Monday, 28 January 2013

A quick flood report

Arrived at 8.00 am this morning to find the water level about 18 inches higher than normal and lapping the top of the wooden jetty.  It was still cold but inside Skylark it was plus 2 degrees so no problems on that front. The river looked really lovely in the early morning sun.

The actual water level was about 5 inches from the top of the pontoon and, as expected, the bow was bobbing just above the woodwork.

I adjusted the ropes, had a cup of coffee and considered everything was safe. While the melting snow had pretty much all gone, there was still quite a fast flow of water going down the river and I couldn't tell when the water levels would go down. If it rains over the next few days, as they predict, the current levels and flows may be with us for a few days. The ropes should be OK under these conditions.

Nearby, NB Queenie was high in the water, like Skylark, but will probably go back into her normal position when the water recedes. I'm not sure if the long stern fender will get caught up though...

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The last frost?

When I got to Skylark on Thursday, the ground still had a covering of snow and the edge of the water was frozen.With outside temperatures dropping to minus 8 or so, inside, I was cosy in front of the fire, managing temperatures between plus 10 and plus 18 degrees.

None of the pipes were frozen and it didn't take too long to get snug.

Each of the two days, I spent a few hours walking the nearby footpaths and then popping into the Ely for my daily bread (and wine!). 

Yesterday afternoon, I drove into Cambridge, which lies about 8 miles to the south. Being Friday afternoon in mid winter, traffic was light but I really must give myself more time. There are some fantastic museums to visit like the Fitzwilliam and the Scott Polar Expedition - these need a good few hours each. My future plan will be to get there by mid morning (avoiding the am rush hour) and to leave by mid afternoon (avoiding the pm rush hour). 

Today turned out fairly bright and much warmer which meant I could leave Skylark to her own devices and head home. The weather bods predict the next week will be warm and wet - not great boating weather but at least the driving snow and freezing cold wind seem to have retreated back up the Urals where they belong. Apparently, we've now got to brace ourselves for the great flood that will follow. What fun.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Life in the Freezer

Kay and I went over to East Cambs this morning to find the temperature much lower than Mid Suffolk. At home we had a dusting of snow but around Ely, the frost was still very hard and at least 6" of snow was still lying on the fields. I guessed the overnight temperature must have been in the region of minus 10-13 degrees C.

Inside Skylark, the temperature had dropped to minus 3 and, after, firing up the engine, we found the hot/cold pipes were frozen. So, the coal fire was lit, the central heating started, a small 230v electric fire aimed under the sink and a gas ring lit. Within about 10 minutes the thermometer read plus 3 degrees and continued to rise steadily. I 'teased' the taps and gradually they started to splutter and gurgle. After about 40 minutes, the temperature reached 16 degrees and the pipes were running as they should.

There were no sights or sounds of a broken pipe, presumably because we had caught it before any damage had been caused. The fact that all the pipes are plastic and have a certain amount of 'give', must have helped. And, of course, the pipe insulation I installed a few weeks ago would have been a vital element.

So, problem averted.

After a warming cup of coffee, we stoked the fire as much as we could and left Skylark to cope with whatever the weather throws at her tonight. The weather bods say it will stay cold for the rest of the week but the temperature will increase from the weekend. Maybe I'll pop over on Thursday to check things out.

With a few hours of daylight left, we jumped into a very cold Land Rover and went down to Cambridge. The place looked beautiful in the snow.We are so lucky to have such fantastic places on our doorstep.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

FrostEly again

As I'm still not sure how long I can leave Skylark in the freezing temperatures, I went back on Thursday morning, arriving at about 8.00 am. I had said 'the sun will come out tomorrow' and it did!

I didn't want to just sit in the marina so took off to Ely at 9.00 am. The river looked fantastic - very Christmas cardy! The hard frost covered everything.

I went past that miserable bunch of cows I saw the other day on my walk. Today, they were looking a bit happier. It's wonderful what a spot of sunshine can do. 

I thought they would look even happier if they were wearing novelty antlers!

I was surprised to see a vast flock of Canada geese in the river as I got within sight of Ely. They were also surprised to see me and took flight in a huge flapping frenzy.

The quayside, next to the Ely Maltings, usually looks good but, in a hard frost, it looked fantastic. All along the quay there were anglers dressed in camo gear - I very nearly didn't see them. All day they jostled for the best spots in between the various narrowboats. It was so cold, I wondered if any of the fish could be bothered to nibble their bait.

