I managed to do a deal with Norbury Wharf who would dry dock 'ISIS' and do the work for £185. Not only would this give me some peace of mind but it was a damned sight cheaper than getting it done at Sherbourne plus if it decided to fail before I got back I'd be looking at around £40 per mile to get a tow.
In the event I'd made a good call. The two securing bolts (marked A in the photo) were loose and about a third of the diameter of the bolts had worn away. Also the locating pin (marked B) was in a similar state.
An hour and a half later and I was back on the water and heading down to Brewood.
The following day my plan was to get up to Tipton Green but that meant I had to ascend the Wolverhampton 21. Ali and I had done this leg outbound in a day but could I do it on my own in a similar time? Well, eight hours run time 22 locks and 13 miles later I was there. I had done it!
The next morning dawned clear and bright but very cold at -2.2 degrees. A text to Pete to say I would see him in the 'Swan' at 1pm followed by his reply which went something along the lines of "Be damned you will. It'll take you longer than that!"
All went well until Albion Bridge where the canal was iced over. Only about five or six mm so it didn't slow progress but it was strange to look back and see exactly where I'd been. Needless to say I didn't see another soul all morning!
Back at Sherbourne at mid-day, on my moorings by 12.15 and in the pub on the stroke of 1.00 to a very surprised Peter!
It was bitter-sweet being back in Brum. Hugely pleased with what I'd accomplished, my fear of single manning now a distant memory but already I was missing being out on the water - as things turned out, my timing had been perfect as the winter weather was about to stop playing around. The medium range forecast was for plummeting temperatures and snow but what do they know? The forecasts are generally wrong. Well, aren't they?
Told you so.....
They got it wrong.....
There was no snow.....
and absolutely no ice!!
When people realise that I am resident on my boat all year round, the same question is almost always asked. "Don't you find it very cold in the winter?" The answer to that is definitely not. The boat is very well insulated and central heating together with the multi-fuel stove actually make it very cosy. The winter of 2010/2011 was one of the coldest in recent history with Pershore in Worcestershire recording the lowest temperatures in the country at -19 degrees and even in Birmingham I recorded lows of -12 but I was never cold on board. That doesn't mean that I can't improve things. On my rather extensive 'wish list' is to re-carpet and to include thermal underlay as most of the heat loss is through the hull as 'floor level' is about 18 inches below the waterline.
Warm air generated by the stove is circulated throughout the boat by an 'eco-fan' which is powered by heat. This ensures constant temperatures are maintained in all areas.
The problem of heat is more acute in the summer. 'ISIS' is painted a very dark blue and on a hot sunny day the superstructure is actually too hot to touch and inside I have recorded temperatures of 38 degrees and this with every door, hatchway and window wide open. Good job we don't get many days like that. I mean there are only so many layers of clothing you can remove before you risk arrest!
All in all I was very fortunate last winter. The boat suffered no damage like frozen tanks or burst pipes although ice further took its toll on the paintwork and with the average cost of a repaint being somewhere in the region of between £6000 and £8000 I think I'm going to have to learn a new skill!
Water conservation was important. During the cold weather Richard, Sherbourne Wharfs' engineer was constantly fighting frozen stand pipes and burst mains. On the morning of the 24th Dec I was lucky enough to fill my tanks but as of 2pm that day all the marina staff left for the Christmas break not to return until 6th January. During that period there was no water to be had. So strip washes rather than a shower, no using the washing machine and drink booze rather than endless cups of tea (that last one is a joke by the way, beer and cornflakes at 7 in the morning are not happy bed fellows; trust me!).