Day 43 – Back to the GU

From Hawksbury Junction to Braunston is 22 miles and three locks (not counting Sutton Stop I did yesterday. The Oxford canal continues to wind along the contour line, only occasionally resorting to cuttings and embankments and a short tunnel at Newbold just north of Rugby. From the canal Rugby appears to be a small village with a park down to the water. There are a few glimpses of roads and commercial development through the trees but you don;t get a sense of it being a big town at all.

Soewhere along the route between Hawkesbury and Rugby I passed ‘Equinox’ heading in the opposite direction. That’s the boat that got in terrible trouble on the Nene during the floods about 5 weeks ago. Tony (I think) was amazed I’d been to Wales and was on my way back. Didn’t have time to ask as we passed where he’d been.

The locks come in a group at Hillmorton south of Rugby, they had some CRT volunteers but I only got helped through one. They are all in need of serious work, the gates sway alarmingly on their posts and the paddles are incredibly hard to wind.

Braunston is one of the system’s busiest hubs with chandlers, marinas and hire bases grouped around the junction.

I arrived here about 5pm assuming I could go through the locks and find a mooring before Braunston Tunnel, but the lock opening hours are being restricted to save water. They closed at 4pm. I’m moored on the wharf of one of the hire fleets just below the first lock.

From here on I’m back on the route I took 6 weeks ago, GU to Gayton, Northampton Arm, Nene, ML and Gt Ouse.

No easy locks from here on, the GU are wide and heavy, the Northampton Arm are narrow but awkward with the bollards on the wrong side and the walkways on the ‘pointing doors’ on the wrong side of the gates so you can’t hop across the half open lock to open the other side.

The Nene is a slog. It’s pretty and I guess if you keep your boat on it and potter up and down between your favourite watering holes it can be pleasant enough but for the long distance voyager it’s 3-4 days of heavy locks that for some reason have to be left empty with the guillotine raised, whichever direction you are going in. I’m dreading it.

I got a text from Nick Sharp this evening, he didn’t stay for the Eisteddfod and set off home a week before me. He’s currently on the Nene around the area where we met during the floods.

Day 42 – 6 weeks!

Fairly short cruise this morning to waterpoint below Atherstone locks. A bloke on a narrow boat said his mate on a short Springer would be along soon and we could do the locks together. So we did. Still took all morning, I think we cleared the last one about 1pm. After that another long lock-free section down to Marston Junction (Ashby Canal) then about 3 miles further to Hawkesbury Junction where I turned onto the Oxford Canal via the Sutton Stop Lock.

Moored just past Sutton Stop, sandwiched between David and (wife?) who accompanied me through the locks earlier and their friend +1 +another (mother-in-law?) who is very old, crooked and unsteady on her feet. They’ve all gone to the pub at the junction to eat but I had stuff in the fridge to use up.

The fridge is still giving me grief. I’ve done a few measurements with the gear I have and come to the following hypothesis:

The fridge uses 0.6A at 220-240V running off mains (at Llangollen) or off the inverter.

To get 12V from the battery to 240V the inverter steps up 20 times the input. Therefore the current must go up the same. 0.6 x 20 = 12A

But the inverter is about 80% efficient so consumes more like 15A.

That’s more than my little meter can handle so I can’t check, I’ll buy an ammeter when I get home.

I suspect 15A is close to the charging current into the battery from the alternator (via split diode circuit) and solar panel (200W or about 15A on a sunny day).

So in the morning if I check the leisure battery voltage it’s usually around 10-12V. Start the engine and wait a while for the alternator to replenish the engine battery and the relay to close to start charging the leisure battery and it goes up to 12.x or even 13V. But that’s from the alternator and solar panel the battery state is still showing empty. (Or close to empty, it’s not very precise).

Now I can switch on the inverter and the fridge and it works. But if I have a prolonged period without the engine running (waiting at locks for example) the fridge goes off even though the inverter is still running and draining the battery. I need to repeat the morning routine to get it working again. Turn it off. Run the engine, wait for the voltage to rise and restart the inverter.

By the end of the day the battery state is showing a low charge, or if I’ve not had the engine on much, empty. I can run the fridge for a few minutes – ½ hour maybe, but then the volts tail off and the fridge stops working.

When I get a real ammeter (using a little multi-meter at present) I’ll check the alternator output and charging current into the batteries. I might need a more powerful alternator (I think it’s a standard car model and few people have fridges in cars). I might need another battery in parallel with the first to hold more charge.

Anyone reading this got any more ideas / info, please comment below.