Sunday, 23 July 2017

Rotten Egg, Carbon Monoxide Alarms going off & Unwanted expense...

Yes that is rather a long post title - that was the shortest version I could come up with!

SO, you'll remember the other week I did an equalisation charge - in a bid to reinstate some of the batteries' original capacity?   Well, I thought things had improved.... apparently that was the quiet before the storm.

It's become a nightly ritual now to ensure nothing is pushing on the plate at the back of the fridge as we've been blaming that for the battery bank losing power overnight.  It now appears that (whilst perhaps a contributory factor) was NOT the main cause.

The main cause was that one of the 4, 135ah marine batteries had boiled dry and was dragging the others down.  HOW do we know this you ask? (I still don't know whether rhetorical questions need punctuation) well, the other night, (AFTER I'd had a good long chug up and down the river to get the batteries as full as possible before leaving the solar to finish off the charge) we noticed a rotten egg smell.  Our first thought was that it was coming from the toilet tank vent and we ignored it.

As the breeze dropped further, the smell seemed to get stronger and seemed to be stronger at the back of the boat.... STILL we ignored it, thinking it must be the boat behind...

It wasn't until 'stupid o'clock' in the middle of the night when I was awoken from my slumber by an alarm going off it became apparent what the problem was.

CO alarms will trigger when they sniff out Hydrogen Gas (which is produced by the batteries) if it gets too high.   My first panic was that we were being posoned again by carbon monixide so there I was flinging open portholes, side hatches and the rear doors ... WHILST Andy still slept!  On pressing the smartgauge to see how the charge was holidng up, it all fell into place.

I don't know why I didn't click earlier... I mean, I already KNEW about batteries gassing and more so if they are short of electrolyte.

THING is, the paperwork that came with the boat said " 4 x `135ah SEALED leisure batteries - ergo it never occurred to me to be topping them up.

There was only one thing for it - when daylight came, into the engine hole I'd have to go and try to work out where the problem was.  AS usual, once I'd climbed into the hole with the multi-metre, I remembered it was broken! ... WHILST I was in there, I did happen to notice that they were NOT sealed and could be topped up... ergo, a trip to Halfords for some deionised water and stubby spanners followed by a detour via maplins for a new metre.

By now of course the rain was torrential so I rigged up temporary cover in the form of the parasol from the picnic bench. It DID make a major difference ...although I kept digging it in my back so now have a few bruises.

I took  few photos of what went where on my phone and then undid the link bars to test each battery individually...  1, 2 and 3 were all showing 11.90 (ish) volts but number 4 was down at 11.2 .  Of course in order to get number 4 out, I had to remove 1,2 and 3 first and slide them along.

NOT a job you want to be doing with a duff hand.  Andy was at work so I struggled on as best I could one handed... believe me these are VERY heavy batteries... luckily for me, Old Mick was wandering around with Daisy in the rain so he was able to help - terrible really, asking a bloke in his 80's to help lift batteries out but as I'd started (and the freezer would be defrosting) I had to continue.

All the batteries needed a bit of topping up but number 4 was dry.  Now there is a chance it could be resurrected by topping up and charging but to be honest, given how difficult access is, I decided to leave it out and reduce the bank size to just 3.  It still gives a battery bank of 405ah - which will mean reduced charging times and thus more likely to keep them fully charged for longer if you follow.    A couple of days on, I'm' noticing the SOC (state of charge) dropping more than I'd expect over night - I know there is nothing else draining as I've used the clamp meter to check each circuit and there is only the fridge drawig power once we go to bed.

From this I've deduced the others are probably on their way out too - which is quite a pain given I thought we'd had good battery usage and charging regime.  Of course we don't know for sure whether the batteries were all good to start with...  We'll muddle on a while until pay day and then have to spend somewhere between 500-100 quid on the replacements.  Talking to people, it appears GTP batteries may be a good option so I'll see what I can find. 

THIS was the rotten egg!

