painting tips for canal boats

painting tips for canal boats

expert advice from rylard paints


When choosing colours, ensure that comparisons are undertaken in daylight. It is always advisable to compare colours with a painted boat as it is difficult to appreciate the colour in large areas. Our printed colour charts have accurate colour rendition but the enamel will appear to be lighter when applied to large areas, especially when adjoining complementary colours.

Where possible, ensure that you have the same batch number for the finish coats.

rylard paints for canal boatsWeather conditions play an important part when painting outside. Avoid if possible painting in direct sunlight or when the boat is obviously warm to the touch. The ideal temperature for painting is between 12oC and 20oC. Higher temperatures could result in poor flow, rapid drying and loss of gloss. Windy conditions will lead to dirt pick-up and faster drying. Do not apply in damp conditions and aim at finishing painting by mid-afternoon, as overnight condensation may affect the finish.

Drying times will vary considerably depending on conditions, but at 20oC in still air, light touch-dry for both undercoats and topcoats will be 1 to 3 hours, and through-drying will be 12 to 24 hours. If possible, longer drying times should be allowed before overcoating as this will make rubbing down easier. Where low temperatures are experienced and there is little air movement, drying times can be as much as doubled, so take this into account when judging when to apply the next coat.

A dust-free environment is essential to obtain a really good gloss finish. The removal of dust prior to painting is essential, and dust and debris must be removed between the sanding of each coat and the application of the next.

Rylard Plus Enamel has a high pigment level and therefore thorough stirring is necessary. Best results are achieved with a wide flat-ended blade or a piece of clean, flat-ended wood. Screwdrivers are not efficient for stirring! It is advisable not to wear loose or woollen clothing when painting as this can contaminate the freshly painted surfaces.


Rylard paints bare metalBARE STEEL

Preparation: For best results, steel should be blast cleaned. This is not always possible, so alternatively mechanical cleaning by sanding and wire brushing can be undertaken to remove any rust.

Cleaning: The surface should then be thoroughly degreased using a water based or water dispersible degreaser, which must then be thoroughly washed off. Solvent cleaning is only efficient if clean wiping cloths are frequently replaced, otherwise the solvent just spreads the grease or oil around without removing it. Any remnants of grease or oil will affect paint adhesion and can cause slow drying and tackiness of the paint. Do not use diesel, paraffin or turps substitute for cleaning as they promote rust – white spirit is preferred.

Priming: The hull above the water line should then be coated with 2 coats of Rylard Zinc Phosphate Primer. If it is to be left outside for any length of time before applying finishing coats, 2 coats of Rylard Holding Coat are essential to prevent rust spotting.

narrowboats brightly paintedPREVIOUSLY PAINTED SURFACES
Rusted areas should be abraded down to clean steel and existing paint edges feathered to prevent ridging showing through. All clean metal areas should be patch-primed with 2 coats of Rylard Zinc Phosphate Primer.

Should rusting be extensive, consider having the boat blast cleaned and professionally repainted for long-term protection.

Where there have been feature lines, names, etc., ensure that these are completely removed to prevent shadowing-through.

If there is general unevenness and poor feathering, several coats of Rylard Primer/Filler should be used, abrading between coats to give an even surface. Rylard Primer/Filler can be used directly onto small patch areas.

Rub down the surface overall to an even matt finish using 320 grit wet and dry paper. If a colour change is to be undertaken, the relevant undercoat colour should be used.


Rylard Paints side of narrowboatApply the paint using a good quality 2½” to 3” brush. Gloss rollers and pads can also be used. To ensure even application, apply by crossing brush strokes before laying-off. On boat sides, always lay-off with vertical strokes. With large areas such as cabin tops, best results can be obtained by two people applying to prevent loss of wet edge – one person applying, the other laying-off. When brushing, it is recommended that the brush is held at 45 degrees to minimise brush marking. Where masking tape is being used, it is recommended that this is removed before the paint has reached a light touch-dry state, as this will ensure a smoother edge.

Clean brushes regularly (about every 20 minutes), to prevent thick build-up of paint in the brush. Stir the paint regularly during application.

Except for the primer, rub down with 320 or 360 grit wet and dry paper between coats, to ensure a completely smooth, even finish. When using wet and dry paper, always use it wet, and occasionally apply domestic soap to the paper, as this will prevent blocking and aid abrading. (‘Blocking’ is build-up of paint debris on the paper, which may cause scratching of the paint film).

Rylard PaintsWipe over thoroughly after abrading, as dust and debris will affect the final appearance. The smoothness of the finish is ultimately dependent on the preparation, especially for Undercoats and Primer/Filler. Where coarse profile steel has been used, or where underlying imperfections in the surface exist, extra coats of Primer/Filler and Undercoats should be used.

Under normal circumstances thinning of the paint is not necessary, but where application is undertaken at low temperatures, or previously used paint has bodied in the can due to evaporation, small quantities of recommended thinners can be used.

Rylard primers, undercoats and topcoats can be applied by air assisted or standard airless spray. Thinning may be necessary dependent on the spray equipment used, please consult the relevant Product Data Sheet.


red narrow boat Rylard PaintsNEW WOOD
Bare new wood should be sanded using either sandpaper or wet & dry paper, finishing with a 180 grit paper prior to applying the varnish. Ensure that all sanding dust is removed by either brushing or vacuuming before applying any varnish coats. The use of a tack cloth to remove any residual dust may also be used.

It is essential that any new oily wood, such as teak, is degreased using white spirit or cellulose thinners in order to improve penetration and adhesion. However, it should be noted that Polyurethane Varnish is NOT recommended for use on oily woods such as teak. The first coat of varnish should be thinned – 1 part varnish to 1 part of white spirit – and thoroughly stirred. Brush this coat well into the pores of the wood to ensure full sealing. After drying, sand smooth to remove the timber ‘nibs’ using a 320 or 360 grit wet & dry paper.

