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Travels of Joanie M – Life as a Continuous Cruiser – Heading North

I haven’t posted for a while now so I’ll just precis where we’ve been otherwise it will take up too much of Pauls space.

We had to hang around a bit in Birmingham as we were due into the drydock at Hockley Port so we spent the time by going up to Brownhills where we were surprised to see several boats moored. After a few days there we went on round via Longwood Junction to Ocker Hill. There are two visitor mooring spaces here with electricity pillars but C&RT have changed them to the new ‘smart’ metered pillars to which visitors are denied access so presumably this nice new pillar will remain unused until C&RT change their minds. I have £19 of cards which are no longer usable but after several email exchanges with the Trust I no nearer finding out how we get a refund.

So, into the drydock. We always find it strange in a dock. The boat doesn’t move when you walk through and the noise of your footsteps sounds different. It was a very hot week, exacerbated by the sun beating through the poly-tunnel covering the dock. So three coats of blacking and a dent knocked out of the prop, the front lockers kurusted and painted out with Hammerite and the front well and deck repainted.

We left Birmingham by the back door, the Wolverhampton 21 being closed, through Merryhill to Stourbridge where we were awoken by the boat moored behind starting his engine at 11.45 pm. After a shouted exchange he switched it off and we were able to get back to sleep. Onto the Staffs & Worcs and up to Aldersley Junction stopping for a couple of days at a lovely offside mooring above Diningsdale Lock where we repainted the gunwhales. It was good fun sat at the junction watching the boats approaching from both directions all jockeying for position. So many of them just turn into the Shropshire Union without checking if anyone is coming the other way.

We made slow progress down the SU (slow because we only reckon on moving for 2 or 3 hours a day) taking advantage of the many mooring sites provided by the Shropshire Union Canal society. We spent a number of days at Market Drayton, a very nice town, where we had a wine delivery from Ocado and stocked up on filters for the engine and generator from the wholesaler there and some more time at Nantwich.

We are heading for Manchester and Liverpool but are meeting some friends on their shareboat on the Bank Holiday and then my sister and brother-in-law a few days later. Middlewich was very hard work with only one paddle working at each end of the top lock of the three. Consequently boats were coming up faster than they were going down so we had the stupid situation of too many boats waiting in the intermediate pounds and very low water. I received an email telling me a friend had died so we needed to hire a car to go to Southampton so Anderton was convenient for this.

Having returned the car we moved back out into the country to a favourite mooring only to find it full. We continued on the the winding hole and on our return one of the boats was just leaving so we moored. Our friends had phoned to say they were just leaving Middlewich at which point the boat in front left leaving a nice space for them. We were very late getting to bed that night with rather sore heads.

I spent the time moving my two small solar panels to the front of the roof. We had two 80w panels and two 45w panels wired in series and parallel into an MPPT controller. Unfortunately the controller would shut down at times and by a process of elimination I found it was the two small panels which don’t like being wired in series. So I moved them to the front and connected them through a conventional controller to charge the bowthruster battery. I have connected the TV socket to this so, in theory, we shan’t be discharging the main batteries as much. I have another 80w panel coming which I will wire in circuit with the others to give me three 80w.

These are flat panels which are designed to be stuck down which is fine on a fibreglass roof but I’m not sure that the paint wouldn’t lift so I’ve drilled and tapped the roof and bolted them down with security screws. I’m quite impressed with their performance although rigid ones that can be angled to the sun would be much better but we prefer the neater appearance.

Useful Information

Trained as Engineer with Ford Motor Company. Ran Vehicle Electrics Business in Southampton until 2004. Share in 'Sundowner' from 1999 to 2007. Sold house in 2007 after having 'Joanie M' built to our spec - not that we haven't changed a number of things. Been cruising ever since.