Fender Bending

We commissioned Willow’s stern fenders (known as tipcats) last year, from an old boatman called Joe Hollingshead. Sarah E collected them for us and we picked them up from the November HNBC social. Next step was to soak them and then hang them up in the garage.

On Sunday, we decided to have a go at fitting them. This is not an easy job, particularly as Willow’s stern end is very pointy. The first one was relatively easy. With one end attached we used a heavy duty ratcheting puller to being the other end around, in combination with a bit of bashing from a sledge hammer.

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The first one securely fitted, we set about bending the second tipcat into shape. Doing it in situ proved difficult, so we made use of the same puller, a mooring pin and a convenient tree.

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This one was more difficult to persuade into the correct shape, so whilst it it also now attached we need to fettle them a bit more and keep tightening them. One suggestion has been to try switching them over so I think we’ll try that. But they’re starting to look the part.

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Counter Culture

This weekend, we decided to give Willow’s counter a bit of attention. First, we wanted to reduce the amount of ‘play’ in the tiller – previously if you moved the tiller there was a bit of a lag because the central stock which should have been a tapered square had worn down to something more rounded. First job was to grind down the blob of weld which held on the bolt, then remove the nut and the tiller arm completely. Those of you who have been reading our blogs for some years will remember that we’re no strangers to tiller removal, although this time it wasn’t a tree on the Nene but a deliberate removal with a 1″ spanner!2014-05-31 13.00.05-1


Then it was a case of cutting some steel strips to shim the rudder stock (and sanding/priming a few scratches and nicks while the grinder was out) before putting the “swan’s neck” back on, and securing it tightly onto the new steel shims with the top bolt. The result is that the rudder now responds immediately to movement with out any lag at all.

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Next, I got on with touching up some rust spots along the join between the cabin and the gunwales, whilst James got into the bilges under the counter. First he used Charles the wet vacuum cleaner to suck up the water, the cleaned and painted the stern gland bilge with Danboline.

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Whilst down there having a bit of a sort of the engine room, James was cleaning under the fuel tank (right at the back under the counter) and found an old penny. It’s a bit corroded but it’s possible to make out that it is a 1d piece from 1938, minted just three years after Willow was built. Traditionally boatmen used to set “lucky pennies” into their cabin steps so I wonder if it came out of an older step? We’re planning to set this one into the step. I love how old boats keep on surprising you!

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Today, while James is away coxing at Peterborough regatta, I’ve continued working on painting the counter. Now, all four colours are retouched and it’s looking much better, although a certain tortoiseshell feline did leave a couple of paw prints on the black paint before I shut her in! Don’t want her treading any more paint through the boat!

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Fill ‘er up!

Willow’s water tank filler is just outside the front doors, and we’d been having problems when filling up using the hose that because the end of the hose didn’t go far into the tank, it needed to be held in place with a large weight to stop it coming out and splurting water everywhere. This meant that while the water tank was filling we couldn’t get in and out of the he front doors and had to use the side hatch.

So (inspired by a post on canal world) a few bits of plumbing fitting and some spare pipe later, we had a neat way of filling up. The hose plugs into the plastic fitting, and the large bore(22mm) copper pipe goes into the tank, with the ball valve in place to turn the water on and off. You plug it all into the tap via the long hose, with the valve in off position, turn on the tap at the wall, put it into the tank, then turn on the valve. No mess. Then, when it’s done, you can just turn off the valve to immediately stop the water flow, then turn off the tap. No running to the tap to turn it off because the water’s overflowed. And you can still use the front door. Win.


On the way back from trying this out yesterday, we had a number of interesting situations to deal with. Firstly, winding the boat at the water point was very tight (we’re talking 6 inches spare), but thankfully that all went fine. Then, we needed to wind again to moor up pointing the right way. There was a strong stream running and this meant that Willow ended up slightly further downstream quicker than we expected, and got wedged completely between the two banks! Oops. All this with lots of rowing boats returning from a race, who were disgruntled at having to wait. Thankfully, some fellow boaters were passing and they, along with some passers by, lent a hand. James used the plank to lever the stern end away from the soft bank, which gave us the few millimetres we needed to free the fore end from the concrete wall and pull it round. It only took about 5 minutes in the end but it was stressful! We decided to give up on turning there and go a bit further out of town to wind, which we were able to do with no fuss. Then, on the way back in, we were passing under a footbridge which is half wrapped in scaffold, reducing navigation width. A traffic light system has been set up to prevent collisions, but the junior boys double which was coming the other way didn’t notice the light was red and came haring round the corner towards us, but luckily we were able to stop and let them pass. Still, although stressful, we were able to deal with them all without damage to Willow or sinking any other boats, so it could have been worse!

Passing the Duck on the way back from the water-point.

We also met the new owners of the Duck at the weekend. They have done so much with it already, giving the boat a new lease of life! They’re keen cooks and so the Duck’s kitchen, already large for a boat its size, is even bigger, with a lovely Belfast sink and a five burner hob as well as an oven. It’s so nice to see it is in good hands. They also told us that like us, it was those beautiful curved doors which sold the boat to them!

Categories: Daily Life, Fitout, Maintenance | 1 Comment

Fit out 42

A bit of a mix of things to blog about; a couple of bits and pieces inside the boat, and some work on the outside.

The biggest job we’ve done to the exterior so far was repainting the rear bulkhead and counter. The wooden rear doors had the paint cracking and peeling in places, and this was letting water in. We’ve had a couple of nice evenings this week, so I hurried home from work on a few occasions to get some paint on them to give it a chance to dry before the evening dew.

The doors were rubbed down, loose paint removed, and the worst patches under coated, and they’ve since had a couple of coats of topcoat. Because the doors looked so good, I also rubbed down and painted the bulkhead either side, and leaned out over the counter to paint around it. The back of the boat now looks stunning, but photos can wait until I’ve finished painting the tiller and the cants at the back- a couple of small jobs that can be done quickly and given a chance to dry before the dew comes. Another job was repainting the cants at the bow, which had been scratched on the journey back, and primed and under coated, but not top coated.

We put a big order in online at Midland Chandlers on their 20% off “Freaky Friday” sale yesterday, getting lots of useful items such as navigation lights, reading lights for the bedroom once we reorganise it, a battery monitor, and lots of useful bits and pieces. We’re waiting now for a very large parcel to arrive at Amy’s workplace, to mystify her colleagues!

The cassette loo, too, has been fettled a bit. It is mounted on a base which can be pulled out away from the cupboard, so the cassette can be changed. I mounted it securely on some appliance rollers from Mackays and mounted some bolts, so it securely attaches into position but can be easily rolled forwards to change the cassette- photos to follow.

Another job was to make, paint, and install a shoe rack at the front of the cabin, in our tiled “hallway”. As we’re not going to have a cratch cover, we needed somewhere to store wet and muddy boots, especially now autumn is drawing in. I had Mackays cut some 12mm aluminium tube to length, cut out some holes in 25mm wooden battens, and, once painted, attached them into the space. There’s plenty of space for boots underneath, and shoes on this rack, so they can all be tidily stored away.


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On Dock

This morning, Willow got its first coat of blacking, and it’s looking good! This time, unlike when we bought the Duck, we’re not doing it ourselves, choosing instead to get on with work inside! Once the first coat was on, I donned wellies and took some photos. The shiny blacking is showing up the old dents and wobbly wrought iron nicely!

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