Friday 31 March 2017

Handover Day

Sorry, but there was no blog yesterday  - thanks Ade for the helpful comment. We spent a good few hours unloading the car and Phil's van. This took us to a very late lunch - we went back to Stone Bakery cafe where Christine especially enjoyed a Lobby -  a kind of beef stew that was especially delicious but left here little room for an evening meal later!

We next went to Morrisons for thew main shop to stock up our on-board cupboards. We have not bought as much from a supermarket at one time for a good many years! We also bought some more items to have later in our hotel room.

Then back to the boat and by now it was time for Phil and David to go home and we carried on sorting out stuff, emptying boxes and filling cupboards and lockers. BY 8.30 we were shattered and eventually made it back to the hotel!

With Phil and David still having a few final touches to make to the boat, we did the final batch of shopping, especially the fresh and freezer items. By the time we had visited Stone Baked cafe for a much needed strong coffee, Co-Op, a local butcher shop (for a pork pie) and Morrisons and returned top the boat to offload it was fast approaching 11 am for the scheduled trial run. As we were mid unload Andrew arrived having driven up from home this morning.

A little later than planned, as no-one was entirely full of energy this morning, we set off, up two locks and then on to the first winding hole to turn around again and back down the same to locks.

Along the way we passed the Mikron Theatre boat at Fullers Yard.

Christine and Andrew steered for the first part and Mike took over after the turn around.

At Stone Boatbuilding, Christine collected a bag of logs (or at least she cajoled someone from the chandlery to carry it for her!) and then we continued back to the mooring.

Mike to a moment to use the internet to order our boat licence now that we have reached the date on the RCD documentation. Assuming that it has worked (and the bank system claimed to have taken the money!) it was simple indeed.

David made some adjustments to the tick over - however we discovered later that it might still need a bit more fine tuning.

Just as we started the final run through the boat for Phil to explain all of the features and hidden switches, taps and cut off for water, gas and electricity, the chap from Aquafax arrived with the pins for the privacy doors and the second centre line. However, it was he who designed and installed the Mastervolt System so we took the opportunity for him to run through ll it many features. In the end, most of the time we only need the on and off switch! However, it was useful to know what the unit is capable of doing and how to access the features.

We then carried on with the rest of the boat until the moment came when Phil brought out the Acceptance Form for us to sign. It was then up to Christine to make the final payment by BACS and Alchemy was all ours!

By now it was around half past four so we only took the boat down through the next lock onto the visitor moorings alongside the small car park. This made putting some things, including the coolbox, back in the car a much easier task. We then spent some time sporting out a few more things - the satellite dish connection proved more complex than anticipated (at the time of the blog it was still not working properly!). Christine made up our bed and Mike attached the second centreline as well as the tether for the chimney cap. By now energy levels were sagging and cooking the planned meal was less attractive than a quick dash to a local chippy (or that is the plan as the blog goes to post!)

Alongside the canal at the moorings is a new Peace Pole. According to the information panel, there are 250,000 such poles across the world, all with the same wording - here in eight different languages. This particular pole was organised by the Quakers in Stone.

1.9 miles - 5 locks

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Handover Minus Two

We drove up from Cornwall today. We wanted to have as much time as possible tomorrow to get our 'stuff' on board if not unpacked. So we had a slowish start - most of the car had been packed the previous evening, just to make sure we knew how to get everything in. Just as well we had already transported two car loads as this trip was quite full!

The journey was reasonably quiet and even the long roadworks just south of Birmingham and the Junction between M5 and M6 were moving well.

We called at the boat just to see how things were progressing and also to check where we can unload from tomorrow without too much of a walk. Sorry no photos but not worked how to do that with just a phone and tablet!

Most of the final items are complete. The window liners are in and looking really splendid. Phil does have a problem with the locks to the privacy doors which we discovered last week. Turns out that the ones supplied came with 'pins' for thinner doors and, unusually, not ones that are cut to size in situ. He therefore awaits the correct ones but they come from Italy! (Note: must make sure we get them before the Break shutters come down!)

We also had a short term issue: Christine noticed that the fridge, which should be a larder fridge as we have a separate freezer, appeared to have its own freezer space. This would diminish the reason for having two separate items and Phil undertook to investigate. He emailed later that Aquatic had explained that it has a removable ice box so is really OK.

We retired quickly to check in at the same Travelodge as last week. Later we drove back into town to collect some salads from Morrison's for our evening meal. They were as good as last week but the bags of hot cooked chicken bits and Cumberland sausage were a bit of a disappointment.

