Tanking Along

Yesterday, the weather forecast had included a warning of yellow snow (Clare tells me that isn’t the correct word order).  The detailed forecast for our area had implied we’d manage to avoid most of it if we set off early enough and could stop by early afternoon.  When we got out of bed, it was obvious that the detail was not correct, snow was already falling.

I checked the updated forecast, but it offered no likelihood of avoiding the bad weather.  We had a couple of pressing issues to deal with, so just sitting tight for a few days wasn’t an option.  Clare dressed for driving today, but even though I was expecting to be locking, I also put on an extra layer.  The wind was slightly stronger than yesterday, the temperature was close to freezing, and there was no sun.

Clare at the helm of Bartimaeus, dressed for cold weather.
Clare Driving in Light Snow

We hadn’t gone far when we passed Craftybird moored at the side.  This is one of the boats we saw moving yesterday after we’d stopped.  I’d happened to see a blog post about the construction of the boat with windows built in to the front area, but made to look like a traditional canvas covered boat.  It was odd to see the boat appear on the canal the next day.

Moored narrowboat in bright colours.  The front section of the boat is a traditional A-frame covered in canvas, except that there are modern windows inserted in to the canvas.
Craftybird in Real Life

It shouldn’t be a big surprise to find the boat nearby.  I had been researching the possibility of getting diesel from a fuel boat.  I had found that there is a boat that serves this area.  Unfortunately “Rich on Roach” is north of Birmingham just now. He’ll be back here on Sunday if he keeps to schedule.  We weren’t sure we even had enough diesel to keep us warm until then – perhaps another time.

We were soon at the slightly complex junction with the Stratford Canal.  As we approached, Clare saw another boat moving.  It turned out to be Enterprise, the other boat we saw moving yesterday.  “Follow that boat!” I cried.  As chase scenes go, this was not exciting.  Clare executed a neat turn before trundling along at tick-over past a line of moored boats.  After about ten boat lengths, they turned in to a lock, and we went on in to the basin beyond.  I directed Clare to spin clockwise and reverse back to where I hoped the pump-out station was.  That worked brilliantly, and we’d soon accomplished our first mission for the day.

Now to get diesel.  It was only just over two miles to the wharf we’d last bought diesel from – in November.  There was also the small matter of 19 locks in between.  The snow was starting to stick a little by now, but only on the white painted parts of the lock gate handles, the black parts stayed black.

The handle of a lock gate sticks out of the arm.  The black painted section is clear, while the white painted end section is covered in snow.
Snow Sticking on White Part of Lock Gate Arm

The first lock is part of a strange triangular arrangement.  We emerged out of it at the same point as Enterprise would have done after they turned earlier.  We were now following them up the flight, so all the locks were set against us.  This flight is very easy to work quickly though, I could set the lock ahead emptying while Clare and Bartimaeus were rising in the lock.  After the first six, we’d gained enough on them that I managed to exchange a few words with them.  Immediately after that we saw they had moored up, so we could take the rest of the flight at our own speed.  The chase was over – remember the chase?

Narrowboat in an open stretch of canal.  Snow is visible in the air.
Clare Driving Through the Snow

The next 9 locks are close together and we made excellent time.  We stopped for lunch and to look at our options.  The forecast didn’t look any better for tomorrow, so we decided to press on.  This time I drove and Clare did the remaining 4 locks – and the lift bridge.

We arrived at the wharf a little after 3pm, fairly confident that business hours were either until 3.30 or perhaps 4.30.  We knew where the diesel pump was from last time, and were expecting a delicate mooring task.  But this time, there were no gaps along the bank at all.  We pulled alongside the boat (Marley) that occupied the spot we were looking for, and Clare crossed it to get to the office.  The friendly man in the office confirmed that we should tie up to Marley and he’d come and see us.

Tied up, Clare went to let him know.  Seeing he was trying to eat his lunch, she told him to enjoy it, we weren’t in a hurry.  It seems cold, snowy Wednesdays in March are sometimes the busy days for canal-side businesses.  With the tank full, we reversed back to the winding hole and turned round.  We went a few boat lengths to a pleasant spot we’d noticed and tied up.  A short walk to a nearby supermarket (no other supermarkets are available nearby) warmed my toes up and got us some useful provisions.

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