Sunday, January 21, 2024

Weathering the weather

 I see some nerk was spotted walking on the ice on the canal in Northampton this week.  I'm surprised it was thick enough, especially in an urban area.  I'm reminded of January 2009 when we were moored down the dear old Slough Arm.  We had some proper ice then, and I was very tempted to walk across it.  Here's how thick it was. A good couple of inches.  Herbie was well and truly locked in.

In those days when it was really really cold, we used to go and stay on the boat to keep it warm enough to protect the plumbing.  We'd get the stove going and enjoy being toasty inside when it was arctic outside.  I think that was the year when a lot of live aboards were iced in and couldn't get to water points or sanitary stations.  As I recall, CRT, (or was it still BW then?) brought the necessaries along the towpath.  I worried about the kingfishers that year. There were quite a few down the Slough arm because the canal was shallow and the water was very clear but obviously they couldn't get to the fish through the ice.  I dare say a lot of them perished, but they seemed to come back the next year.

My dream in years gone by was to own a house by the river somewhere.  I'm somewhat glad now that this was one dream I never fulfilled.  I'll stick to our house half way up a hill thank you very much.  I don't know how people cope with being flooded so often. All I have to worry about is the whopping great lime tree that could fall on our house if we get a hurricane.  If that tree comes down in the wrong direction our upper floor will be a gonner.  Luckily, the wind never seems to blow towards that side of the house.  Only on the morning after the great Michael Fish storm of 1987 did we realise we should have got the kids to sleep downstairs that night, although the tree survived intact.

So with all this weather I send my appreciation and moral support to all those live aboard boaters out there, while I sit snug at home.  I'm sure it'll pass soon enough, and we'll get back out to join you in calmer waters.

In other news, I'm getting near the end of my Zoe nutrition subscription now.  I've learned a great deal and have enjoyed it. If you're interested in how it has all gone and what it has done for us I've summarised it on my other blog

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Dry January? Hardly!

I hear that supermarkets are experiencing a run on non alcoholic gins etc , and putting their prices up, as people have a go at dry January.  The term Dry January must ring a bit hollow for all those people whose houses are flooded right now.  We're keeping a watch on the Huntingdon area on the Ouse where our son Richard lives on his boat.  He's in Hartford Marina, has been for 17 or 18 years.  As luck would have it, he has only recently been asked to move off his long term fixed pontoon  to a floating pontoon on the other side of the marina.  I'm fairly sure his old pontoon must be well submerged at the moment.

A short way down river is St Ives, where Richard used to work.  We like St Ives and sometimes take the guided bus to there from Cambridge where our other son lives.  Boating through St Ives is lovely too.  However I wouldn't want to boat there today

I don't think you'd get under the bridge.

Here's what it was like last time we were there (taken from only a few yards away)

Here's the same spot in happier times, taken as we boated through the bridge.  You can see that the wall which is under the water today is about 7 feet or more above normal water levels.

Of course things are much worse in other places like down the Severn.  Ten years ago when we moored overnight at Worcester we marvelled at the height of the uprights on the floating pontoon at Diglis

I wonder how far up the pole the pontoon is now?  Not far off the top I would guess.

So its a wet dry January for a lot of us, although my dryness is suspended today as it's my birthday and I might have a glass or two of plonk with dinner.  I remember meeting Sue and Vic of No Problem fame years ago and being impressed that Vic was still boating though over 70.  Well I can hardly believe I'm 77 today and although I couldn't manage the four counties ring in a week like we did years ago, I'm still  working through locks now and then without totally collapsing as I hope to be able to report throughout 2024.

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Herbie Special Award winner - plus talk of floods

 So for the final and most important of the 2023 Herbie Awards (yes I know it's already 2024 but I've been busy)

Every year we give a Special Award to a person who has performed above and beyond the norm and has been helpful either to me and Kath, or to Herbie or to the canals in general.  The winners find themselves in distinguished company.  This years award has been many years in the making with the recipient growing in helpfulness and dependability year upon year to the point where they are now able to run and manage Herbie for us even in difficult circumstances and we know that they will do the job properly and thoroughly. This award is a first because the recipient has previously won the Best Crew Member Award, but now they have gone beyond being a mere crew member and can now be fully trusted as Skipper when Kath and I are not aboard.

So the 2023 Herbie Special Award goes to 

our lovely grand daughter 


I can do no better than to re-use the pictures that I used to illustrate her eralier crew award. Here they are.

Yes, now a teenager, we started her early. Here she is at nearly 4 years old , already hands on the tiller

then at 5, opening lock gates

then at 8, flying solo


And here she is in 2024:

Grace started off at the helm when she was a tiny tot and has progressed in ability and confidence ever since.  We're quite confident now to leave her 'in charge'  of the boat even though she is only just 16 years old.  A couple of months ago when Kath was in hospital with Covid and Complications, we sent Grace and her mother Claire  to collect Herbie from Tooleys in Banbury and return her to our berth at Cropredy. In gloomy and breezy weather they had to turn the boat in Banbury's awkward winding hole then return to Cropredy through 5 locks and a lift bridge.  Conditions were difficult and as the days were short it was dark by the time they got back to Cropredy having already survived a running aground in the falling light half an hour earlier.  I think they had to negotiate Cropredy lock in virtual darkness.   Grace followed her instructions to a T, tying up the boat in the dark and remembering all the 'leaving the boat' jobs like tightening the stern gland etc.  Claire merely acted as crew and was instructed throughout by Grace.  What a star.

So that's that for the awards.  

As I write the rain is hammering down outside and our patio at home is an inch deep (and rising) in water. Our soakaway drain can only take so much. If the rain persists the water could be lapping over the threshold of our conservatory by morning.  An email has arrived from Aquavista saying 8 of their 29 marinas have been affected by flooding this week and they are sending out teams to deal with the necessary clear ups etc.  I suppose the affected marinas will be those on rivers like Buckden on the Ouse and especially Diglis on the Severn at Worcester.  

Our friend John and Irene keep their boat in a marina at Tewkesbury and having seen photos of the town this week I'm sure that'll be flooded.  Of course boats in river marinas are usually on floating pontoons but the car parks and other marina facilities have no such luxury.  When John and Irene had to be rescued  from their boat on the Avon in the middle of the night some years back, the boat was saved but their car back in the marina was a write off I seem to remember.  Us canal users are much luckier.  Canals don't often flood.  It's more often the wind that is the problem, pulling boats off their moorings or bringing down trees.  Meanwhile back in my garden one of the fence panels has blown down.  Hey Ho. I'm not going out in this weather to fix it.