|05/01/2009||Filled under London|
A new noise greeted us a few mornings ago as we lay warm and snug in our berth on board Cirrus.
The day before there was a fresh breeze coming in from the north east, very cold and piercing. Then after dark the clouds which had been hanging round for the last few days blew away leaving a clear, open sky. No stars are visible from central London (too much street-light pollution) but the moon shone from the black sky like there was someone up there with a spotlight shining it through a crescent-shaped slot. We just knew that every last smidgen of residual daytime heat was escaping skywards as we tucked ourselves in for the night.
Dawn came with the sound of a boat engine starting up, a sound which carried through the water into our hull. Then came the scraping sound, more than a rustle and less than a grind, of ice against the hull as somewhere, the boat began to move.
Although less than 2 millimetres thick, the ice was nevertheless continuous right across the marina, an unbroken skin to which every boat in the marina was connected. The moment one started to move, so did the skin, and each one of us felt and heard it as the skin broke up and became instead a set of icebergs bobbing about independently, right across the basin.
Thankfully this is, as yet, only very thin ice and our waterline antifouling paint is safe for the moment. But the weather pattern we have now is very static; there’s no warmth in sight for some days yet. Our lockkeeper tells us that this is the first time in at least 5 years that the basin has frozen over. Aren’t we the lucky ones then!
Kate and I were busy on board yesterday evening, minding our own business and preparing a feast of a dinner for ourselves when there came a sudden raw noise from outside that neither of us could place. The best description I can come up with is to imagine a classroom of small children all scraping the fingernails of both hands down a large, resonating blackboard. And then some. So not a pleasant noise then.
Rushing to the hatch we were confronted with the sight of an elegant yacht coming into the basin from the lock, nothing unusual in that, until you realise that it was acting as an icebreaker on the thin skin we now have across the basin, ploughing a furrow just wide enough for its own delicate hull and making this bizarre and unworldly noise which was being amplified as it bounced off the apartment blocks around us. I felt sorry for the skipper, who must have been imagining all sorts of damage to his boat as he slowly came to a halt mid way across the open space, then picked up courage again and pressed on to the nearest pontoon, amid more screeching and crunching. To anyone who has sailed in the far north inside the Arctic Circle this sound must be as common as muck but in central London I hazard a guess that it is quite rare. To be savoured, perhaps, if you like that sort of thing.
Although the cold weather is set to stay with us for a while yet, last night did see a slight warming as often happens when there is snowfall. Although seen settled on the ice here in this early morning picture it has a wet, slushy look to it and didn’t survive the day. Instead we now have a fresh wind again, biting cold to be out in and no doubt putting another layer on the ice for tomorrow.