Sunday, January 31, 2010

On wood.

It would indeed be a foolish (not to say churlish) fellow who ignored the sage advice of friends, and I am grateful to David and Vally for their warnings about my piece of plywood. At the same time it would be a wimp who lets his ideas get blown about like a straw in the wind, so I haven't capitulated just yet :-)

The photos make the piece of wood look worse than it actually is, and the loads upon the hinge screws will be very small as the table is supported fore and aft and will only be carrying the odd plate of pasta and bottle of wine. So while I search for a nicer piece of wood I'm going to continue with the ply do some more tests of how well it holds screws. I don't fear water damage really as it will always be in the dry and will be well varnished and edged with hardwood trim. I have to keep reminding myself that it is replacing an old table made from 9mm ply (probably better quality) which is still perfectly good - just too small and too fiddly to erect. The seats upon which we will sit are also made of the same stuff.

On the subject of wood, visits to local suppliers have confirmed my suspicion that quality is going down fast. I haven't seen a "good" piece of ply anywhere, and the hardwood trim is hard in name only. I suppose its all to do with protecting endangered forests so I mustn't complain.

When I bought my best guitar 15 years ago the difference in cost between an Indian rosewood back and sides and Brazilian rosewood was £300, and good Indian rosewood isn't cheap! I can only speculate about the difference would be today. It would have to be very old Brazilian, because they haven't been allowed to cut it for years.

If you want to see some lovely wood, anoraks might like to follow this link to the great Stefan Sobell who made my guitar and click on his page about wood and the efforts he goes to to find it. Then you can look at the other pages about his instruments and drool.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Blimey this is hard - hinge cutouts

These counter flap hinges I'm using for the flaps on the new cratch table are lovely, but what a pain they are to install. The idea is that they will allow the side table flaps to fold over flat against the main part of the table but will lie flush when the table is open. So to get them flush with the table surface I have to carefully cut out one layer of ply in the plywood. Well two actually because there is a wafer thin outer veneer layer. This veneer is very fragile and splits easily so the problem has been how to do the cutout without fraying the edges of the veneer.

Wisely, I worked on practice pieces first and eventually succeeded by using masking tape to protect the edges. However that was the least of the problems. After the first layer for the hinge plate, you have to do a further deeper step to accommodate the hinge pin barrels, then a hole to let the central bass joining piece swing.

Plywood, once you get inside it is nasty. It splits and cracks easily yet is quite hard because of the embedded glue. This test piece took me a couple of hours to get right and on the real thing I have to do eight of them, two for each of the four hinges. However they should be a lot quicker now I know what to do, but if I mess one up I'll have to cut a new piece of wood and start all over again.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Planning the big paint.

Now just over 10 weeks until what we laughingly call Paintfest 2010, the time when we give Herbie a fresh coat and a new look. Not that I'm laughing much, I'm scared stiff! Yesterday I listed all of the bits and pieces we have to acquire or order ready for the big day - several different paints, brushes, rollers, paint kettles, power tools, abrasives, rust treatment, masking tape, cleaning stuff etc etc. At the end of next week we have a planning meeting. Then I must get on and order the paint, which also means we must make a final decision on the colours.

Once again we'll be using the rather splendid indoor wet dock at High Line Yachting in Cowley Peachey. We last used it two years ago for painting the roof and gunwales and other bits and pieces.

This time we've booked it for two weeks, which is barely enough really so I'm having to prioritise what must get done over what would be nice to get done. For the first couple of days we'll be mob handed as Rick, Marilyn and David have offered to help. So with five of us at it we ought to make good progress on the rubbing down if we can keep out of each other's way. We managed OK last time.

Looking back at the roofpaint photos it gives me heart to see that we all seemed to be having fun at the time, although I recall being tired and extremely dirty. Anyway, if the before and after pics are as good, then I'll be happy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Herbie - worth the paranoia?

Four years ago yesterday we had our test drive on Herbie prior to handing over the money. I remember it was very reassuring because Val and Roy, the previous owners spent several hours with us, showing us all over the boat in great detail and they had so obviously cared well for the boat. Here Kath shares a joke with Roy.

