About Us

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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Blog post part 2. My 60th birthday surprise

At the Steamboat a beer festival was taking place but unbeknownst to me Ian had booked one of the rooms for a meal and party. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was a long table which had been set up for 20 people. Counting on my fingers I could only make 15 of us (12 adults and 3 kids), so I said to Ian they had got the numbers wrong. 'Not to worry' says he 'we have plenty of room to spread out'. Drinks were ordered and most of the family settled down in their seats. I was escorted by Christine to the middle of the row and a balloon with '60' on it placed in front of me. (The balloon having been purchased by Lynda). Then a couple of our boaty friends visiting the beer festival rushed in and gave me hugs and kisses. 'Maybe' thought I 'they were coming to join us'. I knew that to be wrong when they went back to the other bar. Anyway we all started to settle down and the door opened again and in came my sister Susannah, brother-in-law Andy and my two nieces Melissa and Lucy. So mystery solved but you could have knocked me down with a feather. I had no idea that they had been invited. It was a lovely surprise. Then out came the Champers and I got toasted ( well not literally but you know what I mean ).

From front to back starting on the left:- Dave, Heather, Susannah, Lucy, Tony, Colin (standing) Ian, Iwona (standing) with Olly and Oscar on the end. Then on the right:- Margaret, Dennis, Andy, Mellisa, Lynda, and me.

From other end starting front to back and on the left :- Oscar,Josh, Kevin, me, Lynda, Melissa, Dennis and Margaret. Then from the right Oliver,Iwona. Colin, Tony, Andy ( standing), Lucy, Susannah, Christine ( standing), Heather and Dave.
The meal was brought out and for pub grub it wasnt bad. After the meal my next surprise came when a large envelope was placed in front of me. Now, what I didn't mention on my blog part 1 was that I had been given a wonderful activity gift. Something that as long as I could remember I had wanted to do. White water rafting!!!! Here in front of me was the means to fulfilling that dream. The voucher was valid for a year and takes place in Northamptonshire. As there is no sign of improvement in the weather I think I will wait until sometime in August before I take to the water!! Anyway, back to the envelope. As I opened it another voucher dropped out. This time it was for a photography workshop. Like any digital cameras most people leave the setting on Auto. I don't use auto very often but there is still lots that I can learn from a workshop like this. Hopefully after the course, I will start to take some decent close up and action photos.

Colin saying that I could bring a friend if I wanted to. I think he means him!
So the final surprise of the night was my cake. Those of you that follow my blog would have seen Ian's cake on his 60th. Mine was as good if not better. Christine has got me down to a T, and my only criticism? No fish on the end of my hook. ( story of my life!)

A blog in 2 halves. First the blacking with family.

So the start to yesterday morning was a bit fraught when a cry came from Dave to say the dock was filling up! Ian rushed to close the paddle to stop any more water from coming in instead of letting it out. Now I know this sounds ass about face, but a brook runs alongside the dock and down to the river. The water from Kingfisher dock empties into this brook but when the dock from 'Mills' further up the canal is emptied, the water runs into the brook causing a sudden rise in water. This in turn then goes back into 'Kingfisher' and starts to fill the dock. This always seems to happen at a weekend and Mick and John have in place a pump to pump the water away. Ian had the task of wadding into rising  water to immerse the pump. This then sucks the water out of the dock and into the weir alongside the Erewash canal. Within 10 minutes the dock was clear again and order had once more been restored.

  During all this our friends turned up to give us a hand. Now its all their fault that narrow boating became our way of life.Tony and Lynda Withers used to work for Anglo Welsh at weekends when they were based at Market Harborough back in the 1970's. They also happened to be our neighbours and because in those days if a boat hadn't been booked, the staff could take it instead. They asked Ian and me if we would like to go and that's when our love of boating began. Even though Lynda and Tony had worked for Anglo Welsh they had never got their hands dirty by blacking a boats bottom so for the second time we again had trainees to help.

Tony & Lynda with Christine and Josh.
 Not long after their arrival, Kev, Christine and Josh arrived. Josh loves to draw so the hull of the boat became one giant blackboard. Josh said that he had drawn nana and I'm supposed to be in there somewhere. Could be the very round blob with extremely long arms!! Oh Josh, do I really look like that?!!! It kept him amused for quite a while though and with Christine keeping an eye on him we had no worry's about his safety..

The dock became a bit crowded at one point when Dave and Heather was joined by Margaret (In a very fetching Panda hat) to continue with 'Bracken's blacking, Kev and Ian were trying to do ours.  It didn't appear to be thought out very well because both sides were being blacked at once!

