Hatches battened down once again, for tis blowing a gale #narrowboat #England

Mid-January in England eh? The Cardinal is rocking at his moorings and a variety of canal-sized wave(lets) are slapping against the hull. Mr Stove is keeping both the Cardinal and I warm, I’ve just forked down a very spicy tofu-mushroom-beansprout-noodle-wotnot stir-fry and I’m washing it all down with a pot of French coffee. We are nothing if not deliciously cosmopolitan in our piggery-scoffery aboard the Cardinal.

Since there is a LOT of “mood” about this evening, I have settled on lots of mood lighting

There was a spot of an arctic blast earlier in the day, complete with a minor blizzard, and temperatures are set to fall to the barely warm side of 0°Celsiusoids overnight. The current gusts of 35mph or so are also set to increase to about 45mph. Here endeth the shipping forecast for Humber, Dogger, Forties, Viking, German Bight and even the Irish Ruddy Sea.

Remember listening to the shipping forecast? We used to hear it a lot in our house when I was knee-high to a dachshund. My father’s first career was as radio operator on deep-sea trawlers sailing from Grimsby, and many generations of Hutsons before him had salt in their veins. I’m not talking wussy, close to shore fishing, oh no. Dad always sailed on the trawlers headed for Iceland and Greenland and up around Norway to the Arctic. When our dear government killed off the fishing industry Dad moved on to his next career (quite literally electronic warfare on behalf of H.M.’s Ministry of Defence, during the extremely Cold War). Living on the canals is, of course, just one step up from splashing about a bit on the Corporation Boating Lake, there’s utterly no comparison, but there are boaty interests and compensations for all that.

The wind makes a vast variety of noises as it explores every crook and nanny of the (outside of) the boat, at times whistling over the roof-vents, at others howling and wolf-whistling around the canvas covers. During the previous spell of high winds I heard what sounded like an express train thundering along the canal, and a patch of completely flattened water passed by the boat – some sort of micro-blast or funnel or some such, methinks. It was impressive, and we certainly moved about after that one. The wind in Ing-er-lund also has an endearing habit of suddenly pausing, no matter what it was doing, it will occasionally just forget to blow for a few eerie seconds, and then it’s right back to full blast again.

Ditto the (canal-sized) waves (the wavelets in truth, nothing over a twelve inch ruler – so far, fingers crossed). There are a thousand different types of mini-wave and of patterns among them. Sometimes they arrive in pure form, sometimes two or more types combine in patterns, it’s all really rather complicated. The ones that get between the boat and the towpath bank make far and away the most noise. This evening we’re moored pointy-end into the wind, and the waves are taking turns slapping at the bow, the sides of the hull, sometimes melodic, sometimes staccato depending upon the angle of strike.

The boat is rocking gently, just enough to remind me that I am indeed afloat.

We are on pukka “visitor mooring” rings, literally iron rings set into blocks of concrete hidden behind armco rails – a bit more secure than being on pins banged into the ground. I’ve only got two ropes out, but I’ve doubled them back and forth, and tied them tres securely using my best knots.

Years and years ago I bought a couple of incredibly expensive “north American” “native indian” (aboriginal? whatever the term is, I don’t keep up with such things) ~style blankets. My favourite is on top of my winter-weight trillion-tog duvet, not because I’ll be cold, but just because it sounds cold with the wind howling, and a colourful blanket is always cheering.

First job tomorrow morning will be to wait until it’s light enough to see – and then to go outside and check that my solar panels and lights and cratch and tonneau covers are still in place, and happy. Fingers crossed, again. Then I’ll re-tighten the mooring lines, since all of the jiggling about tends to put a touch of slack into them, no matter how un-granny my knots.

There is at least a week of this enthusiastic winter forecast, and in reality, two or three more months of winter in general still to go. The fuel boat is likely to be passing again this weekend, so I shall have to summon them up via the electric interwebnettings, and ask them to leave me some more coal and more kindling. The rate that I am going through coal at the moment I may as well be just setting it alight and burning it.

The interwebnettings signal is a tad weakened too by the weather – nothing too technical, it’s just that I’ve moved my mobile-wifi aerial inside because it gets flapped around too much in these gusting breezes. Anything over 45mph and I can barely raise eleven to the tenth power megathimbles, and even fewer for upload. It’s the æther, you see, it has too many eddies and currents and I am led to believe that the electron, proton and moron particles become confused between boat and mobile tower.

I must confess that I am sore tempted to finish this posting and retire to my cabin with a damned good book and a small decanter of cocoa.

Doubtless I will be up a couple of times during the night but this is all to the good, because that means that I can keep Mr Stove fed and happy.

Oh, damn it, you’ve persuaded me. I wish you well and I must away, I’ll collect either a Hornblower or perhaps a Sherlock as I pass the library – they always work wonders on a stormy night.

Check your mooring ropes, folks, be certain you’re on the lee when peeing over the side and do try not to row around in circles, even if you are in a house on dry land.

This living on the canals is a lousy, rotten job, but someone’s got to do it.



Ian H.



  1. As always i look forward to my irregular dose of nautical Neddy talk, and not disappointed this time, I donned my sou’wester and seaboot stockings to read this and can feel the wind in my face. Good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I confess to those candles being the fake battery-powered variety, although very convincing they are (actually covered in real wax, and the LEDs flicker quite nicely). China PLC’s finest! 🙂

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  2. Even with all the effort you have to go to you manage to keep me warm! I think candles always do that and I recall the photo of your stove and you are probably warmer than we the house dwellers. I have a vent near my boiler in the kitchen that lets in the wind to keep my kitchen colder than my freezer and the ‘gas brigade’ just put up my monthly donation to the ‘fat cat’ cause by £10 a month. They are all probably scorching on some tropical island on the proceeds. Stay warm mein captain, I recommend porridge and brandy (not necessarily at the same time!)

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    1. Ventilation on the Cardinal is a fine balance – with the wind in some directions or angles I close off some of the “official” vents and use the draughts instead! Once I’ve got the balance right it’s very very right. Managed to find somewhere away from trees again this time… there’s just a hedgerow alongside as a windbreak! 😉

      You don’t get your gas from Carillion PLC do you?


  3. Nothing is like a boat in deep winter – they are live animals. You described the experience well.
    Bundle up (and sounds like you have some Navaho blankets. (Indian blankets, we call them but if you know the tribe/type call them that.” Indigenous People” sounds so stilted and fake caring/politeness to me.The blankets are gorgeous pieces of work. Always amazed by similar pattern found in woven blankets of similar ages in various parts of the world. )

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    1. Those are they – brilliant things, and a definite touch of luxury! I woke about six times during the night – presumably the noise of the wind and rain, and/or the boat rocking around – but it was a most pleasing experience indeed. 😉

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    1. Hi Jill – it’s all very “boating lake” compared to most boating, but that said I have just put an extra mooring line on for tonight – fifty mph forecast, and I should be very embarrassed to wake up on the wrong side of the canal! 😉


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