On our return home from the Llangollen, we reminded ourselves of the beautiful scenery captured on camera. The picture below is only one of the many we have. This one was taken from the Corn Mill on the bridge in Llangollen over the River Dee, check the pub out - great food & good beer.
Our friends Dave and Pauline Boardman on their boat, aptly named All Aboardman, joined us on the cruise with our boat Miss Ellie and we would re-count many stories of our trip, some of which were hilarious!
"Remember Fradley Junction Dave & Pauline?" That is one trip I would certainly repeat.
Here's Dave & Pauline taking a break on a bench, literally!! I think they're both asleep.
It was now the 23rd June 2015, we had been away for around 5 weeks. The Lister engine had been taken out and the Boatman's cabin started...but this was far less than I expected. I thought we would have the replacement engine fitted and the cabin would be finished by this point.
Something I would soon learn: You need a lot of patience when building a boat and this was something I lacked after all the previous problems we experienced. Things would get tense and sometimes very tense during the months ahead, but through all of it, Dave Bixter and his team, just worked methodically on all the boats that came and went during my time there, including mine when they had the time.
Things I had to remember were: they accepted a part-built boat without question; got me booked in quite quickly and also allowed me to start working on the boat myself. On reflection both Dave and Deborah Bixter helped me more than I ever knew at the time and I should thank them for putting up with my constant groaning.
This is The Beer Boat lying in the dry dock at Grantham Bridge. I had checked what work was needed initially, which was to work out where all the electrics and plumbing was going. With my head down, I didn't have a clue where to start. But soon I would, I kept telling myself and then this boat would get finished.
We had initially tried to get the spare parts that were missing from the Lister JP3 engine, but the administrators assistant at Hudson's seemed very evasive. We could not get the answers on the spare parts at all until a day that Dave Bixter spoke to them and it became apparent they wanted us to "pay for the parts" at an exorbitant cost. I wasn't going to put anymore money into an engine I'd already paid for, and after losing so much, we decided to accept Dave's offer on a reconditioned Russell Newbery DM2 engine.
Prior to taking the trip to the Llangollen, we were able to take advantage of one of Midland Chandlers "Freaky Friday" sales and was able to get 20% off anything we bought and obtain15% off for the next 6 months. We were able to buy a PRM Gearbox for the Russell Newbery, a Victron Inverter, Morso stove, stove pipes and chimneys
Pumps, accumulators, Mansfield traveller toilet, and lots of accessories. Dave picked up all the bits from Midlands and kept them at the yard for us.
We were now at the point in time when the boat should have been finished by Hudson's, but clearly we were way behind schedule... by about 6 months. I asked Dave could I make a start on the wiring and plumbing whilst in the dry dock and he kindly agreed.
I naively thought there would be some sort of wiring diagram available due to the collection of different colour wires coming out of the roof near the proposed fusebox in the engine room, so this prompted me to search for answers on some discussion forums. I was directed towards another Hudson boat owner in Cheshire who kindly agreed to let me view his boat and take photographs, The boat turned out to be "Brigand" and the owner Kenton Lock could not be more helpful, I was able to glean enough information from the layout of switches to equipment fitted to have some idea on what I needed to do. The boat Brigand happened to be one of the boats we viewed at Steve Hudson's yard back in July 2014 which had convinced us to use Steve as our builder, the quality of fit out was superb.
Now armed with some information I looked at the empty shell with wiring hanging out everywhere and wondered where the hell to start.
I drew a rough plan of the wires, tracing each and every single one and working out the circuits involved, switch points, fuse points, junction points earth wires, feed wires. In reality my long experience in the motor trade paid off quite well, the wiring was quite easy really, I even drew my own wiring diagrams. Next job I went to Bedazzled lighting and purchased all the Led lights, and to a builders merchant for all the light switches, within a few days all the lights were fitted along with some of the switches and an old battery Dave let me use, now there was light!! I could see what I was doing...next job...plumbing.
I checked all the installed pipework below the sub-floor and managed to work out the pipe runs for the radiators.
Now I was in charge, I even had the choice where to put them - managed to order some decent column rads via Amazon, a bit heavier than planned but lovely and toasty when hot.
One of the radiators pictured above in the engine room, also got some lovely rad valves via screwfix.
A few days earlier also managed to pick up a lincoln stove going cheap. It took two of us - grunting and wheezing - to lift it inside the boat. This one was going to be fitted in the back cabin.
These were a real must-have, back in the day. They would have been used to keep the whole family warm; heat water for washing and cook the dinner. I was settling for the warmth as we were fitting a full size shower and modern kitchen so this little furnace wasn't going to work too hard in the years to come.
As mentioned earlier, the engine wasn't yet fitted, but whilst I was away for a couple of days, I came back and saw this sitting on the once empty bearers!
To the untrained eye, it doesn't look too impressive, but once it starts up you can feel the power reverberate through the entire boat. This engine once ran a generator on a large ship, so I'm told back, in 1957 or thereabouts. Now it was going to move a 67 foot steel hulk of a boat through the water at a mind boggling 4mph!! (Thats the speed limit on canals, however 2 or 3mph is fine with me.)
The engine was also going to get a brass makeover and would look even better.
Turning round 180 degrees, Liam Smith, the resident joinery man at Dave's, had made some more progress on the BMC (boatmans cabin). The oak used in the majority of his work was all produced on site from raw timber, planed, shaped, smoothed and crafted. This guy knows wood and he is very very good. (Sounds like a song there!) Also he works at an unbelievable pace, he even sprays all the varnish on prior to fitting himself.
It now seemed like some real progress was being made. I had started smiling again - nothing was going to stop us now. By August, the BMC was almost complete, including the bed - cleverly tucked away in the cupboards. Liam had built this following a 1930's drawing he used.
My mind was boggling with all the things left to do but I carried on each day getting little bits done when the other guys had to work on other boats. Liam was going to make a cupboard in the corner of the engine room for the fuseboxes and all the wiring that had to be connected, including the mains. I could now start planning the bathroom because the engine room wall was up, this room was going to be easy as I had plenty of experience tiling and plumbing and from watching Liam, I had picked up a few joinery skills - although I'm sure he would disagree! ;)
Very shortly the hot water tank, or Calorifier as it's known, would be fitted on the floor of the BMC under the seating -then all the radiators and pipe work could be completed up to the points where taps would be fitted etc.
As things were now going well, so I decided to stay a little bit later one evening. Helen was back in London and I was staying on Miss Ellie 1 at Welton Haven Marina about 20 minutes drive from Hillmorton. For some reason, whilst working I turned towards the back door (forgetting the floor panels were missing in the BMC).
It's not a big drop but as I stepped forward I expected a floor but in a split second as I lost my footing I put my hand out and just caught one of the door knobs which wrenched the ligaments in my right hand middle finger. I could not bend it, I thought it was broken, I couldn't believe how such a small movement had caused so much pain. This is not what I needed, progress was good and now I had to drive to hospital in Rugby.
After waiting for a relatively short time, a quick checkover and Xray showed that nothing was broken just torn ligaments.The nurse offered to dress it to give it support but I declined thinking that I'd be alright in the morning.
Eventually I got back to the boat, heated up some food that Helen had left for me before she went to London. Had a beer, showered and headed into bed.
In the morning, when I woke up, my hand felt like someone had hit it with a club hammer.
After a few hours working on the boat, it was apparent that nothing useful was going to be done by me until the swelling had at least gone down.
Have you ever noticed that whenever you hurt somewhere on your body it's always the first thing you bang again when you're lumbering about - the rest of the day was spent swearing under my breath.
The next part of our story will see us creating a working bathroom and planning the bedroom.