Friday 15 February 2008
Again the first job was to fill the domestic water system and then get the stove alight. We received a bit of good news, it seems that BW are going to dredge our moorings after all and before the end of March. From what I can make out they have the cash and if they don't spend it before the end of the financial year they just lose it, so they are going to use it. There were several boats on the move and one came up the flight just before we left. We stopped in the Top Lock to load the boat, not much as we are only out for the weekend. We met several boats in the flight but overall it probably slowed us down a bit as one was a single hander without a lot of idea or a licence, the couple following said they had been kept busy closing paddles as they got to the locks behind him. Today was fine but felt quite cold in the breeze and not a lot of sightings of the sun behind the clouds. We pushed on until just before 5 pm and then moored for the night on the new section of towing path and pilings just before Napton Narrowboats. There have been a couple of boats go by since we have been here and most of the cars crossing the two bridges blow their horns, so with one each end of us its surprisingly noisy but that stopped when it got dark. I took the dog out at about 10 pm. and the grass was alredy very frosty with a clear sky.
When I crawled out of bed on Saturday morning it was -5 and the cut was frozen over but still very clear, as the sun rose the weather warmed a lot and we were in no hurry to push off, just before half nine a boat came along breaking the ice for us, it was about three eighths of an inch thick. We made ready and were away at quarter to ten running down of the boat that came through earlier, it turned out he had only come from the Napton Marina about a quarter of a mile from where we had moored, from here we were breaking virgin ice all the way to Wigrams turn, where luckily there was a hire boat coming towards us from Braunston and he was turning towards Calcutt so I slowed down and let him go first, we then followed him to Calcutt locks and went down together. There were quite a few boats about by now and we were able to leave the gates open meeting boats in each pound. I wouldn't want to take a wide beam boat down as N.B. Laughter is now moored just below the first lock and her bow stick out about a quarter of the way across the tail of the lock., you wouldn't get a breasted pair through. There was much less ice now and also several boats coming towards us. I noticed that the "No Turning" notice has been taken down at Stockton Marina, I wonder on who's instructions it was removed. We caught up with the hire boat again at Stockton Top and shared all the way to the Blue Lias, They had a good sized crew with dad, 3 daughters, 1 son, 1 son in Law and 2 grand children that we saw, so we were able to set ahead. We filled with water opposite the Blue Lias and then winded before mooring at the end of the Blue Lias lawns. Winding here is not the easiest place in the world with 3 boats moored in the mouth of the arm and a boat moored opposite. We ate in the Blue Lias with Graham, Dave and Jane who were all there by car. When we left at 10 pm the canal was covered in ice and over night the temperature dropped to - 8.
Sunday morning was again very bright and warm and we didn't need jackets on all day. We walked up the flight with the dog, at Stockton Marina an Ownerships boat was trying to wind using the bowthruster, I hope it was a hydraulic one because it was running for ages. When we got opposite them on the towing path I persuaded them to throw the bow rope to me so that I could pull them round. I am not sure how efficient a bowthruster is as an ice crusher, but there was plenty getting sucked through it. About 10 am a boat came up the flight but pulled over and stopped for water before continuing on his way. By 12 o'clock we were feeling sorry for him working his way up the flight through the ice so we headed off with dog and windlasses to give him a hand, we found him moored just through the bridge and not attempted the locks, so we set off ourselves. It was slow going breaking the ice behind the gates with a pole so that we could get them open both top and bottom. Three locks before the top we met a boat coming down, so from here on it was all broken ice. The new entrance to Ventner Farm Marina is interesting. Under the bridge there are wooden cheeks protecting the brick work, however there is great big angle iron protecting the wood, not very boat friendly if you don't get the line quite right. Above Calcutt locks we saw a bat skimming along the cut, this was 3 pm on a sunny afternoon in mid February! We continued on meeting the odd boat to Wigrams Turn and made our way up the South Oxford Canal. Our original plan was to stop at maybe The Bridge or The Folly but the afternoon was so nice we carried on up the flight to our moorings, tieing up at quarter past five with the sun beginning to set.