Thursday, 26 April 2012

Zero minus 2

Only 2 days to go and lots of odd bits and pieces are being completed - locks on doors, television aerial points, horn, front spot light, front step, poles, gang plank, skirting boards, and last minute painting before the floor goes in.

Maggot (apparently that's not his real name) arrived at 6.00pm and was able to apply the first coat to the scrolls and name panels despite the intermitant showers. I was happy with what I saw so left them to it. Maggot turned up again today at about 4.00pm and continued to apply the second coat and shading. The following pics illustrate his work so far:

I'm not sure my camera has done the colours justice but I think it looks fantastic in the flesh. Maggot is doing a great job, just what I wanted, and I look forward to seeing his completed masterpiece tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Mick and I will be tidying the boat, removing the assorted tools and unused nails, screws, bits of wood, etc, hoovering away all the dust and other detritus in preparation for the floor laying. We're now keeping our fingers crossed that the weather on Saturday is fairly calm as a blustery day will be challenging for the crane. Why can't things be simple?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Maggot turns up

After spending about 4 hours painting the 2 new internal doors, a couple of poles and the new box/step for the front door, we wended our way home for a quite afternoon. On the way home I bought two lengths of 2.4m patio decking to make a gang plank so, rather than collapsing on the sofa, I spent 2 hours battoning them together. Not bad for £13.

After tea, Gena rang to say that Maggot, the sign writer had turned up on site and had completed the names and scroles. She said it all looked good but he would be back tomorrow to make any finishing touches. If we wanted to meet him and check that we liked his handiwork, we could so we agreed to pop back at 6.00pm.

Mick confirmed again that the transporter is booked for this Saturday, so everything is still on track for the launch.

On a personal note, I see that a few people have read my blog - mainly from the UK but some from the USofA and even Russia.  You can't all be our family and friends so I really hope you have enjoyed following what we have been up to. It would be great to hear from you on anything we have done or anything you may be doing.

I would particularly like to hear from anyone who is based in or visits the Fens and Levels of East Anglia. In a weeks time, we will be mooring Skylark between Ely and Cambridge and will be exploring every inch of the Fens over next few years. Please leave a comment - we would love to hear from you. 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Launch date confirmed

Kay and I spent a very pleasant few hours chatting to Mick and Gena at the boat and in Ely over lunch. The Peacock Tea Rooms are well work another visit.
It is now official – the launch date is Saturday, 28 April. The transport is laid on and everything is on track. Barry Tucky is booked to pick up Skylark and put her in the water at Popes Corner Marina. We’ll then take her up to Lazy Otter along the River Ouse.
There’s still a few things to complete in the boat but there should be more than enough time during the next week. If there is anything left over, Mick will come back to the Marina to complete it.
Back at home, Kay and I are completing the ever growing ‘stuff to take’ pile – eg kitchen and bathroom clobber, chairs, stools, shelves, mirror, clock, radio, soft bedding, dry and tinned foods, cleaning and maintenance kit, etc, etc. I’m sure there will be loads of stuff we have forgotten so this will be added to as we get settled in.
As for the latest photos, there is not much to see but here’s a few.
22 April 2012 003 22 April 2012 004 22 April 2012 005
22 April 2012 007 22 April 2012 008 22 April 2012 001
The insurance is arranged and the safety inspection went through without a problem so I will now apply for the Environment Agency Registration. We just need a few days of dry weather to get all the practical things finished.
It seems a bit odd - we have been planning this since the middle of last year and at times, it has seemed like we would never get here but, with just a few days before the launch, we are now getting ourselves prepared for the final push. A feeling of excitement and trepidation at the same time!

Friday, 13 April 2012

I name this narrowboat…

OK, we know she’s called Skylark but we have now decided the all important issue of where her name will go, along with the font, colour and associated scrolls.
Following a lot of research over the week end, which tended to revolve around typefaces based on the upper case Times Roman (safe option or what?), we decided to be a little more adventurous. We found we both liked Papyrus in lower case. The original design involved a style based on Times Roman but was crafted to create a font that is more flowing, and it quietly exudes culture, antiquity and tradition – just what we are looking for. It is also much lighter than Times Roman, better fitting a boat called ‘Skylark’.
Next, we agreed it should be placed on the freeboard at the bow, rather than at the stern. The photo shows the typeface and location. The real thing will be much larger of course and in a complimentary pale yellow on the dark green hull.
Friday 13 April 2012 005 
The next decision was not to have any coach.lines at this stage. We don’t want Skylark to look like a fairground caravan or be a pastiche of a traditional narrowboat. One of our key aims is to get Skylark to feel like a traditional narrowboat and, to do this, it doesn't have to mimic one. So, we will take time to live with Skylark in a fairly bare state before we decide if they are needed or not. It will be much easier to have them applied later (if want them) than remove ones we don’t like. However, the sides do need a little embellishment to avoid them looking like a part-finished project so we have plumped for a couple of discrete scrolls either side of the central portholes. That will be our modest nod to the traditional.
We’re hoping to meet the sign writer in the next couple of days to explain our thoughts. Mick says he’s very good at what he does and happy to adjust things as he goes, to keep us happy with the result. It will also be good to meet him – I’ve never met someone called Maggot before!
Mick has virtually completed the electrical fit out and the stove installation. The stove sits on a solid marble hearth and the fire proof surround will be painted in a buttermilk to match the walls. Mick is still confident about finishing in time for the launch on 28 April. Our fingers are still crossed.
Friday 13 April 2012 002

