Cruising Burnout and back again

The cruising honeymoon is over and we realised in September that we would rather be settled in a winter berth than rattling around Northern France looking for places to stay. There is a certain pressure to the cruising life and not knowing where you can stop next, if there will be enough room, enough bollards to tie to, finding water and some grass to walk the dog. It is also because of my job that we need places that are secure enough to allow Waterdog and Lorna to stay for the 15 days that I am usually away working.

Roubaix Rally

We had committed to going to the Roubaix rally as it was celebrating the opening of a canal between France and Belgium that had basically been blocked for up to 25 years. We discussed cancelling and going directly to our winter mooring that had been arranged since June, but decided we should turn up because DBA wanted to support the event and we were 1 of only 4 DBA boats going. Also a friend from the UK had arranged to come along for the rally – she had made the effort to visit before and we wanted to give her a chance to be on the boat while it was actually moving.

The Mental Turn Around

One reason that we were all cruised out was that during the continual cruising we had not managed to progress at all with work on the barge. In fact things kept wearing out or breaking so that we spent a lot of time making do and repairing to keep going. We decided we needed to take charge and start the fit out again so that we will have our full size barge again, a spare room for visitors and not a building site.

On a positive note, we had changed our ideas on the barge layout and had an afternoon brain storming and redesigning in Autocad to change the layout of the aft 12m of accommodation. The new design gained us enough room to have a small workshop under the stairs at the aft end and also put the future spare bedroom under the lowest part of deck head with no natural light. The new galley will be under the large skylight and the lounge will be forward of that.

The new layout is illustrated below and the extra space that we found is due to using the space under the stairs better and by not having a corridor past the second bedroom, as we were going to have when the bedroom was going to be aft of the bathroom. The top view shows the coaming with rectangular skylights and the wheelhouse with doors opening either side. The middle view shows the internal layout being described in the text. The area from the engine room bulkhead and then forward to the bathroom is still under construction although we have a temporary galley/dining/saloon in half of it. The bottom view shows a side elevation to complete the picture. We use Autocad to design the layout on a PC and can then evolve the design as we get new ideas.


Boat plan

Boat plan

This spurred us back into action and we started by tidying up all the tools and materials in the large empty space and then arranging it all so that we could finish the aft bulkhead and start laying the floors. Tidying up gave us such a sense of space and preparedness that we felt much better already.

I started work on the bulkhead just before setting off towards Erquelinnes and then had to stop, of course, as we steamed for long days and filled the rest of each day with boat maintenance and walking the dog.

Engine Room

What was once a dark oily hole full of junk is now the beating heart of Waterdog. It is quite a busy space and as it developed we extended the area to include a ‘clean engine room' which contains the 2 extra water tanks (2.75 tonnes), the electrical system, the set of traction batteries (0.75 tonnes) and a rack of spares.



The original engine room contains all the diesel driven things and is still a bit dirty and cold. The Mermaid Mariner 135HP engine is now encased in a sound deadening box but this makes it bearable rather than quiet. The Kohler 9KW quiet generator (water cooled and 1500 revs) provides our AC power and charging, the old 5KVA very noisy air cooled generator (3000 revs) for emergency power, and the pressure jet Somy heating boiler.

Red diesel, which we use for heating and generating, is held in 2 old tanks (892 litres) that we have scrubbed and cleaned inside and then re-plumbed since they were not connected to anything.

White diesel is held in 2 new tanks (600 litres) that we squeezed into an old water ballast area at the very stern and is for the main engine. This white diesel is twice the price of red diesel as it includes road tax for vehicles but European law says we have to use this diesel for all propulsion (ie. the engine).

The stern gland is below the aft engine hatch and is filled with grease from the ancient hand wound tube on the aft bulkhead.

Various boxes of spares, tools and canisters of oil and reserve diesel fill up all the space around the main items. Our air compressor lives in here as well, with enough hose to reach all over the boat for air chiselling rust and other tasks. It seems slightly cluttered but I know where it all is.

Engine room
Engine room

These engine spaces are mainly Lawrence's domain (garden shed) but Lorna knows enough to do the main engine checks and top ups.

Daily checks include, engine oil, cooling water, clear the raw water strainer and a turn of the stern gland greaser. The same for the generator and then there are the diesel pre-filters which seem to need replacing regularly as we use the red diesel for heating and generating. It seems the white diesel is cleaner than the red diesel and those pre-filters last longer than the domestic pre=filters. We buy filters in bulk from the UK to keep up with their use.

One day I will get around to cleaning up the engine room spaces, painting and maybe insulating the sides and deck head to keep down condensation. Until then it's a strictly boiler suit and boot area with visitors discouraged apart from a glance in from the entrance.
Stern gland
The stern gland is a traditional packing box with large greaser above it. The stern gland and shaft date from the 1940s and are 60mm diameter solid mild steel with a newer stub shaft due to the shorter engine that we had fitted in 2008. We omly get the occasional drip of water from the stern gland after a day's run. One turn of the greaser stops this.