Thames barge race weekend

So it is the midde of July and we have been out in the boat quite a few times already this year.  This has included a number of trips down the river, anchoring overnight in the stour or Orwell and returning late on Sunday.  On various of these trips we have had guests.  For the Thames Barge Weekend, Lisa and Christine joined us and we set off on Friday evening so that we could get a nice quiet spot overnight.  We were a little late…some people may not have heard the phrase “tide and time wait for no man” (or woman), so we missed freeflow through the lock. We had out and it is a little breezy but quite nice. Unusually we made a little mistake in the lock and slightly marked the hull but cif or magic sponges will get rid of the mark.  We just need to chalk it up to experience.  We decide to pick up a mooring buoy opposite Suffolk yacht harbour which is nice sheltered from the wind and settle down for the evening.

The Thames barge race is run from just down from Pin Mill out to sea and back again on this occasion and we can see the start line from our mooring.  imageIn fact from the start line all of the Thames barges aim straight at us since we are on the inside of the first imagecorner in the river! It gave us the opportunity to put the camera through its paces.

So we spent a few hours taking photos and fishing with wonderful views of the river and fantastic weather, by English standards. The may also have been a small bottle of Prosecco drunk as the girls all caught up having not seen each other for some time.

The sailing vessels look wonderful and completely different to the yachts you generally see so to see a number of large barges coming down together is a sight to behold.

Once all of barges had gone past, we decided to go off ourselves and pop our noses out to the North Sea for a short while before anchoring down the Stour for the afternoon for music, some fine food and “fishing”, where you dip your rod and don’t catch anything…..a bit like a good Saturday night when you were young and unattached  🙂

However, with the weather we agreed that we would try and get onto half-penny pier and caught up with the great guys there with their amazing stories – you know who you are.  On Sunday, we wandered round Harwich and eventually decided to go round the napoleonic fort.

When we returned to the boat, Maria started preparing the cocktails while Lisa and Adam started attracting “randoms” to join us and chat.  Then, Amanda and Mark arrived on their new little (and second) yacht, Bobby. They rafted up next to Mariadz and joined us for a drink.  We discussed the possibility of staying overnight, but Bobby was bumping up and down on the Easterly like Captain Pugwash’s boat, and so they decided to find themselves somewhere quiet to stay the night.  A fantastic nights sleep and then the next day we took our time and meandered up the river.

A fantastic relaxing weekend. 🙂

Sorting the engine – Part 3

The engine saga continues but as Lindsey at Seapower told us, it is lots of small steps that get us closer to the goal and improves the engine.

We started this process a little while ago by adding sensible lighting into the engine room so that you could see what you are doing.  The LED strip lights are brilliant and really let you see what is going on in all corners of the engine room.  This revealed the full horror that was the engine room floor with a mix of old oil stains etc so this was cleaned up and made spotless so that we will see if there are any problems with the engine.  In the interim we had run the engine and found some oil back in the bilge so clearly a proble that needed to be investigated some more.

The next stage of the engine improvement programme was combined with an education for the crew.  In the future, when we are travelling we will have to be as self sufficient as possible and that means being able to maintain the engine.  We had not personally serviced the engine and so Lindsay agreed to give us a course on how to maintain the Yanmar engine.  This took nearly all day since Adam did most of the work himself under the watchful eye of the engineers and this was the first stage, more advanced engine maintenance will be covered in a subsequent day.

The stars of the show on this particular day were:

  • Lindsay, “The Master”, main role seemed to be telling everyone else what to do while chatting up the other skipper, a certain Mrs D 😉
  • Callum, “The talented apprentice”, actually did the guiding and was hands on
  • Adam, “the untalented apprentice”, got all the scrapped knuckles!
  • Maria, “the supervisor”, able to chip in “useful” comments from the safety of the navigation seat while chatting up Lindsay.

Lindsay started with a quick explanation of the various elements of the engine and a high level view of what we were going to do.  After this we set to work by draining the oil from the engine and the oil from the gearbox.  This was replaced with fresh lubricants.  So far so good, access and visibility are good.

it was then time to start to attack the filters.  The oil filter was quite simple and not too messy with a screw on and a screw off and then we were onto the fuel system.  Firstly, we had to shut down the fuel lines with “lobster” clips, I have no idea what they are called but they looked like red lobster claws to me :). The first stage filter mounted ahead of the engine looked simple enough and had a drain at the bottom of it.  We opened the drain and expected fuel or gunk to emerge, nothing. We loosened off the top bolts of the fuel filter but still nothing.  At this stage, we realised that the work was going to be a little more onerous than we first thought.  We would have to take apart the fuel filter and understand what was going on, and it was likely to get messy.  Having loosened off the top plate bolts we set to doing the same to the bolts lower down that hold the lower part of the filter to the case.  We also removed the fuel filter that needed to be replaced.  On inspection, this was filled with black gunk which was clearly part of the problem.  The lower half of the mechanism was also filled with black gunk and hence why the drain wasn’t working.  All of this needed cleaning up and then reassembling with some of the bolts being “fun” to access unless you had the hands of a five year old.  We eventually got this resolved and with a new filter we were ready to move onto the second fuel filter.  This was a simpler job, similar to the oil filter (I wonder whether this was the only one that had been changed on previous services).  Bleeding the fuel system was a lot easier than I had expected, I had heard stories of having to bleed each injector and had thought we may have to do that at sea if there was a fuel problem.  Actually on the Yanmar it is a lot easier with a single bleed screw at the top of the fuel pump above the fuel filter. So gearbox is done, fuel filters are done so onto the impeller.

