Sunday 24 October 2021

Charging issues resolved - finally and a pre-end of season catch up.

 WHAT a palaver it's been the last 5 or so weeks.  Before you start, I've already apologised for being rubbish at blogging this year ... it's just been a busy and trying season... my own fault really I suppose.  You see the thing was, WHEN I put together this years routes, I was not in the most positive of places ... grieving my mothers death and then I had to put that on hold to deal with the end of my marriage (well CP but it's the same thing)... ergo, finances were weighing heavily on my mind - all of a sudden having to work out how to factor in debt repayments  (divorce loan) that was never a consideration of the orignal 'business' plan.  

Basically, I didn't leave enough "off days" between guests throughout the year.... being focused on getting as many trips in as possible to mitigate the addition financial burden... and that was even BEFORE Covid had ever darkened our shores.  Anyway - having learned the hard way how tiring it can be doing this without days off, in 2022 and beyond, I'm factoring in an extra day between guests so that once the laundry, cleaning and re-stocking is done, I can have a day "OFF" properly.  Well that's the plan anyway. 

So then - going back to Early September.  I can't recall whether I mentioned but after our first trip up and down the Ashby - which incidentally really IS nice (but shallow), on our guests departure, I noticed during the 1st laundry load, that the voltage wasn't right ... I put it down to new batteries maybe just being a bit higher than the old ones.  HOWEVER, by the time Ellis had been tied up in Coventry Basin (not sure if that's worth the effort tbh but it's ticked off now), for a night, it became apparent that Auxiliary alternator wasn't working at all.  With guests arriving about lunchtime (this was 11am btw), I panicked and rushed out to buy a generator... annoyingly, I'd given away the old one (it had a small leak) just before we'd gone through Standedge tunnel in April) - of course the only one available in Machine mart (which is really close to the basin in Coventry) was more expensive than the one I wanted... Hobsons's choice meant I had to buy it anyway.  So, armed with a new genny - and then after a 2.6 mile return walk to get a can of petrol, we set sail/chug and began our journey with Fred and Shirley to Market Harborough.    Luckily, they were returning guests and didn't (outwardly at least) object too much to having to use the genny to keep the fridge/freeezer running.  The weather was very kind to us and we had some lovely days (ignoring the noise of the genny)

By the 2nd day of the trip, I' managed to get a new alternator ordered (£720 from Engines plus) and it was being sent on ahead to the marina in Market Harbough (I'd already phoned to check and book in for a couple of days mooring at the end of the trip).

We limped our way (well charging wise) along in the sunshine - VERY pleased the solar was keeping up the charging the batteries until we stopped. Braunston was busy and ging up theLocks, we'd palled up with a little hire boat.  IT was there we also received a surprise visit from our boaty friends Rog and Jane who were moored in the area -  they'd been aware of the ongoing charging issues and Jane came to the rescue with a bottle of wine... greatly appreciated!

 The sun was still out when we came out of the tunnel so we carried on to the bottom of Watford staircase and made our way up there without issue the following morning  we'd allowed a few hours for queues but perhaps we just timed things right and only had to wait a short while.

BEFORE we could head up the locks, I decided it might be an idea to go and get some more petrol for the genny... so, following google maps, off up the towpath I set (6.30am) to watford gap services on the M1.  Alas, it is all fenced in with a 6ft high, barbed wire topped fencing... what to do other than scale said fence (petrol can in hand) - at which point, a security fella grabbed hold of me !  I explained my predicament and that seemed to calm him down (though not me) and I went to get petrol... dreading having to scale the fence again with a full can.  ANYWAY  -  it turned out I could walk up the access road and then cut through a hole in some shrubbery at the END of the fence! doh.!

 Must have appeared a bit stressed out cause the woman in the petrol station even gave me a free cup of coffee bless her.

After Watford locks, we stopped off for a night "plugged in" at Crick Marina - I had become concerned that the 'new' batteries were getting too much of a hammering and not enough charge.  

Crick was nice enough but the lack of 4g signal on ANY of our combined networks was frustrating - it turns out, you need to be on vodafone or you get NOTHING...  So that's Crick crossed off as a potential winter mooring.

