Friday, 25 September 2009

Looming Large

Since I mentioned in passing, the other day, that some of my "large ship" work was drying up as a result of the global downturn in trade, I have had several people ask me about making wiring looms for their new boats.

For those of you that haven't come across this concept, its a spin-off from the wiring looms that are now standard in cars and production boats.

Like cars, production motor cruisers such as Princess, Sunseeker etc are not wired one wire at a time, as this would be too time consuming and therefore expensive.

The cabling for these type of boats is made to pattern and length, so that the boatbuilder can just clip one loom into place and connect-up all the loose ends.

Visually, a wiring loom resembles a fish bone, with a main spine and various offshoots coming off.

This practise has now caught on in the narrow-boating world.

Its very useful for people fitting out their own hulls or sailaways, as it saves a lot of fitting-out time, time wasted sourcing small quantities of materials and specification guesswork.

The cables can be made to order as a bespoke loom and delivered to the boat in one or more pieces, subject to complexity.

It means that the person doing the fitting out can spend less time working in a cramped hull (which is no fun in winter) or more time doing some other form of fitting out, like the plumbing or tiling the shower.

Normally, I either start off by visiting the boat to discuss the layout with the owner and make a pattern, or if the boats physically too far away, the owner can complete a diagram by adding dimensions and a few other necessary details.

I can then make the loom in my workshop at home (not on our boat - not enough room !! ).

The loom is made up of correctly dimensioned cables for the current it will need to carry and is supplied as a finished product with marked cables within the loom, a wiring diagram and a list of the conductors used and their specification.
Looms are cable tied and heat-shrink sleeve wrapped for strength.

When the loom gets to the boat, the spine has to be fitted into place (usually alone the centre of the deckhead or under the gunwhale) and the dimensioned tails then fall into place to line up with the switches and light fittings. The person doing the fitting-out then has to connect the 2-wire connections on the loose tails to the light fittings and switches and the other end of the spine is connected to the outputs of the DC fuse box or distribution panel.

Its also possible to split the lighting circuit so that a failure on one circuit (e.g. blown breaker or fuse) doesn't plunge the whole boat into darkness or even one end of the boat. The loom allows lights to be interleaved, so that every second light would stay on, etc.

I can also make up heavy duty battery cables (up to 70mm2), which can be supplied to length, for new inverters, battery chargers, etc.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Clean The Screen and Fill Her Up, Please

We all need a little bit of care and attention, sometimes.

Even ships.

After our race around the Med, we are back in the U.K

As jobs go, it's not been bad. Got the work done, got some sun and managed to see a little of the places we berthed in.

This Wightlink ferry is getting a wash and brush-up.

Look at how shallow her draft is !!!

If your only experience of taking on diesel has been at the filling station or, if on a boat, at the marina or from a trading narrowboat, check this out.

The orange/red hulled ship is a bunker barge.

She exists purely to refuel other ships.

She currently has a flexible hose of about 10" diameter pumping fuel oils into our bunker tanks, to replenish what we burnt dashing around the Med.

Fuel on ships is measured in tonnes, not litres and ships can typically burn 20-60 tonnes a day. Bring back sailing ships I say.

At the same time, we have a lot of windows that are now caked with salt from the spray.

So, the windowcleaner is lowered in a permanent cage and hoses them all down - what a cleaning round, eh ?

This is the final chapter of this particular book.

So to part, a shot of a shuffleboard deck, as we shuffle off with our tools and gear (and it was a shuffle too - where did all that extra stuff come from ? ).

Back home to Willawaw and a new chapter - the start of our Autumn/Winter cruise.

Catch you soon.


Wednesday, 23 September 2009

And I Thought Stromboli was a Circus Clown

We crept through the Messina Straits under cover of darkness and cut a silent wash past a sleeping Stromboli, the island and volcano.

Welcome to a particularly volcanic part of the Meditearranean, or to be more precise, the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Stromboli last erupted last year, but tonight it appears to be dormant.

So, on to the next volcano, Vesuvius. This is a bit more sleepy, but blew its top in the last 100 years and spectacularly in 79 A.D when it killed over 10,000 people in the much televised destruction of Pompeii. I know all about this because I used to watch Frankie Howard - Titter ye not.

Anyhow, the entrance to these delights is Naples.

Italy is a stylish place.

They don't do much and there was always the famous joke about the World War 2 Italian tank - it had one forward gear and three reverse gears. However, what they do, they do with incomparable style.

They shrug, they pout, they play with their sunglasses and the men can't pass a mirror, without pausing to reflect.

It always makes me smile when I fly into Italy and the police and customs at the airport always seem to be fiddling with their little white bags on their belts or brushing a stray hair off their face whilst looking in the one-way glass.

