Electrical Fixes

The first order of business after breakfast was to try to work out what was going on with the electric drive. I put my boiler suit on and clambered in to the engine compartment with a fistful of spanners.  I quickly concluded that it needed more experience or confidence than I had to remove the cover over the belt. After refitting the screws I’d removed, I noticed something lying on the floor of the engine bay – a broken drive belt!

Broken Drive Belt
That Explains the Lack of Propulsion

We had just passed Tooley’s Historic Boatyard (other boatyards are available) which claims to have been servicing boats since 1778.  I got a very friendly reception, and they made an attempt to work out if they could find a suitable belt, but no luck.  So I sent an email to Ortomarine asking for advice.  It seems one clever trick when fitting these belts is to thread a spare in at the same time.  Either that wasn’t done, or the spare has been used already.  Rob promised to get in touch with HybridMarine.  With faulty solar panels and the broken belt, we are now getting much poorer value from our diesel than we should.

Mooring in Banbury is restricted to 14 nights per month. Bartimaeus has been in Banbury for 14 nights in October, so we were obliged to move on.  There was no wind and no clouds, so travelling was not a chore when we set off after lunch.

Bridge over Oxford Canal
Sunny Autumn Day on the South Oxford Canal

At the first lock we could just see a boat leaving ahead of us.  At each of the next two locks we gained marginally on him.  He was working alone, but presumably was finding the locks set his way when he arrived otherwise we would have caught him more quickly.  One of the locks had a very run down lock-keepers cottage bearing an encouraging message.

Enjoy Every Moment
Boarded Up Lock-Keepers Cottage with Good Advice

It was a strange experience for me sitting in a lock with the diesel engine running.  It is important to have power available if you get thrown around in a lock – I’m now so used to relying on electric drive that it felt very odd.  I still turned the engine off when it was obviously not needed – most narrowboaters don’t seem to do this.

We saw a few birds of prey (probably buzzards) wheeling above us.  A swan flew low over the boat and landed in the water in front of us – it then seemed very scared of us when we caught up with it. We saw a heron marching along the towpath towards us – odd, they are usually stationary or going away.

Heron Walking Past
Heron Walking Towards Us on the Tow Path

In the morning I wired in a higher powered USB socket to drive the onboard Raspberry Pi computer.  I wanted to make this independent of the inverter, but my first attempt was unsuccessful. In an ironic echo of problems with the electric drive last year, the computer would reboot whenever the toilet was flushed – it doesn’t now.

We arrived in Cropredy with some daylight left.  I decided to continue with another long-running project despite its current futility.  To resolve the drive problems last year, Rob rewired the power to the control system from the starter battery. Leaving the system running can flatten the starter battery in a day or two. Today I swapped in an illuminated switch so we should be less likely to leave it on by accident. The light works wonderfully – now we just need the belt to make it worth switching it on.

Control Panel with Illuminated Switch
Is the HybridMarine System Switched On?