Sunday, 5 August 2018

Credit card

Erin Mae has an electric hook-up when in dock, with a meter on a post on the jetty, controlled by a credit-card-sized smart card. Credit can be transferred between the meter and the card, keeping our investment safe from other people's cables while we're out travelling. As we left our mooring on Friday, I remembered that we hadn't transferred the credit to the card and probably should. We came to a halt and went to get the card from where I knew it to be. Could we find it? Not then, nor when we ransacked the boat for it yesterday afternoon.

So this morning we walked the mile or so back to the marina from Tixall Wide, where I've been teaching myself painting and associated skills. We had showers and then I confessed to Doug in the office that I'd lost our card, expecting to have to pay for a new one. But no! It was with a collection that various boat owners had left with them over the winter, just in case extra credit needed to be added during the dark months. I'd completely forgotten that we'd been among them.

Doh! But at least the meter is now empty, the card is in the right place, and we've had a walk we wouldn't otherwise have had.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Overcoming obstacles

We've escaped! Just a quick overnight stay at Tixall Wide, but it feels great!


Part of the summer's paint and bodywork project involves sorting out conditions under some of the windows, and the first one has come out (third one down in this picture). Of course, two of the retaining machine screws sheared off in the process, and the combination of my tools and my expertise proved insufficient to sort out the problem. Our marina engineering department wasn't keen to help, but the local Anglo Welsh base round the corner came up trumps, as ever, and this morning Kevin drilled out the remaining pieces of screw and re-tapped the holes. That done, it was a no-brainer to carry on down to Tixall Wide for the day.

24 hour waits between coats of anti-rust stuff, primer, undercoat and topcoat mean that the window will stay out for a number of days, so I've made a cover that fits into place each night to keep the weather at bay. But this process, and the project of painting the gunwales, is now the sort of thing that can be done after we've tied up each day, so we're hoping finally to do some travelling. Sadly, it probably won't be down to Oxford and up the Thames as we were intending. It's probably wise to stay within reasonable distance of places we're familiar with, in case of further challenges to my competence, and anyway the word is that the Oxford Canal is suffering under current weather conditions. So we'll probably go down to Autherley Junction and up the Shroppie.

Meanwhile, however, the rails for the sliding hatch are looking splendid!

Saturday, 28 July 2018

LEDs

When, some years ago, we changed all of Erin Mae's halogen bulbs for LEDs, the largest that the fittings could accommodate had 8 "blobs". They were not quite as bright as the halogens, especially in the "warm white" variety that we chose, and while the saving in electrons was certainly a desirable trade off, we found they made some evening activities a bit more challenging.

Just recently we found that Bedazzled were selling 9 blob units with the same diameter as the ones we have, but only in the cool white variety. They told me they'd got them by mistake, and wouldn't be re-stocking – it was cool or nothing, and we decided to go for it. When they arrived it was interesting to see how LEDs have moved on over 7 years.



The new ones are certainly much brighter, and we're slowly getting used to the slightly harsher cool light. Meanwhile, we faced a different issue in the bathroom. There was a fluorescent light over the mirror which had never worked well, and finally stopped working altogether.


I could never work out how to get the cover off to replace the tube. Several engineering marina departments also failed to do so, worried like me about breaking the cover. It was my friend Brian, borrowing Erin Mae for a couple of weeks last summer, who managed to get it off, and presented us with a replacement tube. But this spring, the light steadily deteriorated and finally failed. It was clear that the internal electronics were at fault.

So I bit the bullet again and found an LED lightstrip on the web. Fitting it entailed stripping out the old electronics which converted the 12 volt supply for the fluorescent tube. It was all pretty much of a doddle, apart from having to work with short leads above head level. The LED strip was exactly the right size to fit along the length of the fitting with its self-adhesive backing. If the LED life expectancy of 50,000 hours holds, I imagine both Erin Mae and ourselves will have gone to another place before that cover has to come off again!

Friday, 20 July 2018

Double delivery

Researching how to get a nice curve where the black paint below the gunwale interfaces with the green of Erin Mae's bows pointed me in the direction of very narrow masking tape which could be laid down around a curve. I found some 6mm wide tape on Amazon for a fiver, including postage, and ordered it.

Around the time it was due at Great Haywood Post Office I checked the tracking info. The DHL website reported that they had attempted delivery some days before, but unsuccessfully. No reason was given, but the time stamp was around 3 p.m., when the PO would definitely be open. I emailed the Amazon marketplace supplier to see what was what. The following day I got an email apologising and saying they would look into it with DHL. Later I got another email asking whether I wanted a replacement or a refund, so I asked them to send a replacement.

