Sunday, 16 June 2019

Narrowboat steering from the bow; bleeding the skin tank

It was the wing mirrors which caught my attention.

As Sarah came up Watford Top Lock I asked the owner about them - and was surprised to find out the reason. Pete has modified the boat to be capable of being controlled from the bow; the rear view mirrors must help in keeping the boat straight.

The added controls are not hydraulic but electric. Pete being an engineer has installed a joystick on an arm which can swing to either side of the well deck area; this controls the rudder. (As I understand it, the swinging arm is merely to position the control to wherever the steerer is sitting.) What is especially interesting about his mod is that he has tried to mimic the dynamic feedback which tiller steering gives. In other words, to move the tiller a little in either direction requires a small amount of finger pressure on the joystick; to move it a lot needs more pressure, just as it would "in real life".

You can see the swinging arm in the next photo.

Pete explained that his method is better than hydraulics for another reason: you have the full range of rudder movement available, whereas a hydraulic system is limited to a lesser amount of arc.

Another feature of Sarah is the moulded canopies for bow and stern which Pete has designed.

A notice in the boat gives more details ...

I wish there had been more time to talk to Pete and Jill, but they were on their way back to Crick and we were on our way down the locks. One thing Pete did say was that you get interesting looks from people noticing that there is no-one at the tiller. On the Trent a cruiser raced up to tell Pete in the bow that his steerer had fallen overboard!

Today we have stayed at Braunston. After church we repaired to the Admiral Nelson for an admirable Sunday lunch of roast beef. Very tasty and, in my case, washed down with an equally tasty pint of ale, Everard's Old Original.

After lunch I went to see what bargains I could nab from Wharf House Chandlers closing down sale; I came away with a couple of air filters, a fuel filter element and a replacement drain plug for the CAV fuel filter. I fitted the air filter, checked there was no water in the CAV filter - there wasn't - and replaced the drain plug. I also did something which I should have attempted years ago but lacked the courage: I loosened off the skin tank bleed valve and bled off a huge amount of air. Perhaps this was why we overheated on the tidal New Bedford River last summer! I must have put four litres of water/antifreeze into the header tank to replace the air. To loosen the bleed plug I had to whack the spanner with a piece of wood, but when it started to turn it was easy. I just hope it stays leakproof now I have retightened it.

The weather seems to be gradually improving here, with some rain in the morning but staying more or less dry since then. Yesterday's sharp downpour looked like this from the boat.

Tomorrow the plan is to get to Napton, where Ally, Ben, Josiah and Micah will meet us for lunch.

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