Not one turn of the prop happened today, instead we stayed put and winterised the boat – not in a drain and leave it kind of way but in a re-jiggling to make as much space for coal and dog food as possible kind of a way. The triple glazing went up too – lovely stuff!
With just a couple of boats passing by there wasn’t much action, although the whole area is teaming with swans and geese and sheep. With the chimney swept, anchor away, coal storage sorted, cupboards cleaned and windows plasticed we’re ready for the worst the winter can throw our way.
Same spot, another day, another lucky rainbow.
A great day for the side of the boat, an experiment that began in Chester was firmed up with solid metal rather than flimsy aluminium flexi ducting. Look away now SFR…or prepare to be bored. The double skinned chimney turned out to be doing the complete opposite of what it’s designed to do, unable to sit flush on the base plate the smokey gunk was whacking the top of the double skinned cavity, then dribbling out along the roof, down the side of the boat in one long scungy line. It’s all come about a little late, brillo scrubbing has taken its toll on the paint work. So a galvanised steel ducting reducer is jammed up the chimney tonight redirecting the gloop back down the flu. Happy days.
The water is rising and the wind is howling. It must be bad, even city strangers are talking as they hurry on by. No boats on the move today, ideally we might have got water but that would have meant full steam ahead through quite a number of moored boats, kind of toe curling, it can wait for a less windy tomorrow. It’s nasty out there, the boat is rocking and the rain is slicing across the windows but the fire is roaring and Sochi is providing endless entertainment.
This evening seems a long way from this morning. Spending the night on Dutton Breach chop changing from figuring it’s got to be one of the sturdiest sections of canal on the network towards niggles that it’s not even stood the test of one whole year.
Between lunch and the tunnel we flashed our 10% off voucher in Midland Chandlers. Put to good use as today’s lunchtime surprise was chimney gunk oozing down the flu. A look in the chimney revealed the inner skin had burnt through. Although not exactly delighted to buy another, it was a relief to find an instant solution to stuff coming from the ceiling rather than months of investigation and random wishful squirting of expandable foam. The chimney is looking lovely, all shiny and new, as good as it ever will because it won’t be getting polished.
Leaving Lymm this morning was unmistakably winter, chimneys smoking and car exhausts choking the highstreet. No light outside tonight, even the moon has disappeared. Ten miles is a long way in narrowboat world.
We’d nodded confidently when asked if there was enough in the tank to make it through the Harecastle Tunnel but our private glances were of an altogether different vibe. A relief to stop for a diesel at Longport Wharf, probably wouldn’t be a good idea to run the bottom of the tank through the engine. All very friendly and a great price on the diesel.
West Port Lake down to Stone is our most travelled stretch of canal, what we first thought of as totally urban really isn’t at all, yet it’s definitely not rural. Luck was with us on the locks, flew down through Etruria and out into Stoke. With no fire lit lunchtime was a chilly one. In between walking the legs off Murk, Nick busied himself with roof based activities, until a sudden down pour when he briefly announced it was ‘No time for pantomime, no point in us both getting wet…’ and was gone. Long gone are the days of drawn out discussions, encouraging each other inside out of the rain. Take cover, get it while you can, look after number one on this boat.
Through Trentham Lock and along to Barlaston where moorings are busy even though the rest of the canal seems to be asleep. Determined that a freezing boat should have some upside, the cold stove got a clean out, complete with the top tip from our glass eyed friend in Braunston – the chimney chain rattle that cracks away stubborn cokey bits. Burning brightly now.
Bug eyed this morning, there was no tea/coffee/toast wrapped in our duvets. Straight up and out, figured no point in bed making, fire stoking, washing up if the boat was about to sink. With the hard drive zipped into my jacket, there was just time to take a picture of the flood indicator, which thanks to the over night downpour was now well into the red (amber and green below the murky water). Apparently a very scientific ‘stick flow test’ had taken place when Murk first went out this morning, meaning British Waterways are far too cautious with their flood warnings…oh joy. Did seem a bit crackers that we moored up in amber and effectively waited for red before venturing onto the River Cherwell. Untied the boat and watched as Nick drifted, slowly gaining speed without the need for throttle. Snow flakes the size of oak leaves were falling throughout the white water expedition, resulting in poor visibility, adding to the freakiness. A mile or so on, the river veered off to the left, whilst the lock gate sat open awaiting the speedy arrival of the boat.
