Archive | June, 2014

Bottoms Up!

30 Jun

Hobo has a very nice bottom. It’s official.

Three weeks ago now, we had the old girl pulled out of the water to have her bottom re-blacked. The last time this was done was four years ago now (and four years before that, just before I bought her). This is probably twice as long as recommended but, I’m happy and relieved to say, that she has fared well – despite mental pictures of lace curtains that haunted me as the day approached.

But none of that – she is fine and in very good shape.

Her first two ‘outings’ were at Welford’s dry dock where I believe they did a splendid job. This time, Welford being so far to cruise to when you are constrained by having to go out to work, it seemed favourite to make use of the facilities here – ie the slipway with its bomb trolley, as John calls it, and the  excellent workmanship of Andy and Jess.

We’ve witnessed their handiwork on many occasions; business here picking up no end since they took on this service. No surprise really as they do a brilliant job.

I was at work when they decided to pull her out and couldn’t wait for me to get back – time and tide waiting for no man (or even boatbird it seems)  – other boats already lining up to take their turn. So I authorised John to skipper the operation to drive her up the slipway. Not that I had any fears on that score; just a bit miffed to miss the event.

Perhaps as well. I can turn into a real old woman when it comes to Hobo’s well-being. And driving into the yard to see her sitting safely atop the trolley on the slipway was a huge relief…003

As Jess made a start on scraping off the sludge…001

Andy pronounced Hobo a very well made boat and her hull in great condition. Music to my ears.

I always thought she was a good boat but there’s nothing like hearing it from someone that knows about these things and is totally unbiased.

They set about grinding her back to the metal, observing strict health and safety regs of course…011

Even the, now eight year old, anodes had stood up well…010

But I decided to add four new ones…008

As I didn’t think they’d go another four years.

On closer inspection, there was one place that caused concern, this being on the waterline where the red stripes around the stern…004 (2)

As much as I wanted to keep this traditional cream over red design, I conceded it would be prudent to lose this to further bitumen. Really quite nasty pitting so best get rid.

Protection over cosmetics every time.

And here it is gone…007 (2)

After all, I can always re-instate it at a later date if I feel so inclined.

Actually, I’m quite liking the green stripe that has been used for masking – called frog tape and apparently brilliant.

On the bow too…009 (2)

We shall see. More work to bring the superstructure up to scratch first though.

I’m getting more and more ideas for decoration and I reckon, by the time Hobo is tiddled up enough and ready for some artistry, I shall have a plan.

The truly marvellous thing when it comes to slipway versus dry dock is that boatbird can still live aboard while work is carried out, courtesy of some giant steps…002

The noise and dust is a bit of a pain but that stops in the evening so not all bad. I do struggle to walk half sharp when she’s not floating though. Feels so weird.

We were so lucky with the weather – the whole three days were glorious, sunny and, most importantly, dry. Well done, for once, to whoever arranges the weather. Just check out that sky…023

Not forgetting the good old digger that pulled her up and kept her there…024

My rudder and propeller. Before…009

And after…008 (2)

Minus the tangle of wire/weed/whatever.

The team in action…001 (2)

Supervised by the John…002 (2)

Looking good now the paint is going on.

Notice which gender isn’t standing around/watching/chatting?

That said, they both grafted furiously. Indeed, once we saw how hard they worked, any guilt at not having done it ourselves (and saving loadsamymoney) simply evaporated. We conceded we are just too old disinclined to undertake that level of physical effort.

A view from afar…


Because I can.

There’s even a short/boring/vaguely amusing video of Hobo as she comes off the slip – I was present for this – but I’m too mean to upgrade this site so it can’t be shown here. Maybe I’ll just post it on fishface instead.

There was a bonus too. My kitchen sink has been bloody useless decidedly inefficient since day 1. Any waste drained (or not) into the u-bend then into a thinner pipe, which actually went uphill – I may have mentioned this before – a right royal pain in the arse.

Being on the hard was the perfect time to work on her so we did just that. With Andy’s advice and a borrow of his tools, John drilled another hole (eek) in Hobo’s hull (lower and larger than the previous one) to take a 38mm skin fitting, this being provided by a kind neighbour who just happened to have one going spare. This then linked to a larger hose, pointing downhill, we did away with the u-bend altogether and BINGO – the water now actually drains away. Quickly.  Along with any gunk I happen to carelessly throw down it.

And John has plumbed it in such a way I even have more under-sink cupboard space, which on a narrowboat is back of the net.

All in all a pleasant experience. And you can’t always say that about routine maintenance.



The Little Boat

8 Jun

We’ve been thinking about a name for the concrete boat and have come up with several but, so far, nothing seems quite right.

In fact the only one that seems to have stuck is as in the title.  That’s how we refer to it so The Little Boat it is, until we get a better idea. We like short names like Hobo and Bella so I thought LB or Elbie but J is not convinced.

Girl’s names and flower names also good but haven’t found the right one yet.


Maybe you can help us here..