If the existing varnished surface is in poor condition and is showing flaking or other imperfections, it is recommended that it is removed back to bare wood (using either a proprietary paint stripper or sanding) and the timber treated as for New Wood. If the existing varnish is in sound condition, rub down with a 320 or 360 grit wet and dry paper and clean with white spirit.

To obtain a good depth of gloss on both new wood and existing varnished surfaces, a multiple-coat treatment is recommended, with a minimum of 3 coats, with light rubbing down between coats using either a 320 or 360 grit wet and dry paper. Note: Rylard eggshell varnishes are not suitable for exterior surfaces.

non slip tread paint on narrowboat roofRylard Slip Resistant additive can be used with all Rylard topcoats.

Thorough mixing must be ensured to obtain an even dispersion of the fine aggregate.

Care must be taken to ensure brush marks are not apparent.

All Rylard topcoats are suitable for sand-blinding, but care must be taken to ensure the sand is thoroughly dry.


painting tips for canal boats table 1


painting tips for canal boats by Rylard

  1. To obtain the cabin length deduct the length of the bow and the stern from the overall length of the boat
  2. Deck area should be approximate to window area and has been allowed for in the above calculations
  3. On bare steel 2 coats of Rylard Zinc Phosphate Primer should be used at a similar coverage rate to the topcoat
  4. All figures are approximate and given for guidance only

rylard paintsRylard Paints is a well-respected name in the supply of paints for canal boats, narrow boats, dutch barges and leisure craft. Through its Research and Development program Rylard continues to provide state-of-the-art products, manufactured in the UK to the highest Quality standards. We provide a range of coatings for canal boats, from blacking to topsides, anti-slip for decks and roofs, to brass lacquer to keep metal fitments glowing.

01623 510 585


yorkshire bespoke tiller pins

yorkshire bespoke tiller pins

the story from the very beginning...

Pennine Cruisers, SkiptonThrough odd canal holidays, trips on the rivers and being fortunate enough to have friends on the canals as a child, I eventually caught up with our fantastic inland waterways and the lovely people that live, work and holiday on them. We found a fantastic company to hire from, Pennine Cruisers. A Skipton based company on that lovely Leeds and Liverpool canal. This company soon became the key to the start of Yorkshire Bespoke Tiller Pins. As the article goes on you will see why. All staff and owners, over many trips with them, soon became what me and my wife class as our Skipton family.

I had decided to make one of the staff there (and now good friend) Wayne a gift. At this stage I really didn’t know what. He had just finished off his boat that he had recently moved onto, having built it from a bare shell. Back home I was in my workshop wondering what I could make him. I knew it would be for his boat.

On rummaging around, I found an old piece of round brass stock, along with a solid piece of aluminium from my workshop stock. Straight away I knew I was going to make him a tiller pin. The two pieces of material had caught my eye, even though they were both very dull. I thought that if I could use the two pieces together, the result would be quite unique. I began looking at new ways on how to work and join the two pieces together. I also knew when they were machined, they had to give a flawless impression as though they were all from one piece. I eventually found a way to do this and set about making the blank into an attractive eye-catching shape. This just seemed to flow and sooner rather than later, the tiller pin was made. I was unsure if I was on the right track with it all, so for a bit of confirmation I sent a picture of it to ‘Our Zoe’ at Pennine Cruisers to ask her opinion. I was expecting some changes may be needed, but all I got from Zoe was ‘Wayne is going to love that!’ It was buffed, polished and ready for our trip up to Skipton for our next of now many boat trips.

We got up to Skipton for our week’s break, and as we were unloading, I presented Wayne with his gift. He was delighted and said, with a smile on his face, he had never seen anything like it. Job done; off we went for our week’s cruise. My wife Jayne stated as we were cruising out of Skipton towards Gargrave ‘I got the impression he was over the moon with that!’. I agreed.

Halfway through the week we had winded round and got back to Skipton as planned to spend the night around the town catching up with our Skipton ‘family’. Of course, this meant a night with Phil before heading towards Bingley in the morning to achieve a bit of east and west. As I went into various pubs on our evening out, it seemed like the whole town knew I had made Wayne's tiller pin. I was introduced as ‘that’s that fellow who made that tiller pin’, all with lovely comments and positive feedback. I was chuffed but didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t till Jayne and I were back in the Boat House that I realised people were being very serious and even suggesting I should continue to make them.


By our next visit 6 weeks later, now October 2019, I had come up with 4 new designs all combining brass and aluminium. However, one of these was clearly turning heads: Tiller Pin Zoe (all my pins are named after the staff at Pennine Cruisers). Tiller pin Zoe was a little different, because I had incorporated a recess in the top to house an enamel Yorkshire rose.

I had taken a total of 16 tiller pins up - 8 given for the shop, and 8 to go on a craft boat which goes around the network (a good friend of Wayne’s).

The positive feedback and interest were increasing, and all seemed to be going well. We soon arrived back at home; it was clear that I may be busy out of work hours.


In the middle of November I had the unfortunate, very poorly timed news, that after 11½ years I was to be made redundant from my place of work. To be honest it was no shock: I was the last of four employees to go. The firm had hit problems and that was that chapter over.

I was now out of work with time on my hands and a new venture that was not yet established, still in its infancy, but with an interest growing. The product was there - just not known. I now started to use my redundancy to pay myself a basic wage to cover my bills. I soon started altering the workshop to accommodate much needed machinery tooling and workspace. This took around a month, and while my tidy lovely workshop of many years was in bits, I couldn’t work in it. However, it was eventually completed and workable – but without work.

coal miner tiller pinI started getting odd jobs - repairs, lathe work brazing and odd bits. Then people started sending me brass items that they wanted me to turn into tiller pins. Many were hollow and could not accommodate a good thread for the actual pin itself. So, I would machine a solid brass boss, then tig braze that to the hollow cast body. This was becoming a popular request, and other work started to flow in. Praise for my work was building and it was common for customers to say they were told that what I managed to do couldn’t be done. I suppose wrong advise from wrong person scenario.

