Thursday 30 September 2010

Don't run your engine in gear whilst battery charging.

I nipped over to the marina to visit Rosie for the first time in three weeks. First thing I noticed was that the volt meter was on the low side. After faffing about for a while I realised that the shore line circuit breaker had tripped. That had automatically put the fridge on  Rosie onto battery power via the inverter. Unsurprisingly all the food inside had gone off and there was a certain smell. I started up the engine and watched the battery console as the alternators started to blast about 80 amps into the battery pack. Whilst this was happening I checked the land-line to find it had fallen down between the jetty and the gunwale and had chaffed through. so now I knew what had caused the problem. I have a spare cable which was swapped over to restore mains power to the Beta charger.

I have been puzzled for some time about narrow boat engines that are being run by their owners to charge a battery whilst moored and why the engine needs to have the propeller in gear. What I do know is that this will cause some damage to the canal if the boat is moored and the engine is run for long periods in gear. Now I am no wizz kid when it comes to engines, but I can find my way around them if needs be.

I was unsure if this additional load actually needs to be placed on an engine. There is already a load put on the engine by the alternator(s) when charging batteries. So is there a real reason to require an additional load on an internal combustion engine when ticking over or at faster speeds?

There is much "folk law or urban legends" promulgated on the canal forums, so I decided to look into the real effect of such issues. The road transport industry in the UK have had a number of "Anti-idling campaigns" over the last few years. In none of the campaigns has reduced costs in engine maintenance been included or flagged as being a significant cost saving issue.

However, I did find several research papers on the subject. "The effect of load and viscosity on the minimum operating oil film thickness of piston-rings in internal combustion engines"
By S J Söchting and I Sherrington 2009

Abstract: Computer simulations are now routinely used in the design and analysis of ring packs for internal combustion engines. Commonly they predict that an increase in engine load decreases minimum operating film thickness because oil availability and oil transport through the ring pack are reduced under these conditions. To assess the reliability of new simulations, investigators compare the output of computer models with experimental measurements of parameters on operating engines. Contributing to this process this paper presents an experimental study of an investigation into the effect of load on the minimum oil film thickness between piston rings and cylinder liner in a fired compression ignition engine. Oil film thickness data were collected using capacitance-based transducers located near top dead centre and mid-stroke. Experiments were performed at 2000 r/min using two mono-grade oils (SAE 50 and SAE 20) and one multigrade oil (SAE 5W50) under a range of fixed engine loads.

The interesting information is contained in the graphs which highlight the oil thickness at the scraper and compression rings. The load on the engine is varied whilst the engine speed is kept constant. The oil thickness was measured for each stoke of the engine - inlet, compression, ignition and exhaust. What this data actually supports is that modern oil and modern pistons, rings and bore combinations have reduced moving part wear rates significantly.

However, in engines that have experienced significant wear on the pistons, rings and bores. Even where modern oils and engineering technologies to the pistons, rings and bores have been deployed. Increasing the load increases the wear rate.

I found a further research paper "Investigation of fundamental wear mechanisms at the piston ring and cylinder wall interface in internal combustion engines"
By P Papadopoulos, M Priest and W M Rainforth 2007.

Abstract: This research examined the cylinder liner–piston ring system simultaneously from the metallurgical and metrological standpoints, using specimens cut from real engine components (rings and liners), in order to identify the mild and severe wear mechanisms. Work has been conducted using a Plint TE77 high frequency friction machine. Metrological analysis was performed using stylus contacting profilometer. Metallurgical analysis of the samples was carried out using a JOEL JSM-6400 scanning electron microscope. In addition to wear, the coefficient of friction (μ) was recorded for every piston ring – cylinder liner pair so as to observe the transitions between mixed and boundary lubrication. This paper presents the results obtained using flame sprayedMo-coated spheroidal graphite cast iron, which is an old piston ring coating and is not available anymore, and relatively new Federal Mogul CKS-36TM top compression rings tested against a grey cast iron cylinder liner tested at two different bulk oil temperatures (90 ◦C and 140 ◦C), two different pressures (3.9MPa and 6.5MPa) and with two different lubricants (SAE 0W20 with a FrictionModifier and SAE 15W40).

What this data actually supports is that modern oil and modern pistons can be used on old engines to reduce moving part wear rates significantly. In older engines where modern oils, metallurgical and engineering technologies to the pistons, rings and bores have been deployed, load has little effect on increased wear rate.

