We had hoped to be able to take the Phoenix out for Christmas, however an unexpected heavy cold threatened the trip. Saturday morning and feeling slightly better, we decided to venture out. Most of the provisions were already on the boat so by 10am we were ready to go. Two days earlier we had drained the water tank, only to discover that due to a frost we were unable to replenish the supply on the berth. As a result we had to fill the tank at the same time as we filled the diesel tank and so it was nearer to eleven when we finally got underway.
At this time of year, unsurprisingly, the canal is very quiet and we made the journey to Marston Junction in the usual two hours. Another hour brought us to Hawksbury Junction which was negotiated with ease. We decided that we would tie up at Ansty, which we did at around 3pm. Within minutes of mooring, the heavens opened and that was us in for the rest of the day.
Sunday morning and it feels quite cold, a glance out of the window reveals that the canal is frozen over. The ducks are skating around and as we throw them some bread, the results are quite funny. Fortified with a cooked breakfast, we decide to press on, break some ice around the bow and then set off. The sound of the ice breaking is terrific, not what you might expect at all. Rather than a smashing sound, the ice parts in front of the boat, but the sound is a shrill one from where the ice meets the banks of the canal. This continues for a couple of hours until we meet another boat breaking ice in the opposite direction. Although the boat has handled almost as well as under normal conditions, once we hit water where the ice has already been broken, the passage is much easier. There is a freezing fog which the sun is unable to burn off and as a result, cruising is not the most pleasant of experiences. We come to the decision that we will not travel further than Newbold on Avon. We know that there are moorings near the village, so we manage to get tied up just after one o’clock. Originally we had hoped to go further on this trip but to do so now would take the fun away, we will turn around in the morning and head back.
Today is completely different, warmer and clear, if a little cloudy. We turn around at the next winding hole and then re-fill the water tank, it’s amazing how much we have used in just two days. The provisional plan is to return to Ansty, however the canal is so quiet and the weather kind enough that we press on and eventually moor near bridge three on the Ashby. The journey has been pretty uneventful except when we saw the Welsh cheese boat, in hindsight we should have stopped and bought some but it was getting dark and I’m sure that we will encounter them again in the future.
The shock of yesterday’s events is still with us but by midday we are back at the marina to clear the boat out. Everything is different, the sun is shining and there are a lot of people milling about. When we unlock the boat, it looks like the Marie Celeste must have done to the people who found it abandoned with dinner plates left on the table still with the remnants of yesterday’s meal. Thirty minutes later and the boat is clear, clean and tidy. We bump into the unofficial lifeguard and present him with a nice bottle of 12 year old single malt. A little embarrassed and releuctant to accept, we feel that he realises how grateful we are for his help.
It seems such a long time since we had our last cruise, our trip to Atherstone at the end of October. We’ve been busy nevertheless and now the interior of the boat is complete. A quick walk through from bow to stern shows a variety of improvements; new carpets, curtains and cushion covers. The kitchen area has been re-tiled and an inverter fitted to power up the television, DVD, satellite system and hi-fi. Other electrical improvements include a new mains inlet, new lamps fitted throughout and additional 12 volt sockets inside.
Holidays, work and bad weather has prevented any more cruising since Atherstone but hopefully the weather will be kind enough to let us out for a few days at Christmas, sheer madness of course but the desire to get PhoenixIII out again is overwhelming.
The dark evenings are quite limiting as far as work on the boat is concerned so we have been busy with other things and one of them has been to design some PhoenixIII branded goods. We ordered some items for ourselves and were pleased with the quality so now we have some nice T-shirts, baseball caps and coffee mugs. We also got the boat’s mascot, a teddy bear with a printed shirt and because we were unsure of a name to give him, we decided to run a competition to name the teddy. What we didn’t realise was that in Sudan, a British teacher was in a spot of bother for the doing a similar sort of thing, therefore the competition has been cancelled and the mascot is called Ted!
We were keen to get back out on the boat this weekend after the success of our last trip. Our opportunities are going to be limited as we head into winter, work and holidays will take up five weekends, the days are getting shorter and of course there is the weather. The forecast for this weekend indicated that there would be rain on Saturday afternoon but otherwise dry and cloudy. We provisioned the boat on Thursday afternoon ready for a quick getaway on Friday, unfortunately in our haste we left some food in the car! We left the marina by ten to four and cruised to Burton Hastings before mooring up about an hour later. Dusk fell soon after and by the time we had eaten dinner, it was completely dark. A game of dominoes and a dvd before retiring to bed at 10 o’clock finished the day.
