Drank tea and watched a hireboat chug past. Husband doing his bit on the tiller, wife sitting pretty on the bow, attempting to make a corn dolly, living the 19c narrowboat dream but mainly looking at three strands of corn as though they were the enigma machine. Country File has a lot to answer for.
Just checking out the solar situation/squeegeeing the panel when Doug and James drew up on Chance. Lovely to catch up again, last time our paths crossed was Bath. This time we got to look round the show stopping ‘Chance’ – it defines immaculate, beautiful, spotless boat. Meanwhile, back on Marpessa we served morning coffee amidst speakers and lights hanging from the ceiling, a days worth of Murk’s hair on the carpet and the contents of the stern chucked on the bed. Really fun guys and total gurus on narrowboat energy consumption.
Determined to kick our bridge hugging habit we left the comfort of the retail park mooring and travelled on, made it PAST The Tame Otter and out into the countryside. Finished another section of ceiling painting before lighting the barbeque. After two hours of flapping a place mat in an attempt to get it going, the man from the boat next door kindly suggested we cooked on theirs, they’d finished with it and it was still glowing nicely. Politely refused, determined that lighting charcoal wasn’t rocket science. They headed off for an evening walk, calling, ‘We don’t want to pile on the pounds…but you two don’t need to worry – you’ll never eat.’ Ha ha. Well we did, just before it got dark.
Completely understand how boaters become glued to bridges. With a slightly practical life going on at the moment, the access to Ventura Retail Park is priceless. Today was a day of boat stuff, at one point, surrounded by chopped wood and tins of paint we wondered how on earth we could be spending so much time beavering away on such a tiny space – especially as we loved the boat, just how it was, when we first walked through. Anyhow, the rain hammered down and yet more lightning flashed perilously close to our prized panel while we worked away on the ceilings.
Sun finally broke through this evening so we headed up to Sainsburys, there’s something strangely American theme parkish about the world above the bridge.
5.22am, a very early boat went by, shot out of bed to check the charge controller and battery reading. Amber flashing light from the Stecca and 11.5 volts, not bad for us. Next time, we opened our eyes to glorious sunshine streaming through the curtains, bursting with power. The 8am check showed a green light on the Stecca and 12.4 volts – woweeee, mornings just lately have consisted of a bottomed out voltmeter then engine running before using anything involving electricity. Very very happy the sun was doing it’s thing, delighted with the products and service from Midsummer Energy.
Verging on Tame Otter residents, we reluctantly moved on a couple of miles, turned and headed back to Fazeley Junction for water and bins, Crazily, we ran the washing machine without the need for the generator. Turned again and moored where we stopped for our myByBox delivery last Wednesday. Almost in arms reach of the shelves in B&Q, the electrical damage investigation got underway. No two ways about it, the ceiling took a pounding…a couple of holes in and Nick found the pesky wire that was well and truly mangled.
Most unusually, we were practically waiting for an acceptable morning time to arrive so work could begin. First job, feeding the cable to the charge controller, complicated by our visable wire and lead phobia we wanted the lead to drop straight from the back of the panel and run inside the roof cavity. Figuring the electrical wiring runs down the left hand side of the boat and it’d be a miracle if there was much spray foam up there, it would be a relatively simple task – wrong.
Not helped by the steamy conditions and pub punters chipping in with advice, it took three hours to fish a cable 28cm along the roof. Finally resorting to ramming the unbelievable amount of obstacles with a brass curtain pole, the end was eventually hooked.
The rest was simple enough, attach to the charge controller, attach to the battery bank and unveil the sun searching panel of solar cells. Bingo. Green light lit up so we dashed inside to check out the voltmeter reading, ‘Zero? What the…?’. Some poking in the power management system had left a loose wire so with a bit more poking the voltmeter registered 12v and stayed there until the light faded and the rain set in.
With the old batteries putting in a tremendous effort alongside the solar panel, went to flick on a couple of LED lights. Nothing, zilch. Turns out all the curtain pole ramming in the roof cavity resulted in blattering the wire in charge of half the boat’s lighting. Thunder rolling and lightning flashing it was almost a monumental night in liveaboard status…22 watt Smart TV streaming from the mobile hotspot, voltmeter sitting happy, even better batteries sat waiting to go – now all we need is light. In a boat flickering with tea lights, the forcast for the coming week is very unsunny.
Hatch open at 7am, bleary-eyed surveillance began. With four leisure batteries and a solar panel vaguely ordered to a narrowboat moored at a pub called The Tame Otter, there was a pretty good chance of missing the whole lot. Happy enough with our pole position mooring, all we had to do was watch and wait. Hoping for an inconspicuous delivery, something along the lines of the discreet mini van pictured on the battery website. At 10am an arctic lorry rolled in, brakes hissing, reverse siren beeping, cab door slamming – generally enough commotion for the landlord to put in an appearance. Batteries in the bag. One down one to go.
Entering the sixth hour of stakeout and just beginning to fear for the solar panel, a City Link van screeched into the car park and flashed round the lunchtime crowds, almost gone again by the time Nick got his Crocs on and legged it to the road.
Deliveries secured, it was time for a quick fixings trip to B&Q on the noddy bike. With the sun blazing down and despite this mooring being like social central, there was no time to waste, quite a bit of drilling and screwing and measuring later the mother earth free power panel was in place. Not connected yet, that excitement is for tomorrow. Murk very interested in chewing the manual for the MPPT charge controller, dog home would be his next stop.
Top lock hanging isn’t a very successful summertime activity. No sooner have you secured a gap before another boat comes rocking past, leaving every lock for the forseeable future turned against you. And so that was how this morning began.
An interesting wait at Atherstone top lock. It all got pretty half way down, a hive of activity with everyone helping each other. Followed a hireboat stuffed to the brim with diligent crew, who were ‘helpfully’ insisting on looking two or sometimes even three locks ahead and, in a bid to save water, not letting us follow them through before the oncoming boat eventually appeared.
On through the last lock, where a work boat towing a butty on an 80ft linerrived to start the ascent. Buzzed past the hireboaters who’d pulled over for drinks, free at last we moved into Tamworth. Peering round each bend expecting the scenery to turn a bit urban but it never really happened. A couple more locks and we were through. By early evening we’d stopped for water at Fazeley Junction…last seen in February, before heading off for the delights of Spaghetti Junction and Star City.
Moored in readiness for a myByBox collection in the morning, although it’ll be a miracle if it’s there; this morning’s e-mail cheerily informed us our parcel was ready for collection from our chosen myByBox in Newbury…er no, we chose Tamworth.
Nick was unusually keen to walk Murk this morning, it wasn’t until the sky flashed with lightning when I gripped the tiller that I figured why; a sheepish look over his shoulder and he was off along the tow path. So in wellies, prodding at the tiller every now and again I moved on towards the bottom of the Ashby.
Steamy by the time Nuneaton arrived, moored and walked up to the top of the town where we found the Midland gem, B&M Bargains and also Asda. Shopping onboard we unpacked, not able to get massive shops at the moment due to the pretty dire fridge/battery/heat situation. The fridge is whirring, speedily sucking life from the batteries as I type, it’s days are numbered.
Moved on out of Nuneaton, not long before everything greened up again, passed Springwood Haven marina, beautifully set in front of Mount Judd, a large mound of quarry residue that was formed when Judkins Quarry was dug. Pulled in for water at Hartshill where a Landgirls Cookery School class was in full swing. The canal began to take on a different feel, as though we were corkscrewing round and up in a Road Runner type way, eventually reaching what felt like the summit, by which time the heat had dropped and a cool breeze blew through the trees.