A further research paper "The effects of soot-contaminated engine oil on wear and friction: a review"
By D A Green and R Lewis 2006

Abstract: During the diesel engine combustion process, soot particles are produced and are either exhausted into the atmosphere or absorbed by the engine’s lubricant. Soot-contaminated lubricant has been shown to produce significant amounts of engine wear. The main mechanism of soot-related wear is through abrasion, but, at increased levels of soot content in the lubricant, starvation of the contact can occur, which can increase wear further. High concentrations of soot can increase the local acidic level and, around the piston where high temperatures and volatile gases coexist, corrosion may also occur. In this paper, the current understanding of engine wear due to soot contamination and the previous research performed is reviewed. The paper also discusses soot formation and its general effects within the engine (including friction and efficiency), as well as other issues including filtration or removal, effects on the lubricant, engine design and operation, and future industry targets and technologies related to soot contamination.


This review paper has brought together a significant amount of information and research in the field of soot-contaminated lubricants and the associated engine wear problem. It has been shown essentially that, in fuel-rich and high-load engine operating conditions, soot production increases dramatically; the primary soot particles of approximately 40nm diameter are either transported to the exhaust system or absorbed by the lubricant. When absorbed by the lubricant, the soot particles tend to agglomerate into clumps of an approximate mean diameter of 200nm. If EGR (a technique used to reduce NOx emissions) is fitted to the engine, then some of the exhausted air is reintroduced into the engine, increasing the soot loading in the lubricant. Soot-contaminated lubricants have been shown to increase the wear of many engine components. An engine’s valve train has proven to be the most seriously affected because of the thin oil-film thicknesses experienced in many of its reciprocating contacts. The film thicknesses produced in such contacts have been shown to be less than the diameter of the soot particles contained within the lubricant. To understand the degree to which soot in a lubricant increases component wear and, more importantly, the wear mechanisms that cause the wear, various tests have been performed. The tests have included a laboratory bench test all the way through to full engine tests. Each type of test provides more information to add to the increasing knowledge on the subject. The dominant wear mechanism that has been discovered is abrasion, but the more serious starvation wear mechanism, which occurs at very high soot contamination levels, could lead to engine failure as contacts may end up operating unlubricated. Soot contamination has also been shown to affect adversely the properties of lubricants, in particular increasing the viscosity, which in turn increases contact friction, leading to a reduction in engine efficiency. This will increase fuel consumption and, therefore, tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions.

Investigations are required into the actual removal of the particles from the lubricant, to attempt to reduce the potential that wear occurs. A reduction in the amount of soot produced through the combustion process can be achieved through development of current diesel fuels and through the introduction of synthetic diesel fuels where tighter component control is possible owing to the nature of the production process. Biofuels are also showing promise as they naturally tend to produce less combustion soot than current diesel fuels. Finally, improvements in lubricant technology can assist in the retention of soot particles and antiwear performance through additive improvements. Also, increased wear protection can be achieved through the very high viscosity indices possible with modern synthetic lubricants.

So if you need to charge your battery bank, removing the load from the engine, by disengaging the propeller will reduce wear and tear on your engine. Reduced loads mean less soot production and acidic levels in the engine oil. Regular oil and filter changes will also reduce the wear and tear on your engine.


Wednesday 29 September 2010

Witterings of the past!

I seem to be in something of a wistful mood of late, frequently harking back to old TV series and such. But I was brought up at a time when television was in its infancy and it brought a whole new way of gaining information and entertainment. From the serious production of topical and current affairs programming. To the start of the fly-on-the-wall documentary which degenerated into big brother. 

For me however, it was the wildlife series "On Safari" based in Africa and filmed by Armand Denis. It was the royalties from his invention of the automatic volume control for radio, which allowed him to pursue a successful career as a wildlife film maker. 

However, he was also accompanied the very beautiful Michaela Denis. Armand's chief interest was always photography. To prove his merit he went to Hollywood to work as cameraman on several films. Once having established his reputation, and being a keen naturalist, he embarked on a life of adventure which, took him into the heart of Bolivia. 

There he met a charming, fair-haired girl, with an equally adventurous streak. She had come from New York to study native textiles, and ceramics. Within twelve hours of their meeting they were husband and wife. On Safari was a trailblazer for the later award winning BBC "Life on Earth" series fronted by David Attenborough and the stunning wildlife filming from all around the World.

I also enjoyed (in my pre conservation days) the underwater adventures of Hans and Lotte Hass, spear fishing around the World. Which in turn led to Jacques Cousteau and his wildlife conservation efforts around the World. All done from an ex British mine sweeper called the Calypso. For those of us with an interest in boats, the story of Calypso is well worth reading.

Most people are blasé and dismissive about television. Soap opera and other "entertainment" provided for the masses, has blunted our view of what television set out to achieve. But for many, it brought the chance of obtaining a better education and improved prospects. The Labour government of Harold Willson pioneered part-time Higher Education, which was enabled through correspondence and late night programming of the Open University. - Also to immortalise the 60's kipper ties and wool jumpers often worn by the presenters

Today we talk about "the time-line of man" in the UK. From a 12,000 year post ice age starting point. A history starting in the Neolithic, leading to the stone age, bronze age, iron age, the dark age, the medieval and the industrial revolution. However, the latest buzz phrase for describing an age is the Information Technology revolution. Somewhere in that swathe of the IT revolution is a small passage in time when the thermionic valve technology of radio led to television. Which later led to the miniaturisation of electronic equipment with the transistor. Which in turn has led to the micro electronic age of mobile phones, computers and the Internet. Each section of the time-line is happening faster and faster as our understanding and implementation of technology evolves. How soon will we begin to be blasé and dismissive about the Internet - or has it already started.

