Indigo Dreaming

The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Boat Blog: Dancing on Ice (2)

Posted by indigodream on 6 January, 2009

Monday 5th January

As the forecast remained freezing we thought we’d move the boat down to Limehouse today rather than do the dash on Wednesday. I think we’ve done the right thing, the ice isn’t going to get any thinner;  the temperature’s going down to  minus 5 this evening and we had a job and a half to get into our berth at Limehouse as it was.

But I’m ahead of myself. We got to the boat around 1pm having left the dogs to rest at home in a warm house. We had a smooth journey up to City Road by public transport. This was a surprise – we’d had a blizzard in Surrey overnight and though there were only a few millimetres of snow on the ground that’s usually enough to bring the rail network to a halt.  We used our journey to scout for more dog-accessible underground stations on the way. I am gradually marking up a tube map with all dog-friendly stations. Our definition of dog-friendly being, of course, no escalators (they’re way too heavy to carry), though steps and lifts are fine. I’ll put a list on the blog someday if it will be of interest.

We were a bit alarmed to see that the boat that we’d left on an exact level with the towpath was now several inches below it. We did our usual paranoid owner check to make sure the boat wasn’t sinking! To our relief the pound had gone down by 4 – 6 inches,  we hastened to the lock to make sure that no-one had inadvertently left all the paddles open, sure enough someone had left a paddle part up (and the bottom gates were not closed). At this point, the canal was ice free and we’d hoped for an easier day’s cruise.

Alas, we soon caught up with the ice thought there was no rhyme or reason to its distribution. One minute we”d be in clear water, the next we’d be in an ice floe. There was one riddle which we totally failed to solve. Coming up to Old Ford Lock the ice was unbroken; below the lock it was well broken but there was no sign of a boat, moored or moving. Below the next lock, the ice stretched away in an unbroken sheet and it was virgin ice from there down to Limehouse. It’s a mystery!

There were many walkers and cyclists on the towpath but no other boats on the move. The people on the towpath were absolutely fascinated by Indigo Dream’s ice-breaking; phones and cameras were whipped out of back pockets and we were photographed and video’d every step of the way. One walker was agog as we tore through a long sheet of ice and actually changed direction to run alongside the boat to watch the show. Breaking ice makes the most extraordinary sound from the boat but I hadn’t realised how loud it was from the shore. Richard says it sounds like a pile of bricks or tiles being dropped onto a pavement from a  great height! The video’s from my phone so it’s not brilliant quality but I hope you get the idea…

Richard lock-wheeled the whole way to Limehouse which made it a very efficient afternoon. Sadly, every lock was set against us with all of the bottom gates left open and the odd paddle not lowered properly. We do wish that whoever went down before us had closed the gates – it made for a lot of extra work. I also wish that people wouldn’t use the canal as a landfill. We started the trip with the sad sight of a dead fox in the water and followed it up with every possible form of garbage. We were amused by the sight of a shopping trolley that had been rolled onto the ice and was sitting proudly on the canal surface. I had to laugh but my inner Victor Meldrew was going ‘grrrrr’ as we’ll probably have that round our prop on the way back!

We got to Limehouse just before 4pm and were faced by a sheet of solid ice. Getting to the berth was hard work with both of us using boat hook and barge pole to carve a path through to our berth. It took ages but we moored neatly behind a yacht that had been forced to stay on the visitor pontoon because they couldn’t break their way back to their own berth. Our adventures weren’t over though, the mooring of least resistance also put us out of reach of the shore power. Richard was fretting about the batteries so we turned the boat around, smashing yet more ice in the process.

We’ve been to Limehouse many times and have got to know Robyn, the marina manager, as well as many of the lock-keepers. There’s a great atmosphere here – the marina’s immaculately maintained and is friendly and welcoming. The staff couldn’t be more helpful and the resident boaters are an affable bunch; add to this the sense of history, impressive setting and lots of great eating places and you have the recipe for a really special mooring spot. No wonder it has a waiting the list the length of the Thames! We also found out that we don’t have to pay for mooring here because Packet Boat marina is also run by BWML and there’s a reciprocal arrangement. This instantly took around £100 off the cost of our adventure so it was good news on every front.

So we’re ice-bound in Limehouse until Wednesday. We’re keeping out fingers crossed that the rest of the St Pancras flotilla can make it through on Wednesday afternoon. Our next hope is that we can all make it up Limehouse cut to Bow Locks on Thursday morning to meet the tide.

Word check

I know I’ve used the word ‘Ice’ about a thousand times in these two blog entries – I can’t help it, it’s such a novelty for us! I did check the thesaurus for alternative words and it came up with ‘frost’ and haorforst’ neither of which I felt did justice to the crystalline shards being scattered by Indigo Dream’s bow!

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