We went to the boat one Saturday morning recently, just to give the engine a run as we had been doing throughout the winter months, we turned the ignition key and the engine turned over. It turned over and tried to start, and then it turned over and died. All the electrics to the cockpit were dead. Even the LED lighting didn’t have enough power to light (although the lights inside the cabin worked fine).
We’d come across this before and assumed it was a battery issue. Although the battery meter told us all the batteries where fully charged, if you left things alone for an hour or two everything would come back to life. We assumed this was down to the solar panel providing a boost to the starter battery. We returned to the boat the following week armed with a new starter battery. The boat was still dead but we changed the starter battery and hoped for the best.
We sought out the Marina owner, a Marine Engineer who also runs a car repair business and found him up to his elbows in a BMW. He agreed to have a look at the problem for us and would give us a call if he found anything.
I asked him if he’d be interested in re-wiring the whole boat for us during the winter.
“What do you want to do that for, it works doesn’t it?”
“Obviously not”, I replied.
We never heard from the Marina during the week and returned to the boat the following weekend to find her just as we had left her, still dead as a doornail. I went looking for the Marina owner thinking he had forgotten us. He swore he’d visited the boat, turned the key and she’d fired up first time. “There’s nothing wrong with it” he insisted.
“Oh yes there is” said I, and he followed me back to our berth. He stepped on board and turned the key. It was a nervous moment. If the boat started now I’d look a right idiot. I was almost glad when nothing happened.
“It’ll be a solenoid” he said, as his head and arms disappeared into the bowels of the boat where most of the electrickery is hidden away. “Bloody el! It’s more like a bleedin’ space shuttle than a boat”, he says.
“I told you it needed rewiring”, said I.
Armed with a small adjustable spanner, there was much scary banging and showers of sparks as he used the spanner to short various circuits. “There’s power” he said over the top of the firework display, and for a brief moment the control panel of the boat flashed into life.
“Whatever you hit then worked for a moment” I said, trying to be helpful. But all it seemed to do was provide a reason for another round of bangs and sparks while I went over the instructions for performing CPR in my head.
“I’ll go and get my test meter”, he said.
“Good idea”, I replied, relaxing a little.
We removed the boats control panel to reveal the brightly coloured birds nest of fine wires behind it. I subtlety hid the spanner while he prodded and probed with the test meter, before declaring “I have an electrician. I’ll get him to look at it this week”.
True to his word, he had his electrician look at the boat and he called me at home to report that the elecmagician had fixed the electrickery and the boat was now sorted. He didn’t know what the root cause was, but It had taken the guy two and half hours to fix and afterwards he’d said, “That boat needs rewiring.”
The next weekend we arrived at the marina, turned the key and the engine fired up first time. With a rather lighter wallet and an expensive appointment with an elecmagician in the winter to look forward to, we headed off into the sunshine for a short cruise up the canal. It wasn’t long before we settled back into the pace of the canal and we appreciated the real value of having a working boat and the sting of bill eased slightly.
They say “A boat is a hole in the water in which you pour your money”. But when you’re pottering along a canal in the sunshine watching the scenery and wildlife slip by to the low hypnotic beat of the engine as it pushes you along a tranquil waterway. You realise the money is an investment in your soul and down payment on your sanity.