Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

It’s been a while since we wrote about the water problems that plagued us in the first year of living aboard Hendrik, and that was because we had been mostly getting on OK. A careful diet of treating the water tanks with kid gloves and listening to the pump like a hawk had us ticking over pretty well. Sure, there was the odd missed shower when our timing was out, and the occasional 6am wakeup call to fill the tanks while the boat was still afloat on weeks when the tide was disadvantageous to a 9-5 lifestyle. But in general, we had a rhythm going and those awful waterless days of 2007 were far behind us.

First, some context. Remember The New Hotness? Well, after about a year it went lukewarm. The pump body isn’t the most robust in the world on that model and it stopped making pressure, so we decided to upgrade and replace, swapping it out for The New New Hotness. One thing I love about these Clarke pumps is they’re completely user-serviceable and every part is available as a spare. I should have taken advantage of that, diagnosed the problem with the New Hotness and repaired it to keep in as a spare.

Ah, entropy, my old friend. On Tuesday the New New Hotness broke. We’re not certain what happened – it looks like it certainly ran dry, but we can’t quite tell the exact cause. It may have jammed outright from limescale buildup, but the non-return valve on the intake pipe was jammed too, so it would have been running completely dry and died very quickly. Whatever happened, £27 worth of parts fused themselves together and we were left without running water again.

When we first brought Hendrik into the moorings here, Stefan the skipper left me with one sentence of advice. As I dropped him home and turned to leave, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “James,” and I thought, here it comes. He’s going to tell me, you did all right out there. “James,” said Stefan, “you really need to work on your technical skills.” I rather wish Stefan could have seen me, out on the deck with our tenant Euan, stripping the New New Hotness down and trying various ideas to get it back in shape. All right, none of them worked but at least I looked like I knew what I was doing this time. And that’s the point, after all.

Anyway, we formulated a three-pointed plan:

1. Order spare parts (actually, 2 sets for obvious reasons) for the New New Hotness
2. Get a cheap spare pump to tide us over until the parts arrive
3. Fix the New New Hotness, then disassemble and diagnose the Old New Hotness and order parts for that, too, thus leaving us doubly redundant should this happen again.

That was Tuesday night. It’s now Thursday night, 48 hours later. Let’s review our progress:

1. Parts are on order, but the bit we really need is out of stock and due in “soon.” The New New Hotness languishes in my work area.

2. Rather than get another Clarke pump from Machine Mart, I discovered I could get a Silverline pump from Amazon for half the price, including overnight shipping. It arrived today and I spent this evening with Euan plumbing it in. If you’d like to know how that went, you can read my review of it on Amazon. The short version is “not at all wel.” I have learned my lesson and will be buying another Clarke pump from Machine Mart tomorrow. Fortunately I had some money earmarked for buying a wedding suit this weekend so I can afford to be a two-pumps-in-two-days kind of guy. I may end up getting married in jeans and a t-shirt, but hey, at least I’ll have showered beforehand.

3. Held up for obvious reasons.

Would you like to see the class reunion photo? Of course you would. Sorry it’s a crappy phone shot, but I’m too tired and frustrated to go through the hassle of using the proper camera right now.

Front row, left to right: Old New Hotness, New New Hotness.
Back row, nestling in its packaging: New And Busted.

There is one bright moment in this story. I didn’t post about it at the time, but when we originally installed the New New Hotness Nikolaj and I set up a clever flexible arrangement for the intake and outflow pipes so any size of pump can be swapped in there quite quickly – getting the broken pump prepped and hooked up only took us about an hour tonight. If we can cross the surprisingly large hurdle of exchanging money for a working pump any time soon, we should be back in business quite quickly.

So the moral of the story is, don’t leave your backup pump sitting unrepaired for eighteen months just because your primary pump runs like a watch most of the time. That, and you can never be too paranoid about your water supply.

Comment [3] - posted 29 July 2010, 23:02 in

Buon giorno!

Welcome to any new, intrepid Italian readers who have found us recently!

For the rest of you, we’ve been featured in the Italian design magazine, IL24. Last month we showed the photographer around Hendrik and the moorings, so there’s a bunch of photos, too.

