Tuesday, 7 December 2021

Is anyone still reading my blog? Earthship update, Captains log, Date, December 7th 2021 We have been under the shadow of covid for 21 months and it has changed all our lives to some degree. At first, once i got over the disbelief, I realised i at last had time to catch up on a few boat jobs, but still felt guilty for not being at work, even though the lockdown had destroyed all work, so boat work gave me a focus. There has been a problem in the shower for several years. The floor tile grout cracked and broke up, allowing water through. Lockdown forced me to address the problem. I envisaged pulling up the cracked tile and replacing the plywood base, but once i got in, I realised it all had to come out, and to do that, the whole shower unit would be destroyed, ....and you cant do half a bathroom, so, i ripped it all out. I figured 9 years is a lot of wear and tear for a small space, so opted for a new aproach on materials. This included a stainless steel floor tray which would drain into the main shower tray and new wall cladding which was plain White and wouldnt age so quickly. The shower mixer was just about siezed up with limescale so that got changed as well. The Jabsco electric toilet decided to die at about the same time, but because the manufacturing world was dedicated to making PPE and ventilators, stocks of spares and parts ran down, and i had to make 15 calls around the country to find a new motor and mascerator The whole job took about 5 days to complete, and i couldnt manage without a shower, so i rigged up an outdoor shower so i could clean up before bed time The original wall cladding was a twinwall polyethylene panelling with a screen printed finish which doesnt wear well. It looked old and sad, so it all had to go. I replaced it with soffit boarding which locks together with tongue and groove joints. I modified the original shower tray by bonding plastic angle to the top edge, which forms a surface for the bottom of the panels to fit to with silicone. Some repair was needed to a section of rotten flooring and i made a new toilet pedestal in steel. 2 new mirrors completed the job

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Hello again

Where does one start? Its obviously been a very long time since I not only made a contribution to my blog but even since i visited the site, and as I have so often discovered when reading old journals and diaries, life is different now compared to then. I was full of expectation, a degree of naivety, novelty, youth, exuberance.............we were all young once. If I continue with this blog, its possible it will take two directions. The first being to update and chart further boat news and progress and secondly to employ it for more personal reflection on myself and life in general. Last week saw the 5th anniversary of the commencement of the fit out and this very moment 5 years ago, I would have been busy doing 3 jobs at once, tiring myself out, getting cut and bruised and losing weight. In some ways Ive done very little real boat work after I moved on board and got settled in. Life took over and I just got on with doing other things like earning some money and getting a social life. Maybe I got a little burned out with it, maybe the novelty wore off, maybe I just needed distracting for a while. I guess it was a reflection of my state of mind and when ever something broke down or simply didn't work right, I begrudgingly did a quick fix just to pacify the problem, so that I could go on ignoring it again. For that reason, Ive been feeling somewhat guilty about the part finished status of the project and yet it seems I need not have worried unduly. I can identify with the Buddhist saying 'When the Pupil is ready, the teacher will appear' or in my case, I will get back to it when the time is right And so it seems the right time is indeed now. My state of mind seems to be happy, content and ready to accept some more of the challenge at last. Its therefore ironic that on the very day after the 5th anniversary of Boat landing, I had a call from a friend. Terry had just spent a week on a wide beam, cruising the Kennet and Avon and he called to tell me that the engine was being pulled and replaced with a bigger one and was therefore for sale with all bits and bobs and @ 3000 hours on the clock, which in diesel boat engine terms is barely run in To that end, I have this very morning been and collected the engine and right now its sitting on a pallet outside having just had a good clean so I can get a better look at it About the only jobs left to be done on Boat are in the engine room - hooking up the engine, and the one thing which has psychologically held me back, nay, made it easier to ignore is the fact the Peugeot engine isnt a marine engine. That is to say its got no marine heritage and will be difficult to set up and get certificated. An Isuzu by comparison is very different, so that will be the next project. But, I have skipped a lot here and shall endeavor to chronicle as much as I can.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Bless my Sole

Ever since last winter Ive been carefully treading the boards. Not a regular Theatre type performance, although it has at times resembled a pantomime. No, these are the boards which lay over the steel framework above the engine room and form the sole (nautical parlance to you landlubbers) of the wheelhouse.
As such, they not only bear the brunt of heavy footfall and inclement weather but the gaze of all who enter herein, and Im sure, set the tone of expectation for the rest of the vessel. Combined with the previously mottled and shabby exterior appearance, I can only but wonder at the apprehension which befell my visitors who had not yet had the benefit of venturing further aboard.

So it has been incumbent upon me to furnish the entryway with a sole befitting of my abode, one which will not only return me many years of dutiful service but in fine style. In other words,I wish my sole to have a soul.
Once again I have recourse to bless my good fortunes for the abundance of prime Maple in my possession and I resolved there was no finer use for this noble bounty.

