Tuesday, 2 April 2013

So long, old girl..

Well, my posts here on this blog tell you the story of the last decade or so- a surge of enthusiasm in January, keep it up for Feb, then, er, another post in June, then.... wow, is it 2013 already?

A couple of weeks ago I had to finally concede that I'm never going to find the time to refit Anetka the way I'd like (ie a total rebuild from the hull up.) A young family and work commitments make it even less likely as time goes by.

So, the deal was done last week. A young fellow with more energy and time than me collected the keys and has already started remodeling Anetka into his dream home. Follow http://tugboattwitch.blogspot.co.uk/ for his progress, he's done more in a week than I did in the last 10 years..

My 15 year relationship with Anetka has finally come to a close, but I think we've parted on good terms- it seems kinder that she is finally being used and loved by someone rather than rusting away waiting for me to start work on her. Even if she never again steams down the Thames under her own power, as I so often dreamed of.

Thankfully, the new owner has no intention of messing with her lines; he's keeping the exterior totally original, which I'm really, really pleased about (I hate those angular plywood deckhouses you see plonked on top of so many beautiful boats.)

In some ways, the best thing about owning Anetka wasn't anything to do with the boat herself, it was that she gave me a passport into dozens of boatyards, wharves and towage firms (including trips out on big commercial tugs,) from the Solent to the Tyne, to which I would never have had access without first striking up a conversation about my little tug. I'll be forever grateful to her for that alone.

So long, old girl..

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Lifting the Spirits

...Actually lifting chunks of rusting iron, but it's a minor milestone in the project- pulling out the Rolls engine and dropping in the new Cat. Except, at the last minute, I decided to not do the second bit. This means renting a crane again later, but the added cost of this is, I think, outweighed by the advantages of having a totally empty engine room to clean and paint... and weld a new bulkhead into, which was the clincher- the idea of grinding and welding a few inches from my new yellow baby was too risky.

In hindsight this could have been done months ago rather than wait until the Cat turned up, but 20/20 and all that.. it's done now, and it feels great to have the space opened out. I can't wait to see it all painted.

The other job I'm looking forward to is cutting through the bulkhead between the current engine room and the aft cabin. When a boat has several watertight compartments, you can't really get a sense of the interior space- you enter each room via a ladder or steps, so they seem unconnected to each other. I've been pondering the necessity of retaining the watertight bulkheads- obviously most pleasure boats don't have them, but since it would be tricky to form a passage through the engine room anyway, I've decided to keep the current arrangement of two sets of steps from the wheelhouse, one to the forward cabin and the other to what will be the galley. I think I'm also going to put in a new watertight bulkhead to seal in the engine room, as insurance against flooding (all the through-hull fittings will be confined to this space) and also as a fire break. I've just scored a nice pair of watertight doors off ebay, they came from a WW2 motor torpedo boat, and have the proper central locking wheel with 8-point locks, they come with the frames and cost much less than the steel would be to make them. I also got a pair of stainless water tanks of exactly the right size from the same bloke.. thanks eBay (again.)

Anyway, here are some pics of the cranage- I also took out the old Lister donkey engine with the compressor and water pump it used to drive, and while I had the chance I removed the anchor for shotblasting and galvanising, if it's in ok nick beneath the scale and rust.

40 tonne crane set up (no, it's not a portakabin-crane, it's behind)

Bye-bye Rolls

empty engine room

Lister, pump and compressor destined for eBay

Old bilge piping out

Removed bilge piping and some ballast

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Boat? What boat?

Not a lot to report recently, except the cleaning out and painting of the small boiler room, which had 40 years worth of accumulated coal tar stuck to every surface that needed slowly grinding off... thanks again Ben. I had to buy a ducted ventilator fan to make it just about possible to work in there without the Guardian running an expose of appalling working conditions in Barking. It's been raining almost solidly for about 3 months now, and the leaking engine room cover doesn't make things any more pleasant. There are few more depressing sights than a boat with rain on the inside. Had there been glorious sunshine, more progress would doubtlessly have been made, albeit interspersed with lounging about on deck. As if.

