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Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Breaking Ice!

"It is so cold outside I just saw a teenage boy with his pants pulled up. " ~Anon

     I woke one morning last week to find ice on the cut! The porthole windows which are not covered in plastic had ice on the inside and the bungs, or upholstered covers that fit in the window to block the light, were frozen to the glass. The cut was iced over too, and the sliding window across from the dinette was frozen shut. I do believe winter has arrived.
     I was cozy and warm in my double down duvet nest last night. I went out fill the coal bucket and took stock of the frozen world. The mooring ropes were covered with a filigree of white frost and frozen stiff. The solar panels were generating energy despite being covered with a rime of white ice crystals. I cleared them off, filled the coal bucket and returned to the relative warmth of inside. I fed the fire and brought it back up and soon its rosy red glow filled the glass of the stove. I had breakfast, dressed for the cold, and set off at 11:30 when the warmth of the short day was building. I didn't take any video of ice breaking but you can get an idea of what it looks and sounds like from this video:

     I was the only boat on the move and it only took me two and a half hours to make the run though the ice from Poynton to Bollington. As I cruised along I was reminded of the first time I broke ice with NB Valerie.
     It was mid-January 2016 and Les and I were moored up at Radford Semele on the upper Grand Union. We were trapped in the Five Mile prison as he termed it, by winter stoppages at both ends (from Radford Bottom Lock at the south end, to the Hatton Fight at the north end of the upper Grand Union through Warwick) and we had to stay there because I had my first knee replacement surgery scheduled for January 26th. We had planned to turn the boat and move it up to the pedestrian walkway opposite the hospital the week before my surgery. What actually happened was that Les' stoma became blocked and he took a bus into the hospital A & E in agony. They kept him for four days and in that time the weather took a turn for the worse and the canal froze over with two inches of ice. NBV was frozen in well and truly. I had to break her free and move her to our intended destination--not only for me but for Les. I didn't want him traipsing around on public buses after coming out the hospital. It took me three and half hours to make the run in 30F weather and bright sun from Radford Semele to the bottom of Cape locks, fill up with water, manually turn the boat, and break more ice heading back to moor up at the pedestrian bridge. Tesco delivered a grocery order to me an hour later and just after 4 pm I walked across the bridge to visit my Best Beloved. He was gobsmacked because I didn't tell him what I was planning to do--I just did it. I knew if I told Les beforehand he would fret and worry. We walked home to our boat the next afternoon as soon as Les was discharged.
    On Friday the December 1st,  I ran errands: parcels to be mailed, license discs to be printed out at Bollington Library and laminated at the local print shop for mounting in the boat windows and a bus trip into Macclesfield for some bits and bobs I needed.
To keep my perspective regarding the cold winter weather, I am reading Rannulph Fiennes' book Cold: Extreme Adventures at the Coldest Temperatures on Earth. I highly recommend it. This is a man who sawed off his own blackened, frost bitten fingers to save his hands!
     The weather turned milder over this last weekend and I joined 15 other folks--either boaters or canal enthusiasts for a two day Rose & Castles painting workshop at Bollington Wharf, taught by the highly respected canal boat painter Phil Speight. (He would laugh at this description, but it's true.)
     Roses and Castles are a design theme many traditional boats sported as decoration. This motif was originally popular in interior design in the late 18th and early 19th century. It was copied by boaters seeking to liven up their boats--where they worked and lived. Interior design moved on to different themes in houses but the Roses and Castles on boats stayed pretty much the same. Rather than an art which requires an innate talent, this is a craft which anyone can learn, often referred to as "folk art." among those who plied their trade on the cut, a few painters developed their own style of Roses & Castles which a discerning eye like Phil can spot when looking at old pieces in museums. Bill Hodgson, Frank Jones, George Preston and Frank Nurser are all names of note who developed their own style but really this craft belongs to the boat people who often did it themselves to embellish their floating homes.
Image result for roses and castles painting
Stern doors on a narrow boat decorated with Roses and Castles.
     Saturday we spent the day learning how to paint roses. While in and of itself, this is a simple and effective design, getting the simplicity of it properly is harder than it looks. I was knackered by the day's end from concentrating so hard on what I was doing. I realized that I had to unpick all the knowledge of painting I had learned over the years at Uni in art and painting courses. This craft is about simplicity and bold lines and colors. Fussy detailing only detracts from the finished piece.
     Sunday we spent the day learning how to do paint castles and the scenery of mountains, lake, and foreground which frames the buildings. It was tremendous fun. I so enjoyed being surrounded by boat people--my people; seeing old friends like Amy and James Tidy who organized the event, and meeting new folks like Jason, Jeanne, and oh so many others. I was also able to touch bases with new friends like boater and herbalist Kit Alcott. Now I just need to buy the paints, brushes, a mahl stick and then practice so I will be good enough to paint Roses and Castles on NBV next year.
