Retro

Bow Thrusters, who’d have ‘em eh?

I think this boat has got a death wish.
 
As you know, not long ago we had a screaming starter alternator {new one and fixed}. A farting water pump {new one and fixed}.
 
News just in, the bow thruster’s packed up…
No, I don’t want to go through the whole bow thruster debate wimp thing of “can you not drive your boat without one?” We’ve driven this boat “without” and “with”. I remember the faffing about we originally had to do – without one…
 
I also remember how I had to stand on the bow with a pole whilst getting out of the marina, digging it into what appeared to be a solid bank, except it was more like mush in disguise. Kate Winslet and the Titanic came to mind every time. Good job there’s a deep non-slip well deck on here else I’d have ended up with lumbago. Then there was winding in a breeze, use the gusty wind in your favour?? Not a chance, still required a 23 point turn for a widebeam. As for getting the bow in on it’s own to moor up – forget it…
 
—————————————-
 
No, we don’t overuse the bow thruster, despite any wind, the boat handles well. But it’s great for mooring up and winding. TT will even go sideways to moor up. (Several of our friends have been utterly gobsmacked when they see that). Oh, and I forgot to say how handy it is when an oncoming hire boat is headed straight for us. Stick her in reverse – get the front end out the way, simples. And being particularly aware of erosion of canal banks, one of us will push the front end out before setting off from being moored up on the canal… (5 gold stars).
 
So we set off on Thursday for a short sail down to the pub and back, (that’s before Friday’s torrential rain set in), the weather was wonderful. The sun was shining down upon the {slightly} righteous and all was well with the world.
 
Dave pressed the “go right” button as we set off to keep us well away from boats on the next pier – and nothing happened… There was no wind, so apart from the OBVIOUS problem, it wasn’t a problem…
 
However, we ended up doing a 180 degree turn just before the marina entrance, simply because we both felt it needed some diagnosis. So back we came, and moored up the old fashioned way, it seemed really weird for me to have to stand on the bow to throw the ropes. It’s over two years since I had to do that…
 
From what we’ve experienced and observed over the years, a bow thruster is a necessity on a widebeam, and offers pinpoint accuracy when it’s needed. We can even turn on a sixpence, (well, we could till now).
 
In the opposite sense there’s a widebeam on this marina doesn’t have one, what a performance they have getting back on their mooring in a breeze. We both watch and commentate to each other how they could improve the process under the circumstances. But no, they’ve still got a lot to learn…
 
You could say it’s more restrictive than a narrowboat without one, and depending on the weather (it is). However with a bow thruster that’s actually working on a widebeam it’s more precise than a narrowboat with one…
 
Crucial test: We’ve both driven a friend’s new narrowboat with a bow thruster, and the responsiveness was very poor in comparison. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the power ratio, and how many batteries required being more difficult to assess, or even access! On some they get it right, on others they get it wrong…
 
Some boats have them wired up to a battery charger (ee-oww) bad idea, 30 seconds tops, and within half an hour of temporary use the batteries are dead. We have ours working off a “splitter” from the starter alternator, so they’re always charged. Sounds superior? It is, but not at the moment! To be fair though, nothing except connections have ever been checked since the bow thruster was fitted in 2010…
 
So are we dependant on a bow thruster for cruising? Nope. Dependant on performance at the front, in situations when it makes life easier? Yes…
As an extreme example, in summer last year Dave used it to help steer the boat backwards, half a mile round the bend round a bend on the canal. Basically it just needed a quick tap here and there to keep control of the front end, in what was a very hefty breeze. Would’ve been side on without it, or unable to do it at all. (Don’t ask, it was all about locks and where the winding hole was).  
 
Being as we’ve been busy with other events over the past few days, Dave used one of those “digital multimeter” things today to check the bow thruster batteries. Both ok. Sh*t we were hoping it would be that simple, get the job done by installing one or two new ones. (Ha) It’s never that eezy on here…
 
Symptoms: A loud click noise when using the control panel and nothing happening. With the engine running it can be heard from the bow (where the batteries are seated). Without the engine running, the “click” can be heard from bow to stern…
Tom, where are you chuck…???
 
Dave’s going to pop over to Midland Chandlers tomorrow, see if the problem is what he suspects. The guys in there are great when it comes to discussing possible failures, (brainstorming). But the engineers who keep the hire boats healthy here are the experts…
 
I meant to take a photo whilst Dave had pulled everything out. But thought better of it because he was in deep concentration mode. He had a virtual DO NOT DISTURB sign on his forehead, and he’s crap at multi-tasking, so:
 
The problem lies behind here, somewhere under the bow…
 
      001
 
So it can bog off bow off…

3 thoughts on “Bow Thrusters, who’d have ‘em eh?

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