Thursday 23 March 2017

Launch Day - Part Two

We overtook the wagons on the A34 dual carriageway so were able to see both arrive at Stone Boat Building. The entrance is alongside a lock and at a sharp angle but both drivers have been here before.

By now the rain was quite heavy - some of which made it onto both camera lenses!

The process here was much the same as before to get the boat into the air but in reverse.

From here, the boat soared, just missing a parked vehicle as well as one of the boatyard sheds!

Eventually, nb Alchemy made its first contact with the water. It floated! Phil was quick to dash inside to check that there were no obvious leaks - glad to report he emerged smiling.

We had to 'hire' two gas bottles from the Chandlery - this is how Calor work - as the lease agreement is directly with ourselves so Phil could not arrange them in advance.

The diesel tank also had to be filled (the water tank had already been filled before leaving Stone) so that Phil could adjust the ballast.

We then walked into Stone for a quick lunch at the Poste of Stone Weatherspoons before returning to sit down with Phil to discuss the final invoice arrangements and the list of agreed extras (no surprised) as well as go through the boat from end to end in detail to prepare a snagging list.

Leaving Phil to get on with the list we walked along the towpath back to the town to find a place for a cup of tea and to chew over the events of the day as well as think about arrangements for next weekend , the handover and the maiden voyage!

Launch Day - Part One

At last the time was close when our new boat would first make an encounter with water! We drove up on Tuesday with a second load of boxes of 'stuff', including the bedding which we had packed into vacuum bags which considerably reduced the space it takes up in the car. The journey was uneventful, arriving within a couple of minutes of the time predicted at the outset. We had just a brief comfort break along the way.

The Travelodge we had booked is at the M6 service station just outside Stone. As a result we had to come off at the previous junction, drive through Stone itself to access the car which is outside the barrier that prevents casual users from leaving the service station as an unofficial interchange.

After we had checked in we drove back into Stone to check out a place for an evening meal. Mike had done a little research the evening before and we looked first at LetsSee Bistro, alongside Star Lock, which has been open about eight months. The owners greeted us and were interested in our canal boat project. Although we did look at others we eventually came back here in the evening and were warmly greeted. We had a very pleasant and tasty meal.

We did not see Andrew this evening as he was not able to get away from Devizes until mid evening and by then accidents and a motorway road works closure added to his journey time. However, we met up for a coffee in the service station in the morning, before setting off to Stem to Stern with the crane and lorry booked for 9 am. We hoped to take a quick look inside the boat before the lift started.

Quite a few details had progressed since we last saw the boat last Friday. The front steps are now in place and you can see the lift up steps which provide a little more storage room. The upholstery has been delivered - here the two bunk seats in the forward cabin. And also those in the dinette.

The same supplier also came to fit the blinds - Roman blinds in the main cabins and Venetian ones in the galley.

The part of the flue that we did not show last blog is now complete with the fire resistant plate protecting the cabin ceiling in case the flue overheats.

The doors have been fitted to the tv unit but unfortunately Phil (unusual for him) had forgotten about the satellite tuner so that space, top left) will need some adjustment.

Outside the stem and stern fenders are ready. By now there was a palpable tension and expectations were high!

Time then for Phil to prepare to move the boat out from the shed - the crane cannot lift until most of the  boat is accessible! First, two sets of rollers are inserted near the front using a heavy duty jack to lift the boat just clear of the wood blocks on which it has rested for the past months.

A fork lift from an adjacent industrial unit was being borrowed to do the moving - just as had happened on the way in. Alas, the boat is now a lot heavier (17 and half tons according to the crane operator later) and this stage proved a little trickier than expected. The rollers had to be re-positioned and the forklift had to be encouraged! Eventually the boat emerged into what should have been bright sunshine ('cos that was what we ordered!) but rather into the rain and grey skies - hence the photos are not brilliant. Also alas, as the counter bands received a couple of scratches from a too close encounter with the fork lift which will have to be rectified next week.

Now it was time to prepare the slings for the crane to lift the boat. Gradually the boat took to the air before swinging around to land gracefully on the waiting lorry, already extended to take the full length.

With the boat well tied down the lorry, followed by the crane, set off to Stone. We followed as soon as we could, having off loaded our boxes to leave them in the industrial unit until next week.

The blog is already long so it will be continued in the next!