What "personal value" could we put upon the Internet now. Is it an educational tool, is it mainly a tool for sharing porn or a flea market driven by spam. In 50 years from now will we look back at the history of the Internet as a good portent for the future.

Working in Higher Education I was involved in the early days of the Internet. I'm not going to go on to give a summery of the life and times of the Internet. (that's been done before) Other than to point out that we did not realise that we were letting the genie out of the bottle. I can remember laying cables through mainframe server rooms that covered three floors of a building. Spending a week reading the manuals to get a PAD (Packet Assembler Dissembler) working. It was attached to one of our first Unix workstation to do the processing and internal routing. Then creating the first email message to flow out from our institution. I can't remember who I sent it to or what it said - so much for history. Within a week ten people had an email address, but they had to use an IBM mainframe to provide the email application.

Later going on to meet iconic individuals like Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan and Andrew Tanenbaum. who were the giants in their own field. The sweetest of all being to talk via radio to Phil Karn KA9Q who's genius (put in the public domain) was the foundation (TCP over IP) of the Internet we all use today.

Such was the life in higher education, quality and innovation was the watchword. Today, Higher Education is almost a conveyor belt driven process. Gone forever is the time that I spent with students at all levels. Gone is the pleasure of watching young people (that I can still name) blossom and graduate. Today all that has been replaced by a blur of faces and unknown names.

We do live in a joined up world, but increasingly we live our "joined up" lives in isolation behind a computer screen. Emails replace a walk along the corridor. A text message replace a phone call. We all walk around observing people suffering from what looks like earache, only to find its a mobile phone held to their ear. The phone can ring at anytime and we are happy for it to disturb us. Let someone but-in to our conversation and we take offence. People are happy to text and phone whilst driving, risking their life and the lives of others. But if those same people were to trip over my feet there would be a hell of price to pay.

We have the technology to put man on the moon, but we don't have a cure for the cold. We have the technology to turn this Earth into a vast land fill site but we don't have an answer to fly-tipping. Its all down to economics, whilst someone makes a buck fast or otherwise we will have the technology off pat. But if there is a cost - then it can wait.

What will be the next age on the time-line of man.

How about the "Green Revolution" The development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, and distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers. The term "Green Revolution" was first used in 1968 by William Gaud, who noted the spread of the new technologies and said "These and other developments in the field of agriculture contain the makings of a new revolution. It is not a violent Red Revolution like that of the Soviets, nor is it a White Revolution like that of the Shah of Iran. I call it the Green Revolution." But not until there is a buck to be made from being green!

I remember Harold Wilson and his "White Heat of Technology" speech on the implications of scientific and technological change. I also remember all the claims of the "paperless office" now there was a concept that was bound to fail. Take a look around your office. Is it paperless yet? Will it be paperless any-time soon? I didn't think so. OK, how about virtual reality. The idea sounds fantastic put on special goggles, gloves and perhaps other connected clothing and immerse yourself in a training session or other activity. That idea made early VR proponents heroes to many technologists. VR Soon foundered on the real rocks. But we learned for our  all our endeavours. In eduction it is research-research-research that was and to a lesser extent, still is the driver in a race to publish any old twaddle as a research paper.

My research thesis was based on contrasting and comparing the use of terrestrial and satellite communications systems for use in the third world. My research suggested that the way to go in the future for places without a terestrial wired network would be through the Iridium global network.

Much later, the Iridium service was launched on Nov. 1, 1998 with major financial backing by Motorola. The first actual Iridium call was made by Vice President Al Gore. However, Iridium went into bankruptcy nine months later on Aug 13, 1999. this was because the cost of the service was way out of the reach of intended users. The first generation Motorola 9500 satellite phone was bulky and expensive when compared with cellular phones. Mismanagement was also a factor in the original company’s failure. The initial failure of Iridium also put pressure on other proposed satellite projects like Globalstar, which was soon following Iridium into bankruptcy.

Good research is not about proving that something works - sometimes good research is proving a theory is broken! In this instance it was a good technology - However, Iridium tried to claw back the infrastructure and development costs far too quickly and the projected users just walked away.

But was this the portent for much bigger Internet based "investment opportunities" to come.

Iridium's corporate fiasco should have been treated as something of a cautionary example associated with ultra-complex, expensive communications architectures and changing assumptions.

