Friday, 10 June 2016

A Very VERY Short Day's Boating

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Last lock of the flight - Museum beyond.
Had we not encountered the problems we did on the trip down to the Rickmansworth Festival, we would, of course, by now been long back on our home moorings.  However we now realised that although we could now carry on North through Stoke Bruerne, we in fact needed to be back there very soon for the Family Festival.  We therefore agreed with Kathryn, the harbour master for that event, that we could leave Flamingo on the museum moorings ready for it t move up to its allocated moorings for the event.

Two Yarwoods ("Northwich") boats together.
So today's trip was amongst our shortest ever, needing only to carry on the final two locks up the flight.  Our next boat moves would not involve "Flamingo", as "Sickle" was booked into the same event, and that would need to be worked down to Stoke Bruerne from Weedon.

Stoke Bruerne Long Pound toStoke Bruerne "Tunnel" Pound
Miles: 0.5, Locks: 2
Total Trip Miles: 120.3, Locks: 138

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Steady Progress Back North

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Nothing to report really from this fine sunny day's boating.  The alternator problem finally appears to be full fixed.  The engine is clearly not in the best of health, but fortunately, if not driven hard, the smoke problem doesn't see any worse.

At the recently renovated Wolverton Trunk Aqueduct a disused gas supply main used  to cross the valley at a lower level than the aqueduct trough, and always spoiled any photos you tried to take.  This has now been removed, so we took the opportunity to photograph the newly painted aqueduct without this ugly thing in the background.

Crossing Wolverton Trunk Aqueduct.

Shortly afterwards in the shallow Cosgrove lock.

Ascending the Stoke Bruerne lock flight.

Fenny Stratford to Stoke Bruerne Long Pound
Miles: 17.3, Locks:6
Total Trip Miles: 119.8, Locks: 136

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

No New Issues, Thankfully.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Descending Seabrook Locks
Well other than the smokey engine, our troubles now seemed to be behind us.  The alternator fix was holding up, and we had a pleasant day's boating, albeit progressing a bit slower than usual, so as to hopefully not make engine problems any worse.

We are very pleased "Chalice" is clearly still much loved.
Once again we passed our former boat "Chalice" looking very well cared for as we arrived and looked for moorings at Fenny Stratford.  On a bad day, as I struggle with some of the current issues with "Flamingo" I do wonder what we were thinking of selling a nice "modern" 20 year old boat with few reliability problems, to replace it with an 80 year old boat needing lots of work.  On a more positive day, I realise we are both so bitten with the historic boat bug, that, for the moment at least, nothing else will ever quite satisfy in the same way.  "Flamingo" will eventually be very special, but we have some way to go!

Marsworth to Fenny Stratford
Miles: 16.1, Locks: 17
Total Trip Miles: 102.5, Locks: 130

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Can We Fix It? - Yes, Possibly!

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Approaching Marsworth top lock
So we had abandoned Flamingo temporarily whilst we contemplated the issue of the overcharging alternator.  By now the old external controller had been disabled, and the alternator's own regulator replaced, but it was still delivering too much voltage to the battery bank.  If it were easy, I would simply have swapped out the alternator with a more modern replacement, but the engine mountings were not suitable for this, and most cheaply available alternators come with a pulley suitable only for  smaller drive belt than that mandated by the pulley on our engine - so a swap wasn't going to be 100% straightforward.

Fortunately Canal World Discussion Forums are usually an excellent resource in matters like these, and the forum's expert on alternators and charging was on the case.  Jerry, (specialist guru in alternators and all things 12 or 24 volt), reckoned he had a fair idea what the problem might be, and offered to drive all the way up from Southampton to take a look.  This seemed generosity beyond belief, but he insisted on coming - unfortunately on what proved to be a miserably wet day, about which we felt rather guilty!  He quickly diagnosed the problem, but it was not what he had thought the most likely cause would be, as it was an internal intermittent short circuit on the rotor, (the moving part) of the alternator.  Although he had come with lots of bits, this is not something he could reasonably have been expected to have.

Approaching Marsworth bottom lock.
However we now knew the cause, and a bit of phoning around revealed that a nearby automotive electrical specialist could still source a rotor, even for this obsolete alternator.  It took a few days, but eventually we got back the whole unit ready to fit.

Once again we fired it up, and once again it seemed to be performing as it should - the batteries receiving some charge, but not too much.  It seemed we were finally there!

So once again we were ferried to the boat with dogs and supplies, and once again we set of North.  It was late in the day, so we would only go down the Marsworth flight, ready to put in much bigger mileages the next day, if all was OK.  Unexpectedly our friends Pete and Louise turned up, and helped us lock down the flight.

