Well, if I had any doubts about my ability to manage the boat after my accident, they were dispelled by the end of my mini cruise. The first four days out were perfectly reasonable, weather wise. I had heeded the warning for snow on Friday and so reluctantly left Great Haywood and got to Kings Bromley by Thursday afternoon. I got the boat pumped out and dieseled up and then tied on mooring pins in the woods, prepared to wait Friday out.
Actually the mooring up wasn’t that straight forward as the wind had really started to blow and, as I usually find, it was blowing my boat away from the bank. The problem with that if you need to moor on pins and are single handed is that you need to get the boat to stay put while you hammer the pins in, but without anything to moor to in the meantime, the boat is likely to end up in the bushes on the other side of the cut!
Mooring up is the one thing I had been anxious about as that is how my leg got broken – hauling the boat in on the centre rope and mis-stepping on a tree root. I tried to get in a couple of times but as soon as I got off, the boat started to drift out. So I ended up joining a long rope to my centre rope (whilst steering the boat and trying to hold her steady), then leaping off with this long rope, crossing the towpath and wrapping the rope around the nearest tree. That meant that at least ‘Don’t Panic’ wasn’t going to leave without me and I had time to hammer the pins in and then haul her in closer to the bank. The whole procedure took around 30 minutes from start to finish and having been cruising all day, I was finished!
Then the snow started. It snowed non stop all Thursday night and then all of Friday too. On Saturday morning I was starting to worry that I would get frozen in here in the middle of the woods with no access to my car or water. So in the middle of a blizzard I pulled out my mooring pins and made my way to Woodend Lock. I have never seen so much snow round and lock and the wind was blowing it into drifts. I knew this was a seriously risky business, operating a lock alone in these conditions, but once past Woodend I only had a few minutes before I reached Shadehouse Lock (the top of Fradley flight), mooring rings and safety.
I made it, with again much pulling on ropes in the wind to get her safely secured. The next day, again in snow and wind, my mate Stan helped me get her down the flight and back to my home mooring – a bacon and egg butty being his reward!
I would not have chosen this weather, or to finish my first mini cruise in such a fraught way, but it has done wonders for my confidence and I am happy now to take the boat out alone – but I think I’ll wait for Spring to finally arrive before venturing out again!
ps Thank you to those of you who left such kind comments after my last entry – I don’t feel particularly brave – just very lucky to be able to live like this!