I've often wondered what the mens toilets must be like in an Italian nightclub.

I can imagine a line of men at the washbasins, applying their make-up and working hard at that manicured look.

Even their cruise terminal is chic - I kept expecting to see Sophia Loren at any moment.

You can tell I'm not envious - after all, who wants to look like a male model without even trying - I don't - bah.

Anyway, as is my habit, I digress.

Naples or Napoli now that I'm here, is a busy little port.

How's this for a mooring ?

So, when in Rome - sorry, when in Napoli, it's off to Amalfi for ice cream and more sunglasses.

The roads are very windy and narrow on the Amalfi coast and driving is a tad hairy.

Its interesting watching trucks and coaches weave along roads probably made for donkeys.

Full marks to the Italian drivers though, they get past other vehicles with a centimetre to spare.

and if they don't, so what, more shrugs and sunglasses on heads for eyeballing contests.

It's got so bad, that the government employ these little men to contraflow the traffic.

Its very clever, they come in little rectangular grow-bags (see his on the lamp post).

You pour agua minerale on the bag and hey presto, miniature traffic marshalls.

What ? you don't believe me ?

Okay, doubting thomases, here is conclusive proof, snapped by a concealed camera.

Here is the home of the Italian leprechaun, now gainfully employed on the Amalfi coast road:

Amalfi is beautiful - what can I say.

Andiamo (lets go).

Job done, we cast off the myriad of lines that secures us to Italy.

A quick surge on the bow and stern thrusters and the ship is once more, a living, moving thing of beauty. 

Next stop, home.

She glided out of Naples, past these very stylish commercial warehouses.

Just because they hold warehouse type things, why can't they look good, ciara.

Ciao baby. 

Thats what I like about Italians - appearance is everything.



Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Cure Thyself

Istanbul was brilliant.

It's one of my favourite places as it forms a "bridge" between Europe and the Middle East.

Stomped through by many different civilisations, it now stands as a mix of many cultures.

Irrespective of your thoughts about organised religions, you can't help but marvel at the effort that man makes in building great buildings in honour to his creator.

No visit to Istanbul would be complete without a visit to the Blue Mosque (one of only two mosques that, at the time of building, had as many minarets as the mosque in Mecca - six).

This is Hagia Sophia, built as a church, converted to a mosque and now a museum.

Nor would a visit be complete without a walk through the alleged 1200 shops of the Grand Bazaar with a little friendly haggling for some unique Turkish craftwork.

On the way down the Turkish coast, we anchored off a little fishing village for a day and took the launch ashore. We managed to get to Pergamon, which although now in Turkey, used to be a Greek city (moving borders you see).

Below is a photograph of the Asclepieion or healing temple. It was the forerunner of modern hospitals dating back over 2000 years. 

However, unlike modern hospitals, they did not let you in, if you looked terminal.

Dying patients made their success statistics look a bit sick !! -

mmm well, maybe not that different then ?

If you were unfortunate enough to die in their care, they apparently had a habit of disposing of the body when nobody was looking.

"Nurse, nurse, where is Mr.Papadopoulos - he looked very sick when I did my rounds yesterday ?"

"He checked out, Doctor - thought he had left his back door unlocked or something"

"Oh well, another success for the medical staff - at least he walked out himself"

I wonder if the medical students could see the operation from up there ? 

"Speak up, did you say gut or cut ?"

In the words of the infamous Monty Python, "and now for something completely different".

From Ancient Greece to Art Deco.

This is the ships atrium - a Latin word, not a Greek one.



Sunday, 20 September 2009

Those Hard To Reach Places

Well done to the engineers. We reached Istanbul on schedule.

Like narrowboats, ships need touching-up every now again.

Unlike narrowboats, you can't just kneel down on the marina pontoon and slap some more blacking on.

Istanbul is a lovely city, but they don't have proper mooring fenders.

Most ports have large pneumatic fenders as shown below. I've often fantasised about fitting some ballast on the bottom of one for stability and making a real boat out of one (Little cabin on the top ?).

Well they're big enough (look at the man on the quayside for scale) and you couldn't damage one by hitting things with it, could you ??

Istanbul only has tractor tyres and these left lots of black rubber rings on our lovely white paintwork.

With this is mind, we had to put the painting crew down in the next port.

The ship is largely self-sufficient and maintenance is no exception.

An aluminium raft with an electric outboard is kept onboard for those little waterline tasks, like slapping white paint over dirty fender marks.

When its all done, there's nothing else for it, but to fold the raft up and get it back on board.



Saturday, 12 September 2009

I'm More Important Than You

Well the fuel pump is up the shoot !!

It takes the engineers 6 hours to change and while it's being changed, we can only run on the remaining engines.

