Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Finally in the paint shop!

'Net Profit finally went into the paint shop yesterday. That's the good news. The bad news is that our painter, Tina, is surprised at the poor quality of finish of Tim Tyler's shells these days. The primer is poorly applied (and missing in some places not immediately obvious) and there are many marks on the boat from poor weld grinding and linishing that will need filling and rubbing down. Add to that liberal amounts of spray foam (yes, on the OUTSIDE of the boat!) and it's all extra work to be done.

So a drop in quality of Tim Tyler shells and more messy work from Ben Harp means more money to spend for us. Sadly, I feel it also means that people will come to realise that buying "one of the best" isn't always the quality experience that one might hope for. Oh, and when they washed the boat down after taking her out of the water, all the "blacking" just came off with the pressure washer!

On a more positive note, our friends Dave & Irene helped us clean up some of the extra foam inside the boat and to create a rough box model of the proposed rear steps and engine cover. I've drawn up a structure to implement and we'll get the wood etc. to build it before we see the boat next, which might well be when she's painted.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The Big Day

Living some distance from Stone, where the boat was due to be put in the water, Sal and I made the trek to Stone the evening before.

We were up early and arrived at Tim Tyler's factory in Hixon after the crane but before the haulier and so were able to see the whole process. Whilst we waited for the lorry, Ben started up the engine; happy smiles were exchanged as she clattered into life. Sal wandered through the sprayfoamed boat, which looked hauntingly like snow-driven fence panels albeit somewhat more yellow in colour.

Ben and the haulier set about attaching the crane's lifting chains to two thick cables slid under the boat. As the chains took the tension, the steel cables rubbed against the primer and Sal and I made a mental note that proper boat lifting harnesses would have to be used when transporting her south after being painted!

The lorry arrived and with consummate skill the crane driver, lorry driver and the guys on the ground placed 'Net Profit onto the extended trailer bed. A few large straps to hold her down, final checks and we were headed for Stone Boatbuilders' yard.

Mr. KnowNothing (that's me) asked the crane driver if he could make sure we were facing towards the locks when we were in the water to save the time required to find a winding hole and come back. He said he would see what he could do, but it might not be possible because of the length of the boat and how far he could safely reach across the canal to spin her around.

Well, you see, that is service, when someone tries to do what you want if they can; and sure enough, he was just able to manage it and so our heartfelt thanks to Steve Foster's Cranes; they are the business if you want your boat lifted (or just turned round!)

Stone Boatbuilders were also great. They were patient and helpful whilst we ummed and erred over what we needed for the boat, letting us try everything (including tiller tubes to see what size we needed) and were even kind enough to help us fit the front button after spotting us looking bemused by four chains and associated chain tensioners. :o)

So, kitted out with fenders etc. we set off to deliver 'Net Profit to her next destination, the boat painters. There's a bit of an unexpected but unavoidable hiccup in the painting schedule, so it will be a while before Net Profit is down south, but we are going to try to get "up North" to fit out the basic structure of the "cockpit" and stairs over the engine. Otherwise, we will be trying to make up our minds about such philosophical questions as:

  • Shall we have a gas-less boat?
  • If we have a gas-less boat, what form of extra electrical power shall we have, or will we try to wing it on 8 batteries and see how we go?
  • If we do have gas on the boat, shall we run the oven with it as well as the hob? Will we stick with our original plan of diesel heating?
  • Should we run a back boiler on the stove in addition, or will we regret it as it tends to make the stove and chimney soot up?

More on our deliberations later...

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Preparing for the big day

As we approached the big day of the launch we discovered just what the term "sailaway" means.

It means that, despite spending well over £30,000, you won't get any ropes. OK I said, fair enough, you don't need ropes to sail away, you only need them when you stop and we are new to this game so let's not pick holes. So we ordered some ropes and ordered a bilge pump and some stern grease whilst we were at it.

I can't remember at what point exactly we discovered that we wouldn't be getting a tiller arm (is that the right term, the brass tube and wooden handle you need to steer?) but this became apparent in one of our more and more fraught exchanges with Ben & Kelly Harp, who didn't seem to see customer service in the same way that we did.

Now to my mind, steering is an important part of sailing away, but apparently you can just sail away in circles and that's fine. We are new to this, I said to Sal... We would have obtained a suitable piece of tube ahead of the day, but despite asking Ben repeatedly about the diameter required we never found out. We only received the answer to "what kind of primer will she have?" when Ben stumbled over some empty tins outside Tim Tyler's yard. We are new to this and boatbuilders obviously work differently to other suppliers of expensive items.

We included a stainless water tank in our specification. I was surprised to find that it wasn't fitted, just slung under the front deck without the filler connected to a hole in the deck as I had assumed. Sal and I looked at each other and realised that you don't need a connected tank to set sail. Fair enough I suppose.

Still, apart from the missing knob on the throttle (no point in asking Ben about that) and the spray foam over the glass in the portholes and on the side doors, she seems to be pretty much what we had hoped for and ready to undergo her very gradual metamorphosis into a real fitted out narrowboat.

So, we obviously have a lot to learn and need to adjust our expectations.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Where it all began

About 5 years ago, we bought a share in an Ownerships narrowboat called Inglewood. We had 5 years of good holidays and always promised ourselves that one day we would have a boat of our own.

Well, Sally's Internet trading company (which has been operating for about the same length of time) has finally turned enough profit to supply a dividend that could nearly purchase a sailaway narrowboat. So with a bit of effort, the remaining money was found and our order placed with Ben Harp narrowboats for a 58 foot Tim Tyler traditional sailaway, floored, sprayfoamed and battened, with a Beta 43 engine. So now you know where the boat's name comes from - 'Net Profit.

We will no doubt be seeking advice from other self-builders over the coming months and we hope that the problems we face and overcome may help others do the same.

'Net Profit is currently waiting to be painted - Sally felt that we would be more inspired to fit out a boat that looked the part on the outside, and I have come round to the idea that she is right.

So, we will pop up some pictures of her launch until we have something better to add.