Through Wednesday night the cut froze, we could hear it getting progressively thicker. Any movement by the wind of Oleanna made creaking, cracking noises. The water between us and the towpath had frozen creating an icy Shroppie shelf that we bumped and cracked into. Then as the boat returned the other way she would then bump into the large sheet of ice covering the canal, creaking and crunching that way too. This didn’t make for a good nights sleep!
We spent the day sheltering inside, knitting, making soup, reading and watching a bit of TV, listening to the creaks as the wind picked up. Mick at one point went out and broke away the icy shelf, this cut down the creaks, but didn’t stop them completely. How thick was the ice? NB Halsall was due through today, would they be able to move? We had sent our order through to them by text a couple of days ago and their reply had been that weather permitting they would be in Nantwich Thursday. Was the weather permitting?
Around 4pm we heard the honk of Halsall’s horn as they came over the aqueduct. We all sprang into action, there was something to do! Tilly ran up and down like a loon whilst we wrapped up warm. The cratch needed rolling up to get the coal into the well deck and other things to make Lee and Roberta’s life as easy as possible. But with a long line of boats ahead of us how long would it take them to reach us, we waited in anticipation under the pram cover. Surprisingly they only stopped at two out of the eight or so boats, before coming in along side us.
I was interested to see how soon they affected the ice by us, they were breaking it most of the way, keeping a slow steady pace in the wind. At about two boat lengths away the pinging sounds across the ice started, water bubbled up in front of the workboat opposite us. Just as their bow reached ours huge cracks appeared across the surface of the ice breaking it into three or four smaller sheets. Here’s a link to a video I took, Halsall makes her entrance from the left (it is getting on for 16MB).
Their ropes were frozen, so no throwing them over T studs today, at least this meant that they could be passed over a greater distance. First the coal in at the bow, then they moved up along our side to fill the diesel tank. They’d had difficulty pushing off at the Shroppie Fly in the morning, but managed quite well the rest of the 6 miles from there. Little snow but the biting wind must have been cutting straight through them. These people are heroes and always have a smile, even on the darkest day. They only stop when they simply can’t move the boat or it is dangerous to do so. They must buy the best thermals possible.
A chap popped along to ask them to call in as they went through the next bridge, he was wanting all sorts. Bags of Excell (smokeless coal) were now all spoken for with orders, but they had plenty of other fuels he could choose from. Once our tank was full, they headed onwards to some of the permanently moored boats, we’d be sent our bill by text when they pulled up later. In the morning they were expecting a diesel delivery and another 6 tonnes of coal before they set back off and along the Middlewich Branch.
We returned inside to the warmth of the stove. The ice had been broken up, so no more creaking and cracking noises. That had stopped, but was now replaced by the larger sheets of ice knocking and banging on Oleanna’s hull! Leaning out of a bathroom porthole with a broom handle Mick tried to push the offending sheets of ice under others away from our side. This worked for a short amount of time before the wind pushed more sheets towards us.
Throughout the evening we had the constant biffing and banging of the ice in the wind. It didn’t sound like it would freeze over again and it didn’t. At about 4am we had what sounded like a full orchestra of car boots being slammed just outside. Another quality nights sleep, at least with our fat duvets we stayed very warm.
0 locks, 0 miles, 2 bad nights sleep, 1 large vat parsnip sweet potato and chicken soup, 0.3 of a sock, 0.5 feline, 2 rubber bouncy balls, 2 cold heroes, 5 bags coal, 74 litres diesel, 257894654 biffs and bangs!