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I have been putting this off long enough. It’s time I started to try and get this old tub motoring. It’s all well and good spending time and money converting her into a houseboat/dayboat, but if I can’t get this massive lump of steel to turn over, I might as well have bought a caravan! (Yuk)

First things first. I’ve managed to identify my specific engine. I knew it was a Ford Lehman, Evon-o-Matic, on account of that’s what’s written on it, but I was able to narrow down its year of manufacture to 1973, probably…

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I was amazed to find they had PDF’s back in 73…

Normally, Lehman’s are fire engine red, but for some reason, the 1973 models were painted a fetching olive green, I know not why. Anyway, that doesn’t matter, whatever the reason for the colour change, it has at least enabled me to pin down its age. And can you believe, it’s even older than me!

Identifying the engine means I was able to track down an old manual in hand PDF format, which allowed me to start diagnosing the problem of why this old this won’t turn over. The guy who sold me the boat, said he’d been told there was something wrong “deep inside” the engine, which is a great help!

First things first, I charged the battery, still nothing. I traced all of the wires, which seamed fine, so I consulted the manual, which pointed me towards the started motor and solenoid.

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Should I cut the red wire, or the red wire?

Now, I’m not the most mechanically gifted, but I know the basics, which is why I can’t really be held accountable for what happened next. You see, if I see a cut wire, my immediate reaction is, ‘This must be it!’ I thought I had tracked the problem down to a simple cut wire. Why it was cut, I could only speculate. (My initial theory was that family and friends of the previous owner, who was after all in his 90’s after all, had deliberately snipped it to prevent him from taking her out of the marina)

Anyhow, to cut a long and embarrassing story short, I reconnected the wires, turned her on, and the electrics began to smoulder. I had accidentally reversed polarity on the starter, thus killing it, and the solenoid! I did a bench test to confirm it, and it was definitely a dud!

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Dead like Disco…

All is not lost, because after an extensive search, I was able to find a replacement, and it was only £195 *weeps. By the time it arrives next week, I hope to have traced all of the wiring and made absolutely sure everything is hooked up as it should be. Then I should, hopefully, be able to at least crank the engine! I’m not holding out much hope that it will actually start running, but i can hope!

The Refit Begins

I have ME, which means I only have a few hours worth of useful energy per day. I wont bore you with details, but this, along with running a very busy cake business, means i can only devote an hour a day at most. Sometimes I can only manage a few hours per week. I tell you this not to illicit sympathy, but to forewarn you that if you chose to follow the progress of my houseboat refit, were gonna be here some time people!

That said, i am making progress in a few departments. I’ve managed to start the conversion of the central engine cover into a raised Turkish style seating platform. Trust me, it will make sense when its finished!

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I’m also making headway (a little nautical term for you there) on the front cabin. If you imagine the boat as a house, the front cabin is going to be the lounge. At the moment, the wheel is offset to the right of the cabin, so I’ll need to move it to the centre, giving me room to put in a comfy leather bench on the starboard side, and some sort of entertainment cabinet on the port side. But no TV. Maybe a radio, but TV’s are strictly forbidden…

I’ve not touched the engine yet. I suppose I’ll have to get around to it sooner or later. I’m not adverse to getting my hands dirty, It’s just not a priority. I will definitely need to get a definitive diagnosis of why it won’t start, before I continue with the refit of the main cabin. Replacing the engine, should it be necessary, will be a messy job!

Lots to do…

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Where to start…

I’ve decided to start work on the interior initially. I want to create something that is 50% day-boat, 50% houseboat. Somewhere we can comfortably spend a holiday, and the odd weekend, whilst remaining a working, seaworthy, boat. The best of both worlds…

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If I was kitting out a narrow boat, or a more static boathouse, I wouldn’t need to worry about weight and distribution so much, but as I still actually want to be able to put to sea in her, I have to make sure I find the right balance between strength and weight when I’m choosing materials, and since I’ll be working mostly in wood, this means nothing to heavy or dense. No mahogany furniture for instance!