One afternoon my oldest son and I were having a drink in the workshop after a day of help from him altering the workshop again. I got a very lovely comment (beer may have been kicking in) he said, ‘you are a very clever very multi skilled talented man, but you are not known enough, and word of mouth is going to be very slow’. He suggested that I speak to my daughter in law Sammie and ask for help in getting myself known, joking that I am useless with computers and social media. The next day I took my son’s advice and asked Sammie if she would be interested in helping me out. Sammie was over the moon I had asked her.


The rate and pace to me was exhausting. Sammie was relentless. Left no stone unturned. Within three days Yorkshire bespoke tiller pins had a running Facebook account. Had a web site not only built, but up and running. Had a PayPal account set up etc. Groups were getting in touch from our posts asking us to join. I had picked up my first big order thanks to Finesse boats who were very helpful and encouraging. This led to me finding a Sheffield based enamel logo and badge place. Which led to a local material suppliers Avus Metals. The snowball effect was starting to happen. New customers from the website and from Facebook were steadily on the up. Comments and positive feedback were a massive incentive for me to carry on. What really hit home was just how willing the much bigger companies, boat builders, marinas online canal merchants were to get behind the little firms. It really felt like big brothers were keeping a look out.


variety of tiller pinsIt is very early days. I have a range of tiller pin bodies now and there will be more designs in the future. All named after Pennine Cruisers staff. There are now many other material options available and body material combinations. I am passionate about brass ware and love to repair figures that are broken – it gives them a second chance with a fantastic view from the tiller for their retirement. I find it very warming to know I have turned a personal object into a lovely tiller pin for someone. I now incorporate and work with more enamel options in my own tiller pin range along with boat name plates. I’m also venturing into other things for my growing customers, the cards are still on the table, but I believe they will be something to consider on your boat.


file and tiller pin
array of refashioned and hand crafted tiller pins


As for many this has just wiped out the order books. I have not been idle – I have spent time making special tools to assist me in my work. I took delivery of a lathe which is much larger than my original one. Now I am able to work the two in different rolls, which will be helpful.

This was in the pipeline when things were advancing forward. It has pretty much broken me financially, and I feel the timing couldn’t have been more wrong. To help keep things going I am currently working early morning starts in a supermarket, picking online orders. I am hoping to do this as well as my tiller pins. It is do-able. I believe hard work pays.


yorkshire bespoke tiller pinsStephen Johnson is the owner and creator of Yorkshire Bespoke Tiller Pins. 'We are a new small family business, created in Skipton.  Our Handcrafted tiller pins are made to suit you, different designs are available. Reliable, friendly service. Please send us a message if you have any enquiries. We are willing to help with any further questions. Thank you.'

Tel: 07775 593 852  Visit Website  Follow on Facebook

castles and roses

castles and roses

phil speight introduces his dvds and tells us how he came to make them

course bookings now being taken

Book your course today.  Learn signwriting skills and become an expert in painting castles and roses from the well renowned Phil Speight

To book your place or request further information, see contact details below

Canals Online asked me to write a piece about my motivation in producing a series of tuitional DVDs on traditional narrow boat decoration: I thought it would be easily done. However, having thought about the subject for three or four days now, it seems it was harder than I expected it to be!

To do so I must go back forty years, to the beginning of my career on the canal. The first roses and castles I painted were much admired by friends and family. This, and my own satisfaction with them, was – I now realise – misplaced. In short, they were attractive in their own way, but WRONG. Not perhaps wrong in their actual appearance, but wrong in the description I knew them by. I described them as ‘traditional canal art’ and certainly, the word art in itself begs the question – was it in fact art, or was it craft? The distinction has not gone away with the passing of the years. It’s still a valid question. My bigger error was in describing them as ‘traditional’. I did so because at that time, I had not made the in-depth study of canal art and culture which I am still pursuing to this day. It seems to me that, innocently enough, my mistake is one that many modern painters still make.

Phil Speight Canal ArtTimes have changed on the canal. The ‘old days’ are fading and a whole new community of canal dwellers and leisure boaters has arrived. This cannot be a bad thing, because it ensures that we still have canals to enjoy. With it has come a whole new generation of painters, many of whom have taken up painting roses and castles. A substantial number of these are producing attractive work, which is much admired but has drifted away, over the years, from the original.

Roses and castles were, in the days of the working boats long before the leisure boom, part of the culturally important decoration applied to the boats. Working canal families, a completely separate subculture, had many cultural, social and working practices that were entirely their own. The decoration on the boats was of great importance to them. It appeared not only on the boats themselves, but also on some items of boating equipment: water cans, nose tins, hand bowls, cabin stools, seat boards and so on. The flowers were bold, as big as the space would sensibly allow, and painted with great verve and vigour.

Phil Speight canal artNowadays the painting has, quite understandably, spread to all manner of items which can be acquired, painted and sold more easily than the original boating equipment. As a result of this, when some of this painting is applied to boats and associated items, it does not have the power and panache of the original. It has been developed for much smaller articles, and a much different market. None of this implies any criticism of the excellent painters who are producing this work. It is simply that the traditional motifs which we all love have, of necessity, been greatly modified and adjusted to suit a completely new range of artefacts. Consequently, they can’t rightly be described as ‘traditional’ good as they are.

Now, to my DVDs. They were produced for a number of reasons. One has to be money! But be assured that the amount earned this way should be seen as beer money, not a significant proportion of my income. Secondly, they are self-published and I suppose there must be a degree of ego or vanity involved.

The main reason, though, is that I wanted to record, for the benefit of newcomers to the art (or craft), the things I have learned about the real tradition and its practice over forty years of continuous learning. I hope that although I myself still have much to learn, my pursuit of this important area of English cultural heritage will be of use to those who really wish to learn it.

This is my contribution (though others of great scholarship have done so much more) to preserving our canal heritage. Hopefully future painters will be able to look at my DVDs and add my research to their own, to produce something even more authentic.

