New waterproofs worth their weight.

Kidderminster trip day 7

Today’s journey took us around the outskirts of Wolverhampton but it wasn’t a day for going exploring.  We’re still fascinated by how quickly the landscape of the canal changes. And the weather was unpredictable.

At Penderford the map warned us of the canal narrowing for 500m.  We approached with caution. I was all prepared to hop out and walk ahead, waving my flag to warn oncoming boats, but it wasn’t necessary. It was weird after the wide openness of the previous day’s but when I saw the stone they had to cut through to build the canal I can’t say I blame them.

Interesting bridges today. This one is the Meccano Bridge, we were a bit disappointed it wasn’t really made out of Meccano. (But there is one in Bolton) It used to take the railway but is now part of a footpath.

Awbridge and lock is interesting.  The bridge has a parapet like structure, it’s thought to be James Brindley’s first attempt at combining a lock and bridge on a public road. Built around 1772

We ended the day in Wombourne. We knew that the 3 locks at ‘the Bratch’ had a keeper so as it was a pleasant afternoon, we made the decision to through and moor on the other side.  However the heavens opened and we got soaked. Eric had bought a new outback style waterproof that kept him dry. And just typically the rain stopped as we closed the gates of the bottom lock.

12 miles

10 locks including ‘the Bratch’ flight of 3

7 hours travelling. Continue reading New waterproofs worth their weight.

How the other half live

Kidderminster trip Day 6

Yesterday was spent sheltering from the wind. Thank goodness this tree fell away from the canal not into it. We’ve seen several branches down across the towpath. I think we were very lucky to have found such a sheltered spot and not to have suffered.

As we continued our journey from Milford, south through Penkridge and onto ‘the Latches’ I couldn’t help but smile appreciatively at our new low speed lifestyle. Yesterday I’d watched the trains speeding by and today we cruised underneath the M6 motorway.  Oh how my heart went out to all those poor people being swept along so fast in their nice warm dry air conditioned cars, while we pootled by listening to the birds singing, getting rosy tingling faces thanks to both the sun and the wind.

This has to be a far nicer way to enjoy the fast lane.

Despite being on a beautiful canal we are becoming increasingly aware of modern industry. We came across a sign instructing us “for the next 200m not to stop even if there was an alarm siren.”  It was a huge chemical plant. I have no idea what chemicals were being manufactured and though I admit to appreciating an awful lot of technological advances,  I have no desire to stop here at any time, sirens or not. Hope I don’t get apprehended for industrial espionage.

It hasn’t been all concrete monstrosities. There are some lovely buildings to be seen. The round house at Gaily is a local landmark

Today’s journey was

13 miles

11 locks

And an obligatory wander around Midland Chandlers at Penkridge which lightened our wallet somewhat.

Rain stopped play

Kidderminster trip Day 5
Another day definitely not how we would choose it to be, this time gusts of wind up to 50 mph forecast from 10am till 10pm. And it was still raining.
But after we’d chatted to Kevin from Anglo Welsh about the boat there was a brief respite and we took advantage of his local knowledge and decided to see how far we could get before the wind got the better of us.
It would have been fun to take advantage of the Tixall Wides but the weather put a stop to that. Apparently it’s nice and deep so boaters can ‘practice manoeuvres’ -pirouettes or donuts depending on your inclination.
And being a good navigator I was all togged up in my s’wester to open Swivel Bridge only to realise that it’s actually the bridges name not its mechanism, and Eric cruised straight through, duh, won’t make that mistake again.
Anyway we only made two miles today when we found a sheltered spot at Milford. I’m glad we stopped. The winds were intermittently very gusty but I don’t think they were as bad as predicted.


We’re right next to the train track and I’ve been counting carriages. More freight than passenger trains, and oh so long, 30 trucks on some. And very noisy, I’m glad I don’t moor here permenantly.

The day drew to a close with the best sunset we’ve seen for a while.

Expect the unexpected

Kidderminster trip Day 4

Narrowboating plans can never be relied upon. And we started the day with a big hiccup. Our toilet wasn’t behaving itself. I won’t go into too much detail other than to say after a few tedious hours of inspecting, pondering, rinsing through, researching cleaning agents etc (acid or alkaline based, we settled for dilute caustic soda), luckily it was a teething problem that we’d caught before it became a horrible smelly job. But that’s one of the joys of living on a boat. You can’t just call out a plumber, you have to be prepared to have a go at fixing things yourself and I’m happy to say Team Firecrest survived this event.
I even managed to go for a brief walk around Stone, it’s a pretty place with a lot of history but my mission was to buy milk and because it was pouring with rain so I didnt explore properly.

