Page published 22 August 2023

Go to Top Monday 14 August - More about the Fuel Tank

Diesel Fuel Label on deck

The deck-mounted label the BSS Examiner had missed.

My last report ended with the decision to let Moonfleet remove the base unit in the galley that held the sink. It was not so much the unit itself I was concerned with but the various pipes that were attached to the back of the cabin lining. By the Friday I found myself slightly disappointed that they hadn't been able to find the staff to remove it before the weekend, as any delay in getting the tank out also meant measurements would not be able to be taken and a delay in ordering a new one.

However, while discussing the removal of the tank an issue was raised I hadn't considered. How much fuel was there in the tank. It would need to be emptied. I had no idea and said I had been expecting to find a wooden stick somewhere on board that was kept for tank dipping purposes.

With nothing but the torch available in my phone to hand, off I went to the boat and unscrewed the filler cap. To my surprise - but thinking about it afterwards it should not have been one - I found, bolted to the underside of the filler cap was what might best described as a three foot long steel ruler, marked at equally spaced points 4-8-12-16-20. It seems we have a tank that should hold a little over 20 gallons. I'd expect, at cruising speed, to run the engine at 2,000rpm revs or a little less and at that rate to consume a gallon in about four hours.

I was still more frustrated, when I arrived in the middle of the afternoon on the Monday, to be told the the guy assigned to the task had not turned up that morning, but I was assured someone would be on the case the next day.

It left me with little to do but take a photograph of something I had been worrying about over the weekend. The BSS failure notice included the question:

Is the fuel in use correctly and clearly marked on or adjacent to the fuel filling point?

To which the examiner had responded:

Needs a Diesel label at or near the diesel filling point on deck.

Knowing that I could easily be out of touch with the latest BSS regulations I had had a chat about it with Kathy, at Moonfleet. She brought up the current regulations on her computer and read them to me. She told me she had been aware of the issue herself but had thought it might be because the sign or lettering would need to be red. However, it turned out there is nothing in the regulations that specifies a colour for that particular sign.

I could only conclude that the examiner is less than six foot tall and could only see the faint outline of a missing label beneath the window near the filler. Had he been taller he might have been able to see the plaque fitter just inside the toe rail.

Go to Top Tuesday 15 August - The Tank Ready to Go

I got to the boat at 10:30 expecting to find someone in the early stages of removing the cabin linings to get at the tank, but was amazed to find it had been removed already and the tank was sitting in the middle of the cabin. The guy who was doing the work was about to leave. We had a brief chat and he proved to be the third member of Moonfleet's staff to say he was impressed with the build quality of the boat. He reckoned that it was rare to find all the "hidden" timber in a boat varnished.

The Fuel Tank

What was found as I stepped into the cabin. I didn't check the contents.

The Fuel Tank

I must assume that the contents of the tank had not been emptied.

Go to Top Tuesday 15 August - The Heater Control

I only had a brief time available, and after taking the photographs of the tank didn't do more than unscrew the block of wood on which Marlex Marine mounted the central heating control. I've previously how I dislike its rather home made look. All I did was check how easy it might be to replace the wood with something that looked more like the original and that would, perhaps, better match the original bilge pump switch plate.

The space behind the mounting plate

What's behind the current mounting plate for the heater control.

The Marlex Marine wooden plate

The non-square, varying radius corners, off-centre control panel

I could see no real justification for making the plate so large and felt it a shame that it appeared to be much larger than necessary. With the screw holes for the larger mounting plate spread further apart than the originals it now means we are committed to an over-large control switch plate.

Go to Top Wednesday 16 August - The Tank is Gone

Jerry Cans

Jerry Cans full of fuel emptied from the tank that stands outside Moonfleet's Shed.

Wednesday was another busy day, that included getting Diana to her chemotherapy session, but on the way home Diana and I found time to drop in on the boat as it had been suggested that the old tank would now be with Marine Weld in North Walsham and there might be some idea of the cost of the replacement available. That was not the case. The tank was still awaiting transportation.

