A hangover is definitely worse on a rocking boat. Plans to leave Aston marina bright and early yesterday morning didn’t quite materialise after catching up with Sue and Kev the night before. Caraillon officially serves the strongest gin and tonic on the waterways, highly recommended with caution.
So yesterday disappeared into a black hole for me, whilst Nick ploughed on with the washing. This morning the world seemed normal again so we did a last couple of washes, filled the water tank to the brim and reluctantly pulled the plugs on the electric and water post. The wooden pontoons in the marina make for a clean life, not one lump of mud finds it’s way into the boat. Hoovered, dusted, washed, scrubbed the Murkster, topped up, shampooed boat, washed down cratch area, full tank of diesel, empty waste tank (weighs the same as a race horse when full – nice); the boat was so ready and sorted it was untrue. Howling winds made for a speedy departure onto the canal, where we were pushed in the direction we wanted to go. Most of the flood water has gone down but the tow paths are as soggy as can be.
Lots of ropes needed around the locks due to the wind so the centre line was flung about quite a bit. Never really taken much notice of how they’re attached to the top of the boat. Mooring, Nick wound the ropes tidy, only to notice a nut shaped hole in the top of the welding, hoping that maybe this could have something to do with the damp on the ceiling conundrum.
Down through the lock and into the marina early to get our full water, shower, electricity, pump out, diesel and bin quota. Hooked up and whacked the washing machine on, it hasn’t stopped since. Persil is wafting from the windows as radiators are draped with bedding, clothes, towels – pretty much anything that is remotely washable. The de-humidifier is putting in a sterling performance. Easy to spot our boat when walking over the bridge from the showers as it’s lit up like a Christmas tree.
Off out now for a boaty snifter with the stalkers. On the move again tomorrow.
Calm water and a beautiful start to the day. Pushed off, up past Aston marina and on to Stone. Reversed to water point as washing machine has been working over time. Pulled forward and moored as close as we could get to Morrisons. Back packs, bags for life, you name it, we had it as we headed in. No browsing, this was full on shop mission, knocking dithering oldies out of the way as we swept the isles.
Murk’s eye is still a bit gunky and we’ve read up that he probably has conjunctivitis. An eye is an eye right? So having tried the honest way in Great Hayward and begin told off, ‘pharmacies are not licensed to dispense for animals’ …yawn yawn; I rubbed my left eye hard, squinted a little and headed into Boots. Funnily enough Nick was nowhere to be seen. Out five minutes later with some drops. Getting them was the easy bit, putting them in four times a day is the challenge.
Final return to boat about 4pm and we set lose again, down towards the marina, where we’re poised ready to venture in first thing tomorrow. There’ll be so much electricity pumping through this boat, it’ll be dazzling.
The ice was water this morning and despite having waited for over a week, having hardly a drop of water left in the tank, we watched four hours of tennis before untying the ropes. Finally pulled the pins and hit the throttle hard to combat the waves being whipped up by the gusts of wind.
A huge sense of anticipation filled the air as we crept under the bridge and turned the corner into the land of plenty. Amazing how quickly conditioning sets in, wasting the first drop of cold water before the hot comes through or filling the washing up bowl to the top actually feels naughty.
Locks are overflowing, rivers are close to bursting their banks – the canal has all sorts of oddities floating around bought down by the floodwaters, we managed to pick up a prop jamming rag. Moored less than a mile from Aston Marina, plan to head up to Stone in the morning, hope Morrisons is ready for us.
Although we eeeked the water out enough for rationed showers everyday, tonight we enjoyed showers from heaven… hairwashing, exfoliation, endless shower gel and no overwhelming compulsion to scald yourself with boiling water while the temperature sorted itself out, the amount of condensation produced practically created a Turkish bath… a narrowboaters spa experience.
Moved back into the bedroom ready for tonight, a lovely light spacious feeling…yes, really. A relief in some ways, was beginning to feel like Apollo 13, gradually shutting down compartments for power, or in our case heat conservation. All back up and running, ready for re-entry now.
Final walk to waterpoint this morning, and on to farm shop where I tried to remember a recipe as we shopped – back to boat, read recipe, then headed out for another two-mile onion, parsnip and water while you’re there trip.
Had a look at the 70 year old Lister engine in the boat in front of ours, apparently it has one cylinder more than the coal boat we followed from Penkridge, that must really smack ice. Talked to a fisherman and smelt a Smelt, which smells exactly like cucumber. Will never forget Wonderland, but it’s time to go, not sure we’d be sane if we stayed another week.
Oh my last night was cold. Even shacked up in the pullman’s cabin the chill was tunneling through the walls. Both awake about 3am, curtains open looking at the huge moon over the wide. No sign of the promised thaw this morning, bitter wind and thick thick ice. Managed to stand on the canal, but not brave enough to stay put for a photo:) Plenty of water walking this afternoon, passed other people doing the same, everyone’s tank must be pretty low by now – even the non-washers.