I think at the time that I reckoned that we might keep her for about five years, but I'm sure now that it will be longer than that. Buying a boat was a huge decision at the time, but of course it's been worth it. Anyone reading this blog knows we love it. Having a second home that can travel the country on water is great. A bolt hole from family pressures, a means of sharing holidays with good friends, fresh air and exercise, a free pad in London when we want it, a cottage in the country etc etc. I just have to think of how many times have passers by smiled and expressed their envy.

The downside. Is it the cost?

We'll it's not free, but we went in with our eyes open and our costs turn out to be pretty much what we expected. Our next door neighbour at home has a caravan and I'm astonished to learn that their costs are about the same as ours. I'm sure we get more for our money.

Is it the work?

Not really. I can't say I actually enjoy clearing the oil out of the engine tray and such like, but it's OK. I actually do enjoy some of the DIY bits. This week I'm making the new cratch table for pleasure! As for the crewing, I can only think of two or three days when the weather was so awful that it seemed a chore.

No, the downside for me is the paranoia! Not what does go wrong, but what might go wrong.

Have the pipes frozen? Will we make a mess of the job when we repaint Herbie this year? Will a bit of engine vibration at tickover turn into something more costly? Will the stern gland leak when we're away from the boat and sink her?

That's one reason I'm glad to have friends involved in caring about Herbie. Not just because they sometimes help with jobs, but also because they sooth my anxieties and calm my fears with advice and reassurance.

Thanks guys

Friday, January 22, 2010

More on 3D - how easy is it.

A couple of people have asked how easy it is to do the 3d drawings of the inside of the boat. Well all I can say is that I downloaded the Sketchup software the other day, spent a few minutes reading some of the tutorial and started drawing. You don't have to worry at all about perspective or angle of view because the software does all that.

The internal plan of Herbie I showed yesterday took an afternoon to do. It does take a little while to get your head round which plane you are in when you are drawing a line, but the system helps you by colouring the line red blue or green as you pull it. You do have to resort to the undo button quite regularly when you get things wrong. Most things go really easily but the odd feature can require some patience and ingenuity.
Rectangles pull into blocks easily, circles pull into cylinders easily and so on. Colours and textures you just click from a menu. Look at this sink. Everything is a cylinder or a cuboid and I just picked an aluminium finish off a menu. I suppose it took three or four minutes.

The really hard bit is manoeuvring into tight spaces to draw underneath things or in corners- you keep ending up the other side of the wall! Doing much detail in the boat corridor is not worth the bother.

What I am looking forward to having a go at is modelling up a new galley table arrangement because I don't like our existing one. I believe when the boat was first built that it had a single dinette there, but the previous owners stripped it out. It would have looked something like this and convert into a single bed. I fancy restoring it, but I'd have a lot of measuring to do first as space is tight.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Herbie exposed in 3d

More drawings done with Google Sketchup - now in glorious colour.

First how the proposed cratch table should look when folded.

Then three views of the inside of the boat. I modelled this up by eye, i.e. without any measurements and working entirely from memory, so the proportions may well not be too accurate, but it is recognisably Herbie. I guess for those who have never seen her, this gives you a reasonable idea of the accommodation.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A real guarantee

A story for you - bear with me, it has a good ending.

About 15 or more years ago our friend Phil got me drunk at lunchtime in a pub in Bristol and we staggered out in the rain and somehow found ourselves in a Rohan clothing shop where I was pesuaded to hand over what seemed a huge sum of money for a waterproof coat.

I wore that coat on at least a thousand occasions over many years until the Gore-tex membrane ceased to work (as they eventually do). I still have the coat and apart from the waterproofing it is still in very good nick. In subsequent years I also bought from Rohan a fleece, now ten years old and going strong and some wonderful "winter bags" trousers which have comfy thermal linings. All good stuff for boating.

So when I needed a new waterproof coat at the end of 1996 I got another from Rohan. It cost £149, weighs nothing, but is windproof and waterproof, has lots of waterproof pockets and all that. Kath bought herself a different Rohan waterproof a couple of weeks later in the sale (£87).

Sale time 2010 came around and we went to Rohan in Guildford to buy a fleece for Kath and a new one for me, as the old one whilst still sound is now a bit grubby. Whilst we were there we mentioned in passing our only complaint about our waterproofs which is that in the awful weather we some times boat in, the rain gets up the sleeves and you get wet forearms.

