Lived onboard Hadar

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wormleighton to Banbury.

Friday 2nd January 2009.

Near Wormleighton to near bridge 143 Claydon, 5.2 miles.

We woke up to the sound of sleet pitter, pattering on the boats roof. When I opened the back cabin doors, I was hit by a blast of icy cold air from another cold morning, so cold that the canal was frozen over again. Having done all the usual mooring things, we left our mooring at 9.45am, our first port of call was Fenny Compton to get rid of rubbish at the Wharf Inn, where there is also a water point, which was leaking rather badly and had been frozen over the past few days.

With ice on the ground from the leaking water point, it did make it dangerous under foot. With the rubbish deposited into the skip behind the Inn, we were on our way once more breaking through the ice as we made headway. It was clear that not much was moving as we seemed to be breaking virgin ice for most of the journey. A couple of boats came past us going in the other direction from Fenny Compton, but after that we saw nothing else moving in either direction. Our day ended near bridge 143 at Claydon. The sun had disappeared and it had turned very cold once more, so having shut the boat up, I made us some tomato soup for lunch, which was very warming. Paddy and Marmite spent the afternoon playing chase up and down the boat, with Marmite always getting the better of Pad. Paddy never gives up though. I am sure he thinks that one day he will be top dog. We spent a nice quiet evening onboard before making our way to bed.

Saturday 3rd January.

Claydon to Cropredy, 3.5 miles and 8 locks.

The temperature fell to -5.3C overnight, so when I opened the back cabin doors to see what the morning had to offer, I was greeted with a frozen canal and a beautiful morning. Not a breath of wind, it was just wonderful.By the time we were up and dressed the temperature had risen to -4.2C so slightly more respectful, but cold enough to freeze a dew drop on the end of your nose. As I donned my hat, coat and gloves, Paddy was jumping around in the back cabin with either excitement as he was looking forward to his walk, or maybe he was desperate for a wee. His excitement did not alter just because it was cold, he was running up and down the towpath like an daft puppy.The canal takes on a completely different look when it is covered in ice. It has such a magical quality. At this point we had no idea how thick the ice was, but thought we would move anyway as we wanted to reach Cropredy.
Before setting off Keith got a pole from the hold, to break the ice away from the bow of the boat, it also gave us the opportunity to see how thick the ice was. It proved to be a good ½ inch thick, so it would be a challenging mornings cruising. We made it to the top lock at Claydon and as expected everything was frozen up, so we took our time to work the lock. Once I got the top gate open, Keith bought Hadar into the lock, where he then used the pole to clear the sheets of ice away from her hull sides. He did this to make sure that there was no chance of her getting jammed in the lock, when I opened the paddles to allow the water out. This exercise was done at each lock and was very effective.We both had to work really hard to get down the Claydon flight, it took us two and half hours to do five locks, but we had no need to rush, we both wanted to make sure everything was done with safety in mind. I kept thinking who needs a gym membership, when you can workout like this in the fresh air for free.
On approaching Elkington Lock, we had gongoozlers standing at the lock, watching in awe as the ice flicked into the air, after being struck by the bow. They were fascinated by the sound the ice made. One of the ladies commented, that it sounded like glass breaking.
At Broadmoor Lock, we were greeted by a boat coming out of the lock, leaving it ready for us to enter. They had come up from Cropredy, which meant that the rest of our journey to Cropredy would have a path already cleared for us. We arrived in Cropredy at 1.10pm and moored up above Cropredy Lock. No sooner had we stopped a lady asked if we had any house coal onboard, she and her family live in one of the houses opposite and she wanted 3 bags of house coal. She explained that she would normally buy it from Mike on N.B Dusty, but she had not seen him for some months, and wondered if we had seen or heard from him, which we had not. Later in the afternoon she and her husband came with their wheelbarrow to collect their coal and hand over payment. Since being moored we have seen another couple of boats moving.
We really have enjoyed today’s cruising, even though it was hard work, I would not have changed it for the world. I know the boaters amongst you reading this will think, their blacking must have suffered, which is has but Hadar is going in for blacking soon, so we are not to worried. If she had been done recently we would not have bothered moving at all.