Some lovely bridges today.

I don’t know what caused me to turn around and look behind but I was surprised to see the stonework was different on each side. I wonder why.


Not too many locks to do today, 7 or 8 and most were nicely spread out so I could dry off in between, and they were all set in my favour. At one lock we met a lovely young couple on holiday from Scotland, they had never seen a narrowboat in a lock before and were so excited and fascinated that we lived aboard.  We had to pose for photos and answer questions. When I suggested they consider hiring one for a holiday they looked quite crest fallen, “oh no we can’t do that,” she said glumly “he’s over 6 foot tall” –  well there was only one way to prove them wrong and he was quite amazed that he could still stand upright inside. They went on their way with huge smiles on their faces, and so did we. Sharing is a two way gift and an unexpected pleasure.

Turning another corner, this time onto the Staffordshire and Worcester canal, and right into the Anglo Welsh marina at Great Haywood. We’d been told that Kevin the manager had heard about Firecrest and was interested to see how the electrics worked, he was just about to leave for the evening but said we could moor there overnight so as it was chucking it down again, we did. Who’d have thought we’d spend the night in a hire boat base.
Not what we’d expected the day to be, but in the end and another interesting and mostly enjoyable adventure.

I was told to go fast – so I did

Kidderminster Trip Day 3 – a technical perspective

Travelling through the 1.66 mile long Harecastle tunnel was an experience.  We had been warned to go quickly by the attendant, and that most people with new boats go too slowly and end up zigzagging, hitting the walls and scratching their paint.  I took the man seriously and took my first opportunity to see just how much power we have from out electric motor tried to see just how much power our boat has, my first opportunity.

We travelled through the tunnel in exactly 30 minutes at 580RPM, at 147 amps, (7.5kW).  In total we used 73.5AH (3.7kW hrs) traveling through the tunnel at an average speed of 3.3MPH.  That is the equivalent of less than 1.25 litres of diesel or 89p at the price we pay.

I was pleased with this because we were told that the normal time to do the tunnel is 40 minutes and we did it in 30 minutes.  Apparently one boat the day before 1 hour 15 minutes.

We travelled from the tunnel to Stoke at high speed because the canals were wide, deep and with very few boats allowing me to test how well the boat performed in wider canals, at higher speed.  The boat handled well and I had plenty of extra power in reserve.

Summary

Distance cruised – 15.3 miles
Locks – 11
Tunnel – 2,675m
Cruising time – 8 Hrs 40 mins
Battery used – 358 Amp Hours (33%)
Power used – 18.6 kW hrs
Average speed – 1.8 MPH

Goodbye Macclesfield Hello Trent and Mersy

Kidderminster trip day 3

So much for me getting an extra long lie in after all those locks on Saturday, Eric was keen to get going in case there was a queue for the tunnel. But it was a lovely day and we were feeling adventurous so I didn’t mind.

Our first encounter was the stop lock at the bottom of the Macc that re-levelled us onto the Trent and Mersy canal. Stop locks were originally built by rival canal companies to stop the loss of water from one canal to the other.

The Harecastle tunnel is only a short distance after the junction and there was only one boat ahead of us, which meant we could go through together. I was very impressed by the ‘system’. There are tunnel keepers at either end and they come to speak to each boat individually to assess our abilities and give advice about safety etc.  If we got into trouble we were to sound our horn every 30 seconds until we heard them respond however our horn isn’t loud enough so we were issued with a portable horn that we had to hand back at the other side. We also decided that this would be an apt occassion to wear our bouancy aids for the first time.

It was cold dark and drippy in the tunnel, it’s 1.6 miles long but following their advise not to go slowly, Eric put Firecrest through her paces and we got through in 30 minutes, not bad for tunnel newbies.

After the tunnel we sauntered through Etruria where there was a festival going on with hundreds of people but of course we handled the locks like old pros.

The urban jungle of Stoke assaulted our senses and we hurried on in search of greener pastures.

We ended the night in Stone sharing our mooring with a family of swans. Mum and Dad were very proud to show off their cygnets and take the porridge oats I threw for them.

 

 

9 hours crusing for 1 hour generator use


Kidderminster Trip Day 2 – a technical perspective

We cruised for 9 hours and covered 13 miles, and lost 110 feet of altitude.  I was particularly interested to see how the electric propulsion working through the lock flight at Bosley.  12 locks in the space of one mile.