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Reasons to be cheerful

Our early visit this morning involved quite a long meeting to go over many of the things we have already discussed plus a load of new things including the hatch windows, internal steps and importantly, the painting of the coach lines and name. More about that in a moment. The latest news on the launch date is disappointing but not surprising – it has to be delayed by 2 weeks to tie in with the transporter. To be honest, this will not be a problem, in fact it will give Mick plenty of time to finish everything and there is a lot still to be done. He showed us the new ropes, life buoy, fenders and the like together with their latest thoughts on the porthole surrounds. The ash surrounds turned out to be too bulky and difficult to fix so they have suggested brass ones. When we saw them for the first time, it was an obvious choice.
Outside 8 April 2012 020
Now, turning to the coach lines and sign writing, we need to make some firm decisions. The boat is basically dark green with a red oxide roof. Our original idea was to have a large yellow coach line at the front of the boat and a small one at the stern to take the name. Looking at the boat now, we are not so sure mainly because the boat may only need the brass portholes to look good (simplicity and quality). The next photos show this…
Outside 8 April 2012 013  Outside 8 April 2012 015 Outside 8 April 2012 009
So, we are now thinking about just having the name painted on the bow. Mick will be speaking to the sign writer (known as Maggot!) during the week to get his views too.
The Safety Inspector calls on Wednesday so we’re hoping that will go well. Insurance is in place but not paid for yet – now that I have a date for the launch, I will confirm that with the company. I also need to let the marina know that the delivery date is delayed but I know that will  not be a problem.
Outside 8 April 2012 022 Outside 8 April 2012 024 Outside 8 April 2012 018
So, there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful. In fact I’m quite chuffed! Next visit in about 4/5 days.
By the way, this is my first attempt at using Windows Live Writer instead of going directly through the Blogger site. Apparently it’s better, got more functionality and stuff. I’ll hit the publish button and see what happens! If it works, I might even add some more graphics.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Safety and security

As I have been watching the portholes go in, it has reminded me of two other key objectives in the design of the boat that I have not mentioned before - safety and security. These issues have always been important to me at home and at work so it is no surprise to learn that this has been the same with Skylark. I think the reason I have not mentioned it before, is because is seems so obvious to me.

With the portholes the security benefits are clear. The main one being they are small compared to windows. I don't think even a child could squeeze through a broken porthole unless there was a very unscrupulous Bill Sykes pushing him in. These portholes are also good because the glass is toughened but also easily replaced. They can be opened for ventilation and taken out if that's wanted. They limit the view someone might have into the boat and, from a comfort point of view, they offer better insulation than larger windows.  Having now got the portholes fitted, I am also sure they do not significantly reduce the amount of light in the boat. Various people have commented that the simplest way to 'curtain' them off, is to have soft cushions that just push into the roundals. This is a very sound idea as it gives the cushions two functions instead of one.

The doors in the boat are also as secure as we can make them. They are made of the same steel as the sides of the hull, the hinges are welded on and there are no windows. The design of locks are still to be decided but they will be as secure as possible without being OTT. This all suits me but if some future owner wants to insert windows, they still can.

I think just about everything else in the boat has been considered with safety and security in mind - not to mention our primary aims to keep is simple, to a high standard and with a traditional feel. For instance, the roof has been painted in red oxide - this will help to avoid it becoming slippery when wet. I have even put a couple of folding steps on the sides of the hull  to help me get on the roof when my knees start to buckle. Inside, the flooring, while it is a wood-effect laminate, it has a rough surface to minimise slipping. The kitchen worktop has been rounded to avoid sharp corners. A smoke and carbon monocide alarm is fitted along with all the standard fire extinguishers, fire blanket, life belt, etc. The electrical connectors between the batteries and fuses/switches have been upgraded. I have a comprehensive First Aid Kit and added useful medicines for the most likely ailments such as indigestion and headache. I have an emergency list of phone numbers in case the mobile phone fails or drops into the drink (river and/or beer). The standard of insulation and ventilation is good to maintain a good internal environment and to avoid condensation - I have even got a few discrete containers of cat litter to help de-humidify the air. I could go on to mention the need for an up to date safety certificate but you should get the picture.

So, you can see, with a little thought, safety and security can be built in without it compromising comfort or the look of the place or for it to become a problem of any sort.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A short update

A brief visit today found Mick and Gena not there. They had gone off to Braunston to see Graham Reeves about their new boat so we inspected Skylark and did a little bit of painting. All the portholes are in place but are waiting for their internal ash roundals to be fitted. More scotia was cut in and fixed, the hull had been 'blacked' and the red and white stern painting was done.

I rang Gena and agreed to go over again on Sunday to discuss the remaining bits and pieces before launching the following week. We need to talk about the coach lines, the design of the internal window for the stbd hatch and loads of other things. There's still a lot to do but the feedback is positive.

Monday, 2 April 2012


Today, while Kay and I did a bit of touching up on the painting front, Mick started installing the portoles. We have gone for ten in all, including the two small ones in the engine room. 

Since we were last at the boat, Mick has continued the electrical fitting, given the exterior another coat of paint (hopefully the last) and has made strides to fit the scotia. He is still confident of completion on or near 15 April and I have no reason the doubt him other than wondering how on earth he will do it! I will keep my fingers crossed.

The latest update: When the boat arrived from Graham Reeves, a porthole had been put in the wrong place and was subsequently blocked up. We have been thinking about if this porthole is needed, and if so, where it should go. Our decision has been to install it in the dining area on the stbd side. Mick has cut the hole in the hull and started fitting the brass porthole surround while we were there.

I'm sure you will know what a porthole looks like, but I can't resist including a photo!

The next photos show the current stage we're at inside Skylark. The walls are finished, the door/hatch linings are painted (propped up) and, apart from a general 'work in progress' look to it all, I am sure we are nearly there. It all looks good to me. Over to you Mick.