BELLE’s BLOG has moved - you will find it here BELLE BLOG







It’s been a BLOG-less year ……...wacko.gif


A combination of guilt on our part and pressure from others has spurred me into updating this BLOG.  As I have said before, writing about the tedious and day-to-day aspects of boating life is not for me.  If you want that sort of thing, then there are plenty of other boating related websites around for you to visit.


So, what can I write about?  Its got to be boating related tekkie stuff of course – here are some tekkie things from 2009 that might be of interest:




BELLE had her hull blacked early November 2009.  Like her first blacking around mid-October 2008, we were nervous about craning or dragging BELLE back onto dry land, so we opted again for a more genteel and less stressful approach by utilising the covered dry dock at Shobnall Boat Services in Burton-on-Trent for a weekend.  BELLE was slowly and gently lowered onto support blocks at the bottom of the dock as the water was pumped out.  No need to stash all of our ornaments away and tie things down, etc. in readiness for dangling from a crane like a 20 tonne conker or a good rumbling/shaking whilst being dragged up a quayside by winch at what appears to be an ‘unhealthy’ angle of inclination.


It took less than an hour to drain all of the water out of the dock and before we knew it, the lads were steam cleaning the hull clean.  Thereafter we were left to get on with things.  This sort of job is not for the work shy – it was certainly a weekend of hard graft.  Having scraped / wire brushed off all of the loose stuff at and below the waterline, we managed to subsequently apply four separate coats of International Intertuf bitumous black paint to the entire hull and we touched up the red and white banding around the stern.  There was no serious rusting or pitting of the hull to be found anywhere.  We maximised our use of the covered dock and re-painted all of the white roof panels.


This time around BELLE had been in the water for a year.  She had been in the water nearly two years when we blacked for the first time around mid-October 2008.  The decision to black this time was mainly driven by the expectation that the anodes would need replacing, but, much to our surprise, we found that they were still serviceable.  In all probability we shall be in the dry dock doing it all again around October/November 2010.  Some might view this as a bit OTT.  However, BELLE is our home and we want to keep her in pretty good nick right from the start.


Satellite TV


Whilst the Freeview digital terrestrial TV signals are usually well received on-board BELLE, there are times when the reception is poor, particularly when we are cruising.  Sometimes switching to analogue works, but clearly the program choice is very limited.  We wanted something better so decided to install a satellite TV system.  Having scoured the market, we opted for a CAMOS SAT-DOME.  This is a pretty nifty bit of kit (albeit expensive) that will seek the chosen satellite and will, subject to any obstructions of the line-of-sight to the satellite by nearby buildings or tall trees, etc., remain locked onto that satellite, even if you are on the move.  There was a write up about BELLE’s SAT-DOME installation in the RoadPro 2009 catalogue – you will find a scanned copy of that write up here.  You can see the dome discreetly located on our cabin roof in the picture below.


Our only problem (self-inflicted I might add) is that we are dead set against shelling out a wad each month to Rupert Murdoch for a Sky subscription.  Actually, we are only really interested in securing British Eurosport.  Unfortunately, the only provider of British Eurosport via satellite at present is Sky.   An alternative might be to ‘stream’ British Eurosport from our computer to the TV, it having been received using Eurosport Player on t’Internet via either our T-Mobile or Orange 3G connections.  The 3G data allowances might hinder this approach, but this is something that we are looking into very seriously.  We are prepared to pay about £4.00 / month for a Eurosport Player subscription, but we are not prepared to pay about ten times more for a Sky subscription that, whilst it would include British Eurosport, also includes a whole lot of guff that we don’t actually want or need.








Francis Searchlight


DSC00110r2.JPGThe sharper-eyed amongst you will have probably noticed the bigger Francis searchlight on BELLE’s bow in the above photograph.  This is a highly polished chrome plated beauty and at 11” diameter it throws out one hell of a beam of light down the cut.


