Saturday, March 22, 2008

Boating In Extreme Weather, Great Bedwyn To Crofton

1.62 miles, 1 hr 49 mins, 4 locks, 3.09 lm/hr

It was a windy night - again! However we managed to sleep despite one of the fenders regularly banging against the side.

We wanted to cruise this morning so got up in reasonable time. John went to the shop in Great Bedwyn to get some milk and a bag of coal. By the time he returned it was sleeting. However we had our thermals and wet weather gear on so off we set.

First stop the wharf for water and elsan. There was a boat moored there so we had to stick the bow in and leave the stern under the bridge – no passage for other boats. The other boater “woke up” eventually and pulled alongside one of the Bruce Trust boats so we were able to moor on the wharf. I think we were pretty empty, as we seemed to take an age to fill. Meanwhile the sleet continued – at times horizontal!

We had four locks ahead of us as our planned stop was at Crofton Pumping Station. Jon Langley from Bath Narrowboats was meeting us to test the Victron. We have had problems with charging the batteries (they are OK, we checked them). Even on the go it is taking a long time for the charge to come to “float”. Our electricity demand is not high as we are no longer running the freezer and do not watch much TV when cruising. 2 laptops, but run on their batteries as much as possible, fridge and lights are the main usage.

We managed to negotiate the locks without too much trouble despite the weather, using the mid rope at bottom and top lock landings prevented the boat from going astray! John was locking again and we are quicker through then as he can climb lock gates more easily than I can.

So now we are moored where we planned, just above Crofton Crossing Lock (61) as we can get a satellite signal here and managed to be here in time to watch Quali for F1. There are about 4 other boats and also we have been passed both ways by some intrepid boaters! I say intrepid as the weather has performed extremes since we have been here.

One minute it is brilliant sunshine and the next violent hail storms with the wind blowing all the time. One shower the hailstones were coming in the stern door vents and also the mushrooms on the roof!

I pity the poor canoeists, the 24 hour race starts from Devizes about 4 pm so I expect they will reach us sometime around 6pm. Most of the night will be spent paddling on the Kennet and Avon canal, as they are not allowed on the Thames at night because it is running so fast. A bit spooky in places if you are on your own I would think!

The Pumping Station is in steam this weekend so we rely on them to keep the water levels during the day – the electric pumps are turned off and back on again over night. I think this weather will put off a lot of visitors, which is a real shame.

A P.S.
Since I wrote the above Jon has been to check the Victron - all OK. He gave us a couple of ideas to improve the charging of the batteries such as running the engine at higher revs and turning up the limiter. He checked the Aqua Drive too as one of their boats had a problem - the shell builders install these. Our is OK

The first canoeists came through at about 6.05! The first 3 teams were carrying their canoes down this flight! One was actually a RIB, without the outboard of course! As darkness fell we could see them coming with their headlamps (literally head lamps!).

The weather has calmed somewhat now – no wind but the temperature has dropped to 1 degree and our weather station is warning of ice. Rather them than me!

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