Back in July we decided to move on to pastures new. We have berthed Phoenix III in the Trinity Marina at Hinckley since we bought her in October 2007. Having cruised up and down the Ashby for three years we felt it was time to have a new base. Braunston is 25 miles or 35 minutes away from Hinckley by road but between 12 and 13 hours away by boat. Not only would a move to Braunston give us a new starting point with a greater choice of routes, we expect that we will spend a good number of weekends on the boat in the marina itself.
Two days after we returned from our winter break in Fuerteventura and it’s time to leave the marina for the final time. Despite the cold weather, we have a symbolic glass of wine after we fill the diesel tank and start our chilly journey to Braunston. We hope to complete our journey by Sunday afternoon and have already left a car at the marina in preparation.
We left Hinckley just after half past two and tied up an hour and a half later near Burton Hastings. We expected a cold night but were surprised at how cold it actually was when at 10pm we saw that the generator which had been running for six hours was encrusted in white frost.
We awoke at 6am and were pleasantly surprised to find that the fire had stayed lit and kept the chill off the boat. We switched the heating on and by 7am when we had drunk our morning tea and climbed out of bed, the boat was lovely and warm. It was soon light enough to see that there was a covering of overnight snow on the frozen canal. Half an hour later and we were off, sort of! Our progress was slow as we smashed our way through the ice on our way to Marston Junction but we reached the turn at around 8.45 so we hadn’t lost too much time.
The turning manouvre itself took about ten minutes as we crunched our way through ice up to an inch thick but soon we were heading south on the Coventry canal towards Sutton Stop. We almost jumped for joy when we reached The Navigation pub and saw that a boat was somewhere ahead of us, judging by the seven foot channel cut in the ice.
Our elation was relatively short lived when we caught up our “pilot ship” just before the turn at Hawkesbury Junction. Another difficult manouvre and then we were through the frozen stop lock. We had expected that the sun would be at least softening the ice and that we might encounter an oncoming boat. Neither of our wishes came true and by the time we had smashed our way to the M69 road bridge we realised that we were travelling at about two thirds of our normal speed. Our concern wasn’t really with how far we would get but with where we would end up. With the canal still frozen, another sub-zero night forecast and no-one else on the move, we figured that we probably wouldn’t be able to move at all on Sunday. We decided to tie up at Ansty, still a long way from Braunston but close enough to civilisation to make the situation manageable. Decision made, we retired to the Rose and Castle at Ansty for an excellent lunch before calling our friend Nigel with a plea to pick us up and take us home. Despite the time we had spent battling our way to Ansty, we were only ten minutes from Hinckley and so by half past three we were back in the comfort of our home. Once again, we have abandoned Phoenix III and now we just have to wait for some sort of thaw before we complete our voyage.