Boat Stuff

Boat technicalities, practicalities and experiences

The Tank

not in here.

So, in accordance with latest rulings of the river we have had to install a poo tank that actually works and into which our waste actually flows. This is of course a very important thing that all boats should have been doing instead of flushing waste into the river as before (shhhhhh…. Everyone did it and it was a well kept secret amongst boat folk but before you judge, remember that many sewage overflows in London lead to the river so when there is heavy rain the waste water is forced into our precious waterway and the quantity of that is next level to what a few boats plop out every day). (None the less, appreciate its pretty anti-social so definitely time for progress).

So since January 2016 we’ve been implementing a system enforced by the PLA which has involved some waterworld-esque sub-tanks being built at various points around the mooring and a ‘king of all the crazy tanks’ tank which sits right at the entrance to the mooring and makes us look like a mad Max style community. Mainly, when you see it, you expect anyone coming off the mooring to be dressed head to toe in combat clothes complete with muddy face and a shawl of that autumn leaf-mesh stuff they use to enhance camouflage. They should also be crouching down and whispering while pointing at things as they exit.

The situation now as follows- poo flows into our tank on the boat. Every week our newly installed pump works to send that waste into the holding sub-tank and then finally that gets into the King tank which is big enough to hold 75 years worth of excrement and no one has thought to work out how the heck it will be emptied. Currently it floats lopsided at high-tide or sits on the base of the river at low-tide filling up with poop.

the water situation

I’ve had a long and prosperous day, which started with me waking up late after a very good sleep.  Anyway, I set off this morning via the very special botanical gardens on my doorstep- it was very decadent. I had a cappuccino and a chelsea bun for breakfast. And I sighed with joy at this new life I’m leading.  Last night I was tucked up with a good book by 11.15 and was privy to a boat load of revelers turning around outside my porthole.  They were dancing away on the Thames.  Anyway, all of this has nothing to do with anything.  Except that I had a lovely night last night and a good morning, and then when I got home this evening there was, would you believe it, a live fireworks display courtesy of one of the boats over the river which was having some sort of low-tide celebration.  So on the mud banks between our boat and theirs, some poor soul was tasked with setting alight the display and running (maybe swimming?) back to their boat.  The fireworks were pretty impressive actually- not just bog standard home fireworks but quite professional.  So, this was marvelous, and I looked out over the water wearing my new ‘dutch barge shoes’ that Pat bought me and thought, ‘oh-ay, oh-ay! ’tis a sailors life for me!’  and that was nice.

Then I came back in after the display, parched.  So off I went to the tap, as you do, to get a drop of water.  Well, a drop turned out to be optimistic, for there was nothing.  Not a drop. The pesky pump.  But it’s late, and Pat’s away, and I miss him anyway, but when he’s not here, then I have to be the one to poke the pump and sometimes that can be a chore.  So anyway, it all became very complicated.  Because it’s night time and there is no light in the wheelhouse, so first things first- I needed to get a torch.  And I know where all the torches are because I made a system of storage for them all when I unpacked. I was determined to always have torches to hand for precisely this sort of situation.  So I find the torch- I find five torches.  But do any of them actually work?  Of course not.  So then I start looking for batteries and suddenly this is all becoming very convoluted.  I want a glass of water, but first I must find the batteries to put in the torch to illuminate the engine room (which does have a light but I can’t find the light switch) so that I can get to the pump to poke it so that the water will come out of the taps again and fill my glass.  Well, in the end I found the batteries and put them in and had to go down the scary engine hole, crawl through the engine bits and give the pump a good slap.  That did the trick, so then I filled up a big bottle of water to keep me going so I don’t have to make any more visits to the scary engine hole tonight.  It’s preferable to go in the morning.

All of this is a good reminder that whilst it’s very romantic and beautiful on a boat, there will always be holes to contend with and pumps to poke.

arrival of the fittest

tanks.  The fittest tanks!  I was walking over the bridge to the boat and there they were being delivered.  Cath and Tom were trying to find a way to get them out of the van and into the boat.  So they carried them through the mooring and then lowered the tanks through the hole in the roof by tying rope to the handles on the tanks and lowering them down.  They are Tek Tanks and apparently very handsome according to all who saw them.  They are new and shiny and nothing like the rotting old metal horrors that lived in the boat before.  They are made of plastic and they have brightly coloured valves.

