Saturday 30 March 2019

Back to Boat and British Camp, Malvern Hills

We came up from home on Thursday afternoon - Mike had meetings in Truro all morning. It was a straight run with few delays and, including a comfort break at Michaelwood Services, we arrived at the marina before six.

The boat had been taken out of the water whilst we were away but, because the wind was blowing a gale at the time, the marina staff opted to put the boat back on the pontoon bow first, rather than reversing in (which does need calm weather to do neatly!). We normally have the stern nearest to the bank as that is easier for loading, unloading and whenever getting on or off. So, after opening up, one of the first things was for Mike to start up the engine, motor forward just over a boat length, do a spin on the spot and then reverse back in!

On Friday morning we had an appointment to meet with Nick from the marina to finalise plans for blacking the boat which had to be abandoned at the first attempt. He was keen to show us a hull that he has just had sand blasted and is ready for painting as well as a boat with a hull from the same maker as ours which has just been re-painted in the way which he now recommends for Alchemy. The upshot of what has been a long debate over the past couple of weeks is that the boat is now booked for the Monday after we go back home, just over a week from now, when it will cleaned back down to the bare metal, sand blasted to a standard finish before priming and painting with a two-pack epoxy paint. We have also arranged with a local boat painter to complete the paintwork above the rubbing strakes to the gunwhales together with the tunnel bands. We are now hopeful that all will be ready for us to set off on the season's cruise when we next return on Easter Day.

Also, while we were away, we had two surface mounted solar panels fitted. Again, this has taken quite some time to achieve after a couple of false starts with other electricians. These should generate sufficient electricity on a reasonable day to keep pace with our day-time consumption when the engine is not running, whilst having a little over to help top up the batteries. We have not tried to be entirely off-grid nor able to survive long term without a daily help from the engine. But if we have some days on the boat (or perhaps one of us when the other is off elsewhere) when we do not move, then the use of the engine will be much less and hence the cabin more comfortable.

However, on the Friday (yesterday)we were disappointed to see no detection of the solar input nor any effect on the readouts from the battery monitor system. We checked with the installer how he had made his measurements (he was especially pleased that after installation he was reading 11 amps on a rather dull day).

Last night and this morning, Mike spent time studying the Mastervolt Manuals but initially did not see anything that might be the problem. However, he resorted to the blunt method of just running through all of the displays of readings and settings and eventually found one that said that the solar generation was 'off'. Tapping that display turned it to 'on' and immediately the main panel displayed its solar voltage detection indicator active! After a few checks we established that the solar was keeping pace with the fridge and freezer and later, towards the middle of the day, we were generating an excess. We cannot directly read out what the solar is capable of generating, only the effect on the battery which is also dependent on how fully charged it already is. The Mastervolt system is supposed to give preference to the solar over the AC shore line. So, we will now have something else to keep an eye on.

Saturday afternoon and we drove over to the Malvern Hills which we have not visited ever before. Also night, Christine took advice from Andrew - he used to work in Malvern - and so we headed for British Camp car park, towards the southern end of the range. He also told us that there was a small cafe cabin there.

It was one o'clock by the time we arrived and so we tried out the cafe -  it only has outdoor seating next to the busy road nor does it take plastic! Fortunately we managed to find enough cash and the day was exceptionally warm anyway. It must be well known as it was doing a roaring trade. They were doing bacon and sausage baps for £3.80 each and they turned out to be very tasty indeed.

Fortified, we set off up the steep path to the top of the hill on which British Camp, an ancient hill fort, was built. There were plenty of other walkers out - a lot of larger groups and many families with young children. We seemed to be - comparatively - ancient by a large margin!

Sadly the visibility today was not great, despite the clarity of recent  days. Nevertheless, the walk to the top is accompanied by great views of the plain below.

There is a small reservoir - it looked rather empty but the vegetation on the edges suggested that it was probably nearer to its normal level.

Sadly, just emerging from our winter layoff, we needed a few recovery pauses on the way up - some people consider it to be a rather gentle slope but we would not have wanted to tackle anything much steeper today!

Eventually we arrived at the hill fort and sat to enjoy the views - where we sat was very sheltered and the sun pleasantly warm.

Time then to make our way back down, plotting a route that was consistently downhill with no unexpected uphill sections! We had been promised plenty of seats but on the way up they were noticeable by their absence but by the time we reached the reservoir we found a seat which was empty so we sat for a while to read a few pages of the books we had packed in the rucksack.

Back at the car park we were drawn to the cafe once again, this time for tea and a cake each. Again, good value and very tasty. By the time we had finished we were ready to set off back to the marina.

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