Thursday, 31 July 2008

Charging problems part 3

... and the culprit was:
the leisure batteries' isolation switch. The wretched thing had been throwing me off the scent by being intermittent. When I'd changed the split charge relay I'd obviously isolated the batteries by switching both the starter battery isolator and the leisure batteries' isolator switches: the latter had made contact for a while, I suppose, and then gone high resistance. Before disconnecting the offending item I isolated the batteries. Then I cleaned up the terminals and exercised the switch - but it was still intermittent, but better than before. As we were still outside Thorn Marine, being drizzled on despite being mostly under the bridge (I chose daylight over dryness), I took in the old switch hoping for a shiny new one as in the image below (from the Yacht Bits website).

But despite finding one with the same mounting hole position, the fat round black bit into which the red key is inserted was too fat. So I vaselined the terminals, put it back, and connected up again. From now on I checked the cabin voltage every time I started the engine, to make sure it was charging: if not, a quick exercise of the switch would sort things.

I was now much happier that I'd found the fault (even if it wasn't quite fixed yet - that's the owner's problem).

Here's another picture of "Elk", at Castlefield Basin in Manchester this time.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Charging problems part 2

After a while it became clear that the charging fault persisted (see previous post). Perhaps it was a bad earth connection? When the engine is running there are volts across the relay coil, but there's about 2.7V across the switched terminals - about the same as the voltage difference between the starter battery and the leisure batteries. So either the coil voltage isn't enough to energise the relay, or the contacts are high resistance, or there's something else going on which I hadn't spotted. (There was.)

We carried on with the cruise, jumping across both sets of batteries when the engine was running. I occasionally applied my mind to the problem, but didn't get anywhere with it until five days later. Why, I asked myself, was the alternator and other nearby bits of the engine, covered in a black, rubbery powder? The engine was still virtually brand new and should still be bright shiny yellow. The alternator belt. Yes, of course. The alternator belt was loose: perhaps that would explain all. Flat leisure batteries would be loading the alternator enough for the belt to slip and start disintegrating. Must be that. I tightened the belt by moving the alternator almost to the extent of its travel - the belt had been very loose - and checked the charging. As before - still not charging the leisure batteries. Grrrr. Well, now I would have to buy a new belt, and perhaps I could ask at the same time for some advice.

We've jumped forward to Saturday 12th July and we were at Rufford (I'll fill in the missing days later). Walked up to the marina and asked Chris (is that his name?) [edit: no - it's Mark, at St. Mary's Marina] if he carried such items. He didn't, but promised to get his supplier to phone me. Well, perhaps my phone didn't have a signal at the right time ... but he didn't phone.

Thorn Marine

Jumping forward again - I'm doing this in order to keep with this topic, you understand - and now it's Wednesday 16th July 2008 and we're at Stockton Heath and Thorn Marine. At last - a decent chandler's. First thing was to replace the alternator belt as I was worried about the worn one breaking. Ah. No belt the right size. But ... Nigel would order one. Two, actually, as I wanted a spare. It would be there by 0900 the next day, so we went to the London Bridge pub for tea.

Willow sheltering from the rain

The next morning we returned to Thorn Marine (we'd moored a hundred yards up the cut) for the alternator belts. Good. It was there. Yes, "it" - only one had turned up. But no problem: Nigel would order another one straightaway. First I would fit the replacement belt to make sure it was OK - and it was. A bit tight, but once on it was fine. Once the trip boats had been sent out Nigel had a poke around with his multimeter. His verdict: the split charge relay. I wasn't so sure: the replacement relay I'd got from Bridgewater Marina hadn't made any difference - and I'd checked the operation of the original relay "on the bench". Did more measurements ... and ... YES! FAULT FOUND!! It was... can you guess?

I think I'll keep you waiting for the answer and post a "part 3". Well, I had to wait almost two weeks to find out!

While we're in the engine hole, perhaps someone could explain the black rubber pipe which connects the weed hatch to the prop shaft? You can see it has a tap at the weed hatch end. There was no stern tube greaser on this setup. Any ideas?