On a different note Tom has already laid down pipes and insulation around the pipes and all sorts, I had to hand over lots of money for various things I don’t understand, like ‘Hi Grip S.S. Clip 35-50mm’ and ‘Hex. Nipple 1 1/2’.  I wonder what they are and I understand that they are related to pipes and pipe fitting.  He’s plumbing the entire boat, and it’s quite impressive. He was telling me about how he studied marine engineering at college.  He’s very innovative and knows a lot. I clearly know very little. But I know some things and I’m learning.

My biggest worry at the moment is getting carried away with everything and spending way more than we have.  It’s very difficult not to want to do everything as you look around and see how nice it would be to put a porthole here, and a skylight there.  But we haven’t even got a functioning toilet, shower or kitchen.  And those are the essentials.  At the moment we’re hacking away at everything and it scares me how much more we’re doing.  I suppose it’s not more than we originally planned, but as you start to do it, you realise how everything is connected and one thing leads to another.

The thing with boats is that you really need to cap the amount you spend on them because they will rarely become an investment in the conventional sense.  There is a decided top-line to what a boat can ever be worth.  You see boats for sale at the same price as houses- and some are really amazing and beautiful- but they end up on the market for years and years because no one can get the finance together to borrow that much (with boats you need capital- you can get a marine mortgage like we did but it’s not like getting a house mortgage, it takes a lot of dedication)  and fundamentally, no one wants to spend that much on a boat.  So you need to be realistic about what a boat can ever be worth- no matter how nice.  A boat our size is good- it’s not so big, but if we spend too much we’ll lose out.  Anyway, I shall be keeping my beady little eyes as close to the action as possible.

the holes

I went to visit Tom and Cath working on the boat today and there was activity…  Here are some pics of the two removed bits of steel which have created holes in the boat; the knocked out bulkhead and the hole in the roof to get the tanks in (it was exposed to day, you see).  There will be more holes soon- Stuart is going to carve out some steel in the roof of the bedroom (front cabin, there’s no picture of it here) to make a skylight.   The hole in the roof which you can see below will be sealed because it would be too expensive to create a light source there… shame.  We could just leave it open.  But that would be daft and cold.

what we are actually doing

The general theme of this blog is ‘doing up the good ship seahorse with not very much money and a bit of time now that I’m “freelance”‘.   In January 2010 we acquired the handsome dutch barge named Seahorse, after selling the much loved Pennie, moored in Southall.  The new boat is on the Thames and has beautiful views.  It was a big stressful thing, we had started looking at bigger boats in June 2009 and saw many we didn’t like, one we loved but couldn’t afford and then Seahorse- which we kind of loved but which smelt weird and had very bad curtains.  We put in an offer and it was accepted and then we had to deal with the separate issue of the mooring and securing that. Oh, and then of course we had to sell our old boat and get a ‘marine mortgage’ for the new one which involved lots of form filling, a lovely broker who helped us a lot ( and a nice long chat with the owner of the finance company about how we (me and Pat, not me and the man on the phone) would one day sail to france (but that’s a long story).

The major part of the sale process was having the survey done.  This happened in late November and was expensive and eye-opening.  The first major discovery was that the tanks underneath the main living space were horribly rotten and rusty.  So there was water leaking down into the bilges (that’s the bottom of the boat (the hull) on the inside).  And of course this is a terrible thing for a boat.  And it’s also nasty because the leaking stuff can be water, black water, diesel and all of that gets mixed with rust and makes this beautiful orange coloured goo- which you can see pictures of in earlier posts.

So the revival process was going to be a bit like saving a big rusting hulk from extinction (PHASE ONE!).  And the first phase would have to be getting the tanks out, cleaning the horrid bilge and painting over it with rust converter.  But the good news from the survey was that the hull itself had been completely re-plated and needed no work doing to it (that can cost a lot of money- thousands of pounds).  So the tanks was the biggest problem, and as well as that the boat itself needed a lot of structural work done to make the living areas work better.  For this we enlisted the help of talented ‘design-space-living-guru’ Nick Radclyffe (also my dad) and a highly recommended boat fitter called Tom.  So that would be PHASE TWO! and then the final bit would be making it look nice – PHASE THREE!- which is too far away to even imagine and will probably involve Pat and I spending every waking moment sanding and painting and trying to convince our friends to help.  And there will probably be a whole lot more phases in between.  I”m going to add a page called ‘What we’re doing’ to this blog and then you can see the bigger picture. And I can stop writing now.