It was another cold night, and we knew there was ice on the water as soon as we started moving about the boat, because we could hear it crunching against the hull. We had a late start to the day -- it was gone 8.30 before we got up. With the frost and the sun it was a beautiful day.
After breakfast, we got ready to go. The ice wasn't very thick -- maybe a quarter of an inch -- but it still makes a termendous noise as the boat crashes through it (and when you're inside the boat it sounds even worse). You can also see the ice cracking way ahead.
We were aiming for the winding hole about a mile beyond our mooring to turn around, but we knew it would be difficult to turn in, thanks to the ice. Adrian decided to go past a bit, then reverse up, so we at least had a bit of clear water to swing the stern into. But just past the winding hole, the engine stopped; we'd got something round the prop.
With so little traffic about and the ice holding is fairly steady, we thought we'd try to clear it where we were in the middle of the cut. But it soon became clear that whatever was down there was big, and wasn't coming off in a hurry. I jumped off at the bow, took a rope, and pulled us into the side. Even this wasn't easy, as some large sheets of ice needed to be moved out of the way. Adrian went down the weedhatch with the hack saw, while I was on the bank with the boat hook, fishing about under the stern. I'd got whatever it was with the hook, and Adrian was able to cut it free from the propshaft. What we'd picked up was the biggest collection of assorted rubbish we'd ever had the misfortune find: there was rope, netting, an aluminium stand of some sort, and two varieties of metal mesh.
The whole operation took quite some time, and we still needed to turn, which meant backing up some way and having a run at the ice. Once that was done, I steered while Adrian went and washed and warmed up from having his arms in icy water for some considerable time.
At Hillmorton Locks, all three were against us, having leaked empty overnight. But it was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky.
After the bottom lock the ice was thicker, at maybe half an inch. But we didn't have to go far before meeting a boat coming the other way. Of course, this happened in a bridge hole. But at least we now had a cleared channel to go through, which made life easier. Not long behind, we passed our second moving boat of the day (and the weekend, in fact).
At Rugby there was virtually no ice, and from there on in, there was no rhyme or reason as to whether the ice was thick, thin, or non existant. In some places the trees and cuttings seemed to have protected the water from the cold, in other places they seemed to have emphasised it. In some places the sun, which was quite warm, had had an effect.
We had lunch on the move, and turned into Brinklow marina (where the breeze through the bridge hole had prevented any ice forming). We were back on our pontoon shortly after 2pm, and were quickly packed up and ready to go. We commented that even though we'd be out for only a day and a half, it felt much longer, like a proper break. Perhaps it's because we know we can have weekends like this whenever we like, that a couple of days on board no longer feels like frustratingly short.
8.5 miles, 3 locks. (15 miles, 6 locks)