Thursday, May 28, 2009

A fraught couple of days.

Yesterday was not a good day. First off, the weather broke, rain and wind moving in. It was quite cool too, so cool in fact I lit the fire!
We left it till around 10:00 before getting away, hoping for an improvement. But it was a forlorn hope. So it was on with the jackets, and push off.

Mapledurham was the first lock of the day. The river is getting a lot wider now, and so are the weirs.

Mapledurham Lock and weir.
MV Caversham Lady, a river cruise boat out of Reading, came the other way, loaded with biddys on a day out. Pity it was so damp. I bet there was a lot of knitting done….

Caversham Lady
I’m still trying to come to terms with cruising the river through towns. On a canal, everything stands on the banks, crowding as close as possible to the main transport route, as it was then. The towns down here stand a bit further back, giving the river a bit of elbow room in case it decides to flex it’s muscles.

Through Reading
Lots more trip boats here, too.

The Kennet and Avon Canal joins the Thames at Kennet Mouth, just on the edge of the town. This broad canal runs 100 miles to Avonmouth on the Severn at Bristol. It climbs up to the 15 mile long summit level near Pewsey in Wiltshire, before plummeting down 29 locks in just 2¼ miles at Devises. The bulk of these are the notorious Caen Hill flight.

The Kennet and Avon Canal

Coming out of Reading the rain started to ease a bit, so I pushed the hatch slide open. It was then I noticed that we had a charge warning light on.
I checked the Mastervolt controller, and was relieved to see that we were still charging batteries, but was concerned about why the light should be on.
I pulled over on the first available spot, and had a thorough check of the wiring and the batteries. Nothing seemed to be amiss, but the damned light was still lit. And the Sterling advanced charge controller had gone into fault mode, indicating that the alternator was delivering too high a voltage.
Meter readings on the batteries and the output of the alternator showed normal levels, so I rang Sterling, thinking that it may be a fault with their unit.
After several phone calls, checking various things in between, we came to the conclusion that the fault was with the alternator. It couldn’t be the Sterling unit; although it was wired to diagnose charging problems, the wire that actually encourages better charging (why it was fitted in the first place) had never even been connected! The alternator has to be modified to make this connection, and I guess it was just too much trouble. Score another one for Orchard Marina!
So for the last 2¾ years I’ve been blissfully ignorant of the fact that I was getting no benefit at all from the unit I’d specified to be fitted.

Anyhow, the diagnosis showed that we needed a new alternator. The voltage controller appears to have failed, and although the unit is still working, there’s a chance that it’ll cook the batteries if we let it. We pushed on keeping a close eye for any other anomalies, through Sonning and the beautiful Shiplake Lock, to moor opposite some fine houses at Lashbrook, just outside Wargrave.

Shiplake Lock cottage and gardens.
A lot of money floating……
And on shore.
No other faults showed up, but I did notice that the battery voltage climbed to 14.3 volts, not excessive but higher than we normally achieve on engine charging.
I had a good check again last evening, completely disconnecting the Sterling controller (it was doing nothing anyway) and could find no wiring faults. The earlier diagnosis seemed to be correct. I left the alternator on, as it was still working, then spent the rest of the evening trying to track down a replacement.
As luck would have it, there’s an Isuzu Marine dealer at Reading, so I decided to give them a call first thing in the morning. There was also one on ebay (where else!) but the problem would be getting hold of it. It was only 5 miles and a couple of locks back to Reading, so that seemed the better option.

After a pretty restless night, we were up, dog walked and waiting for 08:30 so I could ring the marina. Just after 9 I finally got through, only to be told that they only stock consumables like filters, not spares. And they wouldn’t be able to get an alternator for maybe a week. So that was Plan A out of the window.
So, Plan B. I rang Marlow Lock, and the keeper there kindly agreed to accept a package for me, then rang the ebay seller to see if he would overnight the item, rather than using parcel post. He agreed, so I parted with the appropriate quantity of the folding stuff (via Paypal), and he sent it off. Cheers Ed. Good feedback coming your way…
So it’ll be at Marlow by 13:00 tomorrow.

We’d set off while all this was going on, heading towards Marlow. The day was a huge improvement on yesterday, warm with hazy sunshine from the start.

Henley was the first landfall, gearing up for the Regatta.

Henley Bridge
Marquees and stands were being erected, the lanes were in position and the crews were out training. Singles, Pairs, Fours and Eights all buzzing about. They can shift as well. We were taking it easy, keeping an eye out for any of them doing anything silly, when a coxless four came up behind us, seemingly out of nowhere. They slowed as they passed us, getting their breath back.
Temple Island marked the end of the 1¼ mile course, and the end of a lot of the small boat activity.
Just less than a mile further on is Hambleden Lock with it’s picturesque mill above the weir.
Hurley was the next hive of activity, mostly land based this time. With a couple of static caravan sites on the south bank, the riverside is busy with strollers.

This chap gives a whole new meaning to “Ice Cream Float”!

The small boats that were about were canoes, more interested in shooting the weirs than taking an interest in us.

Paddling about.
Shortly after Hurley is Temple Lock. Jacquie and Tony, from NB Timewarp, are helping out as Summer Assistants here and at Marlow. We usually meet tham around Fradley on the Trent and Mersey, so this is certainly a change of scenery!

NB Timewarp, on Temple Lock island.
Jacquie was on duty at Temple, and we had a quick chat while locking down.

Lock Keeper and Jacquie.
Tony’s helping out at Marlow, but was having a day off today so we didn’t see him when we arrived. We’ll catch up tomorrow.

Marlow Bridge
We pulled on to the visitor moorings below the lock for the night.
I stripped off the old alternator ready for the new one to go on when it arrives. While cruising today we’ve made a loaf of bread and done some washing. This has used power through the inverter, keeping the battery voltage down. Even so, it climbed to 14.5 volts at one point.

Over the last 2 days – Locks 9, miles 23.

The lockside sign tells us it’s 58½ miles to London. That’s probably Limehouse. We’ve got about 35 to Teddington, with another 13 locks to do.

1 comment:

Heth said...

Hi u2,

Well snap, we've got what sounds like a very similar prob here:

Only ours seems to be opposite, ie. not enough charge, ho ho all good fun eh??

Back on shore power now, took longer than expected for batteries to charge back up to 14V at first, no prob since then.

So we're still awaiting "assessment" as yet,,, hoping for a verdict soon... Altho nobody seems to be in any rush to get it sorted now we're "hooked up" again, but that's not the point is it?!