[edited to correct marina manager's name. Also thanks to Brian for the info on a "greaseless" stern bearing]

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Charging problems part 1

The fridge on board Willow is more of an electric coolbox than a proper fitted fridge. In the door it has a fan which runs noisily all the time - so at night we unplugged it. On the second morning I reconnected it and tried to recharge some batteries via the small invertor. Hmm - invertor not working. I checked the input voltage - should be nominally 12V - actually 9.63V. Oh dear - the leisure batteries have run down. A lot. I started the engine and checked again: still the same. Bigger oh dear: the leisure batteries aren't charging at all. The alternator's fine as it's charging the starter battery, so we cruise from Grappenhall to Lymm (yes, I've jumped back slightly) and stop for Jan to get some provisions while I disappear down the engine hole to try to work out what's going on. Checking voltages at the split charge relay leads me to suspect that the relay is faulty (I was wrong, but I didn't find out the real problem until almost the end of the holiday).

the split charge relay

A boater who was tied up behind me suggested connecting the positive terminals of the leisure batteries to the positive of the starter battery (with the engine running) to bypass the relay. Good idea, as long as I remember to disconnect when I stop the engine (or there's a risk of flattening the starter battery). I had a pair of meaty jump leads with me so, in an instant, we had cabin power again. Hooray! (I had to be really careful when jumping the batteries: making sure that I was holding the free end of the jump lead well clear of any metalwork while connecting the other end to one terminal, before connecting the free end to the other terminal - and keeping the "negative" lead well away).

The next morning, at Worsley, I did some more voltage measurements. These seemed to confirm the diagnosis, so I walked round to the Worsley Boatyard to see if they had any spares. They didn't, but offered to order one for me. They also suggested Bridgewater Marina, just a bit further on at Walkden, might have one. In a short time we'd cruised there ... and they were friendly too. To the extent of giving me one exactly the same which they'd just taken off a boat!

I fitted it straight away, and it seemed to fix the problem. Result! We went on our way, passing Elk outside the pub.

More metal theft

At Worsley we moored by the Granary (I believe), which had been converted into offices. I suppose the lead cladding looked quite good when it was done: the trouble with lead is that it tears so easily.

Just over the footbridge is Worsley Green, a picture postcard scene of half timbered houses. (Not that I've done it justice.) The first Earl of Ellesmere appears to have been responsible for the profusion of half timbered buildings. The brick and stone edifice on the right is the base of a chimney: until the beginning of the twentieth century the Green was an industrial site. Even today you can see depressions in the ground and darker grass where sleepers carried a railway line.

Worsley - a magical spot

the Packet House


Worsley Bridge - Willow is in the centre, moored on the right

the Packet House again

Monday, 28 July 2008

to Worsley

Monday 7th July 2008

it rained

On the way to Lymm we encountered some VERY heavy showers. Our daughter and her boyfriend dodged the showers and met us at Agden Bridge 26 for a cruise of all of half a mile to the water point and the "Home" restaurant at Little Bollington for lunch. We ate very well, taking advantage of their meal deal: three courses for £12.95 with a free half-bottle of wine, or two courses for £9.50. We had originally intended to patronise the Swan with Two Nicks but found "Home" first.

I cycled up the lane after the meal to have a look at the Swan - and found evidence of a metal thief's work: nearly all the cast iron drain gratiings had gone. All the resultant holes had a cone on (or in).

Daughter and boyfriend drove back to Southport after lunch, leaving a spare quilt for us to sleep on, to mitigate the uncomfortableness of the bed. At 2000 we moored at Worsley, and walked up to the Delph to see where the Duke of Bridgewater's canal started.

Coming here is one of my earliest memories (and is, perhaps, the source of my passion for canals). My aunt and uncle lived not far away in Swinton: one outing was to Worsley to see the orange water. We probably walked in the woods and marvelled at the black and white houses on the Green as well, but it's the orange water that has stayed with me over the years. I'm sure the entrances to the mines were much more visible nearly half a century ago: they're mostly covered by vegetation now. Walking in the woods above the Duke's coal mines we came across a place where a stream (Worsley Brook?) spectacularly flows out of a tunnel in the hillside.

It was quite a warm evening - and the rain had stopped - so after tea we got chatting to three chaps who were sitting outside their boat "Moonstone". It was midnight when we turned in - and we slept MUCH more comfortably than on the first couple of nights.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Stocks and showers

Sunday 6th July 2008

The adventure of Saltersford Tunnel was after our passage down Hunts Lock (see this post) and ascent of the Anderton Boat Lift. We'd done the lift four times before, so it didn't have quite the same thrill. You still have to take photos, though! I tried to catch the gongoozlers pointing their cameras, but as soon as I pointed mine, they lowered theirs. Bet Andrew Denny would have managed it! (You'd have directed them, wouldn't you, Andrew?)