We awoke around 7am and got dressed before having breakfast of bacon sandwiches and tea. The trip to Marston Junction took less than an hour but seemed quicker, probably because the route is already becoming familiar to us. Turning right at Marston is a lot easier than turning left, however a feature of today is the wind which meant a bumpy passage through the narrow exit from the Ashby canal. The canal passes through countryside before reaching Nuneaton, Sue has lived in this area all of her life but is surprised to discover a boatyard in the town centre. This surprise was nothing by comparison to the moment that we emerged from under the bridge next to the home of Nuneaton Borough football club ~ it had gone! All that remains is a building site, another bit of Sue’s past has been demolished, all that is left is the memory of the day her Dad took her to see a match there and all that she and her brother were interested in were “pop and crisps”. Before the urban landscape of Nuneaton gives way to countryside again, we see the strange volcano shaped spoil tip next to a granite quarry, a very deep quarry. There is hardly any traffic on the Coventry canal so other than the odd solitary fisherman we don’t see many people at all as we pass through Hartshill yard on the way to Atherstone. Eventually we reach the top lock at Atherstone where we turn around and take on water. We could have gone through the locks but with the short days and impending rain, it would only be doing it for the sake of it. Instead we tie up and head into town, doing a bit of shopping before making our way to “The Library” in the Red Lion on the main street. An enjoyable couple of hours with the papers and a bottle of wine is very much in keeping with the slow pace of life that canal cruising brings.
We return to the boat before the rain comes and while Sue prepared the evening meal, I set up the satellite dish so that we can watch television. The rain fell but we were snug inside with the tv and a well stoked fire, the clocks go back tonight but we’re so chilled out that we can’t be bothered, in our world the clocks will go back when we decide, which will probably be when we get back tomorrow.
The weather forecasters have got it wrong and it looks like the rain will happen today, this isn’t a problem since we both have wet weather gear on board. A breakfast of bacon, egg, beans and toast along with the obligatory mug of tea is first on the agenda. The eggs came from 19gales, a farm shop in the middle of Atherstone, they are free range, the yolks are orange and they taste like eggs used to taste like! Soon after, we slip our mooring and start the return journey home to Hinckley. The sky looks heavy and sure enough it is not long before the rain starts, the wind is even stronger than it was yesterday so the steering is difficult as the boat acts like a large sail in the crosswind. The weather is no deterent because we are prepared with waterproof clothing, as Billy Connolly once said; “I hate all those weathermen who tell you that rain is bad weather. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing.”
There are lots of fishermen along the towpath today, I’m sure that they would describe themselves as being serious but they just seem miserable. Perhaps they are resentful of boaters interrupting their fishing but do they ever ask themselves where they would fish if British Waterways didn’t maintain the canal? I can’t imagine that the fishermen pay the same money to BW as the boaters do.
All too soon we reach Marston Junction again and the start of the home run. We stop at the place we moored at on Friday night for a spot of lunch, a couple of pasties from the farm shop and they are delicious as well as filling. After setting off again, our thoughts turn to how we are going to get back into the marina on such a windy day. In the event, we make it relatively easy, mainly due to Sue’s expert efforts with the barge pole. I can see her working a Gondola in Venice in the near future.
Back home for two o’clock and we can then join the rest of the country in turning our clocks back to GMT
It is now two weeks to the day since we took ownership of PhoenixIII and today we embarked upon our first weekend trip away. Straight after work we headed off to the marina and took the necessary clothes and food.
Stopping to pick up a new gas bottle and a tankful of diesel on the way out, we headed in the direction of the Coventry canal. Mindful of the sunset, we had only planned to go the short distance to bridge 15 next to the Limekilns, a pub that we have visited many times in the past, but not this evening.
We moored at about 5.30, giving us about another half an hour before dusk gave way to night time. After a meal of steak pie and new potatoes, we discuss the following day in more detail over a glass or two of wine before retiring to our cabin.
The plan is to start as soon as it is light at 8am. The forecast for the weekend is clear and bright, maximum temperature about 14 C, overnight frost. More important for this time of year is knowing when the sun rises and sets each day. At the moment the sun rises at 8am and sets at 6pm giving us ten hours of daylight cruising on a good day.
We awoke at 6am, it was dark and cool, the heating has been on all night at 15C so the chill is off the boat. This is one of the things that we will be setting up to suit ourselves this weekend. Daylight seems a long time coming so we fortify ourselves with bacon sandwiches and tea and wait for the light. As the sun comes up, we can see just how cold it has been overnight, it is misty and although we are only half a mile away from home, it seems like we are at the dawn of another world.
Amy stayed overnight last night at the house and today we took a trip down the canal to Marston junction. We attempted to leave at ten o’clock, however a light wind presented some difficulty in getting out of the berth. Further difficulty leaving the marina itself provided a couple of onlookers some early morning entertainment. Once underway, we didn’t encounter many boats as we made our way to Marston, a couple of hours away. We turned around at the junction and stopped at bridge 5 on the way back. Lunch was one of Sue’s tasty cottage pies, delicious and very filling! Amy did some design work for college along the way as well as getting some steering practice. It must have been exhausting for her because she spent the last half an hour asleep in bed! We arrived back at the marina just after 3pm, about twenty minutes after the rain started but we were berthed before it became too heavy.