Do you remember the "Dot Bomb" implosion when just about everyone thought they'd get rich off the Internet! dot-com company after dot-com company was launched and promoted with money from the venture capitalists. A few went public and saw their stock prices go through the roof. This created a mad scramble to jump on the gravy train. Most people arrived in time to stash their dosh. They also hung around to watch the value plummet after the bubble burst.

What was it Leslie Bricusse wrote and Anthony Newley sang? Ah yes, "Stop the world I want to get off".

I have now arrived, I can see my new place of abode, its located just off a layby on the Information Super-Highway.

I can now look forward to enjoying my retirement by living in the past.

Vive la révolution!


Monday 27 September 2010

A danger to myself.

Alarm, danger Will Robinson!

Anyone else remember "Robbie the Robot" in "Lost in Space" which graced our TV back in the pre Startrek days of the late 60's. Lost in Space was a modern take on the "Swiss Family Robinson" story. A modern day space family marooned on a far away planet, trying  desperately to return to Earth.

Am I a danger to myself? I ask the question because, I have been thinking about propellers. Sad, I know, but someone has it to do. Now, what has become apparent is that selecting a propeller for a narrow boat is like needing a wizard qualification, just like Harry Potter. This is because everyone say's selecting the right propeller is something like mastering a "Black Art

Now I don't lay claim to being a boffin on propellers or anything of that ilk. I work with many boff's or "propellerheads", well enough of them to realise, I don't want to be one.

However, by reading messages posted on various canal forums and other such stuff on the net being a bofin would help. It's not altogether clear just what actual data I need to decide on the correct size and pitch of the prop. Not only that, there is very little information on how to use the information, once I have got it, to make a calculation anyway.

Here are a number of items gleaned from the net, that I am given to understand, I will need to specify the correct propeller for my boat.

Picture from NarrowBoat Swallow blog.

1. Boat Weight, now that must be a significant factor to consider.

2. Boat Length, must be less of an issue than the boats actual weight - but the longer the boat the more friction is going to be involved.

3. Boat Beam, is going to be a significant issue as the cross section displacement profile must also be a very significant factor if only for the profile of the bow wave.

4. Boat Draft, how low in the water can the propellor be fitted. The deeper the better, however you need to take into account that most narrow craft are shallow draft so that it can travel along canals that are infrequently dredged.

5. Engine BHP, what is the minimum and maximum power available in bhp.

6. Engine RPM Range. Minimum and maximum usable RPM range. Fuel efficiency will come into mind when selecting the - maximum RPM for sustained usage.

7. Engine maximum torque. What is the maximum amount of torque available.

8. Engine maximum torque RPM. Where does the torque maximise in the rpm range.

9. Gearbox Ratio. Rotation speed of the prop shaft will be a significant figure.

10. Prop Diameter. What size of prop will physically fit in place.

11. Prop Blades. Three is the norm, however 2 or 4 is not unknown.

12. Prop Pitch. The angular distance in the blade pitch.

13. Prop Slip. Whilst a single rotation should move the boat "the pitch distance" the reality is that the distance moved will be reduced. The difference is the prop slip.

14. Shaft size.

15. Left-hand or right-hand thread. Dependant on which way the prop shaft turns for forward movement.

Alternatively there is a much simpler way and that is to use the Castle Marine propeller pitch calculator.


Friday 24 September 2010

Gadget Man

Another weekend is here.

Time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana or so the play on word's goes. I remember going to see Billy Connolly and he said he was getting older - and that his sister had just retired! To him it felt like they were only playing hide and seek the week before!  Where does the time go...

So what have I been up to, well I have just purchased a Kindle. No, it's not me in a posh accent talking about a candle. The Kindle - is an electronic book reader. I love to read, I seem to spend most of my spare time either reading or writing something or other. Now, with the the Kindle I can surf the various canal blogs from the boat for free.

Electronic book readers are not a new technology. They have been around in one form or another for some time. Just as Apple's iPod wasn't the first MP3 player, Amazon wasn't the first company on the block to release an e-book reader; NuvoMedia's RocketBook and the early Sony Readers both beat the Kindle to market. But it's hard to argue that the online retailer's Kindle isn't the iPod of the e-book reader market. The Kindle has helped usher the e-book reader from gadget curiosity to a burgeoning mass market device.

What is special about the Kindle is that thousands of books come free of charge. The Kindle has a 3G connection to Whispernet so books can be downloaded for free. Amazon's newest Kindle is the best ebook-reading device on the market. It's better than the Apple iPad, the Barnes & Noble Nook, the various Sony readers, and certainly better than any smartphone.

