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Sunday, 30 September 2012

Tomorrow is the big day.

Tomorrow morning sees us putting Christina back in the water, paying for the repairs, servicing, storage and boat moving.
Then we hope to get them down to the Nen(e) in 10 days. it'll be move off at first light and soldier on until dusk. with an occasional evening drive to leap frog the 2 cars.
I expect to have only sketchy internet during the trip, but will try to post the latest details from my phone. Keep an eye out for us ;o)

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Freyja goes back into the water & the water goes back into Freyja!

We took Glenda's son Nick to Uni in Telford then went up to the boats, the marina said our boats were booked to go into the water that day, a week early.
The guys at Aqueduct marina punting Freyja to the service pontoon
 We agreed that Freyja could go back in, so we could test the motor under load and service it.
So they put her back in the water, but she wouldn't start. I, later, managed to get her running and she sounded OK.
  
Freyja back in the water, but, unknown to us, taking on water ;o(
Next morning when the mechanic came to service it we found out the engine bay was full of oily water ;o(
So we pumped it out and, once serviced, she did not want to start due to an airlock in the diesel.

Not a nice sight, Freyja's engine compartment filled with a heady mix of water and oil.
We had to leave, as we are moving house this weekend so we left, still not knowing if the problems will be solved in time for me to start moving them on Monday. Eeeek!

Friday, 21 September 2012

A narrowboat licensing nightmare! ;o(

We were about to pay Canals and Rivers Trust, for our canals and rivers license, we were relieved that, as our butty is over 50 foot, it qualified for a half price license :-

Freyja 55 foot motor    £769.21 p.a.
Christina 53 foot butty £369 p.a.
              Total               £1138.21

We were sure we'd seen that this covered the river Nen(e), while looking for an abloy key ( to operate EA locks) we realised that we needed an EA license for our river Nen(e) marina moorings. Should we get a gold license? A gold license would be £1004 per boat (no butty discount) so would cost a whopping £2008 and would expire in December! So could we get a temporary CaRT license to get us down through the canal system to the Nen(e) and then get an EA license for a year?

Having rung CaRT, I have found three options :-

30 day rover (We'd need a current EA license and the 30 days can be used anytime over a year) :-

Freyja 55 foot motor £168.67
Christina 53 foot butty £162.90 (butty discount not applicable)
Total £331.57

One month temporary pass (We'd need a current EA license and it lasts one calendar month)

Freyja £125.41
Christina £121.07 (butty discount not applicable)
Total £246.48

3 month long term (Needed if we didn't have a current EA license)

Freyja £369.23
Christina £177.38 (butty discount applies)
Total £546.61
Plus keys £11.00

So that's our three options to get us down to the river Nen(e), for which we need an EA license, back to the phone, watch this space..........

Phew, I phoned the Environment Agency and found that the costs were as follows :-

For Freyja £788.97 p.a. but as the EA licence runs April - March and 6 months have gone, there's a 50% discount so :-
£394.49 for the remainder of the season

Christina caused much scratching of heads, no-one knew how much it should be, as she doesn't fall into any of their categories.
Eventually, Stuart Gingell, a licensing expert was consulted and he said that she qualified for a 50% discount for an un-powered butty so :-
£394.49 but as 6 months have past a further 50% discount
£197.25 until March 2013
Total to EA £591.74
Plus CaRT £146.48
Plus CaRt keys £11
Plus EA key £10

Grand Total £759.22  to get our pair down through the canal system and license them both  for Environment Agency waters until the end of March 2013

We have been told that as an unpowered craft we could pay category 12 for the butty, a mere £32 p.a.! But EA say that they are aware that people have been allowed to do this in the past, 'due to a mistake' but that they have been telling people that they have to pay 50% of the normal fee.

So we are are paying as a tender, bear in mind, that the EA definition of a tender is a powered craft carried on, or towed behind the registered vessel. So not the definition of our butty. Quote :-

Tenders
A 50% discount is available for a tender, when registered at
the same time as the ‘parent’ vessel. Tenders are subject to the
appropriate navigation charges, but the registration number
issued will be the same as the ‘parent’ vessel. We define a
tender as a small powered boat or dinghy, towed or carried by
another vessel.

There is also a cheaper category for a a boat over 5m long, powered by an engine of no more than 4hp, this is category 31 and costs £130.54 p.a.
We have an outboard in our butty, and next year we will use this category to bring our costs down a bit.
 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Why we DIDN'T need a rope ladder! LOL!

