Sunday, 30 November 2014

Pleasure / Pain

I've come to realise everythings about payoffs in this life; what you do or feel on the one hand may have implications on the other and so as the interest in finishing the boat returns my bank balance and means of replenishing it dwindle away. 

Having come to an understanding with myself regarding this projects completion motivates me now but unfortunately i will have to break off to earn some more money to keep it on track. I'm still pricing work all the time yet have none to go to as the level of dickheads.............(sorry, i mean potential customers) that cross my path seem to increase ever more. To clarify; we all get the dreamers, the wafflers and the damn-right dishonest in our work lives but a new category i discovered this week is the 'clueless expert'.

For having no background in my industry a customer told me this week that what i'd conservatively estimated as being a couple of days work could infact be done in four hours, "brilliant, how?" i asked looking them dead in the eye.

"Well you know you lot always over estimate your quotes - dont you?", no actually, i always quote based on hours required to do the work & what the job will entail - if i'm quicker i'll charge you less if something unforseen slows the job up i'll charge more - simple. So the customer eventually agrees abeit reluctantly, everythings cool to come in Monday to start after looking at it Friday night then the texts start Saturday morning, "will it include X?" no because when i asked you you didn't want that, "Will it include Y?" No because you were taking care of that from the conversation we had, "well it has to include 'everything' ".

Sure no problem, i'm thinking more work equals more money but then the text appears on my phone screen "we've had a thought and we're only prepared to go to £150", thats a days money for the extras, okay thats doable but no it turns out thats for the whole job!

So i'm expected to work for nigh on three days driving there and back everyday (45mins each way) burn out cutters and blades on the tools (its a kitchen renovation, new tops, doors etc) use a box or two of screws  and gas nails and all for £50 a day.

Now I'll do my utmost to swing a job for the sake of a few quid but increasingly this is what i deal with time after time after time - where people treat me like ebay insofar as "we're prepared to go to this figure", but what about the hours, materials, knowledge etc? No apparently you now just pluck a figure out the sky and i'm supposed to bend over and take it. I've had this all year for reasons best known to everyone but me as my day rate is shrinking as i'm aging yet still no work?

Its not much different with the housebuilders too as this austerity 'narrative' that runs through the country is nothing more than a convenient smokescreen for firms to cut everything including what was until a couple of years ago - a livable wage. 

Although i've enjoyed working on the boat recently - and i'm not bitter when i say this - i'm quite sure this project will be the last time i use my power tools in anger as i'm completely done with the world of woodworking - the numbers just don't add up anymore.

For me 2014 has been the year of the bullshitter where paid works concerned, i'm done dealing with shifty-arse builders, hormonal housewives, and idiot husbands who have not a bloody clue what they're talking about or what it takes to do my job yet seek to tell me how long it'll take and therefore what it will cost.

Still - to the boat - got both the battery and tank compartments fitted out plus spent yesterday fiddling about making a zero clearance insert for the site saw to make my kerfing more accurate, it worked too as i was able to cut and bend a piece of 12mm marine ply through 90 degrees.

The reason being as theres alot of curves still to make inside i can't face going through the foam, ply, epoxy & former nightmare so wil build a simple former to manipulate the wood over it and then using polyester resin set it to that shape. 

I say polyester resin as its 'indoors' (galley) and not structural which was always the test for its use and seeing as i have gallons of the stuff plus every additive known to man for it i may as well use it up.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

She's in!

There i was making and installing insulation panels Monday when the phone went, "Rog its Tony - you about tomorrow?" "yeah" i replied "okay John and I about if you want to fit this engine" at this point i knew i was a mile off but for some reason said "yeah sure come on over".

Suddenly it dawned on me how much there was to do to get the shed operational, that meant digging out the scaff tower from down the back of the garden where it was now grown in and in pieces.

Then cut the sheet of 25mm ply i had left over from doing the keels to fit across the cockpit as well as build a stud frame in front of the companionway hatch to support the roof and a lintel timber to take the block and tackle as well as brace the shed roof and on top of  all of that finish insulating the compartment of which i had attached the second panel! 

Still nothing like a bit of adrenalin to get things accomplished, 10 years ago it'd been a couple of grams of you know what but today its simple - nerves!

By this morning (Tues) all i had left to do was build the braces having worked into the night i got the engine transferred onto its installation crate and built the scaff tower around it. By 8am i'd been to screwfix bought yet more stainless bolts and been whizzing round like a blue-arsed fly doing the last bits to the boat. 

Still when the guys showed up i was sort of there or thereabouts, i explained the plan to which everyone nodded then got on making the braces whilst Tony and John got the engine hauled up the back of the boat.

