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…

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.