I have just ordered a 6 rung rope ladder on e-bay at a cost of £4.98 + £4.98 post
In the event of one of us falling overboard in deeper water, we will be able to use it to haul ourselves out, otherwise it is very difficult to lift someone out when their clothing is saturated, adding to their weight.
A figure of eight loop of rope would achieve the same thing.
Well, apparently, rope ladders are not ideal, for one thing wooden rungs float! DOH! Also it swings under the boat making it difficult to climb in wet clothing.
The improved plan is to get an aluminium ladder for each boat, then fit a clip-on board so they can be used as gangplanks.
It's a learning curve (usually downwards!)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

1st time buying narrowboat, what you should know.

It has amazed us that, after deciding to pay a deposit on Freyja and Christina, after, we thought, working our finances out to the last penny, several unexpected and fairly expensive extras surprised us.

We had read that surveys cost around £140, this is the cost of a safety survey, not the price of a hull or full pre-buying survey, we ended up with the prospect of paying £800 per boat, £1600 for the pair.
We decided to do a hull only survey on the butty at £530 and told the surveyor that if the hull needed serious over-plating we would call it a day, and not proceed with Freyja's survey. As Christina's survey showed her to have a sound hull we decided to go ahead with a hull survey on Freyja at £530, this turned up a problem with the bow, it had rusted from inside, due to a leak on the water filler pipe, and needed re-plating, but it was within the £1000 we were prepared to add for any repairs.
So now we told the surveyor to go ahead with the full survey this added £270, bringing the total to £1330, and turned up a few other things that needed sorting, and added more to the repair bill.
Unfortunately, we allowed the marina to choose the surveyor (Small Boat Surveys) NEVER DO THIS!!!! 
We have since found many serious faults missed by the surveyor, four that almost resulted in Freyja sinking! The survey was made out in the name of Nick the salesman at Aqueduct Marina, even though we were the ones who paid for it. The small print says that only the person named has any redress. We were taken advantage of, as we were first time buyers.
Now we were told that once our offer was accepted we would have one week's grace and then have to pay for the hardstanding or for moorings at £81 per week.
Also we learnt that it would cost £105+vat to have each boat put into the water, another £252. Then the marina dropped Freyja back into the water earlier than they said they would, we weren't there, they did not grease the stern gland and water had come up over the starter motor!
Once paid for, insurance has to be in place, as our newly acquired boats were not covered by the brokerage insurance, this cost £153
We'll have to pay our licenses £769.21 for 55 foot motor Freyja & £369 for Christina ( half the normal price for a butty over 50 foot) a total of £1138.21 before they go back into the water.
We searched for moorings, the nearest to Essex were either on the rivers Lee & Stort, Roydon marina quoted £6700 linear or £4600 breasted on a widebeam mooring, these moorings are within easy reach of London so carry a premium.
We looked at the river Ouse, but it would mean a longer trip though the drains to get onto the canal system.
Then we looked at the river Nene, Billing looked good and on the way home we visited Willy Watts marina in Ringstead, but were too late to ask prices, I rang the next day and we were offered moorings on their new Blackthorn Lake Marina for £2500.
We now owned our boats and decided that we wanted to black them ourselves, this cost us about £200 as the boats were already out of the water, so we did not need to pay to have them lifted out.
The surveyor was not qualified to test the gas (As Freyja is fitted with a modern 'Bubble Tester' he should have been able to test it and sign it off Grrrr!) or the electrical systems, and advised that the wiring needed upgrading 'to modern standards', so our insurance will not cover any claims made due to electrical or gas problems, until we can prove we've improved the electrics and had it all tested and had the gas tested.
The next big expense was moving them from Church Minshull near Crewe to Ringstead, near Northampton. We did this by leap-frogging a car, asking the pubs we ate in, if we could park for a day or two.

The prices quoted are the ones we encountered and would vary according to the length of boat (and would obviously be less for only one boat)
Also prices at brokerages and marinas vary greatly.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Chicken coup in Christina's bow

Christina's chicken coup is in her bow, here seen through the door from her greenhouse.
The central ramp up from the run can be pulled up and secured to keep the chickens in, while the top is lifted off, so it can be moved to the canal bank, the lower chickenwire run can then be carried out separately and re-assembled. To the left is the end door panel which has feeders built in.

