Friday 17 July 2015

Making phone calls and going solar.

Now we have our sea worthiness certificate I was able to fill in the necessary forms and have posted them off to the Peel Ports harbour master at Eastham for our trip to the river Weaver via the Shipping canal. Yesterday, I first phoned the harbour master to inform them the application was on its way and to enquire the correct procedure on the day. Paul Kirby was very helpful and explained it was he who received the forms. He informed me the we can lock though the bottom lock at Ellesmere Port then contact the canal control for permission to proceed either by phone or VHF radio. Permission will depend on what traffic is working the canal at the time.

Next I phoned C&RT Norwich office and booked them to man the locks at Ellesmere Port and Marsh Lock (on the Weaver). At first they seemed confused referring me to Peel Ports who advised its definitely C&RT that man the locks. I phoned C&RT again and got someone else who knew exactly what I wanted so made the booking for me. Seems not all C&RT are aware they man these locks so persevere.

Marsh Lock on the Weaver Navigation.  The Shipping canal leads off to the left of the picture

Finally I phoned Chester Council to let them know we will need the swing bridge over the bottom lock in Ellesmere port museum opened and they advised to call nearer the date but noted our request in their diary. Steve Bartlett is the current contact and he was just as helpful. They are only a few minutes away so only need an hours notice though still advisable to notify them nearer the time.

Swing bridge over the Bottom lock at the museum.  The Shipping canal is at the top of the picture.
So now we're all set for the cruise up the canal in August. Today, whilst working in our security control room at work, I was asked when we were going to be out on AmyJo again and I explained our plans. The refinery has several CCTV monitors that overlook the shipping canal and the Chief security officer has kindly offered to record our passage on the cameras as we pass the refinery. We're really pleased about that and look forward to seeing the recordings. Hopefully I'll be able to get a copy and post them on here with permission.

I think I mentioned a while ago that we were looking to have some solar panels installed? After much research we have placed an order for four 100 watt flexi panels, cables and MPPT controller etc . These will be fitted by the supplier just before we leave for Ellesmere Port as we can tie them into our display to monitor their charging. I did the calculations and reckon 400 watt of panel wired for our 24 volt system would amount to 200 Watts. This should give us about 6 amps charging on a good day and about 3.5 on a dull day. I've been monitoring our usage whilst off mains and it is roughly 4 amps peak so the panels should greatly increase the time between engine runs to charge batteries though not eliminate the need completely.

Two panels will be mounted directly on the roof just forward of the back hatch and on either side. The other pair I plan to mount on a top box that I have started to make. The box will have a pitch roof with double lids. One to keep the box closed and one to allow the solar panels to be tilted so as to maximise the sun's charge. I wanted to have two boxes but do not have enough room on the roof hence why two will be fixed to the roof directly.

My inspiration for the box material came from Barry on nb AreandAre (click). Barry has used 9mm plastic for his boxes. Solves the need to paint, does not rot, and is UV resistant all the while being robust enough to store things in.  I'll post some build pictures when I make a start on the Box.

Wednesday 15 July 2015

Return trip from Middlewich

After a peaceful night we got underway at 9am.  Our aim was for Barbridge junction as we had plenty of time to hand so had a bit of a lay in was in order.  The morning was fine and warm.  Whispy clouds heralded a change in the weather but for now the sun was out though the wind was starting to pick up a little.

The journey was uneventful for the most part and we reached our first lock of the day, Minshull Lock.  Here two boats were queuing to go up and two to come down.  With plenty of lock wheelers we did not have to wait long.  Interestingly, shortly after stopping, we were joined by a very small boat with two men and a Labrador aboard.  How they all managed to fit into the little boat was interesting and, as the lead boat was only 45 foot long we arranged for the small boat to go in with them.

Approaching Church Minshull lock

Two men and a dog in a little boat leaving the lock

Later we pulled in at Venetian Marina as we needed bread and milk.  While Chris went of to the shop I took the opportunity to top up the water tank.

We then pulled across to wait our turn in Venetian Lock with just one boat (a lady single handing) in front.  A Few minutes later some of her friends arrived in their boat behind us and the husband assisted the first lady with Chris helping through the lock.  Meanwhile a lovely aroma of baking bread wafted across from the his boat as his wife was cooking it.  Boy it did smell yummy!

