We don’t normally stay up to welcome in the new year and last night was no exception. We were however, woken at midnight when the revellers at the Limekilns pub counted down to the start of 2016 which was accompanied by the customary fireworks. Eventually the fireworks stopped but the pub party was still in full swing as we dropped off to sleep once more.
There was a period of calm weather forecast for this morning, low wind speeds between two weather systems. We were up early to take advantage of the short window of opportunity that would allow us to get Caxton easily back into the marina and safely tied up. The eastern sky started to get light around 7.45 so we untied the frost hardened ropes and started on the final leg of our trip. The forecast had been spot-on and our mission was completed just under thirty minutes later. By 10.15, we had done the chores and cleared all of our bits and pieces into the car. Our week’s break on board was over and of course so was our final trip of 2015. A little bit different to last year’s Christmas cruise.
We don’t really know what 2016 will bring us but we hope that we’ll get a lot of time out and about on the cut.
After spending our fourth night in Trinity marina on board Caxton, it was time to get out on the cut. First of all though we had to say goodbye to our visitors, Sue’s son Brett, his wife Kerry and their two children. They had arrived on Sunday and stayed in our apartment overnight. They were just finishing breakfast when we got to the apartment so we chatted with them for an hour before they set off and we walked back to the marina.
We were ready to start our trip just after midday and despite the strong wind, we managed to exit the marina and point Caxton in the direction of Marston Junction. The mild weather is continuing but the wind makes it chilly after a while. Luckily for me, Sue has bought me some new thermals and knitted a sort of polo neck capelet that can be worn under a coat which keeps my neck warm and draught free. Fully insulated, I was able to steer Caxton along the six miles of the Ashby canal that leads to the junction with the Coventry canal. We passed a handful of boats along the way including Mister Pip, skippered by one of our acquaintances, Phil. Two hours later and we reached the junction so Sue went to the front to look put for any traffic on the Coventry canal. We were in the narrow section approaching the bridge when the bow of a narrowboat came into view from the direction of Nuneaton, it was the unmistakable “Miner Bill ” with Ralph at the tiller. Ralph indicated to Sue that he was turning on to the Ashby and she signalled back that we intended to turn left. This turn can be interesting at the best of times with Caxton being 68 feet long but with a bit of wind and a misbehaving bow thruster it looked like a perfect nightmare was about to unfold. In the end it wasn’t too bad and we all ended up where we wanted to be. Nicki appeared, camera in hand and took these photos.
We pressed on and made our way to Hawkesbury. Along the way, Sue stoked the fire up with some peat but unfortunately this coincided with us entering the cutting that is the Bedworth straight. We were suddenly protected from the gusting wind that had been clearing the smoke from the chimney and now it was just drifting in the almost still air. After a few minutes of being smoked like a kipper, Sue returned to the fire and removed as much of the smouldering peat from the fire as she could. The smoke subsided pretty quickly after that and then a few minutes later we were out in the open again. The smoke still hung in the cutting behind us but we were breathing fresh air again!
We reached Hawkesbury just before half past three, winded under the bridge then found a mooring for the evening. Neither of us fancied the walk back to the Greyhound so we settled down and had a bowl of home made soup that Sue had made as we had travelled along.
It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since we spent our first Christmas on board Caxton. We were moored at Market Bosworth at the time and after living aboard on Christmas eve and day, we started cruising on Boxing day . The following day saw us mooring at the Lime Kilns but then overnight, the canal froze over and there we remained until New Year’s Eve.
This year is completely different. For a start, Caxton lives in the marina across the road from where we live. The weather has been more autumnal than wintery and the mild temperatures are set to continue, so it looks like a Christmas cruise is a real possibility. We’ve been keeping Caxton warm and dry by regularly lighting the fire so this week it hasn’t been difficult to prepare for our time aboard. We are expecting visitors on Sunday and we had hoped to have a short “out and back” cruise between now and then but a fierce wind has put paid to that idea. Undeterred, we still moved our remaining bits and pieces on board this afternoon and after a short walk to the Wharf Inn, we returned to Caxton and settled in for the evening .
Our plan now is to sit tight until Sunday morning when we will move the boat out of the marina and then moor out on the towpath overnight. On Monday we’ll be able to start our Christmas cruise properly so watch this space!
It has been seven weeks since we were last out on the cut and Oh! how we’ve missed it. My little girl Amy (OK she’s 24 years old but she’s still my little girl) told me that she misses the blogs so this one is especially for her!
We did have a bit of a boating fix last weekend when we visited Joe and Lesley on Yarwood when they were moored at Aynho. We had a fabulous afternoon with them, enjoying lunch in the Great Western Arms followed by coffee so good that we have indulged ourselves by buying a Dolce Gusto machine so that we can recreate Joe’s magnificent cafe con leche.
So with the country sitting under an area of high pressure for the time being, we decided to escape for the weekend. I finished work at lunchtime on Friday and met Sue in Hinckley where we had a drink outside the Hansom Cab before going home to prepare for the trip. While Sue gathered some bits and pieces, I went to the marina and released Caxton from the clutches of its mooring. A few minutes later and I was picking Sue up from the towpath near our apartment, one of the benefits of living next to the canal.