Ah well said the shop lady, then under our guarantee the coats have not performed to spec and we will give you the full price you paid in part exchange for new coats. This after three years hard wear. She rang this morning confirming from their computer records the dates and prices we paid, and so were off to get new coats for which we'll have to pay very little.

I don't know about you, but I reckon that's a very good deal. And we didn't even ask for it! So I'm happy to offer this testimonial. Rohan stuff is not cheap, the designs are often quirky but clever but the quality is worth the money and it seems their guarantee actually means what it says.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cratch table in 3-D

I'm itching to get started on making the new cratch table, but I know I musn't until I have returned to Herbie to do a final accurate measure up. This I plan to do on Thursday.

Meanwhile I have not been idle. Firstly, I have been sourcing and costing all the bits I need. The good news is that I can find all the special hinges and stuff locally. The bad news is that it won't be a cheap table when you add it all up. My associates have been encouraging me to look long term and buy top quality parts and I take their point. So I reckon at least £65 (not counting all my travel costs!) in total if I buy good quality hinges, wood and varnish.

Secondly I have been producing these great 3-D drawings using Google Sketchup, which is a free download.

It is surprisingly easy once you get the hang. Once you have the drawing done you can move in and out at any angle. Very handy for a job like this.

Later I'm going to attempt some 3-D people to sit them at the table.

Sometime back I did a fairly thorough measure up of most of the boat's internal and external dimensions and produced a set of drawings which have proved invaluable. Im tempted now to do the whole thing in 3-D.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Survival in the snow

Although I worry about the wildlife in weather such as we've just had, especially the poor kingfishers, everything seems to be coping well round here. Yesterday I took a stroll, well a trudge really, along the Blackwater. The little river was running fast and dark, swollen with snow melt and birds were everywhere. Wrens under the bankside bushes, a large flock of long tailed tits darting around in the trees, and amazingly a little egret in the water.
I've seen one or two there before, but I didn't think they'd over winter here, although reading the RSPB site this morning it appears that many do come here for the winter.

In our garden and nearby trees this week we've had redwings and fieldfares, a sparrowhawk, and this morning a pair of foxes. The biggest was quite the biggest fox I've ever seen. A bit grey here and there so presumably a bit long in the tooth, but looking very fit and well fed. He sat around on our lawn for a while then dissappeared through the hedge into the churchyard .
I hope our little bay tree survives. For a while it has been an ice sculpture!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Superannuated British engineers make design breakthrough

My broadband router glows white hot with the exchange of emails on the design of the proposed new cratch table. Some of the finest engineering brains in the land have been excercised to their limit. Midnight oil has burned in Bracknell (me), Long Buckby (Rick) and Rickmansworth (David). A design has emerged, so simple and elegant it makes you want to weep.

The breakthroughs came when Rick realised that the leg doesn't need to telescope up if it is folded away outside the folded table and when David identified hinges which allow the side extension flaps to fold flat on top of the table. Confused? OK let's do the pictures.

Here is the erected table (red) with hinged flap extensions (green) hinged at H, and the leg (blue) . This view is from the free end of the table. It (the red bit) is hinged to the wall at the opposite end

To stow the table, first the flaps fold up and over to lie flat on the table using a clever hinge identified by David who spotted one on a sewing machine table. These hinges lie flush with the table top. Now see the next diagram viewed from the side of the table

The table top, hinged at A is lifted slightly (1) to allow the leg, hinged at B to temporarily drop to the floor (2) so the table can drop against the wall (3).

Finally (see below) the leg is raised again to be held in a bar counter catch at the top and holding the folded table top nicely in place.
Neat or what?!

Well that's the theory anyway, but we all know the devil is in the detail. Finding the right hinges and the bar counter catch has been important, and I still have to decide how to neatly hinge the leg to the steel floor. And then there is the small matter of woodwork skills and accurate geometry :-)
Thanks also to Brian, and an anonymous commenter who both send in neat ideas which sadly now lie with many of my own and Kath's on the cutting room floor. Much appreciated regardless.
Watch this space as I attempt to turn the dream into a reality.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A folding table for the cratch -designed by telephone

Rick and I have spent quite sometime talking on the phone this weekend about a design for a folding cratch table for Herbie. The boat has such a table at the moment built by Herbie's previous owner, but despite being ingenious it's too small and doesn't stow away and re-erect quickly enough. I can understand why because its a tricky problem.