A panoramic shot of Freyja & Christina on hardstanding

A lovely, moody panoramic shot of the hardstanding at Aqueduct marina, taken as the well timed rainclouds moved in as we finished blacking them ;o)

Freyja & Christina are in the centre, somewhere on the left is Zayna and Phil's blue narrowboat Cheeky B, allegedly! LOL!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

I'm the guy with the bitumen quiff!

We are just back from our blacking expedition, and we are both completely knackered!
I've also managed black my hair, hence the bitumen quiff.

Nice to meet Zayna & Phil (NB Cheeky B?)
(Who we've spoken to on the Canalworld Forum)



 First job was to wash the grease spots left when the surveyor measured the steel thickness, we used white spirit.

 A new set of sacrificial anodes was fitted to Freyja

 Glenda, sitting down on the job

 So, she got her own back by catching me lying down on the job!
If you paint under the stern before you paint the stern sides and stern tube, you too will get a 'bitumen quiff'!!!! HoHum, another valuable lesson learned!

Christina's stern looking nice and shiny
Here's a good tip, scrape and paint the weed hatch BEFORE you black  around the stern tube, so you don't get a load of rust chips sticking to your newly applied blacking! DOH!

De-rusted and blacked (but don't black the top and handles if you want to paint it later)

 Horrible black sticky stuff that gets everywhere

 The contraption that Aqueduct marina used to haul our boats out and back in again

How good were my estimates?

So, we bought 27.5 litres of bitumen and found we needed approximately 5 litres per coat for each boat (55 & 53 foot)
The B&Q tungsten scraper was excellent for digging the rust flakes and bubbles out of the pitted areas, but don't be tempted to tap them with the scraper, as the blades are very brittle and expensive at £7.18 each! Use a small hammer to chip flakes and bubbles.
The paper overalls were great, worn over old clothes, as the bitumen can soak through. But watch out for the sizes, which were on the small side, large being more like medium.
I used my safety glasses when scraping and when lying underneath painting under the stern.
 But we didn't use the pair I bought for Glenda.
We didn't use the rollers at all.
The B&Q 5" flat shed & fence brushes were great for the sides and cheap
The B&Q 5" flat masonry brush was great for dusting off after scraping.
The best buy was the B&Q round masonry brush which was worth it's weight in gold, great for cutting in around the tunnel bands and for working black into little nooks and crannies.

You'll need a lot of latex gloves, workshop tissues, old towels or rags and white spirit. And, apparently, Baby oil! As this is the best thing to get bituminastic paints off!

We have almost 10 litres of bitumen left.





Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Some more pics

Here are some more piccies, pre re-launch

                                          Butty Christina on brokerage

                                          Stern view

                                          Motor Freyja on brokerage

There are more photos of these boats in action on the former owners blog :-

http://narrowboatpairforsale.blogspot.co.uk/



DIY narrowboat blacking for beginners.

We decided to tackle blacking Freyja and Christina ourselves, but how do we go about it?
After searching through a lot of forum posts and googling for tips and an idea of the quantity of bitumen required for two narrowboats, we were still not sure how much we'd need.

Ask twenty narrowboaters how to black a narrowboat and you'll get ten that say you have to apply it with a brush and five that swear by a roller and the others that spray or use a combination of the above. No-one can agree on what is the best product or how often you should re-black, anything from two to five years.
Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of advise to be found out there, it just seems there is not one, that we have found, sufficiently detailed to help us buy the right quantity.

We decided to buy standard bitumen and searched DIY stores with not much luck, B&Q had none, but were cheap for value white spirit and stiff 5" stiff masonry brushes, round masonry brushes, rollers, long-reach rollers and scrapers.
Homebase seem to stock only two 5 litre cans per store (at £20.40 each)
We then tried Ridgeons builders' merchants, they stock 22.5 litre drums and 5 litre cans, so we bought one of each, we want to apply two coats to the 108 foot of length of our boats.
Only time will tell if we've over or under estimated the quantity needed.
This is what we bought :-

B&Q

2 x 5" stiff shed & fence brush @ £3.08                                                                £6.16
1 x stiff round masonry brush                                                                                £4.98
1 x 5" stiff masonry brush                                                                                      £6.00
1 x roller on a pole                                                                                                  £5.00
1 x value roller & tray set                                                                                        £3.00
1 x tungsten scraper                                                                                              £9.18
1 x pack of tungsten blades                                                                                   £7.18
                                                                                                    Total                  £44.50

