Sunday 11 September 2016

Coping with the unexpected

I haven't worried about Erin Mae's batteries since the end of June. The combined effect of the solar panel and what I refer to as "twelvoltification" was to keep their state of charge (SOC) well up in the safety zone, without ever needing to run the engine just to charge them. That is, until a few days ago. I do regular mental calculations that include my guesstimates of how much current the various devices are using and what the solar panel delivers, and compare the result with what the SmartGauge tells me (but without worrying, you understand). A few days ago, the batteries seemed to be discharging more than usual overnight – an unexpected phenomenon. Not enough to get seriously down into the red, but enough to suggest that we might not be able to stay in one place for more than one day.

Now this all coincided with having stayed immobile for a few days at Fazeley, cloudy days at the beginning of September, and both the audible ignition warning buzzer and the tachometer deciding to malfunction. I've decided that the last of these is probably irrelevant, and anyway we'll get them looked at tomorrow during the engine service. I suspect that the SmartGauge over-estimates the SOC during charging while cruising, so the readout in the evening is higher than the true value, while the readout in the morning is more accurate. With only an hour and a half of travel yesterday, the SmartGauge read 86% last night and 74% this morning. A 12% drop is still more than I would have calculated, but perhaps has something to do with the condition of the batteries. Today we've stayed put, but the sun has been shining. The SmartGauge is trying to make sense of the input of electrons from the solar panel, but I suspect is gently grumbling away to itself until it can get a nice period of discharge to make sense of everything.

Today we joined with St Paul's church in Pendeford for Sunday worship. They share a building with the local primary school, meeting in the hall. The table at the front had a nice quilted, appliqu̩ tapestry over it, depicting Pendeford sitting in the angle of the Staffs & Worcs and the Shroppie, with some boats on the canals. This was an all-age service, based around the stories in Luke's gospel of the lost sheep and the lost coins, with the children hunting for coins, and all of us learning British Sign Language for "lost", "found" and "rejoice"! Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and we've got used to meeting with all sorts of different churches on Sundays. What I wasn't expecting in this service was that moment where they all give each other a "sign of peace". I (obviously mistakenly) thought this was only part of Anglican communion services. But the invitation to give each other the sign of peace is the signal for everybody to get up, leave their place, and go around shaking hands with everybody else, saying "Peace be with you", plus whatever else seems desirable and appropriate. It's a really nice part of the Anglican tradition. While it usually strikes me as completely at odds with the formality of the remainder of the service, I'm long enough in the tooth to cope with most things on a Sunday morning. But I wonder what would have been the response of somebody who just happened to walk in from the large 70s/80s housing estate that comprises most of Pendeford. They could probably have got through the rest Рit was clear when to sit and when to stand, and the things we were to say and sing were projected on the screen. But it could perhaps be rather scary to suddenly have a large number of complete strangers and a few neighbours shaking you by the hand and saying "Peace be with you", and obviously expecting you to return in kind!


  1. Hmm. The tacho is fed, I believe, from a terminal on the engine alternator. If this alternator has failed your starter battery won't be charging. Can you check the voltage on the starter battery while the engine is running to make sure it is charging as it should? I would do that as a first step. Does the ignition warning lamp come on when you switch the ignition on without starting the engine? The engine alternator needs a current flowing in its coils to provide the initial excitation to start producing current itself. If your domestic batteries receive an input from the engine alternator as well as the domestic one this could have a bearing on your domestic batteries losing charge.

    1. Thanks, John. You'll remember that my Stirling gizmo combines the output from both alternators and charges both engine and domestic batteries. So I'm not in the dire situation of not charging the engine battery. On the other hand, because the outputs are combined at the AB12160, I can't test the output from the engine alternator without disconnecting it – I would only see the voltage from the one that's working. As it happens, Oxley Marine tested it all today when I got my engine service, and checked the outputs on the various terminals. It seems OK. The process seems to have revived the warning buzzer – may have been a loose connection. But the tacho seems dead. That's annoying – I think they're expensive!

  2. Could you try feeding the tacho from the domestic alternator just to check it works? I think it might be the "W" terminal, but I'd have to check...