Here’s the article in its original Italian, or if you’d rather trust Google’s translation, here’s the article in quasi-English.

It’s easy to miss the photo gallery at the bottom of the page, but for the extremely lazy, here are the Hendrik photos from it!

Hendrik's bow as seen in IL24 magazine
…a great view of the front of Hendrik…

looking inside Hendrik as seen in IL24 magazine
…a view inside the front door…

James and Bosco as seen in IL24 magazine
James and Bosco as seen in IL24 magazine
…James and Bosco – working hard!

Euan as seen in IL24 magazine
Rachel and Euan as seen in IL24 magazine
…and Euan and Rachel, our ridiculouusly lovely tenants in the Captain’s Cabin (and doing rather more DIY than we are at the moment!)…

But do go and check out the rest of the article, because there’s some good quotes from us and photos of a bunch of our fantastic neighbours, too.

Comment [3] - posted 9 July 2010, 15:21 in

Happy Birthday Hendrik and Garden 2010!

As today is the summer solstice, it also means it’s Hendrik’s birthday! 77 years ago today, she was launched in Friesland as a little newborn Luxemotor (and at a whopping 31m, what a baby!).

And since I’m posting anyway, I may as well share a few photos of what I’ve been up to…

A few weeks ago I brought out the black, grippy Hammerite and finally painted the garden steps Lorna welded on last year, then very kindly borrowed some cream paint from the neighbours to touch up the surrounding metalwork. It was THE DRIPPIEST PAINT EVAR so it made a huge mess and flowed underneath the masking tape I so carefully laid out to protect the black steps (grr), but it got the job done and looks almost invisible from a distance.

repainted garden steps

And while I had the paint out, I lent over the side and finally rid us of the “Boot?” graffiti we picked up in Volendam 3 years ago…

Painted over graffiti

The rest of the photos here are showing off my floating container garden, which has slowly and steadily expanded ever year we’ve been aboard. Since we moved out of the back cabin to rent it, the garden also moved forward, with the bulk of it now on the saloon roof.

Hendrik's garden 2010 editon

James built me four enormous containers on the main deck (with plans to add benches and a coffee table, too), which now contain a small lavender plant each, with daffodil bulbs in each corner, and for this year, some lettuce surrounding the lavender. Because I can, and it’d be wasted space otherwise.

lavender planters

Moving up to the saloon deck, here’s my other lettuce container, and to the right, spaghetti squash and half of my tomatillos (the latter two you can’t buy in the UK, hence why I’m growing them).

lettuce, spaghetti squash & tomatillos

Along the right hand side of the deck, there’s lavender (just seen), french beans, carrots, white marrow (patty pan), potatoes, and at the very end, courgettes and the rest of my tomatillos.

right side plants

I found the world’s biggest strawberry plant, so James built a smaller planter for it to live in. We must’ve eaten at least 20 strawberries off it already, so it’s made its money back!

Strawberry in planter

Here’s some closeups of some of my produce-in-training: a courgette, a marrow, and my prized tomatillos!

Courgette in training Patty pan in training tasty tomatillos one big tomatillo

We have a strange sort of microclimate on deck – tons of direct sun, but a lot of wind so things need to be staked down really well. But no weeds, snails, or slugs, and the birds seem to ignore it. The only real pests are the flies on the squashes, which I attack with a spraybottle full of diluted Ecover washingup liquid…

Thankfully, we’ve got plenty of the good guys – tons of bumble bees and ladybirds (ladybugs)! Here’s a big fat bee on my geranium.

bumble bee on geranium

Oh, and also not pictured are more french beans, a rosemary, some mint, tomatoes, hot peppers, beetroot, spring onions, and spinach, plus a ridiculous amount of basil in the wheelhouse!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of my garden, because we’re going to be filmed for an upcoming BBC series in August! More details and, of course, links to the show when we can say more… Fingers crossed it all stays alive for another month!

Comment [3] - posted 21 June 2010, 12:46 in

Quickie project: New tool shelves

A couple of years ago when we started crafty club on the moorings, I found myself without any boy craft one night while we were hosting on Hendrik. The ladies in attendance decreed that treats and snacks were only available to people actually doing craft, so I needed a quick knock-up project using the materials to hand, which were hundreds of 4×30” bed slats and a load of reclaimed screws from tearing down the drywall.

