Decking Seren (part 1)

Decking Seren (part 1)

It appears that the Trentcraft 25 was available with outboard or inboard engines. The outboard version just has a well at the stern and a door for access to the engine only. Seren has an inboard engine (in the front cockpit with a long propshaft in the keel). In this version the well is decked over (in GRP) and the deck extended beyond the hull making it easier to get on and off the boat, especially on canals where the towpath is normally about 150mm above the water.

Seren with deck removed

I think Seren has at sometime been shunted from behind because the deck was damaged and bodged with wood and car body filler. As you’d expect the filler cracked and the wood rotted so I’ve removed it all. The photo shows Seren without her rear deck. The lump in the middle is concrete ballast intended, I assume, to compensate for the lack of an outboard on the transom and the presence of a Perkins diesel up front.

You can also see that the original central door has been replaced with a double door which is quite a good idea but not well done. A job for next year. What you can’t see is that the roof has been cut away above the door to enable a sliding hatch, but then someone changed their mind and bodged that with more ply and filler. So add that to the list for next year too.

Meanwhile, the next task is to replace the deck. Having pondered wood (it rots) and GRP (expensive and difficult) I had a brainwave. Make the deck from ‘decking’. Composite decking planks and joists are made from a blend of wood fibre and recycled plastic. They are water resistant and don’t need maintenance beyond an occasional wash.

Got to get on with it because the rear deck is the only BSS-legal place to put a gas locker and I’m off to Llangollen in June…

Amazon-azing

I try not to deal with multi-national tech giants if I can help it, but sometimes Amazon seems to be the obvious choice. Until it all goes wrong.
My boat, Seren, was built in the UK about the time UK industry was shifting to the metric system, but the design predates that and so do many of the components used. The propshaft for example is 1″ in diameter. I’ve replaced the propshaft bearings and was able to buy them locally with no trouble, but the couplings that join sections of the shaft together were loose and I couldn’t find replacements anywhere in the UK. Plenty of metric ones but none with a 1″ bore. Even Ebay couldn’t help.
Eventually I found them on Amazon UK, though they were listed by Amazon US where of course they still use inches.
I ordered them in December. Delivery was estimated at 3 weeks or so. I waited, then around the time they were due I got a delivery.
Not a box with two heavy couplings in, just a lightweight padded envelope. Which was split down one side and empty. The label (from Yodel) looked odd and said it was a reprint. Under it was another label, presumably the original, obviously cut from a carton. I’m guessing someone opened the box, or it was damaged in transit, so they put the items in a ‘Jiffy’ bag and sent them on. But the bag was nothing like strong enough for the items so they fell out.
After explaining all this to Amazon customer services they gave me a refund and suggested I re-order. They gave me a cock and bull story about how they couldn’t replace them because they, ie Amazon UK, didn’t stock them. So I reordered.
And followed the ‘Track your delivery’ page for three weeks until they too were declared lost.
This time I got very cross with customer services and was transferred to a guy with a soothing voice and calm manner. He too refused to replace the items but once again arranged a refund. He also suggested that if I re-ordered immediately while he was watching my account I could opt for fast delivery and he would refund that too. I went to order and noticed the price had increased (Brexit, exchange rate, who knows?) so he made another refund to cover that.
So it all ended happily? No they just got lost quicker. This time I just took the money.
Fortunately someone in the US is now offering similar items at a lower price. If they get lost I might find an engineering company to bore out a pair of Ø25 couplings to 1″. Or buy a lathe and make my own.

Trip to Crick

The semi-literate blog posts I wrote during my trip to the Crick Boat Show have morphed into a piece for Waterways World. I’ve just seen the proofs, press day is Friday and it’ll hit the shops soon.

I think next year we’ll take Seren to the Llangollen International Eisteddfod – three weeks each way!

Off to Print

GOBA News Summer 2018

My first foray into editing – GOBA News – has just gone to print. The Great Ouse Boating Association represents boat owners on the Great Ouse and it’s tributaries, Cam, Lark, Little Ouse and Wissey. The news is an A4 glossy published three times a year and distributed free to members.