We walked to the Leigh Arms by Acton Bridge for lunch, and saw a game or two from near the start of the Wimbledon Men's final.

How old is this sign on the Weaver?

"Crewe" was tied up near us (that's "Willow" behind it).

Once on the Bridgewater Canal, past Preston Brook, the rain showers got torrential. I was beginning to consider pausing under a bridge, but the rain always eased as the bridge approached.

At 2050 we moored for the night at Grappenhall, and walked into the village along a cobbled street. The sandstone church was looking eroded, but not so badly as some of the gravestones in the churchyard - why did they use stone with such an obviously short life? Between the church and the pub was a set of stocks boasting its original stone uprights. Into the Parr Arms for a hot chocolate. Oh, and a beer (average Black Sheep). A commotion from the room with the TV signalled the finishing of the tennis - we'd missed an epic! Now the rain was lashing down - didn't seem to ease much - and back to the boat and bed.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

I sounded the horn and stopped. The oncoming boat kept on coming

Sunday 6th July 2008
it rained

No-one told me Saltersford Tunnel now has a timed entry system like Preston Brook Tunnel! How long has it been like that? And I didn't spot the vital information on the sign (is it me, or is it difficult to see because it's on the towpath (left side as going northwards))? I approached as I had done three years previously, that is, slowly, checking there wasn't a boat already in. I could see to the far end (despite the kink) so I went in. After a short while I became aware of a louder engine note, and, more worryingly, there was no longer daylight at the far end. Then a light approaching ... and HELP! I sounded the horn and stopped. The oncoming boat kept on coming - so I fled. Well, of course, I couldn't exactly flee quickly. I had to reverse round the kink - I think I'd gone more than half way - and back down the tunnel, with Jan trying to fend off at the bow. Every so often I had to correct the position of the stern with a blast of forward - and the oncoming boat kept getting nearer. Surely he knows I'm here? Why does he keep getting closer? Scrape. That was the handrail at the back. Oh dear. Nearly out, thank goodness ... and out at last. What I expected was thanks from the boat I'd given way to. What I got was a reprimand for entering the tunnel at the wrong time. Well, thanks a bunch! I didn't know! Yes, my fault, but surely he would have realised there was a boat in the tunnel coming towards him as soon as he entered himself? Oh well. Jan walked back to the sign and confirmed the presence of a timing system. After seven minutes we went back in and had a clear passage (naturally). Searching reveals the timed entry system has been in place for just over a year: I bet I'm not the only boater to be caught out.

Coming through Saltersford Tunnel (eventually) and Barnton Tunnel half an hour before, we experienced the curious phenomenon of apparently floating in mid air as we approached the exit of the tunnels. The water was so still, and the outside so bright, that the approximately semicircular opening was perfectly reflected. I think this is my best photo of it: the effect even more startling because although the roof of the tunnel is reflected as a mirror image, the scenery outside isn't symmetrical.

And here's Jan steering away from the north portal of (the dreaded) Saltersford Tunnel.

The start of our holiday

weather: rainy

We'd arranged to meet Willow's owner at Jalsea Marine, Northwich at five o'clock on Saturday 5th July 2008. We were a bit late, owing to a late getaway from home just before noon (it takes ages to get anywhere from Norwich, almost six hours in this case).

Jalsea Marine is a place seemingly stuck in the 1970s: rather uncared for, and with several down-at-heel caravans and falling apart buildings on site. But it is a huge place, and quiet. Well, it was for the small amount of time we were actually there.

Below is our first sight of Willow, a 40 foot cruiser-stern narrowboat which the owner had spent a couple of years fitting out himself (to a professional standard). The boat was only three years old. The most surprising thing was that the engine had only 11 hours on the clock - eleven hours in three years? And the boat testified to not having left its mooring much: there were no scratches on the paintwork, indeed, the rubbing strake was unmarked. And the carpet had no signs of wet or muddy feet.

After the briefest of tours of the boat, and after quickly establishing that we were considerably more experienced boaters than the owner, we loaded up and then drove to the Penny Black (Wetherspoon's) in town for a meal (very nice Titanic "White Star" ale).

Back on board, after sorting things out, we retired to bed. It then became obvious not only that the owner had never cruised anywhere, he'd never slept on the bed. It was most uncomfortable: lumpy and with springs digging in however we tried to arrange ourselves. Oh well, I expect we'll manage.

The next morning, Sunday 6th July 2008, we slipped the floating pontoon mooring and headed onto the main channel of the River Weaver, directly into the path of a rowing eight. Oops! Collision avoided, we carried on to Hunts Locks where we waited until the keeper opened up for us at 1000.

