Lived onboard Hadar

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fenny Stratford to Cosgrove.

Monday 1st December.

The countdown to Christmas begins today and so does the made panic to buy presents, even though we are in a credit crunch.
We opened the back cabin door to a very chilly morning, we had a hard frost last night and so the puddles had a layer of ice on them. Thankfully the boat was lovely and warm, with both our coal stoves going. On the back cabin stove we burn house coal, this particular coal has come from a private mine in Sheffield and burns really well, it is great for cooking and heating and the ash is very little and stays in all night. On the saloon stove we are burning Cosycoke, which is a new solid fuel and is made up of Newflame and Maxibrite, we have found it stays in really well and has less ash than some solid fuels. We have also found it is very easily regulated from hot to a gentle heat during the evening.
Having to get out of bed to visit the loo meant I could make us a cup of tea, which we enjoyed, tucked up in bed. I knew it was a chilly morning, because my feet were cold, as I could feel the chill permeating up through the bottom of the bed. Our back cabin bed lies across the cabin like any tradition cabin bed, so our feet are up against the cabin wall, and even though the walls are very well insulated, the cold can still creep into the bedding. So having got up, we rolled our bed up and put it in the cupboard, later it would be unrolled to air as it can get quite damp otherwise. Having dressed and eaten breakfast I ventured out with Paddy to take him for his walk. The ground was a little dodgy in places due to the heavy frost, so I made sure where I put my feet. On climbing back on the boat and opening the cabin doors, Marmite was sitting on the side bed waiting for us, she was in fact waiting to make a run for it out of the doors, but realised as she stood on the step that it was freezing outside and not the place for a cat, who likes the warmth of the fire, so she did an about turn and ran into the galley for her breakfast. After our morning coffee Keith and I walked into Bletchley to do some general shopping. Bletchley is only a small town and there are a number of stores which have closed their doors, this may be due to the down turn in sales at the moment, but they may have been closed before this situation took hold, so it makes the town look a little desolate. But don’t let it put you off visiting the town as it does have everything one needs. As we walked back to the boat, the grass was being cut and the hedgerow trimmed by three chaps, they could be of use on the Trent and Mersey as they never seem to do any grass cutting etc after October. During the afternoon we went food shopping at Tesco on Watling Road. We found a short cut through Fenny Stratford railway station, which cut out some of the busy road. Close by Tesco is an MFI store with a Store Closing sign in bold black letters hanging on the wall. No one there will be having a Happy Christmas and that goes for anyone losing their jobs at the moment. I know MFI has had a bad name over the years for their rocky furniture, but it is a shame for those who have to look for new jobs so close to Christmas. With it being the 1st of December it is now time to get a few bits stored for Christmas, so we bought a gammon joint and some Pringles all of which were on special offer. We do not intend to eat them both at the same time ha ha ha. As I tried to put the food shopping way Marmite thought it would be great fun to play with the rucksack, so I helped her climb into my rucksack where she stayed whilst I put our goodies away, she clearly felt at home hiding away. When it came to putting the rucksacks away, she was not for giving up her cosy new home, and hung on for dear life with her claws. Eventually she had to admit defeat, climbing onto my chair and curling into a ball.
We treated ourselves to a Chinese meal for dinner, before putting up our small Christmas tree and decorations, which of course Marmite thought was going to be a great game, especially when the bells for the tree came out. We shall see how long it takes her to demolish the tree. Last year she only managed to take one tree bauble off. It has become a tradition for us to put the decorations up on the first. I guess now we are in the festive mood, although I have to say I do not really feel it yet. Next on my Christmas to do list will be to buy stamps for the cards and then to write all the cards. With living on a boat and not really knowing where you are going to be, you have to plan ahead.
We have had a great day in Bletchley, but we will be moving tomorrow all being well.
My day ended with checking my e-mail and to my surprise I received and e-mail from TPT (Towpath Talk) to say that I had won a year’s subscription to TPT (Towpath Talk). I recently filled in a survey on their website and from that won a subscription to TPT for a year. Wooooo hooooo I never win anything, so I am quite excited.

Tuesday 2nd December.

Fenny Stratford to Milton Keynes, 3.6 miles.

