Random jottings from the log of

nb Thorn

nb "Unnamedtug" officially became nb Thorn on 13th October 1996, though at the beginning of January 1997 I am still waiting to have her signwriting done. I have been promised that Ron Hough will do it but when seems to be the question.

These are some of the trips I've been on so far:

My first trip on what was still nb Unnamedtug and not yet officially mine is recorded thus:

Saturday 14th September Travelled to WFB Stockton to take over Unnamedtug.

15th - 19th September At Stockton fitting split charge relay, sorting out alternator fault, shower pump and doing other minor jobs while waiting for paperwork to be sorted out. John Forth came down to sign his papers this evening and said that it was OK to take Unnamedtug for a short trip for a few days even though there's now no chance of getting the finance through.

Friday 20th September Mobile message box had a call from Martin Purbrook of Sonata. He and Sarah plus friends are going for a weekend from Calcutt.

Caught up with him just as they were leaving home and arranged to meet after lunch. Left WFB at 1200 and worked up Stockton. Met Martin a few locks down. He helped me through one lock then left to help the rest unload car. As I came up to top of flight they were ready to move off so skipped lunch and worked through with them as far as Braunston where I stopped at Midland Chandlers to pick up new shower pump by arrangement with John Forth. Turned onto North Oxford canal. Moored below bridge 73, Crick Road Bridge with Sonata at 1900. Had supper then took bottle of wine (Wolf Blas Chardonnay) across to Sonata and played trivial pursuit for a couple of hours. Very pleasant.

Saturday 21st September Left mooring at 0930 after breakfast and short walk along towpath with Martin. Arranged to see them at Ansty later. Worked through Hillmorton Locks. Arrived at Ansty at 1530 and met up with Jeff and Mrs Jeff and saw over Coronation. Very nice. Had quite a chat with Jeff re his music and words project and possible film. He has a very optimistic view of what would be involved in making and selling a film. Sonata arrived later and Martin came on board Coronation for a chat and agreed to meet us for a pint later. Several pints with Jeff in the club but no sign of Martin and co.

nb Thorn during the first trip

Sunday 22nd September Up early as needed early start to get back to WFB today as agreed. Winded by bridge beyond Ansty and set off at 0630. Passed Sonata with no sign of life at about 0730 some 2 miles or so out of Ansty. Worked non-stop except for a brief stop for shopping at bridge 71 between Hillmorton Locks and arrived back at 1830 having lost a windlass in Stockton top lock. Lots of compliments on "John Forth's Tug" along the way. I particularly liked the one which assumed she had been a working boat. No problems apart from slight slackening of alternator belt leading to rattling against safety guard. Moored at WFB and spent the night on the boat.

Left for home on Monday morning.

Photo courtesy of Martin Purbrook

Laura is my 12 year old daughter. She wasn't too sure about Dad buying a boat but this trip was my chance to get her hooked. It seems to have succeeded as she's now keen to be crew on the projected trip towing Sean Neil's Laplander to Newbold in spite of the cold weather.

Sunday 13th October Arrived at WFB 1200 with Laura on her first visit to the boat. She liked what she saw. Left WFB about 1245 to have lunch at the Two Boats having first locked up through Shop Lock and down again to give Laura practice at doing gates. After lunch, during which Laura fed half of her jacket potato to the ducks, we continued down to Bascote locks with Laura steering some of the way. She caught on very quickly. At Bascote we decided to go down the locks and back as Laura wanted to help with more locks.

Negotiated the staircase with no problem and winded below the locks. On returning found a boat about to come down the staircase. In spite of my advice they insisted that the bottom lock did not need to be empty "Don't worry, all the water will go over the bottom gate" and promptly flooded the lockside. Once that was sorted out we passed them in the locks and headed for WFB. Laura would like to put up a plaque commemorating my ducking last weekend. Arrived back at WFB at about 1800 and packed to go home. Laura has enjoyed her day and tried out the cross bed satisfactorily.

We discussed boat's name during the day and she would like her to be called Thorn so I will retain that name.

I dropped in at WFB on my way home from Christmas in the Lake District but that's another story which does have a marginal H2O content even if only in the malt! Actually we went on a trip on Windermere on Boxing Day. Having done some odd jobs on Thorn I fixed the frozen plumbing having omitted to drain the water system; after all it wasn't going to be cold before the Laplander towing trip was it.

I was then seduced by the cold, clear, sunny weather. This is the story of the unplanned trip I took

I was at a loose end on the Saturday, having driven up to Midland Chandlers at Braunston and found them shut. The sun was out and the weather was cold but dry. The light was almost golden as it glinted off the chunks of floating ice. It seemed such a shame not to have a little run to enjoy the sun and get rid of some of the weight acquired over Christmas. Chatting to a local only encouraged me. "If it freezes it makes about 1/4 inch of ice a night" she said. OK so I'm naive; I believed her. After all I wanted to believe her! I wanted to go boating!!