Kindle is available as a software and as a hardware platform developed by Amazon for the rendering and displaying of e-books or electronic books and other digital media. There are four different hardware devices, known as "Kindle", "Kindle 2", a third generation device simply called the "Kindle" and "Kindle DX" I have the Third generation Kindle which is the latest hardware device with 3G support for use in 100 countries

Amazon released the Kindle for PC application free of charge, allowing users to read Kindle books on a Windows PC. Amazon later released a version for the Macintosh. Versions for mobile devices running on operating systems from Research in Motion, Apple and Google are also available free of charge. None of these alternate versions can currently read newspapers, magazines, or blogs, the way they are readable on the Kindle device itself.

With over 670,000 titles, the Kindle store contains the largest selection of the books people want to read including 107 of 111 books currently found on the New York Times Best Seller list. However, over 1.8 million free, out-of-copyright books are available to read on Kindle, including titles such as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, and Treasure Island. With the Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read English newspapers, magazines, books and even your favourite canal blog out loud to you. You can switch back and forth between reading and listening, and your spot is automatically saved. Pages automatically turn while the content is being read, so you can listen hands-free.

I must write something specific about the boat soon or visitors will begin to think the blog has changed... now there is a thought.... Making a change to the blogs direction.... mmmmm!


Monday 20 September 2010

Autumnal change in the weather!

It was a cold and crisp feeling in the air this morning as we travelled in to work by Motorcycle. Passing through Wentworth we saw a few Pheasant and a large family of Red Legged Partridge skulking on the field boundaries. The birds were busy gleaning the seed from what was left over after the harvest had been gathered in. We actually lit the log burner at home last night for the first time since the end of April this year. A good stock of logs have been drying over the summer in the wood store. The Morello Cherry tree in the garden had finaly given up and so it has also been added to the log pile. As for the boat, we have already had a couple of days with the stove lit on board Rosie.

Is this the first sign of the impending autumnal change?

Spring is always very welcome, summer seems to be all so short. Winter is always wet, dreary and miserable in equal quantities. Unless it is accompanied by a large snowfall and a sharp frost. The autumn however is a time of the year when leaves start to take on that multi-varied-shade of golden brown. The hedgerow berries ripen and all wildlife starts to hunker down waiting for next spring. According to John Keats' poem, "To Autumn". We are all about to enjoy a "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness".

I am not a keen reader of poetry, all that was knocked out of me at school by a teacher with all the charisma of canal mud.

John Keats however is an interesting subject in his own right. The very talented Keats started out on  the European "Grand Tour" when he travelled to Rome. However, he died there, aged just 25, in 1821. He told his close friend and companion Joseph Severn that he didn't want his name to appear on his tombstone, but merely this line, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." Severn to his eternal credit honoured Keats's last wish.

Talking about the seasons and the weather. Global Warming it seems to me, is the new version of the old "anecdotal warnings" of country folk of bad weather to come. Albeit a "red sky in the morning" or that "the cows are laid down in the fields". Each is given as evidence of bad weather to arrive later.

Some of this anecdotal evidence is even used to give long range weather forecasts. "The Swallows are grouping on the telegraph wires early this year, so we are in for a bad winter".

Is there any truth in this oft quoted evidence?

The lay person might say that the evidence of individual experience has been collected over a number of generations within a country family. The person with a scientific leaning might say that our weather patterns are very changeable anyway due to our location within the arc of the Atlantic driven weather systems. So that we should expect the weather to change every few days.

I used to enjoy the country programs on TV with Jack Hargreaves in "Out of Town" with all the nostalgia and sentimentality of shire horses ploughing a furrow and the memories of folk brought up in the countryside.  Jack Hargreaves's television programme gained him an immense following for its glorious mixture of rural ways and country life. Jack's farming background and deep understanding of country life were entertainingly evoked. There are affectionate and often moving portraits of his mother and his father or the "Old Man". Field sports and rural skills were brought vividly to life. His memories of the people, places and animals that were later to shape his broadcasts were certain to appeal to all those who shared his love of the English countryside - which at heart means every English man and woman.

I am quite happy to go along to my local hunt ball. However, I do not support "Country Persuit Sport's" such as Fox hunting on a point of principal. I am and allways have been anti-fox hunting. However, I have a live-and-let-live attitude to other peoples interests - I just choose not to join in.

I enjoyed the program content in "Out of Town". Jack Hargreaves was amongst the best-known and most popular of countryside television broadcasters. His weekly magazine programme about life in the country was first broadcast in 1959 and ran for twenty-four years. Its appeal endures, items from the series continue to be broadcast from time to time. Country file and John Craven became Jack's natural sucessors. 

