The River Nene is open and its time for Stelvio's 'sea' trials.
Although Stelvio has been on the water safely tied up at Oundle Marina for the past few months she hasn’t been out on the River Nene. It’s been a very wet winter and the river has been constantly in flood. If you’re thinking about getting into manufacturing narrowboats, you can probably relate to issues like the war in Ukraine, Brexit, Covid, coupled with general supply chain issues and then add flooding and you will get an idea that its not an easy life choice, however it can be very rewarding.
Stelvio, for Mothership Marine, is a landmark boat and has shown us as boat builders what’s possible in terms of quality of build. Its a boat thats pushed us from a craftsmanship point of view but also from a technological point of view which make living on board and using the boat more enjoyable.
Some of the features include electric bike lift, incinerating toilets, 2.2kW Solar array, 20kW DC generator, integrated tunnel light with camera and 5G wifi antenna, reclaimed oak interior, integrated control panel and monitoring station and VPN wifi access to allow technicians to update software remotely.
We set off up river at midday against the current which was flowing between one and two knots, we made steady progress upstream against the flow. We went through the first lock at Upper Barnwell without a hitch and proceeded into a very lovely part of the River Nene. With the motor nearly silent and the roads far in the distance you get the feeling that you are really on an adventure in the middle of a land long forgot.
The video above starts as we move into Lilford Lock. This is testing my drone skills to the max. I really wanted to fly my drone underneath the road bridge but with all of its sensors activated it wouldnt have any of it. With great trepidation and fear of running into any overhanging branches I pressed the ‘up’ button and miraculously the drone appeared over the lock. I know I’m going to lose this drone at some point and have commited to this loss so I’m a bit blasé with how I fly it.
After Lilford Lock we continued through the wilderness of Northamptonshire, we could hear birds and lots of lambs bleating which is a good marker that spring is here. The next noise I heard was a beeping from the drone controller signifying that the drone was low on battery and was returning to home, or its place of take-off. This was on the other side of the Lock on a piece of water where we’d been sailing through. My naturally calm disposition was tested to the full but I found a way of landing it in a field with lots of curious sheep and lambs. Next step, retrieving it.
I asked David, the new Narrowboat owner, to take me to what looked like, from a distance, a good place to land me on a solid bit of riverbank, what we didnt expect was a rapid shallowing of the water at this point. And we ran aground. My drone in the field being eaten by lambs, riverbank 20 feet away, no problem.
The power in Stelvio’s motor is extraordinary and she’s been fitted with a 20″ x 14″ propellor which means 20 inch diameter and 14 inch pitch. This propellor grips the water and although we were well and truly lodged, we soon heaved ourself off the sandbank. Some electric motors need to rotate quickly to cool, they don’t have the ‘torque capability’ of the Mothership Motor and it means using a smaller propellor which is inherently less efficient. It’s the dynamic between thrust, speed, power used and efficiency.
Soon enough we’d found a suitable landing spot and I retrieved the drone from the curious lambs.
Back to Work
I left David and Sandy at The Kings Head in Wadenhoe which is a beautiful pub with a mooring on the river. David and Sandy went on to camp at a Friends of the River Nene campsite and I went back to my supply chain issues albeit with a big smile on my face.