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Six weeks later

For six weeks we visited the boat on a regular basis, testing the thickness of the ice and hoping for some sort of thaw. After a couple of false dawns, the visit on Friday 7th January revealed that not only was the ice only 30 – 40 mm thick but that some brave soul had already broken through. It was impossible to know in which direction the mystery boat or boats had travelled or indeed how far they had gone but with another day and night of above freezing temperatures forecast, we were confident that we would be able to complete our journey over the coming weekend.

Saturday morning saw us carting some essentials to Ansty ready for our trip. The cold weather had taken its toll on the starter battery so we had to wait for a while, charging the battery from the generator and warming the diesel injectors and inlet manifold with a hairdryer. After coaxing the engine into life and letting it run for half an hour, we untied and set off, giving a cheer as we left our “temporary” mooring.

The journey down the north oxford canal was most pleasing on this sunny Saturday in January, it was cold but we were well protected with thermals and many layers of clothing. Our aim was to reach Hillmorton for our overnight stop but with not so many moored boats along the way and very few on the move, we were at the bottom lock at half past two. So far we had passed through areas with broken ice and some with none at all, we had seen the coal boat selling a huge number of bags to one grateful boater but in general we had enjoyed a quiet cruise in the winter sunshine. We decided to ascend the lock flight and were pleasantly surprised to find each lock empty and therefore in our favour, this resulted in us leaving the top lock after only 22 minutes! We kept on going, our progress only hampered by the low level sun in our eyes. Along the way we enjoyed a game with Jack, a dog being walked on the towpath who ran up and down as we passed by. He accompanied us for about half a mile before we felt that we should stop to allow his owner to get him back on his leash. Pressing on, we eventually found a good mooring to the south of bridge 78 where we tied up for the night. Feeling very pleased with ourselves and safe in the knowledge that we were only four miles from our destination we settled down in front of the fire for the evening.

It was cold on Sunday morning, the fire had only stayed in for a part of the night and there was a hard white frost outside. We switched the heating on and had a cup of tea before it was warm enough to get up and have some breakfast. We were in no rush to move on since we had such a short trip to make. Just after half past nine we were ready to move and although we encountered some patches of thin ice we made good steady progress on our way to Braunston.

As Braunston village came into view we could hear the church bells ringing out, calling the faithful to service or as we believe, welcoming us to the area. We stopped twice before we reached the marina, once to dump our rubbish and once to plan our manouvre into the berth. We reversed the boat into the marina and using tiller, engine, pole and feet, we were soon tying up in the berth that wiould be our new home. The berth is on the sunny side of the marina so despite the cold weather our first experience of life in Braunston marina was as picture perfect as it could be.

After a short stroll around the marina, we walked along the towpath to the canal shop where we looked at local maps. Moving on to the third lock we discovered that once again the Lord Nelson pub has closed down. We then made our way up to the village where we stopped at The Wheatsheaf for a drink before walking along the main street on the way back to the marina. We were back on board before it was dark where we waited for our friend Simon to come and take us back to Ansty.

By 7pm we were back home, pleased that our boat was where it needed to be, safe in its new home. At last we could stop examining every weather forecast, at last we could stop hoping for the ice to melt. We can finally look forward to another year of cruising from our new base in Braunston.