Phil Speight Canal Art
Phil Speight signwriter

No1:  Roses

  • Around I.5 hours long.
  • Filmed over the shoulder and with close ups of the various brushes as they work.
  • All materials in use in any given process are listed on screen as well as described in the commentary along with verbal descriptions throughout.
  • Two swags of roses painted. They are the same layout but the first is relatively basic and the second is much more developed.

No2: Castles

  • Around I.5 hours long.
  • Filmed over the shoulder and with close ups of the various brushes as they work.
  • All materials in use in any given process are listed on screen as well as described in the commentary along with verbal descriptions throughout.
  • One castle is painted.


No3: Signwriting

  • Set of 5 DVDs, running time about 6.5 hours
  • Starts with how to paint the simplest of block capital letters and goes through the alphabet as far as necessary
  • It covers both sans-serif and serif letters
  • Then how to lay out writing on a cabin side
  • The whole finishing up on screen as a fully written panel with serif, sans and script lettering

Phil Speight SignwriterHow to Paint Roses and How to Paint Castles are available for £13.50 each, or £25 for the two.

The 5 disc box set To the point - Signwriting is available for £25.

Email or ring Phil 07368 244866 for details and to order.

a fresh water warning

a fresh water warning

by Elliott Berry

Elliott Berry MIIMSAs some of you may know I contracted Leptospirosis in May 2014 and although I didn’t really want to write this article and elicit sympathy from anyone and have avoided writing it for a few years, I felt that now was the time especially with the increase in vessels being converted into houseboats.

I was called to a vessel that was apparently sinking in the River Medway.

Upon arrival at the vessel it was clear that the vessel was in fact afloat still but had a large volume of water in the after cabins. My first response was to ascertain whether the water was  indeed from an external source i.e river water or from an internal source i.e. a fresh water leak.

As I had done many times previously I conducted simple taste test and quickly ascertained that it was in fact “fresh” water. I then examined the vessel’s water system and found that all piping was still well installed and properly connected and that the water tank was in good order with no sign of leaks, a mystery indeed.

I advised the owner to pump out the water and to keep the area under observation and to call  me if any further water were to appear. After six or seven days I had heard nothing.

During the next couple of days, I had been doing some work in the garden at home and started  to feel unwell but initially I put that down to having overdone it. Over the next few hours I started to feel weak and developed a serious headache, at this point I rang the doctor and made an appointment. Initially the doctor intimated that it may be meningitis but that as I had no rash or sensitivity to light was quickly dismissed. The advice was to go home, drink lots of water and take paracetamol and to return in a few days if the symptom persisted.

Unusually for me I followed the doctor’s orders but the weakness and headache became  progressively worse and I developed uncontrollable shivering and so a visit to the Accident and Emergency department ensued upon which it was decided that I had contracted hepatitis A and should go home, drink lots of water and take paracetamol.

That night my wife became increasingly concerned as I had developed a fever so a further visit to hospital was undertaken. Upon arrival, it was clear to the doctors that something was  seriously wrong and I was admitted immediately and placed on a saline drip.

The next few hours are a bit of a blur but a huge number of blood tests, CT scans and ultrasounds were carried out and initially nothing was diagnosed although the blood tests showed that my liver had extremely elevated readings.

I was given numerous antibiotics and liquid paracetamol over a 24 hour period but the 41 degree fever would not subside, to the point that it was clear that my life was at risk.

A series of different medications were administered to me and, after eight days in hospital, I  had recovered sufficiently to return home although at that point nothing had been officially  diagnosed and the only possible suggestion to fit the symptoms was leptospirosis despite not  showing up in blood tests.

After a further three weeks convalescing, I was able to return to work and some investigation into what may have caused the illness was undertaken.

As it turned out, the vessel in question had been converted to a houseboat some twenty years previously and the bilges were cleaned out but, instead of disposing of the contents properly, the liquid and debris were placed into one of her ballast tanks. The tank had subsequently corroded from the inside and had deposited its contents into the aft cabin ready for an unsuspecting surveyor to taste it. Obviously, the true contents of the water are unknown but I can assure you that I no longer undertake taste tests on water and advise that no one else does the same.

In order to prevent anyone suffering the same as I did, I thought it prudent to highlight the  dangers faced when working in or around water.

Introduction to Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by certain members of the genus leptospira.

LeptospirosisMost people who develop a leptospirosis infection only get mild symptoms but a bit more serious influenza- like symptoms are also quite common. In a minority of infected persons, leptospirosis develops into the dreaded Weill’s disease. Weill’s disease is a serious condition that can involve liver failure, kidney failure, meningitis and sepsis. Weill’s disease can be fatal.

Weill’s disease is caused by leptospira interrogans belonging to the serogroup Icterohaemorrhagiae or Pomona. A person who develops Weill’s disease will usually have gone through influenza like symptoms of leptospirosis for a week or so and seemingly be well on their way to recovery. After a short period of no symptoms or only mild symptoms, the person gets very ill with symptoms of poor liver function, poor kidney functions, meningitis and/or sepsis. The lethality for Weill’s disease is 5% – 10%.


Urine and blood from a leptospirosis infected person or animal can contain a sufficient amount of bacteria to spread the disease. A common transmission route for humans is getting urine or blood from an infected animal on damaged skin. Even a tiny skin abrasion can be enough for the bacteria to get into the body. Leptospira bacteria can also enter the body through mucous membranes, e.g. those found in the eyes, nose, mouth and genitals.

dog retrieving stick from waterWhen infected blood or urine gets into water or soil, the bacteria can survive there for several months.

Many different animals can carry and transmit leptospirosis, including dogs, rodents, cattle, horses and pigs. An infected animal is often symptom free and can continue to excrete bacteria into the environment year after year.

The incubation time for leptospirosis in humans is usually one to two weeks but anywhere from 48 hours to more than a month has been reported.


