Not possible they said!

Not possible they said!

We started this journey with no intention of trying to reach Bristol on solar power alone, however, a break in the traditional British summer giving us some sun and the pace enforced by the Kennet & Avon canal (K&A) meant that it just happened with no real change in how we travelled other than maybe looking a little harder for shade-free mooring at the end of the day.  

  • Distance: ~   Pyrford – Send – Hampton Court – Bristol. 263km
  • Locks: 143 plus countless swing bridges
  • Power Consumed: 137 kWh (propulsion + all appliances + hot water)
  • Solar Generated: 121 kWh
  • Elapsed time 20 days (15 days from Sunbury-on-Thames to Bristol)

Against a strong current

Nearly all of the first half of the journey was against the current, initially the Thames which had a stronger than average flow for the time of year and then the Kennet had recently had the highest levels/flow for 40 years.  By the time we turned left at Reading it had abated; however, we were having to put at least 2kW into the motor to make any headway through some of the narrower bridges (~3km/h flow on occasion).  Once on the central Canal section of the K&A solar generation generally more than matched the propulsion, though cooking, water heating and laundry certainly added their load on the electrical system (we have a totally electric kitchen).

Boat stats

We were very happy with the performance of the solar panels; SolMate has 10 semi-rigid panels bonded to the roof providing a nominal 1790W capacity, charging a 28.8kWh LiFePo battery bank.  The highest solar output we saw was over 1.4kW but what was surprising was getting 500-600W even on cloudy days.  This meant that even with no direct sun we didn’t deplete the batteries much as we cruised using around 1.1kW on the larger rivers (more against strong flows) and 500-850W on the canal sections (lots of moored boats and not much depth).

Simpler the greener

We arrived in Bristol having depleted around half the battery and plan to use shore power to replenish our charge before heading East.  The main area we can improve our efficiency – ability to hang more clothes to air dry, running the washer/dryer as a dryer really drains the power.  Other than two days at Hampton Court moorings at the onset of the journey, we travelled every day, sometimes with deadlines to meet friends so we weren’t dawdling.

Youtube link to Solmate –

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