Monday 28 December 2009

Frozen In

Sunday 27th December 2009

Left Teesside under snow at around 9.30am. The traffic was much busier than we had anticipated. We guessed this was as a result of travellers returning home on mass after Christmas visiting friends and family.

We arrived at the marina around 12 noon and were surprised to see that our neighbouring boat, ‘Bovett’s Harvest Too’, was occupied. Before Christmas the owners had mentioned they would not be at the boat over Christmas as they were visiting their son and his family in York. However, it soon became apparent that the boat had actually been sold just before Christmas, and the new owner had arrived to take it to her new mooring at Tewksbury.

This was the new owner’s first boat and although she had received a quick walk-around by the previous owners it was very much a new experience as her previous knowledge was only from time spent aboard hire boats, that are in many ways quite simplistic, and not half as complicated as a purpose built bespoke boat. I assisted in filling the gaps in her knowledge where possible. Her itinerary to get the boat to the Tewksbury mooring would be quite challenging as she would need to make good progress to beat the planned start of stoppages on the Staffs and Worcester. Her first unscheduled delay was that she would not be able to leave the Marina until the temperatures rise as we were all frozen in! Her plan was therefore to return tomorrow in the hope of some warmer weather conditions.

Elaine and I also intended to ‘go out’ but instead opted to buy the Sunday papers and chillax for the rest of the day on the boat.

The weather forecast confirmed that it would only get colder towards the end of the week – not the prediction our new neighbour was hoping for.

Monday 28th December 2009

I ventured out early, from the warmth of the boat, onto the jetty to get a feel for how cold it really was. I can confirm it was BL***Y COLD. In the search for a photograph for next years Christmas card I had a walk around the marina in freezing fog to take a few shots. Although we don’t have images of a snow covered boat the photos hopefully look cold and wintry enough! The white frost on the ropes and fairleads, against a backdrop of a frozen marina was proof-positive of subzero temperatures.
Frosty Pole, Plank and Boat Hook!

The frosty bow - very cold ropes!

White hoar-frost built up around the fairleads.

After breakfast Elaine and I then walked over to the Marina Office and asked Mike (the marina manager) if there was an opportunity for us to move berth to the neighbouring berth that would soon be vacated. This mooring has the advantage of being the other side of the jetty, on the side of the prevailing wind. Although there are no other advantages over the position we already occupy, it is hoped this will make mooring a little easier in strong winds. Mike confirmed he was happy for us to move across after ‘Bovett’s Harvest Too’ had vacated.

As it now looked unlikely we would get an opportunity to ‘go out’ we opted to head back home at around 3.30pm, arriving back home to the same snow covered ground.

We will need to return to the marina soon to move berth.

Sunday 13 December 2009

A Crisp Weekend Cruise

Friday 11th December 2009.
We arrived at the boat well after dark in temperatures hovering just above zero. It took about 90minutes to get the boat up to normal cosy winter temperature employing the services of both the central heating and the solid fuel stove. I guess a steel boat gets cold it takes a little longer to warm up than a house made of bricks and mortar – however the boat floats an lot better than the house ever would.

Saturday 12th December 2009.
It was our intention this weekend (as a minimum) to at least turn the boat on its moorings in order to re-orientate ourselves with the marina. The boat was opposite way round from our normal orientation (a necessity brought on by strong winds last time we moored up) and Elaine & I were struggling to come to terms with this 180 degree disorientation (particularly after a bottle of wine).
However, it was a lovely crisp winter morning with clear blue skies and no wind; an opportunity to go for a short cruise that we couldn’t miss.
I wasn’t sure what winter hours would be worked by the marina staff so before we departed I thought it prudent to get a new bag of smokeless coal from the shop as I had just emptied the last bag into the coal scuttle. Pulling out of the marina at about 11.00am we travelled down to Wolseley Bridge for lunch; (The Wolseley Arms looked busy so had lunch on the boat). Then we cruised a little further toward Rugeley before winding above Bridge 68 and mooring just before the ‘Boaters Christian Fellowship’ near Bridge 69. An excellent rural mooring that we had not stopped at since October when we joined narrowboat ‘Tramper’. Elaine prepared a wonderful meal while I………………..…read the paper; (A very important task)!
Across the canal a family recently bought a field and have been busily spending weekends creating a smallholding, rearing alpacas, pigs, chickens, etc. The young lad from the family crossed the bridge and walked along the towpath past the boats shouting “eggs for sale” swinging a basket. We couldn’t resist giving him some business (despite the fact we had just bought eggs that morning from the farm shop) and bought a dozen eggs from the young man. He acknowledged they had only owned the land since June or July and he said the worst thing about the winter was travelling down to the smallholding in a morning to unfreeze the livestock feeders. The eggs were only small but that didn’t spoil the transaction – we vowed we would ‘taste-test’ them in the morning.

Sunday 13th December 2009
A slow start on another fantastic clear sunny day (although it was very cold). Elaine prepared scrambled egg and bacon. The eggs were delicious. We travelled up through Colwich Lock (finding it difficult to spot any improvements after the recent stoppage – in fact the gate paddle ratchet was jammed open and the bottom gate wouldn’t stay shut). Then we slowly dawdled along the canal past Shugborough Hall exchanging the usual greetings with moored boaters, and up through Haywood Lock.
Just before arriving back at the marina, we approached a line of maybe eight fishermen, so after passing an oncoming boat, I opted to take the middle line between moored boats and the towpath. At tick-over, this would hopefully create least disturbance between the fishing areas they had chosen to fish (i.e. both against the towpath side and against the moored boats on the opposite bank). To no avail – although some fishermen exchanged pleasant greetings one guy who shouldn’t go fishing if he can’t cope with the cold and was clearly too annoyed at his own poor performance shouted, from behind a massive brolly. Suggesting we drive down the middle – a position I was already in (if only he used his eyes). It is therefore now quite clear to me that you can never keep all fishermen happy. It is therefore now no longer my intention to try! If it wasn’t for the canal boat they wouldn’t have a canal to fish in. Why do fishermen feel canal boaters should exercise such caution and observe such etiquette when passing them? When in fact the majority of fishermen fish on white bollards, fish opposite moored boats, fish near locks and bridges and their licence is chicken feed compared to the charges we pay in order to maintain the canal.
Overall a great weekend.

Robert & Suzanne visit the boat.

Monday 23rd November 2009.
We booked a days holiday from work to travel down to Great Haywood with Robert (Elaine’s son) and his fiancĂ©e, Suzanne. This was the first opportunity they had had to see the boat. The weather was dreadful! Lashing down with rain from the minute we passed Leeds on the A1 and strong winds only worsened the experience as we got closer to Great Haywood. Never the less they seemed impressed with the boat and its facilities.
Robert already had first hand experience of the local canals around Great Haywood as he had spent many a holiday with us on Anglo Welsh boats in the past; (before it became un-cool for teenagers to go on holiday with their parents)! So, instead of going on a ‘cruise’ we went for a ‘booze’ (well something like that) to one of our favourite local pubs: The Holly Bush at Salt. (Great meals and an excellent atmosphere). We then called at Trentham and visited the garden centre and retail outlets on our way back home.