The wind had dropped and the sun was shining when we awoke on Easter monday, a complete and welcome contrast to yesterday’s weather. Sue had seen a laundry box on the Argos website so after reserving it online, we got ready and drove into Stafford to collect it.
We took a walk down Gaolgate street in the sunshine and stopped to listen to new boyband, The Secrets who were playing in the Market Place. They were very good and Sue has tipped them to make the big time!
We had lunch in The Butler’s Bell, a Wetherspoons pub which was very stylish and a credit to the company. After lunch we wandered to Argos and picked up the laundry bin before returning to the car. My phone rang and it was Libby at Braunston marina telling me that she had shown Phoenix III to a couple who wanted to make an offer on the boat. Libby told us that they were in a position to buy immediately, weren’t bothered about a survey and had gone for a cup of tea. We had a short discussion about what we were prepared to do with the price and within an hour, the deal was done! The couple had been back to Phoenix III with a marina engineer who started the engine for them and apparently they were full of beaming smiles when they returned to the shop. Everything should be complete by the end of the week which is great because it is one less thing to have to think about.
By the time all of that had been concluded we were back on board Caxton doing the laundry. A mundane task maybe but significant in our boating life since we will no longer be dragging clothes to the boat every time and then carting bags of dirty laundry home afterwards.
We were in no hurry to leave Caxton but we had to go home at some time so we picked up the two small carrier bags of bits that we had, secured the boat and left at 4.30pm.
We’ll return on Friday with some more of our belongings and stay for the weekend. That should set us up nicely for the following weekend when we will leave Stone and move Caxton to Braunston.
Regular readers may have wondered why we have apparently done no cruising lately, despite the reasonable spring weather. Quite simply, we have bought another boat and Phoenix III is now up for sale and that whole process amongst other things has kept us busy for the last few weeks.
We bought Phoenix III for leisure purposes in 2007 and agreed that we ‘give it a go’ for a couple of years. Six and a half years later and we have had many holidays, weekend trips and even weekends based in Braunston marina. With a new paint job and a replacement engine with gearbox fitted in 2011, we intended keeping Phoenix III until I retire when we would spend six to eight months cruising the system before deciding on whether we could become continuous cruisers and buy a bigger boat. At 52’, Phoenix III is just about big enough for living on board but to make the leap to CCing, most people would go for something close to 70’.
Despite our plan to wait make the final decision after our first summer ‘out on the cut’, we still regularly looked at brokerage websites in case that special boat was up for sale somewhere. It was always to no avail, there were a few contenders but there was always one thing or another that would put us off and as a result we got no further than looking at web pages on Apollo Duck.
I regularly peruse the pages of a canal discussion forum which is a bit like the proverbial ‘Curate’s Egg’, good in parts! Mainly, it’s crap, there are a handful of members who regularly hijack posts by arguing amongst themselves as they try to score points off each other. Some of these sad people have averaged more than 8 posts per day since they started on the forum but that’s my rant over. One of the good parts of this Curate’s Egg came on the day when someone asked about narrowboats for sale which were 45’ to 55’ in length. One response included a couple of links to boats that were for sale. One of the boats, Caxton, hadn’t been officially advertised and the owners included a link to the blog of the original owners who had carefully recorded the building of the boat.
When you imagine what your ideal boat would consist of, there are a number of big decisions to make, the stern layout, windows, engine and equipment to name but the basics. Caxton is a semi-trad and that was on our list. We like windows and a saloon at the front of the boat so that we can see along the canal. Caxton has portholes and the saloon is in the middle but those holes are large, there are two side hatches and a couple of Houdini hatches so we are happy with that, the engine is the bigger brother of what we bought for Phoenix III so that was OK too. The rest of the equipment swung it for us, engine generator, sine wave inverter, washing machine, tumble drier, dishwasher, full size shower cubicle, fully fitted bedroom, huge front deck, the list went on. It was easy to see that Caxton had been built to a very high specification with every piece of equipment given a great deal of consideration.
I realised that I had spent hours reading the blogs about Caxton so I figured that it was time to confess my obsession to Sue. She was impressed and intrigued and then we both spent an hour or so trawling Apollo Duck again but with the same result as usual, nothing that interested us.
The following morning, Sunday 23rd March, we talked again about Phoenix III, Caxton and our boating future before deciding to take a drive to Aston Marina near Stone where we could take a look at Caxton. We knew from their blog that the owners, Paul & Elaine weren’t around but it was a lovely day so we were happy enough to make the trip up the A5 into Staffordshire. We discovered that Aston marina has a Bistro and a farm shop so we decided to have lunch before walking around the marina to catch a glimpse of Caxton and she looked as good in real life as we had seen in the internet pictures.
I sent a text to the owners and arranged to return the following day to view the boat properly.
We met Paul and Elaine the following day, Monday 24th March and were given the grand tour of Caxton. Having pored over the blogs, it was all very familiar to us and we had very few questions to ask, Caxton was exactly what we expected to find and as a result we very quickly struck a deal to buy her from Paul and Elaine.
Although we weren’t dependent on selling Phoenix III for the purchase of Caxton, we wanted to get her ready to sell as soon as possible so we moved on board Phoenix III three days later. It took us another three days to remove all of our belongings, three car loads and a load into the skip before we were able to hand the keys over to the marina at Braunston to put her on brokerage. So despite the fact that storage on board was seen as being a restriction, there was a hell of a lot of stuff to remove.
It was a strange weekend, I was emotionally unhappy on Thursday, Friday and on Saturday morning, remembering and picturing the great times that we had enjoyed over the last six and a half years. Something changed in my mind as I drove back from Hinckley to Braunston on that sunny Saturday morning and I felt much more positive about the situation. Sue was quite bemused by my emotions since she had been unaffected by it all until the last few moments on Sunday when the final sweep through took place and she was suddenly overcome and cried unexpectedly.
We handed the keys over so Phoenix III is now up for sale and we have arranged to buy Caxton on Wednesday 16th April with the intention of cruising back to Braunston over the following week.
That plan went out of the window when Sue was admitted to hospital on Thursday where she is awaiting an operation, our trip from Stone to Braunston is on hold for the moment but hopefully not for too long.
As for this blog, I haven’t decided on its future. We had always thought that our CCing boat would be called BRAMLORE after the first two letters of our children’s names; BRett, AMy, LOuise & REbecca so maybe our new blog should reflect that. We have nothing against the name CAXTON but the name of that blog is already well known. The answer will come to us I’m sure but until then, we’ll keep posting here on applebeesfarm.co.uk