Steamboat Hendrik

steamy shower mirror

(Yes, we finally have hot water!)

Comment - posted 25 October 2007, 11:57 in

A Hopper, Skip, and a Pump

(Or is it just in my dad’s world that “hopper” = toilet?)

One major accomplishment James failed to relate in the last update is that our new toilets are now fitted and operational! We had a wide variety of marine toilets to choose from (all with equally amusing names), but to be fair I can’t actually recall which ones we settled on. In any case, they work beautifully and we can now flush toilet paper instead of binning it (ewww!) and they actually do flush, unlike my mom’s horrible experience with the pump-type toilets on our Greek sailing holiday a few years back.

In fact, the toilet control panel we bought is complex enough even with just two buttons to surely mystify guests. We thought that the two buttons would be Big Flush/Little Flush like on European toilets, but when they arrived, we were confused to find the buttons labelled “Before Use” and “After Use”. Hitting the “Before Use” button before #2s fills the bowl so you don’t have the German shelf toilet issues, and the “After Use” button just flushes as you’d expect. Only about 10-15 seconds after flushing, it sends another blast down the pipes which gives you a hearty jolt if you happen to be slow at doing up your fly. Bwahahah!

In skip (translate: dumpster) news: we’re finished! Hurrah! The deck is clear again apart from the plumbing equipment Nikolaj’s still using to finish up the heating, plus the few bits of kit we’re planning on eBaying. So hopefully the skip itself will even be off our deck in a few days’ time…

In pump news: we’re slowly getting used to the eccentricities of our water system and becoming pitch-perfect at detecting the different noises various pumps make. The geyser problem is being averted by filling little and often (once a week or so) until we can get a robust patch, and our water pressure is good in all areas of the boat.

Our new diesel stove for the Captain’s Cabin has been ordered and should arrive in a week or two (now being an extremely popular time of year to buy heaters!). This is replacing the extremely knackered diesel stove that’s already back there, nestled in the marble and tiled fireplace, and is the same dimensions and shape as the one it’s replacing (only it works, and has eons better fuel efficiency!). We could’ve hooked up a radiator from the big system Nikolaj’s installing, but no one makes any that look nice enough to place in a fireplace, so we figured we might as well get something nice enough to keep back there even after the sprucing up. And in the case of its eventual renting, we can keep tabs on how much fuel the lodger uses as it’s on a separate system.

And finally, some photos of the “dancefloor” from our party. The only rooms remaining are the first single rooms by the saloon, and as you walk from the saloon to the front of the boat, rooms 2 and 3 on the left, preserved for the winter as James’s wardrobe and my sewing room, respectively. They, too, will go at some point, but we’ve got to take the rest of the hold down to the bare metal before that point…

View foreward of the dancefloornew dancefloor!
(both views are looking towards the front of the boat)

It feels huge down there, which is really exciting as we walk out where the walls for our lounge, bedrooms, and en suites will be!

Comment - posted 1 October 2007, 15:36 in

Haven't we been here before?

This story is becoming too familiar now. Since Nikolaj installed the balancing pipe last week we’ve been playing with the water flow, trying to find the right amount of water to hold in the tanks so that we get a decent supply but the tanks don’t crack again.

Trouble is, our tanks are something of a blunt force instrument. We only know when they’re full because the fibreglass begins to bulge upward and lifts a little copper pipe pushed through a hole in the floor. Of course they only bulge upwards when they’re full, and if you fill them when they’re level the port side tanks get a rush of water when we settle and there are a million other reasons why it’s bloody difficult to tell exactly how much water is actually in there already.

Which is how I came face-to-face with a geyser in the storage hold tonight. The force of water had cracked my original repair wide open and there was a six-inch fountain gushing into the bilge. And for once I definitely didn’t say any bad words because I was too busy running to grab the little submersible pump which is fortunately still aboard and shouting to Melissa to yank the hose out of the filler.

Funny thing is, despite the situation looking far worse than last time, we’re actually in much better shape. Because we now have a working pump we were able to open a couple of taps and relieve the pressure on the tanks far quicker than last time, where we were forced to let it trickle out for days on end. The sand beneath the tanks isn’t even waterlogged yet, although I’m hoping when we settle at low tide enough water will settle out that we can pump it clear. In the meantime we’re sat twiddling our thumbs, so I took the opportunity to hack a fortnight’s beard growth off my face. Got to love a crisis that gives you time to shave.

