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Day 3 and it’s going well

Last night was very cold. I went to bed early wearing most of my clothes, with the rest on top of the sleeping bag.  Slept well though and woke early determined to get an early start. Today was bright and clear but still cold. Left Outwell at 06.30 wearing 6 layers of clothes and got to Marmont Priory lock at 07.00. Opened the top slackers (paddles) to fill it. Noticed the bottom ones were padlocked and assumed the EA key would fit. Doesn’t.  Waited ’til 07.30 then rang the lock keeper’s bell. Waited a bit. Rang again. Found phone number.  Voice mail. Left message. Tried again. Called Middle Level Commisioners’ office. Not open ’til 08.30. Keeper arrived 08.20. She’d slept through the ringing. And the phone calls. Left at 08.48.

After that things went surprisingly well. I got to Ashline lock about 12.05 just as a narrow boat was leaving. Better yet there were two more waiting to come down and their crews were happy to work the lock for me to speed things up. I was out in 10 minutes. One of the blokes off one of the boats said Stanground was about an hour and a quarter. He was right. I tied up at 1.30pm, an hour early. Had lunch then hauled the sunlounger out onthe bank for a kip.

Roused by the lock keeper at 2.30 and locked through. Stopped at the sanitary station in Peterborough. Last year when we brought Seren across from Pershore we stopped at the same place.  The sluice for Elsan toilets is part of a public WC, which was surrounded by temporary barriers. Eventually we realised there was access round the side where there was a gap in the barrier. Twelve months later the fence is still there and there was one guy with his head down an access point . I checked the sluice was accessible and found the door open. There’s a new sluice and a new drain and a one metre gap between them. No pipe. I emptied the loo down the pipe.

Went shopping in Peterborough.  Bread and milk almost impossible to find but could have my nails done and hair cut twenty times over.

Not a great place to stay long, but a mile or so upstream is the start of a long riverside park inc Ferry Meadows, Orton Meadows and tbe bit I’m in called Thorpe Wood which has its own arm off the river with a landing stage and pub. According to my itinary from Canal Plan this is where I should stop on the fourth night, so I’m a day ahead. But there’s a lot of locks on the Nene and the N’hants arm, so that’ll slow me down.

Day 2. Hardly boring at all.

Last year we brought Seren up the New Bedford river partly to save time,  we’d had enough by then,  partly because I’d missed it 30 years previous due to tides and a lock keeper who didn’t think we’d want to go that way. It rained the whole way and yes the NB is boring, especially the lower half. Today was different.

Left Earith at 10.00. Turned into the NB in the teeth of a strong northly wind. About 10.10 the engine overheated due to a leak in my DIY hot water system. Stopped the engine and pointed Seren at the bank. Not that I needed to, the wind spun the boat round and held it tight on the SE bank. I let the engine cool while I disconnected my dodgy plumbing, then refilled it and restarted it. Lost a few minutes but no harm done.

But the wind was holding us tight against the bank. Very tight. All my work with our lightweight boat hook got me about 10 metres along the bank but no further away. Then the prop fouled with weed. Cleared that and tried again until one last move brought us alongside a load of debris which miraculously included a 2.4m long pole probably dropped by a boater in similar straits. Almost makes up for losing the key yesterday. With a lot of punting I eventually got free then had fun trying to turn into the wind. So it turned into an hour delay.

The wind was hellish, on the exposed stretches, most of tne NB, it whipped up some fair waves and being gusty it made steering difficult.

Near Manea I stopped under a bridge and tied the front rope to a bridge support. Stopping anywhere else was impossible. Grabbed a sandwich I’d made earlier and made a coffee. Went to untie the rope and the very end got snagged leaving us blown backwards dangling on the end. At which point the engine control vibrated loose. So no power. It’s just a nut on the end of the cable, but what a time to choose. I found a spare and fitted it OK while we bounced around on the waves and swung on the rope.

Carefully motored forward and freed the rope. Pressed on, saw most of my coffee had slopped out of the mug. Next stop Salter’s Lode.

Got there at 3.30.Unbelievably calm in the lock after all the buffetting on the river.

Still cold and windy on Well Creek, not as bad as NB but bad enough. Stopped at Outwell for the night. Early start tomorrow the only time the lock keeper at Stanground will let me through is 2.30 and it’s quite a way from here.