Needless to say editing it is voluntary. I now have a lot more sympathy for professional editors than I used to have, it’s not as easy as I thought when I rashly volunteered.

 

Day 10, nearly there

Two consecutive days without disasters. I set off a  bit late this morning because it was grey and drizzly. It cleared about 08.30 but by the time I’d opened the roof started the engine and cast off, it was raining again. Not too bad though. As I set off a narrowboat passed me and I followed hoping we could go through the locks together. Then on a long straight I realized he was following another boat, so they’d probably double up and I’d be solo again. Then just as we approached the first lock,  the lead boat pulled over to a wharf to refuel.

The other boat was a hire boat returning to Napton with two young couples, one with a toddler and one with a dog and an older couple who were somebodies’ parents. With so many crew they did all the lock work and we’d finished the flight by 11.00. I stooped for a break then put in another hour, stopping for lunch before the final set of locks.

I set off again an hour or so later and after about 100m joined the end of the lock queue! There are two single locks with very short pounds between then a staircase of 3 then two more singles. Fortunately CRT volunteers were there in force orhanising batchea in each direction and doi g the bulk of the lock work for solo boaters. Queuing wasn’t really a problem for me, I’m not booked into Crick until tomorrow morning anyway, I just drank tea and read a book.

There were a lot of boats ahead of me also heading to Crick, including a pair or trad narrowboats (motor and butty). Fewer coming down, but one amazed me. A seventy foot boat crewed by a young couple. The woman was steering with a baby in a sling. The pound where I was waiting was only slightly longer than her boat but the locks were not in line so she had to shuffle to and fro to line up with the next lock. I made some complimentary remark and she replied, ‘We used to have a 45 footer which was easier, it’s only our second day with this, but we want another baby…’

Out of the top lock about 5.00  but stopped at the CRT lock keepers’ hut to top up water and empty the loo. Neither really needed doing but Crick organisers have warned visitors to arrive with full tanks and empty loos as facilities will be limited.

Moorings open at 08.00 tomorrow so I’ll set off early to beat the rush. Then spend the day making old Seren look a bit more presentable.

 

Day 9

Nothing went wrong today so this will a short post. Also just got low battery warning! Did remaining 9 Rothersthorpe locks without incident by mid morning then stopped at Gayton Marina for fuel and water, and to empty the loo.

Carried on to Br 41 had lunch then walked to town for bread milk etc.

The leisure battery hasn’t been holding charge very well right since the start, the inverter and fridge are putting a liitle more load on it that usual but not enough to account for the loss. The wiring looks OK and it charges up from the solar panel and the engine but each evening it falls to 10.x volts by bedtime. I checked the fluid level, and it is a bit low so I looked for deionised water in Bugbrooke, even trekking across town to the pharmacy, but they hadn’t any. Still, walking is good. Though maybe not so good when you’ve just done 9 locks.

Tonight I’m by Bridge 19 on the GU main line,  between M1 and railway. Both are sheilded by trees though so the noise is bearable. Not far from Buckby locks so will do those in the morning. After that is Norton Junction where I have to take the Leicester line, then the Watford locks, Watford as in Gap not in N London. I might save them for Friday morning.

Day 8 and another screw loose

Yesterday’s dose of ATF in the gearbox didn’t seem to make a lot of difference so before setting off I checked the oil. There wasn’t any, it was all in the drip tray under the engine and gear box. After a bit of a panic I looked at it logically and found that the drainplug under the geear box had unscrewed it self and was also in the drip tray. Screwed it back in with some ‘plastic gasket’ gunk and set off again to buy more ATF. Fortunately thw mooring is about a 15 min walk from a retail park with a Halfords.

The river through the wash lands is wide. Therefore shallow and weedy. Halfway to Northants city centre and the prop is fouled again. As before there’s no where to moor so I crept on until I saw a guy on a residential boat moored in a little backwater. He let me tie up alongside while I untangled the prop. Then in to town and stopped for lunch at the embankment.