There is always rivalry between the three main departments on a cruise ship.

The Deck department think they are the most important because they steer the ship from port to port and stop it hitting icebergs.

The Technical department believe they are the most important because they keep everything working.

Without them, the ship wouldn't be going anywhere.

The hotel department know they are the most important.

Without them, the ship wouldn't make any money.

Without them, the company wouldn't be able to pay the poncy navigators in their whites and Ray-bans.

It wouldn't be able to pay the pale-skinned troglodytes who spend their time in that hot, noisy cavern of an engine room.

Anyway, the Ray-bans are chewing their pencils nervously, the engineers are up their elbows in heavy fuel oil and the hotel staff just smile and amuse the passengers by wiggling to the B52's around the pool.

That didn't work, so they got the passengers to whack the hell out of each other over the swimming pool. Everybody was amused by the violence and the blood didn't show because it was diluted by the water in the pool.

If we are not in port by 0700 tomorrow, the proverbial will hit the fan and the Company will not be pleased.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Schedule

Still at sea on the White Whale.

Today, the fuel pump packed in.

No biggy - got a spare !!

The engineers will change it.

Most of the people that go on a cruise have no conception of the medium.

They think of a ship as a moving hotel. A top class hotel where the scenery moves overnight.

They have no particular love or even an interest for the sea.

Loosely termed a cruise, it is in fact, more of a high speed dash.

The ship's top sustainable speed is 24 knots. We need to maintain an average of 22 knots betwee ports to maintain the schedule.

Severe weather, having to change course to avoid other ships and God forbid, having to heave to or divert to rescue poor souls in distress, all take their toll on the schedule.

As one Greek captain said on our little sojourn through the Corinth Canal, "No Man at Sea and no entering the boats without the Captains say-so".

I think he meant no man overboard and if we have to take to the lifeboats, wait for his approval as he wants to go first.


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Currying Favour

One of the beauties of having a Goanese crew on a ship, is the fact that they make excellent curries.

Goa is an ex Portuguese colony off the coast of India and their largely Christian population have been the source of crew for some companies for many years.

Being the owner of one of the select breeds of curry-loving cat, I'm rather partial to the odd "Ruby" (sorry - Cockney rhyming slang alarm - Ruby Murray = Curry).

We even have our own Tawa, which is a type of flattened griddle, used for making Chapati's.

I like to eat my curries without rice. I prefer Chapati's and choose to eat them with the fingers by wrapping the curry in the Chapati and devouring the lot - the original way; clean fingers and no utensils needed.

Everybody has their own definition of paradise. Their own version of desert island discs !!

Mine is travelling the world, whilst being able to eat a different curry every day.

I have a pact.

I have to stride up 7 decks, several times a day, so that I can sit out on one of the aft decks, eating a bowl of curry, al fresco style.

Unlike dinner, I eat alone and in silence.

Tomorrow, we're due to be off Sicily, but more importantly, it's Lamb Bhuna day.

The thing about modern ships is their speed. Even without any wind, a passenger ship will make its own by the sheer exertion of forward movement.

So, a 25 mph wind across the deck is no bad thing.

1800 people on Lamb Bhuna could be more noticeable than being downwind of a cattle ship. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A Canal with a Difference

We finally arrived at Piraeus in Greece.

Piraeus is the seaport for the Greek capital city of Athens, which is just up the road.

Being the archetypal canal anorak that I am, I did what any self respecting waterways freak would do and set off for the Corinth Canal, about an hours drive away from the docks.

The Isthmus of Corinth is a narrow piece of land which separates the Peloponnese of Greece, a peninsula in the extreme South of the country, from the rest of Greece.

As long ago as 602BC, the Greeks considered cutting a canal to avoid the long and often dangerous sail around the Peloponnese.

Work was started as early as 307BC and was then stopped and started through the ages.

In 66AD, the Roman emperor Nero actually managed to get his engineers to cut a 3.3Km long 40m wide ditch, but work was halted again.

The ancients often hauled their boats and cargoes over the Isthmus, to avoid sailing round - slave labour was plentiful in those days.

It wasn't until after the Suez Canal was opened in the 19th century, that work began in earnest at Corinth.

In the end,  the Corinth Canal was dug out between 1881 and 1893, by a Hungarian contractor.

The final version is 4 miles long, straight and lockless.

It has a depth of 8m and a width of 24.6m.

There are various overhead high level road bridges connecting what is now an island, to the rest of Greece and Europe.

At each end of the canal, there are two low level road bridges.

These bridges are quite unusual in that, when boats wish to enter the canal, the spans sink beneath the waters and let the boats pass over them.

Apparently, when they surface again to allow waiting traffic to cross, fish are often found on the emerging road surface, giving the bridge controllers their lunch.