Ridgeons 

1 x 22.5 litre Cementone black bitumen                                                             £81.00
1 x 5 litre Cementone black bitumen                                                                  £22.68
1 x 2 litre white spirit (should have bought the value white spirit from B&Q)       £5.94
2 x disposable hooded overalls @ £4.75 + vat                                                  £10.27
2 x Safety spectacles @ £3.25 + vat                                                                   £7.03
                                                                                                     Total                       £126.92
                                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                    Grand Total             £171.42

We already had ;-

A box of disposable gloves
Workshop tissues
A sack full of old towels
Hand cleaner
Old boots, hats and clothes to wear under the overalls

We are open to suggestions, if you think we've left anything out or bought the wrong stuff.

P.S.  Enough of the 27.5 litres of bitumin paint remained and was used to re-paint Freyja with one coat up to the rubbing strake, a second coat to just above the waterline and a third coat around the waterline, plus painting the new rudder, and repainting the weedhatch and cover.(don't forget to do this, as the inside of you weedhatch and the inside of the lid will also be under water)  
So 10 litres would be more than ample to black a 55 foot narrowboat.

A quick update. At the end of January 2016 we hauled our  53 foot butty Christina out onto the slipway at our marina. we were taking a chance weather wise but it was agreed that we could stay longer than a week if needed, at no extra cost.

Once out, we quickly scraped all of the growth off the hull and jet washed it (this needs to be done as soon as the boat is out of the water, it becomes much more difficult once the algae etc. has dried). It was noted that the rubbing strake on the waterline had not been continuously welded and rust had built up behind it causing it to jack and buckle out. We bought six metres of D bar and got Bruce to cut out the bad bits and weld in the new. We also found bad welds on the box section on the bow. On cleaning the welds up we found this to be full of water. so we cut it out and welded a section of D bar in.
We had some old bitumin left and I bought a 5 litre tin from Tool Station (they only had one tin).
Searching online I found a 25 litre drum for £46 odd, delivered. Briefly wished I'd bought 5 x 5 litre tins from Tool Station but soon realised that the plastic barrel made pouring and re-sealing much cleaner and easier. In between coats, wrap the brushes and roller heads in some clingfilm they will then be ready for use the next time without the need to clean them.
How did we get on?
I first used the old and thick bitumin all around the elum (big wooden rudder on the butty) stipling it into all the pits and awkward bits. 
I used a grinder with a rotary brush to clean the hull a bit better. I then brushed a thick coat of the Tool Station black around the hull, stipling and then smoothing it in.
When the 25 litres arrived, I started using a roller to add three more coats, leaving 24 hours between each coat. The 5 gallon plastic drum was great, easy to pour into the roller tray, and with no mess. As it is cooler at this time, we'll leave it a few days to harden before putting her back in the water.
If you have any bitumen left over and time before your boat goes back in the water, put a few more coats to just above and below the waterline.
N.B. Be careful not to paint bitumen anywhere where you want to apply normal paint, as bitumen can not be overpainted! So keep it off your tunnel bands and gunwhales.
I'm using these days to re-instate the tunnel bands (as they had been shortened at some time) I've also added a butty-style curved tunnel band below the rear rubbing strake. 
If you didn't wear disposable gloves, clean your hands with baby oil or baby wipes.
 ( Nigel, the seller of the bitumen drums, is an absolute diamond! The next time I ordered 25 litres the courier failed to deliver the second drum, he moved heaven and earth to deliver to me and offered a refund with me keeping the drum! I was very happy with his service the previous time and refused the refund, as it was the couriers who were at fault)
Mask around the edges of your anodes with any kind of tape or even clingfilm, this saves having to clean splashes off (as any blacked bits of anode won't be effective)
I found it better to remove all the blacking from the top rubbing strake and gunwhale sides, this was then painted with matt blackboard paint, this is very easy to touch up and blend in, if/when it gets scratched!!




Friday, 7 September 2012

Progress ;o)

Our money arrived with the brokerage and the remedial works are well underway.
We intend to leave them on the hardstanding until next weekend, when we'll drive up to give them two coats of black.
We get one week free on the hardstanding, starting when the remedial work is finished.
Then we'll probably pay for them to stay on land until the end of the month, when I hope to have enough time to steer them down to the River Nene.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

This boat buying lark ain't half complicated!

