Armed Again

Our speed through the locks earlier in the week meant that we avoided the worst of the rain later in the afternoon.  We’d moored up in a hurry.  I’d suggested that we didn’t want to be opposite the crane, but otherwise left Clare to choose the first vacant bit of bank.

By the next day, we’d realised we were opposite the pump-out and diesel filling points for the hire fleet.  It looked quieter on the other side of the marina entrance, a dozen boat lengths further on, so that was our cruise for the day.  The weather was set to be warmer and drier, so we did a load of washing.  I also cleaned the solar panels in the hope of getting a few more Watts.  I cleaned carefully around a resting bee.

Bee on panels.  A bee is resting on a solar panel.  It's wings are folded and its head is down.  The furry thorax is dark orange.  The panel it is standing on is otherwise cleam.
Bee Charging its Batteries

In the afternoon we took a stroll to the nearby village of Milton Malsor. High Street was a winding lane with thatched houses tight against both sides and a shop near the middle of the village.  Sadly the shop appears to be permanently closed (I’ve updated OpenStreetMap).  The pub with an extensive sunny garden was open however, so we refreshed ourselves there before heading back to Bartimaeus.

By the following morning we were running out of water.  Our batteries were also slightly lower than I had expected too.  I have been reprogramming the control panel to improve the controls for heating and hot water.  During one experiment I had turned the immersion heater on, and then not noticed for several hours.  It was only by luck that I didn’t leave it on all night.  We were also running low on water, so we decided to fill up and then drive on to the next village, which would charge the batteries.

The water point here seems surprisingly busy.  As we arrived, another boater was just reeling up their hose.  As we departed with a full tank, another boat arrived to take our place.

It isn’t very far to Blisworth where we found a pretty mooring in full sun opposite a swan’s nest.  We walked to the village shop for various essentials and I picked up a book from the shelves in the bus shelter.  Back on board we realised that the network connection was very poor quality.  I had a scheduled chat with erstwhile colleagues in the afternoon.  We knew the connectivity was good where we had just been, so we cruised back to the previous night’s mooring spot at the top of the Northampton Arm (though now facing the other way).  The connectivity worked well enough for a very enjoyable catch-up.

When I had been working the locks earlier in the week I had noticed, and photographed some, mosaics at each of the seventeen locks.  Reviewing the photographs later, I realised they were a set, but I had missed some.  The early evening was pleasant so I got the folding bike out and set off back to Northampton to fill the gaps.  It’s less than five miles each way – a good distance for an evening bimble.

I had a minor panic at the far end when I couldn’t find the mosaic at the last lock.  I eventually found it a few boat lengths away – and remembered noticing it several times when we were moored nearby.  The mosaics spell out the name of the arm, which conveniently has the same number of letters as there are locks.  Each has a picture of a plant or animal you might see near the canal with a name starting with that letter.  There is a canal feature too, but without the alphabetic restriction.

By the end of the day I had made good progress with the control panel improvements.  Previously when requesting a boost of hot water or central heating, the system would just switch off afterwards.  With my new arrangement, once the boost has finished the system will return to its previous state (timed or otherwise).

Control Panel.  A screenshot of the heating and hot water controls.  The controls are in two columns, each with settings for Continuous Timed and Boost.
Easier to Use Control Panel

Once I started programming I realised that I could add some additional features that I have been missing.  The thermostat is in a strange place on the boat, so sometimes the cabin temperature can be quite a lot lower than the instruments think it is.  I have made it possible to override the thermostat only for the duration of the boost.

When the batteries are charging from the engine but nearly full, some of the energy from the diesel engine is wasted.  If I notice this happening, I sometimes put on the immersion heater to put that energy in to our hot water tank.  I have to remember to turn it off again when we stop though.  I have added a further feature – boost until the engine is switched off.  I got to test it out as we returned from Blisworth.

Today I noticed that the boat has now collected 2 MWh of power since launch.  As the days get longer and the sun gets higher our usage of diesel is dropping dramatically.  I have a further idea that should be useful later in the year – switch on the hot water if the batteries are full and the sun is still shining.  We had the solar panels on our roof replaced just over a year ago, so last summer we collected and used much more solar power than we had previously.  Using that trick should collect even more this summer. 

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