Just one more river lock before the narrow canal so took off the fat fenders and fitted some skinny ones.

The canal locks seem tiny after the Gt Ouse and Nene and need a whole different technique, especially being single handed. The first one has CRT padlocks on one side that don’t work, fortunately the paddles on the other side were unlocked. Quite a few more after that had broken locks, but also broken locking mechanisms so they can be used without a key. After #13 the first of the Rothersthorpe flight there are no locks on the locks.

They are still hard work though, I gave up for the day between 10 and 9.

End of week 1

Well I have another tip to add to my piece on solo boating, carry more oil. But we’ll come to that.

Another bright sunny morning so I was awake at 06.00 and set off just after 07.00 thinking that if it was really hot again I’d have a nice long siesta after lunch.

I’d moored just below Woolaston lock so I was through there by 07.40. Then ran into weed that wrapped itself round the prop and brought me to a stop. I cleared it three times between Woolaston and Doddington locks. It doesn’t help that there’s nowhere to moor, both banks are lined with weed so approaching them is asking for trouble. I tried letting the boat drift while I got down in the weed hatch, but by the time I’d finished we’d drifted into the weeds anyway. So at Doddington I stopped on the lock landing stage to deweed for the third time and have a coffee break.

Above Doddington things improved and I got to White Mills marina about 10.00. Took on fuel and water and emptied the toilet. And picked up more weed just a few metres after rejoining the river.

It had been getting harder and harder to select a gear on Seren and then the whine from the gearbox got noticeably louder. I added what ATF I had and pressed on but it was obvious I needed more. My waterways sat nav suggested there were boat supplies to be had at the next lock, Coggenhoe. But it’s wrong, there’s just a mobile home site. Abloke in the sales office gave me directions to a garage, 40mins walk away.

Coggenhoe is closw to the river but on a small hill. Good for flood protection, not so good when you have to walk up the hill and down the other side at midday on a sunny day. When I got there it was by the next bridge over the river, but of course there’s no towpath alongside the river so I walked back up and down again. Then had a siesta.

Pretty uneventful after that, just one more case of weed then moored for the night on an EA mooring on the Northants Washlands.

At this rate I could be 2 days early but I’ll take the 17 lock flight on the N’hants Arm very slowly. I remember it was hard work last year and I had Linda working the locks then!

Day 6, quite relaxing

I talked to Linda (wife) last night and she suggested we meet up for lunch at the Watermill Tea Rooms at Woodford Mill. I reckoned it would be 2 hours so I pottered about and left at 08.30 intending to have 11’ses at the tea room then clean the boat and change into more presentable clothes. Actually I was there by 10.00 so I had a breakfast bap instead. Did a small amount of cleaning, washed a couple of shirts and sat about reading for an hour. Lunch was paninis, and pretty good. Then tea on the boat before pottering on my way so relaxed I didn’t log the time, or the time taken lock to lock.

Checking back it looks like I did 2 locks before lunch and 7 after making it a very sucessful day despite the leisurely start and long lunch.

Approaching Woodford Mill I’d had a boatowner working on his boat abouthe availibilty of diesel and sanitary stations. Another guy chipped in with advice about Wellington embankment but I didn’t think I’d get that far today. Turns out I did, but when I got there there was no diesel and the sanitary station wouldn’t open with my EA key. Fortunately neither is urgent, there’s a marina near Billing I should make tomorrow.

Wellingborough embankment would be a good place to stop during the day, handy for the town centre and shops, but there’s a busy road next to it and a Whitworths factory opposite that’s very noisy. So I pressed on almost to the next lock, Woolaston Mill, and moored up by a meadow.

Can’t believe the weather. 4 nights ago I was in my sleeping bag by this time 8.30pm trying to keep warm. Tonight I’m still in shorts and t shirt and wondering if it’s time to close the door.