Friday, 21 October 2016

Tacho photos

Halfie suggested that my comments about Erin Mae's new tachometer would benefit from a photo or two. Since I'm sure that, even so, they're not every reader's cup of tea, I've taken the photos against a different background. If you get to the end of this post, you can see whether your guess as to what it is matches the final revelation!

The back of the new tacho has two sockets. The one with 8 terminals carries most of the connections. The one with 14 terminals uses only three for this application – two to connect to button switches used in setting it up, and one for an output for a warning buzzer, should the engine exceed a user-defined maximum speed. That's not going to happen, so Ive asked technical support if I can just remove the 14-terminal connector once configuration is complete.

The top two bundles are the 8- and 14-pin connectors with their wires. The one at the bottom is the adaptor for connecting the 8-pin socket to the existing wiring harness. Erin Mae's current tacho has a large whitish connector on the back and I'm meant to be able to disconnect it and plug it into the adaptor's white socket. That's where things get interesting. Here's the diagram from the engine manual showing the existing connections.

If I position the new adaptor to align its green signal wire with position 4 on the diagram (where the alternator lead is to be attached), it looks like this:

However, that leaves some of the remaining wires apparently not connected to anything, which won't be right. But it's a bit complicated by which way round you're looking at things – back or front of the plug, etc. So that's the substance of my main question to technical support, who hopefully will be back from holiday on Monday. If need be, it looks as though I could re-arrange the positions of some of the terminals in the adaptor plug. But I can't do anything until (a) we get a response from the, hopefully, helpful techie, and (b) get back up to Erin Mae to look at it all in situ.

Now for the background revelation:

It's a table cloth made from PVC-ish material from John Lewis. Some of the map elements are in English and some in German or Dutch. It's quite good fun to plan impossible routes as you eat your lasagne. I've invented a game in which you have to pick two towns / cities with the same initial letter and the greatest ratio between the real distance between them and the distance on the map. So far I haven't found anything to beat Rio and Reykjavík.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Tacho ups and downs

Erin Mae's new tachometer arrived this morning – that was speedy, and very exciting (if you like that sort of thing). However, there's little photographic excitement to be had from a rev counter sitting on the kitchen table – photos will have to wait until installation.

I spent a couple of hours (such is retirement) examining the instrument and its various connectors. It had come with a wiring harness to connect it to the old system, so I was busy comparing the wiring diagram in the manual, the wiring diagram for the old tacho in the engine manual, and the actual wires in the bits and pieces they'd sent. The more I looked, the more confusing it was – there seemed to be a lack of logical consistency in it all. I rang the supplier, but they didn't know. However, they did give me a name and number for technical support from VDO – something I'd searched for in vain on their website. It turned out he's on holiday till Monday, but an email was a good way of getting it all put down in black and white anyway.

Being at home, I can't simply get on with taking the old one out and seeing what works. I would also rather be safe than sorry – don't want to blow anything by mistake. It's not as though I haven't got anything else to do – there's all that accumulated mail from two months of cruising waiting to be dealt with…

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Circuit diagrams

I've always loved circuit diagrams. As a teenager I used to draw out circuits for radios, both valve and transistor, and other electronic stuff. It almost mattered more to have a perfectly balanced diagram than to actually make the item thus represented. All part of the fascination with patterns. So I was delighted when Erin Mae came with a set of wiring diagrams, and that the manuals for the Isuzu 42 engine also showed how it was all connected. Not that I was expecting or hoping to do anything with them – but I like to know.

When the tachometer (rev counter) and the warning buzzer failed a few weeks ago I pored over these diagrams to see whether there was any indication that the two could be linked. Events since have only added more layers to the question. Replacing the ignition switch seemed to resolve some of the issues with warning lights, but I can't see why it should have done if the engine itself was starting and functioning normally.

I 've realised that the whole thing is complicated by having had a battery charging control device fitted three years ago. I'm very pleased with how it works, but I know that installation entailed moving some of the alternator wiring around, and I haven't yet looked down the hole and traced exactly where some of the connections run. So I'm currently not quite sure of the relationship between the diagrams and the reality.

I've bitten the bullet and ordered a new tachometer – an updated version for considerably less than I was being quoted for the original. When I come to fit it I may just find that giving the wiring a good old rattle as I do so sorts the buzzer out once and for all!

Monday, 17 October 2016


We haven't put Erin Mae to bed for the winter – in fact she hasn't even had a proper bath. But we needed to leave her for the moment for one or two things back home, and found that our trip south coincided with Nº 3 son, wife and babe stopping off in our house on their way to Cornwall for a week.

He's just over two months old, so we're all in new baby mode.

He enjoyed singing with his Gran. And, boy, did he enjoy his bath!

I'd never seen a baby bath like this one before, but he loves it. Even coped with his Grandfather taking over for a moment.

All good things come to an end, and sleep follows at regular intervals.

Not necessarily, however, during the night. To give him a feeling for proper patterns, his Gran had been busy with the crochet hook. One for the push chair…


and one for the carry cot.

