Sunday, 30 October 2011

China Boat Cat

Some pictures of our new boat cat. She's called China and is c.14 weeks old. At first Tom was terrified of her (despite being 10 times her size) but slowly they're getting used to each other. Tom though is still doing a fine impression of Clint Eastwood in 'Gran Torino'...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Gordon Bennett!

What a week!!!!!!!!

Thrills, spills, a gearbox, a generator, (nearly.....), and a funeral.

I am absolutely cream-crackered.


Best start at the beginning.

The gearbox saga came to a most happy conclusion on Tuesday.

For those of you who have not been following this (somewhat less than riveting) story, a precis:

Our gearbox broke.

Some bloke who does Dutch barges suggested someone.

We engaged this person to repair the box.

He agrees a price with us.

He arrives, removes the gearbox and takes it away for repair.

We ask him (again) for an overall price. He gives us a price which is expensive but short of the cost of a new 'box.

We agree.

The 'box is repaired.

We get a bill for a lot of money PLUS £850 + VAT for labour and transport (Cost:£1.50 per mile.....)

At NO point during our negotiations had this been mentioned.

Gearbox Repair Man is emailed an annotated sketch of where he can shove his bill AND our repaired gearbox.

I hope it made the bastard's eyes water............

So Pippin is gearboxless for some months.

Enter The Good Guys, stage left........

Jackie phoned a Norwich based company, A R Peachment, who specialise in PRM gearboxes and are brilliant.

To cut a sorry tale short, this company have sailed up the creek and given us back our paddle.

It's brand spanking new, and has a warranty!

I cannot recommend them highly enough: if you are on the Norfolk Broads, the Cam, or Great Ouse and it's tributaries and you want honest, decent service, from men who not only know what they are doing, but take pride in a job well done, then look no further.

As for the Coventry-based numpty, may God rot his socks...........

Let us move, then to the topic of generators.

Or the lack of them.

The gremlins had well and truly possessed our Pramac P6000S diesel generator.

It was pumping out the volts, but with such irregularity that our Inverter wouldn't accept the charge.

We tried replacing the capacitors, to no avail.

I considered asking Pam, our local vicar, (she really is now, as the actual vicar, Lucy, has moved elsewhere, leaving the parish in interregnum and Pam in charge..) to pop by and lay hands on it with a view to ridding it of the gremlins.

Who yer gonna call?

Well, neither the local vicar nor Ghostbusters, actually....

Instead, I called The Royal Engineers......

As you do....

Yes, my chum Mark turned up and had a jolly good go. Sadly, it wasn't fixable at the time. (A large chunk of circuit board needs re-wiring.........), but he did lend us a portable Honda genny until the gearbox was fixed.

HUZZAH! for the Royal Engineers!!!!!!!

So to the funeral.

I am sad to say that my most wonderful God-mother, Joan, recently passed away. I will not here dwell on how remarkable a person she was.

There is a world enough, and time.

But not here.

And not now.

Sleep well, my dear, for you were loved.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Thanks so much to Mike Prior-Jones who saw yesterday's blog and visited us last night with help, advice and a test meter. Hope the proffered sherry, sausage and mash and lift home was adequate recompense for your trouble, Mike!!

Our landlord Martin had already helped me narrow down the potential problem range by lending a 1kw Honda generator which we plugged in to Pippin.

The inverter worked fine! It was taking a charge and the mains worked too.

So Jeremy's original diagnosis of a generator fault was sound: He'd popped out to have a look for us on Wednesday and found nothing wrong with the inverter but the generator giving something like 270 volts:

I'd persisted in thinking it was the inverter as I couldn't see why the generator was faulty if it could still power a washing machine and not blow any fuses.

Logical enough, I suppose, if, like me, you are electrically illiterate........

Of course, there's much much more to it than that.

Mike drew me lots of diagrams and led me by the hand through the mysterious garden of delight that is RMS, sine wave forms, phasing, and quite a lot of other stuff to which I confess I could do little but smile and nod at as it sailed way over my head.

Now, I speak under correction, but if I understood correctly , it seems to boil down to this:

You CAN have too much of a good thing.

The 270 odd volts that the genny was kicking out was far too much for the inverter.

It had refused to recognise or synchronise with that voltage to protect itself and the boats circuitry. This resulted in the big drain on the batteries while the washing machine was being run through the inverter. (The washer isn't sensitive enough to be badly affected by that variation in voltage, so ran fine when plugged directly into the generator.)

