruise, the incumbents were already in a noisy party mood.  Sprotborough lock, once again was set against us. As the Lady Wyre must have recently passed down through the lock. I figured we were following another boat. On the other side of the lock, at the offside moorings there were several boats tied up for the night. I hoped that these were the boats in front passing through the locks and that the other locks further along would now be set in our favour.

We made good time to the Mexborough Bottom Lock arriving at 10 pm just as the light was finaly giving out. When I checked the lock, surprise surprise was set against us. We moored up for the night just below the lock. In reality we should have passed through the lock as the moorings above the lock were much better. However, it was getting dark very quickly and we had done the last quarter of an hour with the navigation lights and headlamp on.

We will need an early start in the morning to make up time to get to Eastwood Lock for 8am.


Distance today 7 miles, 2 locks 0 swing bridges.
Running Total 72 miles, 11 locks and 8 swing bridges

Tuesday 6 July 2010

The prospect of a long weekend.

Thursday 1st July 2010

Well, the weekend fast approaches and the weather looks set fair, again. So we will get our first opportunity to have a long weekend spent aboard "Rosie". We will be arriving in Doncaster on Friday afternoon and plan to just potter along the river towards Sheffield. We both have arranged to have next Monday off work, so that should let us have an extra third night on board.

This week has been a "shopping for the boat" week. Sounding like something from the "Generation Game" Purchases made include an electric kettle, small microwave, a pack-away barbecue, Jacko the cuddly toy, fondue set and some extra pots and pans for the kitchen. Now the Memsahib is one of those "minimalist is good" people. Whereas I am one of those, we need it - lets get it people. It should add an extra dimension to the negotiations about what, goes where and why.

We have more friends coming to join us this weekend to spend some time on the boat. However, they have arranged for their two children to spend some time elsewhere. So I guess it will be an eating and boozing weekend. It is a source of amazement to us both about how, even more popular than ever we have become since aquiring the boat - Rosie, must be some sort of good luck charm!

We hope to work our way up through the Tinsley Locks on Saturday afternoon. We have a mooring arranged at Tinsley Boat Club Marina. We will be there for about two weeks before re-tracing our steps. The paperwork for the mooring came through from British Waterways only yesterday. I rang the lock keeper today to arrange a time for passage.


Friday 2 July 2010

Canal Restoration

I have come across a few specialist "canal" forums on the internet which seem to have little content and not a great deal of activity going on within them. One such canal forum is Canal Restoration. The ethos behind this forum would seem to be quite good as a talking shop. Good for anyone interested in exchanging news and views with other people involved in the restoration and maintenance of our canal system. However, Canal Restoration the forum is not being promoted very well and might be pushing against the tide as there are other well established internet based information sources on canal restoration. A typical selection is listed below. Chosen at random they represent a selection of other alternative canal based restoration information sources. There are some links from one website to another supporting some limited cross fertilisation between different restoration groups.

Huddersfield Canal Society.
Ashby Canal Society.
The Lancaster Canal Partnership.
Sankey Canal Restoration Society.
Grantham Canal Society.

For a number of years I happily gave up quite a bit of my leisure time to help set-up a nature reserve. (Old Moor in Barnsley)

The River Dearne can be seen running diagonaly from bottom right to top left across the centre of the photograph. The Old Moor Nature reserve can be seen each side of the river.

Old Moor was a successful venture with money provided from Europe and was eventually taken over by the RSPB who continue to run it to this day. The biggest problem was always getting the right calibre of volunteer. Volunteers who are willing to get involved in developing and managing the habitat. This usually involved a good bit of physical work.

However, as I got longer in the tooth I eventually chose to hang up my wellies and my RSPB volunteer badge and settled for a more relaxed and easier lifestyle. I still go and visit for a few hours of bird watching. I have seen some rare visitor species such as the very exotic looking Hoopoo as well as Spoonbill, Little Egret and Stork.

I have just started reading Sheila Stewarts "Ramlin Rose" the story of a canal boat  family. Whilst "Rose" is not a real person the text is distilled from many conversation the author had with a number of real canal folk. I do enjoy reading canal based autobiographies and this book draws from many different individuals. With wonderful insight into a lost world.

I came across a new canal forum... called "CutConnect" today. Seems to be quite a new forum and in need of some support so I joined.

Today I am back at the salt mine, doing the day-to-day stuff that brings the pay check at the end of the month. However, now that the boat is much closer to our home mooring the weekend cannot come fast enough. Well the weather is too good to miss and the light nights are here.


Thursday 1 July 2010

Bird numbers.

Last winter was quite severe for our flora and fauna and this year I expected that the number of wild birds breeding within our immediate area would have been noticeably lower. However, that seems not to be the case. We have more than the usual number of Blackbirds and Thrush around the garden than we have had in previous years. Dunnocks and House Sparrows are at least at their previous level. Wrens a plenty and our resident Robin has raised a brood already in the hedgerow. Doves have been bolstered in numbers and we even have a Woodpigeon and a female Blackbird who have figured out how to get on the seed and fatball feeders. Fat balls are disappearing at a fair old rate as some birds are also using them to feed their chicks.

Some information about breeding success see the British Trust for Ornithology BTO website.

Thinking back, we did not get any unusual bird visitors like Bullfinch, Woodpecker or Jays into the feeding station at all this last winter. The hard winters are usually the ones that bring the more shy woodland birds to the feeders.

The government water quango have issued drought warnings across significant parts of the UK as 2010 has proved to have the driest start to the year since 1964. This in itself is an interesting observation as the year prior (1963) was one of the hardest winters in recent memory. So a hard 1963 & 2009 winter is followed by a hot 1964 & 2010 summer!!

You can see some of the UK weather trends between 1970 and 2000 here.

My unplanned dip in the river Don just a few days ago was made all the more memorable by the fact that the water was not at all cold. This month marks the 34th anniversary of the greatest heatwave in the record-breaking summer of 1976.  From June 22 until August 26, a period of nine weeks, the weather was consistently dry, sunny and hot. When the temperature regularly reached 30C!

There is however, already a challenge facing the Fire Service as the situation is getting steadily worse and will continue to get worse until significant rainfall occurs. Everything is tinder dry, we reported this week a grass fire on the other side of the valley from our house. The particular difficulty not faced by the fire service this weekend, was that the damping down was helped by almost no wind.

If everything runs to form the drought should come to an end when the traditional August Bank Holiday deluge will soak the country from top to bottom.

There is also a risk that standpipes might be needed if water levels remain low this autumn after an exceptionally hot summer. So will the general lack of available water also curtail our boating activities on some canals and river systems later in the summer. This could see not only hosepipe bans but also the imposition of a curfew on locking between certain hours. It has started in a few select areas already.

I wonder who will be appointed as the minister for drought. Back in 1976 it was Denis Howell, the then sports minister, who was appointed as the 'Drought Supremo' or Drought Czar. Cloud seeding and even shipping in water by tanker from Norway or down a pipe laid under the north sea were among ideas considered by the Government of the day.

I have the view that compulsory water metering will be the new pick-and-mix con-a-lib government answer to the problem. There is no way that the con-a-lib government will want to make water companies do more than minimal work to plug leaks.