Breaking the ice

The temperature dropped and the canal froze over. Not a single boat cruised past us today, but we had two willing ice breakers. I watched in amazement as this pair of swans pushed their way through creating a channel.

Thankfully I think Milton Keynes is on the outer reaches of this particular cold front. The snow fall has been relatively light with sufficient sunny spells to make it picture post card perfect.


Looking back over 2017 part 4

For those of you who like statistics here are some from our first years cruising.

Cruising Stats 1/6/2017 – 31/12/2017

Miles – 536
Locks – 331
Swing Bridges – 5
Aqueducts – 109
Tunnels – 20

Propulsion Stats 1/6/2017 – 31/12/2017

Miles travelled – 536
Cruising time (approx.) – 265 hrs
MPH (including locking) – 2mph (average)
AMPs used for propulsion – 33A (average)
KWs used for propulsion – 1.7kW (average)
HP used for propulsion – 2.28hp (average)

Living Stats 1/1/2017 – 31/12/2017

Diesel used – 1,363 ltrs
Cost of diesel used – £971
Generator run time – 298 Hrs
Battery cycles – under 50
Shore power use –  11 full charge

Alternative energy

Miles walked – 1,467.24
Steps taken – 3,298,280
Daily average steps – 9,036
Pints drunk – too many to count


Cruising stats are for the 6 months after our boat was completed when we could finally leave the boat yard.  Since we lived on the boat from January the living statistics are for the full year.

It is interesting to see how little power we use to propel the boat – just 2.28hp.  If we did not use electricity for lighting, cooking etc. we could cruise for 32 hours on a single battery charge.

We use diesel for all our heating, hot water, and charging the batteries other than when charge from shore power.  It is noticeable how much more we use now the weather is cold.

Unlike a diesel propulsion engine our motor only runs when needed to propel the boat so it is only used for perhaps 10 seconds at low power in a lock and not at all while waiting for a lock.  So flights of locks use negligible battery power.

One full battery charge last us about a week, but in reality we prefer to run the generator several times a week for shorter periods.


Snowdrops at Linford Manor

With the Beast from the East threatening to wipe out any hope that spring is just around the corner, I took a wander around the parkland of Linford Manor and found this carpet of snowdrops.

The daffodils are poised to take over the top spot,

Provided the snow doesn’t fall too heavily and squash them. This afternoon, the sky changed colour and the snow started to fall and the canal started to freeze. Not sure what we’ll wake up to tomorrow.

I’m sure it will be pretty but not sure it will look like this.


A busy week going nowhere

It’s been a mixed sort of week with lots going on, we’ve both felt preoccupied and unfocused. I think we sense that spring isn’t far around the corner and we want to be cruising properly again. Mooring by bridge 81 does offer a wide choice of distractions. The walks around Willen lake with views of the Peace pagoda is restorative to body and soul. And we had the pleasure of meeting up with Mike, who lives nearby, has his own narrowboat and used to work with Eric 25 years ago. They hadn’t kept in touch but I’m sure there’ll pints shared in the future.

We had decided to take advantage of the big shops in central milton Keynes. There were a few bits and bobs that needed replacing and John Lewis’ price match promise is too good an opportunity to pass on. So it was to and fro several times as we did our research, made our purchases and returned to do click and collect. We’re not terribly materialistic people, but we like good quality nice things, we don’t like excess and shopping leaves us both feeling somewhat drained rather than excited at the prospect of new toys to play with.  Unless it’s the yarn I found on the wool stall in the market. My new blanket is growing quickly.

However I did make time to cheer on the 2500 mad people participating in the MK winter half marathon. Several miles follow the canal broadwalk and as they passed Firecrest within their first mile it felt like we were being pursued by a herd of migrating buffalo.

Our week finished with some lovely communications with the people involved with the Gyosei Art Project that adorns the tow path just north of here. They had read the blog post that I made in November so it was encouraging to both of us. Unfortunately when we pulled the pins and set off northwards it was grey and drizzly so I couldn’t take any new photos. But here’s the owl mosaic that I love. 