We had recently had an overheat problem, which we think may have been related to us not double checking the coolant levels after the hot water system had been changed.  We made the mistake of checking the expansion tank which wasn’t being touched because the coolant level was so low. As part of our investigation of this we had spent some time looking into the cooling system to see what the problem was.  Again, in retrospect we should not have trusted the expansion tank to tell us the water level but that was a lesson learned.  As part of the investigation we had taken the cover off the impeller to check that it was working properly.  So this was familiar ground even if the access under the bottom of the engine isn’t perfect and it doesn’t give a good angle to see what you are doing. The plate coming off was easy and it was time to use the impeller remover, something to be added to our setup.  I couldn’t get it to bit on the screw and subsequently discovered that the central extractor bolt was too far in and was stopping me getting it attached to the impeller, another schoolboy error.  We got the impeller out which was consistent with being a couple of years old and in good condition.  In the past I have been clear where in the past things haven’t been done to the standards I would have expected.  One thing I have to say was that the was a fine selection of spares for impellers, oil filters and fuel filters (just a shame some of these had t been used….sorry couldn’t resist 🙂 ).

We were able to get he new impeller in placealthoug hat first it didn’t seem to want to go in without a bit of “jiggling”.  Lindsay had noticed a flaw in the impeller plate that was looking damaged, and for lack of a replacement, had filed down the reverse of the plate so that this could be used.  Clearly not a long term solution but certainly better than the part worn plate that was there.

The final step of the engine service was the fan belt change.  Our Yanmar comes with three fan belts which includes an aftermarket setup that appears to be bolted onto the front of the engine.  The two alternators had different ways of attaching to the engine and adjustment so this provided good experience.  We had also noticed that the fan belt and indeed alternator that had been added later were very loose and needed tightening up.  This could have been part of the reason that the engine seemed quite “rattly” although we had put that down to being an old diesel.

Callum and Adam set to work on these and we able to get everything changed.  We also tightened up the big aftermarket alternator to hopefully reduce the fan belt movement and alternator movement.  At this stage we saw what we think is the cause of the oil leak. One of the bolts securing the big alternator seems to have oil coming from it.  This will take a little more investigation but hopefully means that the oil leak can be resolved quickly. The proof of all this work of course is restarting the engine and this also went smoothly and I’m sure it is quieter and purrs a little more than it used to….

So next steps are to resolve the minor oil leak so our engine room floor can stay spotless and replace the older pipe work on the engine which with age combined with the slight overheat look a little worse for wear.  We will get them done and then hopefully the engine will feel it is being looked after properly.




WIFI or how do you think Maria gets all those food pictures on Facebook

This blog has been requested literally once. But I am not one to ignore the clamour of my only reader.

When we had the Dufour we had looked into this and decided to go with the RedBox from mailasail with the wifibat extender, an expensive solution that promised a lot. I thought I would be able to pretty much automatically switch between WIFI, 3G and satellite. This is a real techy solution and I don’t think it is as intuitive or simple to use as I would like (and I’m IT literate).  I also had problems using internet explorer and was told that the way to avoid these problems was to not use internet explorer!  Not great customer service.

So when we bought the Moody, I wanted to review what was available again and see if there was a simple solution to my problem. Preferably at less cost than the mailasail setup which although functionally rich is not cheap by anyone’s standards.

After some investigation, I came across the wifigear website which had been recommended on a number of forums and their Wifigear for boats product. Unfortunately, wifigear subsequently decided to stop offering this package. This package joined together a number of industry standard products to form an integrated solution for wifi and these can be bought individually.  This included a Bullet M2 Titanium wifi receiver, an Antenna, Power over Ethernet imageand a Ubiquiti Networks PICOM2-HP PicoStation M2-HP Router which allows the signal to be shared wirelessly.  image
Clearly this all works on 12V/24V and so we have access to this system without using the inverter.

With the inclusion of a MIFI (which allows up to 4G download), I am able to use WIFi where available and switch to a phone if needed.  I also need to understand where satellite phone technology is because I would expect that it would be possible to feed this into the setup at some stage.

That moves me onto the MIFI setup. I wanted something that would be fast so that we could stream TV if required.image  This sounds a good idea but with a 15GB monthly limit, it is very easy to blow that watching TV over a weekend! The MIFI needed to genuinely achieve 4G where available, apparently some marked as such do not do it. I thought the 4G would be a form of future proofing :).  We went for the Huawei 4G/LTE E5786 300 Mbps Wi-Fi Wireless Router – Black which has worked brilliantly.  With the “3” SIM card, you can travel aboard for up to thirty days and not pay any roaming data charges which also works very well for us, even though we also use it for the motorhome. You just need to keep an eye in usage, which is shown on the screen.  However, we do travel abroad a lot and these things are changing all of the time.  We have now moved over to EE who offer up to 15GB abroad a month as part of their 30GB plan. Post blog update…….the European usage is unrestricted within your plan since June 2017, so if you go for the 60gb plan you have that much data in Europe, at least until Brexit!

And all this means that Maria can post pictures of the gorgeous food she has prepared 🙂