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The building of "Earnest"

Fitting Out

Index | Planning | Fabrication of the steelwork | Paintwork | Launch | "Earnest" in detail | "Earnest" Repaint 

R & D Fabrications | Woodworks - Andrew Hooke | Harefield Marina


The next weeks trip showed that the fitting was well under way, the boat was ballasted (mostly on the right side, because almost everything is on the left!) and the floor down. Most of the battens were fixed to the steelwork to take the plywood lining panels. Next visit showed the boat insulated with rockwool, the main wiring runs done and most of the lining up. The hold up at the bow had been the water tank and the bow thruster locker bulkhead. The bottom of the bulkhead was in, but still had to have an angled top to it to clear the the slightly offset hatch. When Neil saw the water tank it was apparent that it could be a lot larger, Ray's daughter Sue (who makes all the tanks) then made one to fit exactly, Ray was convinced that the bow would be too heavy! Owing to the size of the tank the final floor stiffener was left out and welded in afterwards, Neil hopes that the tank never needs replacing! Andrew told Neil that the next few weeks would see apparent fast progress as the bulkheads and main carcasing was constructed, this was defiantly the case as it is always the finishing of that takes the time if something is well built. Neil gave Andrew a free hand in designing the simple fluting noted on virtually all the Saepele mouldings and posts, and many posts there were to, on nearly ever corner! Because of the tight dimensions Neil gave Andrew a few inches "recovery" length, this was in the large triangular shelves and in the large junk cupboard. For this reason Andrew started fitting in the Galley first, them moved on to the Master's cabin and Bathroom. The ends were finished last, this is a departure from Andrew's normal more methodical approach of starting at one end. 

When Ray was welding all the waste outlets through the hull side Neil discussed the proposal of flushing the toilet with canal water, Ray said the best way was to not fit a sea cock below the water level (for obvious safety reasons), but to weld a stand pipe on the inside of the hole to above water level, so that if the sea cock failed, the boat would not sink. Ray was a bit sceptical about the Jabsco DS 14 electric flush toilet. It was all plumbed in with an extra raw water pump, protected by two filters and non return valves. Two cocks have to be turned to change over the supply. It has worked faultlessly all summer 1999, the filters being cleaned once, never being changed to fresh water flush! Ray is sill dubious and whenever he comes on the boat he can't help but give it a "check" flush to see if it still works, actually Neil thinks that he now secretly approves of it! As can be seen from the accompanying pictures the plumber was particularly neat and used domestic 15mm copper pipe. There is controversy about whether to fit this or the Acorn plastic type of pipe. "Beatty" had the plastic type and it took along time to get all the joints watertight (especially when joining up to copper connectors). Frost and the movement of the boat tended to make certain connectors come apart on "Beatty". Another fault was that it tended to shrink with age, so pipe work had to be laid slightly over size. Copper pipe is fairly hardy in light frosts and whenever "Earnest" is laid up for long winter periods we shall drain the hot tank and cold water system, as we always did on "Beatty". "Earnest's" cold water feed for the hot water tank has a drain cock on the bottom calorifier connector from this Neil has run a piece of rubber pipe into an old plastic tray in the stern cabin dry bilge. All you have do to drain the system is to move the dry bilge pump into this tray and drop the water! 

In the Galley Andrew made a slight deviation from our original plan, by keeping the work surface 2" higher than normal and not putting the fridge on a plinth we managed to get a much more suitable cutlery drawer just under the work surface, above the fridge. This dispensed with the awkward  little drawers below the upper peninsular glass fronted cupboards. Andrew uses a particularly strong cabinet makers way of constructing the carcasing. Not that many screws are used (the heads of which are difficult to hide), but instead "biscuit" jointing tongues are fitted into machined slots and the whole lot stuck together with a particularly strong glue, being clamped while setting. Every bit of construction Neil can get a grip or sit on will take his 11 stone weight! When all the carcasing was finished and every thing was measured up it was apparent that Andrew had adhered to our measurements exactly, there was an extra inch in the rear junk cupboard and an extra inch in the Saloon large shelves. as can be seen from the accompanying photographs all the cupboards are lined and the lower cupboards mounted on plinths, where these plinths cover pipe work there are removable panels. All heating and water pipes are covered with neat easily removable wooden covers.