10 am and we board PhoenixIII for our first trip. This is really just a chance to take her out to see how she performs. We are joined by Rebecca, Daniel and Rachel for the day and within minutes we are manoeuvring out of our mooring, through the marina and out on to the canal. A two hour trip sees us heading in a north easterly direction towards the top of the Ashby canal, reaching our turning point at bridge 34, Sutton Cheney. On the way we pass through Stoke Golding where a couple were sitting on the banks fishing and six year old Daniel wasted no time in telling them that there was a no fishing sign on the bank. A short stop for lunch before we turn the boat around and head back for Hinckley. The Phoenix continues to handle faultlessly and we are soon back at trinity marina where we get tied up in a few minutes. All in all a good trial run for us and PhoenixIII. We are now planning our first “proper” trip in two weeks time.
11th Sept Today, we looked at two narrowboats for sale on the Trinity Marina, Hinckley. One of them, “Phoenix III “, really caught our eye. A 52 foot 4 berth cruiser, she is 10 years old and is presented in a good, clean, well cared for condition.
12th Sept Today, we returned to take another look at “Phoenix III “ and we were not disappointed. As a result, we made an offer to buy her. Unfortunately, we will have to await the return of her owners before we can take ownership.
21st Sept So much frustration! The current owners of Phoenix III are unable to be contacted, perhaps they didn’t expect an offer so soon. Anyway, this leaves us in a sort of limbo, not knowing whether or not we are going to own this particular boat. In the meantime we walk to the marina, take a look at her and feed the ducks.
23rd Sept The sound of silence is now deafening. We understand that the current owners are abroad and that the man who lives on the boat when he works here will be returning to work on Thursday 27th. It still seems unbelievable that anyone would put a boat up for sale and then “disappear “ for three weeks.
28th Sept Well, Thursday 27th came and went and still no sign of the mysterious boat owner. A visit to the marina to see the broker reveals that there has been a mix up with the dates, the sellers are actually on holiday until the 29th! Let’s see what tomorrow brings?
UPDATE At ten past four we had a call from the broker letting us know that the owners had returned from holiday and have accepted the offer. Within ten minutes we had walked to the marina and paid our deposit! Hopefully we can take ownership within the next week or two. Afterwards we sat on the decking outside the Marina pub and had a celebratory drink. A boat passed by piloted by a couple who had been in the shop at the same time as us, “Which one did you buy? “, they called. “Phoenix III! “, we replied, “It’s in the marina! “. We got a big grin, a thumbs up and a cry of “Well done “, from the couple as they headed off down the canal towards the Limekilns.
29th Sept The weather today was pleasant, sunny and bright so we took a drive down to Braunston which is just under 25 miles from Hinckley. After a walk along the towpath to The Admiral Nelson, we sat by the adjacent lock, had a drink and watched a number of boats navigate the locks in both directions. Sue decided that she wants to be the lock keeper rather than steer the boat. We purchased a map of the Warwickshire Ring before returning home.
30th Sept Today was the big day! We visited Sam, the broker at the marina at 3pm. We have learned that we can take ownership this Friday, October 5th and we have now signed up for our mooring. Having handed over the necessary fees, all that remains is to insure the boat, transfer the BW Licence, see the owner for a handover meeting tomorrow and get the keys on Friday!!! Another celebratory drink at the Marina (how many more times are we going to celebrate buying this boat?) and then off home, happy!
1st Oct Today we met the current owner for a “handover “ meeting. Of course the real handover doesn’t happen until this coming Friday, however we had a chance to find out about the various pieces of equipment on board. As we first thought, this boat has been lovingly cared for by its owners. We also had our first opportunity to sit and relax in the comfort of the cabin, the rain was gently falling outside while we sat in the warmth provided by the stove. The boat has central heating, an immersion heater, a battery charger and a generator, so with the stove as well all forms of heat and light are on tap. Roll on Friday!
2nd Oct There’s not much left to do now except wait. We took a walk over to the marina this evening to have a look at how easy or more importantly, how difficult it will be to enter and leave the marina. After surveying the area from the bridge which spans the marina entrance, we were left with the impression that it should be alright if navigated with care.
5th Oct Mid afternoon and we’ve got the keys! We’re both pretty excited and pleased that Phoenix III is finally ours. We only spend about an hour or so, familiarising ourselves with the inside layout again. It is a beautiful sunny day and the temptation to take her out is almost overwhelming. However, we resist and leave our maiden voyage until Saturday.