Great blokes to have around, very zen - the pair of them - nice and calm, no shouting just quietly diligent, i need people like this around me in such times as i'm the one - whilst trying to style it out externally - internally i'm over-thinking everything wondering whether we're gonna pull the shed roof down or what happens if one of us gets hurt, should i put more ladders out etc.

When i walked back up the ladder with one of the braces Tony' sat cross-legged in the cockpit looking like a student revising for an exam (reading Calders tome) and John was marking up a bit of wood for me to cut to turn into a support for the prop shaft, absolutely ice cool.

All i can say - and its with a huge amount of gratitude to them both - is it ran like gravy, by the time they left my place  the engine was in, aligned with the feet nuts done up loose all there ready to be bolted down tight tomorrow.

Have to admit had a bit of a play with the couplings and bolted them altogether as well as sliding the prop shaft back and forth from outside just to make sure i wasn't dreaming, it really does all line up.

I'm well chuffed with the time i put into making the original jig to set the bearers and rails up with.

It paid dividends today along with the crate as we slid the engine off that and down onto the rails it was with very little adjustment that the engine lined up.

Today will go down in my diary as a memorable one, for it was a year ago today i started building the workshop, i remember thinking (at a low ebb) around that time.....mmm; chainsaw or workshop?

After today i'm Glad i chose the 'workshop' option..................

Sunday, 16 November 2014

It still works?

Having cut and carved my way through the wiring loom and re-routed alot of the electrical so its now accessible, one question; does it still all work?

Of course it does...............................................phew!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Cut the black wire.

My confidence is improving with the engine as i now know what every part does and where each cable goes and connects to, quite impressive for a dolt like me. To further simplify and bring piece of mind meant cutting away all the cable protection and bringing the cables up into the light where they could be seen.

It bothered me since last week when i started prepping it and was genuinely looking where the cables went; sure you could see the big loom plug and a foot of cable conduit which disappeared into the engine not before obscuring the dipstick which in turn obscured the impeller cover, i know great idea that - very service friendly!

Still with the engine working (see last post) i could take my brave pills and set about the wiring loom as it was during Tony's checks the other day i could see a multitude of cables bent back and stuffed down behind all manner of pipes and lines so last night disconnected said ancillaries and got busy with the cutters slicing off every last piece of conduit to expose the cables.

I'd researched this before doing a thing to look up what to cover the loom in to leave it loose enough and still afford  a little protection - the answer was loom tape - didn't know the stuff existed so bought three rolls, only used half of one. So now all the cabling has a woolly look but to access all i need do is undo - simple.

Not to knock the people who built mine as Beta and others all use said conduit but knowing its ability to spread fire in confined space and be an absolute ballache to maintain and repair cabling hidden inside it i'd rather do something with it now before access becomes a problem. 

Also soldered every spade connector connection with these absolute genius invention, still got the alternator on the bench as i got to the bottom of the mystery of a missing negative stud.

  Turns out i can use anything on the alternator (apart from the 'W' and '+' marked stud as its an 'earth return alternator' which means it has no designated negative so just use any part thats bare metal, engine block etc so have ordered a replacement bolt that the bottom of the alternator connects to via a load of spacers so they'll be enough space left at the end to bolt on the boats neg. connection.

Spent today refurbishing a pair of old battery cables from the boat as well as getting sorted for one more test fire - more to check i haven't buggered anything up with the loom - then into the boat next week. 

That should be fun..................................i think?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Its Alive!!!

At long last (and with the help of Tony Corcoran fellow Centaur owner) the engine finally fired into life, took a bit of coaxing but on the third attempt she came alive. The only things that bother me after today is the loom which is drum-tight around the engine and the alternator which doesn't have a clearly defined negative post or rather the one thats identified on the manufacturers website is clearly missing on mine so we stuck the negative on one of the mounting studs which HMI identified. When i fired the engine up tonight the battery light on the panel constantly flickered and the engine was hunting a bit so need to look at this before placing in the boat.

Still, one persons incompetence at building and wiring an engine can only be a great opportunity to learn a thing or two, so tomorrow i'll start photographing and identifying every cable with the cable tidies removed then start the grand re-route. As previously mentioned so much is buried behind ancillaries, squeezed and pinched between filters and dipsticks and some wires even bent almost 180 degrees back on themselves and wrapped so tightly in cable tidy material its just a problem waiting to happen.

Seeing as the long and rather lumpy strapline to this project is "i'm never coming this way again - ever" i'd rather sort it now then have it haunt me in a couple of seasons time. I must give a ton of thanks to Tony, a bloke who's level-headedness and methodical approach to trouble-shooting got the engine running and at one stage, making a dash for the door hence in the first film you see me drop everything and stand with my feet between the crate as the engine makes a bid for freedom.

