The forecast was for a cold start to the day. I was still surprised to see that the surface of the canal in front of the boat was covered in ice.
We set off towards the Tardebigge Lock Flight, all wary of the risk of slipping. Thick ice can be a problem for narrowboats, but this amount was no big deal, though it made an interesting noise as we drove through.
I noted the time as we went in to the first lock – we had 29 locks to do, how long would that take? We’d worked out the choreography during our rehearsal on previous days, so we were pretty slick. Clare and I had also agreed that we would swap driving and locking a little more often, so that neither of us ever got cold.
The locks are only a few boat lengths apart the whole way. Every lock was set our way which reduced the effort. We managed to have the gates ready before the boat arrived at each one.
We came out of the 29th lock of the day less than 2½ hours after we went in – an average of five minutes per lock. We were very pleased with ourselves. It was definitely lunch time – and we’d earned lunch – but I’d been worrying about beating sunset!
After lunch we went on and filled up with water. The next bit of canal had two short tunnels. At the exit to the second we came out in to an impressive beech wood.
As I approached the exit, an optical effect made the carpet of leaves look as if they were creating a wall. Although that was only an illusion, the volume of leaves clogged the propellor very thoroughly so we stopped anyway. I tried the usual tricks with bursts of reverse – this seemed to make things worse if anything. Several trips down the weed hatch (the water was ice cold) found nothing significant. We eventually drove out slowly and things gradually improved again. It was nearly sunset, so when we found an open section we moored up – just as the snow started.
While we were travelling in the sunshine, our solar panels were collecting some power from the sun. The control panel now shows that since launch, Bartimaeus has collected one mega watt hour (1 MWh) of solar power. This has been very useful to keep batteries topped up when not in use. It is sobering to realise that this is only half the amount of energy in our diesel tank when full (though a diesel engine can only do useful work with between a tenth and a third of that).
Updates from Canal and River Trust this evening tell us that there are trees down in the canal behind us. If we had waited in Droitwich Spa for Storm Arwen to pass, we would now be unable to leave.