Sunday 4th January.

Cropredy to Banbury 4.2 miles 4 locks.

Just when you think this cold spell cannot get any colder, the temperature overnight dropped to -6.7c, which meant on opening the back cabin doors, I was greeted with another very heavy frost and frozen canal. We did not let this deter our plan of getting to Banbury however, it just ment that the going would be slow. Because it was so cold we did not bother leaving our mooring until 10.30am. I walked down to Cropredy Lock to set it, whilst Keith manoeuvred Hadar out of the ice which was holding her in against the bank. It was not long before he was crashing his way through the ice towards me and the lock.
It was so cold that my gloves stuck to the beam of the lock gate, just as well I wasn’t operating the locks without gloves on. We needed to empty the toilet cassettes once more, so pulled into the sanitary station, which was very slippery under foot, so all care was taken with everything we did. We also took on water from another leaky water tap, it seemed to take an age to work as the water pushed its way along the frozen hosepipe, squeezing the ice out as it went, eventually we were in business and the tank was getting replenished. Whilst waiting for the tank to fill. N.B Ayla’s owners from Shipton-on-Cherwell asked if they paid for four bags of coal now, would we drop them off at their boat which was moored below Slat Mill Lock, which we said would not be a problem. We also met Nick who was dropping of rubbish. Nick is the new owner of Bourton Lock Cottage. We got chatting about boats as you do, and he then said that when we reached Bourton Lock we were welcome to go in and view the cottage and see what had been done so far, which was really nice of him. So having finally filled up with water we set off, through what was now thick ice. In places it was at least 1 inch think. We dropped of four bags of coal to N.B Ayla and then we arrived at Bourton Lock and its lovely old cottage, Nick came out to greet us and help us with the top gate which was frozen shut.The bow rope was called into action, as Nick wound it around the whipping post a few times, then Keith reversed Hadar and hey presto the gate crunched open.Once in the lock, Keith cleared the ice away from Hadar’s hull, as he had done at every lock this past couple of days. Nick then invited us into his cottage and showed us around, whilst telling us of his and Caroline’s plans for it. What is so lovely is that they live on their own boat and he wants to bring the cottage back to its former glory, which is so refreshing. We wished he and is wife Caroline the very best of luck and were once more on our way, getting ever closer to Banbury at a snails pace. Just as we approached Banbury we were waved down by another boater, who was desperate for a bag of coal, so of course we were only to happy to sell him a bag of Taybrite. He told me he could now get warm. As we arrived in Banbury, there was sleet in the air and the temperature was dropping rapidly. We were a bit alarmed to see that the moorings seemed to be full up, probably due to the fact that between Nov-March, they are 14 day moorings, but we did find a place opposite the shopping centre, which was just big enough for us. Today was another long and hard day cruising, with the temperature never getting above freezing, but that’s the way it goes when you’re faced with an iced up canal. It made me think back to what the boatmen and their families used to cope with and how difficult it was for them, when they were trying to work their boats in such conditions, making their days very slow and long for the small wage they would earn. I guess we do not really know how lucky we are in this day and age, even in this present economic climate.


Nev Wells said...


What a really good blog post, the descriptions and photo's are excellent. The harshness yet beauty of the cut comes over very clearly,

Take care


NB Waterlily

Keith and Jo said...

Happy New Year Nev to you and your family.
Aww thank you so much. I do try to show all sides of the canal. I am pleased to enjoyed the post. It is certainly cold at the moment.

Keith and Jo said...

It helps that I was taught when I was 15 how to run a working boat by a man who was born and brought up on a working boat. All the skills that had been developed over many years which work really well. It is a shame that when people like myself are gone there will be no-one around who will know such things. Keith.