Fire extinguishers – a rant!

How, in this day and age, can it cost as much to refill a fire extinguisher as it does to buy a new one.

Surely it could be done for 50p. A bit of powder, screw the top on, pressurise – job done.

Today I am addressing some of the critical failure points for a new boat safety certificate. Zulu has a BSC valid for another two years, but there are a number of issues which would fail instantly if I had her retested today. Fire extinguishers is one of them, as not only does she not have enough (should have three) but the two which are installed are both empty.

It never struck me before as normally I am surrounded by serviceable fire extinguishers and don’t give them a second thought. Now I am sitting looking at a defunct empty one and am thinking how vulnerable I would be on a boat with which I am not yet totally familiarised, if I actually needed to tackle a fire, so today its off to the shop to have them refilled… no chance!

I therefore feel really aggrieved, not just that I have just had to pay out sixty quid for three brand new ones (yes I do know that Lidl occasionally do small ones for a fiver), but also that I now have two perfectly good looking empty ones which are destined for the bin, or ebay. Or maybe I will just have the boat tested then put them empties back for show (NOT!!!).

If anyone has any use for the two empties (1kg and 2kg), then I presume you will know how to get them refilled. Can you let me in on the secret?

Rickmansworth and beyond

Zulu Warrior at Croxley Green, Grand UnionThis is almost our first cruising log entry. Day 1 didn’t really count as we only went to Tesco in Rickmansworth, so this weekend will be the first real test for Zulu Warrior. All week I have been trying to contact the various boatyards to see about getting some work done on the boat – dry dock or crane required. I won’t name names but getting in touch with boatyards has proved to be a bit of a problem – most are on voicemail – understandable if the owner is up to his elbows in oil, but unfortunately nobody at all has replied to my messages, not even those left in person.

One boatyard answered the phone instantly, dealt with my questions and called me back first thing next day when they had received a copy of my survey report by post. They then came to visit the boat to preview the work and offered to do start this week.

So far so good then. If all goes according to plan I will let you know how the work goes once it is done – right now I don’t want to tempt fate.

I had a lovely weekend leaving Rickmansworth and heading north at a very leisurely pace. After being used to a modern diesel engine which only ticks over comfortably at around 900 rpm, the old SR3 is a delight, with a slow running speed of, I would guess, 400 rpm which allows for cruising at maybe 1mph; wonderful for passing moored boats and taking in the countryside. Even up to full 3 mph (I don’t think 4 is possible) the engine isn’t labouring too much and she makes hardly any wash at all, which is marvellous compared with most boats I have steered. The boat has been steady as a rock – its possible to pop inside, put the kettle on and return to the tiller without finding the bows running up the nearest bank, and when reverse is required we stop in a straight line. Without knowing the engine history we definitely need an urgent service, but the most important work right now is to get a small amount of plating done to the bows and a pair of new diesel tanks. And even more importantly we got to our destination without any problem at all.

So right now Zulu has an appointment with a crane on Tuesday. I can’t believe how fast this is all happening!

Under the green – is green

I spent the first night on board yesterday.  Zulu has a fairly new Morso Squirrel solid fuel stove, which blew back a room full of smoke as soon as I lit some test kindling.  My new smoke detector works!  Even with the door closed smoke oozed out around the edge – time for a new rope seal I thought, so today its all smoke and no fire I’m afraid.  The door glass is horribly blackened and although the flue appears quite clear, it could obviously do with a chimney brush running through it.  So I set to, scrubbing the glass clean, removing the firebricks and throat plate, sweeping the flue and emptying the ash can several times.  A quick trip to the chandlers for some heat resistant rope to seal the door and a pot of special glue to fix it with and then put it all back together again.

An hour later my hands are black, the stove is clean and blacked, the new door seal is in place and the fire is roaring in the grate with a smoke free cabin.  How very satisfying to bring a neglected item back to life in such a short time – I can only hope that the rest of the boat is this easy!

Venturing outside with a Cillit Bang spray (where on earth did they get this name?), a bucket of water and various cloths, sponges and scourers I made an effort to cut through the green coating which seems to form on all waterside fixtures after a year or three.  Under the years of grime and algae there was indeed paint; green paint – and within an hour a much more respectable looking boat was beginning to appear.  Same on the front cratch cover – a little test revealed a fully serviceable green cratch cover beneath the algae, which will be cleaned this weekend.  Quite unusual for a Harborough boat to have a covered cratch too – and a Wilsons one to boot!

