Another one all sorted at Orph's yard

Published: Thursday, 21 May 2020

IT WAS if I'd been given a birthday present when I saw the contribution last month from Orph Mable, actually dated on my birthday!, writes Geoff Smith.

I loved his 'Yarns From The Yard' articles.  Always fascinating and always telling a story that had a gentle nudge within to new boaters, such as me, towards learning that all is rarely straight forward in boats and boating.

Sad when he withdrew

I was sad when he withdrew from writing regular pieces but I can quite see how such a commitment can be difficult if 'the day job' is also pulling at your time.  I had to make the same sort of decision a while back when a commitment I made to support an organisation suddenly grew like topsy to the point where it became really too much.

As for the heroic Phil, a legend in narrowboatworld aficionado circles I'm sure, and the mugs of tea, filled with epiphanies as much as nectar, no doubt, all contributed to a lovely little bit of reader enjoyment.  To his most recent article I can fully empathise.

Our boat, 'Minimo' for short, is also at Orph's yard, presently, and I'll happily let him write about the work done, if he cares to.  His drawings are way better than mine, as well.

Gremlin to be chased down

'Minimo' is at his yard for a 'gremlin' to be chased down but is stuck there because we're self-isolated many, many, many miles away and are only allowed to our own local pharmacy, grocer and petrol station at the moment...

What particularly struck me was his subject of alternators and the article set me to wondering if alternators on marinised engines are a bit of a 'thing'.

'Minimo' is the '76' boat from the no longer extant Louis & Joshua, who were, as I understand it, much respected fitters-out of, usually, Jonathan Wilson hulls. When she was built, a Beta Marine Beta 43 engine was mated to an excellent quality hull from just down the cut in Thorne.


Previous iterations of the engine (not totally sure but maybe the 'Super 3’, if I recall correctly) came with a 65A Iskra alternator fitted to the engine, onto a mounting cast into the engine itself.  Aboard 'Minimo', however, a 150A alternator was fitted to the engine for domestic bank charging. 

A 45A Iskra alternator was also provided for charging the cruising (engine start) battery.  Our boat's complete original battery charging arrangements, though distressing even now, are for another time.
It's that 45A alternator (pictured) that Orph has me thinking of.

45A Cropped Arrow

This alternator had an 8 o'clock mounting configuration (viewed towards the stern) and was fitted to the engine using a most 'Heath Robinson' bolt-on steel bar structure that looked, well, awkward!

Alternator broke

'Minimo' was put together over the winter of 2006-2007.  In 2012, this little alternator broke and the local boatyard at Rodley, Leeds, liaised with RCR over the August Bank Holiday weekend to get a replacement.
It took longer. Despite RCR's heroic efforts, it turned out that by then Iskra only made this rating of alternator with a 6 o'clock mounting configuration.

Once fitted, it was found that no tension could be applied to the drive belt.  The only way to get the crew some more progress westwards was to obtain a shorter, non-standard drive belt.  Even this, too, was not totally satisfactory as less than substantial grip was all that was possible and then at maximum adjustment!

It got us home without further incident outside of inaccurate RPM readings but that ‘6 o’clock’ 45A alternator and its slack belt was an ongoing concern.

Sensible thing to do

In the end, I decided that the sensible thing to do was to use the engine's dormant 65A alternator mounting and fit one of those alternators in place of the 45A variant.  This alternator, its drive belt and mounting bolts were all still freely available.

Once I had removed the crazy steel edifice and the 45A unit, everything became really easy to fit, access having opened up.

65A Cropped Arrow

The 65A unit dropped right onto the engine block mounting that had been originally made for it and I now merely await the return of the boat to fit the correct drive belt I have waiting for it.

Force one to wonder

All this does force one to wonder why money motivated Beta Marine so easily into fixing something that wasn't broken.  Sure, a 65A engine alternator was a lot for just charging a single battery but even then VSR's were around that could have made use of the spare 'grunt'.

What with my little tale and Orph's terrible tribulations, one can't help wondering whether providers haven’t encountered a bit of a blind spot, here, and whether a tad more industry care mightn't have benefitted everyone?

As for us, well, that other story about battery configuration and charging has us, surprisingly, even more grateful for the 65A unit!   Now that Orph has also put on the correct size prop Beta recommend, the momentum isn't so minimum, so to speak!

See you at the next lock—just not sure quite when…