This is where it got bizarre. I got an email from Amazon saying they were refunding my fiver. The next day DHL delivered two packages, each containing a roll of masking tape! Puzzled, I emailed the supplier again, asking what they wanted to do, and pointing out that we have no printer on Erin Mae, so I wouldn't be able to print out a returns label. The final email this morning said I was very welcome to both the refund and the double delivery. I was very happy to click the button that said they had resolved my query!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Watching paint dry

My adventures in painting, though hardly the sort of thing to make a blog-reader quiver with excitement, have got off to a good start. Doing one of the front lockers first got me used to the behaviours of, successively, rust converter, primer and bilge paint, and refreshed my memory about how to use panel wipe and tacky rags. I was surprised to find that the primer paint manufacturer recommends four coats which, with an overnight wait between them, meant the whole process lasted a week.

I rigged up a cheap blue tarpaulin over the front of the boat to provide both the worker and the work with some protection from the sun, and that provided appropriate conditions for starting also on some of the bodywork at the front whose colour will change from green to black. Where slight corrosion had caused paint bubbling or other unevenness, I used a bodywork filler to make for a smooth final surface – something that would have terrified me with a car. What most impressed me from the start was how much confidence you get from using top-quality products, especially the paint and the brushes.

The heat has been oppressive, even with the shade I'd set up. Fortunately there were excuses to take long breaks from painting, in order to observe balls of one size or another being knocked around grassy areas of one size or another by two, four or twenty-two people of one size or another. However, the second job awaited. I decided that corrosion in the struts supporting the stern deck needed to be addressed urgently.


I'd never paid sufficient attention to cleaning them out and keeping them clear, and their original green colour had obscured dirt and corrosion. They drain through four ports in the side of the hull which inspection showed had become full of spider debris, and from which a plastic bottle cleaner extracted more rust than was healthy. So they got a good clean with sugar soap, rust treatment and the recommended coats of primer. I finished them with two coats of grey bilge paint rather than the original green gloss – I think it should provide better protection.

So – so far, so good. Eventually it will be time to take Erin Mae out on her travels, and start the gunwale-painting process, which we're not allowed to do while in the marina.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Velcro

Erin Mae's pram hood – the cover over the cruiser stern – was made by Wilson's in 2013. Tom, who sold it to us, was a salesman par excellence, enthusiastic, keen to listen to what we wanted, and willing to throw in various extras on the grounds that our first appointment with them occurred while we were moored outside their front door. Among those extras were the "curtains" – flaps of PVC covering the transparent sections, and fastened down with velcro.


Alas, the ravages of time and weather took their toll, and the velcro no longer secured the windows as once it did. In the words of Keith Wilson when I rang him this week to talk about our plight, they had become "ineffective". But, could he fix it? Yes, he could! There are no doubt people nearer who could have done the job, but we have reason to trust him. Yesterday we drove down to Kinver with the hood in the car, and in a couple of hours he had replaced all the "hook" pieces.


Apparently the loop pieces don't deteriorate – otherwise it would have cost us twice as much. We're very happy with the result, and the cover is back in place keeping the sun off the stern – in the current weather it's infinitely preferable to do maintenance work in the shade.

While Keith was toiling away, we paid a visit to the Kinver Rock Houses.

(photo courtesy of the National Trust)

They are caves in the sandstone which had provided a home to a monastic community, but were later converted to family dwellings, and still in use as such in the 1930s. Now they are owned by the National Trust. We had inspected them thoroughly in 2013, so yesterday's visit was chiefly about relaxing in the shade in an interesting place with a cup of coffee. It was a good day!

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Biting the bullet

The bullet in question is the combination of steelwork and paint – I can't think of much else about Erin Mae's adventures that still generates equal measures of trepidation and procrastination in quite this way. But it cannot be denied – her bodywork is not quite what it was in the flush of youth. Part of that is the wear and tear of going through locks, etc. Part of it is the rust that appears for some reason or other. Last of all, it was clear from the start that some of her windows had never been sealed in properly. A few years ago we had three sorted out, but there is clearly more to be done in this area.

So we've taken some decisions. The first was that I should do something. My captain's chair is very comfortable, and the world cup is on, and the weather is exceedingly hot, but the day of excuses is past. The second decision was to paint the gunwales satin black, instead of the green with which Erin Mae was born. They will be far easier to touch up when travel-damage makes its mark. Related to that, the third decision was where the new boundary will come between the black and green parts of the paintwork, and how to achieve that successfully.

So I've started with the first stages of preparation. Fortunately (!) there was a bit of flaking paint and rust in one of the front lockers, so that has got me started with rust converter and primer in a place where bad technique won't be obvious. My first forays into the world of sander, brush and roller have left me encouraged that I really can do something to address the issues.

We shall have to see what Erin Mae thinks about my attempts, come the autumn.