With the full crew now on board, Caxton slipped through the water as far as the visitor moorings opposite the Lime Kilns pub on the A5. After securing our mooring we sat out on the front deck and savoured the late afternoon sun, a bit of a rarity for October. On the spur of the moment we decided to have dinner at the pub and then embarked on one of our shortest ever cruises, yes we untied and pushed Caxton all of twenty feet across the cut to the pub garden thus saving the walk there and back. Lazy or decedent- you decide!
No complaints about the food, drink or service, everything was excellent and we only had a two minute walk to get back to the boat.
Saturday dawned and we set sail just after nine with the intention of turning left at Marston Junction and going to Hawkesbury for the weekend. By the time we reached the Coventry canal we had changed our minds and headed north. An hour later and we were tying up in Nuneaton, a town often maligned by boaters but we think unjustly so. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the home of George Elliot before returning to Caxton and moving on to Boot Wharf where we blocked the canal as we shoved 180 litres of diesel into the tank. Fortunately we only inconvenienced one boat for a couple of minutes before we set off again and made our way to Springwood Haven where we moored for the night. After dinner we settled in for the evening and I was asleep before nine o’clock. Like the evening before I slept for eleven hours – proof positive that I sleep better on the water than anywhere else.
The fire was still lit when we got up on Sunday morning so the inside of the boat was still warm and toasty. It wasn’t too cold outside either so we untied and set off, turning in the winding hole just beyond the marina. We had a pleasant cruise back to Hinckley in the autumn sunshine passing a few boats along the way, including Phil on nb Mister Pip and Stuart & Treena on nb Carpe Diem.
The wind had picked up by the time we got back but it did not hinder our entry to the marina. We had enjoyed ourselves so much that we decided to end the trip with lunch at the Marina pub; Sunday roast for the crew, Chicken and Ham pie for me. Suitably refuelled we walked home and reflected on our wonderfully relaxing weekend.
With high winds and rain forecast for Sunday, we decided that we would end our trip on a high note and travel home today. We set off at seven, seeing nothing else on the move until we reached Sutton’s Stop. The early grey cloud had given way to blue skies by the time we had negotiated the stop lock and the 180 degree turn on to the Coventry canal. The temperature was rising quickly by the time we reached Marston junction and we completed the last two hours of our journey in perfect summer conditions, a perfect end to our holiday.
We got to the marina, dumped the unmentionables, packed a couple of bags and then simply walked home.
We’ve done 168 locks and covered 208 miles in the last three weeks in the space of about 120 hours (about 3 lock miles per hour). The weather has been good with only two days of rain and we sat both of those out in Tewkesbury and Stratford, other than that only two five minute showers while travelling. We found moorings in every place that we had hoped for and explored towns and waterways for the first time. To that end, we can only conclude that we had a successful trip!
It’s the eve of our big holiday and Caxton is ready to go. We took some bits and pieces and stowed them on board today ready for tomorrow’s escape. At 23 days this will be our biggest trip ever and Caxton’s longest cruise in more than a year since we bought the boat. It’s also the first time since 1983 that I have had more than two weeks off work and that seems fitting since tomorrow’s full moon is a “Blue Moon”, being the second one this month.
As soon as I finish work tomorrow, we’ll move the last few bits from the fridge at home to the one afloat, get the strings off, top up the diesel and water tanks and then chug off into into the sunset. Below are some pictures of Caxton sitting quietly waiting for tomorrow to come and the almost full moon sitting in the first clear sky for days.
As expected, it was damp and drizzly when we awoke on the morning of Good Friday but we had no intention of hanging around for the day so we got up and were underway by nine o’clock. We passed a few boats heading towards Snarestone for the Easter weekend event as we made our way to Hinckley. Sue nipped home for some cough medicine for me while I bought some diesel and coal at Trinity marina. We had a brief chat with old friend Jim who has had a winter mooring there before setting off again. We were photographed by the crew of a tug heading north who told us that the pic was one for the first owners, we presume that she meant Lesley and Joe so maybe our mugshots will appear on another blog somewhere. The drizzle persisted for a while but it wasn’t like travelling in the rain and eventually we reached Marston Junction at the end of the Ashby where we turned hard left.
Sue rustled us up some soup to keep us going until we reached our stopping place for the day, the seven day moorings on the approach to Hawkesbury junction. Along the way we had our photo taken again and later appeared on this guy’s Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/CanalSideArt?ref=ts&fref=ts
No sooner had we gone through all of the normal mooring procedures than the heavens opened, we had been lucky again with our timings but would there be a window of opportunity to nip to the Greyhound for a pint?
Of course there was, we toddled off down there during a dry spell and not only did we have a drink but we had haddock & chips too! Suitably appropriate fare for Good Friday.
