WIFI on a canal boat

Wi-Fi have been researching how to add Wi-Fi on a canal boat for a while, I have started designing a system for monitoring the system onboard so that I can remotely monitor and warn me when things need attention.

But before that can start I needed to add a reliable network on the board, that can offer both WI-FI and cable networking. In my background I had been part of a team that developed an optical fibre network where we created our own wall plate network interfaces and an Ethernet switch that could work with both Plastic Optical Fibre (POF) and copper (CAT5/6) networks. Hopefully this would not be rocket science.

Huawei B311

Huawei B311 2020
Huawei B311 2020

Having read up on what was available I found a few devices that looked like they would be a starting point, and I selected the Huawei B311 as my first choice, it is a very low-cost option for what it offers. I expect I will upgrade this as time goes on, but it will get me started.

This would hopefully give me WI-FI throughout the interior of the hull.

The unit comes with a 240V to 12V mains power adapter, so should be no problem adapting this to run on the boats 12v supply.

I expect we will need an external antenna at some point to get a good signal due to the steel construction of the hull, but we will see, at present our phones seem to work very well inside the boat.

DATA SIM

Next we needed to find a data SIM that does not cost the earth, I tried the comparison sites  but they all the options seemed expensive it was then recommended I look at GiffGaff (on the O2 network),  who at the time offered 100 GB for £20 per month and SMARTY (on the 3 network) who had an unlimited plan for the same price, both would be completely adequate for our peak usage in the summer, with my daughter streaming films at one end of the boat and us doing the same at the other (it is not like that all the time, but you do need to cover the possibility of a wet summer in the UK).

I ended up selecting SMARTY as they also had a much cheaper smaller tariff that I will switch over to in the winter when I plan to just monitor the boat remotely.

Future Plans

This is stage one of the plan, I have in development low power remote sensors to monitor onboard systems and GPS with a movement alarm that will detect unauthorised movement. The onboard systems will send SMS messages in case of problems, else everything can be monitored by and web interface.

 

Teething problems and quick response

Floydtilla in our mooring
Floydtilla in our mooring

When we dropped Floydtilla at Droitwich Spa Marina last week, we had a little problem with using the marina power to charge the batteries. We did not have time to investigate then, so we left it all plugged in and hoped for the best.

Mary (daughter) and I decided to take a quick trip up this weekend, so I could investigate and she could decorate her bedroom area with some pictures.

I emailed Black Prince when we arrived and found the leisure batteries to be flat. I did not expect such a fast response but within an hour I had an answer and a visit was planned for the next day.  In the meantime as we had not arrived that late, I charged the batteries with the engine.

The next day we had a phone call, and Black Prince agents arrived within 15 minutes to take a look. A quick diagnosis was made,  the inverter was working, but the part that charges the batteries was not, a replacement would be ordered and fitted as soon as possible (We are lucky we are relatively close to their base, I was worried it was an 1D10T operator error, so I was a little relieved).

We also had a couple of paint issues, on the side, where the boat had been lifted, we had a couple of holes in the paintwork.

Holes from boat lift
Holes from boat lift

We also noticed that when the hatch was closed a patch of the roof paint had started to flake off. We had not noticed this when we collected her, as most of the time the hatch was open and only closed when we were inside or leaving in the rain.

Rust and flaking paint on roof
Rust and flaking paint on roof

These paint problems have been referred to Black Prince, I will be interested to see how they fix these. I imagine there must have been some surface contamination under the hatch lid, as there are no other problems we could find on the roof.

UPDATE 14/05/2021

Very quick response from Black Prince, they will repair the paintwork, we hope to drop Floydtilla off at the end of the next trip on the boat.

Picking up Floydtilla

We were all very excited as we set off from Somerset to go and pick up Floydtilla from the Black Prince base in Stoke Prior. We aimed to get there for around 11:30 am so the rush of the hire customers getting underway would mostly be over.

Inspection and payment

When we arrived at Stoke Prior we could see Floydtilla in her new bright paint work, and we parked up in the yard. We had had the roof painted yellow and in the bright sun it will probably need sunglasses while we get used to it.  Hopefully this will keep the roof cooler, as the normal Black Prince dark blue can become a little hot to the touch.

They were all ready for us so we had a tour around and an in depth explanation of what we needed to know as an owner not a hire customer.

Black Prince Owners manual
Black Prince Owners manual

We got presented with what will become the Bible for Floydtilla which was a folder with all the manuals for the Engine, Gearbox, Heater etc, as well as 37 pages of general information and diagrams of all the systems. This was a gold mine of information and covered all the questions I had in my notes and I am sure many more to come.

In one of the cupboards they had also included two spare engine belts an air filter, fuel filter and oil filter, it is the little extras that make life simple.

Next came the fun with the bank: We had transferred all the money into our current account ready to make payment and informed the bank what was going to happen. They said that we would probably have to call to make such a large transfer as it could trigger the anti fraud limits. Once we were happy, Sonia tried to call the bank. The message on the automated response  let us know that “they have a high level of traffic at the moment” we did start to wonder when they didn’t! After 40 minutes hanging on we got to talk to a person and then a few minutes later we owned a boat.

Off to Droitwich Spa Marina

The Black Prince team had prepared everything, the diesel tank was full, all the beds made up, the boat had all it’s equipment just as we had used it in the summer.

I checked the engine hours (11,588) and then we asked them to help us turn her around and we set off down the Worcester and Birmingham canal towards Droitwich Spa Marina. What a great feeling, it was all finally ours.

We had a lot to learn as we found out a few hours later once we arrived at the marina. We had never moored in a marina before, and while we tried to find our allocated space the weather rained, hailed and blew us about.

Joining the queue at the Hanbury top lock

In a simple mistake we had been given the wrong berth number and when we found it, it was already in use, so we headed in to the next available berth. This took us many attempts and finally after a few four letter words we managed to get the bow in and finally tied up for the night. The office was now closed so we would sort out the correct berth in the morning.

BSS – Boat Safety Scheme Examination and Certificate

BSS – Boat Safety Scheme

Now the boat is complete with the exception of a few minor cosmetic bit, it was time for the BSS (Boat Safety Scheme) examination, this was organised by Black Prince Holidays and carried out by the same person/company as our pre-purchase inspection Tom Keeling of Small Craft services.

As we expected Floydtilla (Chloe) sailed through so we are now certified until  25th April 2025.

With this complete and the boat insured we are now ready to get out CRT licence.