Foxton locks the next day was the first time that I've actually gotten in to a proper argument with another boater...  It's no excuse but given by now we were into day 5 of no alternator, I was feeling rather stressed.  Having tied up a while back and walked ahead to check in, much to my surprise it turned out we were boat no 5 to go down - I'd walked passed 10 at least... as I walked back, I realised the hire boaters HADN'T been to check in but were just sort of queuing in the 48 hour moorings.... I suggested to one woman that she needed to go and check in as I was actually logged to be behind the boat they were following... LONG story short, when she reported to the "skipper" (I think it was her son) he had a paddy and came to have a go at me for 'pushing in'.    I think HE was having just as rough a time as me (only bloke on holiday with his mum, an aunt and wife) and feeling he had to "be the man"... anyway - I let him vent and then after pointing out what an arse he was being, offered to let him go in front of me seeing as I OWN my boat and have all the time in the world unlike him... I don't think that helped. cause he then insisted on pulling his boat back out of the way to leave a space NOT quite long enough for me to fit in.  

Suffice to say, we spent the entire lock flight with them glaring at the back of our heads.

Anyway - once down, we turned right and went up the arm to Market Harborough .   I have to say how lovely it is.  I really took to it and it's on my place of places  spend a winter.

Next day, I called in to the office to pay for the mooring AND collect the new alternator.

Before fitting it, we moved from outside the pub/restaurant to the other side (it's a bit noisey outside the Waterfront late a night).  

Once I'd fitted it, all appeared fine (but as we were still on shoreline) but it soon became apparent things weren't resolved.

Next day, a former guest but now firmly in the friend category, arrived for the start of our 3 week trip back to Marple - via the Ashby again.  We chugged off to get an emergency pumpout as the one in the arm was not working properly (apparently)  and enjoyed a walk up the locks for a look at the site of the old incline.

Unfortunately, the nice weather was at an end for a while and the next day (as we went back up Foxton locks)it was chucking it down... and with no solar, it soon became apparent the new alternator wasn't charging either.

In despair, we chugged down the Welford Arm and asked a chap in the boat yard to test the output to confirm I wasn't being a numpty... he agreed it wasn't working so I got on the phone to arrange another replacement.   I had to then pay ANOTHER £720 for that to be sent (arranging to return the faulty one asap) on to Braunston Marina  -  However WHEN we got to Braunston... the new alternator HADN'T so that enforced a 2 night stay there... plugged in at least.

Watford locks was quiet again (despite the rumors of long queues) 

Whilst waiting for the 2nd alternator to arrive,  I got a message from Adam of Briar Rose - he and Adrian were in the area and about to go up Braunston Locks... with a little time before lunch, I nipped over to say hello.  I'm sure he won't mind me stealing a photo  he took from their blog

Looking at it, I certainly DO see the 2 stone of blubber I need to lose this winter!

Anyway, whilst helping them through the bottom lock (and having a good old moan I admit), I got a message from the boat to say the 2nd alternator had arrived.  Wishing them well, I wandered off back down the towpath to the marina and prepared to fit it.


Once done, I cranked up the engine to check if it was working.  NOTHING!

I won't lie - I sat and had a little cry.  Pathetic I know but I really was just at the end of my tether trying to run trips, make out everything is fine and manageable when in reality I didn't have a clue how I was going to get things working again.  Thing is neither the bosun nor guest were all that bothered about it... making the best of things whilst I panicked.  Taking the 2nd new one off, I called a taxi and took ALL THREE of them to a place in Daventry to have them checked out... ALL of them worked fined apparantly.  WHICH the meant that something else was wrong.  IT also turned out the place (I forget the name but I've a bill somewhere for 60 quid) could source the equivalent model of alternator for £250 + vat...  STILL in shock and feeling somewhat lublessely shafted, I went back to the boat - via the marina office in the hope of a boat electricians number.  They DID have one but on speaking with him (via messages cause he didn't answer the phone) began trouble-shooting what else could be wrong.