In Venetian Lock
We got to Barbridge junction with very little traffic and decided, as we had time, to stop at the Barbridge Inn for a meal so at the junction we turned left.  By the narrows just after the junction we were confronted with one private boat tow path side watering and for some reason a hire boat on the offside with its crew just stood holding her ropes.  I can only assume they were waiting for the water too.  This left a gap only just wide enough for AmyJo to squeeze through.  I made the turn perfectly and slotted AmyJo through the gap with inches to spare watched very carefully by the owner of the boat filling with water.  On approach to the inn we were surprised to find a perfect mooring right outside the pub.  As it was 3pm we booked a table for the evening then enjoyed a pint or two in the afternoon sunshine.

Our evening meal in the pub was excellent as always and we had a very pleasant chat with other boaters moored with us.  This was somewhat spoilt by a boater moored opposite who had a noisy generator running until 11pm.  The fact would not have been quite so annoying but it had been running non stop since we arrived at 3pm that afternoon.  There was no sign of anyone aboard to ask them to turn it off so I can only assume it was to charge batteries that judging from the length of time the generator was running clearly need replacing.  We never saw any lights on in the evening or movement aboard.  Eventually the generator ran out of fuel and died, much to the relief of those moored nearby.  When I looked later the generator had been moved inside the boat so clearly someone was aboard though how they could see with no lights was anyone's guess.  I appreciate sometimes you may need to run a generator but please, if you intend to run it that long and late in the evening then please find somewhere to moor where it won't annoy the neighbours!

The boat with the noisy generator running all afternoon and evening
 Monday morning's weather, in contrast dawned wet and miserable.  We had no choice to move as I had work on Tuesday and Chris was off south to see her mum.  Donning wet gear we cast off and headed for Hurlston Junction in heavy drizzle.  As we approached the junction the rain eased.  Needless to say no boats were on the move so we winded at the junction without causing any hold ups.  Retreating our steps the rain came back as this time we passed Barbridge junction and pressed on for home.

Underground WWII fuel stores opposite Chas Harden boats wharf

The rain got heavy for a while but as we approached the Shady Oak it finally stopped altogether.  We still had plenty of time left so moored up for a spot of lunch aboard, opposite the closed pub.  After an hour or two we slipped the lines again and headed back to Tattenhall Marina.  By now the wind was getting quite fresh but fortunately it was in our favour assisting us with the turn into the marina by blowing the bow round and then onto our mooring as it was blowing straight down the jetty.  The turn into the mooring was made almost without turning the rudder as the bow was pushed down wind and AmyJo slotted onto her mooring with just a slightest of nudge against the jetty.  Glad my sailing skills and wind awareness helps on these occasions.

Total distance:7.38 miles Elapsed time:6h1m45s Locks:2 Bridges:19

Average speed:1.22 mph (1.56 lock/mph)

Total distance:1.29 miles Elapsed time:0h44m29s Locks:0 Bridges:4

Average speed:1.74 mph (1.74 lock/mph)

Total distance:9.15 miles Elapsed time:6h26m8s Locks:6 Bridges:19

Average speed:1.42 mph (2.35 lock/mph)

Saturday 11 July 2015

Middlewich and AmyJo passes muster

Yesterday we set off for Middlewich to get our signed certificate of sea worthiness for our trip to the river Weaver.  The morning started grey but the day soon warmed up as the sun made an appearance.  

We made good time down to Barbridge sharing the locks with Kevin and Maria who also moor at Tattenhall.  They have just got their boat and this was their first trip out since arriving at Tattenhall

Kevin waits with me whilst Chris and Maria prepare the lock
Tilstone lock was the first lock not in our favour,  Its quite pretty here so we did not mind the wait.  Kevin and I put the world to rights while we waited happily in the sunshine.  Chris and Maria happy to work the lock and chat as lady lockys do.

Tilstone Lock

Wispy clouds over head herald a change in the weather
We turned left at Barbridge and carried on for a while.  It was only 2pm so we decided to press on so as to arrive at Middlewich early in the afternoon.  We found a lovely spot ear Church Minshull to moor but the dreaded Shroppie shelf meant we could not get into the bank so decided to stop for a brew and soak up some rays instead, then move on.