Examples of symptoms from the eyes
  • Eye inflammation can occur, with reddening of the eyes and increased sensitivity to light.
  • If leptospirosis bacteria causes liver inflammation with poor liver function as a result, one noticeable symptom can be the yellowing of the sclera. The sclera is the white part of the eye; the part that surrounds the iris. When the liver isn’t working properly, the sclera becomes yellow due to increased levels of bilirubin in the body. In some cases, the sclera can even look greenish. Always check your eyes before you put in your contact lenses if you wear colored lenses. If you do not you risk not seeing the symptoms of leptospirosis, liver damage and a long row of different diseases.
Examples of symptoms from the skin
  • Skin rash
  • If leptospirosis bacteria causes liver inflammation with poor liver function as a result, symptoms can include the yellowing of the skin due to increased levels of bilirubin. In such situations, itchy skin is also common. In severe cases, the skin can look greenish rather than yellowish.
Examples of symptoms from the digestive system
  • Stomach ache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • If leptospirosis bacteria causes liver inflammation with poor liver function as a result, symptoms can include pale faeces and dark urine.
Examples of symptoms from the respiratory system
  • Coughing up blood (caused by lung bleeding)
Examples of other symptoms
  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache

Edema Treatment

Leptospira bacteria are sensitive to several different antibiotics, including well-known ones such as Penicillin and Doxycycline.

If the infection is diagnosed early and symptoms are mild, oral antibiotics are often sufficient. In more severe cases, intravenous treatment with antibiotics may be necessary. Each individual symptom can also require specific treatment. If kidney function is impaired, dialysis can be carried out.

When an MD has good reason to suspect leptospirosis in a patient, antibiotic treatment is typically started right away, without waiting for test results.

How quickly can an illness develop?

Human leptospirosis takes a while to incubate, and the normal range between exposure and illness is 3 to 14 days, although it can take up to 21 days. It’s considered extremely unlikely that the illness would show earlier than 24 hours after exposure, even if the patient was otherwise unwell. In rare cases the incubation time can be very long (several weeks) but we normally assume that if there is no illness after 30 days then infection is either not present, or was subclinical.

Illness that develops within 12 hours of the exposure event would not be leptospiral in origin. Often infections that involve contaminated water can show illness very rapidly, caused by the effects of other unrelated bacteria and viruses in the water (such as E.coli or cryptosporidium) or from some chemicals, and while these would not in themselves normally be life-threatening, they can mask the later symptoms of leptospirosis.

The incubation time depends on the strain of bacteria involved, as some strains reproduce faster in human blood than others, but the main factor is the size of the ‘inoculum’ – the dose of bacteria that entered the patient during their exposure. Although it’s perfectly possible to be infected from a single bacterium, in reality the illness develops because the rate that the bacteria are reproducing is faster than the patient’s immune system can control. Bacteria grow by splitting in half, so one becomes two, two become four, and so on. If the patient received a large number of bacteria from the initial contact then the numbers in their bloodstream will be larger, and increase faster – hence the illness develops sooner.

It’s very difficult to predict the incubation time in a patient, but in very general terms the concentration of bacteria in the inoculum will be important (water from a large clean river will have many times less bacteria per litre than urine direct from a rat) and the volume that enters the body (infection via small cuts to the skin usually involve very small volumes of liquid, but swallowing water after a fall into a lake will of course involve far more. The balance of course is that the situations where patients suffer a high-volume intake are usually those where the liquid has a low concentration (you are unlikely to fall into a tank of rat urine).

Precautions against infection

To minimise the chances of infection, the only truly effective way is to avoid contact with contaminated water and animals, thus avoiding exposure to the bacterium. If you are in a high risk area, you should always attempt to minimise contact, as there are many hundreds of other organisms that can lurk in the water apart from Leptospira. Unless you are required to enter the water, you should stay away from it. Animals themselves present a risk while infected, as their body fluids can contain the bacteria.


The vast majority of human cases are from contaminated water, and of those the majority are  occupational cases from areas of the world where agriculture and rodents mix – rice-farming, cane-growing and so forth. Recreational exposure is next, with cases amongst swimmers being the obvious top grouping. Lowest of the risk groups is occupational exposure in the developed world – water and sewer engineers, construction, pest control and so on.

Clearly there are problems in preventing exposure in the highest risk activities (rice-farming and such) and in those areas the only option is to be aware of symptoms and seek early treatment. At this time there is no universally-agreed human vaccine, and the preventative use of antibiotics can only be considered for short periods.

Swimming is the greatest risk, and several cases are reported each year from swimming in  contaminated water (both in the developed world and in activities such as adventure racing). There is no practical way to prevent exposure as some water will always enter the mouth. For one-off activities such as expeditions there is an argument for using a preventative antibiotic (doxycycline) which can offer increased resistance to illness for a few weeks. It should never be used long-term.

Anglers and bankside/sewer workers should wear splashproof clothing and expecially gloves. Anglers are at higher risk as it is reasonably common to cause minor cuts with hooks, knives and the like, and this greatly increases the ease by which the bacteria can enter the body. Fish caught from suspect areas should of course never be eaten. Whilst cooking does in theory kill any bacteria within a fish, very often the level of cooking is insufficient to guarantee safety.

Recreational exposure (swimming, skiing, sailing, caving, etc) is clearly done at the person’s own risk and they must weigh up their own balance of risk vs. desire. The same preventative measures apply – minimise the risk of water entering the body by any and all means, consider antibiotics if the risks are very high, and be aware of the symptoms and seek treatment immediately. There are no ‘quick fixes’ to prevent infection. Some swimmers wash their mouths with antibacterial rinse, though this has not been proved to offer any significant benefit other than keeping their teeth clean.

Scuba divers, who are particularly at risk, should opt for drysuits and try as much as possible to avoid swallowing any water when purging or changing regs. Commercial divers are required by their employment regulations and insurance to comply with strict rules when working in contaminated water, these include the use of hard-hat systems, wash-down stations and regular medical testing.