ON the plus side however, this HAS helped someone else.... a few boats down, a chap called Vince has been having problems with his CO alarms... he's on is 4th one now that keep beeping to indicate CO...  HE thought he'd bought a few duff ones and as he doesn't live on board full time has been silencing the alarms...  I suggested he might like to check his batteries weren't running low and sure enough they were - his solar array (4x 200 watt panels) has been boiling away his batteries... and whilst HE can't smell the gas, the CO alarm can.

Every cloud and all that!

Until next time...

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Stiches out... a Trip out with friends and a baby Tiggy Winkle...

Sorry I've been a bit remiss of late... no real reason other than every time I sat down to write something, something else happened or someone else turned up and I forgot.

Last Thursday I went to the docs to have the stitches removed from my hand... AS usual, I was a big brave boy and barely winced (lied the fire-engine blonde warrior)... it bled a little but soon stopped and whilst there is no reason to keep a dressing pad on it now, I'm trying to do so as I keep knocking it and it hurts.

There's no pain as such from the hand but nor is there any coordination or strength in either my fingers of thumbs - it's a bit of a pain as being a left-handed, I 'm still instinctively reaching out with the useless hand and dropping/braking things or hurting myself.  Still, it's only been 2 and  half weeks and despite being on "gardening leave" I'm still signed off sick for another 4 weeks anyways.... supposedly if I did an office job I could be back in a fortnight - which is a bit silly really given that typing just this, is actually hurting... hey ho.

SO - What's been happening then?  Well,  Brynn is still visiting daily for his doggy treats in exchange for a play with whatever toy he happens to be taking for walk...

I've fitted another usb and cigeratte type power socket in the dinnette...

and at the weekend we took our old neighbours from the bungalow either side out for their fisst ever boat trip and bought them lunch as a 'thank you for taking in all our boat related parcels over the last few years'

It was a nice day and although not beautifully sunny, was still t-shirt day.  It was everyone' s first time on a narroboat and Ruby (she's Terry and Shelias Granddaughter, took to steering the boat like a duck to water... She loved seeing all the herons on the river as we headed up towards the pub.

On Sunday,we agreed the boat was looking a bit scruffy and (using my temporary exception certificate) I re-graded roof cleaning as a light blue job... ergo, Andy washed the roof and sides down.

I did help out by connecting up the submersible mains powered pump and hosepipe attacheent so he could rinse with canal water... we're quite lucky in that as we're fed from the river, most of the time. it's actually quite clean.

In the end though, it still needed a flush down with potable water so a couple of buckets fisnished the job.

Afterwards of course we neeeded water so a trip to the water point was in order which is where we encounted a baby hedehog... clearly a bit out of synch with his/her body clock.

I hope it's ok.

Until next time...

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Dark Blue Jobs and Light Blue Jobs...

THAT is usually how we decide the division of labour on-board Ellis... in general, IF it's a horrible, difficult or simply tiresome task it will have been graded (by Andy ahem) as a DARK BLUE JOB... and as such is MY responsibility,

Of course, because I a good egg all round, I just get on with them...

Imagine how delighted I am to have an excuse to skive a medical exception which means for the time being I cannot DO Dark Blue jobs  - Especially one in particular....

You can tell from the face being pulled for some reason, he really doesn't like this job... TOUGH I say as I've been doing it for months.

In spite of my frailty, I did  manage to walk a few miles the other night and was rewarded with a pint of Blonde by the ossett brewery company...(well they didn't do the treating - but they did brew the stuff)  but the trouble with one is that it leads to another...... and well, the rest is history.

This was us outside the Kings Arms (I think it's called that) up at Heath on the common... we don't go up there anywhere near often enough but we should as it's got a nicer atmosphere than the Stanley Ferry and more proper beers.

In my defence, I DID manage to get some of the none-splip tape applied to the top of the port-side gun-whale and if it's dry tomorrow, I'll try and paint over it in dark grey.

Did I mention that a while back, Old Mick had mentioned he would soon be painting out his water tank as he'd not done it for a few years?...  of course my hand being still useless did mean I couldn't help him - if I got in, I'd not be able to get out again...It did look rather cruddy down there

apparently, when he looked in, what with his dodgy eye-sight he thought there was only a couple of inches of water remaining... as you can see, it was closer to 18 inches and as such he now has a wet pair of wellies!