But, to brighten the mood, and after a 6 month wait, my new yellow engine finally arrived yesterday! I was beginning to wonder whether it was just a figment of my imagination, but it's now in my workshop and Darren my workmate is already complaining about another large (boat-related) item getting in the way, so it must really exist (picture below as evidence.)

I have to admit that my initial surge of enthusiasm has abated somewhat over the last month or so- some days I swear I've even kind of forgotten all about her. Maybe this blog will reveal a boom-bust pattern in my passions which explains the lack of progress I seem to make, but I've decided to make sure at least something gets done every month so I don't lose interest completely. I've also been having the middle-of-the-night "is this a really stupid way to chuck away lots of money I can't really afford for the foreseeable future?" sweats, particularly after getting some quotes for blasting the hull. But I'm already in for the engine, so I guess I'm committed to throwing good money after good/bad. I think I'll avoid use of the word "committed" in future.

I've just heard today that we're all set to go with the crane for next week, so out with the Rolls and Lister, in with the Cat and Volvo genny... I'll try to remember to take some photos of this mini milestone.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Three Months..

It's the end of April already, nearly three months since I last posted... so no progress on the blog, but at least there was some in the real world. I'm beginning to worry that there might be a danger of a Dorian Gray-type aspect to this blogging thing- if I blog, perhaps nothing will happen on the boat, and vice versa.

Anyway, I did guess, based on previous form, that I'd rarely get down to Anetka, so I enlisted the help of Ben, who has spent a few days in the wet recesses of the engine room bilges scraping out the grease and black stuff accumulated over 40 years. Well done him. In anticipation of the arrival of the new motor, we decided to concentrate on the area that will form the new, shortened engine room, so the new lump could be craned in and positioned roughly in its final resting-place, without the need to get underneath it again. So I took out most of the old rotten steel piping from the bilges, and also removed all the old electric wiring from the area (there'd obviously been an electrical fire at some time in the past, judging by the large black area of crispy paint on the ceiling above the cable tray- I decided that I couldn't trust the remaining cabling, so I'll be renewing all the wiring in the future. I isolated all the circuits from the mains inlet and chopped it all up in situ with a grinder to aid removal (the cable has a steel sheathing so is really stiff and impossible to pull through holes.) With most of the fiddly bits out of the way, Ben could get in with a wire brush on a grinder and clean everything up, ready to paint. I imagine that only those who have owned a boat will understand the pleasure to be had looking at freshly painted bilges, after years of pretending nothing exists below the floor plates.

Here's some rubbish phone pics of the progress:

Ben doing sterling work

Engine room ceiling

wiring stripped out
old bilge piping removed

3 coats of International primer later

Nice! The angled section is where the original engine's flywheel was
I also heard this week that my new engine is almost ready to be dispatched to me- I actually paid for it in January, but there has been a series of hitches, mostly related to the fact that it's a brand-new fully-electronic job which was originally destined as a marine auxiliary engine. The diesel-specialist firm I'm getting it off have had a bit of a learning curve with regard to the electronic side, they assumed their Cat man with the laptop could just pop over and reprogram it to the power/speed settings I calculated that I need to suit my prop (Dave Gerr's propeller handbook is great for this), but it turns out that it needed its ECU flashing with different software, since whenever it was turned off and back on again, it decided it was still a 60Hz generator and ran at exactly 1800 rpm. Anyway, I think it's sorted now, having been flashed with the propulsion engine software. I bought a PRM 4:1 gearbox and R&D drive plate from Lancing Marine, which I sent to the diesel guys, who mounted it on the engine and painted the whole thing in Caterpillar yellow for me. I asked them to move the fuel and oil filter positions too, to make access easier (they were in a handy position for a generator, but not a propulsion engine sitting between the beds.) Anyway, the delay hasn't been a problem, since I wasn't ready for it. The base engine is made in the Perkins factory in the UK (model 1106), and is sold by them as a the Perkins Sabre propulsion engine for leisure (up to 300hp) and (in de-rated form) commercial use. The same unit is marketed by Caterpillar as the C6.6 auxiliary marine generator engine at 275hp.

