Friday, 29 May 2009

Evidence of Global Warming

Crocs in English river!


Thursday, 21 May 2009

Sunday, 17 May 2009

31 Days

Well, that was an interesting 5 weeks. Real went into dry dock to be cleaned up, have a bit of welding done and a new coat of paint. This was originally intended to take two weeks and during that time we went to stay with my Mum. The work did indeed take two weeks, with a couple of days added to take into account the Easter Bank holiday, but…

When she went back into the water she sprung a leak and had to go back up the slip to have it fixed. Unfortunately no one called us to let us know and when Maureen called to check that everything was OK we got the bad news. By this time Maureen was staying with friends as it was much easier for her to get to work and I stayed on at my Mums, but this made communication both between us and the shipyard a little difficult and complicated.

A few days later having had her little leakage problem sorted out Real was ready to go back into the water and once the tides were right she did. But the old lady decided she didn’t want to go back and sprung another leak. So it was back up the slip again and lots of conversations about not only fixing the new leak but what we could do to prevent any more problems. It turns out that as she came down slip the stern began to float earlier than expected which meant she was basically balanced on the stern and bow and was flexing in the middle, something she was never designed for, as there is no real strength end to end. But there wasn’t really an answer on how to prevent this happening.

By this time we were both beginning to feel a bit stressed and checking on the prices of scrap steel. Seriously, we were.

The tides weren’t going to be right again for another week and a half, which not only meant we were basically homeless but there was a queue forming for the slip with other boats moored in various places waiting for Real to leave. We moved home again and stayed at an empty houseboat that belonged to a neighbour at the marina. Together again at last!

Two days before launch day we were let down by the towing company who wouldn’t be able to tow us back to the marina, so after discussing the problem with various people we came up with a plan. I’d take the day off and armed with broom handles and quick setting concrete Real would go back into the water however much she protested. The broom handles would be used to plug any new leaks (although judging by the previous holes pencils may have been better) and then concreted in, and we’d deal with the problem later. As far as towing was concerned after many frantic phone calls and favour asking, a tug was found that could do the job. But not cheap by any means. The tug was big, too big to get us into the marina, so we were going to be assisted in by a couple of small workboats.

Launch Day III. I arrived at the shipyard armed with hole plugging equipment and waited for the tide.

The tug arrived, it was huge, probably about two-thirds the length of Real.

Paul arrived with workboat number one.

The tide came in.

Real moved slowly down the slip and into the water.

She didn’t leak. It must have been the good talking to that I gave her, or that fact that the previous two launches had found all the weak spots.

We were on our way. Backwards. As the tug was so big it didn’t really matter which way we were towed and it meant less manoeuvring if we were tied up along side and taken as we were.

So I had a river trip in our home, checking for any leaks along the way.

As we’d left the slip at high tide time was now against us to make it back to our berth in the marina. The tug made good time, very good time, I think we may have arrived before we left. Now came the tricky bit, towing her in with two little workboats against the tide. This is where I felt particularly useless, people were running around with ropes, shouting instructions and getting the job done and all I could do was watch. I was given a tyre on a bit of rope to use as a fender, and as chief tyre on a bit of rope holder I did a brilliant job. Maybe not so good using it as a fender, but excellent at holding it and then being told to run down the other end and hang it over the side. Real was finally stuffed into to her new berth and the workboats took off at high speed whilst I helped get her tied up. I later found out that there was actually quite a lot of panicking going on, the tide was going out fast and there was a serious risk of everything getting stuck on the mud. Hence the rapid stuffing into the berth.

Our home was back.

The following day she was turned around, as all our waste outlets were facing the pontoon. This would have meant a bit of re-plumbing, which I was OK dealing with but the offer to turn her was made so we took it.

During all of this I had no real opportunity to take any photos but fortunately one of our neighbours did, and took a series of Real pirouetting into place.

We’re now in the process of unpacking everything again, and getting back to life aboard and the rest of the work we need to do.

photos will follow shortly, as soon as I've worked out how to get them in the right order etc etc etc.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Painted Lady

Not the best picture in the world, but I only had my phone on me. She's all clean, welded and painted, ready to go back in tomorrow and, all being well, back home in time for tea.