Please accept my sincere apologies for my lyrical waxing, for I have purposefully employed the one extra hour of daylight afforded to me this morning by the return to Greenwich Mean Time during which I furthered my appreciation of Emily Bronte's ‘Wuthering Heights’ and have absorbed its most eloquent and colourful language.

Anyway, each board had been cut to fit over each opening in the steelwork below, and no two openings are either the same size or indeed the same shape. That is to say, they are by no means perfect squares or rectangles and therefore, the corner angles cannot be relied upon to be 90 degrees. It has therefore been a labour of love these past 8 days to accurately and skilfully manufacture each and every corner joint in a bespoke fashion.

After much faffing and fitting, and several good sandings, I have applied three liberal coats of boiled linseed oil which has enhanced the wood grain and given a warm and comforting glow to the Maples normally pallid demeanour.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Paint job that almost cost an arm and a leg

Ive wanted to get a few more coats of paint on the exterior all year, but at first it was too cold, then spring sprang early and with it came the flocks of Swallows which nest in the farm buildings. They obviously come here for the insect life and between the two, its been a summer long of bird crap and flying bugs, and combined with the farm yard dust, it would have been impossible to even try and get some painting done.

Then came the last week of September and the much fabled Indian summer. Over a week of near perfect weather which saw temperatures rise to the upper 20s by day and a balmy 18c over night. There would be no better opportunity before winter to kill the rust which has been slowly but surely growing on the deck and cabin sides. Ive grown weary of the fading red shades so I bought 15 lts of grey oxide primer.

What a delight and rare treat, one which ive not enjoyed since my Sardinian adventure 2 years ago, to don a bikini and catch some rays but with the mid day temperatures getting well into the 20s, it was soon apparent a double shift was required.

So, I spent the mornings rubbing down and prepping, followed by a siesta, and finally painting an area in the cooling sunset, just before dewfall.
Im realy relieved and pleased with the results. It’s a weight off my mind to have stopped the rust before winter and will make the final paint job easier next year, plus it’s a much prettier thing to look at.

Now for the cost. Life has a way of evening the score and nothing comes for free. As such, I shall bear the scars for the rest of my life, as a reminder of the perfect Indian summer of 2011.
On the final evening of painting, I had cleared all the equipment away and was planning to start a pot of spaghetti bolognaise cooking whilst I had a shower. I have had 4 tomato plants growing on the foredeck all summer and they were laden with ripened bounty, so I decided to gather some for the pot.
With both hands cradling as many tomatoes as I could hold, I was trying to step over a locker and gunwhale onto the planks resting on a steel trestle alongside the hull. I couldn’t reach far enough to put my foot down and so I hopped the last foot or so.

The next part happened in slow motion and is now the focus of my recurring nightmare. The planks slipped off the trestle, my mid right thigh hit the top of the steel and slid all the way up until I stood for a moment on the ground. The planks, which had sprung back up now fell back against my left thigh and once again bounced, hitting my leg once more. I dropped the tomatoes as I extended my hands towards the ground and I went head first over the trestle and rolled over onto the patch of nettles.
I jumped to my feet in an instant and looked down at my right thigh. The muscle was gathered at the top in a huge lump and the area above the knee was a sunken hollow.
I immediately hopped and skipped along to the wheelhouse steps, made my way up and then down into the galley and got a frozen bottle of water from the freezer.

For the next 10 minutes I rhythmically rocked about on the saloon floor rubbing the muscle with the bottle, trying to flatten it back into shape whilst yelling a mantra of expletive obscenities.
‘Oh gosh it didn’t hurt, no, it realy didn’t hurt’ and other oft used phrases in times of woe.

Yeah right, of course it didn’t hurt, but just the look of it made me feel ill but then the PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) kicked in. Its the most important thing to have in any survival or emergency situation. Look for the good in a bad situation, so I looked and was pleased the skin wasn’t broken on either leg. The irritation of the nettle stings did little to divert my attentions away from the rapid swelling and I briefly thought about Spagbol and decided I needed to get back out and collect the tomatoes before the creatures of the night claimed them. They were scattered in the grass and nettles, some slightly marked but otherwise intact.

I did eventually drive myself to hospital to check out the damage and was told nothing was broken or detached, but I knew that as I had just managed to drive there. The check list of health and safety gathering questions got short shrift and I explained I had fallen down the stairs. Its easier that way and I don’t need a lecture about site safety thanks.
A bottle of wine, a sickly chocolate gateaux and a couple of ibuprofen seemed in order but after half a glass I didn’t fancy anymore and went to bed.

The next morning I admired the damage in a full length mirror. My left leg was black from mid foot to above the knee covering all the front half. The right leg was worse. Black from ankle to buttock covering more than a hands span across the front and outside in a spiral fashion. The bulging displaced muscle had settled a little but resembled those of a Russian weightlifter on diabolical stairods.