So from under the green grime my green boat is emerging.  I may even need to get the polish out to make her look even smarter, but theres a long way to go before we cease to be grungy.  I do intend to paint her within the next few weeks, but for now, she will have to remain anonymous green.  Right now I too am grungy and green – so its off to the shower (I hope!).

Zulu Warrior shrinks to original size

Zulu was first licenced in 1973 at 49 feet, but examining the old log books and paperwork she has apparently grown over the years.

Its probably quite common to have two lengths for a boat – the real length and the length on the licence. Zulu Warrior seems to have several to choose from.

Surveyed in January 2008, she was found to be 56 feet long.

Advertised by Yourmove in January 2007 she was 54 feet long. According to the web she was also a one bedroom house in those days, but then they are Estate Agents and definitely not boat brokers.

Advertised for sale earlier this week she was still 54 feet long, but she seemed to go through a 52 foot stage during the mid eighties according to her old log books.

I am relieved to say that now unencumbered by the undergrowth along her moorings I was able to run a tape measure along the towpath where she turns out to be a modest 49 feet after all. I do hope she doesn’t grow again – I like her just as she is.

Zulu Warrior – my new narrowboat!

Zulu Warriro
Zulu Warrior is a 56 foot Harborough Marine narrowboat from the early 1970s and seems to have an interesting history. In case you missed my earlier posting, I have just purchased her today.

No ordinary ex-hireboat this; she was apparently one of two narrowboats attached to HMS Warrior and operated secret missions from Cowley Peachey on the Grand Union during the early 1980s.

HMS Warrior turns out to be an alias for Northwood Headquarters, almost on the doorstep of Rickmansworth, and of course the secret missions turned out to be a perk of those based there, who could take a break from playing with ships and turn their hand to narrowboating on their days off. More of which later, as I have uncovered the instruction manuals handed to crews on their busmans’ holidays warning the professional mariners of “the difficult handling characteristics of a single screw, 50 ft long narrow craft which has little draft” Section 0307, subsection (c.).

Today she is all mine – money has changed hands – Bill of Sale has been drawn up and signed and insurance has been arranged, keys handed over and after a quick engine check Zulu Warrior was prised off her Rickmansworth mooring of some 15 years, the remains of her rotton ropes falling apart rather than becoming untied, and the green slime still wont wash off my hands.

Yesterday the engine started for demo purposes – today it fired up instantly and as Zulu left her berth for the first time in months, if not years she left her smoky trail through next door’s potting shed. Why did the neighbours smile and wave? Do they know something I am as yet unaware of?

Our first few hundred yards showed she hasn’t forgotton how to be a boat – nice steady Lister SR3 note, stops in a straight line, even goes backwards in a straightish line. These old boats are great! Down Batchworth Lock we went – carefully trying not to bump her thin bits too hard – planning a good dump at the bins (green rope fragments mainly) we were foiled by BWB having “regrettably had to close the refuse point” for reasons unknown, and so on we went to Tesco Rickmansworth boldly completing our first mile without any known incidents.

And thats where we are right now – not on the Tesco moorings as this is now night and overnight mooring is banned there, but opposite where BWB signage informs us that mooring is restricted to 14 days per calendar year. That’ll do for now!

Lazy Sunday afternoon? No chance!

Well its taken eight months to make my second post, so it better be a good one!

Sunday 6th April started with snow. Not the light sprinkling which the weather forecast for the North, but a good old three or four inches – whoopee! Snow! Its snowing!! What better thing to do than to turn over and go back to sleep.

Radio 4 reminded us that it always used to snow in April, so this isn’t necessarily reverse global warming at work and the weather forecast reminded us that they had correctly predicted snow for the North. What about us in the SOUTH – its snowing here too, but apparently nothing worth confirmation by the Beeb.

Poking the stove to revive last night’s embers, I turned the TV on just in time to see the local news celebrating the freaky weather by inviting us to mail in our photos of the chaotic aftermath of the blanket of white. We were shown “some we already have” which mainly consisted of a man and his daughter standing on a lightly covered patch of snow – certainly we had suffered worse than this but at least we were now not alone in noticing.

Oh yes – I almost forgot. Just before lunch I took a look at some narrowboats for sale on the web and by teatime I had bought one.  Another one, that is; I already have one but something on this now sunny afternoon told me that one simply wouldn’t be enough this summer. Zulu Warrior was about to be revived from its residential slumbers.