We’re having the cheapest week of our lives. Literally nothing to spend money on other than food. No address for deliveries, barely any shops and not even a sneaky direct debit draining us from below. Have bought everything from the silver dish of loose change. I’m happy. Nick’s looking at cob barbeques online.
Wet, fat, slushy snow falling at the moment, perhaps the canal is coming back to life.
promised icy movement entertainment today. The dog was shut out on the bow while mopping/hoovering movements appeared to be happening inside. ‘They’ll have fun trying’ was pretty much how we laid their return to marina mission to rest.
With a slight thaw yesterday followed by a cold night, the ground was icier than ever, and for some reason all the fragile people who’ve probably avoided walking in the snow seemed to have come out to take a slip. Murk was in his element, playing old lady skittles.
Were walking round the still, quiet Shugborough estate when a hissing noise suddenly started coming from Nick, he began jumping from foot to foot, frantically stamping on the ground as though the ice was erupting from beneath him, all the time shouting ‘What the…’ . Before long the hissing had turned to full inflation and his trousers began to bulge…followed by an orange balloon forcing its way from his pocket. Despite a lack of trigger, the key saving water buoy felt it was time to do its thing. Pound shop presents again eh Sar?
under the bridge, we walked on, wondering if our neighbours had actually succeeded in their marina mission. Then something we weren’t quite banking on…bigger, sharper slices of ice and, next to a particularly ferocious looking point, the sad, soggy sight of a half sunk cruiser that had been sat like a duck when we’d past it earlier. Not a nice surprise when they got home. Wondering if we’d ever find the guilty culprit we walked on. Every boat in its usual place, other than our share boat neighbours. And the ice behind us lay undisturbed. Stayed put this afternoon for fear of being the guilty looking boat caught passing the sunken cruiser.
Either our brains have been slowed to comatose by the cold temperatures or time sped up today because it flew by. Last cold forecast tonight.
Swans are favourite on this boat. Here are the geeky facts: male is called a cob, female a pen; they mate for life; can fly up to 60 miles an hour; have over 25000 feathers on their body; they’re clever and will remember if you’ve been kind (or not); live to around 12 years in the wild, 30 in a protected environment; are the largest flying bird; have wingspan of up to 10ft; weigh up to 16kg.
Groundhog day other than an additional wardrobe dismantle to look in the hole we cut a couple of weeks ago and check for water in the hull. All ok, phew. Also walked round to Great Haywood marina, figured how tricky it would be to slip past the receptionist and into the showers.
The share boat moored next to us is due back in the marina tomorrow, looking forward to that bit of entertainment. The couple onboard have already apologised for the ice that they’ll send creaking against us, that’s ok, am sure we did our fair amount of ice creaking during the great escape from Penkridge.
Paid the price for too much TV and computer last night, at 7am the heating died after only an hour. That’s one ‘dead battery failed start up’ logged (or error 13 as it’s known in the trade – geek) for the next Eberspacher service man to tut about. Best outcome really though as firing up the engine had the radiators boiling in no time. Opened side hatch and drank coffee in bed looking out across the snow and sky, slightly on edge that a walker could appear at any moment.
So sadly a routine has emerged and with the disorientating expanse of whiteness a comfy, enjoyable, happy, madness is setting in. We’re on a loop. Out with Murk, tea, coffee, up, shower, out, walk, shop, water, in, lunch, out, walk more, maybe water, in, tea, chocolate cake… meat crazed man isn’t helping matters by insisting on a deja vu lunch of pork pie, crisps and chesse each day. He’ll get bored.
Ground breaking news was that we found the meat counter and one whole lovely chicken was purchased, the date alterations are probably best ignored. Ridiculously cold again and forecast is for chillier still. ‘What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.’
The movement plan failed. Woke up to ice again this morning, didn’t even bother to untie the ropes. Walking it was, everywhere looked beautiful with fresh snow, a canal take on Narnia. Despite the fact we’re pretty much still eating the exact same food we normally eat, the big freeze seems to have sent Nick meat crazy. The not altogether trust worthy guide book mentioned a Great Haywood shop with a ‘meat counter’, we walked up and down and round and round…in and out the Nisa (nothing fresh in there), still no elusive meat. At one point Nick was convinced it might just be in the Post Office (?), we stood, our faces squashed up at the closed post office window scanning the cards and wrapping paper racks on the off chance there was a lonely meat counter tucked away in the corner – no. Meatless, and we wandered on over snowy land, down through Little Haywood and back along the tow path, discussing how we might open negotiations on the £15 chicken that must surely still be sat in that farm shop. The canal had thawed further down, a distant hum grew louder until a soiltary boat chugged past. We completed the last mile and a half with a 20L water handicap, such a lovely feeling hearing it glug down into the tank…easily pleased. The days are getting longer, headed back out for a final wintery walk as the light began to fade, Murk thinks we’ve gone insane and would rather stay flaked out infront of the fire than walk one more step or chase anymore poxy sticks – atlast, we’ve got him where we want him. Weatherman has gone out for final report, a complex procedure involving rope touching, ease of zip measurement and ice poking.