When I wrote about the pros and cons of a winter mooring, I failed to take into account this: Winter moorings are winter BORING. We have spent the whole winter winter SNORING.
While other hardy boaters have battled through the icy waters, their bargepoles glancing off the frozen canal like Ahab’s spear off Moby Dick’s back, we have merely sat in the warm and grumbled about what they’re doing to our blacking.
In fact things have been so pleasant and so easy that we’ve been at risk of feeling like not-real-boaters at all. That’s why, the other day, we decided we really ought to get out there and eat some ice.
Here’s a visual representation of how that went:
At this point I should probably clarify that we didn’t just go for an ice-breaking jaunt for no reason. Our winter mooring hasn’t been entirely without excitement, we were in fact FROZEN IN for the last couple of weeks.
At first, being frozen in is really exciting and beautiful.
Everything is frosty and white and you can do all sorts of fun things like poke the ice, throw stuff on the ice, hit the ice with a stick, and watch the ducks wondering what in the actual hell is going on.
At night, the towpath glitters.
We even had snow at one point.
Snow is interesting!
However things get a little less fun when the ice starts to get fat and comfy and overstays its welcome, much like myself at your house in winter. The not-fun is amplified further when, although your winter mooring has a water point fairly close by, you can’t actually get to it unless you a) reverse all the way there or b) go down the lock, turn in the winding hole, go back up the lock, and make your merry way to the water point five hours later.
A quick lesson in boatabulary (boat vocabulary): While you may initially think ‘winding hole’ should be pronounce in the same way as ‘winding a clock’ or ‘datty wind and grind’, it’s actually pronounced ‘winding’ as in ‘a cold wind’ or ‘boaters have definitely made up this pronunciation of winding’.
This is because a winding hole works by allowing you to ease your bow into the pointy end of the hole in order to let the wind blow you around until you’re facing the right direction. It is also because boaters love anything that has a misleading pronunciation upon which they can gleefully correct people over and over again. (See also: windlass – commonly pronounced ‘windlass’ as in ‘a cold wind’-lass but really ought to be pronounced ‘windlass’ as in ‘datty grind and wind’-lass).
Factor in thick ice that makes it impossible to go either forwards or backwards and getting water becomes impossible.
So when we ran out of water right in the middle of the deep freeze, it was not good.
Oh water, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee for letting me wash my hands. I love thee for letting me brush my teeth. I love thee for letting me do the washing up and for being quite a main component of showering. I love thee for letting me flush the toilet.
I do not love thee when thee is only available in 1L bottles of Waitrose essential spring water.
If you’ve ever washed exclusively from 1L bottles of Waitrose essential spring water then you’ll understand that it gets tedious pretty quickly.
After a week of this, things got gross.
Since there’s only so much not-showering I can handle, we started to gaze longingly out of the window through our grime-encrusted eyes at what looked to be a defrosting canal.
“Hmm.” we thought, “That looks good enough for boating now.”
We decided enough was enough, it was time to face the ice and get some water.
We took up our positions; Ed at the back ready to steer us into the blizzard, me at the front – bargepole poised – ready to smash us a path through the tundra.
We had this. We were getting water. Nothing was stopping us.
Except the ice, which did in fact stop us.
We got about 10m down the canal, me flailing the bargepole wildly at all I beheld, until we came to a sharp and grinding halt that nearly threw me off the front of the boat.
From an open hatch nearby a friendly voice gleefully chirped, “You ain’t gonna get through that! Even if you could, you’ll never open the lock gates!”
Right. Excellent. Thanks. Reversing it is.
I’ll spare you a blow-by-blow account of how we, over the next two hours, managed to crawl backwards through the ice except to say that eventually we had to give up and head for the towpath where we commenced to drag the boat backwards like canal horses, with Ed smashing the ice as we went.
Later, as we huddled by the fire congratulating ourselves through chattering teeth and waiting for our water tank to fill up, I meditated on the fact that excitement is overrated.
The next day, I contacted CRT and asked if we could extend our winter mooring to March.
They said no.