I was bit grumpy after arriving in Rugby. It wasn’t Rugby’s fault. I had low battery for map reading, I’d misunderstood a piece of Shane’s advice about directions. He’d mentioned going straight along past a Tesco which I thought was the Tesco beside the station and he meant the Tesco near the canal. A road sign that agreed with my misunderstanding seemed to have been rotated and so decided I was not going the right way at all and turned around. I was communicating with Shane, who had not yet got moored in Rugby, and at one point got something that looked like some kind of map reference that wasn’t helping me at all. This turned out to be him using the Signal message app to note the mooring booking he had just been given by the marina staff over the phone. Some marinas have systems like places or bird names then a letter or number but this one used compass directions and a number to label their jetties. We got that confusion cleared up quickly.

While I was trying to read a screenshot map that he’d sent me and decide whether I could maybe follow that even though no zooming in was possible, a passing man decided to shove his face right up to mine and growl loudly. I think he was trying to tell me not to walk looking at my phone. I informed him that looking where I was going was exactly what I was doing. Anyway I decided to save myself the hassle, in case the battery ran out and I couldn’t contact Shane and so went for going back to the station where there was a toilet and a seat where he could find me and I could knit. That worked.

I had returned from Edinburgh so we could attend an event organised by Ortomarine, who made Bartimaeus, and we, as their customers, had been invited to the advance day for trades and electric boaters ahead of the public day. Even if I was feeling a bit grungy. I had been looking forward to it as a chance to meet up with other Ortomariners, but also thought it was more of an event Shane might enjoy than me with plenty of chance for him to ask techy questions and discuss optimising with other owners and ask Rob some questions – one about the waste tank indicator, which I’m sure Rob was really going to be delighted about! A day of talks about propellor size comparisons and battery choice didn’t quite seem my area.

It was good weather the next day. I had forgotten to tell Shane we needed soya sauce (and then finished it while he was at the shop) so went shopping. The little path was pleasant and I had a non road route all the way.

One of many blossoming hawthorn bushes lining the path from the canal to the supermarket

Shane had said the large supermarket only had cheddar cheese and he found no other varieties so I thought I’d look as I was sceptical.

Indeed I found a variety of displays of cheeses other than cheddar. This isn’t all of them! Plus there were many cheddars (not included) so I got a few cheeses.

We had a smooth journey to the Brinklow marina where the event was to take place. Shane manoeuvred into our spot and went to speak to the staff. He was, as expected, waylaid by conversations with other Ortomariners, who were moored up near the office. Meanwhile I had a look at our neighbours. One was obviously in the process of being ripped out and put together and had a bow well filled with an assortment of plumbing including a kitchen sink. On the other side was a prettily painted boat.

Almost opposite was a very noticeable pink boat, Elektra, who had driven past us that morning before we set off. The driver wears a matching pink hat. There’s no missing them or the fact they are electric.

There was also a boat moored behind us on the same jetty. I saw a woman drive up and come along the jetty and thought she might belong to one of the other boats on the jetty and greeted her. She responded with, “I’ve come to electrify you!” This might be the best greeting ever. Still that was the end of the conversation and after a short task with the electric post, she left. I got on with sorting out the electric cable. It was the first use of one of the new cables we had bought and I was surprised I even remembered where they were stored since it was not in the previous location. It was still in its bag with a cable tie so it was a slight fiddle getting it out. But I got it sorted. A while later Shane still hadn’t come back and I’d seen the boats near the office moving around so they weren’t talking to him. When at last he returned he was excited to tell me the occupants of the marina were very friendly and the nest of cygnets were accessible from our mooring.

I didn’t get far on my way to the nest, before being hailed by a group of ladies who apologised for having an empty bottle of prosecco but offered me a selection of other drinks and got chairs out for me and another friend, Dan. They made me a gin and tonic and were a very cheery bunch. One of the ladies was the occupant of Agapanthus. She had a very well behaved little dog called Archie.

The day was getting better and better and I hadn’t even reached the cygnets. I headed off to them eventually when they were running out of chairs.

At the nest I met a very friendly couple and their dog. The dog had brought up a duckling and was on a short lead and was no danger to the baby birds.