I had been told last week that they only fit stainless steel tanks unless a customer demands something else. Although I had read a little about alternatives I was happy to go with a tank that should outlast us by a long way as it should add value to the boat. I was also happy to be told that they always go to Marine Weld, in North Walsham for stainless steelwork as that's the company I used, and was very happy with when I commissioned a tabernacle for my SeaHawk. (The pictures you see on that page are all from Just 17, my old boat)

However, I was given the chance to confirm some details of the design for the new tank. I just accepted all their ideas. For example, the old tank had outlets for the heater and engine that were very close to the bottom of the tank. I was told they normally specify long tubes that hang down from the top as that better keeps the inlet clear of any sludge that may build up over the years.

Go to Top Thursday 17 August - The Galley Clean Up

It was around 16:00 when I found time to get to the boat. I'd come with a bucket and sponge. As can be seen in yesterday's photo, I had found that clear water was slowly filling the boat. It seemed that it was draining from the now open ended pipes that had been disconnected from the cabin lining. It took a little while to dry things out before I remembered to take some photos.

dried bilges

The bottom of the boat once I had mopped up all the water in the boat. To the left of the bucket is hole through the hull where the galley sink drains.

After I had removed all the water the plan for the rest of the afternoon was to clean the grime that was now exposed after the cabin lining had been removed. It wasn't just the dirt on the tank stand. What can't really be seen in the photos was the dust and cobwebs various ledges found inside the boat.

dirt around the site of the fuel tank

The tank was gone but the dip stick, attached to the filler cap, remained - as did more than 40 years of grime on tank stand.

Until preparing this page, I hadn't noticed that the tank dipstick was missing from Tuesday's photographs. I guess it must have been laying of the side deck at the time, but I was certainly conscious of it as I began the clean up. I had to go to the tap 30 yards from the boat a number of times to get some clean water.

It turned out to be a much longer job than I'd expected and having remembered to take some "before" pictures at the beginning of the session it was nearly 17:50 when I took my two "after" photographs immediately before leaving for home.

The galley cabin lining

The galley cabin lining was now in the saloon along with all the rest of the clutter.

The tank stand almost gleamed by the end of my cleaning session. I could begin to understand why varnishing the unseen wood so impressed Moonfleet's staff. If the wood had not been sealed in some way then I could never have achieved such a satisfactory result. It wasn't just the tank stand that had been clean up. I had also remembered wipe the grime from the cabin lining, now added to all the other stuff moved to the saloon. The area where you see the vent for the cooker was also looking a lot better.

The tank stand

The tanks stand is close to looking as it would have done the day the tank was originally fitter some 45 years ago.

Go to Top Friday 18 August - Cabin Clutter

I arrived at the boat shortly before 11:30. I had realised that yesterday, in my rush to get home, I had failed to take a picture of the sink base unit. This had been lying on the bed in the aft cabin since it was removed on Tuesday and had received similar treatment to the cabin lining yesterday. That also gave me the prod to taker a current picture of the contents of the saloon.

sink unit on the bed

The mattress protector is doing its job, taking some of the muck found on the galley base unit.

dumping ground

It seems that if you need to store something while working on the boat the saloon is the place to put it.

Go to Top Friday 18 August - Roof Cleaning Begins

With the photography out of the way I set about cleaning the roof. I had ordered a can of "Owatrol Gelcoat Restorer" which had arrived in the post this morning. The instructions for its application are detailed and specific, but it promises great things if done right. It's not a cleaner or polish, but an oil that is designed to sink into the gel coat surface and should "restore the colour and appearance of dull and faded surfaces caused by exposure to sunlight, rain and pollution". If one of the reviews of the product is to be believed I'm hoping that I won't have to do more to the superstructure than hose it down for the next two or three years.

