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.

1 step forward and 3 steps back

I have been running my own business since 2002, and each time I upgrade my computer I keep the old one mothballed to support old projects.  Cheryl would never have allowed me to bring all these old PCs onto the boat, but one of my customers now wants a significant update on a circa 1998 product.  Well you can guess what’s coming next.

The snag being, one of the tools I use runs on Windows XP and I only have Windows 10 – 64bit on the boat.

The more frustrating thing is I had the ideal PC which could quickly load Windows 2000, Windows XP and the customer’s software.  In the effort to downsize ready for the boat I gave it to charity (tools with a mission-TWAM)  having not even turned it on for 6 years.  It would have been perfect for what I need – C’est la vie.

Since I use Windows 10 Professional, I can run virtual PCs with other operating systems without interfering with my normal desktop.  Something I have never done but Google came to the rescue finding me some instructions on how to enable it, and how to find a Windows XP virtual machine to load. It turns out Microsoft has recently removed their downloadable copies of a Windows XP virtual PC from the usual page, I guess in an attempt to stop people using XP, but luckily they have it hidden away in another location so I down loaded it anyway.  At home I would have downloaded the Windows 8, Vista, and Windows 10 in 32 and 64 bit versions while I was at it, but as we have to use 4G I have to not waste our download limits.

Still with me?

Got all that done – I have Windows XP running on a virtual PC in a window on my desktop and can load software as if it was a standalone XP PC – brilliant.

Well not quite.  The virtual PC does not support USB, which was the whole point in the first place.  Still, I found another interesting article on how to use USB devices with your virtual PC and what’s more, gives the advantage of full screen use – brilliant.  Well no.  Unfortunately, you can only use USB devices that will talk to your host operating system, which the device I want to use does not, which is the reason I started all this in the first place.

After a few days of research and playing around getting my Virtual Windows XP PC working – I am still back at square one.  So now I am going down the route of buying an old laptop with Windows XP professional on – just so I can use two old and obsolete USB devices.  The alternative is to go back to Suffolk and work from home for a few weeks, perhaps not, I don’t think Cheryl would let me do that either.

 

 

Baking

Another busy weekend, this time socialising, which means baking and eating and drinking.

And that was another boat learning curve.

My go to easy reliable dessert bake is a lemon tart.

(thankyou Jamie Oliver) make pasty case, pour in a lemon creamy custard and bake for half an hour.

What Jamie Oliver didn’t tell me, was not to over cook the pastry in your new fancy oven otherwise you’d have plenty of crispy trimmings to feed the ducks -yes the ducks knew there was food on offer and came begging at the hatch. it would have been mean not to share with them….

And that when you pour a pint of creamy eggy lemony mix into the pastry case everyone needs to stand still for the half hour it’s baking otherwise every time the boat rocks it will spill over the edges making a horrible mess to clean up.

however, said tart did emerge from wobbly oven reasonably intact and it tasted delicious once the crispy bits had been removed

And so we ate drank and were merry while we said a lot of fond farewells to the lovely people of Whaley Bridge, Bugsworth basin, and Poynton. In particular, thankyou for sharing so much kindness and hospitality to Kate, Annie and Martin from the studio and all the lovely knitters, John and Marion, Pablo and Carli, Lawrence, Carl and Lesley  And so many more people who we’ve chatted to along the way, either on the tow paths,  on their boats or in the pubs. I’m sure we will be back up the Macc and Peak Forest before long but once we’re done at Braidbar we are pointing our boat southwards for the next month or so.