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Preparing For The Cold Weather On The Canals

With the drawing in of the nights and the days beginning to grey over it’s safe to assume that the autumn is in full swing with the promise of colder snaps to come. For canal enthusiasts living on the waterways full time, this change in conditions is an indicator to start preparing for the harsher weather around the corner. 

As daunting as it might seem to a first-timer, life on the canals in autumn and winter isn’t as challenging as it may appear, providing you make your preparations in advance. 

To help with the housekeeping required to maintain a cruising lifestyle during the colder seasons, Elms Moorings have come up with this handy guide to autumn/winter life on the canals.

To cruise or not to cruise?

That is the question… But to be honest the answer is usually dependant on the weather! As autumn gives way to winter and the temperatures plummet further, there is the chance that you may encounter ice on the canals.

Before you go ahead and think “but I can just cruise through it, right?”, keep in mind that ice and boat hulls don’t exactly have the best of relationships historically… If ice can critically damage the hull of an 882ft, 46,000 gross ton behemoth like the Titanic, then it can damage the hull of an 80ft wide-beam cruiser.

It might sound a touch extreme to use the legendary sunken liner an example, after all the ice that was responsible for it foundering that fateful night in the North Atlantic had a gargantuan mass both above and below the waterline (especially below) but the message to take away from this is, don’t risk it!

Even though you are unlikely to encounter more than 2 inches of ice on the canals during even the coldest of cold snaps. Trying to cruise through it will put an enormous strain on the vessel’s engine and is likely to result in blown-out components.

Not to mention, if you do actually break through the ice and get moving (not adviseable if the ice is over half an inch thick), then the ice scraping along the hull is likely to remove the protective layer of blacking, which will leave the bare metal of the underside exposed to the elements.

In short, it is better to stay moored up and let the elements dictate when is a good time to move off.

No need to have a chiller at the tiller!

If the water is ice-free and you decide to cruise, make sure that you’re dressed appropriately for the icy cold air temperatures. Giving yourself hypothermia is not the ideal way to spend your time on the canals.

Wrapping yourself up in warm clothing is also going to make chores outside the boat, like manning locks a lot more comfortable. Be sure to include footwear that is suitable for wet and icy conditions as well. Sliding around on the banks of the canal is incredibly hazardous so boots with decent tread are a must. 

Even with your autumnal wardrobe, ensure that you drink plenty of hot drinks whilst you’re skippering, and be sure to swap regularly with other “crew” members to keep warm.

Safety first! Watch out for obstructions

It’s no secret that the canals can harbour some rather “unnatural” phenomena. Shopping trolleys are among some of the items that turn up in the water and when the icy weather hits these are inevitably going to end up “frozen” in place.

Be sure to keep an eye out for obstructions like these and if you do encounter them, under no circumstances should you hop onto the frozen canal to try to remove them. Getting trapped under the ice for the sake of a trolley is not worth the risk!

Maintain basic house(boat) keeping

Whether you’re cruising or moored up, ensure that you take note of the following points:

  • Keep your fuel tank full
  • Maintain your antifreeze levels at around 30%
  • Ensure you have fuel for your cooker/heating stove
  • Check pipe insulation is sufficient
  • Make sure your batteries are functioning properly
  • Ensure the ventilation is adequate to avoid condensation forming
  • Use wooden planks to line the hull to reduce the risk of ice damage
  • Consider a cassette toilet as a substitute for your pump-out toilet in case you get iced in

Looking for a place to moor up in your journey?

Elms Moorings is situated in the picturesque village of Torksey and on the historic Fossdyke canal. Offering private non-residential mooring space, we are within easy access to the city of Lincoln and enjoy an abundance of unspoiled natural beauty.

If you’re considering an autumn or winter cruise up the waterways then feel free to get in touch and book your mooring space with us today.