Quieter Locks

I’m still puzzled about the behaviour of our solar panels.  Under a blue sky at noon on midsummer’s day ought to be the best time to generate power.  Our array ought to be generating over 700W under those conditions.  In fact we were getting 7W.  Once I’d poured enough water over them to cool them down, we were starting to get a fairly steady 350W until they warmed up again.

I’ve been in touch with other Ortomariners.  One with a similar (and slightly older) configuration of boat confirms that he gets the higher figures I was hoping for.  I know that the panels are in two sets, so I checked that it wasn’t that one set had failed. I shaded each set in turn and confirmed that generation halved each time.  At the moment we are not generating enough power each day to cover our domestic usage.  If we were generating double, we would do so easily for much of the year.

This was mostly theoretical yesterday, as the weather was cloudy again, though still quite warm.  We travelled a few miles through mostly open countryside.  The canal here is very wiggly.  In the last mile of the day we went from driving due south to due north and back again.  Approaching one sharp corner I was in the centre of the channel when the nose of a boat appeared from under a tree less than a boat’s length ahead.  I slammed in to reverse just before their horn blared.  I was almost stationary when the nose of the other boat bounced at full speed off the middle of our port flank.  The other driver didn’t acknowledge me as they drove on.   Perhaps that’s their usual way of negotiating tight corners.  Both boats are made of steel – no harm done!

We moored up in the village of Crick.  In narrowboat circles this is famous for an annual boat show in early June.  When we arrived I told other Ortomariners we had now arrived at Crick and asked “have we missed much?”  There were some suitable responses.

This morning after a quick trip to the shop, and a top-up on the water we set off in to Crick Tunnel.  This is nearly a mile long and even after the recent mainly dry weather is still very drippy inside.  We drove through at a gentle pace on electric.  This tunnel is just wide enough for two boats to pass, so it was no surprise to see a light ahead of us.  When we reached the other boat it seemed to be stationary.  We slipped by without touching, but immediately saw another boat ahead.  The same happened again.  A third boat appeared to be moving as we got to it.  Just as we drew level there was a very loud clang.  We hadn’t touched them – they most have clipped a tunnel-side chain.

Soon after the tunnel we came to the Watford Locks.  These locks bring the canal down from the summit level we had reached at the Foxton Locks.  The arrangement here is similar, there are usually lock-keepers on duty who keep order and provide assistance.  We tied up at the top and I went to look for the lock-keeper.

Bartimaeus Queuing for Watford Locks
Front of the Queue to Go Down – Waiting for those Coming Up

There were three boats coming up, so we helped a little as they came up.  Most of the lock gates were less than a year old.  It seems they don’t get their coat of black paint until they are two years old, though they do get the white paint to stop people bumping in to them.  The flight consists of a single lock, a staircase of four locks and then two more single locks.  I got Clare to drive so that I could experience operating the staircase.

The staircase was very similar to those at Foxton, but with one less lock.  There were no gongoozlers however, and though the lock-keepers were friendly and helpful, they weren’t as chatty.  We got through without any problems, and went on in search of a mooring for lunch.  We were soon going under the M1, then alongside Watford Gap Service Station and the West Coast Mainline. Just before going under Watling Street (A5) we came across a rare canal sign in metric only.  

Winding Hole 17m Limit
Winding Hole 17m Limit – More or Less than 58’6″ ?

As we had no desire to turn here it didn’t matter either way.  Most people I’ve discussed narrowboat dimensions with are completely baffled by metric descriptions.  I know Bartimaeus is nearly 18m long, but I tell people 58 and a half feet.  And we draw two foot two, not 66cm.

A very short distance further we found a good mooring spot which is amazingly peaceful considering the proximity to the major travel routes nearby.  After lunch I had my regular online chat with former colleagues, so we have stayed put for the night.