Those are my roses in between the two castle pictures at the near end! © A. Tidy, Bollington Wharf, 2017.
Phil in his hat and me surrounded by a lovely group of boaters and canal enthusiasts.
© A. Tidy, Bollington Wharf, 2017.
     Yesterday morning I filled up with diesel, water, and bought ten bags of coal before cruising off towards Macclesfield. It took me two hours and forty minutes of cruising to reach Lyme Green Business Park on the outskirts of Macclesfield. I saw a lovely long gap between two moored boats, and pulled in. I was cold and ready for a hot shower and some tea. I was nearly done mooring when I smelled something disgusting and realized someone had left a pile of dog shit right near the edge of the tow path attempting to hide it with a clump of grass, and I had stepped in it. It was right where I needed to step to get into the bow of the boat and I was right livid. Swearing a blue streak, I spent ten minutes cleaning off my boots and looking for any dog poop spread on the boat. Once that nasty chore was complete I carefully un-moored the boat and cruise further onward towards the curve of the cut and moored up again--checking first to be sure there was no more crap on the cut anywhere near me and NBV.
     This morning I made a quick foray to Home Base (Home Depot for Americans), and bought a new, sturdy plastic step stool as my little green one broke into four bits as I was cruising into Victoria Pit marina two months ago. It took me ten minutes from start to tend and cost £2.90. Time to cruise again while the weather holds and off I went towards the top of the Bosley lock flight. There were two swing bridges in front of me to get through. One is an older manual bridge and is always left open and the second, by the Fool's Nook pub is an electrically operated swing bridge which requires a BW key and a great deal of patience. Imagine my surprise as I came around the sharp curve approaching the first swing bridge and it was closed! I threw NBV in reverse and gave it some welly, abruptly bring her into the side to moor up on the mid line. Why is the bridge closed? Why do things like this always happen to me ???? The issue with being a single handed boater and attempting the manual swing bridges is this: one moors the boat on the towpath side of the cut, walks over the bridge and swings it open on the offside of the cut and there is no way to reach the boat and bring it through. It takes a great deal of faffing about to moor up the bow of a boat on the off side near the swing bridge handle but not in the way of the opening bridge, open the bridge, climb over and around it to reach the bow of the boat, pull it through the bridge hole manually, tying it up by the stern rope to the bridge and then close the bridge, untie the boat, jump on and cruise off! Fortunately for me a lovely gent came bicycling along the towpath. He stopped in utter shock at seeing the bridge closed.
     "That bridge has been open for the last year and I know because I cycle this way every day. Whey is it closed now?" He looked at me with consternation on his face and I have no idea why as its closed position didn't impede him form continuing on with his journey at all but I was thankful he stopped. He worked the bridge for me and waved me on with a smile. A mile or so on and I came to the electric swing bridge, moored up, walked up to the control panel, put in my BW key, turned it, pressed the button and held it down and slowly, slowly the barriers came down and eventually the bridge swung away and settled open. Of course when I started the process  there were no cars in sight but soon enough a long queue of automobiles sat waiting for me to get on with it. After moving NBV through the bridge hole, I moored up again, closed the bridge and cruised off. I only did three miles today, stopped by the the Bosley 12 lock flight. Tomorrow morning Amy and James Tidy are coming to lock me down the flight, bless them.
     I moored up near the top lock, dumped some rubbish, washed two loads of clothes, cleaned the inside of the boat, started a pot of minestrone soup and put in an Ocado order for 8 am tomorrow morning. The weather is on the change again and it seems that staying the weekend in Bollington for the class may well mean that I am frozen in on the Macclesfield anyway, albeit at the end where it intersects with the Trent & Mersey.
     A low front is swinging in off the Atlantic with hurricane Caroline churning around off the coast and changing the wind direction. Starting Wednesday evening it will be directly from the North out of the arctic, with gales up to 60 mph here in this area. Friday will bring snow and possible blizzards with high winds, and the cold weather dropping at night below freezing is expected to last through the 14th. I wanted to make it down the Trent & Mersey as far as Hassell Green to clear all the winter stoppages in the area but it looks now like I will be stalled by the weather.  I am heading for Scholar Green tomorrow because there is a water point there and access to the road and buses in the area. I have in addition to a nearly full tank of diesel, two 25 litre cans of diesel in reserve for emergencies and a total of 12 bags of coal. As long as I can access water, and buses to town for grocery top ups I will be okay. My grocery order includes Long Life milk tinned veg and things that can go into the freezer.  I made up a menu for the next two weeks so I could be sure to get everything I need before it freezes.  I chose thins I could make and get several days worth of meals out of each item:  Minestrone sou[, Chicken Noodle soup, Lamb Kleftika, Chile con Carne, Boiled Bacon, Spaghetti with meat sauce, Spaghetti Vongole, Cheddar Cheese risotto, and Tuna noodle casserole.
     I've done everything I can think of to prepare for the weather. All I can do once it arrives is ride it out and hope I stay warm enough despite the frigid cold.  


