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Dec 19th 09 - near Scholar Green

This morning we took one look at the canal and realised the Christmas might have to be cancelled!  We checked the weather forecast and it was definitely gloomy as far as we are concerned.  The maximum temperature during the day was about 2 degrees, the overnight temperature -5!!  There is no way this canal is going to defrost in time for us to get to Church Minshull.  So we were feeling a bit down in the dumps.

When we had arrived at this mooring following our trip down the lock flight there was another boat moored in front of us.  Yesterday afternoon we heard their engine and Clive noticed that it was moving!  Sure enough it started to reverse, breaking ice as it came towards us.  When it was abreast of us Clive went up on deck to have a word with her crew.  It turns out they were needing water and the nearest water point was actually behind us.  They were intending to fill up with water and then come back to the mooring.  Later that evening we realised they hadn't returned.

This morning, whilst we were mooning around feeling miserable her crew walked passed our boat with their dog - we opened the window to have a chat and after a few minutes I suggested they come on board for a cuppa rather than standing shivering on the bank - they agreed.  So that is how we met Chris and Carolyn from Narrowboat Red and Gold.  It was really nice to have visitors - we don't get many (obviously!).  It was also nice to see their lovely collie curled up on the rug in front of our stove - I wish we had a ship's dog!

We were chatting about our plans for Christmas, which were rapidly going sour and explained that we were also rather concerned that we weren't going to be able to move the boat in time to get over the Kidsgrove aqueduct before it closes on January 4th.  If we don't manage it we are well and truly stuck as it doesn't reopen until March 12th!  Chris and Carolyn were both a bit stunned - they weren't aware of the impending closure! Eventually we all said goodbye, having swapped contact details and giving them our website address and off they went up the towpath.

We had a spot of lunch and a cuppa and resigned ourselves to the possibility of spending Christmas on our own on the boat.  Then we heard a strange noise!  Clive looked out of the front window and saw a boat!  Yes a boat was actually coming towards us, breaking the ice and the noise of it breaking was reverberating through the water and being amplified by our hull, it sounded very weird!  As the boat finally reached us Clive dashed up on deck and shouted across to her crew asking where they had come from - Scholar Green was the answer!  Brilliant, Scholar Green is not far from the Kidsgrove Aqueduct, if we could get there we have a good chance of being able to get through the aqueduct before January 4th.  So we quickly started getting into our boots and outdoor gear ready to head off down the newly opened channel in the ice. 

We phoned Chris and Carolyn to let them know however they decided to stay overnight and get up early in the morning to try and move.  Hopefully the channel made by the other boat and then kept open by us will not freeze as thickly as the rest of the canal and won't be as hard to break through in the morning.  We will keep our fingers crossed for them.  About an hour's cruise from our mooring is the Heritage Marina at Sherbourne Wharf.  We called there last year on our way up for a pump-out.  Clive phoned them, firstly to ask if their pump-out facility was working - it wasn't, its frozen!  Secondly to ask if they had any moorings available - the answer to that was also no because the marina is frozen and no boats can get in or out!  However he said we could moor on the towpath opposite and the boat would be safe there as they could keep an eye on it. 

So we set off at 2.30pm.  Although the channel was open there were huge slabs of ice floating in it, about an inch (2.54cm!) thick, which bumped up against our hull making a horrendous noise and nudging the boat so that it felt as if something was pushing us sideways. 



Our pathway to freedom!



We soon arrived in Congleton and saw yet another boat coming towards us.  They pulled in to the side to let us through - we managed to yell across at each other over the sound of the breaking ice and the engine noise and ascertained that they had only come from the Congleton Basin and were heading for our mooring on the aqueduct. 

We pressed on and got through Congleton then out into open countryside.  We were still following the open channel.  However a little while later we went under a bridge and noticed a large, thawed area on the right where a boat had obviously been moored, after that the channel appeared to be frozen over again.  It was and all of a sudden we were breaking ice! 

Unbroken ice!

Now the noise was even worse and the boat slowed down considerably.  Clive was beginning to think we weren't going to make it to Sherbourne Wharf.    It was now after 3.00pm and the sun was already going down - it would be dark soon!  We couldn't get any speed up because of the ice - I told him to think positive, we were going to make it!

Wintry sunset

We did!  We finally saw the lights of the marina up ahead and managed to pull into the bank, well almost, there was so much broken ice between the hull and the bank that we couldn't get right in and the boat is about a foot (about 30cm) off the bank.  Still it doesn't matter, we are now securely tied up and once the ice refreezes overnight this boat isn't going to move!  Just as we were pulling into the mooring Clive noticed the sign for the marina and instantly spotted the words Beer and Wine on sale in shop - hooray!  We had drunk our last bottle of wine and thought we would have to go on the waggon for the foreseeable future.  So once the boat was secure I came inside and Clive trotted off to the next bridge so that he could nip back to the marina shop - it wasn't long before he was back with a couple of bottles of Shiraz!

So here we are and here we are staying.  All being well my brother Nick is going to drive over and fetch us in his 4 x 4 so that we can spend Christmas in Huddersfield after all.  However as we now have no access to an electric hook up we are going to have to empty the fridge and the freezer and take all the food with us so that we can turn the electrics off.  The solar panels will trickle charge the batteries whilst we are away but aren't able to run the appliances.  

I wonder if Chris and Carolyn will make it tomorrow - I hope so, we will keep our fingers and toes crossed for them.

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