We had deliberately loaded the fire lightly last night so that it would have gone out by morning in order that we could give it a good clean out before relighting it. The cabin was cool when we we awoke so I switched the heating on as I lit the gas under the kettle for our first coffee of the day. A quick peek out of the window revealed a hard frost and a frozen canal. When questioned by Sue a couple of days ago about whether or not the canal might freeze, I confidently stated that at minus one, it would remain ice free. I mentioned the frost but neglected to mention the ice on the cut, hoping that by the time we were up and about, the sunshine might have worked its magic and melted it. A short while later with the cabin warming up and the coffee going down nicely, Sue’s ears pricked up and asked if I could hear a crackling noise. I couldn’t but her hearing is better than mine so I guessed what it would be and sure enough, a minute later and I too could hear the unmistakable sound of a boat breaking ice. I didn’t panic and figured that if I took a matter-of-fact approach, I might just get away with my poor prediction. “It’s probably just a boat breaking up the ice”, I said in a disinterested sort of way. “ICE!”, came the immediate reply, “What do you mean, ICE? You assured me that couldn’t happen at these temperatures!”. I hadn’t got away with it, there was only one thing to do. “It’s that bloody BBC, they never get things right and it obviously must have been colder than they predicted and by quite some distance!” I declared before looking out to see nb Hector smashing through the ice which was only about 4mm thick, now if only he’d lain in bed anouther hour, I might have been alright there. Of course it was all a bit of a laugh really so be assured that the atmosphere inside the boat didn’t turn frosty to match the outside!
We decided to stay put outside the Lime Kilns for the day, even though the ice was melting quickly. By the time we were ready and the fire was lit, the sun was blazing through the windows making the inside of Caxton really hot, even the cratch was warming up!
We got our walking boots on and headed off into Hinckley using a path which runs from just south of the Limekilns, parallel to the Sketchley brook, emerging beside the railway bridge next to Lidl at the bottom of Sketchley hill. Once in town, we had a coffee before doing a bit of shopping in Dunelm and at B&Q. Sue has suspended some light muslin cloth below the Houdini hatches to catch condensation drips preventing them landing on us and the floor. Absorbed by the cloth, the moisture soon evaporates with the heat of the cabin. It was pretty cold by the time we walked back to our mooring but the inside of the boat was warm thanks to the fire and the fact that Caxton was still basking in full sunshine.
After running the engine for a couple of hours to replenish the batteries, we settled in for the evening. Ice was already forming on the canal surface by 8pm so there can be no surprises in the morning!
I don’t mind mistakes as long as lessons are learned.
The sky was blue and the sun was shining, there were odd patches of snow but in essence the day had the makings of being a good one for cruising. The first thing I did was to wrap up warmly from the outset, adding yet another layer than I had had on the day before, this was lesson one! With the usual checks done, we were off into the sunshine once more. Sue was working away inside Caxton and soon produced a sausage sandwich for me and a mug of tea to wash it down with.
The entire Ashby fleet was present when we passed through Stoke Golding wharf and we only passed two boats travelling in the opposite direction before we reached Trinity Marina at Hinckley. Every so often in a boater’s life, there comes that dreaded day and today was that day, yes the filling of the diesel tank! We took the opportunity to do the other services while we were there in the hope that it would take my mind off the fuel bill but 220 litres of diesel is 220 litres regardless of the price of a barrel of Brent crude!
Everything done, we pootled on to the mooring opposite the Lime Kilns, passing Stu and Treena on Carpe Diem along the way. Jim was tied up outside the Brewers Fayre but was nowhere to be seen.
Once secured, I remembered my second lesson and sorted out the satellite dish before fixing the canvas cover over the rear deck of Caxton.
By now you will have read from Sue’s posts that I am in a bit of a sorry state. Yes, I should have done what I was told and got to the dentist sharper than I did. I didn’t though and as a result had one of the roughest night’s non-sleep that I can remember.
Back to yeserday though, we left our mooring at the Hawkesbury engine house and after filling the water tank, made our way to Marston junction where we made the wide sweep necessary to gain access to the Ashby canal. This is only the second time that we have been along here in Caxton but it is a trip that we made many times on Phoenix III. After three hours travelling, we pulled up outside the Lime Kilns on the A5. After making my dental appointment, we walked home and then drove into Hinckley to do some shopping.
On returning to Caxton, we just hung around until it was time for bed. Sue prescribed some codeine tablets that she had for the pain that I had. I notice on her post that she says I was a bit spaced out. Far from it, the effect was horrible, how anyone gets addicted to them is beyond me and I’ll never take them again.
Anyway after the rough night, we went home again to kill time until the dental appointment and when we returned to Caxton, we set off again for the short hop to Stoke Golding where we have moored outside Nigel’s Ashby canal centre marina. As we tied up, another boat was doing the same just a little way in front of us, I suspect that it is nb Muleless by the look of the bow and ordinarily I would have gone to say hello as I read their blog but with having a badly swollen face and a bit of a miserable outlook today, I’m not in a sociable mood. Maybe tomorrow, if the swelling has subsided, we’ll see.
A number of working boats passed us by in the evening as they made their way to Shackerstone for the festival this weekend. Just before ten, we heard the unmistakable sound of a Bolinder engine, we could see his headlight but when it passed by it was too dark to identify the boat.