Unknown said...

Hmm yes winter is coming. The narrow boat cracking ice on he cut reminds me
of a Canadian ice breaker ship. Now the ice on open water gets much much thicker overnight than on the cut. Same criteria though, break ice with the bow or in thick pack ice ride the bow up and on the ice and the weight of the ship breaks the ice to open to water. Hopefully the ice this winter shall stay relatively thin. Then again narrowboats have more or less flat bottom hulls which often means the narrowboat will ride over the top of the ice hoping the weight of the boat will break the ice and not the hull.

Quick request; when signing off on your blogs would you please note your time. i.e. GMT I know, however for those of us living elsewhere it would be nice to know. what time you is and as opposed to us who read your blog.

Judith nb Serena said...

Glad you enjoyed your painting weekend, your roses look lovely. We've been away from Serena since Saturday visiting my sister who never watches the news or weather so have missed the forcast for the impending bad weather! Fortunately we go back tomorrow so hopefully we can get Serena warm before it hits too hard. You've certainly planned well ahead. Keep warm, keep safe and don't take any risks. Love and hugs Judith. XXX

Herbie Neil said...

Your tenacity and perseverance never fails to amaze me. Your posts are always full of interest.
When you see James and Amy tomorrow (they are still ‘the ducks’ to us) please tell them the Herbie send their love and hope life is treating them well.
Kath (nb Herbie)

Carol said...

Sending you hugs Jaq! xx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Bryce,

I will do my best to try and remember to include my time when posting to the blog. You and I both know and understand ice--coming from geographical areas with COLD winters. I can well imagine the incredible noise made by Canadian ice breakers on the Great lakes near you as they plow through very thick ice and the ice cracks, and then is shoved in chunks and thick plates up and over each other.

In Alaska we day we have three seasons a year: summer (which was really more like a very warm spring elsewhere; we don't really fave Autumn which would be called Fall because in the North the leaves all fall off the trees at once over a period of about three weeks. Then we have winter which can last nine months, and Breakup--which is when the ice begins to thaw--especially on lakes and rivers.

The Nenana River Ice Classic is about the only legally sanctioned form of gambling in Alaska. It is a is an annual ice pool contest and a fundraising event in which individuals attempt to guess the exact time the Tanana River ice will break up at Nenana. Tickets are on sale from February 1 through April 5 of each year throughout Alaska. The Nenana Ice Classic is a non-profit charitable gaming organization.T he proceeds benefit many volunteer and non-profit organizations.

Love Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Judith,

I hope you made it back safely to NB Serena and you both are staying warm and dry. Having been born and raised in Alaska, I have learned to be prepared for tough weather.

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Hi Kath,

Thank you! It is Welsh stubbornness and determination from my grandmother Lilly George, which has been honed by being born and raised in Alaska. That old saying, "Do or die" comes to mind! There have been many days this year when I would have gladly given up on everything including breathing but it simply isn't written into my DNA so despite how I might feel at any given moment I know the only thing to do each morning is to swing my feet over the edge of the bed, plant them on the floor, take a deep breath and begin plowing through my day.

Amy and James send their love back. They are blossoming at Bollington Wharf, surrounded by other like minded boaters. Thanks to Ann Marie and Ian the wharf has been rescued from dereliction and their eye to hiring talented young people is literally bringing the wharf alive again. People like Amy and James are the future of the cut and it is such a privilege to know them.

You and Neil stay warm and dry and take good care of each other--oh and have a Merry Christmas,

Jaq xxx

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Thank yo Carol! I'll take them all.

Love Jaq xxx

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs