Thursday, 31 December 2009

And RED means ……..

Well, I’ll start with the end of the day, and then go back.

I’d met a boat at King’s Sutton lock, and passed a couple of boats mooring up not far from Nell Bridge lock, and none of them had mentioned anything about conditions on the river section. Arriving at Nell Bridge lock I looked for the indicator to see what conditions were, but it wasn’t there. I crossed the road to have a look at the other side of the bridge and it wasn’t there either. Looking down towards the weir lock I saw a boat that must have just descended and was preparing to go through. Other boats had left Banbury this morning and must have gone down. Added to all this there is a headroom gauge as Nell Bridge is quite low and the water level was well down on the scale.

From all of this I assumed that the river section was ok to use though, given the flooded fields I had passed on the way, not in the green. So I dropped down the lock and headed downstream.

Whilst preparing the weir lock I noticed the level indicator at that end.

31122009724-001 Well into the red section. I was pretty much committed by that point, the alternative to proceeding would be to reverse (or more likely haul) back to the lock and ascend backwards. On this section the flow only crosses the navigation rather than boats joining the river for a longer period, so it was only a matter of keeping control for a short period and I got into the lock although a bit untidily.

Had I actually checked the conditions rather than assuming all was ok because other boats had been through I wouldn’t have come down but moored above the lock and waited for conditions to improve. There is another river section further along the canal, but one where you join the flow, and I’ll definitely make sure that is safe to use.

Up until that excitement it had been an uneventful day. I had planned to stop just before bridge 168 to do some shopping, but when I arrived I saw that this section is in the process of being improved, which is good as it use to be a matter of mooring on pins somewhere near the edge.

31122009714 31122009715 At the moment it wouldn’t be easy to get off the boat, but luckily the section just after the bridge has already been completed, but is still a bit muddy.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Improving conditions

It hadn’t been too cold overnight when I woke yesterday and I was still moored in clear water which was a pleasant surprise. As I was feeding Lyra the hire boat that had been icebreaking the day before passed heading back towards base. This prompted me to make an earlier than usual start as I expected to have to do my own icebreaking all day which would make for slower progress.

Conditions were much better than expected with mainly clear water with only patches of ice that had reformed and nothing that impeded progress significantly. As Lyra hadn’t had a good run first thing, as it was a bit busy to let her off  her lead, I pulled in above the Claydon flight. Whilst moored a couple of boats passed so I was no longer clearing the path, but now all the locks were against me. With so much broken ice above each lock I had to do a lot of clearing both to be able to open the top gates fully and to avoid getting hung up, which made for quite slow progress through the locks.

The weather wasn’t particularly pleasant with a constant drizzle throughout the day but I wanted to make progress, partly as the batteries needed a good charge after days of being moored. It got cold as I was working through Slat Mill lock so I moored just  below the lock. This is quite a nice spot as there  is an easily accessible field for Lyra to play in. Luckily she didn’t remember that the river runs through it otherwise she’d have been off for a swim.

It had been quite along day but I resisted the urge to got to bed really early and settled down to watch a DVD as the TV offerings were pretty uninspiring. It was sleeting a bit when I took Lyra for her last walk so went to bed hoping for the forecast heavy snow.

It was grey and drizzly this morning, with no snow at all. I wanted to move on a bit despite the weather. The patches of ice were even less frequent than yesterday and it hadn’t been cold enough to refreeze so progress was easy. There was still enough ice at the entrance to the locks to mean that I needed to clear between the boat and the walls but conditions had definitely improved a lot.

Moored alongside the park in Banbury as I had an important task to perform. Lyra only had about another weeks supply of food and Banbury is the last convenient place that I could get some. She is now supplied for another month or so, I was slightly concerned when we were iced in, and should have made sure I had more food with me.

As it was cold and wet today, I couldn’t be bothered to move any further, but will have to move tomorrow whatever the weather as I want to be somewhere fairly remote tomorrow night.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Onto the summit

A boat came down through the lock last night after dark. It seemed to take a long time but I just put that down to it being cold and dark and the crew taking extra care.

On Lyra’s first walk I realised that they had encountered a problem that Keith of nb Hadar had warned me about on Facebook a few days ago. Locks tend to be narrower at the bottom compared with the top. In narrow locks this means that if there is ice between the boat and the walls of the lock it is possible to get the boat hung up, so clearing any ice from alongside is necessary.

I had woken to the sound of the boat rubbing against ice, in what had been a completely clear bit of canal the day before, so was concerned that I had swapped being stuck within easy reach of facilities, I was now stuck somewhere remote. Luckily the new ice was very thin.

I had been joined by another hire boat the evening before which set off before I was ready to move, my roof, which I tend to walk on a lot when locking, still having a thick layer of frost on it. So they rebroke the ice for me. I did walk up to the top lock to have a look at conditions, and was able to work the hire boat through the top lock, so I didn’t feel quite so guilty at letting them do all the hard work.

28122009713 The ice on the summit was slightly less thick than it had been lower down, and the further along we went the thinner it got, with clear patches becoming more frequent as we approached Fenny Compton, where I stopped for a very late lunch and decided to stop for the night.

