Welcome to the world of Narrowboating

To risk is to live!

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Single handed boaters

I had a comment posted by Kath, another lone boater and she is planning to cruise from the Fossdike to Skipton - respect! It would be lovely to hear from any other lone boaters who are cruising on a regular basis. It would be interesting to hear any tips / disasters / great days etc.

Meanwhile - good luck Kath, I haven't even had the courage to tackle a broad lock on my own yet!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Boating in a blizzard

Well, if I had any doubts about my ability to manage the boat after my accident, they were dispelled by the end of my mini cruise. The first four days out were perfectly reasonable, weather wise. I had heeded the warning for snow on Friday and so reluctantly left Great Haywood and got to Kings Bromley by Thursday afternoon. I got the boat pumped out and dieseled up and then tied on mooring pins in the woods, prepared to wait Friday out.

Actually the mooring up wasn’t that straight forward as the wind had really started to blow and, as I usually find, it was blowing my boat away from the bank. The problem with that if you need to moor on pins and are single handed is that you need to get the boat to stay put while you hammer the pins in, but without anything to moor to in the meantime, the boat is likely to end up in the bushes on the other side of the cut!

Mooring up is the one thing I had been anxious about as that is how my leg got broken – hauling the boat in on the centre rope and mis-stepping on a tree root. I tried to get in a couple of times but as soon as I got off, the boat  started to drift out. So I ended up joining a long rope to my centre rope (whilst steering the boat and trying to hold her steady), then leaping off with this long rope, crossing the towpath and wrapping the rope around the nearest tree. That meant that at least ‘Don’t Panic’ wasn’t going to leave without me and I had time to hammer the pins in and then haul her in closer to the bank. The whole procedure took around 30 minutes from start to finish and having been cruising all day, I was finished!

Then the snow started. It snowed non stop all Thursday night and then all of Friday too. On Saturday morning I was starting to worry that I would get frozen in here in the middle of the woods with no access to my car or water. So in the middle of a blizzard I pulled out my mooring pins and made my way to Woodend Lock. I have never seen so much snow round and lock and the wind was blowing it into drifts. I knew this was a seriously risky business, operating a lock alone in these conditions, but once past Woodend I only had a few minutes before I reached Shadehouse Lock (the top of Fradley flight), mooring rings and safety.

I made it, with again much pulling on ropes in the wind to get her safely secured. The next day, again in snow and wind, my mate Stan helped me get her down the flight and back to my home mooring – a bacon and egg butty being his reward!

I would not have chosen this weather, or to finish my first mini cruise in such a fraught way, but it has done wonders for my confidence and I am  happy now to take the boat out alone – but I think I’ll wait for Spring to finally arrive before venturing out again!

ps Thank you to those of you who left such kind comments after my last entry – I don’t feel particularly brave – just very lucky to be able to live like this!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Back to being single handed

Since I broke my leg on 1st October, I have not had the legs or the confidence to cruise the boat on my own. Finally, on Sunday I decided that it was time to 'get back on the horse'. I wanted to go before the Easter rush so that I could take my time and find easy mooring sites. I wasn't sure how I would cope physically or emotionally after my confidence took a pretty big beating when I was injured. But I had to find out if I could still cruise single handed because if I couldn't cruise then I couldn't imagine remaining on the boat. I know it suits some people to have a floating cottage but for me, most of the joy of being a boater is in the travelling.

As it happened I didn't start entirely alone as my mate Stan helped me up the lock flight. But I managed to climb on my roof and up the lock ladder - something that was beyond me just a few weeks ago. Then at the top of the Fradley Flight I waved a fond farewell and cruised off with just Bonny for crew. I couldn't stop grinning! The weather was grey and chilly with just the odd bit of sunlight, but I didn't care - I forgot the sheer joy of pointing your boat ahead and just going. Last night I stopped near Handsacre on mooring pins. I really need to work on my arm muscles now as I found hammering in the pins hard going. My leg hurt a bit, but I am used to that and it didn't stop me taking Bon for a long walk as a reward for her patience on the roof.
(The observant among you will have spotted this wasn't taken yesterday - trees in leaf - but you get the idea!)
Today we cruised through Handsacre, Armitage and Rugeley in such thick fog that I couldn't even see the smoke stacks of Rugeley Power Station despite passing within a quarter of a mile of them! We tied up at lunchtime at one of my favourite moorings at Taft Bridge looking across to Cannock Chase. It's a safe place for Bonny to be off the lead so she has been very happily hunting mice in the reeds. Oh and the sun came out just as we moored - lovely.
This is where we are moored - just space for one boat but again this photo was taken on another occasion - it certainly isn't warm enough to have a lounger out!

Tomorrow we will mooch up to Great Haywood and stay for a couple of days before returning home. The temptation is just to keep going but my leg will only take so much before it hurts enough to spoil the day. I am so grateful though to be able to do even a few days. I really did wonder, whilst lying in a hospital bed, whether I would ever be able to manage the boat again.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Trip to Lymington

I haven't posted anything recently as life has been pretty quiet while I have continued to mend. The mooring is still lovely and I haven't yet started to job hunt. To be honest I'm struggling to get motivated to find work as I am having such a lovely time, but my money isn't going to last forever so I really need to get on with it.

Before that though I decided my leg was mended enough to take a first long drive, to visit my stepmother in the New Forest. I hadn't seen her in over a year, having missed both a family wedding and Christmas due to the leg. I went down on Tuesday, taking a relaxed 4 hours with a couple of Bonny stops en route. I managed fine, although my leg has been pretty sore since then. But I think that is down to the walks we have been having. Lymington and the surrounding area is so beautiful we just had to explore. Here are photos taken on our morning walk on the sea wall...

This is the sea wall between Lymington and the Solent. Since there is water both sides, it was safe to let Bonny off the lead!

The Isle of Wight is there but hidden in the mist. The geese flew overhead making a racket and scaring Bon

This is Lymington Yacht Haven - full of plastic boats - the type we look down on as narrow boaters!

We will be returning to normal life shortly and then I want to take the boat out for my first solo trip since my accident. It's over 5 months since I broke my leg and it is time to 'get back on the horse'. Eventually I'd like to take a cruise up to Froghall on the Caldon Canal. Stan took me there recently by car and it was absolutely beautiful with the lowest tunnel roof I have ever seen!