Monday, 12 July 2010

It's Obvious Really

Life is funny - sometimes obvious things stare you in the face and you don't see them until you trip over it.

My day job is designing, servicing and installing electrical equipment and systems on ocean going ships.

The hourly labour rates for that sort of work are quite high, so if something needs to be installed on a ship which will involve long-winded labour-intensive tasks like running long cables, penetrating steel bulkheads to get the cables through etc, the people who own the ships will generally pay labourers (at a lower hourly rate) to do that work and then hire somebody like me to design it, draw it, connect it up, set it up and so on. This keeps my chargeable time to a minimum.

This has been the accepted way in my business for as long as I can remember.

Coming back to the subject of canals, when I talk to fellow boaters and they tell me in passing that they have installed a new inverter or similar, but its not working properly as they've used the wrong cable or its not got adequate ventilation etc, I often ask them why they didn't pay a professional to do it.

The answer is always the same - we couldn't afford it.

It occurs to me that the electrical needs of the shipowner and narrowboater are similar - get a good job done, but at minimal cost.

Many boaters are quite capable of the DIY skills needed for 95% of the installation.

They sometimes just need a little help and guidance on the difficult electrical bits.

Experience often means that I can see an easy way of installing something that will save a lot of work and unnecessary parts. Often I can save them money by knowing where to use the more expensive components and where the cheaper components will work fine.

I've been doing bits and pieces on narrowboats for quite a while and of late, I tend to follow a set pattern.

I tend to visit the boat initially to do a site visit, make a drawing of how it needs to be done on that particular boat layout and "spec" (and sometimes obtain) all the bits that are needed in the form of a kit. Often the boater will buy the parts themselves using a shopping list that I provide - this saves them money.

The boater then does all the time consuming parts at their leisure according to the plan, like mount the units, run the cables in, etc.

If they have a question - they phone or e-mail me. A lot can be resolved by digital photos etc.

When they are ready, I go back to the boat once more and wire up what they have done, carry out any specialised bits like making up battery connectors etc and commission the installation.

This way, the cost of all-out time consuming labour is avoided and the boater gets a properly designed and specified installation for a few hours paid labour.

By the way, I don't and couldn't charge big ship labour rates to inland waterway boat owners, but it helps to keep the wolf from the door between deep sea jobs.

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