Floating Again

Monday, August 31, 2015

Long pause again, I know.  These days you'll just have to take what you can get.  When I left you I was hanging out in Canada; now I'm back in London, though once gain only briefly.  This is because I've had an out-of-the-blue offer of six weeks of work in Cairo, Egypt.  I won't get into the details, but it seemed a good opportunity, so I'm leaving on Wednesday and I'll thank you all to keep your opinions about the general security situation in North Africa to yourselves right now. You can say "I told you so" later if it's warranted.

Now for a cheerier(-ish) topic: the boat!  Even though I'll only be in the UK for about ten days, this is the first time I've lived on the boat full time.  No more the Happy House in Brixton - I just landed at Heathrow, got a taxi straight from the airport to the boat and have been onboard ever since.  It’s now official... I live on a boat!

First of all, I am super super happy with the new paint job.  Everyone remember this boat?

Floating Again
It was a bit sartorially challenged, I think you'll agree.

And now look!

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What a transformation! It looks like it actually belongs on the water now instead of on a scrap heap!

It doesn't have the new name on it yet but when it does it will look like this:

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I now live on a boat called “Lucky Nickel”  Thanks to everyone for the suggestions, but Karen wins the prize.  Which is in the mail.

So that's the new name, officially registered and everything.  I didn't do any of that breaking-a-bottle-of-bubbly-on-the-bow business, which I guess is unlucky but I don't really hold with that.  Then again, considering the week I've had, maybe I should splash out for a bottle of Moët right now!

My first week on the boat has been... challenging.  First, when I arrived from the airport to the marina where it was stored there wasn't even anyone there.  I guess the guys at the marina weren't expecting me to be back when I was, so I found my cooker in pieces waiting for a part that would fix the grill.  (North America Translation: the oven was in pieces waiting for a part to fix the broiler).  However, the marina guys were really nice and managed to get the right part the same day and the lovely Neil came and fitted it, so now I can apply intense heat to foods from above, which I haven’t been able to do before.  I also have hot water on tap (including hot showers) and I can refrigerate things and even do laundry.  All the mod cons!

Getting everything unpacked and finding a place for it all was a bit of a trick.  Witness the bedroom the afternoon I arrived:

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And now that I’ve squirrelled things away:

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The day I arrived the Lovely Neil also stuck around and fixed a broken connection between the water filling inlet and the water tank, which I cleverly deduced was faulty because when I stuck the hose into the inlet water started pouring directly into the bow of the boat instead of into the tank.  Luckily, this meant I got to try out my new shop vac.  Luckier still, all that was needed to make the repair was a new hose clamp (UK Translation: jubilee clip).  The next morning I was ready to go and managed a short cruise down the canal to Tesco to stock up and get ready to run further into London.  The weather was hot and sunny, the solar panels were sucking up tons of power and I sent out invites for gin and tonic on the deck.  Hell, I even had lemons and ice.  ICE!

Sadly, it did not last.  The weather turned cool and rainy and, more sadly, it became apparent that while the solar panels were doing all they could to charge the batteries (that power everything from the starter motor to the water heater) the alternator, which is supposed to charge things when the engine is running, was not pulling its weight at all.  Nope.  And on a cloudy, rainy day, when the solar panels can’t be expected to produce nuclear-level wattage, the alternator really needs to pick up the slack in order to keep things ticking over.  This discovery was followed by an intense flurry of text messages between me and the continually-not-present Nes, who astute GSWPL readers will remember as my certified guy who know about engines and electricalish stuff.  He’s currently in South Africa, but always up for a remote engine troubleshooting challenge.  There was a LOT of "try this", and "What's the voltage at the blah blah?" and "Check the connections on the reverse oscillatronifier" and such. LOTS of that.  Basically, it was me standing in the engine bay waiting to drop my iPhone into a greasy bilge while texting stuff like "Tell me EXACTLY where to put the meter leads" and "I don't understand.  Explain again." And stuff like that.

What eventually happened was that I removed the old alternator and travelled across London with it in my backpack to visit a tiny rundown shop in Cricklewood where Nes promised there would be a guy who can rebuild or replace old alternators.  Because of course they don’t really make new ones for this vintage of engine anymore.  Of course.  (Ok, did anyone catch that?  I REMOVED MY OWN ALTERNATOR.  How awesome am I?)  Luckily, while waiting for the Magical Wizard of Cricklewood to create a new alternator, I managed a side trip to IKEA, where I got a bunch of stuff that makes the bathroom pleasant and functional instead of sad and dingey.

Floating Again
Look, it’s like a real place now, with actual storage that is not made out of scrap lumber!

And then I got a cab back to the boat and installed the new alternator and everything was fine.


Of course it wasn’t.

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A Girl and Her Diesel Engine.

I did get the new alternator installed by myself, but despite an unending stream of advice and instructions from Nes, it just wouldn’t send an appropriate amount of voltage to the batteries. Eventually we had to concede defeat and I headed back to the main marina for some attention from a certified engine guy who was actually in the same postcode as the boat. Unfortunately, that main marina is up the sad and weedy Slough Arm of the Grand Union Canal, which dead ends at Slough, a remarkably fitting thing for such an unpleasant bit of water.

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I had to stop several times to clear floating clumps of weeds away from the boat

I made it to the marina, where I remained for three more days waiting for a new starter battery and the careful attentions of Young Bob.  He gamely battled my aged engine, troubleshooting his way through an air leak or two, much confusing old wiring, a possible clogged fuel filter, loose engine mounting bolts, a very recalcitrant split charging relay, and an unusually needy exciter circuit (that’s a real thing!).  All the while, I at least was able to plug into mains power (North American Translation: I could plug into a regular hardwired power source) and fill up with water whenever I wanted.  On the downside, I was about a hour on the train from Central London.  Tedious.

I finally got out Sunday morning and had a pleasant and slightly less weedy chug back to where I started, though I’m still waiting for the itemised bill from the marina (!).  The engine seems to be running well, but I’m kind of resigned to the idea that it’s simply a matter of time before the next thing crops up.  I can only hope that eventually I’ll run out of things to replace, by which time I should be able to strip that engine down to its component parts and reassemble it blindfolded.  And if nothing else, the fact that I fitted the new alternator myself gave me some serious street cred (or would that be canal cred?) with the young mechanics at the boat yard, meaning I think they gave me a more attention and help than they might have, and spent more time explaining things like stern glands and fuel lift pumps and thermocouples and, of course, alternators.

Floating Again
The new alternator, WHICH I INSTALLED MYSELF. And even though it didn’t work right it’s not my fault because there was a lot of other stuff going on.

So that’s the boat report from NB Lucky Nickel.  The next few days will be all about getting ready for Cairo and putting the boat back into mothballs for another six weeks.  Then off for the next chapter.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to grease my stern gland (Also a real thing.  Stop snickering.)

*NB stands for narrowboat, of course.

1 Comment:

Colleen said...

Hey Pam! Glad to get caught up on the news of your recent travels. I am SOOOOO impressed with your nautical mechanical skills and vocabulary -- way to go! Hope you have a fine adventure in Cairo. Cheers, ck

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