In early December Neil and Ian Scott paid a visit to Beta Marine to see the engine bench tested. Beta seem to be a victim of their own success they were crammed into a few units on the Merretts Mills Estate near Stroud. Adrian who showed us round said that they desperately wanted to move, but were having trouble getting a larger unit in the area because they are a noisy filthy engineering company that actually makes something, such is the way this country is going! We were given the complete tour and Neil purchased a set of drive belts plus many oil, air and fuel filters to keep the power unit going for many years. Eventually we went into the test shop just in time to see the engine start up on the first burst of the starter, Adrian then gave Neil a detailed lesson on maintenance, even being honest enough to point out things that many go wrong in it's old age. It was also about this time that Neil dropped of at Elite Furnishings in Tamworth on of the numerous trips up to R&D to chose the seat material. Neil chose a neutral blue to match the Vanette blue theme of the boat in a tough washable material. The respected firm of Elite do all the soft furnishings for R&D except the mattresses which Sheila gets through a local firm. As standard R&D provide interior sprung mattresses to even the bunk beds. 

Near the end of Andrew's fitting Keith started fitting the engine, two of the alternators had to be removed to fit it between the rear deck scupper bars. Neil, Ray and Keith discussed where the multitude of engine compartment mounted bits were going to go and you guessed it, they all ended up on the left hand side! This was to leave the large space left in the right as storage for the Porto-power hydraulic ram kit, collapsible sack barrow, inflatable boat, outboard motor and Mountain bike, yes they do all fit in there! The views in "Earnest" In Detail page show the neat finished job. The addition of the bow thruster led to another discussion between Neil, Sheila and Ray. R&D's preferred  range of electrical bow thrusters are those supplied by Aquafax. The main reason that Neil finally opted for one was more for re-sale value, virtually every boat Neil saw being built of this length had one. Ray suggested just putting in the locker and tube, but as Neil opted for just a 4hp one, R&D's price was so reasonable that he went the whole hog. For this length of boat Aquafax recommended the minimum of a 6hp model, but they had not yet bought this model out! The next size up was 9hp, Neil thought this was rather excessive especially as he thought HE would never need it. The 4hp model only needed one extra120A battery, but as Aquafax would not warrant a 4hp model it has been given the extra protection of a thermal cut out. In fact there is less need of a bow thruster than "Beatty", "Earnest" as it has more presence in the water seems to behave better, even when going astern. With the extra battery to charge a re-think in the charging department was needed. With some help from the very helpful Charles Sterling of Sterling Marine Power the following set-up evolved :- Standard 12v 70A alternator charging single bow thruster 120A battery (in bow cockpit locker) through already fitted (though now not needed, only cables of the charge current, 90A are now needed) 300Awelding cables, using Sterling Advanced Alternator controller sensing charge voltage at the remote battery to ensure full charge. The extra 90A 12v alternator charging one start 90A battery  and four 120A house batteries through 100A splitter diode and second Sterling Advanced Controller (the alternator needed an exciter relay enabling it to "see" the 12v of the battery, activated by start position of ignition switch). The heavy duty cables going to the bow thruster battery can now be made useful in an emergency to share the current with the house batteries by means of an extra isolator switch. Each individual battery bank has its own isolator switch. Neil connected the power amp (50W RMS per channel!) section of his stereo to the bow thruster battery to share charge drain when the boat is not under way, also this eliminates the unstoppable interference that the fridge inflicted on the stereo. Neil also modified the 12v distribution board so that all three bilge pumps and the boiler (so it can be set on the frost stat) are now not isolated. Another late fitment was the Sterling 60A 240v battery charger / 1500W inverter so that the boat can be kept charged up from a shoreline socket when laid up, or power things up to vacuum cleaners and large power tools when the boat is laid up. Originally the three sources of 240v AC were switched by the failsafe method of plugs and sockets. Neil has now made up his own switch box up using 12v coil 20A 240v double pole relays thus the three sources of 240v AC can now be switched by a simple rotary switch. This also enables the charger to be switched on from the shoreline socket or from the Electrolux Travelpower 240v AC engine driven alternator. The last combination only being needed in the unlikely event that both of the 12v alternators had failed! Other electrical novelties include a 12v computer type fan in the shower mushroom vent along with a recently fitted extra spot lamp, switched by the fan switch. 

