Monday, 25 January 2010

Josie provides fur lining

This is a bit of a fuzzy photograph, but you get our drift. This is Josie fur, floating alongside Bella - in water, not ICE! The temperature is only just slightly warmer than freezing, but she has decided that it is close to Spring and is shedding her winter coat. Oh joy. No sooner have we vacuumed than we find more hair. So, Elizabeth and the Jose went to the deck with the brush. Here is some of the result. We always put it in the canal or on the towpath, even now though it is slightly early, because the birds pick it up and line their nests. We have watched a fur ball disappear in minutes, taken up beak by beak to a new egg cradle. This will help them prepare...

On the bird front, Pete put up a new fat/seed ball and what with that and the peanut feeder, we have full to bursting bird life on the quayside. We feed all sorts of Tits, Finches, Robins, Dunnocks, Sparrows and even a Greater Spotted Woodpecker or two. On the waterside, the Moorhens have begun to meet Pete each morning, as now does the beautiful seagull. Ducks have returned, now that the ice has melted and the Swans, though not Rosie and Jim, make the odd appearance. This is our winter in home mooring routine - keep the wildfowl fed in lean months. When we're travelling on the cut in warmer times, we know that they can feed well without us.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The ice begins to melt

Here's our local seagull, drinking from the melted section, whilst standing on the remaining iced section. You can see the piling of ice plates, the result of yesterday's strenuous activity of a boat trying to both get water and turn in the mouth of the marina. The ice is clearly still thick, but this was a desperate boater who had run completely out of water. We believe that he moored up slightly north of Blue Haven, took on water, then had to reverse to return to his home mooring. Blue Haven's entrance was the winding hole of choice and as Elizabeth was at meetings in London, Pete thought Bella herself was cracking up as he heard the creak of ice. A swish of propeller from the boat you can see the stern of was used to force the ice up and as it fell, it broke. A few barge poles meant that at least some ice plates were moved. About an hour later, a usually few minute turn was accomplished.

Friday, 15 January 2010

The thaw starts slowly

We can hear the trickles of water, there is a gap between Bella and the ice and the wind is actually blowing us about as we are not a fixed point in a deep sheet of ice. It is even above freezing today! The thaw begins, yet the signs from the met office are that this will not be long. So, we're off to get as much water into our tank as we can while we can.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Still snowing

Funnily enough, it is still snowing! It stopped yesterday and we saw some holes beginning to form in the ice, as we had a bit of a melt on. But we woke to more snow, more meetings cancelled and more conference calls organised. Actually, we like conference calls!! Josie loves the snow, burrowing her nose in it with tail wagging heartily. We are still toasty and we are in walking distance of the shops, just over a mile away. So we're OK. Here's to all of you who are struggling - may you get the help you need.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Snowy views

We all know it's snowing. Compared to much of the country, we feel a little 'seen off', having still only accumulated less than a foot. Seeing this, we had much hope, but today it has melted somewhat. We watch what we can see on Bluebell (our neighbour) and check the depth that way. You can see that the open canal, in the left photo through the mouth of the basin, is still quite frozen and that the basin itself is certainly iced enough to stand on.

Friday, dear Pete was busy. One of the consequences of this freeze is that the water pipes are frozen. Pete spent over an hour with the wheelbarrow and 25ltr container topping up Bella's water tank with 1/3 tonne of water. 17 individual trips from the tap (which took him over 1/2 an hour to thaw) to Bella and back. In between, he was helping Zelda and Wells Fargo crews to fill their tanks. It's all go here! He even managed to find a place to empty the waste cassettes, as the BW waste point was frozen.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Funnily enough, we're still here in Blue Haven

Well, the ice is 5 inches deep at Bella's bow, and though we are as toasty as ever, part of the reason is that we work hard to stay warm! Josie clearly thinks that holding Pete's foot and cuddling his knee is the way. Pete shows our morning fashion statement (as Squirrel heats up) of thermal leggings, socks, dressing gown, hand mitts and thermal shirt. Elizabeth has her own lacy version, of course. Breakfast is eaten in the lounge by the fire as warmth takes over and when we're both sufficiently warmed up, we brave the shower. However, the shower is an every other day affair, swapping with sponge bath, as we are conserving water. The pipes in the marina are frozen and we may have to fill our hold with water can by water can from the single tap which works!

