Sunday, 7 December 2014

Winter canal fix 2: a short trip on the North Oxford

This is posted after the event.  We usually forget something on our trips – Dave has forgotten his thermals in winter, and I’ve also left my glasses and phone charger behind.  This time I forgot the camera lead to download my photos to the laptop, so the blog will have to wait. I  forgot my purse too, though as I know where Dave keeps his cash that’s not a problem …
Anyway, I’m posting this now we’re back home.

Sunday 30th November
At last a dry forecast matched a free week so we drove up to Calcutt for a few days on Chuffed.  We had a good journey up, sailing merrily past the poor souls waiting to leave the M5 to do their Christmas shopping at Cribbs Causeway (the enormous shopping centre near Bristol).  Although it was still sunny it was too late to get very far, so we stayed in the marina on the shoreline and got on with some jobs.  I didn’t take any photos today so here’s one of Meg last night wondering whether the packing activity meant another boating trip!
wheres my sleeping bag
Dave’s first job was topping up the antifreeze on the Mikuni so we could start warming the boat up.   Summer or winter, my first job is always turning on the gas and making a cuppa!   We get condensation dripping from the mushroom vents, particularly above the cooker, so I had some mopping up to do as I’d forgotten to cover the cooker top before we left last time.  Then I spent a few minutes fiddling about with matches to dry a burner so the gas would burn properly.   Chuffed looked surprisingly dirty outside even though Dave had washed her down before we finished the last trip, so out came the mop for the starboard side before it got too dark to see what he was doing.  Meanwhile I sorted out the fire for the first use since that glorious autumn.  Seems so long ago!

I’d thought last trip that my camera was kaput – it only showed a few of the photos I took.  I spent some time with Google at home and finally, after cleaning the memory card I realised it hadn’t been properly locked in place.  These are a couple of my ‘test’ photos – a squirrel decided to bury a whole sweetcorn cob in the flowerbed at home (the blurry bit is rain on the window).

  P1030067  P1030064
It took three attempts before it managed to dig a hole big enough, hauling it out again for each new attempt.  The funniest bit was seeing it stamping its little front feet to pat down the earth afterwards.  Where it got a whole cob from at the end of November I have no idea – the local maize harvest is long finished and the rooks and deer finish off any spills from that.

Back to the boat.  We hadn’t decided where to go this trip before we left home, so once it got dark we sat down with Nicholson’s and another cup of tea with some yummy Christmas snacks – I won a hamper at the village church Christmas Fair last week!  We think we’ll make for Rugby and try to start our Christmas shopping; we’ve never actually stopped there before though we’ve been past many times. 
We spent a cosy evening on board.  When Dave took Meg out at bedtime there was a skim of ice on the pontoon and I could hear the owls calling as I turned out the light.

Monday 1st December
It was so overcast when I woke up I though it was only about 7 – it was actually after 8 but with that horrible flat sheet of dismal grey cloud which didn’t lift all day.   
As I was having breakfast I felt I was being watched – this coot and a couple of mallard were peering up through the window.  Aren’t coot feet wonderful?  Their toes seem longer in proportion to their body size than the mallard’s – I suppose they need to be as their feet are lobed rather than webbed.
1 welcoming committee  2 coot feet

Dave checked the engine and did the brasses while I went up to the office to pick up Towpath Talk and buy some coal, and we finally got away around 11.30, missing sharing the bottom lock by about 10 minutes.  But someone else came along so we had company at all 3 locks.  We left him waiting for the water point as Zulu with butty Alsager made ready to follow us up to the junction. 

The heavy cloud cover made snapping the view a waste of time so I took a few of Meg instead.  She enjoyed pottering around at the locks and then took up her usual position overseeing Dave in his steering duties.
3 keeping an eye on dave

Dear old Tess was a collie/lab cross so had lovely thick warm fur.  But Meg has whippet somewhere in her ancestry and gets cold quite quickly when she’s not running about.  She is lightweight and skinny too, so a coat that isn’t too loose round the chest is a bit short for her back so when we get home I’ll have to make her a nice fleecy one to keep her bum warm too.  She loves sitting on the locker and sniffing the air but even with her coat on the nasty thin north-east wind sent her inside before long. 

We had a good morning bird-spotting – I’d heard fieldfares chacking their way over the marina and we saw a flock of them with redwings too.  Nearby was a large flock of finches, though the light level was so low I could only recognise the chaffinches.  Then we heard the high-pitched call of a bird of prey and there was a sparrowhawk (we are pretty sure it wasn’t a kestrel as we saw one of them later) harassing a pair of crows.  I’ve only ever seen birds of prey on the receiving end of that before!

We stopped near Flecknoe for lunch, then donned another layer of clothing before cracking on under bridge 102 which is being repaired.

4 work at bridge 102 flecknoe

On towards Braunston turn and Meg was out again keeping an eye on things.
5 what can she see

We had hoped to call in at the chandlery, but their mooring was taken (by Fizzical Attraction) so we’ll try again on our way back. On we went towards Rugby.  There were lots of boats on the move this morning – we’d seen 12 by the time we got to the turn, but after that nothing stirred apart from us and a couple of hardy walkers.  There were some intriguing smells apparently though and I don’t think it was Dave’s tea!

6 investigating by nose

n the greyness, the light seeped away so gradually that it was getting dark before we realised, but we managed to find a reasonably un-muddy spot between Willoughby and Barby in time for Dave to take Meg out before it got too dark to see.

Another cosy evening in and an internet signal too, though this won’t get posted till I can upload my photos.

8 and a half miles, 3 locks.

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