The Wharf Inn now has a small shop with a range of groceries, so I now have some milk again. Of course I had to have a pint whilst I was in there. They also now have a Laundrette which I’m sure I’ll find useful sometime in the future.

The canal looks fairly clear after the marina, so the “tunnel” which was somewhere that I was concerned about should be passable.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Escape from Napton

It’s not dropped below freezing for the past few days, but the ice was still thick around the boat. As most of Lyra’s walks were up the flight, it was clear that the ice was receding a bit as the clear water below each lock was slowly expanding.

It was still too thick for me to want to move today but as we made our way up the flight we met a couple setting locks for an ascending boat. They were not on their boat as they couldn’t get out of their marina up on the summit but were meeting friends on a hire boat that was making it’s way towards Napton. It took a while to appear, and was clearly not making easy progress, having to take run ups to break the ice, but eventually it did pass me, freeing me to follow up the flight.

Before starting I refilled the water tank as it was getting very low. My plan was then to do the first few locks and then visit the village shop for supplies. It all went well until I got to the shop to find that it had been open today as I thought, but had closed some 5 minutes before I got there. Not a huge problem really, lack of milk just means black coffee, I can survive without fresh fruit and I don’t really need wine.

Moved up through another couple of locks and am now moored below Adkins. Will check the weather guesses forecast in the morning, and have a walk up to the summit and then decide whether to carry on or retreat.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

8 Months

That’s not a prediction of how long I’ll be iced in.

Lyra came to live with me 8 months ago today, it’s a significant length of time as it means she has now lived with me for over half of her life. I knew from the moment I first saw her at the Dog’s Trust kennel that she was the right dog for me and she has lived up to my expectations.

DSCN1898As a present for today she got a new toy, which wasn’t over successful, the squeak was gone within five minutes, by the end of the first walk with it the ball part is virtually detached from the tail and the stitching between sections of the tail is giving way. She has always been quite rough with her toys and I wasn’t expecting this one to last too long but she picked it out at the shop so I got it for her.

The thaw didn’t materialise, Tuesday night was again very cold, –5 when I woke on Wednesday, which meant that new ice was firmly holding all the broken ice. It was thick enough that I was unable  to break the ice next to the boat. Last night was less cold but the canal is still impassable, but at least the boat rocks when I move about rather than being held solidly by the ice.

Hopefully it won’t be too much longer until I can move again.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Little progress

Sunday morning was again cold, but the Ecofan had lived up to it’s promise and had kept the back end of the boat at a much better temperature. I delayed moving again in the hope that someone would break the ice up and it wasn’t until 1.30 that anyone moved along the Oxford. There was time to move for a while and heating the water would be useful so I set off. By 3pm it was getting really cold so I moored just before Napton Junction.

After another really cold night the canal was completely frozen again, even in places that had been totally clear the previous day so moving didn’t seem to be a priority. Eventually a few boats did pass me and having realised that I was likely to run out of coal at the end of the week, when everywhere is likely to be closed, I considered making the epic voyage of about 100 yards to the marina. Just as I was about to get ready to move, Gosty Hill appeared, which meant that I could stock up with coal and not have to move.

Last night was much less cold than of late so the new ice was only very thin, and there had been a light dusting of snow. In the comparatively balmy conditions, it was actually above freezing, I set off again and moved on to the moorings below Napton Locks. A boat came down the locks, which meant that there would be a clear path, but, having walked up as far as the old arm, decided it wasn’t worth going up as the lock sides were so slippery and there’s no point in risking an accident.

The weather forecast I looked at earlier suggests that the thaw will come soon which will make boating easier.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Icy weather

It was a very cold night, my outdoor temperature sensor was saying –9 when I got up, so I was glad that I had wrapped up warmly for the night. With the canal iced over completely I decided to put off moving until later in the day, in the hope that someone else would go through first as I don’t really want to remove all of the blacking I put on too soon.

Being in Braunston meant that it would be easy to go and spend money on things for the boat. I’ve been considering ways to distribute heat from the stove more evenly through the boat and noticed just how bad it was yesterday evening. I’ve seen Ecofans spinning away on boats but haven’t bought one before simply because my stove isn’t really suitable for one. Looking at them again I decided that I would probably get away with it.


Yes it does sit precariously over the edge, that’s the problem I knew I would have. I’ve got a safety wire to catch it when it inevitably falls off, and now there is another thing to remember to do before moving.

It’s only been there for a while but it does seem to be making a difference with the back end of the boat being warmer and the living room being more comfortable even with the fire lower than usual.

I could do with finding a way of making a platform for it to sit on so that it’s more stable, funnily enough a Sea Searcher magnet would be there right size and wouldn’t need to be attached to the stove, but I don’t know how a magnet would cope with high temperatures so haven’t risked it.

It wasn’t until mid afternoon that any boats came along the Oxford when a convoy of 3 arrived, the first pulling in at the first opportunity, with the following two doing the same. As this was behind me I was still surrounded by ice. It was getting dark when a boat did pass me, which was too late for me to consider moving.

