Monday 16 January 2012

Ice Breaking

This gives some idea how noisy it is when you use a narrowboat to break ice.

Sunday 15 January 2012

January weekend - Day 2

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)

Saturday 14 January 2012

January weekend - Day 1

Never let it be said that we don't make enough use of Briar Rose.  The forecast for this weekend was good (cold but sunny), and Adrian's been working very hard the past few weeks, so we thought we'd have a short trip.

We came up to the boat last night.  I was on an early shift, so got home at 8.15pm; we set off ten minutes later and arrived at Brinklow at 10.45pm.  The car said the temperature was -3C, and inside the boat it didn't feel much warmer.  We got the fire alight, moved the oil filled radiator (which is fine for use on shore power) to the cabin, and put the kettle on for tea and hot water bottles.

This morning we woke to a very hard frost, crisp clear blue skies, and not a breath of wind.

After breakfast, we walked round to the other side of the marina to see Doug and James on Chance, where we had tea and coffee, and a full briefing on their January cruise.

Back at Briar Rose we got the boat ready to go, and reversed off the pontoon at 10.45.  Out on the cut, there were patches of thin ice, but nothing to get concerned about.  At Rugby we passed Oakfield and Piston Broke, then a bit further along at the golf course moorings we saw Derwent6, with its highly polished portholes gleaming in the sunshine.  There were no signs of life on any of them.

At Hillmorton, all the locks were in our favour.  At the middle lock, the open one has changed to the offside of the pair, from where you get a much better view of the church.

BW are clearly going to do some work on the other lock, with a workboat and pumping gear moored in front.  This gate leaks like a sieve, but there was no sign of a new one; the flat contained a new balance beam for one of the top locks, No7.

The sky was a perfect blue as we headed for the top of the flight.

The top of the locks was our target for this unambitious day's cruise.  In any case, we were cold and it was lunchtime.  We moored up just though Bridge 72, opposite the masts of the old Rugby Radio Station, which are soon likely to be demolished and replaced by 6000 houses.

We've never stopped here before (it's too close to base for most trips out), but it's a nice spot.  We have the trains as neighbours, but we've already stopped noticing them.  In fact, at this point the Virgin trains are behind the embankment; it's only the London Midland services which are visible.  As befits somewhere with a huge mobile phone mast a couple of hundred metres away, we've got a great mobile and internet signal.  We briefly talked about going for a little walk to have a look at Hillmorton itself, but in fact we've just enjoyed being on board and relaxing.

6.5 miles, 3 locks.

Monday 9 January 2012

Back home

A train went by at quarter past eleven last night, and another at 6.30 this morning.  If there were any in between, I didn't hear them.
I was up at a reasonable time, and soon closed the vent on the stove to put the fire out.  I set off just after 8am, and it was all of ten minutes to the marina entrance.  The sun was trying to break through the clouds, but the canal still looked a bit bleak with no leaves on any of the trees or bushes.

Brinklow Marina always seems to be breezy, but at least today it was pushing me onto the pontoon rather than away from it.  I was all moored up by 8.30, then pack and prepared the boat to be left for a while.

Then it was it the car and on to a nearby marina for a boat test.  The weather could have been brighter, but considering how murkey it was on the drive home, it could have been a lot worse.

0.5 miles, 0 locks (12 miles, 0 locks)

Sunday 8 January 2012

January Day Out

I've got a boat test in the diary for tomorrow, so I came up to Briar Rose after work last night.  (Adrian had work to do today and was also on call, so it wasn't as if we could have done much if I'd been at home).  I left Television Centre at just after 10pm, and arrived at Brinklow at a quarter to midnight.  The M1 was the quietest I've known it; I guess everyone was scared off by the dire warnings of long delays because of the closure of the motorway immediately after the M6 junction.  Once I'd unpacked the car, the first job was to put the chimney on and get the fire going.  Then I turned on the gas and put the kettle on, for hot water bottles for the bed, and a tea while I waited for things to warm up a bit.

This morning the weather was much better than forecast.  Far from being dull and grey, there was a blue sky over the marina.

I topped up the water tank while I had breakfast, and decided that it would be daft to have a boat and not use it on a reasonable day.  So I got the ropes out, put the tiller on, disconnected the shore power, and reversed off the pontoon at 10.15.  There's no choice of which way to go to the moment as Bridge 34 is closed for repairs, so I turned right out of the marina.  In truth, it was rather cloudy up ahead, but before long the brighter weather from behind me won through, so that by the time I was approaching the aqueducts at Rugby there was some pleasant winter sunshine.

On the approach to Hillmorton, I noticed some unexpected bubbles on the water down the side of the boat.  A look towards the bow showed that I was pushing some branches along in front of me.  I wanted them out of the way before I did my turn, so brought the boat to a halt in mid channel, rushed through to the bow, and used the boat hook to remove three large branches, probably ten feel long, from in front of the boat.  At that stage I noticed there was a boat coming along behind (who probably wondered what on earth was going on), so I quickly went back to the helm and carried on.  At Hillmorton, I turned in the winding hole with no drama -- just as well as I had an audience of the following boat and a number of fishermen who were using the lock landing.  As the following boat came past, I realised it was Reckless, "The boat that Guy built" (or ruined, depending on your point of view).  Unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to ask if they've removed all of Guy Martin's contributions, but I can't imagine the steam powered shower is still on board.

It was 12.15 when I turned, so I decided to stop for lunch after Bridge 68, on a long straight piece of piling which is normally full of regulars, but today was empty.  Mooring up when single handed always seems like a bit of a trial, and I could quite happily have stayed in that spot for the night.  But I didn't want to leave myself too much to do tomorrow morning, so set off again at 1.30.  It had clouded up a bit, but still wasn't very cold: I was glad of a hat, but didn't need my gloves.  The return trip was uneventful, and I passed just one moving boat.  I was surprised to see a Rose hire boat moored at Newbold -- it's the wrong side of the stoppage.  I'd spent the outward journey keeping an eye out for a likely mooring place, close to the marina, and preferably with a chance of a satellite signal.  The only one that fitted the bill was by Bridge 42A, which takes the railway over the canal.  There's one boat length of piling there (the modern type, which takes piling hooks -- a bit further along it's the older type where the hooks won't fit), so I pulled in and moored up.  The railway line is very close, but there haven't been too many trains so far (I waited ages to get a photo with one in), and I'd still rather be here than back in the marina.

Once moored, I had a great success with the satellite dish.  I stuck it on the roof in what I thought was approximately the right direction, and it worked straight away.  Then I checked the batteries, unscrewing the tops of all 24 cells to make sure they didn't need topping up.  Now all I need is for tomorrow's weather to be a repeat of today.

11.5 miles, 0 locks.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Anaconda on Test, and VHF advice

The February edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my boat test on the Fernwood-built Anaconda.

There's also an article about getting for VHF operator's certificate, and the other paperwork you need for the tidal Thames.