Another heavy frost over night meant that the temperature was -0.3 C when we got up. Marmite made sure we were ready to get out of bed, by continually walking over us both in bed. She certainly knows how to get our attention, even if it is only so she can have her breakfast. With breakfast eaten and Paddy walked, Keith walked down to the sanitary station to empty the toilet cassette, whilst I stoked the fires and prepared Hadar for the off. Keith and I donned our donkey jackets, gloves and hats to keep out the bitterly cold wind; we were going to head for Milton Keynes, which was only 4 miles up the canal. Having untied the fenders and the ropes we were off, leaving Fenny Stratford behind. What lay ahead was a little alarming as the sky was a dark grey, it was heavy with something wet that was clear.It was not long before rain, sleet and snow were falling and with the bitter wind it was rather miserable. We were also aware that because of the temperature being below zero over night, ice had formed on the surface of the canal in places.One thing was certain, no one would want to fall into the cut today and that included me; especially as I was wearing all my winter clothing, so would probably sink LOL.
Keith tends to do most of the steering on Hadar, but every now and again when he needs a comfort break, I can get my hands on the tiller for a while. I have become more confident with manoeuvring Hadar on the canal, but there is always something new to learn and I never take my eye off the ball as one never knows what may happen. With the rain, sleet and snow still doing its best to dampen our spirits we arrived in Milton Keynes and moored up below bridge 81B at Newlands Park, near Gulliver’s Land a children's theme park. After coffee we walked over bridge 81B, which is a footbridge, and through Campbell Park into Milton Keynes, which is about a mile walk, either a long the main road or through the park itself. The last time Keith came through Milton Keynes none of the new shopping development was even thought of, so he was interested to see how it had all turned out. The new development covers around 22,000 acres and was begun in the early 1970’s. We were very impressed with the whole layout of the shopping centre and park area; it is really easy on the eye and also easy to get around. What is fabulous is that all the shops are under cover, and with the weather the way it is, this is an advantage. Christmas has most certainly arrived in Milton Keynes; they have really done the town proud with the Christmas decorations. They have a fantastic Christmas display with a fairy winter wonderland, Santa’s grotto and fairground rides, it is stunning and the best Christmas display we have ever seen.It most certainly helped to put us in the Christmas spirit. Children were lining up to see Santa in his grotto, whilst their parents looked as if they were enjoying themselves in the queue. I personally think it is way too early to take kids to see Santa. It should be left until a week before the big day, but that’s just my opinion.The photographs were taken on our mobile phones, so sorry if they are not very good quality.
Before lunch we walked around the outside market, which is quite extensive. We found a material stall where I bought some curtain material for the back cabin, we then enjoyed lunch in Pizza Hut, near the Milton Keynes Theatre, which has ‘Hook’ as its pantomime this year starring Henry Winkler (The Fonz). I can imagine he is a great Hook. He was recently on the Paul O’Grady Show talking about the Pantomime. He was saying that he loves coming over to the UK at this time of the year to do Panto, because the USA has nothing like it over there; he loves the interaction with the audience. I always loved him when he was in ‘Happy Days’. After a further walk around the shops we made our way back to the boat, by walking through the park. Back onboard whilst typing this entry there was a knock on the boat, so I had to put the computer down to answer the engine room door, where there was a gentleman standing there. He wanted 6 bags of Taybrite delivered to his boat up the canal. We had met at Stoke Bruerne previously so got chatting about where we had been so far. I unloaded the 6 bags of coal from the hold, then we put some of it on the trolley and Keith carried a bag on his shoulder. Whilst chatting to the gentleman at his boat, we discovered that we were chatting to Santa Claus. He was going to be Santa at the Milton Keynes grotto. I did not have the nerve to ask if I could sit on his knee. Apparently though these days you are not allowed to sit on Santa’s knee, you have to sit on a chair beside him, it is all about being politically correct. Bah Humbug that is what I say. This country has gone way over the top what with Health and Safety and the Political Correctness. We need to get back to some good old fashioned values especially at Christmas. So anyway, we had a lovely chat and put the world to right before we made our way back to Hadar in the dusk of the evening. The evening was spent in front of the TV before going off to bed in a very warm back cabin as we knew it was going to be a very chilly night.

Wednesday 3rd December.

Milton Keynes to Cosgrove, 7.3 miles and 1 lock.