He did have a protective suit and breathing mask on but I still felt guilty not being able to help - after all, he is (depending on how old he's feeling) somewhere between 80 and 86!

Still, it's done now and he's going to fill the tank again tomorrow... it did make me rather pleased to have a stainless steel tank - which every so often I pour a bit of Milton fluid into to be on the safe side - the water filter removes any taint and to be honest, you can't really smell  it when washing either... perhaps I need to put a stronger solution in.  THAT said, most people we've talked to don't bother and as far as I can tell haven't  suffered any ill effects from drinking their tank water anyway.

Until next time...

oh btw - the batteries DO seem to be holding their charge better now so either the equalisation charge DID work, or we're getting better at avoiding things touching the back of the fridge!

Friday, 7 July 2017

Single handing - Single Handed and Battery maintenance...

I can't believe it's already been a week since my first operation...  the hand is coming along nicely and although I DO have full movement in all my fingers, I can't do anything with them... signing my name was an interesting experience the other day as I couldn't hold a pen!

Luckily, I can pick up a glass with my "wrong" hand so at least I'm not de-hydrating (ahem).

To all those people who think not going to work is boring ...  you are wrong.  Maybe it would be boring in a house but being on or around a boat, there is always something going on to watch or someone wandering past to have a natter with... apparently it's my Granddads fault on my mothers side and a trait I inherited - although I never met the bloke, I'm reliably told he had the gift of the gab and could talk the hind leg off a donkey...

MOST of the time it's quite pleasant and friendly and I respond accordingly - on Tuesday however, AFTER I got back from the nurse for a wound check (yes it WAS still there) I went over to the water point to fill up again...  (we do seem to get through a lot of water - even with submarine showering)  I've come to the conclusion it's the amount wasted to run the hot through from the calorifier that causes it.... anyway, so Tuesday afternoon... there I was, filling up the tank, sat reading and having a cuppa when a couple of drunken raggers   chatty scallywags appeared and began the whole "you must be loaded mister. I've heard them boats are expensive...where'd you get the money from to buy it?" kind of conversation.  I'm paraphrasing a bit here but it continued along the lines of "how did you get the money together? - I can't even afford to rent a flat and get out of my bedsit"...  THIS whilst they both enjoyed their cans of Tenants super strength... at 1.30 in the afternoon.  Realising they were not the most rational types, rather than say to them "well for a start I've worked 65hour+ weeks for the last 28 years, often had 2 jobs and got up at 4.30am 2 Sundays a month for the last 7 years to do car boot sales to save up the money WHILST paying circa 800 quid a month in taxes so the likes of you can draw benefits and do nothing to contribute to society"  INSTEAD, I  lied and said it's my parents boat and they just let me use it  when they're away !

SOMETIMES there is no point in saying what you think as it will only cause offence - EVEN though I have to admit to being rather p'd off with them.

Where was I? - Single handing, single handed...  Once the tank was full (and the cretins my new friends had moved on) I decided as it was a nice afternoon to have a chug up and down the river to get the batteries as high as I could on the engine and then do an equalisation charge on the new Generator we bought from screwfix the other week.

Well, technically it's the 2nd one as the first one we tried wouldn't run so AFTER filling it with 5.7 litres of petrol and .9litres of oil, we (well Andy cause I couldn't lift it one handed) had to drain theaforementioned out and return it for a replacement - which incidentally only took them 24 hours to get AND without any fuss or hassle ... well done screwfix.

Up until now, we've been managing to top up the batteries with a little 1kva Honda I'd borrowed from Roger at work... given I will not be working there any more, it only seemed fair to return it to him ... besides, it couldn't really run the  combi charger at anything over 35amps anyway.... this new one can make the most of the charger which goes up to 90amp I think...  NOT that it'll ever output that for long as it's more sensible to use the 175amp alternator for the bulk phase.  It DOES mean however that the last 20% of charge when the current tails off can be done on the generator - meaning less engine hours/diesel/filters and oil changes etc..

