Owlpost #4: Heavy Metal…

Evening all. Owl time. Much busyness to report….

It is finally done. A couple of weekends worth of messing about has resulted in the removal of the filthy old diesel tank from the engine room. The goal is the installation of a more modern tank that isn’t full of filth and uses the engine room space more efficiently. (read: no more cylinders in square rooms)  This was my starting point…


I know – a bit like Mordor. The big challenge was that the hatch in the wheelhouse floor is much smaller than the tank so the only thing for it was chopping the beastie up. Now I know you can put a match or a cigarette out in diesel. It’s not petrol. I read several forums with guys talking about welding tanks with diesel still in them. Others had used angle grinders with cutting disks. Fine for them. I have no interest in even a small chance of incinerating myself so it was down to finding the tool that didn’t produce a load of sparks and heat.

I started by hiring a nibbler…

20140309-081400 am.jpg

…a mechanized punch and dye, the jigsaw of the metal world. Generally built for sheet metal but I was pretty sure the tank wasn’t too thick. I managed to drill a few big holes in order to get the head of the nibbler inside the tank. Then I was away, in a very artistic fashion.


After managing to punch out several sections I hit a snag. I couldn’t get past the weld that ran down the middle line of the tank. I realised at that point that I was at the limits of the tool. It was spec’d to cut 3.5mm steel and I was pushing more like 4mm. Also the weld was significantly thicker (and no doubt harder) than that. I had managed to cut out enough to get a good view of the greasy horror within…


So what to do. In the absence of another tool that day I decided to ensure that, whatever next move I made, there was absolutely no chance of making a bonfire of myself. A neighbour had told me about a degreaser called Swarfega. It’s a bit like the cream cleaner you use on baths, but frankly even better. I hoofed a load of that round the inside of the tank and rinsed it out, managing in the process to attach a large cowpat of grease to the crown of my head that took an epic amount of shampoo and scrubbing to wash out later (cue much amusement from herself when I discovered it).

The next weekend, still feeling a bit cautious of producing a shower of sparks in this process, I borrowed a Bosch jigsaw from a friend and bought about five packets of metal cutting blades. In retrospect I should have gone straight for an angle grinder but this was a free tool so I thought I’d go for it. Hmmm. On 3-4mm steel it’s a very slow option. Patience is a virtue, but boredom is still boring…


A couple of hours later I had the thing in pieces that I could fit through the big hatch.


So the final chapter was hoofing the lot into the outside world. Now I’ve been quite filthy at various points since buying our barge but this job was the next level. For the first time we opened the big hatch in the wheelhouse floor.


Then it was a lot of grunting and man handling of steel. I tried pushing one big bit upwards and almost didn’t succeed. Thankfully the second large chunk had holes so a big rope did the trick. Mission accomplished.


I took the chance to really clear out the engine room while I had the access. The previous owner had left us all sorts of crap…


including this strange panel that has something to do with charging batteries…


…several versions of this watering can with a nose…


…and this odd dropper…


…which some echo of high school chemistry is telling me it has something to do with measuring “specific gravity” but I might be wrong there. I tried to not throw the baby out with the bath water as no doubt the previous owner knew a thing or two about boats. Some of the mess is actually quite useful. We have a set of signal lamps for cruising…


…a complete set of gaskets for the engine…


…another spare propellor (quite expensive!)…


…and way too many drive belts which I’m not sure even fit the engine (there is an old generator they might belong to).


The pussycat wife came home to find a pile of greasy metal on the top deck…


…and the big hole in the wheelhouse floor. It was grounds for coaxing her down into the engine room (for only the second time) to see the acres of new space I had created. I tried selling in the idea of a jacuzzi down here but curiously it didn’t go far.


The big realisation was that the old water tank on the other side of engine room (destined to be our black water tank) might have to go too. Too small. Wrong shape. Oh joy. This time it’s all about the angle grinder. Over and out.



2 thoughts on “Owlpost #4: Heavy Metal…

  1. Denise says:

    A grubby job well done!

  2. Joods says:

    Dear Owl, you are doing such a great job on that barge. Isn’t that funny watering can thingy actually a nifty way of pouring oil into a container. Sort of can and funnel all in one. Hope you didn’t jettison it. It’ll come in useful one day.
    Don’t forget I’m coming on an inspection shortly. Better wash your hands before I get there!

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