Chums, Kim & John arrived to an empty SKKY about ten o’clock on Saturday night. We had gone to an amazing charity concert in Bedford and arrived back at midnight to find Kim, John and Duggie all looking very cosy despite the freezing temperature outside. Little Duggie had been left with our Neighbour Simon and his lovely Lurcher Tess on board his boat and K & J collected him before settling on board.
Sunday morning and sleety snow was filtering down, as the ground was slippery we took the decision to avoid locks and headed off towards Rugby, intending to stop for the night just before the three locks at Hillmorton. The sky gradually cleared and the sun shone warmly, the girls got off with Duggie, who looked very smart in his new coat and they must have walked about four miles before we stopped for lunch just before the Braunston turn. The air was still cold and a warm saloon and a filling lunch would have had me falling asleep, but as the sun still shone we carried on, again with the girls and Duggie walking until we reached the Hungry Horse Pub (Home of The Big Platter), well that about sums it up, They wouldn’t let Duggie in so immediately it lost my vote. We had a drink or two but were definitely not tempted by the menu, returning to SKYY, where Jacquie’s spaghetti carbonara went down a treat.
The snow was again gently falling when we woke up on Monday morning, but today the sun hardly managed to break through the cloud. I walked Duggie up to the road by the pub and suddenly I was in suburbia, with grass verges and front gardens to a mix of houses and bungalows and cars parked in front of garages. It was strange, as most of the time that we are cruising, we are in our own little world so far removed from the hustle and bustle of life beyond the cut, but here it was just a few steps away.
We reversed SKYY back to the entrance to the nearby covered dock and just managed to turn her 57 ft by hauling on the ropes from each end. As we headed back home the scene had changed, the snow had again given a thin white coat to the landscape and to our surprise much of the cut was completely frozen over and we were breaking ice until we met a boat coming the other way and then we both were able to take advantage of the clear channel cut by each other. We continued non stop to our home marina at Wigrams Turn, but the girls decided that they had had enough exercise yesterday and anyway it was a bit too cold, so your truly had to walk the towpath with Duggie, the compensation was that as soon as we tied up at our pontoon a late lunch was served, a piping hot Cottage Pie soon warmed our insides. Kim & John left us for the joys of the M40 saying that they wished that could cancel work and spend the next six months with us on our forthcoming trip North, How much would it cost to have the boat stretched by 10 ft.?
On a technical matter, having replaced the domestic batteries last year, I have been considering how to keep them charged up when we are not cruising for a few days. I have considered fitting a battery management system that duals up the starter and domestic alternators and guarantees charging batteries to 90% of capacity, cost approx £350. A 110 -130 ah alternator to replace my 70ah one, cost approx £190. Replacing all the lights with LED’s, unfortunately Jacquie considers the colour output unacceptable and finally a generator. When I had the opportunity to buy from Simon, our neighbour, a EX7 Honda suitcase generator, it seemed like an answer to a maidens prayer. Sadly when plugged into the shoreline socket I got a reverse polarity warning light and a few buzzes and clicks from the inverter but nothing else.
To my surprise my email to Tony Brooks of Canal Boat Q & A fame, brought a response by the next morning. Although not an expert on 240v Tony was able to outline the problem, too technical for me to properly understand, but apparently some generators send out +120v and -120v to provide 240V. A phone call to a local marine electrician confirmed the problem and it could be fixed, but basically the generator was not man enough. The inverter could be tweaked to recognise the low input from the generator, but would have to be reset when we went back on to mains shoreline. The minimum generator size to properly power up the inverter’s charger would have to be 1.5 KW not the meagre 600w from the EX7. I decided not to go any further down this road and fortunately Simon took back the generator. I am now back to square one, so it would be interesting to know what route other boaters have taken to manage this problem, other than cutting down electricity usage, which off course we will be doing, both the microwave and the toaster have gone, but the hair dryer and the vacuum have to stay.
Not long now to bottom blacking and then off we go, with hopefully plenty to blog about on a daily basis.