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Bow and Stern thrusters automatic control any ideas?


PJBear

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I am starting to plan a new cannal boat and as I only work a couple of months a year and my partner works all year but only part time I will be boating alone for most of the time and I am worried that when doing a lock on my own the boat will get beaten up, especially as I am not experienced, so as an electronic engineer I thought if I was to have a bow and stern thruster I could adapt a car parking distance kit and use that to control the thrusters to keep the boat off of the walls of the lock.  I would be interrested in your views - Am I worrying too much about doing locks on my own and should just have the thrusters in manual mode or is it a good idea - if I can get it to work?

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1 minute ago, PJBear said:

Am I worrying too much about doing locks on my own and should just have the thrusters in manual mode

 

Yes, is the short answer.

 

One of the many singlehanders on here will tell you exactly how to do it safely. But a steel narrowboat is not a car or GRP boat, it can take a few bumps. I’m sure you’d create something wonderful, but it would be expensive and power hungry and honestly unnecessary.

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To avoid touching the sides in locks such a system would need accurate distance measurements, a sophisticated control system and powerful instant side thrusters, capable of overcoming the forces from flowing water entering the lock chamber.

I suppose with a multi million pound budget and a team of development engineers you might get a workable prototype in a few years.

Or you can accept that your boat is going to get bumped in locks, and budget for touching up the blacking from time to time.

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Your boat will come equipped with all the necessary equipment to maintain control in locks, that is the engine, gearbox and ropes.

 

One elderly disabled boater who used a mobility scooter (kept in a short boat he towed), adapted the engine gearbox and rudder with hydraulically operated remote controls and took the boat through the locks using his remote controls from the lockside.

Edited by cuthound
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9 minutes ago, PJBear said:

I am starting to plan a new cannal boat and as I only work a couple of months a year and my partner works all year but only part time I will be boating alone for most of the time and I am worried that when doing a lock on my own the boat will get beaten up, especially as I am not experienced, so as an electronic engineer I thought if I was to have a bow and stern thruster I could adapt a car parking distance kit and use that to control the thrusters to keep the boat off of the walls of the lock.  I would be interrested in your views - Am I worrying too much about doing locks on my own and should just have the thrusters in manual mode or is it a good idea - if I can get it to work?

 

TBH I think you should try and get some experience of canal boating and, in particular, lock operation before taking this project any further.  In narrow locks it's unnecessary and probably wouldn't work  In broad locks you would have to take into account the size of the lock and the likelihood of having another boat alongside, but you would also need really powerful thrusters to overcome the forces generated by a filling lock.  Locks where this might be helpful, some on the K&A for example, I wonder if standard bowthrusters can cope with the forces that pull/push the boat sideways.

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37 minutes ago, PJBear said:

I am starting to plan a new cannal boat and as I only work a couple of months a year and my partner works all year but only part time I will be boating alone for most of the time and I am worried that when doing a lock on my own the boat will get beaten up, especially as I am not experienced, so as an electronic engineer I thought if I was to have a bow and stern thruster I could adapt a car parking distance kit and use that to control the thrusters to keep the boat off of the walls of the lock.  I would be interrested in your views - Am I worrying too much about doing locks on my own and should just have the thrusters in manual mode or is it a good idea - if I can get it to work?

 

Yes, you are worrying too much. Far, far too much. Steel narrowboats have a thick D section rubbing band around the widest part that is there specifically to accept the everyday bumps. You use the ropes to control the boat in a lock, but there are dangers in that unless you learn how to do it safely (basically never tie a rope off to a bollard when going down, but there might be exceptions).  You also use the way you operate the lock paddles to control the boat in the lock.

 

I would suggest that the vast majority of narrowboats have no thrusters apart from the long pole on the roof. It is not without reason the thruster control gets called the girly button (sorry ladies, there are just as many lads who can't control the boat as there are girls). The only time I wished I had a bow thruster was when trying to move off with a very strong wind blowing the boat against the bank, but in those conditions its probably best to stay tied up until the wind drops.

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Imagine the situation where you are single-handing a wide lock. Will your system try and keep the boat away from the nearest wall or away from both walls a similar amount? If the latter, the boat may well end up in the middle of the lock - you'll need your bow and stern lines to the lockside to overcome that.

 

Imagaine another situation, where you are sharing a lock with a much shorter boat. How many distance sensors will you have fitted, where will they be located along the length of the boat, how will your system cope with different distance readings from the sensors along one side of the boat????

 

Stick with ropes - its easier!

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Don't worry about the boat being knocked about in locks. You can reduce the forces throwing the boat around with careful use of the paddles and ropes. Get it wrong by opening the wrong paddle too fast and the forces will be more than you can hold back with a rope around a bollard, so typical bow/stern thrusters would stand no chance. Make sure the breakables in the cabin are properly stowed so they can't fall. Perhaps consider displaying your antique Dresden porcelain collection somewhere else!

Locks were designed so boats could be controlled without thrusters. Before engines were invented boaters only had ropes to control their movement.

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3 hours ago, Hudds Lad said:

 

Yes, is the short answer.

 

One of the many singlehanders on here will tell you exactly how to do it safely. But a steel narrowboat is not a car or GRP boat, it can take a few bumps. I’m sure you’d create something wonderful, but it would be expensive and power hungry and honestly unnecessary.