I also enjoyed the weather forecasts on Yorkshire TV in the 1980s, "Foggitt's Forecast" was presented by William (Bill) Foggit. Bill had inherited a family tradition of amateur weather forecasting and made its curious methods a byword. Especially as enthusiasts tuned into his accounts of the behaviour of snails, moles, flies, pine cones and seaweed to predict the weather. Or the unseasonal flowering of coltsfoot, which he used to predict patterns of rain and sunshine. He did this with notable accuracy! often beating the Meteorological Office at its own game. His slot on Television was respected regionally more than that of the Meteorological Office, and not just because its description of erratic sheep behaviour were much more engaging than isobars. Bill's enormous stock of lore was as reliable as the professional technology. Like his equivalent at Delphi, Foggitt, the "Oracle of Thirsk", embodied the accumulated wisdom not only of his own lifetime, but of his ancestors'. The Foggitts had been keeping weather records in Thirsk since 1830, when Bill's great-grandfather, prompted by the story of a flood which had swept away part of the town of Yarm in 1771, began a weather diary in the hope of being able to predict such catastrophes.

Foggitt's method was based on two things: the conviction, derived from family records, that the weather is cyclical, a severe winter occurring every 15 years, a very hot summer every 22; and the country lore passed on through generations of the Foggitt family and based on traditional sayings and observations of plant and animal behaviour. Thus, when swallows come early in April, it will be a good summer; the closing of pine cones precedes wet weather; soporific flies mean thunderstorms; when frogs lay their spawn in mid-pond and rooks nest higher in the treetops, the weather will be warm; if the yellow goatsbeard flower closes its petals early in the day, it heralds rain.

Foggitt had always been interested in animal behaviour and recalled seeing, on a mild Boxing Day in 1946, a flock of waxwings devouring some holly berries. He was with his father at the time, who remarked that it was going to be a bad year. The waxwings, he said, had come from Scandinavia, fleeing the weather. Sure enough, 1947 turned out to be one of the coldest years in living memory.

Bill was invited by Professor John Gilbert of Reading University to participate in a project, based on remote sensing in science education, which would become a standard element in the national science curriculum. Foggitt, whose family folklore was a significant factor in the project, was later described by Gilbert as a living legend who was still practising methods of weather forecasting used as far back as the 15th century.

In 1990, as part of a promotion campaign, the English Tourist Board published a pamphlet containing 50 of Foggitt's "Be your own Forecaster" tips, including such pearls of wisdom as "Rainbows at morn, good weather has gone"; "Rain before seven, fair by 11, When squirrels start to hoard, winter will strike like a sword"; and Foggitt's very own, "When the distant view is clear, rain will very soon be here."

Unlike Keats, poetry,was not Bill's strong suit.


Thursday 16 September 2010

The passing of family.

Tis another weekend, that is almost upon us. However this time we are spending some if not all of it away from the boat. We are going on a trip down to Coventry in the West Midlands. This is because the Memsahib is trying to put her recently departed cousin's affairs into order. Whilst Mag's is putting a brave face on the task. It has not been at all pleasant so far. Mainly because when he died, Malcolm died alone and without friends or family members with him. To make matters worse, Malcolm's remains lay unfound for three months.

Malcolm, was apparently to everyone on the outside, his own man. However, Malcolm seems to have had few if any close friends or even acquaintances. All that was just a facade because inwardly he became an increasingly shy, retiring and evermore reclusive individual. Malcolm therefore chose to live an almost solitary and sedentary lifestyle. He was to all intents and purposes outwardly happy with just his own self for company.

This begs the question, how does anyone manage to live a life in almost self inflicted solitary confinement. What are the reasons why anyone would want to live in this way. What are the personality traits that can supress a family orientated individual to behave in this way. We can't claim to know any of the answers and the only certainty is that we are sure we never will.

However, Malcolm maintained some communication within the family. This was mainly based around a  occasional letter and the Christmas card exchange every year. The Christmas card always came from some foreign and sometimes "very exotic" location from around the world. (Vietnam, Brasil, Jorden, Yemen, Japan and Australia to name a few) Yet, at the same time he was in his own way a family orientated person. He kept in contact with Mag's father Joe up until the time Joe passed away.  However, for the family much anecdotal information about Malcolm and his family came from Joe and Joe's occasional reminiscences.

Malcolm was always invited to visit his closest family. Any change of addresses and phone numbers were sent with the Christmas card exchange. Whilst the cards from Malcolm would be sent to the new addresses he would still fail to make any other contact. It was always hard for his estranged family members to understand just why he behaved in this way?

By way of a paradox, Malcolm over a period of years carefully researched and recorded his family history. A history which he only shared with selected members of his immediate family. Mag's father Joe was one such recipient of the "Family Tree" done in Malcolm's neat handwriting style.

However, it must be added that Malcolm's main passion was based around the restoration of the family crypt and he was fighting a rearguard action with Sheffield council who wanted to leave the crypt untouched and in a state of some disrepair. His family home at the same time was in its way a shrine to his mother who herself was a very strong willed and dominant character. Malcolm's mother had died some 40 years previously and yet her bedroom was  almost untouched. This alone is in a very sad way, something of a tribute to the domination that she held over her son, that seemingly continued until the day he died.