Remember that this advice applies to FRESH water – the risks in saltwater are virtually zero.

Elliott Berry is the owner of Marsurv, Independent Marine Surveyors and Consultants, and is himself an independent Marine Surveyor/Naval Architect & Consultant.

This article was first produced for and published by The Report in June 2017

Call: 0844 567 7709 / 07500 881731; Visit website or write

overwater marina celebrates 10th anniversary

overwater marina celebrates 10th anniversary

Overwater Marina

This year one of the networks best known new-build marinas celebrates its 10th birthday.

Overwater, on the Shropshire Union, near the vibrant canalside village of Audlem reaches its milestone in the spring and to celebrate its first decade the owners, Janet & Angus Maughan are planning a big giveaway of gifts to moorers.

The marina has come a long way since 2009 when it began life as a diversification project for the Maughan family farm. Richard, Angus’s father had farmed the land for over 50 years and was keen to see his son and daughter-in-law diversify into such a picturesque project. The Overwater name itself was chosen as the farm in the late 1800’s was originally called ‘Over the Water’. When Richard came to the farm in 1960, he set up a pedigree dairy herd under the name Overwater.

Overwater Marina with irises

Overwater Marina in tune with environs

Overwater was carefully designed to embrace its natural surroundings, with every mooring having a view over its lakeland design. The construction by Land and Water Services was carefully managed to allow the marina to concentrate on conservation and wildlife, and this,  coupled with its location in the middle of the rural Cheshire countryside result in it being a haven of peace and tranquillity.

The marina has become one of the most award winning in the country with a string of small business, corporate responsibility and Marina of the Year accolades to its name. Manager David Johnson believes “one of the reasons behind our success is the team that has been put in place to run the marina. Each and every member of staff complements the feeling of a family run business, one that puts the customer at the heart of everything”.

Over time the marina has matured and developed to embrace many aspects of the leisure industry. The addition of a workshop has meant that moorers can have their boats maintained without the need to travel. Also available are a small number of Caravan and Motorhome Club pitches and a small caravan touring park with fully serviced hard standing pitches. In addition, there are now only 2 pitches remaining on a small and bespoke development of holiday lodges which are available to buy with a 100-year site licence.

One popular attraction also remains Café at Bridge 80 which serves home cooked food, hot and cold drinks and delicious homemade scones and cakes 7 days a week.

Overwater Marine, the Café

Always keen to support the local community and its adopted charity, the RNLI, the marina provides a base for the Audlem Lass Boat Service, a volunteer run water taxi which ferries passengers from the marina to the bottom of the Audlem flight and back every weekend and bank holiday between Easter and the end of October. For the less able bodied the marina is home to Overwater Wheelyboat Services, which provides wheelchair friendly transport on road and via the Overwater Wheelyboat.

Audlem Lass @ OVerwater Marina

Wheelybus at Overwater Marina

On the 12/13th September this year will also see the 10th anniversary of the popular RNLI festival which encompasses all things fun about being near the water, including a raft race, dog show and marquee craft market.

RNLI raft race at Overwater Marina

RNLI raft race at Overwater Marina 2019

Janet Maughan, one of Overwater’s owners says “family is at the heart of our business and our local community is very special to us. These are the gifts which we have which we can share with our customers. We’ve had a fabulous first 10 years developing Overwater and now look forward to many years to come.”

Overwater Marina LogoOverwater Marina is an award winning marina set in the Cheshire countryside at Audlem and offers moorings on the Shropshire Union Canal.

Tel: 01270 812 677 Write: info@overwatermarina.co.uk Visit: https://www.overwatermarina.co.uk

battery management systems

battery management systems by adverc

Twenty-seven years of study and development have gone into optimising alternator battery charging which, presently, permits only 60% - 70% state-of-charge using conventional voltage regulation.

The result is the well-proven ADVERC Battery Management System.

Read More

what is a galvanic isolator?

what is a galvanic isolator?

When you connect your boat to a marina electrical supply you also connect your boat to all the other boats in the marina via the earth connection in your shore power mains lead. This creates a pathway for small electrical currents to flow from one boat to another. Unfortunately this pathway leads to increased corrosion of the underwater metals and results in rapid loss of anodes and increased pitting and deterioration of hulls, propellers, shafts, outdrives etc. We can protect against this problem by installing a galvanic isolator.

So how does it work?

A galvanic isolator is inserted into the earth line of the shore power lead. This can be done internally in the boat or by using our plug in waterproof units. You simply unplug the shore power lead from your boat, plug the lead into the isolator and re-insert the isolator flying lead back into the shore power inlet. Job done! The isolator now creates a block for damaging galvanic currents minimising the risk of corrosion. In the event of an electrical fault onboard the isolator senses the fault condition and ensures your trips and rcd protection operate as normal ensuring safety onboard.

If the earth cable causes the problem why not just remove it?

The earth cable is essential for safety. In the event of an electrical fault onboard the earth wire ensures the rcd / fuses/ breakers operate correctly and disconnect the mains electrical supply until the fault is rectified.

How easy is it to fit an isolator?

Internally fitted units are inserted into the incoming earth line between the shore power inlet socket on the boat and the consumer/distribution unit onboard. This is done by locating the incoming shore power lead, cutting the earth cable at a convenient point and inserting the isolator using terminal connectors provided. The live and neutral cables of the shore power lead remain untouched. We supply excellent instructions and diagrams but if you do not feel competent to proceed we would recommend our “Plug and play” units. These units plug into the shore power leads either at the boat or the shore power pedestal of the marina. No electrical knowledge needed… Just 30 seconds to install!

15 amps, 30 amps, 70 amps, 100 amps? What does it mean?

A question we are asked all the time. Basically the amperage rating of the isolator is the amount of current the isolator can handle under severe fault conditions. The isolator must be able to handle more than the available current supplied to the boat. Usually UK marina supplies are either 16 or 32 amps so the isolator must be able safely handle at least 20% more than the maximum current available to comply with legislation. Realistically the higher the rating the more reliable the isolator.