Day 1

Long day. I left Kelpie at 09.00 and had one of those days. Every lock set against me except St Ives. Two were even worse than that because a bunch of young lads in a day boat kept leaving the slackers (paddles) open. Then I lost my EA key, probably at Houghton lock.Realised when I gotto Hemingford. Fortunately a couple I’d met at Houghton locked through with me and I got to Jones’ in time to buy a new key. Ten quid!

Still, made it so far. Just the New Bedford tomorrow and only one lock at Salters’ Lode. Time for dinner…

Update after dinner: Hot water system fail. Barrel gets hot but when it cools the water contracts and the barrel is squeezed out of shape. Then the lid’s seal fails and it leaks. I thought the pump would allow water to be drawn in but it doesn’t. A centrifugal pump might be better. And a stronger tank. Version 2…

Heat Exchanger under test

Seren has hot(ish) water

It Works!

It’s been a long saga but I’ll abbreviate. Seren has a small diesel engine with what looked like tapping points on the end of the cylinder head for heater hoses, which I hoped to use to provide hot water.

First snag, on the canals, going slowly the engine never really got hot, 40°C max. Going upstream on a river it would make 70°C. So I suspected either a thermostat jammed open, or not fitted at all. ButI couldn’t find a thermostat housing. On most engines it is on top of the cylinder head where the top hose goes to the rad/heat exchanger. No top hose on a Perkins 100 series as modified by Parama for marine use. Turns out it’s in the side of the head where the exhaust manifold/heat exchanger is bolted on, so that has to come off. It’s on studs so has to slide, but can’t slide enough because the starter motor is in the way…

It seemed OK, but I bought a new one anyway, then spent a while poring over the exploded diagram in the manual trying to figure out how it goes back. Eventually I got it right and the engine now runs hotter, as it should.

Calorifiers for boats are like small domestic hot water cylinders but expensive and mostly too big for Seren so I decided to fit a heat exchanger in a plastic barrel instead. It’s food grade plastic, the sort of thing used for bulk shipping of ingredients in the food industry where they are often filled with hot food then sealed to ship. The heat exchanger came from a domestic boiler and is way too big really but it was cheap and on Ebay.

Heat Exchanger under test
Heat Exchanger under test

I rigged up the heat exchanger with some heater hoses and tested it and it got hot. Good start. But the fittings on it weren’t much help for what I had in mind so I cut them off and got a plumber to solder 15mm pipe stubs on. Fitting it to a barrel with curved sides was ‘fun’ and involved several joints and a bit of flexible hose, but it worked.

Heat Exchanger in Barrel
Heat Exchanger in Barrel

The barrel is fitted under the front deck just in front of the engine, hanging for now on parcel strapping. One day I’ll make a proper cradle for it. I’ve wrapped it in insulation but that too needs doing more neatly.

I’ve got a cheapo Ebay electronic temp guage attached to the hot water outlet with gaffer tape and running the engine up for half an hour or so got the gauge upto 33°C, at that point of course the engine thermostat is nowhere near opening. We’ll see what happens on a long run.

 

Coralita as bought May 2017

Seren Goes to Crick

 

Coralita as bought May 2017
Coralita as bought May 2017

Seren is an 8m long 40 year old Trentcraft canal/river cruiser. We bought Coralita as she then was in Pershore about a year ago and brought her back to Great Ouse. She wasn’t in great condition and the previous owner had tried to change the layout then given up and tried to re-instate the original plan so he could off-load it and buy something better. But we bought it anyway because DIY work is nearly as much fun as cruising and it was the best thing we could afford.

 

I’ve done some DIY this spring but avoided the boat owner trap of completely gutting the interior and having an unusuable boat that takes so long to fix one runs out of time/money/energy. One of the bodges performed by a previous owner was to remove a window (with a jigsaw, roughly) and fill the gap with plywood and car body filler in order to make a private WC cubicle. I’ve replaced the bodge with a GRP panel and extended the compartment to make room for a shower and washbasin. No hot water yet, blog that when it works.