You never know what’s round the corner

Its a very slow water point at Pear Tree Bridge

so I went off to explore. I wasn’t expecting to be confronted by a 30 foot triceratops.

As I turned to flee before it could eat me I stumbled across some snowdrops.

That’s when I remembered tricerotops were heribivores so I was safe. Phew.

Flippin’ hec that was a good pancake

We do love a good pancake and back home in the bricks and mortar, I’d become a dab hand at churning out pancakes almost as fast as the 4 of us could eat them, sometimes with 3 fryingpans on the go at a time.  But here on Firecrest where space is at a premium we chose to compromise on a full size hob and opted for one of the two ring domino hobs. It’s got a lot of advantages being an induction hob, the size of the pan doesn’t affect its efficiency, I can even use the two rings in tandem with my huge iron casserole. 99% of the time it’s absolutely fine, but I simply don’t have the physical space to use two frying pans at the same time. Ah well, it did mean that. I persuaded Eric to take over the hot spot while I sat down and ate mine. I don’t think you can beat sugar and lemon.

Pancake Tuesday has been celebrated traditionally since the 16th century as Christians used up their perishable foods prior to the 40 days of lent where people fasted or abstained from rich foods. I’ve never been one for giving up something for lent as I think it’s all too often used as a virtuos excuse to loose a few pounds dieting, instead of  using the time to reflect on Jesus’ fast before Easter. This year my friend Liz signed up to the 40 day generosity challenge so I have joined her and from today I will be ‘taking up’ not ‘giving up’. I hope you get to be on the receiving end.


Ouzel Valley Park

The River Ouzel runs close to the canal for several miles and the MK Parks trust has developed the whole area into a multi purpose open space. Historically the area is dotted with medieval settlements although most were wiped out in the great plague of 1686 or abandoned because of the flooding, leaving the fields unusable.

Now the flooding is better managed by several man made lakes

I came across this beautiful old church in one direction.

And across the road is the open university building

Theres obviously a lot of talent looking at the quality of the graffiti art work. 

Ice and a slice

We woke to a frozen canal this morning but by 8:30 the first boat had sliced it’s way through. Luckily the ice wasn’t too thick today.

Despite this mornings ice it’s not felt too bitter today and we moved on a whole 1.4 miles to Tinkers Bridge this afternoon.  Hoping that some of our neighbours intellect will rub off on us as we’re moored next door to the Open University.

At least Milton Keynes escaped the snow that landed in mum’s garden this week.


Continuing a theme, now the shallowest.

Having seen the colossus and the tiny in the last week or so, we’re now moored close to the shallowest lock on the Grand Union canal. Fenny Lock only rises by 12 inches. It is also unusual because the road to the lock keepers cottage opposite goes straight through the lock so there’s a swing bridge to negotiate as well. As Eric quite rightly pointed out, the swing bridge is probably also used for the lock keeper to get across to the local pub, and back, safely

Coincidentally the lock keepers cottage is for sale if you fancy canal life but a narrowboat is just a bit too narrow.


From one extreme to the other, It’s tiny

Knowing my love of jigsaws, and the limited space on Firecrest, Tim gave me ‘the worlds smallest jigsaw puzzle’ for Christmas.  I’m not sure how acurate it’s claim is, but at 6″x4“ with 234 pieces it was certainly small enough to tax my middle aged eyesight.

However it came with a set of tweezers and I reluctantly donned my off the shelf spectacles and after about two weeks and a lot of squinting and cussing, I finally put the last piece in place.

Of course I wasn’t helped by the picture being a microscopic cell structure full of blotches and wiggles, and picture and jigsaw being out of alignment.

I’m now working on a full size 1000 piece photo of a gorilla. Which as it came from aldi and is made out of flimsy card might not prove to be any easier, but it ought to keep me quiet for a few days if we do indeed get the snow and ice that’s forecast over the next week.