Watch this space.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Even the cut is frozen now

We woke to a frozen canal, as expected. But last year, we were frozen in on the south Oxford Canal at Fenny Compton, so we've not seen the north Oxford Canal here at Hillmorton frozen. So here is Josie, staring at the canal and the mouth of the marina.

The other shot is Pete's Moorhen friend who always hears the side hatch open. S/he watches, he throws duck and swan food (edible by Moorhens as well, we are assured :-), and it is gobbled up from the top of the ice amongst the snowflakes frozen as they fell and have remained. Poor thing is cold, of course, often standing on only one foot, the other folded up for warmth.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The new year hails cold

Here is the ice rink within which we are moored. We start another new year frozen in and it is beautiful to see. Today the white frost on the trees glistens against the clear blue sky. Many of you are seeing the same things, we are sure.

Our difference is two fold. One, the level which we stand to see this. Instead of above it, we are very close indeed, with our feet literally below the water line. Blessedly, the feet are toasty in the boat! The other difference is the sound of the creak and groan of melting ice against the steel hull. And we know that when there are huge groans and it sounds as if we might be breaking apart ourselves (and Josie tries to hide somewhere), that a boater is trying to behave as ice breaker out on the cut. We hear such a rumble while writing this, and out the windows see a boat struggling against the ice, having come to a complete stop against the depth. Why are they out? Who knows.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Snow on ice

Happy New Year!

We woke to all the clear basin having been frozen again and to a bright sunny morning. We even had clear heads! By the afternoon, the snow fell gently. It was quite a picture looking out of our window to white flakes on the ice. The Moorhens walked gently to the food we spread and Pete has been filling up the bird feeder again. Even an enormous crow landed, ice skated and swooped up some spare food. A cold time for all!

Travelling through bergs and breaking into our mooring

We set out around lunch time on the 30th, watering up in Braunston on the way, just in case the marina water source was frozen. The north Oxford Canal, into which we turned from the Grand Union, was a mix of free flowing water and slower sections filled with icebergs. Smaller than the Atlantic version the Titanic kissed, but large enough for us. We made it in excellent time though, probably because few boats were moored on the open canal and few boats were travelling. It was so cold that we gave each other only about 20 minutes each on the 'Bridge' while the other went inside to warm up. It was also very windy, making the travelling alternatively a little tricky and a whole lot of FUN! Going around corners being pushed by the wind is an exhilarating feeling, as is the whole experience of using the wind in our favour, rather than fighting it.

By the time we got to the entrance of Blue Haven, we could hear ice being broken and as we made the turn, we found our neighbour, boat pole in hand, making cracks in the ice. He had managed to create a space for us and we were moored up in minutes, Bella making the final break for the mooring. From there, we spent the next hour helping with our poles and boat hook, doing what we all called de-icing the marina. As our neighbour said, who ever thought boating was boring? We had a hoot moving great ice plates out to the open canal in order to move boats around the marina, particularly so that our friend could move to home mooring rather than the temporary (and only) place he found a few days ago. We smiled to ourselves as we thought of what travellers would think, making it relatively safely north or south to this point, then finding plates of ice overlapping each other!!

Washing up and coal delivery

We were thinking of setting out north on the 28th of December after we had coffee with our friends Mike and Clare before they set off south again. They visited us, considering we couldn't leave Bella to visit them! But a dear Blue Haven neighbour telephoned and said that the basin was still far too frozen for us to moor. So we stayed put and did the washing up instead.

The 29th, the same neighbour called again and said that if we could make it through the canal, we could just make it into the marina. He had been ice breaking! Before we set out, we enjoyed watching the coal delivery - boat and butty (sort of a trailer) moored alongside the boats on the left. Then along came a traveller! Suddenly we were five abreast and all were squeezing in! Great fun.