To pre-empt two questions: No, it's not a 3D blanket – that's just the pattern. And no, that's not a grease stain from Erin Mae's engine hole – it's just a shadow from the way the blanket was lying by the window.

So Bram has to get used to the patterns of life, especially the ones that involve sleeping at night. And Erin Mae will have to get used to not necessarily being the centre of attention all the time.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Three score and ten

Years, that is. Since my mother (of blessed memory) gave birth to her third son at twenty past four in the afternoon and, as she put it, had a nice cup of tea afterwards. Little sign, then, of all the grief he would cause later on!

Now I'm not very good at birthdays, neither my own nor anybody else's. The combination of event management and creative purchase doesn't seem to fit particularly well. We have something special planned for next year as a joint celebration, and a sudden fit of inspiration led to an idea in which Sons One to Three will also take part – but that's for next month. Today saw us merely planning to cruise something under a mile back to our home base in Great Haywood Marina.

My best beloved decided this was inadequate, and invited me out for breakfast. The last time we'd been to the café by Haywood Lock they had a good and attractive fire going, so we cruised down, moored up and walked across. Alas, the fire is long gone, all bricked up and closed in. It didn't feel very cosy at all, so we decided to walk down to Shugborough instead. That took us across the Trent,

all sparkly in the morning sunshine,

though the one heron on view looked distinctly chilly.

Down to the entrance to the estate – only to find that they've already closed up for the winter, with various refurbishments in hand before they open again next spring.

Breakfast out was looking less and less likely, but we decided on a stroll down to the Canal Farm Shop café near Haywood Junction. On the way we encountered a CRT work-party.

My first thought was "What on earth are they doing with a lock gate beam down a hole in the ground?" Then we realised that it is in fact to be a splendid new signpost for the junction.

On a bit, over the road and into the café, where we ate a very good breakfast – though by now it was rather late to be going by that name. Before walking back to Erin Mae we popped into the farm shop itself and bought, among other things, a most excellent pair of Bakewell tarts which we have just consumed with a cup of tea. Tonight I shall cook us a perfectly adequate birthday dinner with some of Morrisons' pork loin medallions.

Birthdays come and go, but anything over the three score and ten is a happy bonus. My best beloved will now spend the next few months reminding me what a young thing she is (well, she won't hit this landmark till next June).

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Four counties

In reaching Great Haywood today, we formally completed the circuit known as the Four Counties Ring. Our cruise had taken in rather more than that, since it started with a trip to Fazeley and back for a BCF weekend at the beginning of September. It took in a few days' diversion up the Macclesfield Canal. And it has ended with us overshooting the terminus, in order to fill up with diesel at the Taft wharf, before putting Erin Mae to bed for the winter.

I puzzle a little over the four counties. Staffordshire, Cheshire and Shropshire are straightforward, but Wikipedia has West Midlands as the fourth. That's correct – Pendeford at the junction of the Staffs & Worcs and the Shroppie is certainly in the West Midlands. But West Midlands as a county came into existence in 1974, and I wonder whether the ring's name didn't exist before that. Perhaps it is more recent, since it would seem to be a tourist / leisure industry appellation – a route that holidaying boaters can take. If the name existed before 1974, however, it must have had a different county as the fourth. But Wolverhampton, of which Pendeford is a suburb, was historically in Staffordshire, reducing the number of counties to only three! Maybe it used to be called "The Three Counties Ring".

We've encountered some groups doing the ring in a week. I expect they've had a lot of fun, but they must have had limited time to explore anything along the way. Our own trip, since we left Great Haywood junction, has taken us 36 days and has been very enjoyable. Only during the last couple of days have we got a bit wet and cold. And we're virtually home. We're back a little earlier than originally planned, but needs must, as they say.

And if anyone had the solution to the Four Counties conundrum, I'd be glad to hear it!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


Another day. Another lock – Aston lock, as it happens, which is normally the most pleasant of places.

Except for another detestable object round the prop, just like yesterday. That was a woven nylon sack, this was a dark blue sweatshirt. Exactly the same scenario – going into reverse briefly to manoeuvre for the lock landing. And then that sinking feeling as the engine and the steering fail to respond as they should. Fortunately, it was also a similar outcome. A quick trip down the weed-hatch to sort it out, and we didn't even lose our place in the queue.

Earlier, we'd seen the boat from the incident in Stoke go past. We decided to delay our departure a little, so as to give no cause for stirring up any feelings in yesterday's steerer that might be excited by encountering us again. Well, wouldn't you know? We eventually passed him, moored up, just before a bridge on a bend. I slowed as we approached, and saw that another boat was just coming into the bridge-hole from the opposite direction, and there was another behind. That meant completely stopping, and we all know what happens when you do that (for those who don't – you can't steer!). So now I was perilously near to yesterday's acquaintance, with not a lot of control over Erin Mae. Fortunately the two oncoming boats were both extremely short and going at a reasonable speed, so I didn't have to spend too long doing my balancing act. In the event, I'm not sure that the occupants of the moored-up boat even noticed – I think they were inside having lunch.

As the man said, it was deja vu all over again!