Jackie, meanwhile, had been on the phone to Pramac (makers of the generator) who suggested some possible solutions, one of which was a new pair of capacitors.

These are being delivered today and will hopefully restore the correct voltage to the inverter.

Watch this space!

Thanks again to Jeremy, Martin amd Mike for all their help.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Thank goodness for solar panels and wind turbines!

Now we have sorted out the hot water tank problem, another little issue has arisen: to whit, the inverter is not charging the batteries.

Hmmmm. Is Pippin having a serious tantrum with us? Is it jealousy? I mean, we did spend a heck of a lot of time working on nb Caboodle for our friend Becky.(It's looking really nice. I'll try to post some pictures at some point....).

Pippin, however, is looking a bit faded, though not, I feel, to the point of scruffy.

Whatever the reason for the latest problem, solving it is proving tricky.

The problem manifested itself while we were doing a wash.

We have a domestic washing machine that runs off the 240v mains. The Pramac P6000s generator provides ample electricity for this. Any spare tops up the batteries, so it's normally quite efficient and works well.

However, half way through a wash on Sunday, Jackie noticed that the monitor was showing the batteries were being drained at an alarming rate. She switched off the washer mid-cycle, preventing any permanent damage to the battery bank.

This left us in a bit of a quandary. We can't run the engine due to the absence of gearbox. The generator isn't charging the batteries at all, so with two out of three of the triple redundant power systems knocked out, we are solely reliant on the solar panels and the wind turbine.

So far, so good, though we have turned off the Shoreline 12v fridge freezer as it's the biggest single draw on the boat. We'd rather lose the food than have to replace half a dozen batteries......

I got the washing finished by plugging the washer direct to the generator via our long extension cable. This worked fine, so not only is the generator seemingly not the problem, but also, we don't have a drumful of soggy washing going mouldy to worry about.

The new gearbox is hopefully going to be installed on Friday, so all being well, we will be able to charge batteries via the engine.

But what ails the inverter?

It's almost as big a puzzle as trying to guess which expensive bit of boat related kit is going to break next......!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Holes continue to appear.....

But not, thankfully in the hull.


Yes, it has been sometime since I last blogged at any length. Much has been happening and not all of it good.

So, to the holes.

The first hole is one about which regular readers of this rubbish will have already been appraised: i.e the gearbox-shaped lump of fresh air that has sat 'twixt engine and propshaft for what is now an unconscionable length of time.

We hope that soon, the long promised new 'box will be fitted. When that will be is, as yet, unknown......

However, another, larger, and potentially very expensive hole has also appeared aboard 'Pippin'.

This hole is shaped like a hot water tank........

Jackie was just about to leave the boat for work last Friday when a loud slooshing and gushing noise from Tom's room (Tom is our cat: he sleeps in the spare room next to the central heating boiler....) suggested to her that perhaps all was not quite as it should be and could possibly warrant further investigation.

Water was pouring out of the boiler's overflow, all over the floor.

(Tom fans relax, he was nowhere near, having been out on the mooch since 0630.

So, no risk of finding out what a scalded cat really does take off like.

Thank goodness.)

Anyway, exhibiting the resource, sagacity and presence of mind that feature around reason 12,234,009 for why I married her, Jackie didn't panic, but went straight to the main switches aft and threw the breaker. This stopped both the water pump and the leak. She then swabbed the decks dry, turned off the boiler, the water pump and the gas, then cycled off to the station and caught her intended train for London.

I can only marvel at this, as images of decapitated chickens running around are all that I see had this happened to me...

So, Friday night, we had no water at all.

Fortunately a plenitude of chilled Chablis dealt with any thirst issues whilst a box of alcohol wipes dealt with the more mundane business of personal hygiene.

On Saturday morning, our wonderful Aldi boiler engineer, Graham, arrived, pronounced the calorifier as 'probably ruptured', removed the entire hot water tank and took it back to the east midlands for a post mortem.

This reinstated an, (albeit cold), water supply.

Tomorrow, Graham returns, hopefully with a spiffy new tank equipped with stainless steel calorifier.

And, no doubt, a large bill.....

Ah well, it's only money.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


Boat Safety, that is.....

I am happy to report Pippin has been duly examined and passed with a clean bill of health.

This is handy as our marine insurance is due.......

Of course, what we really need is a gearbox.

All comes to he who waits......