Sunday 23 October 2016

October Visit

We left home by 8.30 on Friday morning to drive straight up to Stafford. We had arranged to meet there, together with Andrew coming up from Devizes, at 2 pm. For the most part our drive was uneventful and we did stop for a coffee on the way and a short second comfort break just after clearing Birmingham on the M6. However, on the last stretch before the junction we were due to exit, a slow tail back appeared unannounced. We had been expecting to arrive about ten minutes early but in the event it was exactly on 14:00 that we drew into the industrial estate where Stem to Stern is located. Andrew arrived a few minutes later having been caught in the same traffic delay.

After a welcome cup of tea from Phil, we began our tour of the boat. (Mike's camera appeared to have started working again but it was only later after having downloaded the results that it was obvious that the results are not good, with spots over most of them that do not appear to be the result of dust on the front of the lens. Fortunately Mike and Andrew took photos with their mobile phones which turned out much more satisfactory. However, the only one that we took of the outside of the factory unit was on the camera!)

We began at the bows (because that is where there were steps up for us to use!) and took a good look at the two new features for us. OK, so a bow gas locker is not that unusual but it is the opposite end of the boat from Take Five. What we have never seen before is a bow thruster locker. We are not having a bow thruster fitted but for the sake of a small additional cost at this stage we were persuaded that to do the hull work now was a sensible future-proofing. Even if we do not get around to it, at least it will be selling point as and when that arrives. It does, on the other hand, make for a more compact bow area for sitting and also for storing the water hose pipe. Equally, the bow thruster locker, with a board over the tube itself, will hold quite a lot, including an anchor.

The main work which has been done since the shell was delivered has been to install the main ballast, which is then covered by the main floor. The hull and cab sides have been battened and the whole thing well coated with spray foam insulation. Even the insides of hollow sections have to be foam filled to avoid condensation stripes across the roof. The same applies to the double skinned semi trad sides - although an inspection from the engine bay showed that the contractor did not venture as far as he might have done. Phil will have to a little extra filling!

The first cabin inside is the twin bed cabin, mainly for visitors. It is not yet certain but it is likely that both will be able to be pulled out to give an extra 150 mm width for sleeping. One of the things that we were scheduled to do on this visit was to agree the locations for lights, switches and sockets. These were all marked on the walls. One change we did make was to request that the light switches be two way so that they are readily accessible from the door into the cabin from inside the boat as well as when entering the boat from outside. We also discussed some of the details for cupboards and shelves. On a narrowboat, the second most discussed item is how to create sufficient storage space for all the things that either cannot be left behind or somehow seem an essential for a boating life!

Next comes the bathroom. Again, this is something quite new for us - a walk-through bathroom. This means that instead of a door leading off a passageway, there is a door at either end which will normally be left open during the day so that it is possible to move from one end of the boat to the other as quickly as possible. Of course, when in use, both doors will be locked from inside. The upside to a walk-through bathroom is that there is more more space without taking up additional amount of the overall length. We have opted for a quadrant shower and also - perhaps the most discussed item on  a boat - the same cassette toilet as we had before on Take Five. although it does mean finding more frequent disposal points when out cruising, they are more readily available for cassettes than pump out systems. There is also less that can go disastrously wrong and needing specialist repairs. It is, however, not easy to photograph the space in a meaningful way right now!

On then to the main bedroom which again will feature a pull out additional width. There will be a short length cupboard (over the feet bed of the double bed) as well as several shelf units.

Aft of the bedroom door comes the main cabin with the sitting area closest to the multi fuel stove, followed by the dinette. The main discussion here concerned the television unit. This time we will have the stove in a corner - somewhat safer that before when it was close to the dinette and the most frequently used part of the through route. We have reduced some of the options but will need to look at it again when rather more of the fit-out has been completed. We would rather not have the tv close to the floor level which is what some designers go for these days, partly to accommodate the larger screens that are more popular (but only wide beam boats can take very large screens comfortable). What is yet to be seen is whether we can wall mount the tv - the problem lies mainly with the fact that the cabin sides above the gunnel level slop inwards. We opted to have the cabin ceiling lights switched in two parallel sets of three, with one switch each at either end. There was a bit more discussion here over the placement of sockets, both 240 Ac and 12 DC (USB charging outlets) The design of the freezer unit that we had planned to have under the dinette has changed and so it will have to be accessed from above, rather than as a pull out from the end at floor level.

Perhaps the most complex area is the last section inside the cabin, the galley. There is not only a lot to be packed in (we are adding a washing machine and microwave to the facilities that we enjoyed before) At the same time we have no less desire for as much storage as possible for food and utensils. One unresolved item is where to put a waste bin. We never did solve this adequately before and resorted to the somewhat inelegant solution of a plastic bag over the door knob on the rear cupboard just inside the doors! That, again, may have to be resolved at our next visit.

