We seem to have been hunkering down for the longest time lately, when this is usually an exclusive winter refuge. Winter on a narrowboat is quite a different experience to the bustle of the hire boat season, with yet another take on winding down.
Narrowboats are already a perfect wrapper for slowing down and reflecting. Add a cosy fire, a good book, a rural outlook with a light dusting of snow, and you have a recipe for great karma.
The canals are very quiet in the winter, with mostly just the live aboard community in residence. Some adventurous folks will hire narrowboats out of season – usually for a spot of ‘glamping’ – and enjoy the peace and quiet of joining nature in hibernation.
Cruising in the winter
As long as you’re aware of the navigation restrictions during this period and are aware of the risk of cold and potentially slippery surfaces, it can bring unique rewards.
The sun is lower in the sky and lights landscapes in a special way, lifting otherwise muted colours. Hoar frosts and the occasional snowfall decorate the surrounding trees and hedgerows. And these in turn are over-winter homes for a refresh of avian wildlife as migrating birds drop in for our more moderate temperatures.
Poor weather can be a disincentive to cruise very far this time of year and a good excuse to moor up for an extended period.
Avoiding cabin fever
Kick back with a good book. If there’s gaps in your Dewey Decimal, you’ll often find boating community pop-up book-swaps and mini-libraries in CRT facilities – there’s one local to us at Gailey Wharf.
And if you’re not a bookworm, make time for those traditional board games.
Dominoes was the activity of choice on family holidays when the weather became inclement, and it’s just one of many offline ways to pass the time while stirring the grey-matter.
Playing a classic game of skill helps keep the mind sharp, offers a break from screen time, and is a hobby that’s making a comeback.
The Queen’s Gambit – streaming on Netflix – gave the ’sport’ of chess a boost not seen since the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer“. Instagrammers Cindy Crawford, who posts about playing Backgammon, and Kylie Jenner who has her own customised Uno card set have also raised the profile of table top pastimes.
Or there’s always the humble jigsaw; but in the interest of space, make sure you have a foldaway card or puzzle-mat for those yet to be completed masterpieces.
Normally at this time, our thoughts wander to holiday escapes and warmer climes. Especially in our corner of the world where winter is “deep and crisp and even” from mid-December to April. January to March is the most popular time to getaway from the Ontario snows and head south to Florida and the islands. However, this year, much like 2020, is likely to be fraught with travel uncertainty.
For folks back home, BREXIT makes ‘the Continent’ a foreign destination again with new regulations to consider. And the new ‘C’ word is not disappearing from the news cycle anytime soon. In fact a quick check of a site dedicated to calculating vaccination schedules shows we might be waiting longer than we think for protection!
Summer 2020 was a frenzy of changing plans and last minute decisions. Coupled with a compressed season, many regular holiday boaters missed out on their usual escapes. But we were thrilled to share the narrowboating experience with many first timers AND some have even expressed an interest in coming back!
We don’t expect the 2021 season to start before Easter, if then. We’ll be following the Canal and Rivers Trust Boaters updates closely and once open for business, will be employing the same rigorous cleaning regime as 2020.
In the meantime, we’d like to wish you all a safe and healthy New Year and look forward to seeing you onboard soon.