Still it all got done in record time and if your wondering what I was doing..........lunch! 20 Irish sausages, 16 rashers of bacon and a mountain of bread all had to be cooked and prepared to feed the 5000. No sooner had the workers arrived for their grub, then #1 son Colin turned up with Iwona and kids ( who, I might add, should have been here early to help) and also wanted feeding. In the end we had 12 adults, 3 kids and 2 dogs, all in the boat wanting a sausage and even with 3 frying pans on the go, I struggled to keep up with the demand.  As no more could be done around the boat the family decided to take the dogs and themselves for a walk. This gave Lynda and me a chance to clear up and once all the family were back, we all changed ready for the meal at the Steamboat. Part 2 will follow later.

Josh and Oscar

Friday, 29 March 2013

Brute force and ignorance, the removal of the prop

 A fairly early start this morning because the first job was to go round the boat with the rotary wire brush. Both Dave and Ian set to and as I started to gather the tools together for the bitumastic application, who should turn up but Roger ( Cats Whiskers ). As a newbie to this DIY blacking lark he was very interested about the whole procedure. In fact so interested he offered to help. So for one day only we had ourselves a trainee and a very good job he made of it too. Then Pat (Rogers better half) came along and offered to take Jade for a walk. Fantastic I could then get on with helping Roger and in no time the first coat was on around the water line.

Roger putting, or should I say pinging, on rubber gloves ( does he think he's a surgeon?)

Handy with the roller

While Roger and I was occupied on the blacking, Ian gathered his own tool for the removal of the prop, not a task he was looking forward to. Now isn't it marvelous what you can do with a hammer! After removing the split pin and nut, out came that trusty hammer and he gave the prop a good thump. This got me running to see what was going on. Apparently nothing! He whacked the propeller boss several times and still nothing happened. He did a bit of head scratching and then out came his hub puller. Those in the car mechanic industry will know what I'm on about. Anyway, at first he was convinced it wouldn't fit but sure enough after a bit of man handling on it went.

Hub puller
 After making sure it was on properly, the spanner came out, he attached it to the hub puller and Ian slowly started turning the screw. The force he had to apply was immense and after several turns he could move it no more. Thats when he picked up the hammer and whether in sheer frustration or sudden inspiration moment, swung it at the boss and with an almighty bang the prop came free. 

pulling it away from the shaft.
It was a eureka moment to be sure and soon both props were side by side so we could compare the difference.

New prop noticeably larger.
Soon it was time to attach the shiny blade and after screwing on the nut and drilling a new hole for the split pin ( holes didnt line up ) we stood admiring the new prop.

A sight to behold and one very relieved Ian. So I went back to helping Roger who, I might say, was that keen he returned in the afternoon for more of the same. Glutton for punishment came to mind!!! Anyway we are all finished for today and are now trying to warm up in front of our small 1 kilowatt blow heater. Tomorrow all the family arrive including Grand kids so it should be an interesting day. I may not have time to blog tomorrow, I'll see how it goes.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

On dry dock

After the late night last night, getting up at 6.30am was a bit of a shock. Ian knew that Mick and John could beckon us in at any time and he wanted to be ready. It was about 9.30am when the dock was free for us to enter, so the early start seemed a bit pointless really.  Within the hour Dave and Ian had started power washing both hulls. By the time both men had finished not only were they very wet and cold, but filthy as well. Still all done by lunch and after getting cleaned up, Ian unpacked the new prop to show me. What a lovely sight to behold, all gleaming and shinny and wonderful curves. We have high hopes for it because the shape of the blades is vastly different to the one we have on at the moment, as well as being a tad bigger at 20" ( the old one being 19"). Ian said that it is a  composite blade, has the blade area of a 22" (whatever that means) and so will help save diesel and is optamised for river work.
Lovely new prop.

Oid prop full of plastic bags

Water all gone

 The generator for the power wash is extremely noisy. In fact to noisy for Jade who looked decidedly nervous, so to make her less unhappy I took her for a walk. Below lock was a boat, blue on one side and green on the other. Before I continue let me show you these photos.

Initially the boat was right by the steps

Last Monday when Ian went to see Mick and John to see if the prop had arrived, he told me about the boat moored below lock on the lock landing. Well today is Thursday and the boat is still there!! Yesterday C&RT's men with the crane boat came past and because I happened to be at the lock, told them about the boat. Do you know what they said? "Do you think we can get past it"? Well I was astonished and said "don't you think you should do something about it"? "After all its not licensed and should be removed". "No" says they "we'll just move it further back out of our way". Good grief, what is it with C&RT. Sometimes I despair. Then this afternoon who should come up the lock but the boat with a lady at her helm. "So" thought I "C&RT have done something after all'. Would you believe she came onto the water point, tied up and then bold as brass walked away and left it! Another email to Steve Cropper is in order.

What a surprise!