One difference also is the length of the swim, the tapered section just below the waterline that enables water to flow into the propeller and thus drive the boat forward. As can be seen from the photo, this comes forward of the rear doors and will be hidden below the kitchen units. However, it will slightly reduce the capacity of the cupboards although on one side the worst of it will be hind the stack of units\: washing machine, oven and microwave.The hob that Phil is recommending is one with a lift-up splash back that should reduce the amount of grease etc that goes onto the curtains or blind to the window just behind the hob.

Finally we moved outside to the semi trad and stern area. The last blog post explained that at a very late stage in the shell manufacture we realised that the steps which we had specially specified, based on oiur experience with those that we fitted to Take Five, had not been made at the correct height. This had been somewhat annoying as they were one of the main points of discussion that Andrew had when he visited Sheffield (after a long drive up from Devizes!) Before  we paid the full amount of the shell stage payment we had a commitment from Tyler Wilson to come down to Stafford to modify it once we had made this visit.

In fact what we have asked for is not only to raise the level so that the step is mid height between the locker and the cabin roof (what Andrew had discussed) but also rather larger. We are not especially concerned that the cabin doors open fully back and this will permit a fuller rectangular shape that is safer to use, especially when coming back down from the roof.

The rear deck lockers are not as deep as before but this is probably not an issue as we could not take advantage of the extra depth without stacking things on top of each other. Most of the things we are likely to put in here do not lend themselves to this. On the other hand, we will have much more space above the bow thruster.

We will also be having a 12v USB socket underneath the shelves alongside the steering position - so that we can run a small display for much longer! (Toy for the boy!)

There was little to discuss about the outside at this stage - colours will be quite a late item to decide. The fender holes are rather small but we will also be provided with some removable roof hanging fittings.

The one part of a Tyler Wilson shell design that is quite new to us is the chute weed hatch. We tried opening the cover and reaching down. It seems an awful long way to reach! The first time we need to clear the prop may well take some time , , ,

Out of the water we had a much better view of the stern gear which is normally not visible. The regulatory requirement for a step out of the water, which sometimes is met with a small welded lug on the side of the hull, is fulfilled here by having an additional flange on the top of the rudder. However, we will also have a rescue ladder as a rather more effective means of escape from a dunking (again based on ;practical experience!)

After almost three hours we had finished all the discussions for now. We left really impressed with Phil's attention to detail and willingness to make sure that we are satisfied with how it will all work out. We are even more keen to see he next four months pass as fast as possible before we will be able to get our hands on our narrowboat.

By the way, the other boat in the workshop is an eight year old Piper boat which is in for very substantial refurbishment. A couple bought it after an elderly single man lived on it from new and probably did no cleaning, painting or other maintenance in all that time!

The three of us adjourned to the nearest Costa for a coffee and a cake for a final chat over what we have seen. Plans are in place for a further visit towards the end of November when the first fix stage should be complete and our next stage payment will be due. Can't wait.

Thursday 6 October 2016

Shell Delivered

At 2 pm today we received an email from Phil, obviously delighted that the shell had just been delivered safely to his workshop. He was also pleased that it was a fine and dry day so that the shell did not need drying before he can start work on it.

We did have a bit of a glitch on Tuesday night when we looked closely at the photos from Sheffield and it appeared that the steps in the semi trad were not at the height that Andrew specified when he visited. These are crucial for our ability to step up and down from the deck to the roof, especially when working through a lock. Most important if working single handed (which Mike sometimes does even if others are inside keeping dry) or just to be able to help out with tying off the boat when ascending in a wide lock.

However, after an exchange of emails and phone calls first thing yesterday morning, it was agreed that this will be rectified after the shell is shipped to Stafford - this will not hold up the immediate work which is all inside the cabin. When we next visit in a couple of weeks time we will be able to determine what changes are needed.

On lorry

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Shell to Go

Phil (Stem to Stern) has just made a further visit to Sheffield in order to check progress and that all is well for Thursday. Crane and transport are booked for Thursday - 8 am at the Tyler Wilson works in Sheffield. The shell will then be loaded and transported to Stafford where another crane is booked to offload ready to move the shell into the industrial unit where it will be fitted out over the next few months.

The report states that almost all the work is not complete with a few tweaks before it is blacked tonight and then painted inside and out tomorrow.

Here are Phil's latest photos. The shell is on trestles for the final works - it looks as if the base plate is still being trimmed back to size. The first two photos are our first view of how Jonathon Wilson has interpreted our expectations for the semi trad stern layout. The third picture is a good look at the unique chute design of the weed hatch. On trestles there is a better impression of the distinctive bow lines.

Saturday 1 October 2016

Why didn't I think of that before?

Some of you may have spotted that on this blog, unlike that for Take Five, we have a list of blogs-that-we-read down the right hand side. These are arranged on the basis of when they were last updated, the most recent at the top.

This makes it much easier to keep up-to-date with what others are doing, especially those who do not blog every day. Without this this feature it was often a little frustrating to select blogs successively from our browser's bookmarks, only to find that there was nothing new.

The only issue which we have yet to solve is what to do on a smartphone. Blogger automatically knows that it is a mobile and adjusts the layout - the blog list seems not to appear at all. No doubt some bright spark will come along with the answer!