So began my first ever woodworking project: the crappiest tool shelves known to man. I was in an hour and a half and I got my snacks, but even from the first moment they were built, they were wobbly, dodgy and ugly. On Monday I walked past them and noticed they were on the verge of collapse.

This was really part of a wider problem: we never reorganised the tool storage even as we bought more and bigger tools. Now there’s a drill press, chopsaw and workbenches down there and nowhere for any of it to live. Project builds now happen in the old corridor and finding tools is as hit-and-miss as before we had the shelves. Clearly, something had to change.

And then a wonderful thing happened. On Tuesday, the amazing multi-talented Ana White over at Knock Off Wood posted about her new toy, a Kreg Jig. If you’ve never heard of a pocket-hole jig before (and nor had I 48 hours ago), it drills collared holes at the perfect angle and depth to join two pieces of wood at almost any angle. You use a self-tapping screw with a wide collar to join the two pieces and it clamps it up as you screw. The joint is supposed to be as strong as a mortise joint but without nearly as much work. In the picture below you can see the screw head all clamped up in its pocket hole.

We have an awful lot of wood working coming up this summer, as we need to rebuild one of the side steps in hardwood, replace the leaking skylight frames, build a replacement barbecue table before the old one rots away and build a sink unit in the back cabin. So to my ears a tool like a kreg jig sounded like it was too good to be true.

Well, there was only one way to find out.

That’s my Kreg Jig Jr. which was delivered yesterday. In preparation after ordering it on Tuesday, I’d already cleared the mess in front of the pegboard organiser and dismantled my crappy shelves.

I have big plans for this area. We’re bidding on a bit of cheap solid wood Ikea furniture on eBay (though we’re not about to pay more than a fiver for it) and if we win that, I’ll reclaim the wood it’s made from and build a nice storage workbench to sit beneath that pegboard. But meanwhile I was itching to try out the pocket-hole jig and I had a big pile of wood hanging around that used to be some crappy shelves. This morning I woke up with a plan forming.

First I built three squarish frames from four bed slats each, jointing the corners at right angles.

Then I joined those three frames together across their flat edges to make a frame 12” deep. What really impresses me about pocket hole joints is they’re just as good at joining planks into panels as building angled joints. Finally I put another three bed slats together to make a shelf, jointed that in, and added some slats across the back to brace the whole unit and stop things falling backwards out of the shelf when we roll.

And so in less than two hours, a pile of wood became this:

The finish is crappy (you can see it particularly in the closeups) and not every joint was perfect – it took a lot of experimenting with drill torque until I managed to find a setting that clamped up the screws but didn’t over drive them, but as an learning experience and something that’s not on show, it was invaluable. I am absolutely sold on the pocket hole joint now and I feel like building a kitchen from scratch would be entirely within my capabilities.

I also have to say, I know consumer electronics companies that could learn a thing or two from the Kreg out-of-box experience. They have a tool-owners’ section of their site with plans, video walkthroughs of different techniques and really helpful FAQs that got me up to speed on using the jig amazingly fast. Between the plans on their site and a couple of Ana’s plans at Knock Off Wood, we’re now planning to build an outdoor coffee table and a couple of benches to go with it. And the big brother of my Kreg Jr. is definitely on the wedding list.

Disclaimer: Neither Kreg Tool nor Knock Off Wood sponsored this post. But if anyone at Kreg feels like throwing a K4 my way, I promise to post about every single bit of furniture I make with it. And that’s going to be a lot.

Comment [3] - posted 22 April 2010, 13:22 in

Shelfish and Shelf Centred

As we’re catching up on our post backlog in reverse order, this post also includes a sneak preview of the work we did in the saloon last summer. One of the things we did was gratefully accept a cast-off sofa from our friends Jane and Ralph (driving it up from Richmond strapped to the top of the car was an experience all of its own) and install it in the back corner of the saloon, replacing a ratty built-in banquette that was there before.