The idea is to have a table hinged to the forward bulkhead. Swing the free edge up and out, engage a supporting leg and Bob's your uncle. Lift and click. Aah that life was so simple.

You see the problem is that the space into which the folded down table would hang is smaller than the table needs to be, and then the length of leg necessary to support the table level is longer than the space to fold it into.

So our table needs to have a folding flaps to tuck away when the table is dropped, and a telescopic leg. The biggest problem of all though is that it needs to be made by totally unskilled labour i.e. me.

I've done some drawings which demonstrate the problem and the proposed solution.

Here it is in plan view. The table is shown in red. The shaded areas marked coal and logs are knee high seat boxes. I've shown the doors (swung half open) into the main cabin of the boat. You can already see that the table overlaps the seats and so can't fold back to drop against the forward bulkhead. Notice the red dotted lines. These mark flaps which will fold in behind the table when it drops. The dotted T shaped thing is the supporting leg, which can be better seen in the side view picture below.

There is the leg in blue. It will be hinged to the bulkhead at the bottom, and must telescope up to fold away vertically when the table is dropped to the vertical storage position.

The final picture shows the view looking forward from the cabin into the cratch.

There is the table in red, hinged along its top edge. The flaps (dotted) are folded in to avoid the seat boxes, and the T shaped support leg is folded in behind the table.

The idea looks ok on paper. I have to figure out how best to make a telescoping leg and attach it to the floor, and how to give adequate support to the folding flaps. Rick suggests some sliding bolts at the top(as seen here) end of each flap. Then the T of the leg should support the outer end.

I can make the leg out of two bits of aluminium box section tube, one sliding inside the other with holes and pins to lock in at the shorter and extended lengths (like extending tent poles). Not sure how I would fix the T bar to the top of the leg though.

Anyway there it is. I hope to have a go at it when our conservatory (my workshop) gets above freezing. Any comments or suggestions most welcome.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Frozen in but not frozen up.

Boats huddle up together to keep warm at High Line Yachting. Well at least that's what this telephoto shot makes it look like. Herbie is in there somewhere. I managed to get a car out from home today with the use of a shovel, and made the journey out to check on Herbie's batteries and plumbing. Actually the snow at Iver is nowhere near as deep as it is here in Bracknell.

Those who know Herbie's mooring can see from this shot, how much closer we are to the boatyard building since we moved up to Humbug.

No I didn't cross the canal on the ice to take the picture, although I was tempted. I used the bridge.

Fellow battery watchers (I know you're out there) might care to know that since 14 December, the batteries have dropped from 100% to 82% through self discharge. I got them back up to 98% today usng the mains charger.

Was Herbie frozen in? Yes. I don't think the rudder will move.

Was Herbie frozen up? No.

A bottle of water on the galley floor was still liquid, and I did a thorough inspection of the plumbing and all seems ok. Inside the cabin the mid day temperature was 1.5 degrees C, but I suspect it doesn't vary a great deal from day to night because the boat is pretty well insulated. Although the boat was cold, it felt dry and there was no condensation in the windows.

So now I feel a lot more relaxed about the big freeze.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Twelfth Night

I'm racked with guilt. Poor old Herbie lies abandoned in the snow and ice with no-one to look after her.

I must try to get out there soon, but we're pretty much stuck at home now. The snow is really deep. Nine inches this morning and it has been snowing again since. I bet the canal looks pretty. Strangely though it doesn't feel all that cold.

Grace struck out this morning, but didn't get all that far. She looks like Captain Scott crawling to his dugout!

The snowman looks happy though.

Anyway, it's twelfth night and the decorations are down, so to cheer us up remembering that the first line of the play is If music be the food of love, play on, here's a link to something that makes me smile - from one of my musical heroes. (with sub titles for VallyP). Way off topic, but what the heck. Tell me if you like it.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

If you think it's cold now, read about 1888 on the Nene

In 1888 the river Nene was frozen over, For six weeks my father could walk to work over the river instead of going round by the bridges. On the ice at Lilford, Lord Lilford roasted a bullock on the river for his tenants and farm workers, and all the fields which had been flooded had frozen hard.

