Friday, 10 October 2014

End of Phase Report

Well, after 4.5 months, we completed our first season’s boating on nb Waka Huia. Hence it is time for an end of phase report.

Where we have been
We arrived at the boat on 27 May in Sawley Marina. We started boating from there on 1 June, and headed along the Trent River to the Trent & Mersey.
From the T&M, we headed (after much to-ing and fro-ing) to the Macclesfield Canal (to and fro again – notice a pattern?) then on to the Peak Forest (bottom of the Marple Locks to Bugsworth Basin).
Then back down the Maccie once more, back on to the T&M to the Coventry/Birmingham and Fazeley/Coventry.
On to the Grand Union and then on to the North Oxford.
We entered the Grand Union again at Braunston, headed to Soulbury, back up to Braunston, back on to the North Oxford, up and down the Napton flight, past the junction at Braunston and on to Barby. 
We left the boat breasted up for the winter in Penny McMaster's care on Friday 3 October.
What went well
Friends and family on board
·       Dave and Jan
o   kindly helped us for a couple of days at the start
o   and, in early September, joined us for lunch at Rugby and a quick trip back to their car at Clifton Cruisers
·       Lesley and her dad came to visit twice and the first time witnessed my marathon of reversing from Stenson Lock back to the mouth of the Stenson Marina to turn
·       Barry and Pauline x 3
o   Joined us at Marple for 5 days to and fro on the Peak Forest, did the Marple locks down and up – the latter in pouring rain
o   Joined us again at Stoke on Trent for a long weekend trip up and down the Caldon
o   Met us at Great Linford for the weekend after their quick trip back to NZ,
·       Mel and Pete on holiday from NZ, joined us at Marple for the weekend with Pauline and Barry
·       Neil and Neill joined us at Napton for our last couple of days
·       Michelle and Taffy came for lunch and to give me a haircut when on holiday – they fitted in the trip to us on their way from Glasgow to Taffy’s mum’s place in Wales – dedication in the extreme!
·       Olek came to stay for the first week of his school holidays and joined us at Hall Green (delivered by his dad, our son Tim) and we drove him back to Scotland from Macclesfield
 Meeting other boaters has been wonderful, both those whose blogs I’ve read and the many others. The friendliness of boaters is legendary and the reputation is well deserved.
·       Tony and Helen on nb Holderness – we met these two at Shobnall Marina in Burton on Trent in late June. Having read their blog and corresponded, it was like seeing old friends; so when we saw them again in September and did a couple of days locking and having dinner on each other’s boats it was like coming home.
·       Jaq and Les on nb Valerie – I’ve read Jaq and Les’s blog from the start (I only started on it last year so my kindle had a rest for a few weeks in the evenings). I first commented on the post where Jaq had come back from the hospital, distraught and stressed and identified the music she had listened to. From her response to me, I knew we would make sure to meet up with the two of them, and we did – stalking territory actually … As with Tony and Helen, it is just lovely when on meeting for the first time, you start with a hug. We had dinner with Jaq and Les a few times – on their boat and on ours, and each time it was funny, (dinner was ALWAYS good) with hilarious conversation. I think Jaq and I are a bad influence on each other somehow, but see this face? Is it bothered?
·       Jimmy and Jeanie at Macclesfield who were very helpful in repairing the broken hinge on one door of the duck hatch and who provided us with an electric cable that is slightly longer than the boat – much more useful. J&J are a lovely couple – very welcoming and kind. We will be searching them out again – more wine has to be consumed I think …
·       Lindsay and Steve on nb Edna May – we met these two at Alrewas and they too were very helpful and kind – Lindsay provided us with cherry cake when the boat wouldn’t start (loose nut near the solenoid for the starter motor). Consuming cake didn’t fix the engine, but it did fulfil the need for comfort food … We have passed them again a few times, usually early in the morning, so have woken them with a toot or two. We last saw them as we were about to descend the Buckby flight just a few weeks ago. Lindsay promised cake (lots of it) for our next meeting before the end of this season but then she and Steve departed for points different and I am still in mourning!
·       Alison and Mick on nb 3 No Trumps who we saw often on the Maccie and then moored in front of one Monday evening, sat together in the pub for dinner and then shared gingernuts with the following morning at Hall Green Lock. I do try not to mention shopping at Tescos as Mick hates them with a passion …
·       Cheryl and Jerry whose boat name I cannot remember, but we met them at Whittington on the Coventry or B&F (I am unsure where the border is). Much wine was drunk over a couple of nights and David fell in love with their pup Ted.
·       Paul and Sally – a very brief encounter on Monday 29 Sept as I had just caught up with David who had caught up with Mick and Julia (see below) and Paul and Sally were speaking with some other boaters at the time. Good to see in person the people I read about so often.
·       Friendliness: We have swapped contact details with a number of folk, and when we are home, I will be getting in touch with them all. If even half of them come to NZ it will be lovely to have them to stay. If they all come, that will be even better. And of course we will be looking for them on the cut next season.