Only problem is, when we took the banquette out we realised there was a raised area in the floor a foot deep – or, if you like, the galley ceiling. There was no way we’d be able to push the sofa flush to the wall. Also, removing the back board of the banquette had revealed a nasty unvarnished bit of wall which was a completely different colour to the wood above. You can see the effect in the photo below, in which Bosco demonstrates that he doesn’t care if he’s being ignored, when he wants a hug he will damn well go and get a hug.

Obviously it was clear something needed to be done to tidy that corner up, but we were undecided as to how. That is, until I was idly browsing around Whitten Timber down in Peckham and discovered some beautiful striped offcuts in roughly 2m lengths.

Soon to be shelf

Combined with a few aluminium effect shelf supports from B&Q, and with a lot of varnishing, sanding and revarnishing, I got the smooth glassy finish I was after and placed the shelf right across the join to hide it.

In this photo you can also see the two kitty perches I added for Bosco from the same piece of wood, positioned so he can sit up high and peer out of the window down the moorings. Unfortunately he’s still deciding whether or not he likes them.

Underneath, I took the opportunity to tidy up some of the accoutrements that come along with cat ownership and give him a little hiding space for when he’s not feeling social.

Spoiled? I don’t know what you’re talking about. In that picture you can also see the rounded corner I put on to save our clumsy thighs as we walk past. And if these shelves look a bit familiar, it might be because there was an even sneakier preview in yesterday’s post – the third of the kitty perches became the little shelf above my desk.

I’m really pleased with the way these shelves turned out. It was my first time really going for a fine finish with wood and they look far more expensive than the £100 all told it cost for materials. It also feels like the first thing I’ve made that we’d be proud to keep using even after we finish redecorating!

Comment [3] - posted 20 April 2010, 12:50 in

Hot hotdesking action

I love my desk. It’s an Ikea Motiv desk, full of secret compartments and handy storage spaces. I bought it about a year before we moved aboard Hendrik, but when we moved aboard it got stowed away down in the old cargo hold. The plan was to build an office down there for working from home, but like most of our early plans we never followed through on it, so instead it became a dumping ground for all of my business post and anything else I didn’t want to throw out but couldn’t think of a good place for.

Meanwhile up in the saloon we had the good table and three cheap tables. We donated two of the cheap tables to the Arts Ark and kept the third around as a craft table. Of course with the lack of storage in the saloon that rapidly became a dumping ground too.

Last week we decided to take up arms and do something about the situation. First step was to add a small shelf in the corner to take some of the detritus off the table (we have a PowerMac G5 hiding under there so the keyboard and mouse now have a place to live when it’s not in use). At the same time I wall-mounted my beloved Harman-Kardon Soundsticks using – and I’m particularly proud of this moment of lateral thinking – four 22mm Hep20 pipe clips.

Then, on the principle of in for a penny, in for a pound, I went down and spent two hours clearing off my desk ready to bring it up into the light again. Cleaning it off wasn’t pleasant. The old cargo hold has been unheated for the last three years and everything in it is now damp, mouldy and covered in sawdust from the chopsaw living down there. But after lots of lots of Flash wipes the desk emerged unscathed and after a bit of lifting – it’s very heavy and I might have said some bad words in the process – it was swapped with the craft table. It really makes a difference to the look of this corner of the room, especially because now everything can be cleared away quickly when I finish working.

Meanwhile things weren’t over for the craft table. First, I sheared the head off one of the bolts while I was reattaching its leg and ended up having to drill right through the centre of the bolt to crush it down and pull it out of the thread. Fortunately I had some assorted bolts hanging around from an earlier project and one of them fit the thread.

Melissa was delighted to get complete custody of the table and started building a fabric cutting centre around it (this after getting an entire room to turn into her Sewing Cave… I ask you) only to find that now the table was too short to cut comfortably on. Beforehand she’d been able to stand on the stairs down from the saloon, but now she needed the table raised to about elbow height.

Luckily I was in the mood for a quick woodworking project and within a couple of hours I had a couple of simple braced benches knocked up to raise it by about a foot. They’re built out of scrap wood and look a bit rough and ready, but they do the job. I have been doing some other, rather better looking woodwork projects recently which I’ll post soon. Sorry we’ve been quiet for so long!

