Cruising Notes

We were frozen in at Rugby. There was a slight chance of getting to our real destination. Milton Keynes but it required getting through the lock flight at Braunston before it closed for repairs to two of it's six locks. There was a thaw for a few days and that was our “window of opportunity”. The question was: would we be leaving a pretty good place to get ourselves stuck in a far worse place.

I put out a request on a boating forum as to the conditions between Rugby and Braunston and got answers on an almost hourly basis from one boat or another. It turned out that Dace (a boat I featured on a cruising notes, but now with a new owner) was ice breaking up from Braunston and would be followed by a coal/diesel boat (they tend to weigh about 40 ton loaded and make super ice breakers). I would be assured of broken ice if I waited for Dace to come through Rugby.

Judy hanging out a last meal for the birds and squirrels that entertained us so much just before leaving Rugby

Dace came through OK so we set off after six weeks and two days of being stuck. Within 300 yards we were crunching through 3-5” broken ice. Judy came on deck as the noise below was frankly horrific, broken ice is far noisier than solid ice as there are more bits hitting the boat.

However the first set of locks at Hillmorton, a couple of miles from Rugby were clear of ice and we went through with another boat. It turned out he was really low on diesel so we agreed to follow him just in case he completely ran out. Internet forum traffic indicated we were the only boats moving in that direction. However, as we cleared the last of the Hillmorton flight the coal/diesel boat that had set off from Braunston came into view. We stopped him and both tanked “to the top”. I had had enough diesel, provided everything worked reasonably normally, but was only too pleased to take being short of diesel out of my list of potential problems.

Funny how there is always someone else at the pump you want!

So the two of us re-entered the ice and crunched on for a few hours and then gave up for the night and moored up just a few miles from Braunston.

The next morning virtually all of the ice had gone. We cruised down to Braunston and cleared the lock flight there a day ahead of the closure. Having heard there was thick ice at the other end of the tunnel that follows the locks (it's a long one) we decided to wait till the next day. Once again the internet forums came into play giving important information back and forth including me relaying information to the boat that (as it turned out) was moored just in front of ours which was heading towards Rugby. At times like these it a bit like CB radio, just not as efficient. (We have draconian laws which put us way behind the monkeys on using “real” radio in this country)

We cruised through the tunnel the next mooring and said hello to thick ice, it said hello back and Judy decided to come on deck again, well nothing new there, but the next lock flight was only a couple of miles away. Luckily it wasn't totally iced up and we went through the first lock and moored up for lunch in the most glorious sunshine. A bit more ice crunching and several more locks and we were as good as through when Murphy struck. We took a load of hardened steel wire round the propeller. It cost me about 40 minutes with my arms down the weed hatch in freezing water to detach it. Not something I would recommend. Water that cold stings continually until the exposed parts of your body become numb.

After another freezing night and some ice breaking (we were first boat through) normality started to return. The ice mostly dissipated over the next 3 days and has been absent for some time now.

As someone who tries to take the safety of the boat into account I did not take any pics of the whole caper, looking after a boat in ice is much more intense than normal and you do need two hands available (a decent ice sheet will throw the boat half way across the canal, and you will be pointing at the bank, and still be travelling forward). I did, however, take some pictures of our water tank just before leaving Rugby

This was under the filler cap, the ice round the edges of the tank was, at places, 5-6” thick

Naturally the moronic members of our society had a great time littering the canals and generally messing up the world.

One went on to win a Darwin award (by eliminating himself from the gene pool) at this spot

This is just opposite the trolleys

However I grudgingly have to give a few marks for presentation for this tyre stuck in the ice under a bridge

There are a few fishermen about at this time of year, but mostly the more serious (life or death) ones. Here is one I snapped. Normally they fly off when you approach. I guess it was really hungry.

Somehow this is turning into a journal about locks and lock flights so a little trivia type information about them.

Most locks, and lock gates are dated, and in the case of lock gates they show the weight of the lock gate (mostly about 2000 kilograms) and the place that produced them. Lock gates last about 20 years before needing replacement and are generally of oak or oak and steel. The lock itself normally carries the date it was built which you see as you enter the lock. It gives a bit of a sense of history to our travels. The one shown is by no means the oldest, but it was at least clear enough to take a snap of.

I came across some lock gates made in the Netherlands, and commented about them to a waterways worker. He told me an interesting story about how they would not be buying any more lock gates from the Netherlands as they had ordered oak gates but the Dutch had used eiken instead of oak. It seemed almost a shame to tell him that the Dutch word for oak is eiken but it just had to be done.

It's still winter (just the more usual sort, +3 to +10C not -3 to -10C) so not much to tell really, We are now just pottering about round Milton Keynes trying to get odd jobs done. Because the canal meanders round the town rather than through it it takes about 4 hours to go from one end to the other but from just about anywhere you can catch a bus to the centre in 15 minutes.

However there are a few updates.

Solar Panels (end of story) No more trilogies I promise:

New satellite set-up

And as I have been on about locks, here is a video I bumped into.
and there is plenty more on You Tube about this if you wish to explore the subject.
I recommend that every reader watches this!

And of course there is the annual check in, remember the 14th of February is The Beech Nuts (our boat's name for the new people) birthday, so send birthday greetings so I know you’re still out there. Incidentally, current readership of cruising notes is probably well over 100 these days.

Have fun