Now three weeks on, the bruising has passed through all the rainbow colours and finally left but the muscle is still prominent and still more than painful. Doc says it will take a while for the deep haematoma to come out.

What have I learned from this? Well, as an avid ‘Blackadder’ fan, I recall a scene when Queen tells Nursey shes had a good idea and Nursey says, ‘Oh you don’t want to have one of those Poppet, or your foot will fall off’ – ‘My brother had a good idea to cut his toenails with a scythe, …..and his foot fell off’

So, if applying the ‘Blackadder’ logic, I suggest you always use tinned toms for making Spagbol because growing your own causes bruises to your legs.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Happy Birthday

One year today I started work on 'Boat'.

Its easy to be blase' about it all now as it all seems so natural and ive been there, done it, got the blog to prove it etc.

I think whats more obvious is how much ive changed, or I feel that Ive changed.

Im not sure how many of you have been faced with a life changing choice and wondered if youve done the right thing but I certainly have. I keep saying it, its my saying, I coined it but its true - 'Its better to regret having done something than to regret not having done it' For many, living within lifes straight jacket is the norm. In this instance, turning my back on bricks and mortar might be madness to most but its changed my life from boredom to where I need to be.

I like living life differently, especially if I have the options and room to manover to make it work the way I want. Its called freedom of choice, and in my book that equals quality of life.

'Boat' makes that possible.

Over the last few months ive had quite a few visitors aboard who have first seen the outside and made assumptions. Shes (boat, not me) unnatractive in her faded and rusting red primer, and resembles a fish from water, but once inside, eyebrows are raised and silence is golden, it says more than words.
Then follow the natural questions from those who have only ever lived by the rules of bricks and mortar.

How will you cook, wash clothes, keep clean, keep warm, feel safe and secure, etc.

The answer is, just like you do, but differently. This is like 'Glamping'- Glamerous camping. Ive never felt this close to nature when living in a house. Ive never felt so aware of my resources than I do now,- aware of how much water, electricity and fuel I use, -something which bricks and mortar isolate you from.
The beauty is, I dont wake up to damp crumpled clothes smelling of woodsmoke, hoping the rain will hold off, wondering how im going to cook a meal or get the washing dried.

Maybe this country would be a better place if more people lived closer to nature and in tune with the elements. Maybe there would be less mental health issues if people were more self sufficient and held more autonomy over their lives.

Food for thought me thinks.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Lets get started

This is how we do it.

Take one stubborn genny, raid the scrap yard for a 12v starter motor, purchase a 6'' Vee pulley, add in a Vee belt, heavy duty switch, some random bits of steel and turn a clever little bit of engineering.

The genny has been lifted off its wheeled trolly to facilitate easier access. Here is the crank handle which engages with the starter dog. Remove the housing and dog. Replace with same diameter shaft containing keyway and end tapped for retaining bolt.
Cut down the housing just enough to keep the oil seal inside. Fit to engine block.
Add the pulley and tighten up retaining screw and bolt.
Make up a base plate to provide a pivot point for the starter motor mounting plate and bolt to the genny base plate.
Cut out a hole in another piece of steel for the stater motor to pass through and bolt in place. Cut off the end of the solenoid plunger and add a spot of weld to the motor shaft to stop the bendix flicking in and out.
Glue on a handle, add a switch and wire it up to the solenoid.
Fit the toothed Vee belt, clear the decks, connect the battery, depress the decompression lever, pull handle to tension belt, hit the button and it fires up in 2 seconds.

Yabba dabba DO IT.

Just another day in the life of a genius. ok, it was about a month on and off but its a big achievment.

ps. No Elf and safety lectures please, Britain invented the world before we had the nanny state and we have acheived little since.

Any body still reading this?

Ok, im back from the summer recess, the one in which I turned 50 and spent a few weeks reflecting and sulking on the enormity of such a milestone. Maybe I just over did life in the preceding year and needed time to spend day dreaming, reading and generally doing nothing.
Ive felt like ive been 19 for as many years as I can remember but now ive graduated to being 20. After all, 50 is the new 40 or whatever number you wish to call yourself, so its no big deal realy untill I see the wrinkles I didnt have 10 years ago. Isnt it funny how we spend the first 21 years wishing we were older and then spend the remaining years wishing we were younger.

Anyway, enough about age. I feel awfully guilty that I havent done much boat stuff this summer but should I be rushing ahead so quickly? I hate doing things twice and thats the danger when you rush ahead. One example is the aft water tank. Ive had to move it to make room for the generator I bought back in February. I originally had a petrol genny which was going to live in a room sealed box cut into the side of the wheelhouse but petrol isnt the way to generate electric and fitting it in was going to be a compromise on space and quality of finish so I bought this Lister Petter 5KVA air cooled Diesel on fleabay. Having owned one in the past, I know them to be perfect long running economical reliable machines. I had looked at the more modern Chinese made ones in sound proofed boxes but the whole package is too big to fit in the engine room and it kind of defeats the purpose of the box if I had to start modifying it, besides, the Cheap and nasty Chinese replica engines dont last long.

