A month on the cut

So on April 1st we left the marina and moved out onto the towpath. We’ve had a lovely month- we’ve made new friends, deepened existing friendships and really benefited from our floating neighbours. So far our travels have brought us to Purton, where the canal is very close to to the River Severn. It’s a beautiful area, with stunning views across to the Forest of Dean, and really only a few metres from the river itself. This area is famous for its boat graveyard, which helps prevent erosion of the banks which might otherwise threaten the canal itself. I must try to get some photos to include because it really is quite lovely.

We are very much enjoying life outside the marina. Each new place brings new views, new bird sounds (this canal is amazing for twitchers!), and new surroundings. The challenges are much less challenging now that the weather is a bit kinder, the days longer and the bridges open all week for ten hours a day. The solar panels work brilliantly at keeping the batteries topped up. The composting loo is easy to use and maintain. The only (very first-world) problem I’ve encountered really are that my fairy lights don’t like the 240V power coming through the inverter, and they strobe so that I can’t use them! And it’s a frustration that we can only get hot water from running the engine; I would love a solution for this.

It’s been fabulous to actually boat along, to remember that lovely sense of freedom and to smell the clean-water smell of the canal. We are looking out for otters now; apparently there have been several sightings and signs of them.

 

 

Oops…

So I took the boat over to the pump-out station a couple of weeks ago, to empty the tank for the last time before we started using the new composting loo. L volunteered to help me: the weather was quite calm, but I hadn’t moved the boat since October and I find that I lose some of my confidence after a while. She was there to help cast off, moor up and to provide moral support. So I got everything ready (so I thought) and the tiller in place, the dog shut in, the engine on and the gears engaged; I cast us off at the stern and L at the bow, which was the end nearest the pontoon. As we reversed away, she said suddenly, “Did you unplug your shoreline?”

That moment when your stomach turns over and then drops like a stone. No. I hadn’t.

I put the boat forward back to the pontoon and L gathered up the lead, which had been pulled right out of the plug socket. We carried on with the job of steering across the marina, reversing into the service bay, sorting out the payments and so on; an hour or so later we were back and tying up (I reversed in this time, as it’s slightly easier to come out forwards than backwards. It also makes a shorter journey for carrying things in through the main stern door- though a longer trip with coal and wood, which both live in the well deck). When we inspected the electric bollard, we found that a large piece of the plastic had been ripped off, exposing the wires inside. Sadly, I’d just pushed my topup card in: the meter was reading an accurate total, but the plug itself wasn’t working at all. I covered the top of the pillar with a plastic bag to stop water getting in, tied it on with some string and nervously rang the office to confess what I’d done.

“You’re not the first,” said C, laconically. “And I doubt you’ll be the last.”

As a result I’ve been two weeks on battery power and solar power. It’s been fine. Small irritations, no more than that, but good to know before we go out on the cut in April:

  • there’s no way of heating water without running the engine, even though when it’s fine the solar panels keep the batteries nicely topped up- irritating because it’d be nice to avoid running the engine every day. Perhaps I should look at getting a generator- but I’m not sure that’s any better.
  • my fairy lights don’t like the inverter- it can’t be a pure sine wave one- and they behave like disco strobe lights when I try to use them.

Anyway, the batteries have coped well with the systems and it isn’t too arduous to make sure I run the engine each day. I’ll be glad when we can plug back in and use the immersion heater and the fairy lights in the lounge though (hmmm, priorities…)

The worst thing and the most annoying thing- because it was so totally avoidable- is knowing I’ll be billed for the new bollard. An avoidable expense. Grrrrrr.