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Fitting flexible solar panels to a narrowboat

Fitting flexible solar panels to a narrowboat

This is a short guide to installing flexible solar panels to a narrowboat.

Background

I’ve lived on my boat for 2 years. When I first started, I was located in a Marina. Everything was laid on, showers, water, electrical hook-up.

It reminded me of a high-rise flat for boats. After my boat was painted, I took it up on a journey to the most Northern and Southern reaches of the UK canal system.

It was called Bonnie Journey, in the name of the boat. You can read about it here.

It included some cycling, which I had to postpone due to injury. Whilst I was waiting for my injuries to recover, I stationed myself on the Kennet and Avon.

Kennet and Avon

Burbage wharf
Near Burbage

As visitors to this waterway will know. Kennet and Avon Marinas are few and far between.

I decided to try continuous cruising. When you’re continuous cruising, all your energy has to be self generated.

You’re entirely ‘off grid’. In winter, generating power was a case of starting the engine.

As the sun began to shine, in the run up to spring, I began to think of the advantages of solar.

After my boat was fully painted, I decided that the next job to be done, was to fit some solar panels, and take advantage of the free energy!

I’m now in a position to do that.

Researching

Most people are going to find that this is the most lengthy part of the process.

Before you shell out large sums of money, you want to ensure you’re getting something which is fully compatible with your needs.

The first question you need to ask yourself before fitting solar is –

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Painting a narrowboat water-tank

Painting a narrowboat water-tank

** Update 27th July, 2018.**

After coating with Vactan
After coating with Vactan

During last summer, the heat of the sun on the hull and the cool of the interior of the water-tank caused a lot of the coating, previously discussed in this post, to flake off.

This left flakes of toxic residue in my water and made it unsuitable as a potable water source.

As an alternative to climbing into the water-tank and getting myself covered in toxic bitumen water-tank paint in the blazing hot summer sun, I decided to try another suggested solution for the coating of watertanks on narrowboats, that would be VACTAN.

Vactan

A water based product. Instead of bitumen, it applies a latex anti-corrosive coat to the watertank.

The advantages of VACTAN vs Rylards Water-tank coating

VACTANRYLARDS
PreparationRemove lose materials and residuesRemove lose materials and residues
Number of coats12
Time between coats1hr8hr
Drying time1hr7days
TypeWater basedBitumen based
DatasheetDatasheet

Below, there are 5 steps to coating your water-tank.

To amend that.

  1. Strip the loose and decayed metal (#1)
  2. Apply VACTAN (#4)
  3. Flush the residue (#5)

If you decide to use one of the other coatings, then you need to take the steps below.

I’ve made a short video about my experience in applying VACTAN and some of the practical observations about using the product.

Painting a narrowboat water-tank, old version

This little story is about how to paint a narrowboat water-tank:

There’s 5 steps

  1. Strip the loose and decayed metal
  2. Work surfaces down to bare metal or non-corroded paint
  3. Apply Iron Oxide paint to areas still rusting
  4. Apply bitumen blacking paint
  5. Remove paint residue

Time:

Stripping and prepping (rusty tank) – 2days
Painting (1 primer and 1 top) – 2 days

Total – 4-5 Days

*This is doing it fast. If you want to paint the tank in two halves it’s going to add a day.

Cost:

Paint – £15-£20
Brushes – £15 -£20

Total – £40

Step #1:Strip loose and decayed metal

Tools:

Shave-hook – Triangular headed scraper

Triangular headed scraper
Triangular headed scraper

Water pump

rule il280p pump
rule il280p pump

 

Narrowboat watertank rust
Removed a few shovel-fulls of rust.

Located right at the front of the boat, the water-tank has been rusting for a while. The paint has come off over time leading to corrosion and a build up of sediment at the bottom of the tank.

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Dodford -> Whilton

Dodford -> Whilton

Skipping Muscott, made my way to Whilton, a short distance away from the marina.

As always, I’ve tried to moor in the sun.

I like to wake up in the morning and see as much sunshine as possible.
Same goes throughout the day.
As well as that, it keeps the solar charging 🙂

Bonnie Lady
Bonnie Lady

This is one of first pictures with my new phone.

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On the Thames again

On the Thames again

This time, heading into London to pick up my post….

It started raining at around Marlow.

All my gear is wet, so I’m drying it out on the fire, as well as cooking my dinner….

Taking a narrowboat on the Thames

I wrote a guide about this last year.

It’s true, moorings are easier to find further down.

Currently I’m in Windsor. I can see the castle from my window as I eat my dinner and drink my Guinness.

Here’s some pictures from the journey along.

Aldermaston Wharf - West Berkshire
Aldermaston Wharf – West Berkshire

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Bonny Journey – Day 2 – Calf Heath to Gnosall

Bonny Journey – Day 2 – Calf Heath to Gnosall

Onto day two.

Less clouds in the sky…

Woke up early, about 5, before the sun had come up.

Went back to sleep again.

BESTEK 2000W Power Inverter

The inverter was still working after a night. Got to watch TV in the morning, always good.

Tried to microwave my porridge using the inverter. Didn’t quite work… The video shows the explosion and the flames all over the cabin, (only joking mum).

Morning chores

Living on a boat, you’ve always got a series of these. Even more so than living on dry land because space is so restricted.

I’d say on an average morning, my morning chores list on the boat looks like this:-

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