Saturday 23 November 2013


Erin Mae has become a Heisenberg zone. There are some things that cannot be known with certainty, said the clever man, thinking specifically of the position and velocity of fundamental particles. However, his Uncertainty Principle is not supposed to apply to everyday-sized objects, where Newtonian Physics and Normal Chemistry reign supreme. Erin Mae appears to be an exception.

As I wrote on Monday, arriving late last Saturday night we found the boat's leisure batteries reading 0.5 volts on my hand-held meter. All the domestic circuits were off, even though the mains land-line was attached. The Victron inverter / charger / mains manager was apparently charging the starter battery but not the domestic bank, and providing no 240v supply to the fridge – I'm told it needs to have functioning batteries in place to work properly.

We called Clive the electrician, since he'd been the last to have anything to do with the circuitry. The workshop couldn't find Erin Mae's keys when he called (obviously another position / velocity conundrum), so nothing was done for a couple of days until we were told and were able to make other arrangements. Clive got back to us last night with the news that when he finally got into the boat, the indicator lights were all on, the circuits were working normally and the domestic batteries charging at the usual level. He doesn't have a clue what's been going on. Now I know this is the 50th anniversary both of Dr Who and of the start of everybody's favourite conspiracy theory (JFK), but that doesn't seem to be any excuse for Erin Mae to start exhibiting signs of  an Alternative Scientific Framework (such as: batteries drop to 0.5 volts at weekends, but carry normal charge at other times; keys may acquire invisibility without warning).

So, with no answers to the most recent issue, it looks as though it's back to Plan A – get the batteries out and down to Evesham for testing. This is when it would be convenient to live at less of a distance from Great Haywood. Perhaps Erin Mae could summon up a wormhole to whisk us there before you can go da-da-da-dum, da-da-da-dum.

But I do wish I knew what was happening.

Wednesday 20 November 2013


Changing all Erin Mae's halogen bulbs for LEDs was not cheap, but a no-brainer for saving those batteries (and the planet). The old ceiling fittings limited the size of the replacements, but an 8-blob unit was just out, and did the job very well, if slightly less brightly than before. We feel very worthy at using just 10% of the current.

So, needing to replace the light fitting in our kitchen at home, we decided to go for an LED solution, and found one on the internet. I wasn't sure how the LEDs would be fitted, but tended to assume there'd be three or four bright bulbs inside. When I removed the cover, this is what I found.

Rather more than the 8 blobs of Erin Mae's units! I haven't counted them properly – I'm not sure I can stand the anticipation of losing track about two-thirds of the way through. They're not in rows, but a little bit of geometry suggests there are in the region of 144π, about 450.

The fitting of this item has certain challenges. Electrically I'm going to use a Wagobox connector – new to me, but straightforward, I think. But fixing the whole thing to the ceiling is slightly complicated by having to support the screws on the screwdriver as you pass them through those holes in the light-plate, while holding the whole thing in position with the other hand. The manufacturer appears to be well aware of the issue – I quote from the instructions:

"6. Screw the Screws Through the Fitting into the Pre-placed Anchors.
This step is a little hard because the screws are shorter than the fitting. We are so sorry that we do not find so a long screws. 2 people working together are much easier."

Says it all, really. But I don't remember the last time an instruction manual apologised for the design of the item in question!

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Window gasket

Last summer, the engineering people at Mercia marina took out one of Erin Mae's window, and fixed it properly so it wouldn't leak. Then Rich at Great Haywood did the paintwork the job necessitated. All a great success – we had a nice shiny, dry boat. This summer, at various points, A. Nonymous removed one or two items. At the safe Piccadilly Village mooring in Manchester, some well-heeled resident decided we'd be better off without one of our fenders. And at another, unknown point earlier in the year, someone removed a black rubber gasket covering the screws holding in the window that Mercia had fixed.

I rang the New and Used Boat company who make the Aqualine boats, and they promised to look into how I could get a replacement. A couple of emails later, however, they said they no longer used the same window supplier, and couldn't help me. What a pain! As we travelled around, someone suggested that the windows looked as though they'd been made by Channel Glaze, so I gave them a ring. Dave was very helpful, but his take on the matter was that the NandUBC had ripped off the design of his windows, and got a somewhat inferior imitation made by the Polish manufacturer. I could certainly agree with him that the windows are about the least impressive part of Erin Mae's construction.

But could Dave solve my gasket problem? Having looked at my photos he thought they had one that might do, and sent me a sample. It's not quite the same profile as what came with the boat, but it works well and, if anything, is easier to tuck in than the original. So we are re-gasketed!

If any other 2007 Aqualine owners are needing some – it's called "Single & Double Glazed Deluxe Concealed Fixing Gasket".