A lovely mooring but  the shelf was grinding the baseplate all the time despite tight lines.

Chris soon adopted the "I'm settled" mode. Never takes her long once moored up :-)

Whilst I had a look at the views
I worry about the base plate rubbing on the shelf so after an hour or two we moved off and found a lovely mooring a little further on by Eardswick Hall Bridge 22 for the night along side some good armco.

This morning I was awake with the bird song at 6am.  Quite a chorus was going on just outside AmyJo and I found this little group sitting in a dead tree feet away chattering away.  It was lovely to sit with a cup of tea and watch them interact with each other.  They must have come from the same clutch I would think, and seem to have just fledged.

That little rhyme, two little dickey birds came to mind though there were a few more here

I'm so pretty.  So much so he stayed put preening as we passed

Our goal for today was to drop down Stanthorpe Lock and then meet up with Brian Taylor for our inspection mid afternoon.  It was an easy run to the lock in just over 2 hours and then a short wait while 2 boats locked down and 2 came up.

With the sun pouring down AmyJo enters Stanthorpe Lock

And leaves via the bottom.

At Middlewich, Wardle lock was as busy as ever.   There was barely room to moor after the last bridge so as one boat entered the lock another took its place to wait.  We were last in line and that pleased us as we wanted to wind in the junction and retrace our steps if possible as we arrived earlier than planned.  Our meeting with Brian was for mid afternoon but we had past our meeting place so winding was necessary.

Squeezing onto the lock landing as the next boat enters Wardle lock
 Once down the lock I swung AmyJo to the right ready to carry onto the next available winding hole, however, as no boats were on the move I elected to reverse AmyJo back onto the moorings on the Liverpool side of the junction to wait my turn to go back up instead.  Our walkie talkies paid for themselves at this point.  I was able to let Chris know the way was clear for the boat coming down the lock to enter the junction which she relayed to the crew and her to let me know when safe to turn in for the lock.  All went like clockwork and the crew thanked us with relief as they turned out of the junction.

Its a tight turn into Wardle canal

So far so good

Made it! phew
 Once out of the lock and heading back I called Brian on the mobile to let him know we were on our way.  By now it was quite noticeable that the levels were well down due to all the boats locking down and a passing bottom gate.  One lady who had her boat moored at the bottom of her garden asked us about the levels and we told her about the gate leaking and sticky paddle.

Brian lives on the canal side with a lovely mooring at the bottom of his garden that is big enough to take AmyJo.  Whilst trying to moor up we ran aground with the stern four feet from the bank and could not get in any closer as hard as we tried due to the low level in the pound.  Luckily this still left plenty of room for boats to pass so we made do.

Brian's inspection was surprisingly brief and painless.  All he was concerned with was that we had an anchor (on the roof), fire extinguishers and a fire blanket.  All our planning to ensure everything needed was aboard paid off and he happily accepted that our anchor warp and mooring lines were in the bow locker without seeing them.  15 minutes later he handed us our sea worthiness certificate as I handed him a cup of tea in return (plus his fee of £40 pound).  Now we have all we need to get on the shipping canal once I send them the forms so the way is clear for our August trip. I've added another page to the blog where I will put all the useful information and experiences as we get them for others in future.

Brian's mooring as we leave.  The boat in view was aground at the bow and having trouble getting in.
 On the way into Middlewich this morning we spotted some great moorings by bridge 22 with some super views of the river Weaver and the top flash.  We said our thanks to Brian and pulled off his mooring heading out of Middlewich the way we came intending to moor in our chosen spot.  Luck was on our side and we took the last spot and moored up for the night.

The river weaver is tantalisingly close by

Hopefully we'll be cruising this stretch in August

Our mooring for the night, busy but friendly and peaceful.

Or view through the Cratch window

Butty Ilford and tow pass by just as the forecast rain started..
Seems we moored up just at the right time as not long after Ilford and her tow passed us the heavens opened and it started to rain. 

Tomorrow with a day in hand we'll decide where we will head before returning to Tattenhall.