Snow flurried down as we entered Thrupp, lines of still boats with smoke wafting from their chimneys, Sunday bells rang through muffled air. A big day on the name front…Faith and Daisy, almost side by side:)
Arrived in Thrupp, watched horses crossing the electric lift bridge before performing the usual simple key operation for us to pass underneath. Up a foot, down a foot, up a foot etc etc. Apparently it breaks ‘the whole time’. Last attempt and miraculously the thing rose high and we were away. Moored opposite some pretty cottages, where at 10.15 am I was ‘cold and not going anywhere else today’.
Back from a bin trip to Thrupp facilities where you can even pick up an oil lamp for a charity donation, we untied and set off. Quite a few hireboats making their way back to Cropredy. The Oxford canal lift bridges that started as quaint oddities are fast becoming pains. Nick tactfully asked an old guy how he managed them, ‘What if you’re wrinkly and past it like me?’ Err, well yes. Apparently the trick is pole it up inch by inch until it’s held aloft by a wooden stick that could snap while you dawdle your way underneath. Nice.
Stopped for water, before making out way under the chimney grabbing bridge 228 – some mastic poking, re-taping in the next lock by a not very impressed repair man. Hauled MORE logs onboard, this place is heaving with them.
On past Duke’s Cut (one way down onto the Thames) where red signs indicated flooding. Past the last turning point for craft over 52ft, past the last waterpoint before Isis lock. We must be getting close to London as there’s a lot of scrub land re-named ‘conservation’, floating planks attached to ropes known as ‘mammal habitats’ and long term moorers labelled ‘Agenda 21’.
Pulled into Calcutt marina and found a pontoon with some electricity on the meter. Paid for an overnight mooring, then waited for Mummy and Sar to arrive. An hour later we were back out on the canal with a car securely parked, a tank full of water and a free electricity boost throughout the boat. Turned left, to find a boat making its way down the locks that were finally finished ahead of the delayed schedule – wahey! With all options suddenly open to us we stuck to plan A and made our way back to our previous towpath mooring and stopped for lunch on the roof – in SUNSHINE. Untied and moved on a couple of locks. Expecting moaning from my little sis, paddles were wound, gates got pushed, ropes were thrown…only the sound of tweeting birds and running water filled the air – not one whinge. More of a shocker, there was even the suggestion of SFR hiring a boat and joining up with us for a holiday. Seizing the moment of enthusiasm, thought she might like to feature as guest blogger…’Hu, what like…new day…same old shit.’ Hmm maybe not then, although I’m sure given the opportunity, she’d have painted a dreamy world with her words. She sat and drained the box of wine instead.
Back to our treasured mooring we tied up for the night. Suggested a walk to watch the sun go down. Mum’s boots were on before I’d finished the sentence. ‘Another bloody walk?’ groaned Sar laid out in the lazy boy. Pushed her out the cratch and we headed off. Arrived back to candles, fairy lights and gin.
Frozen canal this morning, we returned to the marina, offloaded and uploaded the car, filled with water, pumped out and bought a new chimney. We were soon chugging back out and up the previously stoppage locked locks. Still full of enthusiasm, Sar wound paddles…good and putting them up but not too keen on dropping them again, or checking the top gates are shut; quite relaxed about the whole thing though and was found stretched out on a lock gate ‘this metal is really warm on your legs’, while the pound rapidly emptied above her. Finally moved onto the Oxford canal, and looked for somewhere to stop for lunch. Walked back to the car with Mum and Sar (who was clutching copies of the Tilergraph and Towpath that she’d become very attached to). Some lucky hireboat company might have the fortune Swiss Family’s custom in July. Stoppages are done so far as we’re concerned and after a winter of stoppy starty, anywhere is possible. We can jadazzle the South with our very final, last time, no more, carpet.
Always something to do on a boat and if you’re out there doing it, every single person passing by says so. Stop reading, look away now Sue and Kev. It was washed, dried and waxed. The water hole got an inspection. Unwound the hospital silencer to find out exactly what its supposed to be silencing. Investigated some rattling copper pipes that were driving us low- level crazy each morning. Whipped out a tin of paint to cover the stubborn chimney tar that doesn’t happen since we stuck the chimney on with mastic. Removed some apple gear from around the prop…a modern day boaters’ problem and did some DIY hair dressing.
Talking to our neighbours, it wasn’t long before we were doing the guided boat swap tour. Always love getting to nose inside other boats and this one was reverse layout which messes with your mind.
Quick on-line check that the stoppage, which just yesterday Canal and River Trust along with the men working on it reassured us would be finished on time, only to find it’s now delayed by three days. Joy. Our weekend entertainment will be speeding their way up the M40 yay! x