The rest of the day was spent walking Lyra and being amused by the antics of the ducks on the ice.

Friday, 18 December 2009

A rude awakening

The weather forecast I saw before I went to bed promised snow showers through the night so I was hoping for some snow this morning as I went to sleep.

At about midnight, my smoke alarm decided that I should wake up again, which was a bit of a shock. Checking the stove, nothing seemed to be any different from normal,and there were no other possible sources of smoke. I am at a bit of a loss as to the reason for the alarm, the only thing I can think is that with the strong wind blowing across the cut, smoke was concentrated in the space between my boat and the hedge and then found it’s way in through the open window. All a bit frightening but I suppose it’s better to have a slightly overcautious alarm, and at least I know it will wake me.

I looked outside whilst I was awake and rather than snow, the sky was full of stars. It took a while to get back off to sleep, probably worrying about whether there really was a problem. I woke again at about 4 as the temperature inside the boat had dropped so much. A bit of extra insulation and I was soon off to sleep again.

There wasn’t any snow when I got up, but by the time I had had a coffee there had been a brief snow shower so there was a dusting for Lyra to play in. The skies were much clearer by the time I was ready to do the locks, so it appeared that the forecast of sunny periods would come true. By the time I was in the middle lock it was snowing pretty heavily.

18122009688With the locksides slippery due to the snow, extra care was needed when working the locks so stepping across an open lower gate wasn’t a good idea today.

Stopped to warm up at the top of the locks which meant Lyra could have a play in the snow. She does seem to like it.


It isn’t that often that it’s possible to cruise when it’s snowing so I made my way down to Braunston though further showers.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Flying South for Winter

Well, not actually flying, that is a mode of transport that has become increasingly unpleasant over the years to the point that it would need to be something very special for me to consider subjecting myself to it. I am heading southwards though, but at the gentle pace of the canal. I’m not sure why, but I feel that another winter visit to Oxford is called for.

The weather this morning was quite pleasant, clear skies though a little chilly so leaving seemed like a good idea. By the time I had reached Brownsover I realised that it was more than just a little chilly but I needed to stop for provisions, and yet more toys for Lyra, so managed to thaw out a little. Moved on a little further to moor for the night below Hillmorton Locks. There have been a few flurries of snow but nothing significant. Lyra’s first reaction to falling snow was to disappear inside, but she was soon back out with me. She must have experienced snow earlier this year but I didn’t know her then so I’m wondering how she will react if her world does turn white. Hopefully the forecast of heavy snow is more than scaremongering.

Monday, 7 December 2009


The trip home was fairly unremarkable. I did spend Thursday at the top of Hillmorton Locks as the weather was particularly unpleasant.

On Friday, approaching Newbold, I saw the unmistakable flash of blue that usually means that I have just missed being able to try to get a photograph of a Kingfisher. This one was a particularly accommodating little chap and kept waiting for me to catch up and so I did actually manage a few pictures. I wish that I’d had a different lens on the camera though.

kingfisher1 kingfisher2 kingfisher3 Back at the marina for a few days and then I should be heading off for a proper winter cruise.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Slow boat to Braunston

An epic journey of 10 miles and 3 locks that I managed to make last for 3 days.

I had to move over to the pump out on Sunday, up until then the wind blowing across the marina put me off. Once suitably empty, I headed to the south end of Newbold tunnel for the night as I wanted to do some shopping on the way through Rugby which meant waiting until Monday. Shortly after dark Gosty Hill passed me and Ian stopped to see if I needed any coal. I have enough, and as they were trying to catch up as they have been delayed by engine trouble, I didn’t want to delay them.

It went a bit wrong when I was mooring up at Browsover on Monday morning as I didn’t spot the dog mess by the ring and got one of my ropes smeared in it, I wasn’t happy about that. One thing I needed to get was a replacement “Tuggy” for Lyra as her birthday present one was looking very tired. 3 months for a toy isn’t bad for her.  “Tuggy” is an outdoor toy so is only played with on walks, she had several rope toys for chewing when inside.

30112009668 Old & New

Then it was on to Clifton Cruisers to get Lyra some more Arden Grange food. By the time I had tied the boat, I had ordered and had delivered the food I wanted, so only had to go into pay. Lyra enjoyed meeting up with Ben & Heidi again, and behaved very well, staying onboard even though there were two big Shepherds there that she would have liked to play with. We then moved on to the top of Hillmorton Locks.

When my alarm went off this morning, I was very tempted to stay in bed as it was quite chilly. I hadn’t expected it to get quite so cold overnight. Waited a while for it to warm up slightly but was still ready for a stop by the time we got to bridge 80, where we happened on a boater and his Shepherd who we had met in the summer at Branston Water Park, so Lyra was happy.

Now moored on the outskirts of Braunston as I want to do a bit of shopping for boat bits tomorrow.

Will probably then head back to the marina again as I have a vague plan for a winter cruise but can’t do it just yet due to stoppages.

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