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.

Friday, 27 February 2015

A day of mishaps!

I'm sure today has had some sort of  jinx attached to it, because from getting up this morning things have either gone missing or gone wrong. It all started when I got up and found the floor wet at the bottom of the bed. Turns out the water pump had sprung a leak so the bedroom carpet had to came up, drawers removed and Ian rummage under the floor to sort it out.

Laying a towel down in case of more leaks.
Having stopped the leak he then went off to do his work party duties, continuing with the fence replacement along our mooring. I started on cutting out the fabric for our new curtains. All was going swimmingly, the fabric had all been cut to size and I was ready to start sewing. First replace the bobbin in the machine. Nothing could be simpler until butter fingers me dropped the filled spool and it went rolling the length of FS. I raced after it but by the time it stopped most of the thread had unraveled. Then Ian turned up to get the new chainsaw from the back of the boat. A couple of branches needed removing before the new fence posts could go in.  No sooner had he fired up the chainsaw when it about blew up!!  Yet another trip to Screwfix, but not to purchase a new one, more like get a replacement as the chainsaw was still under warranty being only a few months old. I carried on with the curtains, started to attach the heading tape and the machine needle broke! Seemed I was fated not to get these curtains finished. By lunch time I was all for packing it but I persevered and managed to finish two of the 8 curtains. By 5pm Ian returned, I cleared up the debris scattered around the cabin (pins, threads, bits of material etc) and started dinner. Now this is where the next lot of mishaps came to play. First I burnt the chicken setting off all our fire alarms, then having removed the burnt offerings from the pan (which was full of chicken fat) the phone rings. I rush to answer it, it slipped from my fingers straight into the pan full of the fat! I grab it from the pan and in doing so caught my glasses (which was hanging round my neck) with my arm. They ended up on the floor and in my haste to get the phone to the sink, trod on them! Ian rushed to the back to get the Allen key so he could undo the screws on the phone, stubbed his toe on the chair on the way through, got the Allen key, inserted it into the screw and broke the key! The final mishap (but we still have a few more hours till midnight so anything might happen) was when Ian reached over to get the computer and knocked a full glass of coffee liqueur all over the table, chairs and floor!!!! Oh and the things that went missing? One printer lead, the handle to my grill pan, a teaspoon and my camera lens cap. All was seen on the boat yesterday but cant be found today. Has obviously been borrowed by the borrowers! 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Struggle over.

It seems ages since I blogged but it's not because I haven't wanted to. It's just because there has been nothing much to report. With a little under 3 weeks before we set sail again it's been a manic time of visiting friends and family plus trying to get on with all those jobs that need doing before we leave, oil change being one of them. The weather had also been against us because one of the tasks that was an absolute must before we left was to fix the PTFE to the back hatch slide. When FS was built the boat builder, for some reason, built the hatch out of solid steel and for me to try and move it was nie on impossible. Wood was fixed to the underside which meant we got copious amounts of condensation dripping down every morning. We still haven't resolved this problem but Ian is talking about sticking foam to the wood in the hope that this might be the answer. So with today's forecast good, the first thing we did this morning was remove the hatch. The amount of mould on the wood was staggering, far more then we had first thought, so armed with bleach and brush I set out to remove as much as possible.

After bleaching

and before
  Ian then started chiseling out the wood in readiness to insert the cut PTFE. Little did he realise what a mammoth task that was. Out came his fancy Erbauer multi tool, started on the first of the cutouts but try as he might, made little headway. Thats when he realised the blade was blunt. Another trip to Screwfix and he was back in business. With Ian being a perfectionist it has taken nearly all day to channel out the four sections. Doing my bit, I kept him supplied with coffee.
Finally with the light fading we placed the hatch back on the slide. What a treat to no longer have to put my shoulder to it and heave upward just to get it open. Now I can move it one handed. The wood inside will have to be replaced at some point because the mould wont go away, but that's for later when the weather improves. Another job well done and ticked off the list. 

Using the

Two more to go
All finished

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Our heroes. James and Doug

Wednesday we took a trip down South, to see out most favourite people, James and Doug and it was all because of our 'Chance' meeting in in Dubai. It's quite a long story really so I'll try to keep it as short as possible, but basically they helped us out by collecting a ring for Ian. He had found the perfect ring but it was a tad to small, so he left it to be altered at a shop in the Gold Souk saying we would return the next day. On the Friday morning (the day we were due to fly home) we set off for the shop and it wasn't until someone mentioned the fact that on a Friday everything shuts down that the penny dropped. How were we going to get the ring? This is where Doug and James came in. Knowing they were spending 4 days in Dubai some frantic messaging managed to alert them both to our plight. They were marvelous and agreed to go to the shop (having spent forever trying to find it....sorry guys...) get the ring and bring it back to the UK. So the trip down South was to not only collect the ring, but take them out for a very big thank you meal. If it wasn't for them Ian would have lost the ring and the money spent making him a real grumpy old git for quite some time. For that alone I'm very grateful to them. Anyway we had the most fantastic time. As if by magic and just like on Chance, cupboards were opened and wine and nibbles appeared. We laughed and talked and laughed loads more. Went out for a super meal in the evening and eventually got to bed in the wee hours. This morning the laughter and talking continued and Doug cooked us  the most scrumptious full English breakfast. By midday it was time for us to leave. Ian had a meeting to attend and we wanted to miss the worst of the traffic. As per normal I took loads of photos ( well you know me) so here is my contribution of our wonderful time spent with 'The Lads'.

A warming drink. It was bl**dy freezing on the coast.

