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Electric Boats


peterboat

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I've been musing about electric boats a lot recently, as I'm planning my own long-term conversion.

 

One thing that I can't help but think, when people compare electric motors versus diesel engines, is that boats were moved perfectly well in times of yore by a single horse. No aft gear, no massive excess thrust on  demand. On the canals at least, would it really be such an issue to go back to more traditional boat-handling techniques rather than relying on excess thrust on tap to manoeuvre and fix sticky situations?

 

Obviously beating upstream on a flowing river is a different matter - but many will never end up in that environment in the first place.

 

Just a thought.

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18 minutes ago, tehmarks said:

 

One thing that I can't help but think, when people compare electric motors versus diesel engines, is that boats were moved perfectly well in times of yore by a single horse.

Started off with horse towing from the towpath. Then in the London area barges were towed by IC-engined tractors from the towpath. So what about electric tractors on the towpath?

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24 minutes ago, David Mack said:

Started off with horse towing from the towpath. Then in the London area barges were towed by IC-engined tractors from the towpath. So what about electric tractors on the towpath?

I don't mean in the sense of towing - I mean in the sense of learning how to handle a boat that is limited in manoeuvrability. Recycling past techniques like strapping the boat to a stop coming into a lock, etc. Not relying on having an extra 37 horses (so to speak) to get one out of tricky situations, but rather avoiding getting into them in the first place.

 

That said, judging by the hire boat that smacked me yesterday and actually dented my hull, maybe that is a silly and dangerous idea...

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3 hours ago, mrsmelly said:

Looks like a cheap boat. Someone could buy it and bin the lectric stuff and put a proper diesel back in and have a useable boat at a reasonable price.

With two 68lb motors it will be no use as a cruiser.

Probably ok for getting to the water point and back,like the woman on You Tube with the pedal powered narrowboat.

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52 minutes ago, Mad Harold said:

With two 68lb motors it will be no use as a cruiser.

Probably ok for getting to the water point and back,like the woman on You Tube with the pedal powered narrowboat.

Yeah but you could grin smugly whilst being blown into the side thinking how you were helping to save the planet as you put another shovel of coal on the multi fuel stove ;)

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3 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

Yeah but you could grin smugly whilst being blown into the side thinking how you were helping to save the planet as you put another shovel of coal on the multi fuel stove ;)

 

Ah yes and that's another thing. Lots of boaters come across as dead smug as they burn wood not coal, genuinely believing this is better for the environment than coal. 

 

Strikes me as a load of bobbins to me, as the CO2 released from burning wood is just as damaging as that released from burning coal. 

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2 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

Ah yes and that's another thing. Lots of boaters come across as dead smug as they burn wood not coal, genuinely believing this is better for the environment than coal. 

 

Strikes me as a load of bobbins to me, as the CO2 released from burning wood is just as damaging as that released from burning coal. 

 

The carbon released from burning coal was sequestered millions of years ago. The carbon released from burning wood is equivalent to the carbon 'stored' by the tree from the atmosphere within its own lifetime. And so of course wood is better - you're generating no 'new' carbon, you're only reconverting back to the atmosphere what the tree has taken in from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

 

If the wood is sustainably sourced, it is thus effectively carbon neutral.

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Just now, tehmarks said:

 

The carbon released from burning coal was sequestered millions of years ago. The carbon released from burning wood is equivalent to the carbon 'stored' by the tree from the atmosphere within its own lifetime. And so of course wood is better - you're generating no 'new' carbon, you're only reconverting back to the atmosphere what the tree has taken in from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

 

If the wood is sustainably sourced, it is thus effectively carbon neutral.

 

Greenwash.

 

It is "better" to leave the carbon in the wood rather than burn it and release it once again to worsen the greenhouse effect, no matter how recently or long ago the carbon was 'sequestered' (another weasel word).

 

Burning wood is arguably 'less bad' but that IMO, does not equate to 'better'. 

 

 

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To simplify it as far as I possibly can; if you cut a tree down and burn it, and replace it with a new tree, that new tree will, give or take, extract as much carbon from the atmosphere as you have created in burning the old tree. Furthermore, the carbon that the old tree sequestered was extracted directly from the atmosphere itself in the very recent past. If both sides of the equation balance, ie the source of the wood is sustainable, then all that is happening is that the carbon already present is being recycled in a constant loop. It's a balanced equation.

 

If you dig up coal and burn it, you are releasing fresh carbon into the atmosphere that would otherwise never have been released. That is a huge and fundamental difference. It's adding new carbon to the atmosphere. Burning wood is not adding any 'new' carbon to the atmosphere. The issue isn't that there's CO2 in the atmosphere; the issue is that we're adding huge amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere that was previously permanently stored in solid form within the Earth. I can't put it any more simply than that; it's very basic science, it's taught at KS3. If you can't get your head around it and want to pretend that all is bad and therefore it's pointless trying to make a difference, I can't help you.