The green, just outside the Cathedral, looked Dickensian in the heavy frost. Even the sky looked like it was covered in frost.

With weather like this, I spent a couple of days exploring the footpaths around Ely, interspersed with food shopping and carrying out a few more jobs on the boat. Meals revolved around things I could heat on top of the coal fired stove. It beats heating up the gas oven and, with a bit of thought, reduces the washing up.

Back to the temperature issue; during the 3 nights I was there, the outside temperature teetered around minus 6 - 8 degrees, while inside I maintained a comfortable plus 14 - 18. The coal fired stove stayed alight 24 hours a day so even in the early morning, the temperature inside didn't get below plus 8. Pretty good really.

At 3.00 pm on Saturday, I headed back to Lazy Otter. There was a gentle breeze from the northwest so that wouldn't hinder my solo mooring. As I have said before, anything more than a moderate side wind makes mooring pretty difficult. I had left Ely a little late so wondered if I would get back to Lazy Otter in daylight. It took me about an hour and a half to get back. As I pulled into my pontoon, I was greeted by a Kingfisher darting along the entire length of the marina - a wonderful welcome. I stayed on board Saturday night to keep an eye on the weather. I should have had my guitar with me or a selection of DVDs as the selection of programmes on tv was appalling. Whatever is happening to mainstream telly? I wonder if I could get Sky on board Skylark?

This morning (Sunday), I felt confident that I could leave Skylark with a very low fire still burning in the stove. The weather forecast for Sunday and Monday is predicting more snow and low temperatures followed by a slight improvement but the fire should keep the inside temperature in the positives for about 12 - 18 hours and, after that, it shouldn't get below zero.

So, I left at mid day and headed down the A14 into a light dusting of snow, wondering if those anglers were still dangling their lines in the water at Ely. I remembered the old saying: Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you won't have to buy him a fish.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Boat sitting

I haven't winterised Skylark because I have been using her over the winter and will continue to use her from now on. While this has not caused me any problems, the very cold weather at the moment is a bit of a worry. While I have insulated all the accessible water pipes, there is still a risk that some of them will freeze. If this happened, the resultant water would eventually find its way into the bilges and would be pumped to the outside world but the damage it would cause to the flooring and maybe the walls would be pretty bad. Because of this, I have spent a few days on board, keeping things warm.

Last night, it was minus 8 degrees outside but inside I was tucked up in a tropical plus 16. By the time I left this morning, the outside temperature was measuring minus 4 and inside it was plus 8. I'll be keeping a close watch on the forecast tonight to help decide if I should go back there tomorrow.

Anyway, while I was at Lazy Otter, I made good use of my time, repairing and maintaining a few bits and pieces. I also took a stroll down the river to the Newmarket road bridge via the Stretham Old Engine. The following shots don't do the place justice - in the words of that great Hollywood star, Annie, 'the sun will come out tomorrow'. I hope!

While this small herd of cattle appeared unphased by my passing, the local farmer has had to warn dog owners not to allow their dogs to worry his sheep.

I think the missing bit reads,  '...will be humanely but brutally shot.'

Now for an arty photo...

Saturday, 12 January 2013

4th Elysian Beer Festival

I arrived in Ely on Thursday afternoon and pootled around the town until it got dark. On Friday, I popped into the local Auction house to view their lots but decided there was nothing to keep me there for the actual auction on Saturday. In the afternoon, I cruised down the Ouse to the small EA moorings nearly opposite the River Lark junction. This is a good place to wash the boat as I can do one side when I arrive and then turn in the wide river and do the other side before heading back to Ely.

In the evening, I left Skylark in her mooring and walked the 50m to the main doors of the Maltings where CAMRA were holding their 4th Elysian Beer Festival.

I had not expected to see so many people. There was a Bouncer Door Supervisor outside letting people in as people left. Obviously, by 7.00pm the event was already at capacity. After I was given my bright yellow plastic bracelet and bought a 'starters' card and beer glass, I went into the main hall to be met by hundreds of people drinking from, I guessed, 150 casks of real ale. There were about 20 ciders and a few foreign beers. I tasted a few local brews including stouts and bitters, and very nice they were too. I left before 'time' was called and carefully negotiated the quayside back to the boat. By the way, the Door Supervisors were extremely polite and helpful - a great improvement on the characters I used to see outside night clubs in the 70's and 80's.

