Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Belated update - Friday 10 October - Going Tidal!

The Friday morning of the journey began with a little drama. I sprung out of bed early, all set to get up to Cromwell for 8am in order to make the tide up to Keadby. I had booked in with the lock keepers, but knew that I needed to set off before daylight in order to make it.

I made a coffee, checked the map, then went outside to start the engine. I turned the key as normal, but instead of hearing the engine sputtering into life, there was just a little "click". Maybe I had forgotten to warm the diesel coils. I tried again. Still nothing. Argh!

I quickly remembered at this point that my battery voltages had been lower than normal when I checked the multimeter on Thursday, but I had put this down to the fact that I accidentally left my inverter on for most of the day. I checked the battery voltage once more - 10 volts. That's why she wouldn't start. Fortunately, I carry a charged, spare battery for my headlight (long story) and with a set of jump leads and a little effort managed to get back up and running - phew. Sadly, this drama had taken around an hour, it was now daylight, and I had missed my slot for getting to Keadby in time for the tide. A quick phone call to the lock keeper later, my plan was changed to cruising just Cromwell-Torksey on the Friday, then Torksey-Keadby on the Saturday morning, leaving at first light. I quickly calculated that, assuming no further drama, I could still complete my journey in time so wasn't too annoyed.

The tidal river was pretty uneventful really. The sheer size of the river was awesome and took some getting used to, and I enjoyed cruising my boat on the moving water, trying to steer a perfect line down the channel to go as fast as possible, and keeping away from the mud flats and gravel banks so that I didn't get grounded. Steering the boat into the entrance of Torksey lock was interesting, as I was moving quite quickly, and the entrance is tiny in comparison to the river. Still, with a little caution and a lot of full-power from my engine I made it in safely. This is something which I quickly picked up on the moving water - there are times when you have to use a lot of power to make the boat go where you need it to. My little engine could only just make progress against the current, so it was important to get things right first time!

On arrival in Torksey, I checked the battery voltages once more. They hadn't charged. I tried to restart the engine, and couldn't. My knowledge of boat electrics is somewhat limited, but I had a look around in the engine bay to see if there was anything obvious broken. There wasn't. I started then engine with the jump leads once more, and confirmed that the voltages weren't changing. The batteries definitely weren't charging. The alternator and battery management system all appeared to be connected OK - the connecting wires were still there and in one piece. I realised that I could probably restart the engine using the jump leads again to continue my journey, but really didn't want to do this because if the engine had stopped for any reason (e.g. weed round the propeller) I might not have been able to restart it. On moving water, that would not be much fun. I wasn't ready to use my shiny new anchor! Also, I needed to know what the problem was, and so eventually called Oliver from Thorne Boat Services out.

Oliver arrived in just over an hour, and quickly spotted that my alternator only had one connecting wire where it should have had 2. The other wire had disconnected itself, presumably from all the engine vibration from the past few days' cruising. He reconnected it, and my batteries began charging back up. Perfect!

The lock keeper had told me that I needed to leave Torksey at first light in the morning in order to get into Keadby lock before 11:30 - otherwise the water would be too low and I wouldn't be able to get into the lock for all the silt, and would be stuck outside until 3pm. In view of this, I got an early night. All the fresh air is rather tiring.

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