Saturday 28 January 2017

The Last of the Grey Stuff

Just received a few pix of the current state of the hull now that the last primer coat has been applied.

Next will start the colours and then it will really start to look like it is coming together as a 'proper' narrowboat! The coach line and top edge will go on this weekend and the main colour will be the following weekend. Phil can only paint at the weekends.

Thursday 19 January 2017

More Stuff

We have had a flurry of sourcing a number of bits and pieces, all using the internet. As we have found before, the current systems in place with the principal parcel companies is generally very impressive and they generally arrive in the window quoted. The better systems even allow you to follow the vehicle as it wends its way - not physically of course but in terms of how far it has got through its daily schedule.

The latest list includes:

An HP monitor in place of a conventional television. The plan is that we will use it with the external dish which has served us well for several years (along with its similar predecessor until it was damaged in the wind). We also checked out its operation with the laptop as a DVD player or, if we can afford the data usage, online streaming.

The build contract only provides for a single Thetford toilet cassette but we know from past experience that although we can usually find enough disposal points for daily use, there are times when the cassette is full before we find somewhere. When you need a second cassette, you really do need it!

Of course, Thetford do sell additional cassettes but all that we could readily find at the moment is there 'refresher kit' which includes as new seat as well as some cleaning fluids, along with the cassette. At this stage, with as yet no usage at all, we did not want the extra items and eventually tracked down what indicated on the web site as just being the cassette. At a few pounds less than most places were demanding it was consistent. However, when it arrived, lo and behold, it is the standard refresher kit! So much for an attempt at not being wasteful!

We only had one or two assorted wine glasses left from our previous boat. We quite like to have small glasses (around 180 ml) as they encourage a lower level of consumption for everyday dinners! However, these are not easy to find - the fashion does seem to be for larger capacity (at least 250 ml and often very much more) but also longer stems which mean  that they are more likely to fall off their shelf when we have a strong encounter with a lock side (or whatever!).

We had been looking for a while and eventually found some (190 ml - near enough) from a catering site. They were also very moderately priced so a box of 12 was considerably less than just four from most stores.

A second waste bin has also been obtained - Phil did assure us that he hoped to fit in two under the rear steps - and Christine also treated us to a larger pack of bin liners of the proper shape and size.

Sunday 15 January 2017


As we wait we are gradually tracking down a number of lesser items that we feel we want to have on the new boat from the outset. Some are to replace items left behind on Take Five and other based on experience.

I am afraid to say that much of this is a further contribution to the demise of high street (or even side street) shopping as, based down here in Cornwall, the internet is about the only way to find most of these items.

We have already sourced a safe - we previously resorted to hiding laptop, tablets, phones etc under pillows or bedding when we went out for shopping trips etc. However, this was not a particularly great addition to security so Andrew has persuaded us to build in a safe from the outset. We did look in local (ie Truro - 25 miles away) stores but they only had small ones suitable for a small cash box. Online we soon found a number of safes specially sized for laptops as, in particular cases, with a shelf to make it easier to store other valuables as well. What took a few days extra was that we needed to contact the selected supplier as they had two models that looked, to us, to be the same but with different prices. In any event, the one we were directed towards (happily the less expensive) was one that is especially popular with hotels.

Another item - and one that leads to the title for  this blog - is a table mat to go under the laptop, mouse and associated items when deployed for action on the dining table. Christine was concerned to protect the new surface. She suggested something similar to one that she has had on her desk here for a good number of years - long enough to forget where it came from! Again, back to the internet and although there are plenty of supplier, it was surprising how many all stocked much the same item.

However, we did not want anything fancy and so we ordered one from Amazon which arrived within 48 hours, as do so many online orders these days - DPD seems to know its way here now. I had wondered how it would arrive as I was sure that rolling it up would not be 'a good thing'. It was somewhat breathtaking when it arrived - we were out at the time and it was left with a neighbour . They must have wondered what it was as it had no weight beyond the box.

So, all this packaging for just this over-sized table mat - a thin plastic one at that!

Tuesday 10 January 2017


Phil has sent us a few photos from Sunday when the first layer of primer was applied. There will be several more layers of paint before it is finished!

Today we also received the colour chart: we had to choose colours again as a different paint range is now needed and their shades are a little different.

The main sides are in Leaf Green, with Olive Yellow for the coach line and Maize Yellow for the top rail. We felt that the colour for the top rail needs to be quite distinctive to help with spotting when 'grabbing' hold of it!

Friday 6 January 2017

Update, Flooring and Upholstery

We spent a week over the New Year at a cottage near Chesham, mainly in order to take two grand daughters to a theatre in London on New Year's Eve to see Matilda and also so that we could look after them whilst parents celebrated. On Wednesday we drove up to Stafford for another progress visit and to visit a couple of suppliers in order to make some decisions on materials.