Finding Mick and Julia: We first met these two at Norton Junction back in 1994 I think. Julia recorded us in her log as Australians (!!) We then lost touch with them about 10 years ago and since arriving back here in May we had been trying to track them down, to no avail. Then lo and behold, within 30 minutes of putting the boat into winter moorings, we saw them on their boat – didn’t know the boat, but recognised Mick’s profile and mop of hair, even tho the latter had changed colour … So had Julia’s but hers had got redder while Mick’s is the same colour as mine. Finding them was such a wonderful way to end our season – the icing on the cake. Big smiles and hugs all round.
Service from engineers
·       Aqua Narrowboats were amazingly wonderful – reassuring, helpful, accommodating, skilled. Justin as owner/manager was a pleasure to deal with, and Ian the engineer, was just great – laconic, funny, and very knowledgeable and persistent in tracking down root causes
·       Ed who owns Four Counties Marine – well, what can we say? He is a brilliant find. He was recommended to us by Justin when we were on the Maccie and out of range of Aqua Narrowboats and the alternator once too often did its draining the propulsion thing. He came to us after work hours in the evening, gave us good advice, only wanted to charge for an hour when he’d been with us for two, and arranged to come back and replace the alternator. Since then, he has done a number of jobs on the engine and systems and has become our oracle. When in doubt we phone Ed. He has a lovely way of being reassuring, telling us exactly what is happening, the effects and how to sort it; he tells us the severity and what can wait and what can’t. He is a treasure.
Getting the boat into shape for us
·       Ian at Aqua Narrowboats:
o   Replacing the blown main switch and re-wiring so the leisure batteries were acting as a bank
o   Replacement of fuel filter to make the Lister Petter back into a 4 cylinder motor again – it had been operating on three for a number of years we gather …
o   Replacement of cr*p-filled shower pump with whale gulper
o   Removal of piece of metal in trad stern to allow seat to be used
·       Ed of Four Counties Marine has done a large amount of work for us, including but not limited to:
o   Confirmed the issue with the over-large alternator, replaced it with a smaller, lighter, very efficient version, and did the required re-wiring
o   Replaced the thrust bearing
o   Unhooked the radiators from the Bubble diesel stove and attached them to the Webasto which was formerly only heating the water in the calorifier and one radiator in the bathroom. Heat throughout the boat at the flick of a switch - excellent result!
o   Replaced the Webasto heat exchanger with one of his spares for free
·       Kev at Macclesfield removed the poo pump and fitted a straight hose so we can get pumpouts hassle free instead of worrying about paper blocking the pump.
·       Steve fixed the airhorn – I have applied to the Truckers Union for my call sign as the extremely loud horn surely qualifies me as a Mack truck driver …
·       Sorting out the shower – I commissioned by phone a piece of safety glass and channel and their fitting by Profile Glass of Stoke on Trent. The guys arrived in Atherstone on a Friday afternoon and did a sterling job gluing and siliconing the channel and shower glass into place. With the bailing sponge artfully located in the corner, the glass and curtain now prevent any water spilling on the floor and down into the bilge.
·       Removal of microwave, electric kettle, electric steamer, ironing board – we put these on the free table at Mercia in our first week on the boat, and we haven’t missed them at all. We did keep the toaster and use it occasionally when we have guests on board.
·       Purchase of mattress topper pad for dinette – after sleeping uncomfortably on the dinette when we had Dave and Jan to stay, we decided it needed to be augmented with more hip and elbow protection. We bought the topper pad at Argos in Tunstall near Stoke on Trent and immediately walked to the nearest charity shop and gave them the four pillows that came with it – we didn’t need them and hadn’t got the space to store them either!
Preparing the boat for winter:
·       When we arrived and had moored at Barby, we had to hurry as we were due to collect Barry from Rugby Railway Station. He came to help us with maintenance that was required to get the boat in good shape for being left over winter. So the work we did:
o   Marilyn:
§  Supervised David's and Barry's lists
§ Finished the topcoating of some spots where I'd removed rust
§ Shampooed boat on outside
§  Cleaned windows inside (vinegar and hot water) and outside (boat shampoo)
§  Cleaned oven
§  Cleaned kitchen cupboards
§  Divided food into 3 groups
·       Keep on board for next year
·       Send home with Barry – all the gluten free stuff for Pauline plus other bits
·       Take to Scotland for Marta, Tim and the grandsons
§  Vacuum packed all the bed linen, fibre duvets, towels, clothing – had to squeeze the air out rather than use the vacuum method as the sucky pump for the blow up mattress wasn’t powerful enough
§  Varnished bow and stern external doors (after Barry’s sanding)
Not the most flattering shot but proof I did assist with the maintenance - apart from project managing it
o   David:
§  Cleared the roof, emptied the plant pots, cleaned them and saved the rocks for next year
§ Scraped the rust from the gas locker and cleaned it out
§  Painted it with bilge paint
§  Rolled it over with Waxoyl (kindly donated by Ernie from nb George, moored beside us at Barby)
§  Scrubbed clean the bow well deck
§  Cleared and tidied the bow lockers
§  Sorted and tidied the lockers under the sofa
§  Cleaned the fridge and freezer
§ Modified the too short strut for the tonneau cover by hacksawing it in half and inserting a piece of broom handle