I COULD have done the charge on our home mooring but listening to a generator going for 4 hours would feck me off  irritate me so I planned to moor on the cut just after the flood lock - a good half mile away from anyone else (ever the considerate boater - that's me).

The reason I went on to the river was to avoid having to do any lock work with only 1 hand.... That was FINE on the way out as the flood gates were open so I just sailed through.  ON the return journey however, for some reason (as yet unknown) the gates had closed - meaning there I was, going downstream on the river with only 1 good hand, a ladder to climb and boat to moor up to be able to open them .  LET'S just say it's not something I want to repeat - especially the climbing a ladder with only 1 hand.

I have never been so relieved to get tied up the other side of a lock and begin the charging task.

Even bashing in a couple of mooring pins is hard work when your usual hammer hand can't hold a hammer... or stabilise a pin whilst the other one has a go at  the job.

For those who don't know, An equalizing charge is nothing more than a deliberate overcharge to remove sulphate crystals that build up on the plates over time. Left unchecked, sulphation can reduce the overall capacity of the battery and render the battery unserviceable in extreme cases. An equalizing charge also reverses acid stratification, a condition where acid concentration is greater at the bottom of the battery than at the top.

It can get a bit more technical in that measures of specific gravity of each  flooded cell should be undertake to determine whether further charging is beneficial or have a negative effect...  IN MY case, given I've no way to measure it, I set the combi charger to automatic and left it to it!

I disconnected the solar panels so as not to confuse it and sat in the sun, reading for the 4 hours it took.

Whilst there btw, Daisy randomly appeared all 'waggy tailed' and happy to see me... and then wandered off  - presumably back to Mick who must have been 'somewhere' out walking her... she's quite a character.

The result of this battery maintenance should be an increased capacity  ... hopefully back to the batteries original capacity.  I'm not convinced as yet  but after a couple of days of normal use I suppose we'll find out.  The thing is, given the builder was working on the boat on dark early mornings and dark evenings using the lights, it might be the batteries were NEVER in a good state to begin with.  I'm loathed to give in on them after just 7 months though so thought this was worth a go first.  

I also read something the other day about a whole load of SMARTGAUGES being incorrectly calibrated at the factory so given THAT'S the device we've been relying on for the State of Charge,  we could have been undercharging since it's inception.

Thinking logically about it though, the key to good battery management is LOWER use...  I can't imagine how difficult it might be for folk who have a 230v fridge/freezer and have to keep their inverter on all the time - we only turn ours on when we need mains power for something specific - certainly not over night ... during the day (in summer anyway) the solar panels can usually keep up with the 5/6amps it consumes just being "on".

IN other news, the cats are settling a little bit now... George is still very jumpy most of the time but at least he's come out from under the duvet and stopped hiding under the chairs when not under covers.

They've even started a bit of mutual grooming ....  this usually turns into a fight but thus far, it's all been quite harmonious.

Until next time....

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Moving the cats on to the boat...and a change of bandage

WE decided a short while ago that given you're supposed to keep cats INSIDE a new home for a couple of weeks that we'd wait until I'd had my first hand op so as I'd be around to keep them company... well that and the fact that on a sunny day, without portholes/side hatches open, the boat is like a sauna.

So on Saturday afternoon, we picked them up from the house (where they've had free-reign for quite a while now, and shoe-horned them into the pet carriers...  they don't like them at all - probably because whenever they go into them, they're either on route to the vets or the cattery.

The cats ( we've 2 of them) were soon let out of their cages and allowed to explore their new home.  Sox (the black one with white feet) has no fear of anything... she happily came out to explore but George... well lets just say he's frightened of his own shadow.

I lost them after a few mins and found them both hiding under the sink... ie the only bit I've not yet boxed off properly.

Now I'm not a cat psychologist but I figured it best to leave them there until they settled down a bit - poor old George was panting a bit and I could tell he was distressed.... SO I put food, water and a litter tray down in the bathroom for them and settled down to watch TV.

In a few hours they came out and things seemed more normal.

Unfortunately, since then George has had a bit of a relapse and spent most of the last couple of days hiding under the duvet... which I don't approve of at all but given he obviously feels safe there, have given in for now...  