The bicycle didn't stay on the roof for long: it was much more convenient on the stern deck opposite the Morse control.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Fatality at Willowbridge Marina

Today BBC Look East reported that a man had died after being crushed by a falling crane at Willowbridge Marina, on the Grand Union Canal in Bletchley. Not much detail, and reference to a building site, but a tragedy all the same.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Love is all around me...

Well, we're back. Further to the brief summary of our itinerary in the previous post, from Castlefield Basin in Manchester we went along the Bridgewater Canal to Preston Brook; then Trent and Mersey to Middlewich; back down to Anderton; the Anderton Lift down onto the Weaver; almost to Winsford; then back to Jalsea Marine whence we started two weeks before.

Work has been a shock to the system: when I get some time at home I'll upload a few photographs and make a more interesting (I hope) account of our trip.

Waiting on the hall floor when we got home was Canal Boat magazine - must have just missed it when we went boating. The first read has to be Mortimer Bones - very funny, all the way to the end. Another blogger following in Bones's and Andrew Denny's footsteps (20 Questions) - oh, and Sarah's too (Warrior's engine rebuild) - is Adam Porter. He boat tested 4Evermoore, and wrote up his review for the mag. Also in Canal Boat I see that the IWA is using one of Andrew Denny's photos for their ad (and crediting it, naturally).

One slightly surreal moment on our trip was when we moored outside a pub on the Leeds and Liverpool canal for the night. It was a Thursday, therefore it was Folk Club night. We got involved in a way that would have greatly embarrassed our children, had they been with us: more on that later. One member of the group sang the title of this post, by Wet Wet Wet, of course. And that was the theme of our holiday.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Castlefield Basin, and the Museum of Science and Industry

I had forgotten how busy this place is with trains. There's at least one train going past on one of the viaducts all the time, or so it seems.

Trip so far (in very brief summary - more to follow when I can upload pictures): Northwich - Anderton - Preston Brook - Stretford - Leigh - Wigan - Aintree (almost) - Burscough Bridge - Tarleton - Burscough Bridge - Wigan - Stretford - Manchester.

I hadn't been to the Museum of Science and Industry before. I had been missing a real treat. There's an impressive amount to see: my first stop was at the display of old industrial steam engines. Amazingly many of them were in steam, the steam coming from a gas boiler in the basement. The site is based on the original Manchester terminus of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway, opened in 1830 if I remember correctly.

Our holiday is almost at an end. Despite the rain it's been very enjoyable.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Isabelle comes back as Unlawful Assembly

Here is the 10 foot GRP Ferrantisail boat I rowed to Hoveton Little Broad. Named Isabelle, it was ours a decade or more ago, and then we gave it to our curate as his need seemed to be greater than ours (we just weren't using it). He got promoted to vicar of a nearby parish and we lost sight of it and him. We borrowed it back from him a few days ago, and were surprised and pleased that the lights board still had our number plate on it (he'd been fixing his own over the top). So it was all ready for us to tow away....

It was good fun rowing it about again. We did sail it now and again, but rigging and derigging every time we took it out was just too time consuming. We did have an outboard engine, but that wasn't reliable. Actually it's still in our garage, untouched for years.

Oh, Unlawful Assembly? Yes, that's what the vicar has named the boat.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Boating on the Bure

Hoveton Little Broad

Helped the daughter with her geography project today. She'd decided to do it on the water quality of the Norfolk Broads, and today I rowed her and her friend along the River Bure from Horning. She had to collect samples from various locations, measuring temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and probably other things too. Before I went along I'd assumed that all we'd be doing was dipping sample bottles in every now and then as we went along, but it was a lot more complicated than that. The instruments needed calibrating before every measurement; multiple measurements had to be taken so that averages could be ascertained; notes had to be kept of location, sample bottle numbers, and so on.

daughter and friend on Wroxham Broad yesterday

various probes and meters

Our fridge now has sixty sample bottles in it.

Yesterday, when the weather was wall to wall sunshine, and the warmest day of the year, I had to be at work. So I dropped off daughter and friend at Wroxham Broad and picked them up after work. Today, a day off for me, I took them to Horning and rowed for them. It rained. Not too much, though, and I dried quickly (I was the one who'd left their cagoule in the car). It was good to be afloat again, though - and not long before we're in a narrowboat again!

(edit to add pic of Hoveton Little Broad (Blogger refused to put it in yesterday))