Monday, 18 March 2013

Let there be light

Hi again

Without getting technical, as I've only got a basic grasp on the whole solar power, batteries and electrics thingy, I thought I'd just do a quick update on our solar panels.

They were only fitted in December and as we were still based at the marina until the end of January we've only really had them to use from the beginning of February. Have to say though, they are the pups nuts.

As we tend to potter about i.e. not travel very far very quick, we only ran the engine for 27 hours in February, 25 of those being for cruising and 2 when we left the engine running as some gloomy spells had caused the batteries to run a little low. So our average running time in February was roughly one hour a day whereas we used to always run the engine for three hours a day being it cruising, running the engine whilst moored, or a combination of the two. As we've recently topped up, I've calculated the fuel cost for February to be £31.30 for the average running of one hour per day. Had we run it for three hours a day, then our fuel cost would have been an extra £70 that should equate to an annual saving of somewhere around £700 - £800 a year.

The system wasn't necessarily cheap and add to that the cost of changing to LED lights throughout and installing some 12v charging points and it'll take the best part of three years to achieve payback. As we're just starting out on a long term plan though and the system is transferable to our next boat and then even to land at some point in the future, the saving over time will be considerable. I should also add though that we are conscious of our power usage and this does of course play a big part in our battery usage v charging requirements and therefore savings.

For those with some technical interest, our system is based around 3 x 195w Schott panels and a Tristar MPPT controller. If anyone should have any specific interest or questions let me know and I'll see if my knowledge bank is up to an answer.

We've been moored on an embankment south of the Anderton lift for a couple of nights that offers some good countryside views and is nicely open to catch the sun from dawn to dusk that does of course help re the previous topic.

Although we do have some reservations about this particular mooring and in particular the sign that you'll see pictured below. Anyone for a teddy bears picnic ? without of course feeding them.

Marbury Country Park is adjacent to the canal and we've taken the opportunity of taking the boys for a few walks around there. Seems a very popular place, with a broad range of users - walkers, dog owners, parents with kids, cyclists and even some horses. On the towpath side of the canal is another larger area that borders onto the River Weaver with another mixture of wooded / open areas as well as some carvings in both wood and stone.

Recognise this?

You will just be able to make our Marbury church that's center(ish) in the above picture.

Those who read my previous post will remember the unfortunate medical condition that effects the indigenous species of Jersey, or more specifically the female brand, who are sentenced to a life with a dysfunctional gene and us chaps just have try and get them through it and support them as best we can. Well I'm sorry to say, it struck the Mrs again the other day. Came out of nowhere it did, no warning signs or anything, it just popped out. Let me explain. . . We'd taken the boys for a walk from where we're moored to up past the Barnton Tunnel (572 yards long by the Nicholsons guide). As the towpath is on the opposite side to the canal entrance on the eastern side we couldn't see any mention of when you could travel/timing restrictions of entry etc so walked over the top to the other side. The western side of the tunnel is better placed to look into it from the towpath and you could see through to the other side. It's okay I said, we'll be able to see if anyone is in the tunnel before we enter to which the reply came, wait for it, here it comes, 'but you might not be able to see through from the other side'. This really ranks up there amongst some of her better moments, including the one where she said that a canal looked like it was going uphill and trust me, there wasn't a lock in sight! Got to love her though and it's just a small part of what makes her so special!

So as to not be put to shame by the Mrs and her culinary skills I decided that one of my must have items when we downsized to our boat was my pasta machine that I'd brought years ago and have used it more in the last few months than I have done since getting it. With time on our hands now though, we'd decided to try and do more from scratch than just buy in. With regards to the pasta, it isn't necessarily cheaper and certainly isn't easier than shop brought, but is worth the effort and what started out taking me about an hour and a half or more I've managed to get down to forty minutes or so from mixing the ingredients (flour and one egg, now even I can do that) through to the end product. Anyway, some pictures of me making Penna Pasta to prove it although as you can't actually see it's me, you'll just have to trust me.

The kneading stage . . .

The rolling stage . . .

The cutting into squares stage . . .

The shaping it stage . . . (I find rolling it around a chop stick the best way)

The end product stage . . .

Well I suppose the end product stage would have actually been it served up in the bowl, but in my excitement and hunger, I forgot to take that photo. DOH!

And finally, it's official, I appear to have a follower of my blog. Couple of guys went by on their narrowboat yesterday, think it was called Patricia. The Mrs was outside as they were passing and one of them asked her for 'A Date' so with a flick of her hair, a flutter of her eyelashes she said 'pardon', to which they said we want an 'Update, an update of your blog'. Shattered she was, hero to zero in mere seconds. I feel that I should at least dedicate this post to them, but as don't know their names I'll just call them the Patricia Boys (just as well their boat wasn't called Nancy I suppose).

