It was half-term: released from the school routine the Cheshire One bounded up the garden path, paused in the kitchen for a height check (an increase of 2cm since Christmas), bounced around the living room, talked animatedly about her plans for our time together – and then the Cheshire Mum chimed in. There was homework to be done over half-term – work out which materials will float and then create an Aztec floating garden... A what?
Hmm – first task was to discover some floating materials. Cupboards were raided for plastic containers, tins, wooden blocks, a pottery basin and a foil tray while the Captain retrieved some polystyrene packaging from the garage. Cheshire Mum (well known for common sense and a PhD in Meteorology) presided. A chart was drawn up, the bath filled, items were to be tested, first without any weight and then weighted by wooden blocks. Plastic floats well, but was unstable when laden. The shortbread tin disappointed as it leaked on the corner seams although the lid was an excellent floater.
The pot promptly sank while the polystyrene rode high on top of the water. The foil? Great floater, but very unstable. All great fun – and while The Cheshire One and Boatwif cleared up the experiment the Captain was deployed to create a floating shape for the garden... Days later Cheshire Mum issued further instructions: “Use the Art Box, use the pompoms, create the garden!” After several hours cocoa shell, kebab skewers and pipe cleaners had been deployed – and the thing floats!
Then there was a train trip to London. Sightings of the Tower of London, the Gherkin, Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral were all on the Cheshire One’s Wish List.
At half term London was going to be crowded but an early beeline to the Jewel House ticked off the Crown Jewels before the queues built up. After three hours or so of battlements and Beefeaters, towers and traitors it was time to move on – by boat.
From Tower Millennium Pier to the landing stage at Tate Modern takes just eight minutes. How good it was to be afloat on a tidal river, even if the water bus seats passengers twelve abreast and the vessel sounds like a provincial diesel train. Traitors’ Gate, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, London Bridge, the Globe, Southwark Bridge, The Shard, St Paul’s – it was gongoozling heaven…!
There was another flotation exercise: over the winter the Cheshire One has developed mermaid tendencies. On a glorious morning, perfect for outdoor activity, we joined the half-term throngs at Bedford’s Beach Pool. On a previous visit there was plenty of water for floating and lounging and wave-jumping and speed –swimming in the fast current. Now the mermaid showed off her underwater prowess and between others’ bodies the odd swimming strokes were taken. Still, it was a morning spent largely in, on or under water...
The end of the week arrived; the Cleddau crew headed north, bunked down for a night in the Macclesfield loft and then headed out to the boat early on Saturday morning. Plan A: unload items from the car onto the boat; Plan B: prepare boat for casting off and cruise to the water point to at least partially fill the empty water tank; Plan C: head north to Marple (about 6 miles) for an overnight stay and a Saturday night pub meal. As the car crossed the bridge over the canal en route to the moorings there was a stark realisation that certain elements of the plan may be unachievable. The canal was frozen, from side to side...
Car unloading was delayed and while the Captain lit the fire and checked out the engine Boatwif walked back to see if the towpath tap at Bridge 15 was working.
The fiddly protective metal cover was unlocked: inside the tap lever would not move and icicle buds peered from the two water nozzles...
“You could pour a kettle of hot water over it,” was the helpful advice proffered by the man in the nearby chandlery (fine advice if you have water in a kettle to begin with, thought Boatwif).
Back at the boat the engine was declared fit to start, ropes were adjusted and the cruise started. It took about seven minutes to reverse at an ice-crunching crawl through the floes and to tie up by the tap. The Captain eased the lever into life and a tell-tale dribble gradually emerged from a nozzle and then the tap flowed. For near on an hour the hose conveyed water to the thirsty boat while walkers stopped to chat about life afloat and little girls fed bread to the ducks.
Once sufficiently full, the return cruise had to be made, now through slightly softer ice but into swirling flurries of snow. Time taken for the return trip: about four minutes. Odd how the eleven minutes total of Cleddau’s February cruise took less time than the Cheshire One’s bathroom experiments!
On reflection Briefly Cruising might be a more appropriate title to this blog since, though surrounded by ice, the Cleddau crew remained aboard (and afloat) for two days* and two nights.**
*Not afloat when walking up in Lyme Park on Sunday
**Comfort aided by the multi-fuel stove, a fan heater, thermal layers and two hot water bottles