 

I've also yet to find a carbon-negative method of heating, but please do tell me if you come up with something.

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23 minutes ago, tehmarks said:

 

The carbon released from burning coal was sequestered millions of years ago. The carbon released from burning wood is equivalent to the carbon 'stored' by the tree from the atmosphere within its own lifetime. And so of course wood is better - you're generating no 'new' carbon, you're only reconverting back to the atmosphere what the tree has taken in from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

 

If the wood is sustainably sourced, it is thus effectively carbon neutral.

Wot he said^^^^^^

19 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

Greenwash.

 

It is "better" to leave the carbon in the wood rather than burn it and release it once again to worsen the greenhouse effect, no matter how recently or long ago the carbon was 'sequestered' (another weasel word).

 

Burning wood is arguably 'less bad' but that IMO, does not equate to 'better'. 

 

 

Wood rots releases CO2 so burn or rot same CO2, however particulates different matter Mike

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2 hours ago, tehmarks said:

I've been musing about electric boats a lot recently, as I'm planning my own long-term conversion.

 

One thing that I can't help but think, when people compare electric motors versus diesel engines, is that boats were moved perfectly well in times of yore by a single horse. No aft gear, no massive excess thrust on  demand. On the canals at least, would it really be such an issue to go back to more traditional boat-handling techniques rather than relying on excess thrust on tap to manoeuvre and fix sticky situations?

 

Obviously beating upstream on a flowing river is a different matter - but many will never end up in that envirotnment in the first place.

 

Just a thought.

I bet if I was in a tug O war on my boat with a good horse, the horse would win. How long would it take to learn the techniques of strapping let alone passing a mile of moored boats.

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2 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

How long would it take to learn the techniques of strapping let alone passing a mile of moored boats.

 

The premise is pretty simple, isn't it? Pass line around [bollard/strapping post/etc] and let it out in a controlled fashion. I don't see why passing a mile of boats would be an issue? Again I'm not talking about being towed from the towpath, but having an 'underpowered' boat. There seems to be a lot of focus on what size electric motor can replace a diesel engine, but I'm not convinced, on the still canals, that equivalence is necessary other than for those who try to solve every problem by revving up the engine?

 

I think it'd be quite interesting to install an underpowered motor and give handling it a go.

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I would think that, when horse power was the norm, the canals were still relatively new and either hadn't had time to silt up significantly or were regularly dredged, thereby offering lower resistance to passage than many of today's shallower ones.  

 

On the revving solution point, I recall some 30 years ago doing the 4 Counties Ring and having to really gun the engine on that long straight embankment on the Shroppie, due to a strong cross-wind blowing off the Welsh marches. It was a real-life example of the vectors I had learned about in school maths lessons, as we were going straight ahead with the boat at an angle to the direction of travel, with the bows close to one bank and the stern close to the opposite bank. I guess in horsepower days they would have had to wait for the wind to drop. 

Edited by Ronaldo47
wind vector comment added
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But on the other hand, most leisure boats don't draw anywhere near as much water as a fully-laden working boat. And applying power in shallow water is going to increase your issues, not reduce them.

 

I can't remember the last time I had to motor hard off an obstruction. Actually, that's a lie, I got stuck going through a toll island on the BCN recently. Power didn't help though - what fixed it (quickly and without too much effort) was getting the shaft out. I can't remember a time before that.

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4 minutes ago, Ronaldo47 said:

I would think that, when horse power was the norm, the canals were still relatively new and either hadn't had time to silt up significantly or were regularly dredged, thereby offering lower resistance to passage than many of today's shallower ones.  

Against that, a fully loaded 70' working narrowboat is considerably heavier than and drawing up to twice as much as a modern leisure boat.

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3 minutes ago, Ronaldo47 said:

I would think that, when horse power was the norm, the canals were still relatively new and either hadn't had time to silt up significantly or were regularly dredged, thereby offering lower resistance to passage than many of today's shallower ones.  

Today's shallower-than-built canals may indeed offer a resistance to the fully laden carrying craft they were designed for, but with the modern leisure narrowboat having a draft of around 2/3 that of the ex working boats which continue to boat over the whole of the network, the current levels of silt shouldn't offer too much resistance to most boaters.

 

Which isn't to say that some extra dredging wouldn't be welcome.