Please put forward your suggestions for a name in the comments section and whoever comes up with the one we like the best will win a trip up the river on her. How’s that?

Always assuming that she does float of course.

Second prize: two trips up the river.  And so on…

We’re a little way off the launch mind but we have been busy.

The first thing on John’s agenda was to get the back deck covered because a) to stop any more rainwater getting in and b) in order to get an idea of how to make the best use of the available space. This being at a premium on a 25ft boat.

John’s idea is to create another room – like a sun lounge/conservatory with fold down-able windows and greenery. Somewhere it would be comfortable and pleasant to be – sheltered if chilly and greenhouse-like if we get sun.

In an attempt at assessing the sort of space it would make, John assembled a makeshift covering. We’ve found it pays to work this way and, while living with the temporary structure, the ideas start to come and the whole thing evolves.

He started with the windscreens that were already made though never fixed in place…009_stitch

And then continued building a framework for the sides and rear… 021

Then cutting and rigging up pieces of the tarp that originally covered the roof…100_3186

Speaking of the roof; it is covered in canvas and painted. This has come away in several places so we’ve acquired some copper tacks to remedy this. It is now all pinned down neatly so can go ahead and apply fresh paint – before it all turns to powder and blows away.

The above image shows boarding ladder mk 3. It’s much safer and easier to use, providing you have really, really long legs that is. In the absence of these, I shall just have to get yet more agile. Good job I am practising Pilates then…

To the right of the leg-stretcher is John’s new workbench, from where he can operate his tools and craft all sorts of incredible works of art and useful contraptions – all made from items found on the slag heaps.

I’ll have to detail these and other goodies we have already unearthed (literally) and put to good use. Another time.

It really is a treasure trove right in the back yard! Quite a few items have found their way to the Hobo funnily enough.

John cleverly cut out a suitable picture by way of a muriel for the back end…



Remember, this is a temporary fix.

It’s working well though on a practical level, not to mention creating a lot of interest among the other boat owners here but, more importantly, demonstrating how the space will work.

And one thing is clear… 002 (2)

It won’t work very well with the tiller as it uses up the entire space just to operate the rudder…001

John ponders on this…061

And decides that a smaller rudder could be fitted and maybe operated by a wheel to save all that wasted space in the arc of the tiller.

She was once a sailing vessel it seems. We found some pictures on board and managed to salvage some – interesting – has a mast and that would be the reason for such a large rudder we think.

I wanted to scan them onto my computer so could share with you but my printer is misbehaving. It seems to have died on me but not before it tripped out poor Hobo’s electrics and giving me a fright as smoke puffed into the room.!!

It may be the transformer or plug but will have to wait for another day to get fixed I’m afraid.

Of course the little boat’s hull has to be top of the list for attention and needs to be watertight. Obviously.

John has just about been all around the wooden top with the sealer gun now and – fingers crossed – this seems to have stopped the majority of the leaks. The only one left to deal with (above the waterline) is from the poorly fitted chimney, which has now been taken out as needs replacing, along with the roof collar.

I’ve prepped and painted the little stove in the meantime but prefer to wait until re-installed with new stove pipe/chimney before I share the pics. But it is looking good so far.

John has also worked on the back doors, making them secure and fit properly. Long-term, we think bi-fold doors would be good and again, space saving. Easy enough to do for a man of John’s calibre.

He also sawed off a chunk of wood that hung from the centre of said doors; its sole purpose seemingly to provide the ideal object to clang one’s head on.

Several problem areas below the waterline have been identified.

Like this…100_3170

If you zoom in I think you will see those stalactites. Not good.

And this…100_3176

John has done a lot of looking on the internet and found the official ferro-cement boat site, which warns of spider cracks like these.

And this…100_3182

Being the inside floor of the boat.

This is what it should look like…


But only one of these metal supports still exist; the rest having been removed or rotted away. Without these, there is nothing to hold the hull together and leaves quite a cavity for water to find. John plans to clean these out and shoot in something – to be decided – in order to shore things up.

We’re thinking maybe fibre glass to repair/paint over the entire bottom with swimming pool paint and then a good coat or two of of bitumen over that.

So there’s a way to go before we can really get into the cosmetics, which is my department.

I need to break out the mouse and sand all the interior woodwork…011

Which, as you can see, is somewhat flaky. Then on with the paint, oil the rest of the wood…008


002 (6)Going to look so good.

Foam to be acquired for the bed/seating area and floor covering. John is in favour of a rubber type matting – there is precious little headroom so nothing thick and luxurious is an option.

We know that we should be concentrating on the hull but, all the same, John wants to make his little bolt-hole comfy. A place to chill, now that he is spending more of his time here – even taking on a little work on the farm.

You may have spotted one of John’s finds in the above shot. A telescope, brand new in the box. He just has a knack of finding treasure.

Don’t forget to submit your suggestions for a name for the little boat and indeed, if anyone has knowledge of these unusual craft, we’d love to hear from you too.