With the imminent arrival of the Yellow Thing in mind, I spent a few hours last week undoing all my previous hard work and unbolting the highly-accurately aligned Rolls Royce I fitted a few years back but never plumbed in! This was a lot easier than installing it, taking only a couple of hours to remove the flexible coupling (I'm selling it with the engine/gearbox), and splitting the Twin Disc from the engine to make removal from the boat easier. I then took the turbocharger off the Rolls since it's in a vulnerable position right on the end of the manifold, and I didn't want it to catch the engine room cover as it's lifted out.

unbolting the flexible coupling
Twin Disc split from Rolls Royce
new PRM1000D4 gear and oil cooler

new marine Caterpillar C6.6 / Perkins 1106
with lick of paint, gearbox removed for testing engine

My first ever New Engine!

Hopefully my next post will involve a crane..

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

15 years

This is my first blog. I prefer online anonymity- I don't 'do' Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or any other flavour of digital socialising. But I've decided to take the plunge to document the re-fit of my Polish tugboat Anetka, which I've owned for 15 years and, frankly, done bugger all with. There have been a few false starts over the years, an occasional rush of bloody enthusiasm to the head, which have jointly amounted to little: a galley kitchen ripped out here, a bit of Hammerite brushed there. I'm currently in the throes of one of these optimistic dizzy spells, and having been entertained by the blogs of others in the same, ahem, boat in recent years ( http://thevoyageofwendyann2.blogspot.com/ , for instance,) I thought it might be of interest to a few people like myself (I know you're out there...) The more interesting, and also more selfish, reason for the blog, is that I've noticed that this kind of self-documentation seems to engender a greater desire to finish the project- an online audience regularly checking progress presumably has the same effect as the boss standing nearby at work. Even if the audience for this blog is a solitary person, I'll consider them my online employer. So here goes. I bought Anetka to live on, which I did, blissfully, for a year or so, until my as-then new partner Rachel moved on with me, an idea which proved so successful that within a few months she had moved 3000 miles away, where she vowed to stay until I had sorted out somewhere decent to live. So I walked out on Anetka. I'm glad to say Rachel and I are still together, nowadays sharing a house with our two fantastic sons. I didn't blame her at all, since Anetka was, when I acquired her, a working tug with no hot water, no bathroom, no toilet, no wardrobes. And no bed. I hadn't previously noticed any of these omissions, concentrating more on the advantages of intimately living alongside a 12 foot-long 2-stroke diesel engine, but the light of a female presence suddenly threw them into stark relief. So for the next decade, we lived in various East London flats, whilst Anetka lived a parallel life, changing moorings a few times (including a few years in the middle of the Thames just downstream of Tower Bridge, which was a fantastic position with a minor access problem- I kept a little skiff hidden between the wharf pilings on the riverbank, which at low tide necessitated a 25-foot climb down a ladder and a timed lunge into a bobbing dory. Often in darkness.) But, as some princess or other once said, there were three of us in this marriage. In the early years of my separation from Anetka, she occupied that area of the imagination which obscures whatever part of the brain is responsible for sensible decision-making, both financial and practical. Boats are expensive, even (especially) when you visit them only twice a year. But she did at least still figure in my imagination, from where she'd occasionally offer a dream or a reverie, usually involving a glorious homecoming to the seaside town of my childhood, Anetka proudly steaming between the piers towards the waving arms of my beaming family. As the years passed, these images grew fainter, and were almost blotted out entirely after the arrival of first one, then another, baby, with their innate ability to compress time into a dense block without spaces. The decree absolute for me and Anetka was surely imminent. I made enquiries about sale value. I checked out the best websites on which to advertise her. I cleared lots of my old junk off her. And then she sent me a dream in the night. Me. Rachel. Two Boys, a few years older than now. Anetka, carrying us into an as-yet unvisited harbour, somewhere possibly foreign, but an adventure even if not. I awoke, dizzy. If I'm taking the family with me, I need a good, reliable engine, no argument. So I bought a new engine. Then I started this blog.