I have to say it was lovely coming down the flight, no noise of engine or exhaust reverberating around the stone lock chambers, no diesel fumes to breath as I wait for the locks to empty, and able to hear Cheryl from the lock side.  I think Cheryl would say it was B#### hard work – the locks gates weigh about a ton each but are surprisingly easy to move for their weigh.  But some of the lock paddles are really hard work to wind up.

We travelled 13 miles and used 198AH (10.4KWhrs) from our batteries, which means we used just under one fifth of our battery capacity cruising today.  That equates to just under 3.5 litres of Diesel and at the price we last paid works out at £2.50 for the whole days cruising.   We can replenish that much power in about 1 hour from our diesel generator.

I measured the power we used during the lock flight itself and in the 1hr 40 minutes it took us to do the 12 locks we used just 16AH (0.8KWhrs) from our batteries, so we used the equivalent of under a quarter litre of diesel to come down the flight.

I am closely monitoring our batteries to see how they perform.  We started the days cruise with the batteries at 52.4 volts and ended it at 52.3 volts.   For people who are used to Lead Acid or almost any other type of battery such a tiny volt drop after using a fifth of the batteries capacity is unheard of.  But our LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries have almost no voltage drop between 20% and 80% state of charge.

Over all I am pleased with how little power we are using to cruise, its is a little less than I had allowed for from all my research and calculations.

First Locks

Kidderminster trip day 2

A mamouth days cruise today which Eric will post some technical details separately. But the big excitement was doing our first locks in Firecrest.

A bit like buses, nothing for 5 months then a flight of 12 all in one go.  We could already see a difference in the landscape as we ventured into unchartered waters. I looked behind me and saw the the Peak District disappearing in the distance.

Believe it or not I still lack a lot of confidence when it comes to driving. (Or perhaps it is Eric who lacks confidence when I am driving, but I can’t say I blame him.)

Which meant that Eric got to stay in the boat whist I did all the hard work

The Bosley Flight is 12 narrow locks descending 36m spread over a mile. It’s very pretty but having not worked a lock since we helped John and Martina down the Wigan flight last summer, it was hard work.

The sun was shining and it was quite exhilarating to be cruising without restriction, so we pushed on and probably over did mooring up just above Hall Lane stop lock for the night. Eric has been able to collect some interesting figures about our fuel consumption and efficiency which he’ll post separately.

 

Collecting supplies

Kidderminster trip, day 1

Having left the boat yard we are now on our way with a purposeful destination in mind. We are heading south to meet friends in Kidderminster.

First we had to stop in Bollington to pick up some woodwork from Ric at Eyedesigns, Ric made our quirky coffee table and the beautiful new oak conservatory table that we had fitted last week.

We then cruised on through Macclesfield and stopped off at M&S to replace Eric’s holey trousers, and to replace the mooring chain that I think I left on the Peak Forest canal on Tuesday. Plus a few other bits and bobs from the chandlery.

although we didn’t do a lot of mileage we were on the go all day and as it had started to pour with rain we moored up at Gurnnets Aquaduct.

Cruising time-3 hours,

Distance-7 miles,

Average speed 2.3mph

 

The tanks are full and we’re on our way

No rest for the wicked, Braidbar had a hectic weekend  at the Crick Show, taking second place for the visitors favourite show boat. They returned exhausted on Tuesday afternoon. The yard was full, with boats and customers both old and new, and a wet and soggy marquee to dry out. And to top it all we’d discovered a new problem on Firecrest. The valves on the radiators were leaking. We first saw this about 2 or 3 weeks ago. We think that because it was only a slow weeping leak the heat from the radiators being on had caused the fluid to evaporate which is why it wasn’t seen earlier. Three attempts at tightening the valves failed to rectify the problem so the system was depressurised and jointing compound was applied. We think that’s sorted it out.

James and Reg tackled the ventilation and sound insulation around the generator so we can at least hear ourselves think whilst it’s running.

And the lads delivered 200kg of extra steel ballast to trim the boat properly.  It will sit under the floor

Peter signed the paperwork and I paid the licence fee and at 5 pm on Thursday June 1st we reversed out under the bridge and Eric winded the boat without embarrassment.

and waved goodbye to the leaving committee. Austin wanted to invite the Poynton Brass band, but then we wouldn’t have been able to show off our silent engine to the assembled onlookers.

After a day of much laughter and excitement, we were too exhausted to go far. we only made it to Bridge 18 at Lyme view Marina for a steak super at the Miners Arms.

Distance travelled exactly 1 mile.