Cath was even able to get a lift to her regular practice dance session with New Moon Morris.  I however had to remain on board to dog sit!

Bulbourne to Marsworth 
Miles: 1.4, Locks:7
Total Trip Miles: 86.4, Locks: 113

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Can We Fix It? (No, We Can't!)

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Very retrospective post for Saturday 28th May 2016)

The brief version of the first part of this story is as follows, (the actual story far more convoluted, but readers of the blog are fortunately spared most of it!).....

1) We knew that the batteries were being charged at far too high a voltage.
2) Flamingo has a very elderly, but also very robust and substantial "AC5R" alternator, but in order to extract maximum charging capacity from it, a previous owner has wired it into a Kestrel external alternator controller, (an add on box remote to the alternator itself).
3) Both the above items are well obsolete, and the Kestrel controller has long been de-supported by its suppliers.  (The available documentation looks like a 6th form students A-level project - the world has moved on!)
4) It was very hard to ascertain where the fault was, in the alternator, or in the external controller.  In the end we decided to completely remove the latter from playing any active part.  The batteries continued to be getting to much charge, thus eliminating the Kestrel as a possible cause.
5) Normally in these cases it would point to a fault on the regulator on the alternator itself.  Although the alternator is obsolete, these are obtainable as a third party item.  Someone had one that they were prepared to gift to me, (thank you Jerry!)
6) Eventually the new regulator arrived, and David and I fitted it, also sorting out some of the associated wiring that looked a bit suspect.  In particular we replaced wires with crimped joins in the middle with new continuous wires.
7) The alternator now appeared not to be charging at over voltage, (if anything we thought it was maybe not charging enough), and we naively thought we had solved the problem, and were OK to carry on with our journey.

At this stage we thought we had fixed it!
So some 4 days after we had arrived in Berkhamsted, Cath and I loaded up the boat with provisions and dogs, and we set off again.

After a couple of locks, I ducked into the engine room with a volt meter to check all was OK, and it seemed to be, however having got up all the locks to Cow Roast, and set off across Tring summit, I checked again, and was very upset to find that once again we were cooking the batteries.  We disabled the alternator, and limped on again to the moorings at Bulbourne.  A son was summoned with a car, and we loaded everything back off the boat, and went home to contemplate our next move.

Berkhamsted to Bulbourne 
Miles: 5.4, Locks:7
Total Trip Miles: 85.0, Locks: 106

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Limping On

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Locking up through Boxmoor.
Not content with the issues we already had with the engine, as described in yesterdays post, by this time we are also pressing on wit our batteries not being charged by the alternator.  This is because without the alternator disconnected they are being severely overcharged, something which at best will wreck the batteries, and which at worst can have far more dire consequences like a battery bursting open, and spraying sulphuric acid around the engine room, (and over anybody who is in there).

Raven's Lane lock cottage is surely on of the prettiest.

Passing our friends Paddy and Ruth who had traded at Rickmansworth.
Today's objective was solely to get to Berkhamsted, so we could tie up near to our home for a while, whilst we investigated and corrected the problem.  This we managed with no new issues developing, thank goodness!

Apsley to Berkhamsted
Miles: 5.7, Locks: 15
Total Trip Miles: 79.6, Locks: 99

Monday, 23 May 2016

More Trouble!

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Batchworth lock - the first on the return trip.
Well we knew we had to go gently on the return trip because the engine was clearly not in the best possible health - not too much of an issue if it didn't get worse.

Lot Mead Lock
However once we had been travelling some time, David, who was inside trying to use computers, came and asked if there was a problem with the 240 volt power , which seemed to be dropping out.  The power is created from the 12 volt battery bank by a unit called an inverter, and investigation revealed it was indeed shutting down.  Further investigation revealed the cause - the voltage that should have been going into the inverter from the battery bank was far too high, and as a protection it then shuts itself down.

Waiting for two other festival visitors to lock through ahead of us.
Unfortunately the alternator on the engine that charges the atteries was not being regulated correctly, and much too high a voltage was being fed to the batteries.  I was unable to find a reason, but it couldn't be left like this without risking damaging the batteries and on board equipment.  Reluctantly I disabled the charging circuit, meaning we were now running out batteries down, and unable to keep them topped up.  I reasoned howler we should be able to get much nearer to our home, giving us a better chance of diagnosing and fixing the problem.

Towy - You don't see many wooden working boats any more.
We carried on slowly to Apsley with no further issues, trying hard to use as little electrical power as possible.

Rickmansworth to Apsley
Miles: 8.3, Locks: 15
Total Trip Miles: 73.9, Locks:84