Here are some quotes from the instructions:

Good application practice
Cover and protect everything you do not wish to treat.
Apply between +5°C and +35°C.
Do not apply in direct sunlight or to hot surfaces.
Do not allow excess MARINE POLYTROL® to dry and create a film on the surface.
Wear protective gloves and clothing.
Always work in areas that can be completed in 10-20 minutes.
Test a small area first.
Surface preparation
General directions
Surfaces must be clean, dry and free of dirt, grease, grime and mildew.
All waxes, polishes, silicone etc. should be completely and thoroughly removed.
Treat mildew with a 50/50 bleach/water solution. Scrub solution on to surface and allow to stand 10-15 minutes, rinse thoroughly.
Plastic and Gelcoat
Clean surface with DECK CLEANER*.
Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry a minimum of 12 hours.
Plastic and Gelcoat
Apply a liberal even application of MARINE POLYTROL® to saturation using a brush.
Allow to work 10-20 min.
Wipe off excess MARINE POLYTROL® with a clean lint free cloth before it becomes tacky.
Gently polish with a soft lint free cloth to a new sheen.
If required repeat above process, ensuring that MARINE POLYTROL® does not create a film on the surface.

Much of that is pretty standard stuff. I am just hoping that the chalky look to much of the surface of the roof is not a sign of old coatings but more the effect of time and ultraviolet light. The instructions then talk of a special product for cleaning plastic and gel coat, which must be given a minimum 12 hours drying time. I didn't buy that. Instead I got to work with a stiff bristled scrubbing brush dipped in clean water containing a squirt of washing up liquid.

The boat roof

I worked down the port side of the roof with just water and scrubbing brush from bow to stern. That alone considerably improved its appearance.

Go to Top Friday 18 August - Gearbox Noise Query

While working on the roof a guy approached me to ask if I was the owner. It turned out that, with his wife, he lives aboard what he tells me is an old motorised houseboat. He was the one that Moonfleet had employed to put my gearbox together. He was curious about the story behind the job and wanted to know more.

I related the long tale of how I had been concerned about what I took to be transmission noise that I thought may have been caused by rigid fixing along the lengthy prop shaft and how the surveyor was concerned about the gearbox itself after moving the control slowly between forward and reverse, a concern that I had after he got me to try it.

I continued with how the boatyard at Buckden had done a whole lot more than examine the gearbox and quote for a fix to stop the noise and how I had picked the gearbox up from a guy in Norfolk to whom it had been sent and returned when his work had not fixed the issue. It turned out the guy who had approached me knew of the gearbox man and his work on Mercury engines.

It seems that rather than do the work Moonfleet had initially been talking about, buying a new spline kit and having that fitted, the gearbox was just reassembled with a replacement second hand input shaft fitted. It seemed that this guy felt that he hadn't done anything that was a definite fix any particular issue and this is why he was curious about the supposed fault.

I invited him aboard to take a look at the shaft bearings along the length of the shaft as I was beginning to feel that my original diagnosis may well be the cause of the noise about which I had first been suspicious, although I couldn't imagine that was related to the noise about which the surveyor had been concerned.

While he couldn't get at all the bearings, as the Jerry cans, heavy with fuel, were in the way. However, once outside, he jiggled the propeller, and there he found some movement and said that suggests a worn cutlass bearing. He reckoned that would create a drone, rather than the clatter I recalled being concerned about, the drone being caused by a repeated "slap" in a worn bearing as it turned at speed and this would be amplified by the other bearings mounted rigidly to the hull along the length of the shaft.

Port side of Singing the Blues

It's the first time in a fortnight that all three vent grills on the side of the hull are back in place.

One of the lesser jobs done just before going home for a late lunch was to replace the vent that had been removed by the BSS Examiner a couple of weeks back. The number of the vents seems excessive to me, but I see that other Hampton Safaris have a similar number. They align with the much smaller hole in the cabin lining that is clearly designed to provide air to the cooker. As you can see, on Monday, the vent was still resting on the side deck under the galley window.

Go to Top Friday 18 August - Cutlass Bearing to be Replaced

I returned later in the day with Diana. We'd been to a music practice together and made the detour to the boat on the way home. I wanted to have words with Moonfleet's Phil to get a second opinion on the gearbox man's suggestion that the cutlass bearing would be worth replacing. I was also wondering whether while doing that it would be worth fitting flexible couplings on the prop shaft as that can help reduce noise.

Phil took a look and agreed that the bearing was close to the limit, but he discovered another issue that, perhaps, our surveyor should have picked up. The skeg arm holding the rudder in place had been welded together. Instead of simply removing a couple of bolts and lifting the assembly away it would need to be cut away to allow the prop and shaft to be removed to access the bearing and then rebuilt after the new bearing had been re-fitted.