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Like I said before, she is a blank canvas, but the main challenge I’m facing with the interior is the huge engine box slap bang in the middle of the boat! I’m not complaining, a boat’s gotta have an engine, particularly a motorboat, (hence the name,) but this thing is MASSIVE! It’s also slightly not working…

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I’ve looked into it, and I’ve managed to identify the engine, as well as download a service manual, which will come in very handy when I get around to fixing it! Incidentally, the motor is a 1972 Lehman 60hp diesel, (which even older than me!) converted from a Ford truck engine.
From my limited knowledge, the engine doesn’t look terminal, and I’m hoping I can get it going again, otherwise a replacement is going to cost at least 2k with fitting. (I should point out that I am notorious for buying cars and trucks that turn out to be lemons, so fingers crossed I’ve chosen a half decent motor this time!)
I suspect the problem might originate in the electrical system, but I can’t be sure until I roll up my sleeves and start poking about in there. Which I’m not super keen to do, not just yet. For the moment I’m happy to concentrate on the interior and exterior. (I’ve even started testing out colour schemes in Photoshop!)

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I have a boat.

So, I bought a boat. No, really, I bought a boat! And she’s a beauty.

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The previous owner was a spry 90 year old, who had priced it low to shift it before mooring fees became due. The boat is sound, and he’d done a decent job of tidying up the interior. The engine is a little on the not-working-side, but it looks like it can be fixed, probably…

He was asking £500, having bought it for 8.5k a couple of years ago, and spent hundreds kitting the interior out. Being the master negotiator I am, I offered him £1000 for her

I know what you’re thinking, but I don’t really care. I couldn’t sleep at night if I’d ripped off a 90yr old for his pride and joy. Maybe you could have, but I know for sure, that if I had given him the £500 he was asking, I wouldn’t be able to step foot on her without being reminded that I’d taken advantage of a sweet natured 90 year old man.

As far as the boat is concerned, she is a blank canvas, and I am going to have a great time tinkering with her!

Reclaim This

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My wife and I visited a local reclamation yard today. We were looking for something interesting for our newly landscaped garden. This building remnant caught my eye. I’m not sure if it’s a bell tower from a church, or just some ornate folly. Whatever it is, it is utterly incongruous, even here amongst an eclectic mixture of Belfast sinks and garden gnomes…

Having M.E. is all about managing expectations. A good way of describing it is thus: A person living with chronic illness, that identifies with Christine Miserandino’s Spoon Theory. Spoonies are people that live with chronic illness; theoretically measuring personal daily abilities much as one would measure the proper amount of spoons needed for an event or occasion… sometimes having an abundance, other times coming up short. (Via The Urban Dictionary) The full text of the theory can be found on the appropriately named ButYouDontLookSick.com

What this means in a practical sense, is that I am required to undergo a massive re-adjustment in every aspect of my life. The hardest thing is finding a balance between activity and exhaustion… I don’t want to spend my life on the sofa, but neither do I want to feel like I have been run over by a truck – which is how I feel when I overdo things – so I have to find my optimum ‘level’ The thing is, this keeps changing. What is difficult one day is easy the next, etc.

I used to be a photographer, I may be one again. I don’t photograph people, I much prefer ‘places’ and ‘things’ mostly because they don’t complain or become coy under scrutiny. I can’t stumble around on the local beaches or denes anymore, so I will have to look closer to home for inspiration…

The following are digital sketches, fragments of imagined landscapes. M.E. slows your world down to the point that you start to feel dislocated from the flow of time. People and places flickr across the TV screen or computer monitor, but you don’t feel part of it. The world spins on its axis, but I am stuck in concrete.

When I am exhausted, not tired or a bit sleepy, but in stupor so bad that I am unable to think coherently or move from the sofa, I occupy a middle ground between sleep and consciousness. The following images are the beginning of my attempt to explore this imagined landscape.