Saturday 25th April

I knew I shouldn't have said anything! Due to some minor technical problems she's not back yet. Due on Monday now, but as we've found out with boats anything could happen.

Friday, 10 April 2009

High 'n' Dry

Not much to say at the moment apart from 'She's out and having her bottom washed and painted'.

We still can't fit her all in one photo!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Back on the Bilge Gang

There must be something you can do with rust. There must be a way of recycling it. There has to be a use for it rather than ending up in landfill somewhere. And if we knew what it was and how to do it we’d be loaded. So until we’ve worked it out we’re back scraping the bilges, this time in the unconverted half. I read somewhere that 10mm of rust amounts to 1mm of metal, that’s good news for us as ours is about 2mm at it’s thickest (the rust, that is), but it’s still heavy when it’s soggy sticky rust mixed with nasty sticky greasy stickiness with a bit of water thrown in for good measure. Still if it wasn’t mixed with grease it would probably have been a lot worse, and we’d have 60mm of rust and no water keepy outi-ness. On the whole it’s not too bad and as the sides haven’t been covered with insulation or anything the rust is only on the surface and cleans up easy enough ready for treating with Vactan.

Whilst cleaning the underside of the deck area we’ve found a couple of small holes which explains how the water is getting in and I’ve now taken the chipping hammer away from Maureen as she kept finding more. I know we need to find them all but it’s a bit disheartening when holes appear. On a temporary basis we’ve covered these with flexible flashing tape, which is basically bitumen and lead like metal on a roll and sticks to almost any surface really easily making it water tight until we either get to weld them up ourselves or get someone in. Hopefully we can time this with our next visit to dry-dock, which is due soon, but I’m not going to say when as that seemed to jinx it last time.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


We’ve reached a bit of a plateau as far as work is concerned on Real. Incidentally we decided from day one that it should be pronounced “ray-all” as in Real Madrid, I’ve no idea why a Belgian Barge should have a Spanish name but then we know very little of her history . All we know is that she is almost definitely Belgian, she was once moored on the Thames in Plumstead and has a General Motors engine that came from an American Tank when she was converted to a self propelling barge. We got most of the information, except the Plumstead bit, from Frederic Logghe and his excellent Blog/Website.

So I decided this week, as we haven’t got much to report, that I would take this opportunity to promote some of the Blogs that we’ve been following and that have either provided inspiration, information or just plain entertainment.

And in no particular order we have:-

Tim Zim and Lady Jane.
This was one of the first blogs we found about houseboats and boat conversions. Tim has loads of information on his blog and led us to set about doing our own spray foam insulation (you might want to read about our exploits with Spray foam here). The brilliant thing about Tim’s blog is he writes regularly and about anything that’s happened with Lady Jane. I sometimes wish we could produce something like this.

Next there’s Seb and Bee and Wendy Ann 2. These two work so hard, keeping down about 8 jobs each, working 27 hours a day 12 days a week on Wendy Ann 2. But the job they are doing is amazing; they’ve welded up what seems like a million rivets and are producing a fantastic wheelhouse in Teak, and write from the heart.

Then there’s Steve and Lorna and Serenity. Occasionally when I read this I wish we’d bought a fully converted barge, but they’ve still had a lot of work to do. But the best bit is that they photograph everything, which always makes this worth reading.

Next there’s Simon and Mary and Misterton. This reminds me a lot of when we started, they're still at the clearing and planning stage. What I look forward to reading here is Mary’s View, a very funny non-technical insight into buying and converting a Barge.

There are another two Thomas H and Hendrick. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to read these two fully but basically Thomas H is in the process of conversion and Hendrick is, as far as I can tell from what I’ve read so far, more or less complete. Apologies to both if I’ve got this wrong.

And Finally… we have Frederic Logghe and MS Watergeus. This website/blog has an enormous amount of information about all types of barges and I think is a must read for anyone either thinking of starting out
with a barge or in the middle or working on one.