Total distance:12.21 miles Elapsed time:7h54m3s Locks:8Bridges:26 
Average speed:1.55 mph (2.56 lock/mph) 

 Total distance:5.43 miles Elapsed time:3h36m28s Locks:3Bridges:26 
Average speed:1.50 mph (2.34 lock/mph) 

Total distance:2.12 miles Elapsed time:1h16m54s Locks:1Bridges:9 
Average speed:1.66 mph (2.44 lock/mph) 

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Barb-b-q, Bells,a bloggers meeting and button moon.

With the inverter issue behind us we looked to the weekend. Saturday was nearby Waverton's village Festival and our hand bell group, Waverton Handbell Ringers, had been asked to ring in the afternoon. Waverton village hall and park is right alongside the moorings at Eggbridge so we planned to cruise AmyJo there for the weekend.

Friday afternoon whilst finishing up at work a text from our mooring neighbour, Sheila, invited us to a bar-b-q with some of the other marina boaters down by the Shady Oak pub on the Shroppie in the evening. (you can see why the Shady Oak is popular with Tattenhall boaters now Ali). After a quick text to Chris we got back to AmyJo can headed out with the others. 6 boats in all attended and we all sat round a brassier and a superb meal and evening ensued. Sadly we forgot to take any photos so apologies for that. Plenty food and liquid was consumed, stories and experiences shared, and everyone had a great time until the early hours sat by a bar-b-q fire to keep warm.

Saturday morning dawned with the continued warm weather and cloudless sky. A gentle breeze was blowing making the morning very pleasant for cruising. We winded AmyJo and cruised back past the marina and on to Waverton. As always Golden Nook moorings went on for ever (I'm convinced they are adding more moorings every time we pass them). We with time on our hands we were happy plodding along with a cup of tea in hand and enjoyed the slow run past them all.

On arriving at Eggbridge about 1pm we found a 70 boat was on the moorings so we decided we would moor Christleton side of the bridge. We later found they planned to stay the 7 days. Its a bit shallow after the bridge but we managed to get the bow in but the stern remained some 3 feet from the bank. We could have moved further but wanted we to be near the village hall and we also needed milk that Chris then got from the local store.

The the fete was very busy with plenty of people enjoying the warm sunshine. Once again we forgot the camera (really must buck up and get more photos). The Bell ringing went off OK and was well received so with the rest of the afternoon free we wandered round the fete. Later in the evening friends Dave and Glenys who live close by came aboard. Whilst enjoying a glass of wine a lady approached us can gruffly announced "You do realise there are moorings further along and they are in the sun?" Clearly she was not happy with us moored at the bottom of her garden. As there are no signs saying no mooring I politely replied "Yes I'm well aware of that but I don't want to sit in the sun thank you. I'm quite happy here" to which she stormed off.

After a quiet night we needed to wind AmyJo for the return trip. There is a handy winding hole between the Cheshire Cat and the old Trooper Pub about a mile short of Christleton Lock. We set off and winded then retraced our route with the intention of having brunch in the Cheshire Cat. Their sign advertised Breakfast served from 7am so as it was only 11am and with one last mooring left right outside we moored up then went in to enquire about a table for two. Sadly it would seem its not an all day breakfast as they stopped serving at 10am. No worries we thought we booked and table for lunch a few hours later instead.

On our way back to AmyJo the boat moored in front of us took my attention. I recognised the boat straight away. It was fellow bloggers John and Ali on Triskaideka (click) . We both used to moor in Crick Marina but never got chance to meet up. They had also stayed in Tattenhall last week but we are always out and about week days so missed them yet again. Only John was aboard as Ali was away visiting family. We chatted for a good while in the warm sunshine about our trips and experiences. John loves the canals in the North West and is enjoying their time here. Good to meet you John and I'm sure we meet again some day. Sorry we missed you Ali perhaps next time.

Triskaideka and AmyJo outside the Cheshire Cat

The sign advertising the breakfast from 7am
After an excellent lunch we retired to AmyJo just as the heavens opened. With time to spare we lazed dozed until the rain stopped then headed back to Tattenhall arriving a little after 8pm.

A pleasant run home.