We knew before we even opened the back cabin doors that last night had been very cold, so it was no surprise to see frost on the ground and ice on the surface of the canal. Keith had gotten up to go to the loo, and whilst he was gone, Marmite thought it would be fun to bring me Keith’s socks. She has a thing about socks. Most cats bring you dead mice or birds, Marmite brings us socks. Having got up and dressed, I took Paddy for a run across the park; he had a great time charging like a loony through the trees, before making his way back to the boat. These days we do not have to bother telling him to get on the boat, he just does it anyway. With both Marmite and Paddy fed, it was then our turn to enjoy some nice hot porridge. Just what was needed on a bitterly cold morning. The temperature over night had gone down to -3.5 C, so no wonder the canal had ice on it.
At 9.45am wrapped up against the cold we slipped our mooring, but had not gone more than 15 yards when we were hailed down for coal by Sheila and Pat on N.B Fair Fa, so we pulled back in a couple of boats away from them and took of four bags of coal. Having delivered the coal we got chatting to Pat, both he and his wife are Continuous Cruisers like us, so there was plenty to chat about. We look forward to see them again next year.
We were on our way once again ploughing through the ice. This is just the sort of weather we love.The sound of breaking ice being shattered by Hadar’s bow was really impressive. Although it has to be said that it does not do the hull blacking much good, but we needed to move on so it is something we have to put up with.We stopped at Giffard Park as we needed to take on water. Whilst we waited for the tank to fill, I went off to the Post Office to get some stamps, ready to post our Christmas cards. I had tried to get stamps in Bletchley and Milton Keynes, but the queues in both the post offices were so long, we did not bother to stop. With the water tank filled and the rubbish disposed of, we were off yet again.We were just leaving Great Linford when we saw the stern of the Butty Beverley, with Gary ahead on Ascot the motor. He waved us on, so that we could pass him. It was really heart warming and nostalgic to see a pair of boats working, although Ascot did look high out of the water, so we did not think she had much coal onboard.As we passed by, we said our good mornings before we left the pair behind us.In places the ice on the canal was quite thick upto 10mm in places; the sound of the ice breaking on Hadar’s bow was like glass being broken.Hadar left a trail through the ice for Ascot to follow when she made progress our way. We ploughed on towards Cosgrove where we went up through Cosgrove Lock before mooring up just past the sanitary station. Even though it was a cold day, with the sun out and no wind it made for a pleasurable days cruising.

5 comments:

grey wolf said...

were the working boats moving because the butty does not seem to have anyone steering.I had herd that boats could be towed like that,presumably the rudder is tied off??

Keith and Jo said...

Hi Grey Wolf.
The boats were moving. The butty was strapped to the stern of the motor with what they used to call a snubber, therefore you do not need anyone on the butty steering. It is only when the butty is on a long line that a steerer is needed. it has to be said that single handing a motor and a butty is hard work and not for the faint hearted, but Gary has done it for a number of years now and knows what he is doing.

grey wolf said...

Thank you for that,i imagine that full or empty it is a bit of a handful. I hope all these techniques have been written down somewhere,it is so easy to loose such skills simply with the passage of time and the people who practice them?

Keith and Jo said...

You are most welcome Grey Wolf. Over the years there have been many, many books written about canal techniques and life afloat, which is wonderful, but none of those compare to the boatmen passing on their skills. Keith was taught by a man who was born and bought up on the old working boats, some 40 years ago. He knows a lot of the old techniques, but would be careful using or teaching them these days, because it would be so easy for someone to try and copy him and get it so horribly wrong. He still uses some of them himself when we are out and about on our own. The old techniques could be dangerous in the wrong hands, so it is worth being taught by an old boatman. With health and safety and the compensation culture today everyone has to be so careful.

Keith and Jo said...

Hi grey wolf, Keith here. Unfortunately Jo got the name wrong. To link the 2 boats together they use what are called "cross straps" and not the "snubber" as she quoted. Cross straps are 2 short ropes, each with a spliced eye at both ends. They each hang from the T stud of the butty and then attach to the 2 Dollies on the stern of the motor. They are called "cross straps" because they cross over. This technique makes the pair of boats react the same as an articulated lorry and negates the need for a helmsman on the butty. It's disadvantage is that it is not very economical on fuel. Towing using a long line is more fuel efficient, as the butty works completely independently, and puts very little strain on the motor. The reason is that with the cross straps the bow of the butty deflects the push from the motors prop, decreasing it's efficiency. However it is fairly easy to control both boats whilst cross strapped. Techniques like this will be lost in time as less pairs operate. Unlike in the old days pairs are not easy to runs these days due to the amount of traffic on the canals. Long lining through locks is ok when all around know what you are doing. Very few people do that these days, only person I know is Roger Fuller and his family.