The only down side to the Lister is that its a hand start. The first one I had was an easy starter but this one is a real pig. There is a decompresion lever on the cylinder head which needs to be held down whilst swinging the starter handle with the other hand, Its so hard to keep enough momentum going once the lever is released and once im out of breath its game over. There is an electric start conversion available but when I enquired of the price I was shocked. More than twice what I paid for the genny.

So........not one to be beaten, I move the goal posts and solve the problem. Miss Fixit wins again.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Bed time

And so, …..to bed,… my bed, …the place I love to go when I want to think my thoughts.
The place a few of you fellas have expressed an interest in seeing, so here it is.

Its not just any old bed but one with a lot of storage space beneath. I was going to do the traditional drawer divan but that does waste a lot of space. So ive opted for the lift up base, assisted by gas struts
I googled ‘gas struts’ and found a company which make the whole hinge mechanism, which has saved a lot of time.
They didn’t come with any instructions so I had to make up a mock side and base to work out the hinge position. The moment arm arc radius and deck length when combined with the raised height determine the pivot position. The only constraint I have is my headroom in the boat which is only 6’1, not 8’ which is more usual.

The pressure in the struts is set to my requirements, 950 NM, (Newton metres) based on the weight of the deck and mattress so its easy and simple to lift.
When it reaches 35 degrees, the hinges auto lock and the base has to be lifted another 4 inches before the cam goes over centre and unlocks to enable the mattress to be lowered.

Ive designed the base so that its narrower than the deck and mattress. Theres nothing worse than stubbing your toes on the bed base so the mattress over hangs the deck by one inch and that over hangs the base by another 3 inches.

The rest was simple. I found all the slats on the bonfire down the yard, they were the remains of a Futon bed. The only other materials needed were a sheet of half inch ply and 18 feet of 3x2, 8 bolts, glue, and some 2x1 batten to stiffen the sides with.

To finish off, I will cover the sides with carpet.

Sweet dreams.


I haven’t posted for almost a month and so much has happened. Its almost impossible to get a net connection which holds for more than 5 consecutive minutes so posting is hard and frustrating work.
The biggest thing has been the move to living aboard. Actually moving on only took a day but ive been busy since with doing all the little jobs which make a boat a home and most importantly, catching up on sleep and rest. Over the last 4 months the tiredness and wrinkles caught up with me and I was seriously worried that turning 50 was taking its toll but im feeling and looking a little better now.

I finally managed to finish off the chest of draws and faced them with Maple and inset them with brass handles. I made a template to fit inside the router collar and then used a straight bit to plunge in and remove enough wood to accept the inset portion of the handle
The top is inch and a quarter thick pine to match the frame and ive treated it all to a couple of coats of Danish oil

Ive also made a combined step/laundry hamper from a few scraps of beech board which I found on the farm. That’s also had the Danish treatment.

Next is the bed.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Do you like my draws?

I spent 2 hours cutting up board and machining to include a groove at the bottom of the front and two sides to accept the 4mm ply bottom. I made each draw set as a kit and when that was finished, I started assembly.

In the best traditions of Blue Peter (a long running BBC kids programme which included DIY projects featuring egg boxes, yoghurt pots and sticky backed plastic with a catch phrase) ‘Heres one I made earlier’

These are not your common or garden factory made draws but bespoke, hand crafted, one of a kind, unique, individual works of art.

Note the slide in bottom, a tribute to glue and pin, not a screw in sight.
I owe everything I know to Norm Abraham of ‘The New Yankie Workshop’ fame, where ‘We like to take a minute to talk about shop safety’ Hmmm, NOT. We dont subscribe to that round here, we just get on with it. This aint no Shaker revival, time is too short and ive got a boat to build.

I can hear all you Discovery channel freaks chuckling to yourselves, but don’t knock it, I learned a lot from good ‘ole Norm in those bad old days when I was laid up in bed with a bad back, just yearning for the chance to make my own home some day, and now I have, without the shop Full ‘O’ Donated state of the art gizmos to make every chippies wildest pervy dreams come true.

Ah yes, if I had a shop like that I could have been a Chippendale but im happy just knocking something up out of scraps

The woodshop

Do you like my woodshop?

Its so convenient having this old cowshed adjacent to the boat and the couple of leaks in the roof dont cause as many problems as the Swallows which nest in the beams, dropping their crap on everything below.

This seasons breeders made an early appearance two weeks ago when the first couple arrived all the way from South Africa. They have already made a tour of the shed so I need to get a move on and ship out before the eggs hatch