I suppose they could be feeling the movement and not liking it... or just all the different creaks and groans as the steel expands/shrinks etc ... so hopefully once they get used to it things will improve - if not, we'll have to consider finding them new homes :-(

. . . . . . . . . . 

HAND wise - well, it's good and bad in about equal measure thus far...  MOST of the time I've no pain at all - well up until I do something stupid instinctively like clapping my hands together to catch a fly...  it happened so fast and with no conscious thought but I won't be doing it again that's for sure...  for hours afterwards it throbbed and my fingers tingled like mad.  

I'm quite surprised that all of a sudden I don't have any strength in my fingers at all - not even to hold a bottle whilst opening it... or to turn the gas on whilst I use the other hand on the clicker.   I'm going to drive for the first time today as I have a wound check at the docs booked this afternoon...  it'll be ok as my old banger is an automatic so a side from having to use my right hand to depress the button (to change between forward and reverse) I'll be able to use light pressure on the steering wheel with my finger tips and besides... there aren't many corners between here and the surgery😀

I DID take off the bandaging  to have a proper look myself (actually it was mainly because having tried showering with a bag on my arm I decided a rubber glove taped on would be more useful when doing my up and unders...) and it doesn't look bad a all - nowhere near large enough for the discomfort it causes lol...  oddly, there is bruising from the base of my fingers down into my wrist.

Shortly after taking these snaps, I knocked my hand on the side of the chair and it hurt so much that I've had Andy bandage it back up again with padding over the wound like before... it's a pain not being able to get it through a sleeve but probably for the best.

I'm not taking any painkillers for it at all now though  - sorry I should rephrase that... I'm not taking anything in addition to the stuff I take for my back... I'm luckier than most folk as I have some decent stuff in my arsenal, compared to the cocodamol type of thing you can buy over the counter ... 

WHAT has happened to summer though? - I've been lighting the fire every day thus far - rather pleased I'd built up a store of kindling before the op
 - we've now got 2 plastic garden storage things... one full of kindling/wood and the other loose ovoids  - initially I'd left the coal in bags but the other day someone walked off with one... if it were the middle of winter I'd understand it ... in fact, if they were so poor and cold I'd gladly GIVE them a bag.  It'll NOT be so easy now ...although I suppose they could shove a couple of lumps in their pockets each time they pass... ruddy scrotes!

I think it's fair to say that we've settled into 'boat life' quite well although I'm not too sure about the division of labour - he drinks wine with the natives whilst I do chores

Then again, I'm sure the surgeon said  I wasn't to get my hand wet for 2 years so no more washing up for a while for me ;-0

BRYNN on the other hand has now decided that if he brings his favourite toy to me, I can hold it whilst he eats his doggy chews...  I feel honoured.  The peace will be broken soon as apparently neither he OR Daisy get along with cats!!!

Until next time...

Friday, 30 June 2017

Carpal Tunnel ... 1 done - 1 to go.

Good Morning

(well it is when I begin this one handed)...

I don't know what all the fuss was about - this Carpal Tunnel release surgery is a piece of cake.... NOT.

Perhaps I'm just being a big, brave, ginger soldier!

You decide from this snap on the way home... not the most flattering of photos I'll grant you but the anaesthetic was wearing off and I'd yet to take any pain-killers.

ignore the gash on my head... that happened on my last day at work when a wooden beam that HAD been keeping 2 vertical bits of steel apart came lose and knocked me to the ground...HSE eat your heart out lol.

It looks more sore than it is (the head I mean)

If you like this sort of thing, here is someone else's surgery... 


I was only in Theatre for around 20 mins in all... 6 hours hanging around in a shared room with  a bloke called Steve - he was having trigger finger release surgery and we both ended up in our chairs asleep most of the afternoon watching day time TV - well that and sorting out our funeral plans.

We did get a few cups of tea delivered though so it wasn't all bad - 
and the reclining chairs WERE very comfortable.

Our respective drivers/partners had to kill time in/around the hospital as they were not allowed up due to the "shared" nature of the room - ridiculous..Mine ended up in MacDonald's charging his phone and using their wifi, whilst Steve's sat in the carpark... giving him agro by text message every time he/we dosed off.

