Solar Boating on the Southern Oxford Canal on Caracruiser Pike Lock Boat
2019 we decided to see if it was possible to convert our 40 year
Caracruiser to solar powered electric propulsion.
2020 - Southern Oxford Canal Trip
after lockdown restrictions ended in July 2020, we took Pike Lock Boat
for a week long trip exploring the Southern Oxford Canal. We launched
at Twyford just south of Banbury and started by heading south reaching
Heyford Station 11.5 miles and 6 locks in what was a partial day - the
weather was cloudy with rain about 30% of the time. We had two remote
steering adapter with us but started off using the electric outboard
motor's own tiller. However, part way through the day, the speed
control switch developed a fault and started to burn out. This
necessitated fitting one of the new adapters allowing the steering and
the electronic control to be used at the front of the boat. Fortunately
the new steering system, although still capable of improvement, did
work this time. Electronic speed and direction control enabled the
motor to be fixed on full power, a setting that had had minimal use so
still had good switch contacts.
Day 2 got us to Oxford; a
distance of 16 miles with 10 locks. It was cloudy all day but slightly
brighter in the middle of the day. There was rain in the morning and
heavy rain from 4pm. For about an hour it was possible to go into solar
mode which means the output from the solar cells is applied directly to
the motor with battery power only acting as a backup. To preserve the
battery charge as much as possible, the speed was kept to about 2mph.
3 was cloudy all day again with a bit of rain. On the way back out of
Oxford, we explored both links between the canal and the Thames. This
being the third day with just about no sun, it was decided to stop near
Enslow after about 12 miles and 10 locks and some distance short of our
target of returning to Heyford. The open circuit battery voltage
was 23.6V and about 22.2V when running when we stopped.
Day 4 -
mainly cloudy until lunchtime but then some sun at last and improving
to continuous by evening. The mileage covered was 16 with 7 locks
finishing at Twyford.
Day 5 - Thanks to the sunny evening and
early morning, the o/c battery voltage had risen to 26.1V and 27.0V
with 8.7A being delivered from the solar cells at 8:20am. ready for the
start of the day. An hour was spent in Banbury with a second stop
at Cropredy. There were long queues at some of the locks which made
progress slow. In the end, we moored up about 1km north of the Claydon
Locks after travelling 17miles and 13 locks. The o/c battery
voltage was 26.4V when we stopped. There was a problem with the 3 way
two pole switch which switches between charge and solar mode. One pole
went open circuit but a work around was found to bypass the problem.
6 - By the time it was time to start, the o/c battery voltage was
26.9V. It was sunny about 80% of the time and this enabled speeds of
2.6 - 3.0mph for much of the time in charge mode (there was some
concern that the switch patch might create problems in Solar Mode so
this was avoided just in case - but was tried successfully later).
Mileage covered =16 with 9 locks.
Day 7 - Batteries started day
fully charged (28.8V). Only 3 (wide) locks and about 1mile of boating
to the extraction point at Calcutt Marina. When we launched the boat
at Twyford, the trailer wheels dropped off the end of the slipway
meaning that there was no prospect of recovering the boat there.
Therefore it was necessary to get a taxi back to twyford to pick up the
car, drive home to get a lighting board adapter (the lights are
normally mounted on the boat), drive back to Twyford to pick up the
trailer, drive to Calcutt Marina to get the boat and then drive home.
trip did prove (again) that it is possible to have a week long trip
covering a significant distance even with quite indifferent weather
still powered by the sun.