Stunning Moon rise.

Full Moon rises over the marina

Monday 6 July 2015

Temperamental Inverter ruins Dinner plans.

WARNING! This post has gratuitous amounts of techiness in it, please look the other away if you find this disturbing.

Its not often our Joanne has much free time so when she tells us she is visiting us we pull all out all the stops.

Chris stocked up with the perquisites for a slap up Roast Beef dinner and desert while I got the wine sorted and chilling in the fridge then prepped AmyJo for cruising. As it was Friday and such a lovely evening we planned to cruise the short run down the Shroppie and wind at the Shady Oak pub then moor and have dinner aboard. We would then return to the marina before it got dark, or to late.

All was going according to plan and Jo arrived at 5.30pm with her friend who is visiting from London. With clear blue sky, temperature in the mid 20s and little wind we immediately slipped the mooring lines and turned out of the marina. A lovely cruise ensued and the two girls took advantage sitting on the cabin roof enjoying the peace while watching the world go by. Life felt good.

Meanwhile Chris had been slaving preparing the veggies and was trying to light the oven but it would not come on no matter how she tried. She then noticed a lack of power (the oven is a 240 volt fan assisted gas oven). On checking the inverter we discovered it had not switched on automatically as it should, so that meant we had no 240 volt power throughout the boat. I tried resetting the inverter by cycling the on off switch, nothing. I phoned Fernwoods and on Peter's advice turned the inverter off. Turned the display off then turned on the inverter followed by restarting the display. Nothing. The invertor would not wake up.

Most people recognise the Victron inverter

With no means of cooking we winded at the Shady Oak and booked in for a meal there.   Its the first time we have had a meal in the Shady since it re-opened.  They do the usual fish and chips, burgers and so on.  The menu is reasonably varied if slightly limited.  I have to say when served the food was excellent.  Well presented, cooked properly and served hot.  The one drawback was service was very slow (it took the barmaid all on 15 minutes to pour my drinks and locate change of a tenner).

Back at the marina next day and with Peter from Fernwoods on the phone we worked through the electrics with and Avo meter.  When on the mains I had 28.8 Volts at the datalink box bus bar, 28.8 Volts after the 300 amp fuse and 28.8 volts at the inverter battery connections so the problem was not a fuse.  We then tried to cycle the inverter and display on and off again as before to no avail.

Yesterday Andy Munro at Fernwood rang back to say Peter would be coming to us on Saturday to remove the inverter to send it back to Victron in Holland and that would take a week.  He would jury rig the electrics so we would have power when connected to the mains but no battery charging so we would have to be frugal with our lighting use.  I admit I was not too impressed with that idea but needs must as they say. We are planning our trip to Middlewich for the sea worthiness check next Friday and did not fancy cancelling the trip nor did I fancy sitting in candle light, though some might think that a little romantic I guess.

Finally last night in a last bid attempt to get it working before we ripped it out Peter called again and suggested I disconnect the mains, then disconnect the to inverter link cable and turn the invertor on.  To our surprise the inverter burst into life!  I shut it down again, reconnected the link cable, tried again turning the invertor on and nothing, dead as a dodo.  So it seems the VE.Net link was the issue not the inverter.

The display, in our case showed the inverter (top center of display) disconnected

I took a look at the display settings and noticed that one device setting was set to "Charge only".  Could this be a coinidence?  The inverter would only work if switched to "charge only " mode when connected to the mains.  I cycled the settings for the device and found they were "charge only, "off" and "on".  I turned off the mains and switched on the inverter and as expected nothing happened, still dead as a dodo.  I then changed the device setting to "on" and hey presto the inverter sprang into life.

Now not being an expert in electrics I only look at the VE.display to see how the battery are charging and have never played about with it so how it got switched to "charge only" mode is some what of a mystery.

I would like to add that Peter is Fernwood's electrician and is one of the nicest blokes you could meet.  Since AmyJo was launched he has really looked after us in our electrical needs and goes out of his way to help and give advice when needed or asked for.  Thank you Peter.

The good news is we now get to cruise to Middlewich after all. Oh and the roast Beef dinner?  Well that got eaten Tuesday night and very nice it was too :-)