Ill health dogged Malcolm in his later years and he slowly became something of a "Mister Trebus" character as housekeeping became too much of a chore and his home became more and more unkempt. As Malcolm became more and more introvert he became something of a stranger to his neighbours as he increasingly avoided any contact with them. Malcolm as far as we can deduce apparently spurned all contact with social services in Sheffield.

(Mister Trebus came to fame when he was featured on the British television documentary series "A Life of Grime" and his favourite phrase was, "Stick it up your chuffer!". He was living alone in a run-down house in Crouch End in north London surrounded by piles of rubbish, because he never threw anything away) 

Malcolm was in his early years was an articulate, well travelled and well educated man who refused to be ridden roughshod by anyone. His later years after his mother died he became something of a quite, stark, lonely and evermore introverted shell of his former self. Yet at the same time, I admire his tenacity in adversity and fortitude in the disappointments that life sometimes brought his way. From his personal papers that he obviously greatly cherished and carefully saved, he was living in the past. He saved very little if anything from recent times.

The World is a much sadder place for the loss of one of its colourful characters.  Yet, in a bizarre turn of events, Malcolm's passing did actually bring much closer together some of his relatives who had drifted apart over the years.  His funeral was attended by all his known relatives and it was their way of saying goodbye to the much missed and almost legendary family recluse.

We have not published a picture of Malcolm or his surname in respect of his lifelong wish for anonymity and we will continue at all times to respect his wishes.

R.I.P. Malcolm.


Wednesday 15 September 2010

The quays and back.

Picked up the new washing machine and delivered it to the boat where it was a very tight fit. I have engaged the services of someone who knows what he is doing to fit the washer in the boat. This means removing the bath, fitting a shower unit and the spare space created being used to accommodate the washer and dryer.

This week has been a quiet and subdued week as the funeral of a cousin of Mag's drew near. On Friday the weather was typically awful and seemed to fit in with the sombre mood. The "Wake" was held at the home of Mag's cousin David. It was good for Mag's to get to speak with some of her long lost relatives' - some who had not seen each other since their school days. The sentiment on the flower card highlighted that the loss of one family member - had drawn all the others much closer together.

We found a young cat living rough at the end of our road - and as is traditional in our family. We captured the poor wee beastie and took him down to the local vet to see if he was chipped. When he saw the cat basket he went mental!!!! However, no chip was found, but he was neutered and in very good health. So we have now found him a new home with a couple living on a nearby farm.

I figure he has dropped on his feet as cats are so adept at doing!.

PS.. He is now called "Monty".

We had a cruise up to Victoria Quays in Sheffield on Saturday with friends Paul, Carol and their dog Bonnie. Bonnie you may remember was found and re-homed by us earlier this year. It was good to see her again and she was in fine health. Her weight was down from 48kg almost to her target weight of 40 kg. Her fitness level was much better than last time we saw her. She enjoyed a competative game of chase a ball with Poppy! The best bit was that she remembered us, she was all over Mag's like a rash. Paul and Carol had never been on a narrow boat before and enjoyed going through a few locks and the swing bridge up at the quays canal basin.

We even spotted a wonderful Kingfisher perched up in the middle of the built-up area just after leaving the canal basin on our return leg of the trip.

Other things I managed to find some time for included I fixing the problem with the stove by changing the door seals. We have now regained control of the amount of air going into the fire and so we can therefore control the amount of heat produced once again. Saturday night we gave it a test and the stove kept the boat like toast all night and was still lit the following morning. Poppy chose not to sleep on the bottom of our bed - but spent the night curled up in front of the fire!

I managed to do a very good turn with Rosie in the canal basin. Spinning her round in her own length! There was a weding photo-shoot going off and I thought at one point that the photographer was going to ask us to use the boat as a prop. At the same time, there were a group of young-ish kids all busy painting the bollards round the basin.

Total trip distance was 5 miles and 4 locks plus 1 swing bridge.
Rosies running total = 123 canal miles, including 79 locks and 9 swing bridges


Monday 13 September 2010

Diesel Generator.

Well the weekend soon came and went! I did very little towards all the jobs I was planning to do. So maybe this next weekend will let me catch up.

We lit the stove for the first time last weekend and the boat was soon very hot and it was very difficult to control the heat. It seems that the door seal - is not doing its job and to much air is entering the fire. The fire is in run-away mode of operation. I had a quick peruse on eBay and found a replacement door seal which I have fitted. So this weekend we will test the fire again.

We also managed to find a Zanussi compact washing machine on eBay and we picked it up on Thursday night after we finished work. So it looks like fitting the washer will be high on the jobs-to-do-list. As my carpentry/joinery skills are somewhat limited we will be engaging the services of a more competent chippie person.