Comment - posted 20 September 2007, 23:07 in

He must be great at Tetris

I can barely get a crab croquette into my mouth with a pair of chopsticks so I was put to shame yesterday by the guy from Tidy Thames who craned a skip onto our deck. A ton of skip hanging from a couple of chains on one moving barge being dropped onto the deck of another moving barge, what could go wrong?

Floating the skip 30 feet in the air

Fortunately, nothing. Trouble is, compared to the amount of crap we have on deck, the skip is starting to look very small. Three or four loads too small, in fact. And we don’t have all that long to toss the remaining partition walls out before we need that space.

Comment - posted 9 September 2007, 12:00 in

The saga of the bacon pump

Now that both of the old freshwater pumps have finally left the engine room, it seems a good time to relate the whole sorry tale, starting from why we had such a doozy of a time with it in the first place.

Here’s the problem: Hendrik was designed to be a canal barge, always afloat and always pretty level. So down in the bilge under the salon, Hendrik has four 1000 litre water tanks laid out like this:
Diagram of Hendrik's tanks

As you can see, they’re connected in a “U” shape, but more importantly, the outflow to the pump is on the starboard side. At low tide, Hendrik settles on his port side and this happens:
Why we get no water at low tide

The trouble is that most water pumps use the water to cool and lubricate their seals while they’re running, so if they run dry, the seals tend to melt. Or in the more spectacular kind of failure, the impeller on centrifugal pumps can explode if they run unloaded, because they spin too fast.

Of course, we only know all of this through the wonders of hindsight, so when we were first here we never bothered to switch off the sweet water pump at low tide. After a couple of weeks the seal looked like this:
and we had no water pressure.

We know now, after much searching, that the makers of the original pump, Speck, have a distributor in the UK, but when we first started trying to find out anything about it, we only found German pages – not surprising as Speck is a German company. But neither of us speak German, and as far as Google Translate knows, “Speck” means “delicious bacon.” It took us six weeks to get the part to fix our baconpump, which then promptly failed again, as I’ve related elsewhere.

Meantime, Nikolaj and I formulated a plan to patch up the leaky bits on the tank filler so we could fill the tanks without having to faff about with a torch and a tupperware box. I feel sorry for the guy at C.A. Baldwin who had to deal with me turning up with a few measurements and lots of half-baked ideas, but we’re absolutely indebted to him because what he sold us worked perfectly. Nikolaj and I sawed off the old filler wholesale and bolted on a couple of chunky rubber fittings with a flexible hose between them. Of course the angles make it impossible to get a decent picture but here’s our best attempt.
The tank end of the new filler pipe

As for the old pipe that caused us so much trouble, we have plans for him. Oh boy do we have plans. Yeah, you should look scared, boy.
Public enemy #1

So with the new filler in place we set about filling the tanks. Beautiful. Not a drop. We were busy high-fiving until I was just about to go to bed and I found the forward port tank had developed a tiny crack and water was pouring into the bilge. There was no sinking risk, but a lot of our stuff is stored low in the hold down there and it could have got pretty badly waterlogged. So a tense night followed while I tried to calculate whether the water was flowing fast enough to wreck our stuff. Fortunately, it turned out that it wasn’t, and I spent a sweaty day sawing up the hold floor trying to find the leak and patch it – it’s got a bit of chemical metal on it right now but we need something a bit more permanent, which we’ll investigate in the course of the next couple of weeks. Once again Nikolaj saved our bacon (figurative, not -pump) by lending us a little submersible pump to clear the water that had leaked.

So to bring you up to date, the new hotness is working well (and we managed to place the switch for it conveniently in the galley, so no more traipsing up to the wheelhouse four times a day) but of course it’s never that easy. Within a couple of days of fitting it, the extra half a bar of pressure it runs at had made the crappy old copper piping start to split. Then on the Friday a couple of days after that I went to wash up, filled the sink with water and found the cold tap no longer wanted to turn off. And there was no stopcock. And I might have said some bad words.

So the Saturday was spent sourcing and fitting a new kitchen tap, which had always been part of the plan but not quite so soon. I scored bigtime though, finding a lever-action tap with extendy hosey thing for a whole £27 at B&Q. The next cheapest was £139, who’s da man?

