Thursday 26 September 2013


You're supposed to get away from it all when you go boating. Slow down, chill out, cut the heart-rate. The reality is that you have this expensive life-support machine, with whose workings your life to date has not really familiarised you. What can go wrong is no less than in your non-boaty world – it's just different.

Last night the batteries had dropped overnight to under 10 volts. We hadn't moved from Lymm yesterday, but I'd run the engine to charge the batteries, and when we went to bed they'd been what I considered reasonable, even though we'd watched a couple of hours of TV. Why the sudden drop? These batteries were new in May, so they should hold their charge. I know they're under warranty, but that would be such a hassle! Most nights they end up around 11.6 in the morning – though a couple of weeks ago they'd once dropped to 10 point something. What's going on? Is there something wrong elsewhere that is draining them. The only thing on overnight is the fridge, perhaps a phone being charged and the little local wifi box with a Three dongle, if we hadn't turned it off. Is the inverter faulty? That would be alarming!

So I've been thinking more about how much I run the engine to charge the batteries, and realised that although I keep a record of engine hours, I haven't been good at keeping a check on the total. This has been our first really serious cruising summer, and when I did the sums today I had a shock. We're way overdue a major engine service – and I mean way overdue. So now I have another worry – do I change the oil myself (lots of other bloggers do that all the time)? No, I'm not really kitted out for that. Do I take pot-luck with a boatyard we happen to be passing? Not sure about that… Do we curtail this journey and head back to Great Haywood to get it serviced by those we trust? Probably. Meanwhile, I have to run the engine for those batteries, but now I'm worrying about the engine!

I thought it would mostly be the bodywork I'd worry about. But don't get me started on that… So what to do? Cruising down the last part of the Bridgewater canal, the best thing is to consider the lilies of the field. Or the birds of the air. Or the flowers in someone's garden. Or the autumn colours in the hedgerows. So here we go:

That's better.


  1. As long as you make sure the oil level is not down I'm sure you will make it back to Haywood ok. Re the batteries it's the telly what does it! You need to have the engine in gear to charge it up properly. Fridge can be turned off overnight last thing as long as you don't open it.We don't even have a telly and when we got back to Haywood last time, and stayed a day we were surprised how quickly they went down, even plugged in to the shoreline.

    1. Thanks, Mo. Turning off the fridge is something I think we'll try. It would mean we could also turn off the inverter. We don't watch much telly, and the one we have is pretty efficient.

  2. Don't agree about running your engine in gear, it's absolutely not necessary unless you have a vintage beast, and running it in gear whilst tied is a breach of your licence conditions. Do agree though that extra hours to get back to GH shouldn't do too much damage.

    If the batteries have been down to below 12 v regularly they've not been being charged properly and will be very tired; your supplier is unlikely to honour the warranty which is conditional on an adequate charging regime (I'm assuming typical leisure batteries here, genuine traction jobs like Trojans or US batteries would be different).

    Have you been keeping them topped up with water, or are they sealed units?

    Anyway, best of luck and remember, nobody's died, it's only money at the end of the day!



    1. Thanks Bruce. I'm intrigued by the discussion about running engines for battery charging. I haven't run it in gear since my discussion with Keith from NB Oakfield. However, both my boat manual and some of the internet material implies that even modern engines can suffer from low-load running.

      I don't really understand what's happening with the batteries. They're normal leisure 12v sealed units by Numax (better price and longer warranty than the unsealed). I've been endeavouring to keep them charged, and I would have thought my regime would do so. I know you can't rely just on the voltage indication, but that's all I have. They normally get to around 13 volts by the end of cruising, which seems pretty normal. It's the drop overnight I can't fathom. I'll have to do some more experiments to see what turning off everything does.

  3. I remember there was a chap whose year travelling the whole system was serialised in Canal Boat mag (before the days when everyone had a blog), who misread the handbook for his engine and left it 2000 hours before he did an oil change. His engine was fine.