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.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Literacy required for some boaters!

Last night sun set

Its typical! I spout on about lone boaters leaving gates open and what do we find today?  At every lock except the last two we had to close the blasted gates. Not just one but both. So on the grounds that most single boats in a double lock go through one gate, I can only assume it was two boaters who couldn't be bothered!  Its ironic really that the second lock of the day had this notice on the balance beam. Seems some boaters cant read either!!!

Lock walls dry so must have been someone going through last night.
Still we were not in any rush so apart from the frustration of having to keep going to and fro from gate to gate, we just got on with it. At Leighton Buzzard we had to negotiate the rows of Wyvern boats getting ready for the next lot of hirer's. Yesterday a couple told us that last Saturday they had an hour and a half wait at Leighton lock for the staff of Wyvern boats to explain to new hirer's how the lock worked. Instead of showing them and moving on to allow the lock operation, they all just sat in the lock. So for us getting through before 2pm this afternoon was a priority.

Going past the Globe and moored right outside was the Ice Cream boat. With ice cream cone only £1 it would have been rude of us not to sample a couple.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the ice cream we only traveled another 1/2 mile before calling it a day. As I wanted to watch Casualty tonight, and trying to tune the omni aerial produced zilch, Ian had to humour me and put up the other arial. As you can see we needed to have it fully extended just to get a picture!

Fenny Stratford tomorrow. All of 6 miles and 5 locks. Lets hope the gates will be closed this time!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Should lock gates be closed or left open & what is better, one center rope or two

Before we left this morning we gave the port side of the boat a good wash. Our aim was to polish the paintwork which was in dire need of some TLC. It had been well over a year since that side had been touched.  As Ian had finished re installing and touching up the rust spots around the galley window we could finally get on with it. With the sun beating down we thought it best to move to a mooring with shade to complete our task. So, as we untied our ropes we heard the distinctive ratchet sound as a paddle was being raised and noticed a boat descending the lock behind us. We gestured to them that we would wait at the next lock and set off. I walked on with Jade and as I came round the corner to the lock, a lone boater, with both his narrow boats breasted up, entered at the bottom. First thing he said to me was I hope you have left  the gates open on the next lock. I informed him that we had moored overnight and even if we had come through the lock we would have closed the gates. He then started spouting on about how we make his life difficult as a lone boater closing the gates and we should leave them open on exiting. I then also spouted on about the annoyance of having a lock against you and having to close both gates before being able to proceed. He wouldn't have it. He was right and I was wrong. Now in one of our hand books issued by BW years ago it states that both gates and all paddles to be closed on leaving. So the question is who is right and who is wrong! Me thinks this is one argument that could go on and on!

Now for my next heading. The boat following us arrived at the same time as the lone boater coming out of the lock . He again asked if the next lock had been left open and with a resounding 'no' from the other boaters he went on his way chuntering to himself. We all had a bit of a discussion on leaving gates open and they were of the same opinion as us. Close them! We then shared every lock with Nb Mea Culpa until we moored up below Horton lock near Slapton.

We found out their names, Brian and Joyce, and nicer couple you could'nt hope to meet.  Although they had been cruising for a number of years previously, the past three years they had been tied to the NHS and with this there first outing both had to get their hand in, so to speak. At Horton lock ( our last lock of the day) Brian was trying to come in behind me on the landing. He threw the center rope, which was tied to a ring in the middle, for Joyce to catch. She started heaving on the rope and unbeknown to both of them, had caught on something on their roof. The rope suddenly came free and Joyce fell with an almighty thud onto her back with her head hitting the ground hard. I rushed over and told her to stay still while grabbing the center rope for Brian. This was taken from me as another gentleman appeared and pulled Brian in. Joyce lay there for a while obviously quite dazed but then managed to get up. Luckily no serious damage was done other then hurt pride and a possible headache. So from this incident I wonder if single center ropes are wise. Flicking it over from side to side could create its own problems.  We have two ropes attached to the center with fairleads holding the ropes in position. This means whatever side the towpath is on, a rope is always to hand. I do know of one old school boater who wont have a center rope at all! Instead he depends on lassoing the bollard at a lock and driving the front end in. Quite how that works when mooring up is beyond me but it seems to work for him. I'd be interested to hear of other boaters views on the subject.

Fairlead positioned either side.

Whipsnade White Lion on Dunstable Down. Visible from our mooring

All alone but not for long. Soon the stretch of towpath was full with moored boats.

Glider ready for release

Any idea what this duck is?

 And finally:-

Thursday, 29 August 2013

More of a photo blog then the written word today

 Seeing as we did a grand total of 2 miles again today and 5 locks there is not much to report. Mooring up by  11ish we had a very early lunch and went walk about to find the nature reserve. Unfortunately, as we arrived at the entrance, a large sign outside stated no dogs other then guide dogs. Nothing for it but to leave me to walk round the reserve and Ian to take Jade back. While I was away he did take the galley window out, re paint the surround and varnish the woodwork so at least all was not lost. Later we had our first BBQ of August. Shame it had to be right at the end!  I think it very unlikely that we will have another this year!

The nature reserve at Marsworth

 And at our moorings by Marsworth Reservoir

Looking back toward Bulbourne. Marsworth top lock in the distance

Marsworth flight

And finally:- ( from the nature reserve )

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The dangers of badly maintained locks

Had one hell of a fright today. In a lock as well!! Once again I was at the helm and watching as Ian opened the paddles to start filling the lock.  We must have been about a third of the way up when the boat started tipping sideways! I shouted at Ian to drop the paddles but the noise of the water whooshing in stopped him from hearing me. I was starting to panic when suddenly the boat came free and rocked alarmingly from side to side. Ian had by now looked back and saw the rocking boat wandered what had happened. He saw I was visibly shaken and couldn't apologies enough for not keeping an eye on what the boat was doing. One thing I had noticed on entering Bottom Side Lock was the state of the lock wall brickwork. What I think happened was the rubbing strake on the bow had caught on the damaged brickwork and the force of the water on the side of the boat had held it there for a short while. I feel we need to report this as I was the only boat in the lock. What might have happened if two boats had been caught. Doesnt bare thinking about. I took this photo from Top Side lock, the next lock up. Brickwork as you can see, is equally as bad!

After the shock had worn off, the rest of the day went without hitch. All the locks were in our favour, a few having bottom paddles left up because the locks were to be left empty. Something to do with leaky lock walls ( well fancy that!) and water damage to neighbouring farms and cottages. All in all we traveled a lot further then normal today doing all of 6 1/2 miles and 13 locks. Both of us fancy a day looking round Marsworth, the Reservoir and wildlife center tomorrow.

Visitor at Top Side Lock

Only one gate operational at Lock 55 Rising Sun.

Anchor block has moved. Its the bit that holds the gate upright.

One in, one out. Hyperion entering the lock next to us to sell us 2 25kg bags of smokeless coal. Cost £8.75 each.

And finally:-

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