After what had been a long wait, once on route back to the room, (complete with un-necessary gown) one of the nurses coming towards the nurse pushing my wheel chair, mouthed to her colleague "his testicle is hanging out" - on closer inspection, it turned out to be my 'cork float' key ring which was clipped to a belt loop on my shorts - oh how they laughed...  I on the other hand, now feel rather inadequate if 'cork float' sized testicles are the norm!

They made us have another drink/eat some toast back in our room before forgetting about us...  it wasn't until Steve's driver/wife decided enough was enough and rand him, we summoned up the courage to wander out to see if we could go home - the looks on the faces at the nurses station confirmed, they thought we'd already gone.  Oh well - we had our dressings packs and letters to our gps etc. and were out of there a little before

On return to the boat, Andy took over role of captain and we chugged up to the water point.... it taking so long to fill that we abandoned it about half full  and went to the pub for tea.

On return, I took a few "good" pain killers (I'm lucky compared to most as I have a good selection from the doc for when my back is at it's worst... which along with a beer, agave me a reasonable nights sleep.  

It's rather sore this morning so I'm not moving from my chair in front of the TV/Fire...

Until next time...

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A Spot of Varnishing and good neighbours...

It's been a funny old week - after years of stressing about potential unemployment, NOW that' it's happening (tomorrow is my last working day) I'm rather chilled about it.

THAT can only be down to living on a narrowboat.

Thanks by the way for all your kind wishes - both here and by personal messages via the website and forums.  I'm really quite chipper about it.

The weekend was a necessary flurry of activity before I'm down to one hand - namely clearing out the man cave garage,  It was SO difficult deciding what to keep/try and sell or take to the tip. I ended up being quite ruthless (although I did sneak a fair bit into my car without Andy seeing)... (it's still there as I've no idea where it's going to fit on the boat) but I DID make 3 trips to the tip and the summer house is full of useful things that are to be listed for sale on Spock.

Anyway - back on the boat, before the rain came on Saturday, I set to and sanded down the side hatches which were already looking a bit tired - mainly due to US leaving them open when it rains... well that and the fact the morrells we used was NOT suitable for exterior use.. ahem.

It's gone a bit orangey for my liking but after 3 coats, it does feel more waterproof than before.

INSIDE, I finished off the prototype tv cabinet - it'll do for now ... neither of us like it but it serves the purpose of hiding the wires and will have to wait until I'm better to be done again.

Having done that, I went back to the house and continued the life laundry (started many months ago) by clearing out my wardrobes and drawers...  3 bin bags full later of things to go (and another pile of things to take to the boat) and the deed was done.

I've thrown away all my grotty, knackered old work clothes (barring the shorts and shoes I'm wearing tomorrow - which will then go in the bin when I finish) and I've even chucked a few pairs of shoes away too.

Having thought it would be traumatic, I'm surprised ad how easy it actually was - I suppose having been living on the boat for about a month now, I've got into a routine of wearing/washing the same few things anyway.

BACK on the boat the boaty neighbours have been really friendly (and concerned ) about my redundancy - Daisy being playful
and Brynn (not sure how to spell that) 
ever optimistic of a doggy treat when he appears a the side hatch twice daily during his walks...  (I usually give in but Andy is more stern).

Brynn's dad even turned up with a giant lasagne he'd made for our tea last night - something along the lines of "you poor unemployed people can't afford to eat so we'll look after you" lol.

Joking a side, it's a nice thing to do and greatly appreciated - LAST week (even before the news) he and Morag treated us to a lovely home-made Mousakka  (can't spell that one either)which we all ate over a bottle (or 2) of wine on our picnic bench as the world and his neighbour walked on by...  

Right - I can't stay here chatting, it's been suggested by the boss I calculate my own redundancy entitlement which if he agrees, will just be passed to the accountant for payment... we're at opposing ends though as he wants to pay as little as possible (statutory caps etc) and I NEED as much as possible... it'll be interesting where we end up.

Watch this space !

Until next time (one handed I presume)...