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Christmas Cruise

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.