Solar Powered

The wet weather we’ve been treated to recently has given way to dry days with chilly starts.  Yesterday it was cloudy early on but gradually got brighter during the day.  Today was forecast to have almost no cloud, though there were a few light ones early on.  I was pleased to see that before we’d had breakfast the new solar panels had generated more power than the old ones managed in a day.

We set off on diesel at a sedate pace as we passed moored boats.  The batteries were fully charged before we reached today’s flight of three locks.  There was another boat in front of us with an enthusiastic 11 year old as principal locking crew.  She had both gates open for us before we arrived, so all I needed to do was idle in alongside the other boat.  Clare hopped off the front and up the lock steps just before we entered the lock.

Between the second and third locks is the service wharf for the marina (other marinas are available), and we needed services!  We bade farewell to our helpful companions and called to a member of staff.  He directed us to moor up alongside one of their hire fleet, and efficiently emptied one tank and filled another.  We worked up through the remaining lock on our own and moored on the water point to fill our third tank.

We had a quick lunch while we were waiting, and then set off along the canal.  This section was very tranquil with a view over the Napton Reservoir and we were in full sun.  I reduced throttle until our electricity consumption matched the input from the solar panels.  We were now at about 10% throttle but still moving at a slow walking pace. 

A view between two moored narrowboats of an open expanse of water. Above there are fluffy clouds in a blue sky.
Napton Reservoir

A man walking on the towpath complemented us on how quiet our boat was. When we said we were driving on electric he told us he had designed electric marine propulsion systems.  He was impressed when I explained that we were currently running entirely on the power of the sun.

At Napton Junction we had to decide which way to turn – both ways could take us to London.  We chose to head east as we thought that left things more flexible.  This section of the canal is part of the Grand Union and the Oxford Canal so it is surprisingly busy for early April.

A boat came up close behind us, so I pulled over to let him overtake. I have recently read up on how to do this correctly.  The manoeuvre is initiated by the leading boat moving over to the port side, the following boat can then follow their normal (‘keep right’) line as they pass.  Any unexpected appearance of an oncoming craft is resolved by the slower moving boat slowing further.  I don’t think the boater behind us appreciated the subtlety, but he told us it was his first day out and he was pleased to already be overtaking.

A narrowboater in a large red sun hat drives on a canal in a flat landscape.
Clare Driving in the Sun (Hat)

Clare took over driving for the rest of the day.  We were soon away from the noisy road again, enjoying the sounds of sheep and lambs and many different types of birds.  We moored up in a peaceful stretch of canal.  As we were mooring, a passing boater told us we had chosen an excellent spot because the field opposite often has hares in it.  We’ve not seen any yet.  It wasn’t long before we got a begging visit from two swans – they are unsure about banana peel.

Two swans swimming at the stern deck of a narrowboat.
Two Swans A-Swimming

As the sun started to go down, I realised that when it rose again we were going to be in the shade of the (almost bare) tree on the opposite bank.  I decided to move us forward a boat length so the panels can get working again before breakfast tomorrow. In the still conditions it was easy enough to pull the boat by the front rope.

I stepped out with my camera a little later just as the sun was setting.  A swan loudly took off and landed again in the water ahead of the boat.  The loud clatter of take-off alerted me to another swan taking off behind the boat. I managed to photograph it as swooshed past the boat.  It was quickly followed by another (I think this was the pair we fed earlier). The three of them then proceeded to fight amongst themselves.

A view down the canal side of a narrowboat.  In the dying light of the day, the sky is reflected in the canal. Both are reflected in the side of the narrowboat. In the centre of the picture a swan flies low over the water.  Its wings and their reflection form a circle.
Swan on Close Approach

The sunset itself was pretty, but not as dramatic as the swans.

Sun setting in a cloudless sky over flat land.
Undramatic Sunset