Ice! What Ic…. Ooh! 20th December

‘Avecoat Marina to Sutton Road Bridge, Birmingham and Fazeley Canal

Alarm set just in case we slept in. Breakfasted, water tank filling and rubbish disposed of as the first boat came past on the canal heading towards Tamworth. This boat, a short while later returned and pulled in on the towpath opposite us.

Smiles all round this morning

Just before we rolled back the covers the chugging of an engine started up, NB Capricorn was about to reverse out from it’s mooring. There she went, no problem, no ice. None what-so-ever. Covers rolled up and ready for our departure I tapped on NB Mr Blue Sky’s roof to wish John a Happy Christmas. He then stayed to watch our departure, which thankfully went well.

Reversing out and turning there was just enough room. Then the steep right to the entrance and left to the service area on the towpath. NB Capricorn was moored up chatting away, they pulled forward having topped up their tank. Time to fill ours and pay for our extra days in the marina. We’d originally planned to stay for ten nights and ended up staying seventeen. Out of those the marina was frozen for twelve nights.

Hello Harnser somewhere over there

We could have carried on to top up the diesel elsewhere where it may have been cheaper, but we didn’t want any detours today, there was shopping to do. As Mick headed off to pay a lady arrived to see how big the queue was, she’d pulled in some distance away and was wanting a top up and coal. We chatted away, it turns out we may be neighbours for Christmas as our destination is the same. Sandy has only been living afloat for 14 weeks, the last ten days iced in at Polesworth. Her journey so far today had involved some pretty thick ice. As we pulled out she ran back to get her boat, we think she was next in line.

Capricorn topping up

The plan had been to follow NB Capricorn along the canal as they were heading the same direction as us, but they seemed settled for a while and we wanted to be off. I pushed the bow out and off we set, free from all the ice. What ice! It was as if there had never been any.


Okay, so in sheltered places we came across cat ice that crackled itself out of our way, someone had already been through it. Past the house where they must hoover the lawn. Past the end of garden mooring where we got to know the owners when Tilly was a very new boat cat and had to have her vaccinations. No boat here today. The supermarket trolley that Mick had seen on the ice a few days ago was now visible on the bottom of the canal. Thankfully it was to one side so not a problem for us. If we’d tried to pull it out it would only end up back in the canal and most probably in a worse position for passing boats.

A Lock!

Glascote top lock came into view, no boats on the Co-op moorings. I decided to work the locks, hoping my leg was recovered enough. I filled the top lock, walked down to lift a paddle on the bottom lock so it could fill as we emptied the top lock. Paddles lifted lock emptied, gates opened, then closed, yep my leg still had a problem, more evident when pushing and pulling gates. I walked down opened the bottom lock where Mick and I swapped roles.

Glascote Top Lock

Just as I brought Oleanna out of the bottom lock I could see the bow of a boat coming round the bend and under the bridge ahead, we could leave the gates open.


More patches of ice gradually getting that bit thicker. Large sheets of it, the surface melted in places creating an undulating surface. A few boats were moored near the Tame Aqueduct, here the ice was the thickest, maybe about an inch, someone else had already broken it up. We slowed right down, a boat coming towards us, the ice chinking against the armco and moored boats.

A sea of ice

At Fazely Junction we headed right to Fradley and the North. Two boats sat at the water point filling up their tanks. From here on it felt like we were the first boat through. Thankfully what ice we came across wasn’t too thick, but it did sound like we were surrounded by a primary school assembly every child with some rudimentary percussion instrument.

Fazeley Junction

We counted the bridges to where we hoped to moor, there was space. Tilly was very very excited. Trees!!! Sideways trees!! Friendly cover!!!!!!!!!! But things needed to be done which would mean we’d be out for the afternoon, so no shore leave. Boring b***********!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Another day added to the eighteen she’d already endured without stepping off the boat wouldn’t hurt.

Looking back

Lunch, NB Capricorn came past and then Sandy pulled up behind us. At least we now knew someone else would be breaking the ice ahead of us.

Time to tick off the last Christmas shopping and things for work. First B&Q who had some possible small Christmas trees, reduced to half price. Still twice as much as I paid seven years ago in Newark, but the trees were twice the size. Asda had some very dinky trees, not worth the effort. The tree purchase could wait for tomorrow.

One of those might do!

I walked to the furthest shop I wanted to visit, M&S. Then crossed over the queues of traffic to Hobby Craft. Here I had a long list of things to buy for work. Some things needed rethinking due to what was available, a £1 canvas bag and stuffing would go together to make a pregnancy bump. Could I make chip cartons from sheets of A4 card? Would the 4 sheets of A1 foam cor fit in an Ikea blue bag to aid carrying them back to the boat. Sadly no!

It appeared as if the population of the Midlands had all decided to come out in their cars to sit in traffic jams to go slowly round the round abouts in the retail park. So many people and so few ways to walk from place to place with streams, fences, walls in the way. I nearly got run over walking the wrong way through the McDonalds drive through, did you know they are open 7am to 11am on Christmas Day!

Ow much!!!!

Mick had popped to Sainsburys. I visited Pets at home, successfully buying Tilly a present for Christmas. Then we made our way back to Oleanna in the dark, the fairy lights on her wreath guiding us home. Finding places to stow things on board is getting quite hard.

That way please

2 locks, WE 4.45miles, Pip’s Nebo 4.9 miles (including walking between locks), Mick’s Nebo 4.5 miles, 1 ice free marina, 66 litres, 7 extra nights, 0 to 1 inch ice, 1 new Christmas friend, £600 not £5,000, A1 things, 250grams stuffing, A4 card, 6 secret things, 2 boxes wine, 10 litres litter, 7+gravy food, 2 boaters and 1 boat cat free again!

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