So, there you have it, this weeks thoughts. Maybe next week we’ll have made a bit of progress on clearing out the bedroom end, but if it’s as cold up that end as it is now, then I doubt it. Still, what’s the rush, we’re beginning to live the relaxing lifestyle we wanted.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Area XL

This weekend we decided that we should go to the London Boat Show. Although we didn’t really know why, but we thought we should as we live on a boat. The show was OK and probably very good if you have a yacht or wanted to buy a huge gin palace but we were a little surprised that more areas of boating weren’t represented such as powerboats, hovercraft, canoes/kayaks and of course houseboats (although we didn’t really expect that). We did pick up lots of catalogues and brochures from the various chandlery stands and picked up some information on paints and 12 volt supplies which will come in useful when we get going again properly with Real’s conversion. The biggest selling item at the show was… inflatable aliens from Fusion. They were everywhere and by the end of the day Excel was beginning to look like the final scene from Close Encounters. I have no idea what Fusion make or sell as their stand was only selling Aliens, but as an advertising campaign it was probably very successful, I just need to look them up on ‘tinernet to find out what we’ve brought home and why.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Two Goldfish in a tank…

…One says to the other, “have you any idea how to drive this thing?”

Sorry, a bit late for Christmas cracker jokes but it leads very nicely into the story of the Fuel Tank and the Teaspoon.

A while back, (it seems ages ago, but it’s probably only a few months) we had our lovely Somy Delta F25 boiler installed. The name makes it sound like some sort of Jet Fighter, the type you see at air shows flying vertical with afterburners scorching the grass from 30 thousand feet, actually there are times when our boiler sounds like that.

Anyway, boiler needs fuel but at the time of installation the state of our existing fuel tank, which was originally intended for the engine, was unknown and for some reason, our tame marine engineer, didn’t seem very keen on it, suggesting we buy a new plastic one and stick it on the deck. This wouldn’t have been ideal for several reasons and top of the list was cost, so in the meantime our fuel feed came from a 20-litre jerry can. This worked quite well during the late summer and autumn, I just had to nip to the local garage every few days on my way home from work and top up the jerry can, but this wasn’t going to work well in the long term. So armed with a torch I ventured into the depths of the engine room.

We’ve got two fuel tanks, each should hold about 700 litres, and should normally be joined by a balance pipe. This pipe seems to have disappeared but as there’s a stopcock on each tank we would be able to use just one. The top of the tank is about 8 feet from the floor of the engine room making it a bit awkward to get to as you need to be perched up a ladder but once up there I opened the small hatch (about 18 inches by 10 inches) and looked inside. It looked OK in there, no obvious rust, but there was about an inch of nasty looking sludge covering the bottom and after poking it with a stick I then realised that the outlet was via a cylinder (about 3inches in diameter) at the bottom. The idea of this arrangement is that any water in the fuel will end up at the bottom of the cylinder, which can then be periodically drained off, with the fuel outlet slightly higher. The problem is how to get the sludge out from the tank, including the outlet/drain cylinder, which is 6 feet deep through a small hatch 8 feet off the floor.

Enter the Teaspoon.

By screwing a teaspoon to a long length of wood, I would be able to scoop out the cylinder at the bottom of the tank into a small bucket which was lowered inside on a length of string. I could then scrape the bottom of the tank with a garden hoe, scoop the gunk into the bucket and ‘Bob’s yer Uncle’ one clean tank. Well despite sounding slightly insane it worked. With my head inside a fuel tank halfway up a ladder I scraped and scooped for about an hour, occasionally
shouting rude words when my teaspoon of scoopings fell into the cylinder again.

Once I’d taken out the bucket I then need to get rid off all the little bits, so I decided the best thing to flush a fuel tank would be fuel. So I stuck a big bucket under the tank and chucked about 10 litres into the tank, stirred it around with a stick, drained it into the bucket and repeated this about 4 times. Now the inside of the tank was as good as new. I’d already looked at the various stopcocks and filters earlier and decided they’d need replacing, and once done I put some more fuel in, checked for leaks and found all was good. Just needed to connect everything to the boiler and the job was done. We then phoned our local bunkering people, they arrived a few days later and filled her up. Hopefully 700 litres will keep us going for while.
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