Conversion to Hydrogen

The current lockdown and restrictions on boat movements on the Thames has given us time to reflect on Daybreak’s  future. The project for this year was going to be sorting out the engine room, but the more I reflected on how to refurbish and reorganise, the more I realised that this would be a good time to make a major change.  Built in 1934 without an engine, Daybreak had a Lister JP2 installed in 1939. This was replaced in 1961 with the Gardner 5LW that has driven her ever since and which is still running perfectly well.

However an old diesel engine, however reliable, emits polluting gases and runs on a fossil fuel that we should all be weaning ourselves off. I was already interested in the potential of hydrogen as a renewable fuel and have been looking at fuel cells as a replacement for our mains generator.  The idea of replacing both the main engine and the generator with a system that is virtually silent and has no emissions seems like a very attractive option.

The system will consist of an electric motor to drive the propeller, which hopefully I will not have to change. The motor will be connected to a set of batteries and the hydrogen fuel cell through a power management system linked to a control at the helm. The compressed hydrogen to supply the fuel cell  will be stored in a large tank in the engine room that can be filled from a roadside tanker. The fuel cell will also charge the domestic batteries when we are not on shore power.

Lots of details still to be worked out of course, but I hope that we will be in a position to remove the old engine, generator and fuel tanks at the end of this season and then prepare the engine room for the installation of the new equipment next spring.

2 thoughts on “Conversion to Hydrogen

  1. Great plan to convert to Hydrogen.
    I final got round to painting your cob boat from the photo you gave me at a messums exhibition in London. The painting will be on show at Messums Wiltshire from friday and in london in December.

  2. Hello Tony and Sally,
    First of all let me congratulate you on the splendid conversion of Daybreak.
    My name is Simon Baker and I live in the States with my wife Annie who is the stepdaughter of Maurice Dowdall. We joined Maurice and Annie’s mother Muriel to operate River Barge Holidays in the early 70’s just after Maurice and Muriel sailed Guidance down the east coast to build their first hotel barge. They also bought down Laurel that your friend Mark has a studio on now and that became our storage barge as we worked on the conversions during the winters and getting ready for the six month cruising season.
    After a few years, in August 1978 Maurice and I went up to Thorne looking for more barges and met the Holts.
    We saw a number of Humbers including Gamma and Beta and settled on Daybreak and Lex. I have a photographs you may be interested in as we negotiated the sale and sailed the two barges down the canal to the Humber with daybreak being quarter towed by Lex. Also photographs of both barges dry docking on the tidal blocks in London before we bought them up to Reading and yes I heard the crunch behind me as we somewhat adjusted the wheelhouse! What can I say she was riding high with no ballast and that Henley Bridge could be a devil in some conditions.
    I have also turned up a couple of shots of Hope being unloaded on the dock while we were in Thorne that Matt may like to see.
    After seeing the wonderful restoration of the cabin on Daybreak I am glad we picked Lex for the conversion in the winter of ’78 / ’79 now that I see what you have done with Daybreak. Lex of course was renamed Cadence in due course as you say and was joined by a third barge, Clemence.
    You can imagine my surprise when I came across your Blog the other day and saw Daybreak for the first time in 48 years.
    We cruised the Upper Thames until the early 80’s when Annie and I moved to the States and have so enjoyed your photographs of places up and down the Thames that are so familiar.
    Drop me a line if you would like to see the photos and I wish you happy barging!

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