Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cold days remembered #2

There have been a great many cold days in my life and none of them pleasant!
It’s usually the case that anyone complaining about being too hot in the middle of summer gets a sympathetic understanding, but say that you are too cold, even when it’s freezing the tits off a witch, and you are automatically labelled with the old Yorkshire word, NESH! You are told that cold weather is healthy and good for you. Even my old granny didn’t have much time for being cold. She would say, “Run about a bit; you’ll soon be warm!”
I remember once, not so long ago that I spent one of the most miserable nights of my life. It was early March and I was going from Newark to York on my boat, Dixie via the rivers Trent and Ouse. It was a weekday and I didn’t have my usual crew to help me. They were going to meet me later but it wasn’t a difficult navigation as there were very few locks which were, at the time, fully manned.
I set off from Newark around 2pm and stayed overnight at Torksey, on the River Trent. There was a decent pub there; I knew it well and I spent an enjoyable evening with friends I had met.
The next morning was an idle time as I had to wait for the flood tide before leaving. There would be plenty of time to get to Trent Falls where the river joins the Ouse to form the Humber Estuary. There were safe anchorages there and I would spend the night snug in my bunk. I went to the local shop and stocked up with fresh milk and some tea-bags. I set off down the river as soon as the flood-tide arrived.
It was fine until I was about ten miles from Trent Falls when a strong wind got up. The temperature dropped to almost zero and I was making slow progress through the heavy swell. The river was ebbing sluggishly and the level was dropping.
As I lost quite a bit of time, I realised that the ebb was just about at the lowest and the river at this point, has huge shoals and sandbanks to negotiate. I decided to find a small channel out of the way of large ocean-going coasters and drop anchor for the night. It was no big deal; I’d done it several times before. I had food, a couple of books, a bottle of scotch and plenty of tea and coffee.
The darkness came and the boat was getting decidedly cold now. I had a small space heater that would warm the cabin up a bit so I switched it on and was glad of the warmth it gave out. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, it packed up and would not start again. I was stuck on a boat in the most inhospitable stretch of the river and it was now pitch-black. I lit the gas on the stove to get some warmth and made myself a hot drink; then more problems!
Like a bloody idiot, I had forgotten to get a new propane gas cylinder before I set off and the flame on the stove was getting lower and lower. The gas geyser went out; ergo no more hot drinks!
I couldn’t leave the cabin lights on as I didn’t want to run the batteries down. I had to leave some navigation lights on, naturally, as maritime law required. As the night wore on, I became colder and colder. The idea of undressing for bed was out of the question; I sat and shivered using the minimum of light just to read with.
Eventually, I must have dozed off because I was suddenly aware of a violent rocking motion. I opened the curtains and saw the loom of a coaster chugging up-river on the first of the flood. The tide had turned and it was 6am! It was not yet dawn but I now had enough water under my keel to move out.
I soon had the engines running and up-anchored. I got into the main channel of the river and was pushing the tide up to Trent Falls. Once round the headland I was in the Ouse and with the flood heading for Goole. I passed through Victoria Lock into Goole Docks and moored up. There was a sort of transport café adjacent to the docks that was used by truckers and ships’ crews. I went in and was greeted by a blast of warm air; I was still so very cold after the early morning run up the Ouse with no heating on board. I sat down to a goodly cholesterol-laden breakfast of bacon, egg, black pudding, tomatoes and fried bread together with a pint mug of steaming hot tea.
I felt decidedly better for it!

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