It took the men all their time to keep the stock fed and watered on the farms and the turnips or "mangold worzles" had to be crushed with a mallet before they would go through the cutters. At Thrapston a man took a waggon and horses on the river under the nine arched bridge; my! but it was a winter to remember.

So wrote a Mrs Julyans in her recollections of country life in the Nene Valley at the end of the nineteenth century. I came across them as an appendix to the book "A Summer on the Nene" by BB, alias Denys Watkins-Pitchford, once the art master at Rugby school.
I have read other books by BB, about fishing, so when I found he had written a book about cruising the Nene I put it on my Christmas list.
Sadly, it's not the best book he ever wrote. Despite his efforts to describe the sights, scents and sounds of the countryside his prose failed to fully convey (to me at any rate) the magic of this lovely river. He is however a knowledgeable countryman and devotes quite a bit of space to descriptions of the bird life. He could certainly was able to identify far more species of birds than I, although I daresay there were more species in evidence when he wrote the book in the 1960s.

BB is truly one of the old school, and I fear something of a Colonel Blimp. In defence of public schools he writes "Britain will certainly be a much less virile nation when education is the same for everyone" Later, he complains of a "mob of long-haired youths in tight blue jeans". I wonder what his pupils at Rugby thought of him.

Apart from appendix, the best parts of the book are the retelling of local tales from the villages of Wadenhoe and the surrounding area. These were fascinating and I shall, certainly re read them when I revisit.

The appendix is the real gem though. Eleven pages by Mrs Julyans. Written in a very direct style without a lot of superfluous adjectives, she gives a vivid picture of country life a hundred years ago, the work, the food and the home life. Wonderful.

I suspect the whole book will seem better on re reading. I get impatient with purely descriptive passages when they don't grab me and I suspect I skim read too much.

BB has a lot of fans. There is even a BB Society comprised, I imagine, of a lot of anglers who liked the old days. His best book, which I also have, is "Confessions of a carp fisher". Now in that book his powers of conjuring up an atmosphere of a hidden pool at dawn are at times chilling.
A Summer on the Nene was republished in 2005 by published by The Little Egret Press in a limited edition of 600 copies. Mine is no 535 so there can't be many left. Older copies can be found on ebay and the like.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Marsworth in the ice

Today we had cause to visit Marsworth (no Rick, we did not go to Tring brewery, we were meeting Kath's sister!), and after a yummy lunch in the Anglers Retreat, we took a short walk up the canal.

Interestingly the two pictures below (give them a click to see them big) were taken from virtually the same spot and within the same minute, just by facing the other way. One of the reasons we love this spot.

Blimey its cold, and they say it'll get colder. I worry about how Herbie's water tanks and pipes are doing even though I have taken all reasonable precautions. I feel for those folk who live aboard without serviced moorings at this time of year. Just touching the roof handrail can take the skin off your fingers. They can't get to a water point because of the ice, and I don't like to think about where they empty their loo cassettes. Nevertheless as long as they have a stove, they'll be warm enough inside.

We met someone today who has had her boat moored empty at the towpath for several weeks at Marsworth and no-one has tried to move her on. She hadn't thought to drain her water pipes, so I hope her boat is well insulated.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

No duck shooting

We narrowly missed an opportunity to shoot Lucky Duck on new years eve (with a camera of course). After taking Peter back to his flat in Cambridge we took a very short stroll along the Cam which was very swollen with snow melt. The air was absolutely freezing and although we know the Ducks like to moor by Fort St George we thought they wouldn't be so daft as to venture out in these conditions, so turned back a mere hundred yards before we reached there. Now we know from their blog they were there after all. Oh well. We did manage to get a photo of their pal's boat Nb Kestrel looking very shiny and smart.

I'm sure Herbie's mooring won't be swollen with flood, but I bet it's iced over. We're hoping for a short trip out in the next week or so to go to London and back before the canal stoppage at Yiewsley starts on 19 Jan, but we'll be going nowhere if we're iced in. Manwhile I'm pondering on a design for a folding cratch table. More on that when I've visited Herbie to measure up.