Please understand that there was nothing wrong with the smaller 7” Francis searchlight that we blogged about in November 2008.  This has been mounted onto the stern hatch and it assists us when we are reversing in the dark, which we often do when we make a trip to our nearby water point.  We also use this hatch mounted searchlight for illuminating the port or starboard side, whilst cruising, leaving its bigger brother on the bow to spotlight the far distance.


This bigger searchlight, whilst manufactured in 1973, was effectively unused when we purchased it.  Like its kid brother, we purchased it from Moorfield Specialist Vehicles.


The only adaptation necessary was the interposition of a stainless steel ‘extension’ between the main searchlight swivel and the standard Francis base.


The Moorfield website is ‘off limits’ for me for a while!



Solar Panels


Our only problem regarding the Kyocera solar panels we purchased / installed in 2008 is the trees on our mooring – these deny a lot of light to the panels and seriously reduce their output.  Whilst out and about cruising we have had sustained outputs of up to 15 amps in bright sunshine; very usable indeed.  Here on our mooring we are lucky to sustain much more than about 5 amps, with occasional bursts up to about 9 amps in summer; still usable, but nevertheless disappointing.  We do not regret purchasing these solar panels, but we are wondering whether making them pay for themselves might entail us carrying out some serious vegetation management on our mooring on behalf of BW!   




It always happens doesn’t it – we always gravitate to discussing our ‘waste management’.  This is probably because failure to take good care of this essential on-board system could result in some serious inconveniences.  Now and again, particularly during the winter we hit the ‘full’ marker on the waste tank gauge, with the inevitable consequences.  This is usually because we cannot travel to the nearby marina for a pump-out because of ice on the canal.  Sometimes the crosswinds prevent us from moving very far.  The aforementioned, in conjunction with the increasing pump out charges, have encouraged us to think about viable alternatives.  We are not interested in cassette toilets – let me get that one out of the way for a kick-off.  More practically, we want to pursue self pump-outs.  We already have a Henderson (Whale) MKV manual pump and we use this now and again to transfer the stuff into a couple of 25 litre plastic containers for disposal at the nearby BW elsan point.  That avoids us having to hot foot it to the nearby BW toilet block for much sought after relief at any time of the day or night. 


We need a proper engineering solution!


'Utility 80' 1½" self-priming pump 230volt/1 phase/50Hz a.c.Bring on the Jabsco Utility 80 Pump.


We have just purchased one of these pumps and we are currently building it, along with a suitable DOL motor starter, into a metal frame so that it can be more readily lifted and moved around as a complete package.


This is what I call a pump; crafted and solidly constructed in a Brunel like manner from bronze and steel and with a gaping 1.5” BSP inlet and outlet.  It’s definitely built to last, unlike the flimsy plastic bodied pumps that they try to sell you at many of the chandlers.  It did not cost a great deal more than some of the flimsy plastic bodied pumps that they try to sell you at the chandlers either!


By now you will probably be asking – armed to the teeth with this new industrially proportioned Jabsco Utility 80 Pump based ‘waste management system’, where the hell are they going to position the outlet pipe?  Well, the master plan currently entails us siding BELLE up to the nearby BW elsan and shoving the outlet pipe into that.  I know, I know, I know.......BW does not like you doing that sort of thing I can hear you saying.  My argument is that there are no signs telling me that I cannot do it.  Furthermore, practically speaking, what’s the difference between ejecting typically three weeks of waste in one go into their elsan versus doing it every couple of days via cassette over a period of three weeks, or barrowing three weeks worth up to the elsan in plastic containers over the course of a day?


Hopefully, our time and BW permitting, etc. we will be reporting a success in January 2010.  Fingers crossed that we do not switch on and pebble-dash ourselves from head to toe as well as our nearby surroundings, followed swiftly by a fizz-bang-bzzzzzz-kerpow as we blow up our on-board 230v ac power supply.


On that note, we would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!







BLOG for 2008  [All BLOG entries January 2008 > December 2008]


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