Monday 2nd February 2015
No it's the start (or end) of a Monty Python sketch.
Up until now we have spent the winters firmly attached to a
lovely mooring, hooked up to electricity and water and not needing to move -
well for the first two we did need to wander over for a pumpout.
This winter we decided that we needed to experience the
canals during winter and see exactly what it was like first hand.
Of course in the process of deciding to do this we have
spoken to many people who do stay out - they have all described it as wonderful,
interesting and exciting.
Like most things it is nigh on impossible to get the feel
or full understanding and experience by simply listening to or reading about
how it happens with other people.
Now having been at it for 2 months since our return back into
the UK and having weathered the time through sunshine, wind, rain, snow, sleet,
ice and cold we can very much understand the feelings that we had explained to
Everyday things that we have been used whilst cruising
become a bit more of an issue during the winter - things like making sure the
water tank is kept topped up; the cassettes are attended to and emptied; that
there is plenty of diesel and gas.
Some might say that it should be relatively simple - if you
need it then just cruise and get it.
There in lies the catch for winter cruising - you just don't
do so much.
Firstly it is not like putting the hood down and untying -
it is much colder and unless you have to go it really is nice to just lay-up
for a few days to a week and explore the local area.
Secondly and probably more importantly, the canal does tend
to ice up and if it is then you ain't gonna be moving at all.
The canal traders are very much about and they provide the
lifeblood to many boaters - a fillup for the diesel tank; a new gas bottle; and
for those who need it, coal for the solid fuel stoves.
We do keep a close eye on the weather reports to see what
is coming our way and where we should be to avoid the bad stuff.
For example, earlier last month we were heading towards
Congleton and whilst we would usually moor up on the aqueduct, the reports of
high winds approaching made us moor up in the basin.
Similarly for cold overnight temperatures and the
likelihood of ice; snow flurries and snowfalls as well - all mean changes in
what we could/should do.
Despite these few problems that we could see, there is the
overall feeling of freedom; not confined to one place - we all love our boats
and the chance to cruise a bit all of the time and now we can.
Freedom to stop a bit longer; freedom to move on to
How will we do with our power? That was another question
that we had asked ourselves - being in a marina, hooked up to power online, you
soon don't concern yourself about it, but as when you are cruising you have to
produce your own - problem is that the nights are longer and you are more
indoors so there is the likelihood that you will use more power.
So far we have had no problems at all. What have we done?
Probably nothing more than we should have been doing for
some time anyway.
Firstly, we stopped watching so much TV just for the sake
of having it on.
Secondly, we read a lot more and we are enjoying it much
more as well.
Thirdly, even though there is less daylight we still get a significant
amount of power in through the solar panels - I didn't think that we would but
it does make a difference.
Fourth, when we don't need it we turn the inverter off.
Fifth, we have been using BBC and ITV iPlayer whenever we
can - instead of having the TV on using up 240V power (which means the inverter
on as well) we download onto the iPad which can be charged from a 12V outlet
and then watch these when we want.
Sixth, we make use of the spare data download at the end of
the billing period for out internet to do the downloads above.
Seventh, we run the engine usually in the late afternoon
and have all of the chargeable items on charge - it also means that we have
enough power for the following day allows us to see how much power comes in
from the solar panels - some days we only run the engine for 90 minutes, such
is the effect of all of the above.
This also allows us hot water for the evening if needed and
some leftover for the morning.
(There are two more things that you should do, if not
already done, all your lights should be LED and consider changing your
fridge/freezer to a 12V)
Power is essential, but so is being careful with it and
these have helped us achieve all of that.
We are enjoying it all a lot more.
Sure we miss the people that we have spent our winters with
in the past, but so far we have caught up with most of them during our time
We will most definitely be continuing with our winter
cruising program for the remainder of this season and for the years to come.
Don't be afraid to try it - it is something different - but
let's face it, the whole idea of living on a narrowboat is so vastly different
to what most people would do anyway - now that you are on the boat, extend your
horizons and taste the freedom.