We both concluded the wiring diagram would have made more sense in another language (preferably english)as it was down to good old-fashioned detective work finding what each wire did based on the hieroglyphs supplied by HMI, abit of common sense and of course 'the bible.'  No not that one; it didn't get that bad, we weren't in the garden around the dustbin asking for a sign or anything, i mean the boatowners bible; Mr Calder's excellent treatise on electrical & mechanical systems.

By mid afternoon it was time to push buttons, which reminds me i'm pretty sure i paid for the intermediate panel which comes with gauges but had to console my disappointment  with the comedy-sized 'stop' button on my basic one instead, might change the button which is black to red and make it even bigger. The purpose of today was to get the engine running which we did for after a masterclass from Tony regarding cooling circuits, electrical systems and a few pointers on what to look out for on my engine  i feel a lot less wary about all things oily and metallic.

Friday, 7 November 2014


Dragged the engine out of the dark corner in my garage today where its lane for the last six and a half years, out into the light it came covered in a thick layer of dust curiously chipped of a lot of paint and corroding in places and this is in a dry garage christ knows what it will resemble after a season in the boat, probably not alot different to the previous incumbent,

Still got on with bagging and taping up inlets, outlets and everything electrical and spent a couple of hours washing it with some hot water, washing-up liquid and various paint brushes, started to like it as the shine came back and the big v-belt front end i kept staring at made me like it a little more.

Then mentally got ready for the drag around the garden to the shop although not as bad as a 600kg keel it still made my back scream a little, got there and after some nifty work with timber offcuts and alot of swearing got it into the shed it was only on dragging it through thedoor i noticed how pissed the belt line was on the front of the engine.

I remember the engineer who came out and had a look tell me it needed doing but paid scant attention to it, on further inspection i realised it was a biggy, so photographed the wiring to the alternator and took pictures of the general arrangement of the front end before breaking it down. Thought i should check the alt. to see if the casting was bent and similarly with the front of the engine block - long shot i know but both were straight as a die, i concluded my engine had been assembled quite poorly, i'd phone Headley at EnginesPlus if i thought he'd pick the phone up, no matter.

After getting momentarily angry at having spent £3350 on an engine that i'm now disassembling i shrugged and realised this is yet another experience i've had over the years with the 'marine' industry where no matter what you spend is any indication of fitness for purpose or indeed the job being done right.

Some three hours of barking knuckles and a bit more salty language i got the belt pulling in the right direction with the alternator this time firmly attached to the front of the engine. Seeing as i found the bottom bolt with the spacers was finger tight with the spacers free to move about on the bolt so doing nothing to keep the alt straight and under tension.

Still on more positive note had a good result after much surfing i found a company called Hyphose who supplied me with all the hoses for the engine compartment at a fraction of the cost of the usual online swindleries to the tune of a 45% saving. Also picked up a flexible coupling and a bilge pump too so as the engines fitted all these parts can go in whilst access is good. 
Tomorrow i plan to go to Maplins and buy up a load of heat shrink and insulate every connection on the engine as the myriad spade connectors; kind of reminds me of my first car which was dodgy as hell where lights and power were concerned so want to head that off before i lose access to alot of it when fitted.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Wall to wall wood!

Still going at my usual glacial pace, the intention was to get the motor in and whilst waiting for several bits to be delivered i made a start - be it several weeks back - on the settee module and over the course of a couple of weeks i actually found myself enjoying the work as:

a) it didn't involve sanding something
b) it didn't involve using west's, glassfibre and therefore getting itchy & 
c) it did involve using my brain, capping veneering and planing materials.

Plus it draws on what i used to do for a living many moons ago although i don't do much 'fine' work as at present here in the UK the economy is still in such a parlous state that no one wants a good job they all still want a cheap one so my paid work seems limited to what i affectionately call 'turd polishing'.

In case you're wondering this is where the client makes a big thing of saving old bits of the job to be re-used in the new in some vain attempt to save money but in the process ends up spending more money in time & labour saving loads of old shit that it ends up costing as much if not more than making a new in the first place hence the overall look to the new job resembles that of a - yes you've guessed it - a polished turd,........... ahem.... i've wondered off message a bit haven't I?

Still when i'm not secretly seething about the futile actions of these blithering idiots i have to deal with i console myself by saving all the good stuff for me or to be more precise my boat hence i cracked on making the settee and what a joy it was too.

Got most of it finished off apart from the seat back that'll form the infill for the double but i can't make that as i don't know how long it'll be because i've yet to make the companionway steps and frame it'll sit against so for now its back into your favourite space and mine the coffin........ i mean the engine compartment. (Bloody feels like one though).

The goal is to get the insides fitted by Christmas along with the engine sat on its bearers so i'm gonna start making the sled it'll sit on to be test-fired at some point in the near future............................