Recycled kitchen units for clothes storage and improved WC in the background
Recycled kitchen units for clothes storage and improved WC in the background

I’ve moved the leisure battery to make it easier to connect to the engine charging system so now both batteries are charged by the engine when the boat is in use, and kept charged by the solar panel when not in use. Put a fridge and an inverter to power it in the galley too, though long term that’s all going to get re-done.

So it’s nearly ready to go. The Crick Boat Show is held over the May Bank hols(26-28th May) but Crick is a long way from Tempsford Bridge by water so I plan to set off on Tuesday 15th. I also plan to blog the trip but you’ll have to wait and see how that goes.

Telcoms, Bah Humbug!

Copy of email sent to O2
I live about a mile from the Sandy Heath radio mast and can see it from my bedroom window. Most if not all telecos have gear installed on it, including EE, my current provider, and O2. Despite that the EE signal often goes off, sometimes for a whole day. So I ordered an O2 PAYG SIM which came today.
I inserted it in the phone, switched it on and… no signal. The instructions say to activate I have to top up, by calling 4444 from the phone. But there’s no signal. There’s also the option to activate online, but do I really want to activate a SIM that doesn’t work and waste a minimum of £10?
So I went to the ‘Contact’ page. No phone number. I mean why would a phone company list a phone contact?
I clicked the contact button and got a message, something like Hang on while we check if there’s an agent free… Obviously there wasn’t because the message stayed there for ever.
I went to the Complaints page and there I found contact number I should try first before making a complaint.
I called and got the usual menu options, but none for Pay As You Go. There was Pay’n’go but I ‘d never heard of that so I ignored it. Eventually someone in the Pay Monthly team told me Pay’n’go was the same as Pay As You Go. He offered to put me through. He couldn’t explain why the phone options are different from the website options.
Long Wait.
Then, ‘The Pay’n’go team need your mobile number.’
‘Haven’t got one because I can’t get a signal therefore can’t authorise the SIM.’
Long wait.
‘Can I have the SIM number?’
It’s printed very small in pale grey for some reason but I read it eventually.
Long wait.
Eventually I get through and tell the guy the problem. He asks for the phone number. I explain. He asks for the SIM number. I read it again. Why is it grey and tiny? There’s plenty of room on the surrounding plastic. He tells me to authorise the SIM. I explain it again.
I ask him to check if there is a signal in my area. He checks. There isn’t.
I ask when it will be restored. He tells me tomorrow ‘evening’. After 11pm. So in effect I can’t use the SIM until Friday.
Is this typical O2 service? Does the Sandy mast fail often? Should I look elsewhere?

Phil Thane

Amber Rudd – 3

Apparently MPs, even cabinet ministers, will/can/do not reply to mere members of the public unless they are constituents, so eventually I made contact with my MP’s office and they contacted the Home Office which  replied to my MP whose office sent it to me. This is progress, in my previous constituency my MP replied to every email by letter. When I queried this I was told that it was essential for record keeping as paper letters were always copied before sending and the copy filed. Apparently this is not possible with email.

On the actual matter in hand, the reply is as bad as I feared.

(From Alastair Burt MP)

Further to previous correspondence, I attached for you a response from the Home Office.

I do understand the points you make about end to end encryption, but the technology companies offering these services, must work with the Government to ensure they are not abused.

Thank you for taking the time to outline your concerns in this matter, which I can assure you have been noted by the Minister.

He obviously missed or failed to understand my point that it doesn’t have to be ‘companies offering these services’ any muppet can set up encrypted email.

So maybe the Home Office reply is better?Judge for yourself – HomeOfficeStatement. (PDF)

Atkinson & Miller

Not a comedy double-act, Atkinson and Miller were engineers, one British and one from the US who each invented methods for improving internal combustion engines. Both types were pretty much forgotten until recently when variable valve timing and electronics have made it possible to emulate the operating principle either style of engine in a conventional design. In fact it’s possible to have the same engine operate in conventional (Otto or Diesel) mode then switch to Atkinson or Miller operation to suit the conditions and load.

I’ve written a couple of pieces for Diesel Car, one on the history one on the modern interpretation of Atkinson and Miller’s designs. So if you ever wondered what Toyota are on about when they praise the simulated Atkinson engine used in the Prius, now’s your chance to find out.

Atkinson & Miller Engines (history) (PDF)

Atkinson & Miller Engines (Modern emulations)  (PDF)