We arrived late morning - the journey took about two and a half hours but was straightforward. Phil currently has another person working for him who has worked in boat building for some time. He has been especially helping on the plumbing and electrical second fix.

Although it is around six weeks since our last visit, because of Christmas and the New Year there have not been as many working days as would normally have been the case. In addition, Phil has spent quite a bit of time ordering all of the equipment to be fitted - everywhere there seemed to be another package stowed awaiting fitting! As a result, Phil was a little apologetic that visible progress was perhaps not as much as might have been but actually we were surprised that things were a bit further forward than we had anticipated.

The first picture shows the front cabin. Although all the main pieces for the pull out bunks have been fabricated, they are now mostly outside in the workshop as the water tank, which will fit under the bow deck, is shortly to be delivered and all of the fittings have to come out for access. As can also be seen, the second fix of lights, switches and sockets has been completed.

The joinery in the bathroom is largely complete and the shower, toilet, washbasin and radiator await fixing. Phil is using a black finish towel rail - it was pointed out to him that the heat output is much higher compared with a chrome finish.

There is not much progress to show in the main bedroom - even the bed fitting we saw last time has been removed to make it easier to complete the overhead lockers.

Looking through into the main cabin there is little change although, out of shot, the radiators are now in place.

Phil was currently working on the tv fitment which will be attached to the wall out of shot of the picture, in between the two radiators. Plenty of connections to be made! We had a discussion about the possibility of an HDMI connection from the dinette area to the tv screen. Of course we should have thought about this long ago at first fix stage but we only really thought about the tv over Christmas when Andrew was with us. We concluded that the best option is to go for a monitor only rather than a full tv as we only want to use it with the satellite box for Freesat. This should also allow for a better quality screen. Most minimal bezel screen tvs seem not to offer DVD players and although we have not made much use of that option, nor movies stored on disc, it is occasionally useful. The best option is to be able to connect the laptop to the big screen but this involves a cable connection. Simple, we thought, it can go under the floor to avoid a trailing lead to trip over. Not quite as BSS does not allow power cables in the bilge area but it is probable that data connections are OK. It may, however, have to be a 'customer addition'.

We forgot to take a proper picture of the end shelf unit that has been built onto the end of the galley but this photo does just show it. The worktop has also arrived and the material looks very impressive. The draining board will be formed but cutting grooves into the surface.

And so to the 'business end'. Most of the items are now installed in the control cupboard but still require quite  few connections. Only the cabin lights are on yet. The top right is the read out panel for the Mastervolt system and below it will be the fuel and water gauges. The rocker switch in the middle is for the main bilge pump. Alongside the inverter to the left is the galvanic protection.

In the engine bay the calorifier is in place together with the much debated battery boxes on the opposite side. The battery connections were being cut to size whilst we were there.

Outside, the revised steps to the roof have been tack welded and a 'proper' welder is coming at the weekend to finish them properly. These will provide storage for the chimney (which we like to remove whilst cruising to avoid losing it under low bridges or to clumsy rope handling at locks) on one side. The other should hold rubbish, windlasses etc.

We took with us the rubbish bin which Christine had bought just before Christmas and although it would fit where we expected, in the cupboard under the sink, Phil came up with the possibility of fitting it under the rear steps which sounds a great idea if he can work out the details.

The openings for the engine controls and panels have been cut but not filled - the engine plus parts should arrive in about a week. The engine itself will be one of the last things to go in. Once installed there is very much less room to work in the engine bay, it is cramped enough as it is!

A lot of preparation of the outside shell has been completed and the first paint layers are due to go on next week. It will, however, take several weeks to complete all of them. Next visit we shall need to talk with the sign writer about he name panel. Although Tyler Wilson apply a basic primer before shipping, it was far from ready to be painted properly.

In the afternoon we visited the flooring supplier and selected the Karndean finish - the floor will be the same throughout. We ended up with Warm Oak, which Phil has used before with the same wood finish. It has been a bit of a debate at this end, but we will probably also accept the flooring people's recommendation for a 45 degree lay. However, this will actually only be laid after the boat is launched to allow for final adjustment to the ballast which is under the main floor.

We stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn in Stoke - Christine managed to find a good deal on DBB for us so we did not have to search for food! We arrived with enough time to use the leisure pool facilities before eating.

Staying here was to enable us to visit the upholstery supplier on Thursday morning. In a change from his previous practice, Phil is recommending Venetian blinds for the two galley windows whilst all of the others, including the front door, will be Roman blinds. For the galley windows we selected a match with the light switch facings (and the chrome.stainless steel of the sink and hob) and the fabric for the other blinds and the dinette cushions matched with the Captains Chairs we had already decided on.

It will be mid February before we next visit, immediately after General Synod in London. Alas, this year we cannot stay on the boat in Little Venice but let's hope for next year!

After we returned home yesterday afternoon we were reminded that we had forgotten to discuss with Phil the option of where to fit a safe so that will have to be done by email. Always something else to consider . . .