Stats for April 2022

In March 2022 I finally wired the new solar panels on our electic narrowboat, increasing the capacity of our solar panel array from 1KW to 1.5KW. 

I also improved the electronics that monitors the power we get from our solar panels and the power in and out of our battery. 

I was interested to see how much of the electricity we use for propulsion came from our solar panels. It is nice to see that even in April we got 2.5 times the power we used for propulsion, and 56% of our total electricity from our solar panels.

Electricity usage
• Propulsion – 47 KWhrs (22.5%)
• Domestic – 162 KWhrs (77.5%)
• Total – 209 KWhrs

Sources of electricity
• Solar panels – 117.5 KWhrs (56%)
• Genset – 63 KWhrs (30%) (2 hrs per week)
• Battery – 28.5 KWhrs (14%)

Cruising Stats
67miles traveled #
40:40 hours crusing time #
0.71 KWhrs per mile cruised
1.17 KWhrs per hour cruised
# Note: this includes cruising upstream on the Thames for 24 miles.

I try to collate these figures every month but as experience proved from last year sharing them is not my forte.

What happened to the sunshine

Yesterday, when we arrived, there were happy families playing in the river here at Radcot, but this morning it was kagouls not kayaks or cossies. But we needed to push on as we had booked a mooring at St John’s Lock for that night.

Wild mooring has its appeal…. when the sun’s shining

And luckily the showers became more intermittent and the locks were manned

Grafton Lock

Despite it being a bank holiday weekend the river was quiet, probably a good job looking at all the twists and turns we had to navigate

Even Lewis Hamilton would take this hairpin slowly

After two hours we were quite glad to moor up under the watchful eye of Old Father Thames

Old Father Thames, with the addition of a shovel

One of the benefits of river cruising is the availability of electric charging points along the way. And the Environment Agency gives mooring priority to electric boats. The downside is that they ask that you book 48 hours in advance, which we had done, but then had to cruise in the drizzle this morning to arrive on time. But equally so, we were able to plan to arrive with a low battery reading and leave the next day fully charged with enough power for a week or more.

Electic charging point at St John’s lock

Battery Maintenance – March 2022

I don’t often get the opportunity to do a full maintenance check on our batteries, but with Cheryl planning to be off the boat for 10 days in March, I wouldn’t be cruising, or baking cakes for that matter, so an ideal time to do it.

To do this I needed to run the batteries down to being practically empty.

The last time I did this was over three years ago so I was interested to see :

  1. how much out of balance they were,
  2. whether any capacity had been lost.

The simple answer to both questions is :- not enough to care about.

The result showed such a miniscule out of balance reading of 0.09% that I didn’t need to take any action at all.  However, as I had got the battery to this state, I took the opportunity to add 1Ahr to the two lowest cells and 0.5Ahr to one other cell to restore the battery balance.

I used some software on my PC to show the voltage of each cell in the battery to aid me balance them.

Screen capture showing the cell voltage of each cell in our battery
LiFePO4 Cell Monitoring Software

I measured the capacity of the battery as I recharged them to full and found no measurable drop in capacity after 5 years of continuous daily use, which is very reassuring.

With Firecrest’s battery being out of balance by just 0.09% I can safely ignore the often-repeated myth that LiFePO4 batteries need re-balancing on every cycle.

There are two take-away points from this:

  1. Firecrest’s LiFePO4 battries do not appear to have deteriated at all in over 5 years of daily use.
  2. Re-balancing of our LiFePO4 battery does not need to be done often, even after 3 years it was not necessary.

We woke to a beautiful misty morning full of promise

So off we set, bright and early, well earlyish as it was before 10am. The paddlers and rowers were out on the river but we hadn’t seen any other narrowboats until we saw one coming downstream, it was Ian and Irene on NB Freespirit.

Here comes Freespirit

We both got our cameras out to snap each other

Smile we’re on camera

But Irene is much more up to date with their blog and posted first. It’s not often we get photos of the two of us cruising.

Thankyou Irene

We hadn’t set ourselves a destination to aim for today but the sun was now beaming down on us and it was a real pleasure to be out on the water. Lots of different sorts of bridges from what we are used to on the canals, some wooden,

Shifford footbridge

some stone,

The very old NewBridge

Beautiful blue skies, albeit it criss crossed with contrails

And some cosy woodland

Although some of the trees did make us chuckle

and plenty of cows probably chuckling at us.

and plenty of cows probably chuckling at us.

We moored up just before Radcot, we’d been cruising for nearly 7 hours which is a lot for us and if truth be told 2 hours longer than we ought to have been out in the sun. But as we were approaching a bank holiday we weren’t expecting it to last, and sure enought it was raining before bedtime.

Duke’s Cut and Beyond

Back in January we declared our intentions to cruise 110miles south to reach the River Thames in Oxford. 4 months later we have made it. That’s near enough 120 miles 120 days (we added a few miles on doing some of the Birmingham loops)

Highlights January to April

Believe it or not, we didn’t actually cruise a mile every day, but despite a few rough moments, storm Dudley, loosing my phone, loosing all the water in a canal, and recently loosing David, its been a good few months of a new adventure. And about a month later than we thought, we are finally here, leaving the Oxford Canal and going through Dukes Cut onto the River Thames.

Stop lock on Dukes Cut

Duke’s cut was built by George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough, to enable him to take advantage of Warwickshire coal, by joining the canal to the river. Today it’s home to a small group of permanent moorers, which could make two way traffic tricky, but we were lucky and didn’t meet anyone.

Think we wil turn right

We hadn’t got the nicest of travelling days to move onto the Thames, but it didn’t take us long to reach Eynsham Lock and a lovely warm welcome from a lock keeper to show us the ropes. We’ve attached our long ropes for locking, got our anchor and mud weights ready to deploy if necessary and rescued the life savers from bottom of the cupboard just in case we fall overboard, so we are river ready. There’s plenty of quirky things to see and as we left the lock, she pointed out the Swinford toll bridge.

Leaving Eynsham Lock

Its one of two toll bridge that remain over the Thames. Motorists have to pay the owner the pricely fee of 5p and endure the privilege of long queues to do so, and regularly campaign to abolish the toll. But with 10000 vehicles using it daily, it doesn’t take a calculator to work out why the owners don’t want to forfeit this tax free golden goose. George III also decreed that no other bridge was allowed to be built within 3 miles of Swinford Bridge.

No Toll, but we do have a Gold Licence

Our next lock Pinkhill, was self service, which gave us a better opportunity to look around and see the wheel wind, so much easier than using a windlass. Raised Red equals paddles open, raised white equal paddles closed.

The weather really wasn’t inspiring for cruising, so we moored up for lunch at the Pinkhill picnic mooring . Another new treat for us knocking pins into a field.

Pinkhill Picnic Mooring

And as soon as we decided to call it a day the sun came out

Evening sun

and we enjoyed a lovely sunset

Still still waters (psalm 23:2)