It should have been sorted in October, but due to cross border issues things kept getting put back. Eventually though, at the end of April the long awaited operation was performed – a new joystick was installed for the bow thruster. The main part of the operation went very smoothly, but once that was sorted a further complication became apparent.
Bartimaeus is built around its batteries. The main ones provide propulsion and domestic power and have their own compartment. There are also two batteries in the bow thruster compartment. These have chargers and monitors which we can view from anywhere in the world. While we have been in the flat I’ve been keeping an eye on them – and even from hospital too.
There is one more 12 volt battery which has one main function – starting the diesel engine. It is recharged by the engine when it is running, so it should never be far from completely full. It just works! But when Rob from Ortomarine replaced the joystick for us, he discovered that the starter battery was dead. So now we have a mystery and a problem.
In addition to starting the diesel engine, the battery also provides power to the control systems for the bow thruster, and for the electric drive. So without that battery, we can’t drive on electric – we can’t even go round in circles with the bow thruster. Rob provided us with some instructions on rewiring the control panel to get the electric drive controller running from the other batteries.
We wanted to move the boat out of the Marina before the end of April. There was no way we could travel down, but fortunately Heather and Benny were willing and able to travel from Sheffield to help us out. They are both experts at helming narrowboats and have both driven Bartimaeus.
Benny gamely followed the rewiring instructions, consulting me by phone, but nothing worked. I stared hard at the photo and identified a different wiring arrangement that I thought would work. Luckily that did it. I now think there are two yellow crimps in circle 2, and we picked the wrong one.
Eventually our heroes were able to drive out of the Marina and moor up on the towpath nearby. They shut the boat down properly again so that we can expect things to be no worse when we get back – and remote monitoring confirms this to be so.
We may be able to recharge the dead battery if we can start the diesel engine. Probably the simplest way will be to ask along the towpath if anyone has jump leads. If they do we can surprise them by coming alongside under our own propulsion. Another option is to carry a bow thruster battery to the stern and use jump leads there. We might also buy a battery charger so that we can top the starter battery up from the main ones, ultimately using solar power most of the year.
I have a theory that the faulty joystick might have been draining power in a way that a working one would not. While we are running the engine regularly, we probably won’t have a problem anyway, but it will be worthwhile resolving any issues before we need to leave the boat for any length of time. I have another project to keep me occupied.