Saturday 18 March 2017

First Contents Delivery

Friday, we made a trip with a very full car to make the first delivery to the boat of the many, many boxes we have of contents which we deem necessary for a comfortable boat living! A couple of weeks ago we finally decided that three car loads would be needed so, with one trip next week for the launch and another the following week for the handover, an extra trip was necessary. In any case, we wanted to be sure that we would have enough space on the third trip for all the things we normally take for a cruise - including supplies from our favourite local butcher, Gary Dutton. At one stage it was just going to be Mike making the round trip in the day but Christine decided to come as well and also to stay over for a night on the way back. To break the journey we booked a room at the Holiday Inn in Filton, near Bristol, just off the M4.

As soon as we arrived at Stafford after a reasonably uneventful journey (despite some potentially dodgy coffee milk from a service station on the way) Mike unloaded the boxes whilst Christine went straight to look inside the boat - with Phil very keen to point all the little features which he is including.

Here are some photos - new small camera (Canon IXUS) so still working out how best to use it. Taking photos of the inside of a boat is not easy and we have admiration for magazine professional photographers that make it look so easy:

Outside first - the registration number is now on. Len has also added the lining to the bow. There are still a few bits left to be done this weekend including the deck and gunnel non-slip.

The roof is now complete - the third item from the front is the radio aerial inlet. Barely visible at the back is the pole and gangplank stand which we debated on the last visit just where it should be fitted.

The front twin bedroom - the floor has been finally fitted here, although that in the main cabin was removed after all the pieces were cut to size so that the ballast can be adjusted once on the water. This was the first time had had a chance to walk on it, the combination of the Karndean and a thicker ply supporting layer make it feel very comfortable, quite supple.

The three internal doors are in place and we can now get a feel for how each cabin will be when in use.

Most of the bathroom is now complete - the shower and surround are in but the shower door is left until last to avoid damage! The wall covering for the shower is quite unusual. As the detail photo captures it has a kind of ridged surface.

Three details from the main bedroom. The first shows a set of shelves alongside the bed which we found before to be very useful. The second is the overhead unit with two downlights and the third the door into the main cabin.

New details from the main cabin: the first shows the detail Phil gives to the joinery - here the top edge of the main cabin cupboard and tv unit. (Not shown, the tv screen is in place but yet to be cabled in). We have shown the freezer before but here the lid is complete with the top lid of the freezer itself attached to the underneath of the pull up cover. Of course this will mean removing the cushion first! (The upholstery and curtains are due for delivery next week so we hope to see them at the launch)

The steps, both at the front and rear, have hinged treads. Under the top rear step, as we have reported before, we have a couple of rubbish bins.

The galley has just a couple of drawers - here the one over the fridge space is intended as a cutlery drawer.

The multifuel stove is almost complete - promised not to show the top of the flue as there is just a piece of cardboard where the final heat resistant cover has to go! Also, an upstand has to be fitted to the front granite floor to comply with current regulations, otherwise it would have had to be extended some way into the cabin.

We also talked about the space underneath. You can just about see our previous idea as a store for Tippy, the ash pan, but Phil has now suggested fitting the space as a coal and firelighter drawer - we will have to find somewhere else for Tippy, perhaps in one of the rear steps.

Not pictured but the two wine stores have been completed with stainless steel bases. All we have to do is find a very shallow rack to stop the bottles rattling around!

David, one of Phil's team, was working hard on finishing the connections to the engine which went in yesterday - they are part of a day behind on that as the final engine bay coat of paint took longer than expected to harden. So we could not take a closer look at the stern area. Most is done but the fuel lines are still missing and then the control cables have to be adjusted. He was also cutting another hole in the side but we forget to ask what it was for!

At the front, Phil has fitted out the locker over the bow thruster tube (you cannot now see that as it is under the floor) As you can see, it has been constructed specially to take the required anchor. The rope and chain are in the space at the bottom along with the rest of the cruising kit that is supplied with the boat. (One of our boxes contains our own set of lightweight and long throw windlasses as well as alternatives to mooring pins)

And finally a look at the newly fitted 18 x 12 propellor - hopefully we shall only see it briefly once more, just before it goes under water. Of course we will no doubt have to feel it when we de-weed! The unique weed hatch of Tyler Wilson is something we have yet to see how it goes!

We tried to keep the disruption of our visit to a minimum and left after just over an hour, with a surprisingly trouble free trip down the motorway to the hotel. We adjourned in the evening to Bella Italia just across the road (the hotel does not have a restaurant) and enjoyed slightly different menu items. The next morning we left after breakfast (which is on-site) before a further unimpeded trip back home. We called first at ASDA alongside the restaurants to pick up another bathroom mug - we found some rather good looking ones the evening before but overnight Christine decided we needed more! We did have to make an unscheduled diversion on the way to a service station as Mike could not remember whether he had picked up the camera before leaving. At first it could not be found, only to be recalled in Mike's pocket!