So we had decided to go ahead and pay for the boats, when Glenda asked, will they be insured once we've paid? Phoned the brokerage and they said not on their insurance. Meaning if they burst into flames, we would be left with not much to show for our hard-earned cash.
So now it's heaps of phonecalls to try to work out the best cover at the best price and get them covered today so that we can pay for them and the re-plating work can begin.

Hmmm, just about to pay for what seemed to be the most comprehensive cover and the girl asked, "Will you be towing the butty with the motor?"
"Ummm, yes!"
"Oh, I'm not sure if that's allowed, I'll get back to you"
Deep breath, and put the kettle on...............

Had a brew, then got a call to say that they couldn't insure one boat to tow another.

Collidge would cover them, but the excesses were quite high.

Finally insured through Towergate. So the money is now winging it's way..............

Overplating of two 2' x 1'  sections, above the waterline on the bow, should be done this week, along with new sacrificial anodes on Freyja.
The cutlass bearing in the stern will need replacing but we'll do that after we've moved them.
Then I'll drive up next week to get a couple of coats of black on the hull and probably leave them on the hardstanding until I've got 2 weeks to steer them to our moorings.
Then they'll go into the water and Freyja's engine will be tested under load and given a thorough service.
I then need to test and make good the poor wiring on the 12v and 240v electrics and pressure test the gas. Free off the side hatch and fit better locks.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Wow! Did we just buy two narrowboats?

Isn't life strange, Glenda and I (Chop) were both stressed and needed to chill a bit, we decided to try for a last minute booking at the excellent Wharf Inn on the Welford arm of the Grand Union, as luck would have it, they'd had a last minute cancellation, we got the same lovely room we had last time, which looks down on the canal ;o)
While there, we found a copy of the Towpath Talk and in it we saw that there was a canal festival at Blisworth that weekend, Glenda also noticed that there was a pair for sale at the Aqueduct Marina brokerage.

We went to the festival and talked about a 70' pair I tried to buy previously, and the 50' something pair she'd found in the paper.We got home, and after much discussion, decided to head to Church Minshall, the following weekend to see them.
We went, we saw, we measured and photographed, they seemed ideal, but in need of TLC.
Glenda applied her financial brain to the practical side and came to the conclusion that it would be just about impossible for us to afford at this moment in time ;o(
Much gnashing of teeth and more than a few tears later it was decided that we would make an offer, subject to a favourable survey, and if the survey turned up more than £1000 of work (over and above the replacement of the sacrificial anodes on Freyja and a few other bits and bobs) we would walk away and accept that it was not to be.
A surveyor was enlisted to survey them and, as we were very tight on the dosh, was asked to do a hull only survey (£530) on the butty Christina. If that survey did not turn up anything like a re-plate then he could do the hull survey on the motor Freyja (£530 increasing to £800 for the full survey). Freyja's hull survey was not so rosy ;o( The filler pipe on the water tank had hardened and the jubilee clip had rusted, allowing water to leak into the bow section and soak into the pebbles that had be put there as ballast, this had caused the hull to rust from the inside and reduced the thickness to a scary 2.7mm! Overplating needed on both sides of the bow. There was also wear in the stern cutless bush and a list of advisories that will fill many a future weekend. But, at least, she didn't need a large scale re-plate so we asked John to continue to do a full survey, lots of maintenance issues and a lot of advisories to simplify and bring wiring, plumbing and security into line with modern standards.
The sellers kindly agreed to to allow £1000 towards these repairs and with great trepidation a deal was struck.
Moorings were another cause of financial head scratching, we both work out of Sudbury, on the Essex, Suffolk border, the nearest marina at Roydon marina quoted £6700pa individual moorings or £4600 breasted as a widebeam, GULP! But as it is within easy reach of London, the prices were bound to be high.
On the way home from viewing the boats, we called in at Billing Aquadrome marina and then decided to stop at Willy Watts marina at Ringstead on the River Nene. Clive at Willy Watts gave us a much better price for two moorings, at their new Blackthorn Lake marina, with a possibility of a cheaper widebeam mooring when more pontoons are added ;o)
So now we wait for the repairs to be done, I will give the hulls a couple of coats of black before they go back in the water so the raw water cooled AMC 1800 engine can be started, checked and serviced, ready for the 2 week trip to the Nene.
Sorry, if this was a bit long winded, but I hope it will help others who are in the same position.
We will post regular updates on our progress, maintaining, repairing, tidying and personalising this pair so that they'll be ready to continually cruise the UK and possibly the continent.