Tuesday 15 May 2018

Never that simple! (Part 2)

Friends who know nothing about narrowboats are often amazed when we describe Erin Mae. They are surprised that we have a shower, a flushing toilet, a proper oven, grill and hob, not to mention a washing machine. When we tell them we have radiators as well as a solid fuel stove they're ready to move in!

The radiators are powered by a small Webasto diesel-burning unit that sits in the engine compartment. We have to use antifreeze / coolant rather than just water in the pipes and radiators, and that was replaced two years ago. I noticed that it needed to be topped up so we dropped into Halfords in Stafford – which was when the fun started. "Which car is it for, sir?" They have their databases and charts and can tell you what you need for a 1987 East European banger or a 2009 Audi, but they somehow didn't include a narrowboat central heating system. I knew enough to know that there are problems with mixing different types of antifreeze, but even that seemed to mean I knew more than the staff serving me.

I rang the boatyard who'd put in the antifreeze and found out what sort it was (Rock Oil Red), then started my research on the web. The Rock Oil website said nothing about antifreeze so I gave them a ring. The receptionist promised to find out all the details and email me a data sheet. I'm still waiting. The Wikipedia article was very informative in a general sense, but of course said nothing about Rock Oil Red. It did say enough to emphasise the dangers of mixing types. Various sites and forums added to my sense of the complexity of the topic, without giving definitive information pointing to what I needed to buy. The blurb on the antifreeze on sale in our marina added little – but it was blue and with a 2-year life expectancy, rather than red with a 5-year life expectancy.

It became clear that the main issue is around the corrosion inhibitors the antifreeze contains. Different types don't play well together. Some last longer than others. The type is colour coded with a small amount of added dye, but the coding is not entirely consistent. In the end I found an online supplier of LandRover spares selling Rock Oil Red for a reasonable price, rang them up, and it should arrive in a couple of days. Meanwhile, my education proceeds apace.

So if you want some interesting info on organic acid corrosion inhibiting technology, just get in touch. Erin Mae probably doesn't know how blessed she is.

Monday 14 May 2018

Never that simple! (part 1)

When I installed the new engine starter battery on Saturday, I found that the two threaded studs were of different sizes.

The negative terminal had a thread identical to the that on the battery I was removing, but the threaded stud on the positive side was larger. The battery came with two wing nuts, as shown in the photo. I managed to adjust the battery wiring so that there was room to screw the wing nut down tight. However, the terminal at the positive end of the domestic battery bank has a significant number of heavy cables attached to it – and good wiring practice means they'll stay there.

I didn't think it would be easy to connect anything to the threaded stud of that terminal with a wing nut, especially as, on the new batteries, the stud is 90˚ round from its location on the current set. A normal hexagonal nut would be easier to fit, so I had to work out what size it should be. The battery seller's website gave mixed information, with one suggestion being a US 5/16", which is supposed to be the equivalent of the metric M8 size. I took battery and wing nuts to a local hardware store about a mile from the marina, to see what they could do. They certainly were not M8, and an M10 nut, which looked the right size, had the wrong pitch to the thread, and wouldn't screw on.

Grr! I'd really been hoping to install the set today.

I rang up the firm and got an answerphone. Rang back later and got a bloke who didn't know much about anything, except that I ought to ring back on a different number. I did and eventually spoke with a techie who at least knew what I was talking about. He said they it looked as though it was a new arrangement that not even they had been told about, but he promised to send some sets of nuts post haste. Unfortunately, because this had all taken time, post would be less haste, but they should arrive on Wednesday.

Ah, lack-a-day. At least the weather's great!

Saturday 12 May 2018

Starting up

Halfie isn't the only one to replace an engine starter battery –  Erin Mae needed one too. However, it was back in 2011 that I last paid out for starting security, so that seemed reasonable. As my best beloved and I chatted about such things, we decided it we should replace the domestic battery set as well. That had two consequences. Firstly, a financial hit that I think we'll pass over quickly. Secondly, five batteries delivered to our home that needed to be driven to the boat. Not only did they take up considerable space in the car, but their combined weight was the equivalent of having an extremely large front row forward or heavyweight champion in the back seat! The domestic set of four being replaced is still in good working order so I've put them on eBay, if anyone is interested.

So, the season has started, though it's going to be a bit patchy until we can get out cruising in June. For the moment we're stuck in the marina, but we got a nice walk out through Great Haywood this afternoon. The junction was quite busy.

A number of traders catering to the towpath trade were moored close to the junction, one or two in spaces that looked as though they were really for boats waiting to turn. There was a sweetie tuck shop, a café / bar (not sure about the licensing regs there!), an ironmongers, and one or two others. Quite the little high street! Then we walked on towards Haywood lock. The water level must be high, because there was a fair old flow going down the chute at the side, even while the lock was filling. The Trent itself was running fast. We pushed on for a stroll around the grounds of Shugborough, now completely in the hands of the National Trust.

The wisteria was out, but the sun was not, and I'm afraid my photographic skills weren't really up to the task of creating anything memorable.

It's nice to be back on Erin Mae, even if only for a few days. Hopefully, the start of something good.