Wow..... what can I say. Had the most wonderful evening with the most delicious Chinese meal at the Mandarin restaurant near the Nottingham Trent FM Arena and then front row upper circle seats to watch 'We will rock you'. The show was a knockout. Highly recommended. As this was the first time the show had been outside London, and because it was also opening night here in Nottingham, there was a surprise and one off appearance by Brian May half way through Bohemian Rhapsody. His guitar playing was amazing and for me it was the icing on the cake. 

Classic Brian May pose. No photos were allowed to be taken so I had to be quick. Slightly blurred but better then nothing.

The spot light man (must have a technical name but I have no idea what!)

Photo taken at 7pm, by 7.30pm the place was heaving.

Serious sound system

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Birthday Treat

Of all the times to get a rotten cold it had to be now.  For my birthday treat Ian has arranged for us to see Queens 'We Will Rock You' at Nottingham Trent FM tonight. Dennis and Margaret have kindly offered to look after Jade until we return. The boats have first to be moved to Trent Lock in readiness for dry docking tomorrow and by what I can gather, when Ian went down to see if our new Crowthers prop (yes we are having a new and slightly larger prop fitted) had arrived on Monday, moorings were virtually non existent. A beer festival is taking place at The Steamboat over Easter and boats have already gathered for that. It will certainly make it interesting finding a place to tie up especially as 3 boats need to find moorings.
 Quick update.

Have just arrived and found spaces for all three of our boats. We are now moored opposite The Cats Whiskers but no sign of Roger and Pat.  So hair and makeup done, and just waiting for Ian to get his act together ( they say us women take an age ) and then its off to Nottingham for meal first and show later.

Another milestone reached.

Happy Birthday to me! A girl doesn't usually give her age but as a hint, my bus pass wont apply until I'm 62.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


I have developed a cold! Now to most people this isn't major news but for me living with a chemo patient it is the worse possible thing that could happen. Today is also Ian's treatment day so because we are so aware of the dangers of a low white cell count, Ian phoned the consultant to see if he should attend. Well I should say tried to get through to him but in fact was sent from pillar to post because the consultant wasn't available and the consultants secretary was on leave.The call was then  redirected to the ward where Ian has his treatment, they didn't know the answer so redirected the call to Oncology out patients. They also couldn't help so the call was once again redirected to a staff nurse on the Oncology ward. She finally put him in touch with the Oncology ward sister who, after locating his notes, said that his cell count was high enough for treatment to commence. She did say, and asked for it not to be taken the wrong way, that Ian should try to keep well away from me and even sleep in separate beds. Easy in a house, little difficult in a narrowboat! He is having to go it alone today as it would be hardly fair for me to infect all the other patients. I just hope he doesn't catch my cold because last time he caught an infection when he was on the first round of chemo back in 2009, he got pneumonia and was hospitalised for nearly 3 weeks!

Ratcliffe power station viewed from the disused Derby Canal. The Erewash can be seen in the distance.

Our bungalow (now has tenants) with the lock cottage to the side.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Wish it would hurry and warm up!

 Ice amongst the  blossom.

While still moored at Sandiacre and as we don't need to be at Trent Lock to dock the boat until Wednesday, I thought I may as well carry on with my daily pictures.  On my walk with Jade I noticed that despite the freezing conditions, the swans were starting their nest.

Even the pigeons were at it.

 This coot has about finished hers.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The stork came a bit early, dont you think?

I had to make this my first photo.  I expect it was quite a shock for this little one to emerge in these arctic conditions. And no brothers or sisters to keep it company.... ahhhhh
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 Now what was it that I was saying yesterday? About one of our ECP&DA members arriving from Oxford? Well unfortunatly he cried off!!! The weather was to bad for him to attempt the journey. Cant say I blame him really as ice was beginning to form on the slush and more white stuff was coming out of the sky covering the ice! Still we did manage 36 hardy souls who managed to arrive in those conditions and amongst them were quite a few musicians. Carole phoned around and managed to persuade them to bring whatever instruments they had to hand and after we all had devoured the food, they kept us entertained playing folk music for most of the evening. Talking of food, the pies were delicious and because of the lack of bodies we even managed seconds!! How good was that!

Our musicians

We had two new members join the society, Patch the canary and Peter the budgie!
 Going back at 10pm to let Jade out this is what greeted us. Another 2" of snow had fallen within 3 hours.

Because of the worsening conditions many of our members left early but the musicians stayed until the very end at 11.30pm. Thankfully though they didn't go down with a sinking ship. The only ones down was those that ended up on their backsides as they slipped on the ice! Even though the turnout wasn't brilliant a great night was had by all. Its certainly one of the Pie and Pea nights that wont be forgotten for a long time.

Sandiacre Lock Cottage at midnight

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