What is the purpose of status monitoring?

Units with status monitoring measure the current flowing through the isolator. If the current flow increases beyond a preset threshold led’s will illuminate to indicate a fault condition. Safeshore models with monitoring also offer increased galvanic protection and easy testing of the installation.

How reliable are your isolators?

Safeshore have now been supplying the marine industry for over 20 years. Our reliability record is superb reflected by our lifetime warranty on all products.

What is the difference between galvanic and stray current corrosion?

Galvanic corrosion is caused by the interaction of differing metals whilst connected together and in contact with the water. Stray current corrosion is caused by poor electrical connections, poor wiring in contact with bilge water and “leaky” power supplies. These currents are often transmitted down the shore power earth wire. A galvanic isolator will help to block both galvanic and stray current corrosion.

Which isolator do you recommend?

If you intend DIY installation model GI 70sm or GI 70smi both offer maximum protection, easy testing and fault monitoring. Model GI 70sm has remote monitoring so if you plan to fit under the floor this allows the monitor to be installed remotely on the dashboard. Model GI 70smi has internal monitoring so if fitting the isolator in an easily viewable position this is the one to use. For “Belt and braces” reliability models GI 100sm or GI 100smi are the upgraded versions.

Plug and play isolators 30 seconds to install!

We supply two plug and play easyfit units:

safeshore galvanic isolatorGI 70 inline is a standard protection isolator for use with blue type shore power plugs utilised by UK/EU marinas.

safeshore marine galvanic isolatorGI 70smi inline offers advanced protection, easy testing and fault monitoring.

Special products: We supply upgraded versions of the inline units specifically designed for use with 32 amp commercial power supplies. These units are fitted with 100 amp internal isolator and heavy duty cables / large blue 32 amp plug and socket. Please phone for details.

Quick check: Not sure which supply you have? Simply measure across the diameter of the plug with exposed pins:
32 amps = 56mm......(16 amps = 43mm)

Trade supply : Generous trade discounts available: Tel 01977 513607 or request our trade price list Email

Safeshore Marine Logo

Safeshore Marine LogoOver 24,000 UK boats are now protected by Safeshore galvanic isolators!
20 years of professional service
Tried, trusted, reliable quality with lifetime warranty
Safeshore supply isolators for every vessel... D.I.Y. internal fitting or easy fit plug-in units, offering maximum protection, total reliability and superb customer service.
Guaranteed protection from both galvanic and highly destructive stray current corrosion.
Call: 01977 513 607; Write: email; Visit: website

talking anodes

talking anodes

Talking anodes for most people would consist of a series of questions. Every boat owner knows that anodes are needed, but what are they, exactly, what do they do, and why do we need them? What follows is an attempt to answer all of these questions.

anodes - magnesium anodes for welding on to a narrowboatwhat is an anode?

An anode is basically a plaque of sacrificial metal which is welded or bolted on to the underwater hull of a boat. Sacrificial because the anode corrodes through electrolysis more readily than the steel hull, thereby protecting your boat's hull for longer. With steel hulls, they should be welded on, for other hulls they can be bolted on.

how does it work?

There will be a series of different metals which make up the exterior of your boat – the hull, propellor, propellor shaft are made from various metals and alloys. When different or dissimilar metals are in direct contact, and immersed in water, the water acts as an electrolyte and an electron current is sent from one metal to another. This causes elctrolysis: one of the metals loses material in the form of ions (this metal is known as the anode) and another metal gains material (known as the cathode), and which metal loses the material depends upon how noble or corrosive-resistant it is. The noblest or most corrosive-resistant metal would be gold, while the least corrosive-resistant or the least noble is magnesium. Basically the strongest metals are protected and the weakest loses ions therefore breaks up (corrodes). The less resistant material becomes anodic and the more resistant material becomes cathodic.

sacrificial anodesdo I need anodes?

Of all the metals that exist in your boat, the weakest, least noble and therefore least corrosive-resistant one is your steel hull.

So it should be apparent from the above that if you did not have anodes fitted, and replaced regularly, the steel hull of your boat would become anodic and therefore corrode at a much greater rate.

For a canal boat (narrowboat) it is very advisable to get anodes which can be welded on to the hull, as drilling holes in steel below the waterline isn't the best option. The anode then becomes anodic, and the steel hull cathodic - which means it won't rust so quickly.

what sort of anode do I need for a canal boat?

Anodes are manufactured in zinc, aluminium or magnesium. For narrow boat owners, wide beams and other steel hulled canal boats, magnesium is the preferred material. Zinc is used for sea going boats, and aluminium for brackish water. (Brackish water is water having more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater with fresh water together, as in estuaries and tidal rivers). Of these, aluminium is lighter (therefore cheaper to install) and less costly than zinc.

sacrificial anodes in placechoosing your anodes

Make sure your anodes are fitted correctly and purchased from a reputable supplier. You will need professional advice about size of anodes, placement and quantity. It is not a good idea to overload the hull with anodes as this can have a detrimental effect on paintwork.

Remember, the anodes are added to your boat to sacrifice themselves, in order to protect other metals. If the anodes are not corroding further investigation would be required as the anodes once fitted and stable should start to show some sign of corrosion soon after.

In summary, make sure you buy anodes from a reputable dealer. Get the right sort for your boat. Get professional advice on size and placement. And get somebody to weld them on to your boat. When blacking or painting your boat, make sure you go round the anode, as painting over it would prevent it from doing its job.

Keep an eye on your anodes, and your hull will look after itself.

Anodes Direct logoAnodes Direct provide anodes of various materials to commercial and leisure craft throughout the UK and Europe. We specialise in providing marine anodes sourced only from the best manufacturers including Tecnoseal, MME, MG Duff, UK Anodes, Performance Metals, Piranha, Vetus, Side Power, Gori, Bruntons & Darglow.  Zinc for Sea Water, Aluminium for Brackish Water, Magnesium for Fresh Water. We are always ready to advise and help, so do get in touch!