I've not seen the roof this empty before ... The mushroom looks shinier than it really is.
Check out the knees of David's jeans - he's been down in the gas locker kneeling in wet rust
The rust David scraped off the gas locker floor

Going, going ...
The rust neutraliser has done its job and turned black ready for the bilge paint
David takes a break from the black hole and watches the resident alpacas

  •  Barry:
§  Sanded bow and stern external doors
§  Fitted hook and eye catches to the pigeon box flaps
§  Finished the topcoating of some spots where I'd removed rust
§  Cleaned and waterproofed the pram cover, the cratch cover and the tonneau cover
§  Filled all screw holes in the superstructure (why were they there? what had they been securing? why hadn’t they been filled prior to sale or when no longer required?) with silicone
§  Filled gaps in window seals with silicone
§  Fitted draft excluder on duck hatch doors and roof to eliminate water ingress
§  Scraped out broken down fibreglass filler on hatch roof and filled gaps with silicone
§  Polished both sides of the boat and half the roof (I did the other half)
§  Put protective wax on the roof channels
§  Changed the engine oil

Barry on the job siliconing holes

Barry is a photography buff and loves reflections
Making use of the resources available to get more purchase - something I could not stretch to!

The silicone goes in replacing the broken down fibre glass before the fat draught excluder foam strip is attached
Cleaning the tonneau cover - note the pink gloves ...
Fitting the tonneau cover and wondering why the semi-circular gaps exist when the fittings for the pram cover are so easily removed

