Sunday 15th to Sunday 22nd January 2012.

Sunday 15th
This is our last day of winter. The flowering daffodils tell us it’s time to get moving, and so begins our 2012 Spring cruise adventure, we’re heading west to pastures new.

We said our farewells to Claire and Ter after filling their tummies and relieving them of a huge bag of wood – they’re so good to us. It’s our last mail drop for a while and probably my last conversation with anyone on the subject of Tribal Wars, yes seriously, I only joined up for the holidays.

Monday saw zero temperatures and enough ice for a mouse to skate on. We were off under a clear sky, meeting no one until we emerged from Redhill lock (opportunist).
Trent lock pontoon moorings were completely empty and looked inviting but we had an appointment with the water tap below Sawley lock.
I also had an appointment with the rubbish skip above the lock because it can be a good source of materials (tin sheet for a chimney hat and perhaps an interesting rejected Christmas gift?).

Tuesday surrounded us in ice as thick as window glass outside Sawley Marina but as someone had already broken a way through to the West we decided to follow before things got worse.
A quick call at the smelly pontoon for a dump and some requisites at the chandlery and we were away. Had they not taken my old oil I wouldn’t have purchased new but they were so accommodating with their ‘key’ to the dirty oil tank that I marked them on my ‘Good Guys’ list.

The day ended adjacent to the aerator at Shardlow’s sewage works on the Sawley Cut. Lovely aromas.

Wednesday brought a re-freeze but the captain took a view on it and said we go. T’was only as thick as your little finger, at worst, but after several miles accompanied by the sound of tinkling glass I turned down an opportunity to pick up Beta oil filters at Mercia Marina. You can imagine how we’d be received shoving sheets of ice at the tuppies as we turned to come back out again.

I have to say there’s enough wood on the towpath either side of Swarkestone to put a coal boat out of business. Most of the nice bits have gone so you’d need a chain saw if you wanted to fill the roof.

We spent the night at Willington counting trains instead of sheep. Remind me not to stop there on the way back.

Thursday took us to Branston, near the water meadows. Lovely to see these moorings deserted, it doesn’t happen very often. This is what makes winter cruising such a pleasure.
But what a day, windy and bitterly cold. We hardly saw a soul on the move and it sticks in my memory as one of those days I gladly accepted an offer of a break from the tiller just to stand by the fire with hands round the chimney.

We called in to Shobnall for filters but although I could see them they were only allowed to sell coal and gas while the Administrators controlled the books. I was told they would release the chandlery and dry dock for business in a few days. I wonder what happened to those who put down a deposit towards their dry docking, did they lose out?

Friday – The forecast was correct – continuous rain. We stayed put and only saw two Shakespeare boats all day.

Saturday – There’s blue sky up ahead and we’re off to Alrewas, V said.
But the wind was getting worse. It blew us to the side in front of nb.Mayflower so I got off and asked the price of diesel. It’s 85p which is good (relatively speaking) but they can’t fit us in until tea-time. We sailed on, perhaps I’ll call them later before we reach their Diesel-in-a-Can limit at Great Hayward (07970 893245).

Boards were ‘orangy-green’ above Wychnor Lock and the river flow was strong. We managed a steady crawl upstream to Alrewas making a crab move at the end to get us past the reeds into the lock approach.

Alrewas’ lock exit was so messed up by the wind that I had to tie the centre line to a bollard while V gave it wellie to keep us away from offside moored boats until the bow was pointing in the right direction. But I have to say I love it, it’s brilliant.

I feel a bit sorry for hire boats in a hurry in weather like this. One passed us at dusk and found the wind stronger than they could manage. The boat ended up sideways-on to the lock, a bit wider and they could have turned round and gone back home.
Wind trubl

Sunday 22nd
Cor it didn’t half blow in the night, even the centre rope took to the air. We both awoke in the early hours wondering what had fallen on the floor. V couldn’t resist and went looking for the culprit but found nothing amiss, on the inside anyway. No doubt we lost something from the roof.

If bumps in the night are unsettling then I can say I have found the answer to something that has kept me wondering for years. I now have proof that our loved ones in heaven can hear us.
There’s a sign on a tree beside the canal. It says “Quiet please, residents above”