Thoughts on "Earnest" after it's first Two seasons

The very advanced Meile WT 945 washer / dryer was chosen because of it's miserly water consumption, achieving this by using a spray instead of a trickle of water in the drying cycle condenser. With its computer control this machine could have been unhappy with the spiky AC wave form of some forms of generated 240v AC, but the Electrolux Travelpower engine driven alternator system does not exhibit this and the machine has worked faultlessly. This piece of equipment has worked faultlessly. During a wash and dry cycle the water consumption has been negligible. The 4hp Aquafax bow thruster has had its fair share of use especially when reversing up the last bit of the Wendover arm and extracting ourselves from the Leeds and Liverpool Springs Branch. Some T.N.C. members are renown for its excessive use, for this Neil has created special "NO BLOODY BOW THRUSTER DAYS!" The times when it is most legitimately used, is when always being the idiot waiting for some one else to share a wide lock. The thermal cut out has proved useful and having tripped a few times in our first stern-first manoeuvres. We now can judge how much to use it. Neil now thinks that a hydraulic one would be a better (more expensive) bet. This because, as you get to rely on them, you want one that will not trip out in an emergency. As the bow thruster tube end grilles are fairly fine any crud on them can be blown of by reversing flow. Only once has some fine weed got into the tube causing the cut out to go, this was eventually removed by blasting it out when it had cooled down. The normal method of fast extraction from a dead end normally consists of Neil on the helm, with another crewmember independently controlling the bowthruster switch to the keep the bow centre channel or on the outside of bends. For this reason an independent control switch at the bow has been considered. As all the power comes from the bow, this would be an easy addition. The Sterling Advanced alternator controllers have been very quick to fully charge the batteries when laid up or after stopping for a few days, this has also been helped by having decent capacity alternators. As ever, when using alternator controllers the battery levels have to be checked regularly and they had to be topped up a few times. The engine and gearbox have not given any trouble, but the throttle cable went when just starting on the Lapworth (Northern Stratford) Flight (see Tour99 Pages "Earnest's" Maiden Cruise 1999). The PRM 150 gearbox exhibited one of its normal faults, when under power there was a very slight oil leak from the oil pump housing at the back of the gear box, Newage very quickly sorted this out with a new gasket while the boat was at Braunston. There was also a small leak from the engine oil circuit which confused the gearbox oil leak, this was from both unions on the high remote oil filter housing. Neil sorted this out when the boat got back to Harefield Marina. The maniac pilot on the Severn Estuary in July 2000 certainly tested the engine and transmission, as he went flat out all the way! The only outcome of this was a very slight leak in the calorifier circuit, off the engine. This was at the most awkward point, where 5 15mm copper pipes go through the bulkhead. A good clean up, protect the other pipes and a blast with the blow torch soon fixed this.   

The Mikuni diesel fired boiler was found to be reliable and cheap to operate, the diesel it used being un-noticeable. There was however one very annoying problem - the loud ticking noise all the time it was operating. The noise from the burner, air and water pumps was virtually un noticeable from inside the boat and not particularly noisy outside (which is more than can be said for Eberspacers, which are sold without the standard fitment of an exhaust silencer). The ticking was traced to the fuel pump solenoid. The whole Mikuni assembly is mounted on rubber insulators and the fuel flow solenoid mounted on yet another rubber insulator, mounted onto the main chassis. The manufacturers are obviously concerned about the noise this component makes - why then connect this up the the bulkhead mounted fitting with a SOLID COPPER PIPE for the sound to be carried through! This pipe has now been insulated with a specially made up, very short iso what ever it is rubber pipe. The ticking noise is now barely discernable, even when you are actually in the engine compartment. This is a modification suggested to all Mikuni owners, god knows how noisy the metering pump would sound inside a Trad, when the boiler is in with you! December 1999 did see a problem with the Mikuni. Air was getting in at the final union to the burner head. This caused a suicidal build up of carbon and a complete de-coke along with a gasket and seal set has been necessary. The flue outlet has also been extended upwards to exit on the angled side of the hull, above the upper rubbing strake. This was necessary due to the over ballasting Dudley Tunnel traverse of July 2000. Another benefit of this is that the outlet can now not be blocked or restricted, by going up against piling. Another good point about "Earnest", is how quiet it is. Inside the cabin while going along all is virtually silent without any engine rev dependant vibrations that were present on "Beatty", which we always thought was a fairly quiet boat. This is obviously a testament to the structure of R&D's steelwork, Andrews solid fitting and the very flexible Beta engine mounts, Centraflex drive coupling and the acoustic treatment of the engine compartment and engine covers. "Earnest" is also very quiet while steering, though not TOO quiet, Neil likes to be able to just hear what the engine is doing so that you can hear whether there are any problems or something on the prop. This is especially as Semi-Trads tend to be the noisiest style, as the engine noise is "funnelled" in the rear cockpit with you. 