So here I was on a lovely sunny Saturday morning, free until Sunday evening if necessary. A quick inspection of the guide showed a winding hole at Napton. Excellent thought I, that's the direction I've not explored up to now and it looks just about possible before nightfall. I knew the cut was passable 'cos a couple of boats had come down from Stockton during the morning and a fair number were moving at Braunston. Ah the trust of the innocent. I, who had never been out in the winter before, set off.

By now it was 1400. Single-handed up Stockton I went, having considered stopping to fill the water tank and deciding against due to the time. Little did I know how much I was to regret this later. No real problems though progress was a bit slower than normal due to ice behind gates and the middle pound was very low with a lot of ice high and dry at the edges. At Stockton Top Lock I stopped and took some piccies. Glorious sunset over the ice and frosty trees. Lovely shots as long as the cement works chimney could be disguised behind a tree.

Once on the level and headed for Calcutt I found it slow going and it took a while to get used to the noise of the ice bumping on the hull. However after initially worrying I decided that if other boats were out Thorn could take it too. I stayed pretty warm aside from my fingers which froze even in gloves. I need no convincing of the benefit of a trad stern and a cabin stove added to an air cooled engine running for the first time with the side doors closed. Plenty of warm air circulating where it was most needed and a kettle always on the hob for coffee.

On then to Calcutt and it was clear that I could go no further. It was 1700, almost dark and getting slippery under foot so I decided against locking up for Napton junction and moored for the night. Soon after another boat also moored behind me. I took an early night having dined on jacket potatoes cooked in the stove oven, baked beans and buttered crumpets toasted over the fire. I can forsee a challenge for winter trips of doing all cooking on the stove and not using the gas cooker. I had no worries, it was freezing but there would only be 1/4 inch of ice at the most in the morning wouldn't there?

Sunday dawned clear and cold. I crawled out of bed wrapped in the duvet, relit the cabin stove and crawled back into bed to await warmer conditions. It seemed strange to move about without feeling the boats motion. After breakfasting on toast, coffee and boiled eggs (yes cooked on the stove!) I was aware of a vibration in the hull so looked out and found the other crew breaking ice around their boat. Now I could see why Thorn didn't move. For 1/4 inch of ice read at least 1 inch. Woe woe the Lister emitted nothing but a click when told to start. Hurrah I've seen the problem before (sticky starter solenoid) and been shown how to bypass it with a mooring spike or lump hammer. Immediate burst of life and smoke from the engine is the result. The other boat was heading up the locks so I waited for him to move rather thinking that I was going nowhere other than back to Stockton by Shanks' pony to fetch the car. However he got moving and made it into the first lock, kindly making a couple of extra runs to break a wide enough hole outside the marina for me to wind. OK says I, if he can do it so can I. Thorn does have a Lister HA3 in a 38 foot hull after all.

I set off and managed to wind and get 20 yards down the cut, much to the surprise of two swans skating about on the ice which starts to crack under them. Then I stuck fast. Never mind, you learn fast when you have to. Energetic ice breaking with the shaft around the bow and we're free. Back off and take a run at it. Another 50 yards made. So it went on until I had the nerve to keep enough revs going to keep Thorn driving forward over and through the ice. How I regretted not filling the water tank. The extra half ton of ballast would have been handy. Side doors definitely open this time as the Lister revved faster than I'd ever had it going before but we only progressed at half walking pace accompanied by creaking and thumping from the ice at the bow and assorted clunks from under my feet as ice bounced of the prop, counter, blade etc. I might have been tempted to give up but there wasn't much choice but to keep going (how could I get close enough to the bank to moor, still less alongside tidily?), hoping that someone would be coming up and I'd find broken ice.

No such luck. We took sundry diversions from a straight course as weaknesses in the ice took control of the steering and headed us for the bank; we got stuck a dozen times at least and had to back off and drive in again; making cups of coffee was easy as the boat certainly didn't drift when stopped! Eventually Stockton Top Lock was in sight and lo and behold there was a boat coming out. They were ever sooooo grateful that someone else had broken the ice all the way down from Calcutt!!! The boat was Sonata but not on this occasion with Martin and Sarah.

I then locked down through Stockton with another boat, Nesta I think, home completed recently I was told and with cream painted gunwales and almost a plastic boat's nervousness about sharing!. The crew included one who did nothing and a boy who seemed not to think a great deal and who wandered off at vital moments so I ended up doing more walking about than if I'd gone down on my own. Back at my mooring at 1430 tired but relieved and convinced that the Laplander tow will have to wait for a thaw. I'll bet Thorn's bottom is clean, she's certainly lost some paint at the waterline. However the Lister seemed to enjoy the chance to rev and didn't miss a beat. It rarely gets above a fast tick over normally! Next time I'll fill the water tank.

And the moral is: If anyone tells you that one night's freeze will produce 1/4 inch of ice take it with a pinch of salt!

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