On our second day in Abingdon it was so sunny that we struggled to use all the available energy. I put the immersion heater on for several hours – hot water is always welcome, especially when it’s free. Once the batteries are full, the controller stops collecting energy. There is a league table on the Ortomarine web site showing how much power each of their boats have generated the previous day. Spending too long with full batteries drops us down the table for the day. Since we had the solar panels replaced, we are usually towards the top of our class (8 x 160W). I am especially pleased when we are above Watt Knot – regularly getting less than half of what they were getting is what first clued me in to our panel troubles.
Driving at more than a snail’s pace is a good way to make use of the energy too. The drive from Abingdon to Clifton Lock left us needing a little charge. The sunny afternoon brought the batteries close to full again. When we set off the next morning, it was cloudy with a chill wind blowing, so I went a little faster than usual. Once we were moored above Day’s Lock, the sun came out and topped the batteries up while we were at the Pendon Museum.
One of the themes of the museum was the dramatic change to rural life caused by the railways. The internal combustion engine had not yet had its own impact. We are likely to be dependent on ours again as the days get shorter, but we haven’t needed to use it since our last Edinburgh visit. In the 1930s tandems were more common than they are now. The machines shown are surprisingly similar to ours.
Our mooring was extremely open. On one side was a field that was at about the height of the bottom of the windows. The geese mostly kept away, but the sheep were very happy to come right up to the window and look down on us.
The other side of the boat had an open view across the river. The sun shone all afternoon while we were in the museum, so by the time it went down we were yet again fully charged.
This morning, we took a walk up the nearby Round Hill and Castle Hill – they seemed to be a local tourist attraction. Perhaps living in Scotland has jaded me, but I was underwhelmed. We did get some excellent views of a kestrel, both hovering and perched, and a number of red kites circling above.
We were intrigued by a tree that seemed to have been partially burnt. Our best theory was that it had been struck by lightning, setting fire to the heart wood. Perhaps the outside of the tree was too wet to burn, or had been extinguished by the same storm.
We set off after lunch in the cool breeze. Soon after departure it clouded over (not in the forecast) and the cold wind strengthened. We considered stopping at Benson Lock where we might have been able to plug in again. There was no available space however, and no lock keeper to talk to either. The exit from the lock was marked by more “green floaty things” which I know to keep on my left (going downstream). I decided I would have to ignore one of them.
We soon reached Wallingford where I knew there were moorings above the bridge. As we approached a convenient looking spot, Clare read the sign: “Private Mooring”. Just beyond was Early Byrd – we exchanged pleasantries as we passed by (she had been able to moor at the spot we had rejected yesterday). I decided to turn to face upstream and head for a space on the other side of the river. A couple on an adjacent narrowboat offered to let us come alongside them. We opted to moor next to them despite a very high bank. They came out and took ropes from us to help us in – not required, but welcome nevertheless.
The batteries are lower than they have been at the end of the day for a week, but brighter days are forecast – even if we don’t get one tomorrow.