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Thinking about it, wind might not have been such a problem to a fully-laden narrowboat. Many old pictures show fully-laden boats sitting right down in the water, thereby offering much less exposed area to the wind than modern leisure craft, which have considerably more air draft than water draft. 

 

Taking a run at the gate under power was the only way to negotiate some of the locks on the Southern Stratford in the 1970's due to the state of the gates.  The joints on some were so loose that, when the top of the gate  was fully engaged in its recess in the lock side, the bottom was not, so you had to use the power and momentum of the boat to push it fully home to enter or exit.  

 

More recently, the only time that comes to mind was winding at a badly-silted winding hole on the Ashby a couple of years ago.  Progress had been so slow compared with our last visit some 30 years previously, that we had decided to abandon our intention to go to the end. 

Edited by Ronaldo47
Typo: Oxford >> Stratford, Ashby comment added
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1 hour ago, Ronaldo47 said:

I would think that, when horse power was the norm, the canals were still relatively new and either hadn't had time to silt up significantly or were regularly dredged...

That raises an interesting question (for me anyway): how was dredging done in the horse drawn era?

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7 minutes ago, Sea Dog said:

That raises an interesting question (for me anyway): how was dredging done in the horse drawn era?

 

Was any done ?

 

The canals were 'full depth' being fairly new, and would only slowly start to 'fill up', it is possibly only the last 100 years or so where the depth started to become a problem that dredging was required.

 

Discuss .

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12 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

Was any done ?

 

The canals were 'full depth' being fairly new, and would only slowly start to 'fill up', it is possibly only the last 100 years or so where the depth started to become a problem that dredging was required.

 

Discuss .

Drain and dig it out, spreading it on the fields I suspect?

2 hours ago, tehmarks said:

 

The premise is pretty simple, isn't it? Pass line around [bollard/strapping post/etc] and let it out in a controlled fashion. I don't see why passing a mile of boats would be an issue? Again I'm not talking about being towed from the towpath, but having an 'underpowered' boat. There seems to be a lot of focus on what size electric motor can replace a diesel engine, but I'm not convinced, on the still canals, that equivalence is necessary other than for those who try to solve every problem by revving up the engine?

 

I think it'd be quite interesting to install an underpowered motor and give handling it a go.

I have an electric boat nothing is to be gained fitting an undersized motor it will get to hot from working to hard. The correct size motor isn't expensive so buy and fit one plus it uses little or no more electric 

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2 hours ago, tehmarks said:

 

The premise is pretty simple, isn't it? Pass line around [bollard/strapping post/etc] and let it out in a controlled fashion. I don't see why passing a mile of boats would be an issue? Again I'm not talking about being towed from the towpath, but having an 'underpowered' boat. There seems to be a lot of focus on what size electric motor can replace a diesel engine, but I'm not convinced, on the still canals, that equivalence is necessary other than for those who try to solve every problem by revving up the engine?

 

I think it'd be quite interesting to install an underpowered motor and give handling it a go.

You are quite correct re most boats being way over powered ninety plus percent of the time. My first liveaboard in 1989 that we owned for 5 years was a 56 foot steel boat with a 9 horse power ( when new ) ancient lister that was probably delivering nearer 5 hp at the time. We traveled all over the system including up to Ripon through York ont touse and the tidal Trent both ways keadby to Cromwell and back on more than one occasion. Twas somewhat hairy on the Trent and we could never travel in very high winds due to being blown into the side but it did mostly due a splendid job and used knack all diesel. Todays standard 43 hp is way way more than needed, 20 horses is ample for a heavy 70 footer on a canal. 43 however does make life easier as you say by giving a handful of throttle when the crap hits the fan. Forward planning is all thats needed with a smaller output engine " Most " of the time.

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7 minutes ago, mrsmelly said:

You are quite correct re most boats being way over powered ninety plus percent of the time. My first liveaboard in 1989 that we owned for 5 years was a 56 foot steel boat with a 9 horse power ( when new ) ancient lister that was probably delivering nearer 5 hp at the time. We traveled all over the system including up to Ripon through York ont touse and the tidal Trent both ways keadby to Cromwell and back on more than one occasion. Twas somewhat hairy on the Trent and we could never travel in very high winds due to being blown into the side but it did mostly due a splendid job and used knack all diesel. Todays standard 43 hp is way way more than needed, 20 horses is ample for a heavy 70 footer on a canal. 43 however does make life easier as you say by giving a handful of throttle when the crap hits the fan. Forward planning is all thats needed with a smaller output engine " Most " of the time.

Ah, but weren't the Hp developed by 'vintage' engines magic Hp, being much more useful than modern Hp, even where a modern engine is gearboxed so it can swing a prop of a similar diameter, pitch and DAR to that of the 'vintage' engine?

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