I have been looking at those small portable 3kva generators (Diesel and Petrol) on eBay. We want one for use with the compact washing machine that we are going to add to the boat. I am thinking of adding a separate supply feed from the generator just to the washer. The idea being to set up the generator on the tow path whilst the weeks washing is done.

In common with most boats we have a mains hook-up on-board Rosie. This is fine for most uses when we are at the marina. If our plans to do some cruising in the winter months are to come true we need to look at a back-up system for providing some additional power.

So, I have been having thoughts about adding a second source of power. The reasons behind making this change are two fold. The first option could be to add a third alternator to the engine to provide mains voltage for running an onboard washing machine and any other high current appliance when we are off the mains. However, I have almost discounted this as a viable option, due to the extensive engineering work required and to the cost.

The second option is to add a diesel electrical generator that can supply mains power. I could use a (cheaper) petrol generator. However, I am a bit wary of petrol generators because of the need to store petrol somewhere on board. Diesel is already stored on board and because of its nature is a much safer option than petrol. That's not to say that petrol generation is a bad option - there are millions of petrol powered cars on our roads. However, we would not store petrol indoors in our homes to use in our cars for obvious safety reasons. So we would not store it aboard for the same reasons.

The third none electrical option that I also want to look at, at some point in the future is changing the Alde gas fired central heating system (that uses far to much LPG gas for my liking). I would like to change to something that runs on diesel like an Eberspatcher. This could then be utilised by adding a second built in diesel tank co-located in the engine room. I would like to do this in such a way that it minimises any cutting and welding of the boat structure. However, before I go this route I will watch what happens to the cost of red diesel over the next few months.

From what I have been able to find elsewhere on the net, it would seem that there are two forms of the portable generator – One is done as direct AC and using a single pole from a three phase alternator, speed is pretty well fixed at around 1500 rpm to create a 50hz output. However, the waveform is not a pure sine-wave and can cause problems for electronically controlled devices. This could include the control electronics in a washing machine.

The second form is not engine speed dependant and uses a single phase alternator rated between 100 and 120 volts AC output, which is then converted to DC. The waveform and output voltage conversion back to 230v AC are done through an electronic control panel. However, the waveform is a much better approximation to the correct waveform. The engine speed can vary quite a bit. However, at the lower engine speeds current output (Amperes) is somewhat limited. So when an extra electrical load is demanded the engine will speed up to generate the additional requirement.

Size matters!

Contrary to popular belief size does matter when selecting a generator. Both physically so it can be stored and manhandled easily, as well as its power provision capability. So I need to look at exactly what it is that we want the generator to do. Which is to provide sufficient power to run a washing machine when we are off the mains hook-up. (2.5/4 Kva).

Portable generators can also be used to supplement what's available from our battery pack via the on-board Victron inverter/charger. The generator can be used to provide an additional back-up charging system for the boats batteries.


Saturday 4 September 2010

Canal Borrowers!

Do you remember "The Borrowers" a series of children's fantasy novels by Mary Norton and early 1990's TV series about tiny people who live in the homes of big people and "borrow" things to survive while at the same time keeping their existence secret.

During our last voyage I started taking note of the odd items floating past in the water or discarded on the bank side. I came across the odd boat fender and logs of wood and other such detritus of everyday living. The first item that we "borrowed" stright from the river Don just below Aldwark lock was a brand new eight foot plank of wood, the type with the metal end protectors. The second borrowed item was from the canal just below Eastwood lock and was a Go-Cart tyre which seemed to have no damage or wear of any kind. The third borrowed item was located at Rotherham lock moorings where there was a pile of fresh cut wood logs.

So the first item has now been set aside for when we eventually bring a small motorcycle on board. Our existing gang plank is not substantial enough to wheel a motorbike across. The second item will be used on our mooring jetty to cushion the back of the boat. The third item was half a ton of fresh cut ash logs, which I convinced the men removing the trees would be good for the narrow boat fire.

Dog Tales:-
We have decided that Pop's needs to have restricted access to the front and back of the boat when underway. Her latest escapade "Dog Overboard" has set in motion a plan to tether her where she can have room to move around but without reaching the point where she can tumble overboard. Pop's is a big part of our lives and we enjoy having her onboard but she seems to be flirting with disaster all the time. Keeping an eye on her welfare can be most distracting at times.

Something for the Weekend:-
The weather looks to be set fine for the weekend, my plans include checking on the batteries and topping up with distilled water if needed. Checking on the various belts and filters which will also be changed if needed. I may even get to slap on a bit of paint which is needed in a few odd spots to repair the odd scuff along the gunwale. Plus the Rosie could do with a good wash especially her roof.

Have you ever thought about having a go at Geocaching? This is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by people equipped with a GPS device. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, that are located outdoors. There are caches secreted around the UK canals and oter nearby locations. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.

Andrew Denny on Granny Buttons Blog has an intro article about geocaching.