Tel: 01621 743540 or 07787 566816  Write  Visit

coping with rising and falling water levels

coping with rising and falling water levels

boat safety in extreme weather

As the UK continues to experience severe and unprecedented downfalls, River Canal Rescue (RCR) is reminding boaters how to cope with suddenly rising and falling water levels.

At the end of October, RCR was called to assist six stranded or precariously positioned boats at risk of capsize across the country; one of which was passed onto the emergency services to recover, due to the boat being inaccessible and the owner at risk if he remained on board.

boat with polesRCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, advises: “The key to dealing with our increasingly extreme weather conditions is timing and balancing health and safety. In order to stop a vessel drifting onto land when water levels rise, position a scaffold pole or poles, or a boarding plank, between the boat and the river/canalside edge and fix it into position.  This acts as a mooring post, preventing flood waters from floating the boat onto land.

“Alternatively use the engine to keep the vessel in position, so when the water rises, the power of the boat keeps it in deeper water. However be mindful that as the propeller is at its lowest point, it can easily be damaged if the boat does drift. These options are not advisable other than in emergencies and if you have the opportunity, moor in a lock as it provides some protection from flood waters.

RCR refloated boat“If the boat has drifted, it’s all about timing; when the water levels start to go down, try to push the boat back into the water or off the land before they drop too far. But be cautious as this can be dangerous, particularly if you’re unable to see under the water.

“We usually dispatch two engineers in dry suits to undertake this manoeuvre because although it sounds and looks easy, knowing the best way to re-launch a boat and where to push depends on the severity of the grounding, depth of the water, its flow and accessibility.

“In cases like this timing is everything and too much or too little water can make the difference to the outcome.”

Over the weekend, RCR engineers were able to get to the locations quickly and save a number of vessels before they were left high and dry. Although on site for less than a couple of hours, it averted the need to spend time and money on cranes, transport, and manpower to move them once stranded.

If a vessel is caught in a situation, RCR urges boaters not to attempt a recovery without assistance. Stephanie concludes: “Severe weather conditions increase the risk to boat owners and simple tasks can easily result in accidents and injury.”  

RCR also reminds boat owners to check their insurance policies. As insurance companies try to minimise their exposure, the firm’s finding more third-party only policies exclude salvage and wreck removal - one of the biggest risks to boats.

musings from the boat painter’s workshop

musings from a boat painter's workshop

thoughts of laser cleaning as an alternative to sanding...

It can be a quiet life, the painting of boats. After the hard work of boat surface preparation is done there is time for quiet contemplation and communing with one’s paint brush. Rather like Mr Miyagi’s instruction of “wax on, wax off”, we spend many hours moving a paint brush from the bottom to the top of a 1 metre cabin side. Paint up, paint across, paint down; all very rhythmic and calming. Some workshops play loud music to fill the hours but, after the din of grinders and sanders, peace and quiet is what we prefer.

boat painters workshopSo, what goes through our minds as we literally watch paint dry?

Of late, I have been thinking about laser cleaning. I’d seen a couple of YouTube videos and thought – Wow! That can’t be real surely and, if it is, why aren’t we cleaning boats with lasers?

A good paint job is all about the preparation; if narrowboats could be properly prepared, cleaned and de-rusted with minimal mess, minimal effort but maximal cleaning and rust removal narrowboat painting could be revolutionised.

The current options of grinding or shot-blasting are very messy, very labour intensive and are only as good as the effort that is put in.

Laser cleaning vaporises the paint and rust – cutting down the mess, the laser “gun” is not heavy – cutting down the effort and the finish is clean enough for the nuclear industry.

Want to know more?

I took the time (so that you don’t have to) to make further enquiries, attending a symposium on the applications of laser cleaning.

Laser cleaning equipment is used in many industries. Artworks from the Old Masters benefit from laser cleaning. The depth of the laser penetration can be very finely tuned so centuries of dirt can be removed without any damage to the painting. At the rougher end of the spectrum, laser cleaning was adopted for the cleaning of concrete walls on Dublin’s Harbourside as more standard, but more aggressive, methods of cleaning such as shot-blasting was not permitted.

Laser cleaning has been used in high tech industries for around 30 years. As a boat painter, the most relatable for me was the use of lasers for the pre-cleaning of metal prior to welding. This is done for the welding of car components and nuclear waste containers (where the strength of the welds is super important!). Typically, lasers are used in conjunction with robotic systems. The “laser robot” will clean the metal plate seconds before the “welding robot” does the weld. Cleaning the contaminants seconds before the weld increases weld penetration making the bond stronger.

But, I hear you cry, weld joins only cover a very small area; it would take forever to clean a boat with a laser beam of 0.02 mm width. Fortunately, beam width and laser power have been increasing with developments within the laser industry. Laser heads now exist that are a suitable proportions to work with narrowboat sized objects.

I have seen the technology with my own eyes on my own dirty, rusty, painted piece of steel, you will have to trust this YouTube clip

Can your boat be cleaned by lasers?

Yes! But, as a small business owner, I have to say it will be no time soon. For laser equipment of a suitable size to clean a narrowboat it would cost around £500,000. That’s a lot of boats to be cleaned before it pays for itself.

But who knows what the future holds. Today, we each carry more computing power in our hands than could have been bought with £500,000 forty years ago. Laser technology is constantly developing and being adopted by different industries. Maybe in time it will be affordable enough for every boat yard to have their own laser cleaning equipment.

willow boat painting logoWillow Boat Painting is a great little team operating out of Swanley Bridge Marina in Cheshire. We are headed up by mum and son Sally and Alex with much able assistance from Charlotte Seabrook. We are dedicated to high quality coach painting of narrowboats and take enormous pride in our work. We approach each narrowboat with a firm plan for how to provide a durable paint job and every attention is given to ensure our boats are meticulously well finished.

Contact: 07791 245134 Write: Email Visit website