When I was a town planner B.O.A.T. stood for Byway Open to All Traffic, but boaters will say something different. Read on.

Recently, I had some electrical trouble:  the domestic batteries – the ones that power the lights, fridge, water and shower pumps, were not doing the job – they were discharging too deeply.  I wasn’t sure whether it was a battery problem or a charger problem, because the two monitors were clearly not telling the truth.

I put in to Alvecote Marina for services, and while there explained the problem.  An engineer named Peter had a look and suggested a new battery monitor.  I asked about their capacity to do some work (I wanted some other things done), and was able to book in after a few days.  So, this is what happened.

First, I cruised southwards along the Coventry Canal.  Well, as a continuous cruiser I can’t just stay in the same place, and, anyway, broadband was weak.

Coventry Canal autumn
Coventry Canal near Meadow Lane Bridge.

I stopped for three nights at Polesworth, which I blogged about earlier, then continued south to a winding hole below Atherstone Locks and moored in a quiet spot by Meadow Lane Bridge (50), where broadband, TV and phone signals were good.  Then it was back to Alvecote.  So far, so good.

Note:  a winding hole is a place to turn round, and should be pronounced like the north wind, and not as in “wined and dined”.

It was a cold morning and I was asked to take my boat into the basin.  So, I took down the TV mast and stove stack to get under the bridge.  The thin layer of ice made it hard to steer, so I tried reverse.  No reaction.  More reverse, then.  But I was still going forward!  I was stuck in forward gear, but the accelerator was still working, so I was just going ahead faster.  All I could do was cut the engine altogether and just wait for the inevitable collision.  Brace yourself.  Fortunately, the engineer had come to see what was taking me so long and was able to take a line and help me to land.  There are worse places to break down!  (Maybe the proverbial being run over by an ambulance?)  It turned out that the gear cable had snapped.  This is a Bowden cable, but, unlike the brake cable on a bicycle, the inner wire is solid, because it has to pull and push.  No real harm done.

victron battery monitor
New Victron battery monitor.  This view shows the voltage available in the domestic batteries.  It can also show the voltage in the starter battery, the amperage drawn by appliances (e.g. fridge, lights and TV), and various other readings.

Anyway, Peter set to work.  The new battery monitor was installed, but it soon became obvious that the batteries were not right.  One had leaked.  Battery acid was calmed by some baking powder (sodium bicarbonate – thanks Mr Edwards!).  We thought that I could manage with the two remaining batteries until I could install some solar power.

The next job was to get the radiators working.  The first thing I wanted to do was remove two radiators, so that I could use the space for other things.  The one in the engine room was small and ineffective, and the one in the saloon was taking up space that I want to use for storage, such as shelving.  Once they were out the Eberspacher heater could be attended to.  This is a diesel-powered water heater that feeds the radiators and hot water tank (for hot taps and shower – the engine heats the hot water tank, too, via a heat exchanger).  The reason I had not used it was a leaky tap.  The tap in the fuel line leaked when open, but not when closed.  I learned a lesson: the problem was simply that two O-rings had become brittle, so the seal failed.  At least that saved some money and time.

Eventually, the “Eber” was started, and all sorts of acrid fumes rose from the surroundings, but we concluded this was just dust and general “crap” burning off, because it had not been used for such a long time – like a convector heater that you switch on when the weather gets cold.  So it proved, and, so far, it is fine.

However, the batteries collapsed, and what I had thought would be the inevitable was just that.  So, three new batteries were ordered.

WM grease dispenser
This thing dispenses grease to the stern gland (where the prop shaft goes through the hull). It keeps the boat from sinking.

Another night at Alvecote without the means to move.  Finally, the batteries were installed and the gear cable was replaced.  I was mobile again.

WM leisure batts out
Empty battery bay. You can also see the white caps on the ends of the pipes feeding the radiator removed from the engine room.
WM leisure batts new 2
New leisure batteries, and better wiring

B.O.A.T. = Bring Out Another Thousand.

Now I had the electrics working beautifully.  A different world.  But plain sailing is never an expression to be associated with narrowboats …


2 thoughts on “B.O.A.T.

  1. I have been watching Travels by narrowboat Kevin Shelly on is boat Aslan ,, Prime Channel Amazon, with all his mishaps and break downs,making me realise it is not all calm and serene traveling the Cut, you may have bump into him on your travels, mind you that is perhaps not the right word to use under the circumstances, anyway hope you have got it all sorted out for the time been and happy boating.


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