And with that, the States called and we were off for two weeks, leaving Nikolaj with a key and headfull of plans to fit the hot water, replace the old and crappy copper piping with flexible Hep2O, fit some new toilets that use less water, and most important, fix our water-at-low-tide problems.

Here’s the plan, from yet another perspective just to really confuse you:
Another confusing diagram

The idea is that with the new pipe on the other side, and two stopcocks to choose which side we draw from, we’ll always be able to draw from the lowest side of the tanks, the pipe will never run dry, and we can close off the high side of the tanks to maintain a vacuum in the pipes so the water can’t run back. This is all ready to happen just as soon as we can drain the tanks. Our fingers are tightly crossed.

Meanwhile, remember those pictures we showed you before of the lovely tidy salon and deck? All things must pass.
The salon, full of boxes with plumbing and heating supplies The deck, full of all the old heating and plumbing that's been ripped out

Comment [2] - posted 1 September 2007, 15:07 in

Pump and circumstance

Sorry Alex, I should never have doubted you. On Thursday night the water pump failed again and I might have some bad words. Alex had foreseen this, commenting that the cylinder bore was badly worn when we installed the new seal. Indeed it dripped right from the moment we restarted the pump so we knew this was always a race against time. The problem is that this system was never designed to be used on tidal water where the roll angle of the boat can change, and when it runs dry the pump destroys itself in a matter of minutes. We need something better suited to this application.

First of all I looked at marine water pressure systems. I’m sure the Aqua Major AQM6-24 looks great against your solid gold hull and keeps your piped champagne system going for a lifetime. When we do the bathrooms properly we may even splash out on a Twin Max 4+8 not least because it sounds like the most awesome pickup truck you can imagine. Men in the pub would fall to their knees if they heard you talking about the TWIN MAX 4+8 you just bought. But right now the best option is something that can hook up to existing connections and doesn’t incur a six-week wait every time a small piece of plastic wears away.

So moorings superman Nikolaj came over and we spent an hour speccing up an interim solution then tearing all over South East London picking up supplies. Then this evening he spent a couple of hours helping me install it. Well, I say helping, what I mean is installing it while he explained to me how to install it.

But anyway we have gone from old and busted:
The old and busted pump

To the new hotness:
The new hotness pump

Does it work? I dunno, it was low tide when we finished fitting it, so we can’t prime it until we come level again. Although we haven’t fitted it, this pump came with a nice clear filter so we can actually see if water is flowing into it. That will go into the pipework shortly, and we’ll take a nice long cable into the kitchen so we don’t have to traipse up to the wheelhouse every night to switch it on and off. Then hopefully next month Hendrik goes into the yard for more remedial work on the water system (and to have the hot water system installed, bliss!) and we can stop worrying about having to switch it on and off all the time. And maybe even have the occasional shower. I stink.

Comment - posted 14 July 2007, 23:13 in

Seal of Approval

I never thought I’d be so happy about being able to do the washing up. After weeks without running water I enlisted the help of our friend Alex and attacked the pump again.

Job one was to hoik the busted pump up onto deck and strip it down so we could replace the damaged seal. At least two people passing by on the mooring commented “that’s a very old pump,” although it was only built in 1988. But it is an old design, made of cast iron, and it weighs about as much as me.

Lots of swearing later, we had the old seal out for comparison with the new one:

That’ll be the problem then. A quick clean with some diesel and we had it back in one piece ready to set back in place.

The next thing to do was brim the water tanks to ensure a decent head of water in the pipe to the pump, so we took about an hour to do the usual bailing out job. While that was going on I reorganised the storage hold because when two people independently tell you the boat seems to be listing at high tide, you take notice. Keeping the tanks flat will help to keep the pump well fed too.

There’s something we’ve been neglecting to tell you. See, a few weeks ago we had a few friends over and as usual, we gave them the full tour. And while I was down in the engine room waving the work light around and waxing lyrical about Scania engines I suddenly realised that over in the corner there was… ANOTHER WATER PUMP IDENTICAL TO THE BROKEN ONE. Nikolaj, our incredible neighbour/superman helped us hook it up but to no avail. There might be some broken seals, but I had been hoping that it just wasn’t getting any water from the tank and brimming it would solve the problem. It didn’t, but I’m still not convinced this other pump is broken.