His view was that it was up to us whether we have it done at this point or the next time she was out of the water. He didn't expect that to be needed for two or three years for anti-fouling. There's some thinking to be done.

Arriving the next morning shortly before 11:00, the first thing I did was take a photo of the the welded skeg then, inside the boat, I set about baling it out.

the skeg

The steel bar that is welded together is an extension of the keel and supports the bottom of the rudder.

Go to Top Saturday 19 August - Bilges Drained and Roof Cleaned

I hadn't paid much attention to the gearbox man when, yesterday, he made a comment about the water in the bilges. However, as I started doing the usual mopping up of the water that had emerged from end of the pipes that feed the sink, I realised that the area under the exposed prop shaft astern of the gearbox was full of water. It was so full it was nearly overflowing onto the tray that sits under the engine.

the dry hull

There is still oozing from the pipes that feed the sink that needs clearing up on every visit.

I'd not previously absorbed the fact that there is a tray fitted under the engine. I've no idea whether that is a normal feature in a boat. I've not seen it in any of the narrowboats I've been a part- owner of or hired, but it is one that I'll look for in future. It meant that the water I was soaking up in my sponge was remarkably clean. You may notice that when you look at the photo of the engine tray. As the bilges were cleared I discovered another feature I was unaware of and had not thought about. The water pipes dip as they pass over the keel and, at that point, there is a short branch with valve fitted. It means that if work is required on the water system, it can easily be drained.

the bilges

Water dropped out of the sponge as I baled the bilges spilling onto the tray under the engine.

It took almost an hour and around fifteen bucket loads of water and even then the bottom of the bilges were not completely dry. I reckon that is almost 30 gallons of water that I removed. There doesn't seem to be a way for the water to get under the main joists in the boat and that suggests that the water there has drained from the bow well and aft cabin door since December.

The Cabin Roof

The roof, once I'd completed the cleaning operation. Cleaning the starboard side seemed to get done a lot quicker than the other side.

Having largely dried out the boat I could carry on with cleaning the roof. It seemed to take a lot less time than the port side. I even had a go, in a couple of places, at T-Cutting some of the more chalky looking areas. However, I didn't try to hard as that some of the gel coat is worn right through in a few spots and that suggested that the gel coat might be thin in other areas.

Go to Top Saturday 19 August - Sorting out the Gas Locker

The Gas Locker

Once the bottles were removed you could see water lying in the bottom of the gas bottle locker.

By around 15:30 the roof was done and rather than continue with the cabin sides or side decks, I thought I'd look at another area about which I had concerns, the gas bottle locker. Besides the gas bottles, the previous owner seemed to use it for general deck storage. I'd already seen a rope ladder and various mooring pins, but in emptying it I also discovered a couple of rhond anchors and three windlasses. The anchors appear to me to be much under-sized for a boat as heavy as Singing the Blues, while the windlasses would have been bought to use on the locks on the Great Ouse.

However, the main reason for my interest in the locker was that I was aware that there were stains running down the transom from the vent at the bottom of the gas locker. It's designed to let the explosive heavier-than-air gas escape. However, there is no proper gutter around the hatch in the deck so the vent also acts as a drain for rain water.

At this stage I don't know whether the locker is poorly designed or fitted or, while ashore, the boat not been set with its waterline level. Whatever the cause the vent does not allow the rain water to escape and the rubber mat on which the previous owner had placed the gas bottles is not lifting them high enough to clear the water.

The result, I discovered, is that the base of each bottle is rotting away. I did what I could to dry out the locker and scrape away any flaking metal from the bottom of the bottles. I managed to find a couple of pieces of what appear to be tanalised timber lying about the yard so the gas bottles are now standing two inches clear of the bottom of the locker and I'm confident that should keep them clear of any standing water. the windlasses have been brought home.

The base of a gas bottle

The rusted base of a gas bottle.

flaking rust

Rust dropped from the bottle.

Now read how we got news of A Worn Rudder.

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