And so in signing off,

Day 149 in the Badger Sett Narrowboat - 254 miles and 102 locks further on from when we started.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Cast Adrift

Hi There
Had an eventful night, whilst at Ellesmere Port, when we were untied from the mooring by a couple of lads. I'd felt an abnormal rock to the boat that coincided with Nicky getting up so just put it down to  'ballast distribution', but a few minutes later I heard another sound so went out the back to check. Our stern was about twelve feet from the tow path, the centre rope was loose, the front one was still just holding us on and there were two laughing lads running off into the darkness. As we were only planning to stay the one night we'd just stopped at the visitor/48hr mooring points by the Waterways Museum instead of going on down to the basin although if we're up that way again we'll make the effort to drop down the locks.

To take temptation out of the way we just moved forward and tied up to the museums trip boat that we'd assisted earlier in the day.
The next minute there were flashing lights and sirens as someone had called the police
 (that was a bit overkill) and left us wondering if we may become the target of further un-wanted attention in retribution, but the rest of the night passed us peacefully by. I say night, but it actually happened about seven in the evening.

Went to the museum whilst there that was really the main reason for us going to Ellesmere Port, other than highlighting this section of canal off our map of course and had an interesting wander around. As we're new to this and the next stage of our life is going to be the 'The Waterways' it was an informative few hours with plenty of snippets to take on board and explain some of the odd things you see on the waterways that aren't so odd when you know what they are there for. Nicky found a rudder at the museum that she quite liked and whilst most would be happy to have her prince charming find a slipper to fit her foot, mine wants a boat that will fit the rudder, but that'll have to wait for the next stage of our dream, that being Europe in about five to eight years time.  

Our younger son and his girlfriend (Dec's and Stevie) came over to Liverpool for a wedding and whilst he'd booked his flights months ago he hadn't thought to book a hotel and was finding it difficult (and expensive). Luckily as we were back in Chester and not that far away from Liverpool airport we hired a car for the weekend from Enterprise Car Hire to run them around between airport and reception whilst they stayed with us on the boat for a couple of nights. Unfortunately Nicky drove, who hasn't done for a while now, it showed. As of an act of kindness we'd offered George and Carol of nb Rock n Roll a lift to the shops, but from my experience in the car, I'm not sure whether we'd done them a favour or not! Still, it's the thought that counts.

It's was a bonus to see Dec's and Stevie although they are due back over for a week with us at the end of March for a holiday. We took them for a day trip to Wales, well actually more of a thirty minute walk from Chester along the River Dee. We've done this walk a few times before and you can actually do a circular walk of about two and a half hours that takes you over the Dee, back towards Chester and cross back over the Dee near the racecourse.

During our walk Stevie spotted a Crocodile in the River Dee and one has to remember that these Jersey birds (the Mrs being one of them) do, see and say some strange things at times that is just all part of the indigenous specious of Jersey. Now being a true Jerseyman myself, thankfully the male breed aren't effected in the same way by this dysfunctional gene as proven in a recent survey of 100 Jerseymen :-).

Whilst we had the car we took the opportunity of visiting Beeston Castle, that can be seen from the canal and turned out to be a worthwhile trip. Shame it was a bit of an overcast day as the views would have been great on a clear day. Here's a few photos of the castle and one with us in so you know who you're reading about. The 'boy's didn't come on tour with us today so no doggy and castle photo's.

We'd met up with George and Carol of NB Rock n Roll in Ellesmere Port and then again in Chester so took the opportunity of going up the Staircase at Chester and five subsequent locks with them that made life a bit easier and passed the time with a bit of chatting and of course some interesting snippets from those that know far more than us about this narrow boating lark.

Top picture shows Badger Sett (bottom left) and nb Rock n Roll three boats up filling with water before setting off and then below with both of us passing along the cut beneath the city walls above the staircase locks.
Nicky's 'cookery section'' this week is of her first attempt at French Bread that I have to say was pretty damn good and since then she's had a bash at Nan bread (not to bad) and Pitta Bread (that came out pretty well).

Over the next few weeks we're travelling down the Shroppie from Chester, across the Middlewich Branch and then onto the Trent and Mersey canal up towards the Anderton Lift / River Weaver where we'll be hovering round for a few more weeks as both  of our sons will be coming over for a weeks holiday each that'll take us to about the middle of April. If anybody should see us then give us a wave, preferably a friendly one with more than one or two fingers.

And so in signing off,

Day 144 in the Badger Sett Narrowboat - 242 miles and 102 locks further on from when we started.