We are not early risers, and this week with the clocks going forward we had slipped a little later, but Ian and Rob from Ortomarine were the opposite and had promised a prompt start of 7.30. Shane had set two alarms and a boppy beat from Oliver Mtukudzi, on Radio Paradise, got me up promptly before seven. I practically danced into my clothes and had dressed and breakfasted and seen the sunrise before they arrived.
We helped carry their equipment and panels to beneath the bridge from the van and Rob was suitably pleased with the lack of moisture on the roof, not even condensation. I told them there wasn’t headroom and we didn’t even have helmets but they assured us they would not be standing on the roof and would be able to reach everything from standing on the gunwales.
Much of the work was also to happen inside so I moved the last of the obstacles with Ian and he started to get the ceiling panel down that hides the cabling from view. There was much ado about nothing hunting for missing diodes. All the likely, unlikely and then some impossible places were tried and Shane wracked his brain. Meanwhile Rob and Ian got on with the proper work. Shane and I took blinds down, with a little fiddling with knots required. We boiled the kettle and made drinks a couple of times, but mostly kept out of the way, while Ian worked his way across the roof from front to back and Rob had his solder out and was trying to make good some dead looking diodes.
There was a healthy sense of humour all morning. A series of showers throughout the morning proved the wisdom of being under the concrete bridge even if it was a dark place to work. It didn’t impede them and we had the lights on inside the boat. Outside Shane tried offering help through the locks to a boat, since we were blocking the lock bollards and I approached showing willing with a windlass but she refused saying she had her own rhythm.
Rob and Ian obviously had their own rhythm too and worked very smoothly together, each knowing their own jobs well and knowing when the other needed help. One such point was as they were trying to put things back in place. Rob had been tidying up behind him and had made the most of the diodes we had and marked them for further wiring by Shane. But neither he nor Shane could get the trunking back. Ian had a go and used a saw to remove a troublesome bit but still the trunking would not return to its groove. Rob joined in, holding, pushing and cutting another bit and at last they decided to to hold the wires with short sections of trunking and got them to clip in to their grooves easily, rather that getting the whole strip to slot or slide in.
By this time it was well past lunchtime but they wanted to push on and once they had got things back in place inside, we untied and Shane drove out from under the bridge into the light, while Rob read out numbers of watts and voltages higher than Shane had remembered. Success! Both Rob and Ian had their cameras out, only Shane at the helm was not recording the moment for posterity.
We planned to moor and let Rob and Ian collect their tools and get going. I thought we needed stakes at first then saw there were pilings and chains would work. Rob was still offering help and asking if a tool would be of any use. I said it was no bother and if I kept pulling away at the grass I would get the space, rather like them getting the trunking to find its groove.
We waved off Ian and Rob, with Rob promising to send us some more diodes. A bit of lunch and sweeping was in order. Together we got the blind strings threaded back on, in the right little holes and returned to their previous space. I admired the view of the fence and flowers as a more colourful spot than under the A road.
With the sun out and the panels fixed and suitably fed and watered, we could enjoy a short cruise that felt almost like summer. Shane’s shades were on now and neither of us wore a coat.
Now that the locks were open and we had no reason to stay put, we were going in a different direction. We had been here before but last year. We were going to Cape locks where we had found the very hard gates before. I got off to work them but determined to only open one side and not the gate Shane had struggled with so much and it dawned on me that last time I had closed that side, several months ago it was a different gate as these were the new ones, the reason the locks had been impassable over the winter.
We stopped beyond the cape locks to get bottles recycled (not that we use that many bottles) and used the water point mooring. It turned out the tap didn’t fit our hose, it was wider than usual and we couldn’t screw ours on to it, so there was no getting into that groove.
Having achieved the glass recycling, we had another issue we wanted to deal with. We had seen a toad swimming along the edge, but not getting up the concrete bank. We had tried getting it to go on a stick or chain but it moved away. It may think we were herons come to grab it. Then it reached a part of the bank that was rougher and broken and I managed to get it to rest on a stick.and begin to climb. With a little lifting and cajoling I managed to reach it and bring it to a puddle. By the time we had cast off and come back past, it had disappeared. Let’s hope it got somewhere it wanted to be.
A late lunch, a meander and an unexpected toad encounter meant the afternoon was almost gone. We passed mooring rings but next to a building site and we wanted a more peaceful spot. The unusual appearance of some mooring bollards on the non towpath side by bushes and trees, made our decision. We had found our grove.