For the intensity of a T.N.C. non stop cruise the water tank has found to be of a sufficient capacity(150 galls.), especially as the canal water toilet flush system has been used all the time. The water gauge has proved a boon (on "Beatty" you could easily lift the water tank lid to physically see the water level ) and has now been calibrated. The Jabsco DS14 toilet has been totally odourless and reliable (much to Ray's amazement!) and as it is manually controlled in the flush and water refill department, very economical on water (this we tested out while the boat was at Braunston and fresh water flush was used.) It has been heard through the "Towpath telegraph" that other makes of electric macerated toilets that only use a factory pre programmed flush cycle waste a lot of water. The low water consumption do not bother us, as the canal water flush has been used ALL the time. The raw water filters have only had to be cleaned a few times. The Lee Sanitation / Jabsco 240v self pump-out system has proved very effective, normally pumping out a full tank quicker than ever occurred with a boatyard pump-out on "Beatty". Obviously this has depended on how much higher the sanitary station was in relation to the boat. We did have a failure on the pump-out pump once due to, or causing, the pump start capacitor to fail. Neil replaced this with a more heavy duty one and fitted a thermal cut-out. This was put down to either, not full power being available from the Electrolux Travelpower due to not enough engine revs, or the "Lumpy dregs!"  from the bottom of the tank being left in the pump-out pump and drying out. For this reason the tank is now always well flushed out, some thing we can now do, as we are in control. 

The electrical systems have proved reliable and of almost excessive capacity, the batteries have never been near to being discharged, even though we have had a good few days not under way. The solid built in speaker enclosures, vented into the front seat lockers have got the best out of the powerful Pioneer speakers Neil purchased. These have co-axially mounted mid range and tweeter units and were the largest and highest power capacity of this type that Neil could find. The power amplifier used (a self invertered 50w RMS per channel Pioneer model) was one salvaged from the serious stereo Neil had in his Golf GTi 16v, one of the bits the joy riders that stole it never found, as it was mounted under the rear seat! The radio / CD player is Neil's trusty old Panasonic removable one that used to also fit in his old Volkswagen Passat and the graphic equalizer was salvaged from "Beatty". This unobtrusive combination provides superb reproduction, something Neil has always wanted in a boat! 
"Beatty's" little used Alba 12v / 240v 12" colour TV has been retained and its lack of sensitivity has been improved by internally fitting a 12v aerial amplifier and the use of a longer TV aerial pole this time. Amazingly we find that this works better off 12v! Neil expects that the TV will see the same little use that it did, while on "Beatty" as there are virtually no crew now, that are addicted to soaps. The 22mm copper pipe TV aerial mast is the same home brewed design fitted to Beatty. One end of the tube is shaped to fit the stub of mast on the 13 element aerial. The aerial has a long lead with a co-ax plug on the end. This has been adapted so that the wire exits through the centre of the stub mast on the aerial. This is inserted through the mast and the mast inserted, at an angle, through the plug covered hole in the cabin roof overhang. The pole is then pulled back straight and it pops into the strategically placed 22mm pipe clips on the front bulkhead. the aerial lead is then plugged into the bulkhead mounted socket. With the cratch up this system means that the aerial can be rotated from under the cratch cover, for those dark rainy nights, when you are lining up the aerial! 
The Meile washer / dryer has been faultless and uses the little amount of water that was expected of it, even when drying. Because it is so economical, it does tend to take longer on the main washing programs than our ancient Bosch at home, this is probably also due to it only being cold fill. This has not proved a problem and the 3KW heater drain from the Electrolux has only been for very short durations. The Electrolux Travelpower AC alternator was eventually diagnosed (after much fuse blowing in the control box!) to have vibrated it's way through the armour braiding. This was due to a naff bit of Beta engineering as the armoured lead passed right tight by a bolt thread as it comes out of the alternator. This has been filled off and the repaired cable strapped out of the way. 

The rear cockpit Hexagrip ply locker covers have proved to be a pain. They have now been hinged and rubber seals fitted round the sides. Unfortunately these have not proved effective an when we are "out" and the cockpit cover not on they still let rain water in. The only way to cure this would be to have scuppers like the deck drains fitted, at the sides and back, exiting at the front of the lockers, with lids that overhang the front. Though this water exits the lockers as they are drained, any thing stored in them tends to corrode, the Beta control panel also tends to get condensation in it. The rear deck / engine covers are again Hexagrip ply in two sections, for ease of removal. These leaked rain water into the engine compartment, this has been cured by fitting a rubber seal at the back and between them.                 