But for the sake of time, we pulled the backup off the mounts and hooked up the original pump, filled its oil tank, used the hose to prime it, crossed our fingers and spent half an hour arguing about whether the pressure gauge was climbing quickly enough. And did it work?


And better still we now have a water system that we can plug the hot water straight into – and the boiler and its parts are all on order now. We’re that bit closer to steaming hot showers.

In other news visitors to the boat are now greeted on entry with our policies in No Uncertain Terms:

Comment - posted 1 July 2007, 20:44 in

Special Delivery

The parts for our broken water pump finally arrived last week (just as we were departing for Glastonbury, great timing there!). After waiting six weeks, it did seem like it should’ve been a bit bigger or something…

The pump parts we've waited 6 weeks for!

All that fuss, frustration, and headache over something that fits in the palm of my hand. It just doesn’t seem right!

Last night we had some friends over for dinner and they noticed that two families of geese with their goslings swam up beside the boat in the two foot gap between us and the other barge. The little goslings we watched hatch are looking so big these days!

Geese and goslings between the boats

And when we finished fussing over the goslings, we looked up to see the most beautiful sunset over Tower Bridge. We may still be washing dishes with bottles of water, but sights like this help remind us why we’re doing this at all…

Gorgeous sunset over Tower Bridge

Comment - posted 30 June 2007, 14:25 in

Vicious Cycle

Today a very nice man came over to talk about hot water. Two months ago I would have told you hot water heating systems would make for a very boring conversation but that was before two months with no hot showers. Now phrases like “instant hot water” and “loses almost no heat overnight” excite me in ways once reserved for very expensive cars and computers.

Most of the rest of the day was spent failing to fit suspension forks to my bike because of a stuck headset cup. One of the nicest things about living in the middle of London is that it makes most of my workplaces accessible by bike. Covent Garden is only 20 minutes away, Edgware Road is 40 on a good day. You don’t stay unfit living on a boat for long because there are always tins of bilge grease to be lugged around or ropes to be hauled in and re-tied, but the daily bike ride gives me a nice routine burst of energy in the mornings.

However I’d forgotten the drawback. Much like my teenage bike years when every weekend would produce a flowering of new bruises, I’m nursing various injuries. Unlike those branch-and-root inflicted pains though, these are all sustained from taking evasive action from pedestrians who seem to think the first step of the green cross code is “stagger into the gutter and look gormless.” After I came home one night with a messed up hand and dark black bruises from faceplanting to avoid a stumbling commuter, I made an executive decision to invest in a 115db Air Horn. No mercy.

Comment [1] - posted 13 June 2007, 22:15 in

Washer and washing up

It’s been a momnth now since we blew the seal on our compressor, meaning even though we’ve got lots of water in the tanks, we can’t get any of it out of the taps. The replacement part must be being walked from The Netherlands at this rate…

So we’ve been having to fill our 20 or so 1.5 liter bottles from the mooring’s standpipe and do our washing up with those and the kettle. It is getting really old now.

The other water matter is that the previous owners took their washer with them, leaving us with a hookup in the kitchenette in the captain’s cabin. The 1930s sliding doors proved to be far too narrow for the standard UK size washing machines, though, so we ended up buying a compact, top-loading Hoover model, which was delivered on Thursday, just as James and I were both getting over this crappy cold/flu thing that’s been going around the moorings. So even though I hadn’t been at work all day, we had to haul a washing machine down to the boat (which was fine since we were lent a dolly), but then we were kinda stuck once we got it onto the garden barge next to us. Because it was low tide, our deck settles about 2 or 3 feet higher than that of the garden barge, but because of the placement of the access door to the captain’s cabin, we also had two taller bollards in the way, too. It worked out that we had to somehow raise the washer four feet off the ground, over about two and a half feet of muddy Thames water, and then into the open hatch door, all while being really weak from illness.

We waited around for a couple hours looking for a big burly man to come and help us, but we finally resigned ourselves to the fact that we had to do it alone. We finally ended up getting out our short metal gangplank so we wouldn’t have to worry so much about our £300 washer falling in the mud, and just “rolled” the washer up that with a series of grunts, and eventually the other could climb up on deck and shove it through the hatch from their end.

Now we only have to get it down the narrow captain’s cabin stairs and through two sliding doors to its final resting place (hmm, that sounds more ominous than I intended)!

Comment - posted 2 June 2007, 12:03 in

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