Thursday, April 12, 2007

Promethean Moment

Our little vessel is about to acquire a fixed VHF DSC radio, navigation lights and cabin lights, in addition to her ancient NASA echo sounder. We'ld also like to add a socket or two for things like phone chargers. To run this modest little setup, we'll need a little power. Marina-dwellers can simply plug in, but on our swing mooring, shore power is not an option - so we are going solar, with the help of a neat little kit from SailGB. The gadgetry having arrived, Ms C took charge and soon assembled a test circuit in our back garden, wiring the panel (120 watt-hours per day) to a charge controller (pictured), a 70 amp-hour deep-cycle marine-grade battery, and a small cabin light (pictured) for a test load.

Bottled sunlight in action

When I returned in the evening, a flick of a switch gave us a beautiful steady glow - bottled sunlight. Watching the light of this little ten-watt bulb (a cheap-but-wasteful incandescent) , the implications seemed quite numinous - our little boat, who'll travel nearly every mile under sail, will now achieve complete electrical independence. Once that panel has been screwed to her coachroof, she'll be cleanly and silently self-powering, more or less indefinitely. Wonder how long it'll be before I can say the same of our house - or our cars?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Sunset Reflection

I followed the track through the darkening forest, moving uphill at a jog. The winter has taken its toll - here and there, trees lean at crazy angles, a few stubborn roots still scrabbling for purchase, while others, exhausted, are slowly dissolving into the earth that fed them. The zig-zagging of the trail is punctuated by dark stone slabs; in them, a man is painfully climbing a very distant hill, trudging upward to his death. The cool air carries faint accents of woodsmoke - some miles to the north, the hills are burning, as they burnt last winter, as they burn every spring. They will burn next year too, I think; we have been burning this land for some time now - 5,000 years perhaps?

Overworked lungs and leaden legs give notice that this foolishness should not continue; but the gradient eases, and I clear the last of the trees, reaching the summit at a run as the sun sinks to within a single diameter of the horizon. The sky is a perfect and uninterrupted blue dome, shading to copped and gold in the west. The hilltop is not empty; the mound to the south is the tomb of the one-eyed wizard-priest Mogh Ruith; they say that 17 centuries ago, it was his magic that beat the High King and sent him back to Tara. He was well rewarded: his fee was the lands below this hill, down to the Blackwater. One hundred years or so ago, he gained a companion for his long vigil; beside him now, there hangs the man from the slabs, nailed at the hands and feet to a great stone cross.

How many sunsets will pass these sightless eyes? And who will join them, on Corrin Hill?