Another few thoughts for people contemplating the building of a narrowboat :

Unless you don't mind docking the boat every year for the first few, to re-do the bitumen blacking, as the mill scale rusts off, it is worth considering the more expensive option of having the exterior of the boat shot blasted. This removes the mill scale shell of impurities present on sheet steel. Some boatbuilders use the more expensive option of using pre treated steel that is supplied in primer. Epoxy primer could then be used and a harder wearing Epoxy or Comastic black used on the hull. There is a lot of discussion about this and it is best left to a boat yard / builder that you feel confidant that could get this done, then apply the paint / epoxy black BEFORE any condensation / damp / rust could get under the coating, as this is very important with this coating system. 
I would definitely have a bow thruster again, but a more powerful hydraulic one you could rely on, all the time. Although more expensive, these are also more reliable and require little maintenance. The Sterling Inverter has opened up a can of worms regarding the safety of the 230v AC system. The output from the Sterling Inverter has an earthed centre position of the AC waveform (i.e. -ve is -115v and +ve is +115v). This can cause problems operating the RCD breaker if there is a short or an electric shock situation. Also the inverter can be unhappy if the 230v AC earth is connected to boat ground (hull) along with the 12v -ve. This is the way it should be done, all to one point, which is normally an earth strap, from the engine to the engine bearer. This is the way it is now done on Earnest. Every electrical appliance permanently connected has to have a separate 2 pole switch, to stop the Sterling Inverter getting unhappy. 
If I was to do the 230v AC system again I would get a charger / inverter large enough to power the washing machine (3KW) and that give a true sine wave output (so you can run touchy electronic equipment) and also does not have a centre tapped earth. The rather expensive, but worth it Mastervolt Dakar series fits these criteria.  A 230v AC interface system, like the Heart, would also be useful to work out which 230v AC system to be using! To prevent electrolytic corrosion on the hull of the boat from the shore line connection should ideally have an isolating transformer. Mastervolt also do these expensive items. Be wary if you are going to try to take a lot of current from the shoreline (something you can not do in a lot of marinas, Harefield is OK up to about 10amps, but Braunston for example trips over 5 amps being drawn)


Andrew's final quote fit out plan, altered in construction : R/H port holes made level with L/H, drawers below upper peninsular cupboards not fitted, drawer added above fridge, 42" window reduced to 36", two hardwood posts used to support upper peninsular cupboards and all interior controls put in L/H back corner in side of junk cupboard below cubby hole.


Neil's paint and detail plan.



General view of Andrew's shop, fitting well underway.

Stern view showing drop vent portholes.

Ballast and floor in. Most of battening up.

Rear view, insulation in, lining underway. Notice all main cable runs will be behind removable roof side panels.

Front fitting held up waiting for fabrication of maximum size stainless steel water tank.

Galley bulkheads and carcasing, window apertures lined.

That BIG water tank finally fitted, water gauge sender in top.

Blue Vanette oven with retrofitted brass handles.

Andrew's superb saepele front doors in first coat of varnish.

Hardwood front doors and windows fitted, note front vent in bulkhead NOT in doors.

Master's cabin two poster bed base and cupboard carcass.

Bathroom will be here! hip bath and bulkheads not yet present. Notice black standpipe for proposed raw water flush to toilet.

Draw holes under fixed double.

Time to adjust the toilet height!

Rear cabin bunks. The washer / dryer has crept in, stored in area that will be the large junk cupboard.

Washer / dryer hole and calorifier, airing cupboard above. Try putting these here on a boat with a conventional rear swim! 

Hip bath being cocooned in. 

Galley peninsular upper cupboards. Fridge will be underneath.

Galley from Saloon.

Toilet and washbasin base. Extra raw water flush pump in.

That familiar long corridor beside Bathroom and Master's cabin.

Made it! the ten ton Miele washer / dryer finally at home.

Rear doors and hatch not yet lined. Junk cupboard and cubby hole.

Single dinette bases.

front of Saloon showing speaker boxes, shelves and radio box.

Saloon / Galley from front doors.

1903 being bench tested at Beta marine. Its going to be a bugger to change the original water pump / alternator drive belt!

Keith gets stuck into engine installation.

Door linings in, varnishing complete, lower sides carpeted, interior controls (white Mikuni thermostat / programmer now moved to Master's cabin bed head. 

Tiling finished in hip bath / shower cubicle.

Basin in and tiling finished.

Master's bed head, shelves and reading lights.

Book shelves and Desmo leg box.

Galley tiling done, Vanette, hob and sink in.

Slightly earlier shot, Neil installs stereo, one of the first electrical things working!

Andrew's motif.

Neil posing on the stern. We were at West Stockwith waiting to go back out on the Tidal River Trent, having done all of the Chesterfield  Canal open at that time.

Bow view at same place as above.

All images scanned by Neil's HP 4c scanner. The main fitting images are from Neil's  photos taken on Linda's Samsung auto 35mm camera. Last two pictures of "Earnest" taken in Advantix format by Kerry Horan on his new Cannon camera. 

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