The next day, despite the weather forecast of a cold easterly wind, I woke to a calm bright morning. Not knowing if this would continue, I decided to leave and take advantage of the peace and calm. All was quiet on the river, not many boats moving about, but there were lot of boats moored up on the GOBA and EA 24 hr moorings - presumably having moved off the Popes Corner Marina. As an example, this GOBA mooring, would normally have only one or two boats on it during the summer. Today, in mid winter, it was full.

Apparently, the new owners of the marina are redeveloping the place and have given all the 'live-aboards' notice that they can't return. I don't know the rationale behind this but I hope they have given this approach a lot of thought.

Getting back to Lazy Otter by about mid day, I realised how lucky I was to find this mooring last year.

The following few days are expected to be very cold so I'll probably pop back to the boat on Monday to make sure the new pipe insulation is working.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

First Anniversary

People who know me will be well aware I have difficulty remembering anniversaries so it will come as no surprise to learn that I forgot to mention the first anniversary of my retirement.

So, to put that right, on 1 January 2013 it was 12 months since I gave up my ID card, my laptop and the key to the stock cupboard.

Lots of people wondered what I was planning to do with all the time I would have on my hands. Well, planning, helping to build, and then using Skylark has taken up quite a bit of time. Learning new songs to cover while playing my guitar has filled a few hours. Holidays in and on the Landy, camping, walking the hills and coast, and cycling have also kept me busy. The rest of the time has been taken up with ordinary stuff like shopping, housework, visiting friends and rellies, eating, drinking, relaxing, walking around the block, visiting antique shops, taking Kay's empties to the bottle bank and writing my blogs. Oh yes, and I also got married in April (or was it May?).

So, you can see it's not all bus passes and bed socks!

Lots of people also ask me what I miss about work. Well, I miss being paid obviously, and the never ending supply of coffee. I miss the ever developing list of jargon and the highly sophisticated performance management indicators. I miss the stretched targets and tight deadlines and, of course, I miss the stress of managing ever decreasing budgets. I still wonder how many hours are wasted by organisations trying to justify their own existence - but don't get me started on that one!

Something I am still very proud of is how we introduced innovative and worthwhile projects to help improve our services and facilities for the public. I am also pleased I was able to work with some extraordinary people who could make things happen on the ground with local people. I still think about the financial challenges they are having to deal with and wish there was something I could do to help. I hope it will not take too long to sort things out. Then everyone can get back to doing what they do best.

Carry on cruising

Another clear day yesterday so I took Skylark for a short outing. The water level in the Ouse was still fine, the speed of the current was slower and the wind speed low enough to enable me to launch and moor without any problems.

I got into Ely quite late in the afternoon, so found a quiet spot between the Cutter and the Jubilee Gardens and settled down for the night. Before my evening slap-up meal (ha ha), I fitted the new brass rail just under the porthole in the main cabin. The curved rail I mentioned in a previous post is now with a local blacksmith straightening the two brackets so it will fit to the wall without a wobble. I'll post some photos when I fit that one.

I also refitted the umbrella brackets. The big brass fitting has been relocated to the bow deck so we can sit there in the shade (or out of the rain) in the summer. I then put a small bracket to the left of the steering postion to protect me from the rain - a small job but one which I will benefit from when I have to steer Skylkark through any number of rain storms in future.

This morning, a mist had desended on the river so I went home. Not many people about and not many birds to be seen; I couldn't blame them, it was just a bit on the damp side. Next weekend, CAMRA has a beer festival in the Maltings. If the weather is fine, I might pop my head in to see what's going on.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A quick spin into Ely

Yesterday was one of the best days of the year. I suppose, as it was 1 January 2013, that was not a great achievement. Anyway, the weather was great.

Kay and I took a spin down to Ely. The water level was about 6" higher than the other day and the current was brisk. After a bit of window shopping, we had a quiet evening in the snug confines of our cabin.

This morning we visited the 'pump' and, as the early morning sun was starting to disappear, we decided head home.

By mid day Ely was under a familier blanket of cloud, and rain started to make ther homeward journey a bit cold and wet.

Oh well, we can't have sunny weather all the time.

Ely Cathedral in the mid day gloom...