Monday 18 November 2013

Delights and calamities

900 year old Christchurch Priory must be one of the most delightful settings in the whole of the country for a graduation ceremony. Grand enough to inspire a bit of awe, small enough to ensure that those at the back can see those at the front as hands are shaken and awards conferred, and to allow eye contact between the leaders and the led. We had a good time on Friday evening as the last of the Moorlands students to whom I had been personal tutor (with the single exception of the one who is, shall we say, delaying completion till next year) donned their robes and graduated. We sang some good stuff, ably led by the Priory organist for a couple of hymns, and by the college band for the rest – and the acoustics respond well to enthusiasm. The Rev Jonathan Woodhouse QHC, chaplain-general of the British army, was the preacher – a seemingly unlikely choice until we found out that he played football with the college's principal when they were both doing their own theological training!

Saturday started early as we were due in Alfreton, 4 hours away, by 11 a.m. for the annual get-together of the Boaters' Christian Fellowship. This year we'd decided to join the BCF, so thought we'd go and see how they did things. It was a fun day with 100–150 people there. Time for an efficiently-conducted AGM, some excellent country singing by a publican from (I think) the Erewash, plenty of shared food, lots of time to chat with other boaters; and finished off with a service at which the singing was led by a bunch of musicians who thoroughly enjoyed getting together as a scratch band for the occasion (yours truly on the keyboard).

Then it was across country to spend the night on Erin Mae, and put together some final data on overnight battery voltage loss before taking the batteries back to the supplier for checking. But when I opened up the rear doors it was clear that something was amiss. The electrical panel on the left is usually full of light, but only one of the indicators was on, the one for the starter battery. In the cupboard, the Victron charger was on, but the leisure batteries were not doing anything. By torchlight I got to the battery compartment, and found that they were registering just 0.5 volts on my voltmeter. I lit a fire while we considered our options – we had no water, no central heating, but I didn't wanted us succumbing to hypothermia while we pondered. The duvet is wonderful, but the temperature in the boat was about 6 degrees, and only crept up 2 or 3 over the next twenty minutes. In the end the thought of light, a hot shower and a cosy bed won out, and I managed to book us into the Stafford Central Travelodge.

By the time we checked in it was about 11 p.m. Chris, the amiable chappie on the desk, found us the best room he could, and up we went. The door was opened by a card key, but we were a bit loaded. I had visions of dropping the card inside the room, and then allowing the door to shut while I reached back to pick up the case. However, we made it inside without mishap, and began to unpack. Then my best beloved called out that there was just a single bath towel in the bathroom. So we went downstairs again to see Chris. We both had to go, because the key-card was also the light-switch. We needed the card to get around the building, but that would have left the one remaining in the room in the dark. Chris invited us to follow him to the laundry room, and supplied the necessary towels. Back in the room, my best beloved called out that there was no soap in the bathroom. Ah – this was beginning to sound like Gerrard Hoffnung's story of the bricks. Down we went to see Chris, and back to the laundry room. He enquired whether we had enough mugs and plastic cups, and decided to furnish those as well, just in case.

We had a good if somewhat over-heated night, went across to Frankie and Benny's for breakfast, and rang Clive the electrician, even though it was Sunday. He was elsewhere and we exchanged messages but had no voice contact. In the end we decided that the fuel to come home was cheaper than another night in the Travelodge, so back home we are. So much for all those plans to get the batteries to Evesham. We need to find out what's going on before we even think of taking them back.

Isn't life fun!

Thursday 14 November 2013

Times and seasons

I loved the academic working pattern. Always ready for the vacation when it arrived. Always looking forward to term-time. Being a half-year boater has a similar feel. Last year, when we shut down Erin Mae for the winter, it was at the end of three weeks of miserable weather and I was ready for the months at home. So ready, in fact, that posts to this blog came to a sudden halt, with not even an explanation. This year, having done a daily post virtually right through the summer, I decided it wouldn't happen that way. But it's come pretty close to it!

Packing up Erin Mae this time we were rather sad to be going, but I'm enjoying the extra space at home, the piano, the longer shower, not having to worry about the sewage! There's lots of enjoyable stuff to do in the months ahead. Come April, however, we'll be getting itchy feet and looking forward to exploring new territory.

Meanwhile, the season hasn't actually quite turned. The last thing we did was to get the boat electrician to check out why the batteries seem to run down too much overnight. He said the inverter and the fridge are working within their normal limits, and they're the only things running. So the finger is firmly pointed (for the moment) at the new batteries we got in June, even though they shouldn't have a problem. So this weekend we're taking advantage of a trip to Alfreton to return via Great Haywood, spend a couple of nights on board, get some more data, and then take the batteries back to Evesham for checking. I would really like the guys to say they are (inexplicably) duff, and please would I accept a replacement. That would be the perfect end to a wonderful season, and the ideal preparation for the next.