·       Things we forgot to do:
o    Put the temperature gauge filament back in place in the stove – I knocked it off when cleaning
o   Making sure the bilge pump was switched to automatic – resolved with email to Penny at Barby
State of marital relationship
·       Green with occasional flashes of red
·       It’s the first time in 40 years that we have spent 4 months together 24/7, and it has been lovely fun.
What could be improved
·       Who’s queen? And when the queen says take the rope and jump she means Please do it NOW, not when you’ve done another extremely critical task (putting the cup in the sink perhaps …) as you consider if it’s the right decision
o   It is probably easier for David to accept my being queen than my being skipper or captain, so next year I am going for the Miranda Richardson effect, complete with whip – maybe that will speed up the reaction time between being asked to disembark and the request getting to the brain, being considered and then acted upon, by which time we have missed the mooring spot or I’ve had to go into reverse to keep it available … AAARRRGGGHHH!!!
·       Coordinating our actions when coming in to moor up (see above) plus
o   agreeing that stepping off either the stern or the centre with the middle rope then holding fast is the most effective way to bring the boat to a halt if I am going slowly enough by the time David steps off. If there is a bollard handy, then wrapping the rope around twice and standing on the end is pretty effective as a braking mechanism too.
o   What is not effective is stepping off the front and pulling the front rope in hard – that way the tiller is totally ineffective at bringing the stern to the shore. However it is VERY effective at raising my blood pressure …
·       Sharing the boat bitch tasks before we set off so David isn’t down in the cabin tidying and cleaning and missing the great scenery while I am steering
o   This will require me to slow down to a mad gallop re getting underway – ten minutes sharing the tasks will pay off well
·       David steering into more locks (40 x increase would be good)
·       Achieving the right balance between battery charging and boating in relaxed fashion – as opposed to mentality when hiring of having a short time to complete the area of the canal you want to cover before having to return the boat
·       The tonneau cover has useless side gaps and non-stretchy toggles - it either needs to be replaced or modified

Overall ranking
8 or 9 out of 10 taken as a whole, according to David. Deducted 1 or 2 points for
·       needing to modify our plans for unlimited cruising to get the issues with the boat sorted
·       managing the electricity issues meant we couldn’t easily moor up for a couple of days to explore local villages and walking tracks unless we ran the engine 3 or 4 hours a day
Lessons learned
·       Drying jeans on the boat roof works a treat! Thanks, Jan C
·       It’s a whole different feeling owning your boat from hiring one, the sense of responsibility is huge
·       We can live for a long period of time more simply and operate in a very small space using less electricity, less water, and still eat well, be comfortable and happy in each other’s company – all of this is useful now we have sold the house and are moving into a much smaller apartment, still it is almost 3 times larger than the boat though (840 sq ft against 270 sq ft)
·       I cannot cope with the noise of the engine for long while stationary and in the cabin when charging the batteries
·       We can cope almost all of the time without a printer (except when we had to print, sign, scan and resend documents re sale of house)
·       We have lost our capacity for DIY – when we first bought this house 34 years ago we did a huge amount of DIY, learning as we went with good instruction from my dad and various builders who also took on the big jobs. We never touched electrics and neither of us know anything about motors apart from how they work in theory. When I read other blogs I am amazed at the confidence with which people take on doing tasks that even thinking about doing scares the tripe out of us
·       Ed and Barry are our heroes!!
Plans for next year
Boat improvements:
·       Battery charging – solar panels, and investigate a small silent generator - our neighbour here in Wellington tells us they do exist
·       Composting loo
Where we want to go:
·       By boat to London for niece’s wedding – and the Grand Circle so we give the Thames a go
·       Birmingham
·       Wherever we know the people we want to catch up with are going to be
Sunset as we prepared to leave the boat for the next seven months


Barry and Pauline said...

evidence on stepping on neighbours boat-I'm hiding

Marilyn McDonald said...

No worries, Barry, it's allowed and your shoes were clean! You also performed a useful function keeping the boats apart ...

Boatwif said...

Hi Marilyn, I've just come across your blog (what a very comprehensive phase summary you've made). I was delighted to see that you are considering a composting loo. We introduced Jaq and Les to our Airhead loo and Jaq has told us about spending time with you this summer. We moor on the Macclesfield, but who knows, we might find ourselves sharing water with you next year...! Good luck with all your land-based arrangements in the coming weeks and months.
Sue / Boatwif / nb Cleddau

Marilyn McDonald said...

Hi Sue, I'm a project manager by trade so my mind works that way. It was a good exercise actually as it was lovely to review the time and experiences, friends and fun from when we stepped on board Waka Huia back in late May. It's easy, day to day, to focus on the hassles - reviewing had us look at the whole picture.
We will be exploring the Maccie again, so I have no doubt we will find you - you have been warned by Jaq and Les, no doubt, that we are a reprehensible couple ...
The composting loo and solar panels will be ordered shortly, once we've got the house move sorted.
Warm regards, Marilyn