I agree with Hudds Lad. I would suggest that you learn how to handle a boat properly using conventional engine, rudder and ropes and you will almost certainly find that you manage perfectly well. However,  if you still feel the need to develop your system, before you do pursue this idea,  remember that at times you may need to hug a lock wall rather than keeping away from it. Sharing a double lock with another boat is an example. If your automatic system is working to keep you clear of a lock wall you're possibly diminishing the space available for the second boat, with a possible increase in contact between your two boats. Additionally, Murphy's law says that as the second boat approaches to enter the lock the thrusters will give a squirt at just the wrong moment and push him away from his approach with possible contact damage/scraping of paintwork etc.. I would suggest that this might make you quite unpopular!  This is a common experience with similarly equipped ships in the offshore exploration industry when anchor handling/supply vessels are attempting to come alongside at sea. I speak from personal experience😮

 

However, if you do feel the need to continue with your ideas you may like to research Dynamic Positioning systems which are extensively used offshore - the following link may help.

https://www.offshoreengineering.com/education/dynamic-positioning-dp/dp-system-suppliers

 

Howard

 

 

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, PJBear said:

and I am worried that when doing a lock on my own the boat will get beaten up,

 

It won't. This is a non-problem. There are loads of single handers on the system with smart and tidy boats without thrusters.

 

Yes a boat will bump the sides many times and not just in locks but it won't get beaten up. The "beaten up" boats one sees around are 'beaten up' because they have owners (or a series of owners) who have not maintained them for decades on end. 

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4 hours ago, cuthound said:

Your boat will come equipped with all the necessary equipment to maintain control in locks, that is the engine, gearbox and ropes.

 

One elderly disabled boater who used a mobility scooter (kept in a short boat he towed), adapted the engine gearbox and rudder with hydraulically operated remote controls and took the boat through the locks using his remote controls from the lockside.

 

Remote boat 1.jpeg

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thanks all for the answers it has given a lot to think about and a few issues have beeen raised that I had not concidered - I would have taken the time to comment on each answer more indepth but not sure how to at the moment?  Must look up what the quote button does?

 

 

18 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

It won't. This is a non-problem. There are loads of single handers on the system with smart and tidy boats without thrusters.

 

Yes a boat will bump the sides many times and not just in locks but it won't get beaten up. The "beaten up" boats one sees around are 'beaten up' because they have owners (or a series of owners) who have not maintained them for decades on end. 

 

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Don't listen to these convention-driven nay sayers - you may be onto something big.

 

The only reason I'd suggest you don't invest your life savings in this visionary concept is my own close to ready invention which will allow my 57' narrowboat to hover, thus allowing me to simply glide over the locks. It works at the model stage, I just need to upgrade the plastic drone parts to something more substantial.

 

A tip: If you decide to press ahead with the car PDC sensors, make sure you can turn off the beeping so as not to disturb other boaters, otherwise your use will be restricted to 8am to 8pm.

 

Anyway, must go - there appears to be a flaw in the chocolate fireguard I'm testing ..

 

;)

 

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9 hours ago, PJBear said:

I am starting to plan a new cannal boat and as I only work a couple of months a year and my partner works all year but only part time I will be boating alone for most of the time and I am worried that when doing a lock on my own the boat will get beaten up, especially as I am not experienced

 

When you first get a boat the idea of doing locks on your own seems very difficult. It isn't, you just need to do things carefully and slowly at first while keeping your eyes on everything that's happening.

 

Go out on your boat with someone experienced at single handing their boat and doing locks on their own. Get them to show you how it's done and then try doing it yourself with them watching you and only helping if you really need it. Do this with a couple of different people to see differences in techniques and you'll soon develop your own. There are plenty of people on here who will be able to help, especially if they're local to you. 

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Boats don't really get knocked about much in locks, (Usually!) Its getting in them that's the tricky bit, plus coming alongside stone walls, steel piling, brick edges  and that really awkward swing bridge on the K&A. No bow thruster will help much with those bumps. Add in a bit of wind, a heap of current and the occasional bit of abject incompetence and your hull will look like mine. Having said that can I have a bowthruster for Christmas please? I reckon they are a Good Thing.

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On demand self inflating and deflating side airbag fenders seem more achievable and would be more effective than thrusters and use less power. 

A full length linear balloon unit with air pumps linked to the distance sensors could prove to be quite effective. Build it into a channel around the edge of the side decks so it would be out of the way when not inflated. 

 

It would need to be made of a durable material and able to be pumped to a very high pressure very quickly. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, magnetman said:

On demand self inflating and deflating side airbag fenders seem more achievable and would be more effective than thrusters and use less power. 

A full length linear balloon unit with air pumps linked to the distance sensors could prove to be quite effective. Build it into a channel around the edge of the side decks so it would be out of the way when not inflated. 

 

It would need to be made of a durable material and able to be pumped to a very high pressure very quickly. 

 

 

A series of car airbags would fit the bill, but unfortunately a use once solution.

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18 hours ago, Ray T said:

 

Remote boat 1.jpeg

One issue (which may not be a real issue at narrowboat speed) I found on a commercial drone course. It's quite difficult flying steering something coming towards you - right is left, "slow down, there's something in front of you" becomes "speed up, there's something between me and you" between the eyeballs and the fingers.

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On 31/08/2021 at 08:13, PJBear said:

I could adapt a car parking distance kit and use that to control the thrusters to keep the boat off of the walls of the lock..... 

So

What happens when you are sharing a lock

.. with a shorter boat that is moving backwards and forward in relation to your boat? 

.. with any boat that is moving about either sideways and/or backwards and forwards. 

 

A lot of maths and invention required to achieve what can easily be handled by a boat equipped with 2 top ropes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by reg
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Perhaps it would help the OP if he read Colin Edmondson's book on single handing "Going it Alone".

 

However when I read it, after having been boating for over 40 years, I found that it to stated the bleeding obvious and didnt teach me anything new at all.

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5 hours ago, Bobbybass said:

I would have thought that running thrusters continually while in a lock...some being very slow....the batteries would be out before the boat 😄

True, unless the thrusters were - like my boat - hydraulic.😊

 

Howard

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