Comment [1] - posted 19 April 2010, 13:21 in

He Knows His Job

He doesn’t have many responsibilities, but those he has he performs diligently.

Our vampire-carved pumpkin and Bosco

For a closer look at this year’s pumpkin…

Happy glowing vampire pumpkin

Comment [4] - posted 3 November 2009, 19:13 in

Now we're cooking with- no, wait

Wait, we were always cooking with gas. Of course, it used to mean going outside, clambering down the side of the boat in all weathers (and at some funky/terrifying angles at low tide) and rummaging around in a dark cabinet. Not so much any more.

Gas alarm switch

That baby right there is a gas alarm and remote trigger that lets us turn the gas on and off from the comfort of our own galley. Hidden behind is it metres upon metres of cable for power, sensors and a solenoid in the gas line, which we could never have hooked up if Dad hadn’t dedicated a couple of days to come out and help. And when I say help I mean “take charge and make it work while I held a torch.”

It may seem like a tiny thing but it makes a huge difference to our quality of life, especially in the winter. Eggs for breakfast on cold mornings!

And I must give a shout out to the guys at Technisol who made the alarm. I emailed about a lost instruction sheet and they had a PDF in my inbox less than 20 minutes later. Top service!

Comment [2] - posted 2 November 2009, 20:28 in

And kitten makes five

So once again we find ourselves with lots to update…

First of all, the numbers on board Goode Ship Hendrik have increased somewhat – myself and James have been joined by our lovely Captain’s Cabin renter, Geoff, and my mother, Sandy (though the latter is only staying for the summer). All in all, the transition has been very smooth, and the only teething problems we anticipate are figuring out exactly how long the water tanks will last between fillings when there are four daily showers instead of two.

And speaking of showers, the shower off the saloon is finally done. Finally. We thought we started this 9 months ago, but I just checked now, and oh dear, it was actually 13 months ago. Eek. In that time, it’s been built, tiled, dismantled, and rebuilt and retiled at least three times, with lots of drips (both in front of and behind the wall) and DIY denial in between. But it’s done now, and honestly, a shower has never felt quite so good.

Finished shower!

Another development is that we had neighbour Lorna round to create and weld on some steps to make it easier for us and mom to get up to water the garden (which is now on the Saloon roof). With a bit of angle iron she found lying around the engine room, the new steps were up in a morning. She even rounded off the sharp corners!

Lorna's garden steps Lorna's garden steps - up close Saloon roof garden

Now we just need to get someone to mix up some magnolia Hammerite for us and they’ll be perfect! I do have a paint chip with me today for matching, but we’ll see how long that takes.

Keeping to the exterior, less good news is that an extraordinarily violent wake at the weekend cause one of our bow springs to bend a railing. This had been in place for well over two years now with no problems, and the handrail is several inches in diameter, so you can imagine the force it took to bend this.

Bemt hand rail - facing back Bent hand rail - facing forward

I was utterly speechless when I discovered it, and it’s going to take some more welding to get it back into shape now. It just goes to show that when one project is completed, another presents itself…

Comment [3] - posted 18 June 2009, 11:56 in

Underlay, underlay! Arriba, etc!

Once again I’m a bit late in documentation, but over the long Easter weekend, we ripped out the old carpet in the Captain’s Cabin and installed the new underlay and carpeting.

Here you can see the old carpeting gone, revealing the original painted floorboards beneath:

Captains cabin - exposed floorboards Detail of captains cabin floorboards

The boards themselves are in really good condition, but, as we realised over the past two winters, they’re also really very drafty. So to minimise heat loss, we splurged and bought super thick, super insulating eco underlay:

Captains cabin - underlay down

And then added a border of that carpet gripper board stuff with the teeth facing the walls (only now we just need one of those knee-kicker tools to get it really taut on top…):

Captain's Cabin - underlay and gripper boards

And the finished product! This new underlay and carpet makes such a difference in here – it’s really squishy underfoot and feels wonderful…

Captain's Cabin - new carpet done Not a bad place to live...

It’s a shame we have to rent it, really. It’s much nicer than our temporary, ex-hotel, building site digs we’re living in on the main side of the boat!

Comment [4] - posted 27 April 2009, 13:51 in

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