Yesterday afternoon the heavy rain arrived as forecast. This morning, the sun was bright at breakfast time and there was hardly a breath of wind. I’d left the stern deck cover up overnight, so by the time we ventured out it was beautifully warm. The battery levels were surprisingly low until I remembered that I had set the immersion heater on a timer to come on the previous morning. So it had come on again this morning too – that’s 2KWh of energy unnecessarily moved from the batteries to the hot water tank.
I continued with my project to improve the boat for winter cruising. In summer we cruise with the back doors open, but in winter we try harder to keep the heat in. The doors also block the WiFi so various handy things I might want to do with my phone won’t work. (Yes, it is possible – and legal – to drive a narrowboat and twiddle with a phone.)
I bought a WiFi repeater with external antennae with a plan to pop one out through the roof where the TV aerial used to sprout. However during testing I found that it can do the job from the shelf just inside the back doors. As a bonus it can use a USB socket for its power. I built a little box for it so that it doesn’t get damaged by keys etc. returning to the shelf.
From my work place on the stern deck I had a great view over the open fields across the canal. October has begun with blue sky and sunshine. At one stage there were at least six red kites swinging lazily on the thermals. I also made bread rolls for lunch – we have not been near any shops for a day or two.
After lunch we decided we should move on for the sake of the batteries. If our solar panels had been working well, we might have been charging them today, but even at the brightest point of the day we weren’t breaking even. We set a pace that maximised charging over distance travelled. In the conditions this made for a very relaxing ride. I saw a bird whizz towards us, climbing (and jettisoning “ballast”) as it reached us. I thought it was a kingfisher, but only saw its orange underside. Later we both saw another bird pass a little lower – the electric blue feathers were unmistakable this time.
We went through two locks today. The first has a rebuilt gate arm in a very non-traditional style. It flexes alarmingly when being used, and has nuts and bolts sticking out in places where one might otherwise rest to push. I hope this is a temporary fix awaiting a proper repair. However there is nothing in this winter’s schedule, though the gates are due to be replaced on a lock a few miles further up.
The second lock is called Somerton Deep Lock and lived up to its name. Clare had got off to work it while I drove in. After she had made a few attempts to close the gate I set the throttle to hedgehog rescuing speed and climbed on to the roof and up the ladder to add my weight to proceedings. With the gate closed I climbed back down to be at the controls when Clare opened the paddles. The locks on the Oxford Canal seem very consistent – as long as we sit at the front of the lock, the turbulence merely pins the boat there – but it would have been a bit of a risk to rely on that and leave the boat uncontrolled.
We had got the batteries nearly full again when we found yet another excellent mooring spot with open views over surrounding fields. I have been enjoying checking our progress on the recently improved Where Is Bartimaeus page. It now shows our previous moorings and links to posts we made from them. Our southbound moorings are interleaved with the northbound ones. So far our only repeat is in Thrupp but even there the moorings are a few boat lengths apart.