I also started a thread on a boating forum and then it was a case or working through every possible option.    I won't bore you with  ALL The things there were tried but suffice to say, in the end (and it was a long end involving making up little bulb testers, fitting new isolation switches, making up new 300amp cables and drinking a glass of water with a cream cracker balanced on my head, it all came down to this:
A failed negative lead between battery 1 and 2 - ergo, for 5 weeks, the whole boat had been running of just one battery!  It's no wonder I'd been on constant battery alert... Anyway - I've made a whole new set of leads which I will fit shortly .... we've still got one trip to do and as it's working fine now (I made up a new one but with the only cable I had - 50mm2 red) I'd rather wait until there is no one booked to come aboard for a while.  Saying that, if we get a nice day I might just bite the bullet and get them done.  I've  a list of winter jobs as long as my arm to get through.

BACK  to September again - we had a bit of an Indian summer for a while and our trip up the Ashby was rather lovely - 

What with the alternator not working, we had the occasional night in a marina and added Trinity at Hinkley to our possible winter list.... and whilst in there, the guest treated us to a night in a hotel (for a bath) whilst she 'boat sat' ... it did feel strange leaving someone alone on Ellis for the night but the lure of a bath was too strong lol.  

The weather stayed with us for a short while longer - enough to get down the Atherstone  flight

and we even did some night time cruising (to beat the expected queues at the locks the following morning)
As we worked our way back up the Trent and Mersey we stopped in to the Marina in Stone for night (more shoreline luxury) and then back to the Macclesfield Canal

The decent weather had now left us and the journey up the Macclesfield was a little bit miserable at times...  mainly (for me) cause I was still stressing about the lack of charging of the auxiliary battery bank.

Rather than stop in Marple (as had been planned) we decided to go on to New Mills and plug in to shore line again for a few days... it meant I could stop worrying, get some petrol for the genny and pause for breath before the penultimate guest of the season joined us. 

Whilst up on the Peak Foresst, I we took a sojourn up to Bugsworth Basin to see the upper part drained (they are rebuilding the wall)...

Our Journey back down the Macclesfield (for the time of year) wasn't too bad - a few days of rain I admit but as it was with another friend on board, it didn't feel too miserable ... it was good to be able to bounce ideas off each other as to what could be the problem .  In the end, after moving wires around and then the low voltage alarm going off on the inverter, we were able to isolate where the circuit was failing and on doing that, sort it out once and for all.

ALL that faffing around for weeks (not to mention the expense) has taken it's toll somewhat, but after a few days tied up in Aston Marina (earlier than planned but the final booking isn't until 9th  Nov), I think I deserve a bit of R & R - that said, I STILL need to lose that weight so have joined the local gym and are currently at the start of a 5 month fitness/diet/healthy living regime... I MAY sneak a few gins in here and there but I will without doubt, get back to 12 stone by the start of next season.

Until next time - which MIGHT actually be sooner than previously lol...

Monday 13 September 2021

Rubbish at keeping up to date

 I know I know I know.

The short version is that when folks are coming and going and I'm organizing trips/trying to work around emergency stoppages, dealing with mechanical problems (both alternators failed just as new guests were arriving) and trying to get 'Ellis' to the right place at the right time - whilst still fitting in with timed lock flights etc., I just really struggle to find a few hours to do updates here.

In fact, right now I don't have time to do one either as  a new guest is arriving this morning and we are having to make a detour from where we intended (which was straight up Foxton Locks) the other way for a few miles for a pumpout - one that had been planned for here but a combination of bad timing for the wharf and a dicky pumpout machine is meaning its not guaranteed

Normally, it would be a oh well, we'll wait until the next boat yard situation - however, because the last week has been spent dealing with no engine powered battery charging (we've had to chug with a genny running at the stern), all my thinking went into arranging a new Aux alternator and sometimes scaling 6 ft fences in order to buy petrol for the aforementioned...

So, here is a photo stream of the last month. showing repairs, general maintenance and some lovely boating views.... at some point I may come back and annotate what's what.

I promise I will make more of an effort to up date this place - I tweet lots but only because I can do that from my phone on the hoof and 'stage' a photo which makes life look relaxing, whilst at the same time I've got a pan of carrots on the go and something in the oven lol.

Until next time...