Nest of cygnets and a preening parent

The group were insisting on us both rejoining them so we both picked up a beer and a chair from Bartimaeus and went to join them until it was cooling off and time to eat.

The next day Elektrika began. We went over and were apparently “VIPs” despite not being speakers or exhibitors. We declined the offer of high viz jackets, from Caroline. Shane was keen to speak to Rob, or anyone with battery knowledge as we’d had an alert about the “mid point delta” being too high which means something is out of balance in the battery bank.

We filed in for the first talk, by Caroline, explaining her journey into electric boat making and the important points to consider when choosing a boat and types of motor. I was surprised to hear her single out Bartimaeus (and us) as the example of “white knuckle boating”, as we’d done the Ribble Link.

She also explained about the different batteries they use and while lead acid are heavier and larger they did use them as they are cheaper and they work fine, but lithium ones are dropping in price so becoming a more popular choice for their more recent boats. She made clear that they didn’t use the lithium batteries with a reputation for causing fires but ones with a different chemistry. Good to know! Bartimaeus, being one of their earlier ones, has lead acid batteries.

She touched on most of the important aspects but promised more detail from later speakers. All the speakers were very happy to have bought or converted to an electric boat. One speaker busted some of the myths for example that you can’t go far. We can’t go as fast on electric but narrow boaters are all about slow travel. And everyone loves the quiet and he extolled the pleasure of travelling in summer entirely on solar, which he called attaining Nirvana! His display showing a fully green narrow boat shows that the sun is providing all the power.

Free boating may be exaggerating it a bit, but Shane thought that a blissful state when he reached it too.

All credit to all the speakers that I enjoyed the talks and learned something from all of them. The weather was very cold and rainy and Shane had to return to Bartimaeus to get another layer, but interesting talks punctuated by breaks for coffee or pizza made the day pass well. A special surprise had been arranged for lunchtime (as well as pizza). I went to see what it was though inside was more tempting. I had to ask a stranger what was happening and it turned out some well known you tubers, of the Narrow boat genre, were star guests, David Johns of Cruising The Cut plus Paul and Anthony, of Narrow boat Living Unlocked. Paul and Anthony came over and I got a big hug, so I must have been looking at them too much. I apologised for actually not knowing them but I’ll look them up. Good for them pitching up on such an awful day.

Elektrika organisers, crew of Old Nick, with some Internet Stars

I managed to find a bin for recycling the pizzas box before returning to the afternoon talks. I liked their welcoming signs.

Love in the marina drive entrance

Shane had success getting a suggestion from Rob about the battery testing but had to wait to try it out, as he wanted to keep the batteries dry and the rain wasn’t letting up. We didn’t let the rain dampen our spirits though. We had a good drink in the evening along with burgers, a good chat and enjoyable live music, even though we did it in fleeces and waterproofs. We were at least under cover. Even some of the dancers kept on their bobble hats. Amazingly the musician was just in a shirt. The burger makers were outside bent over the back of a van with their barbecue.

Coats and hats on all evening

The next day saw a complete change in the weather, much more suited to a barbecue. We only had the first day ticket but enjoyed a sunny relaxing day, and admired the ducklings, another large brood.

Duck and eleven ducklings

Shane was prompted by the various mentions of the serial hybrid boats, to go and speak to Rob and Caroline about whether buying such a boat was possible. He knows the wait for new builds is long and we weren’t feeling committed to such an order, but he wanted to float the idea. Also two of the talks were from people who had conversions from diesel to electric so he wondered if conversion from parallel to serial hybrid was also possible. To his surprise Caroline said there was a possibility of a second hand serial hybrid being available in the future and Rob was excited at the prospect of doing a conversion project. He thought it was very feasible and thought we could keep the lead acid batteries for as long as they worked then convert to lithium, or install new lithium ones at the same time. Ortomarine love an interesting project and before switching to “Going green with Ortomarine” their strap line was “quality and innovation”. Well watch this space!

He managed to test and treat the faulty one that turned out to just be rather thirsty. We met up with other Ortomariners and got invited along to the evening event for those involved in exhibiting and giving talks. We had a fun time at night with chats with the extended “Ortomarine family” in the warm dry evening with a bring-a-dish meal and drink, a great end to the event.

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