Wow, Doug's had a growth potion. Must be an Alice in Wonderland moment.

A pre dinner drink

An Egret on the mud flats

A model Sea Plane

Saturday, 14 February 2015

The curse of Friday 13th

Friday 13th!!! What is it about that particular date. Why do we all dread it so much? And typically this was the date we had arranged to go to see Ian's sister & brother-in-law down in St Lawrence on the Black Water. M1 and M25 both had to be negotiated with Fridays traffic. So we set off at what we thought was a reasonable time, 1pm. Got onto the M1 and immediately had to put up with rain and spray. We had traveled around 15 mile when Ian suddenly remembered the cake! The 'Walnut and Coffee cake' I had so lovingly baked on Thursday to take to Sheila. We did no more then swing round at the next junction and head back to Langley. While Ian waited at the gate I high tailed it to the boat, grabbed the cake, said hello to the men working on the fence and then promptly tripped over the extension cable laying on the ground! I went flying, cake went flying, men dropped everything and flew to my aid. Me covered in mud head to toe! OMG the cake!!! Thankfully no harm done apart from some of the icing having disappeared in the box somewhere. Never did find it. Anyway, straight back to FS, get changed, explain to Ian what had happened (he laughed) and finally head back to the Motorway. By now, with it being an hour later, the traffic had built up, spray from the road was awful and instead of taking 3 hours to arrive at Chris & Sheilas it took nearly 5! So it seems Friday 13th lived up to it's name.......... once.again! 

Photo taken on the M25

View from Sheilas kitchen window. Anyone remember the pirate Radio Caroline from the 60's? Well here she is. Had to be towed to her anchorage by two tugs.
Shell duck
 And on the feeder

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Good job I went to the doctors.

This bug of mine......, the one that went round Balmoral like wildfire and was nicknamed the Balmoral Bark owing to the harsh hacking coughing sound heard throughout the ship, well for nearly a month I also have been barking away.

Whilst on Balmoral many of the guests went to see the doctor but at £40 a time just to enter the surgery, I poo pooed the idea thinking I would get better on my own. I was wrong! Today I had an appointment with my GP to try and sort this pain in my right hip. As I entered and started coughing he took one look, took his stethoscope out, listened intently to my breathing and said 'You need antibiotics!' I looked bemused and told him I had come because of my hip not because of the cough. He told me in no uncertain terms that, had I left this coughing any longer, I may well have ended up with something more serious! So I came away with two prescriptions. Antibiotics for my chest (how am I going to manage with no alcohol for the next 6 days) and very strong pain killers for my hip. Turns out I may have damaged the ligaments but for the life of me I have no idea how I did it. Could have been going up and down all those stairs on Balmoral. After all, living as we do on a narrow boat, the only stepping one does is to get in and out of the boat! I always said exercise was bad for you!

With the cold snap still with us since our return we have understandably been burning more wood then coal. Wood burns hotter and me being a cold mortal, kept feeding the fire. We have all but run out of logs so Ian took a trip to Sandiacre to fetch some more of the wood stored in out garage. He also made a detour to Screwfix and purchased a Saw Horse. It's a brilliant bit of kit, folds flat so can be stored in the top box, takes most reasonably size logs and branches and can be used anywhere. The added bonus for Ian, no more bending so no more backache.

Simple but effective. This was yesterdays effort
And today, cutting up the fence panels

Logs bagged and ready for use.
Really looking forward to tomorrow as not only are we going to collect my camera and defunct lens from Stoke on Trent, but also Christine has been on the phone today to say my new lens has arrived at her house. Cant wait to get taking photos on my Canon again.

Now that the bird feeders have been moved because the side fence is to be replaced, the pigeons are loving the fact they can now access to seed.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

It was an easy mistake....honest!

Wow, I had the best night sleep last night in a long time. It wasn't because of the lack of traffic noise 'cos it was a Sunday or because for once I didn't have shooting pains in my R hip or even because the coughing bug I had on Balmoral 3 weeks ago seemed to be coming to an end.  No it was more like the bottle of Sherry I drunk thinking it was wine!!! I know.... I know. How can I mistake sherry for wine. Well for a start the labels are very similar, it was also dark, having only the small side light on and I just happened to pick up the wrong bottle from the table. My taste buds still haven't fully recovered from the Balmoral bug and I honestly thought it was one of the bottles of wine we got for Christmas.This morning Ian laughingly asked how I was feeling. He fully expected me to be 'hung over' but I felt fresher and more awake then I have felt in ages. Maybe I have discovered a new pick me up. Still I don't think I want to make a habit of drinking a full bottle of sherry. Much prefer to sup a glass of wine. (or two or three.......)

 Today Newark Showground was holding the annual boat jumble. We met Dennis and Margaret (Nb Icing) at the entrance and this year there seemed to be more stalls and a lot more people.

 We spent a very pleasant couple of hours looking round and managed to buy our bitumen (3 5ltr tins) for £34. We nearly walked past the stall because the tins were plain white but luckily Ian stopped to ask what make of bitumen it was and turns out it was a Paintmaster. We also found 12mm hemp rope, 30meters, for £28. I bought myself a new ledger rod which Ian reluctantly paid for as I had left my purse at home and something Ian has been looking for for a long time, a PTFE  block to cut up and put on our hatch slide to make it easier to open. It's really heavy to move and for me to open it I have to put my back against it and push.

 After spending all our money we drove to Newark and had a lovely lunch at the Castle Barge with Dennis and Margaret, an old Spillers grain boat which was turned into a restaurant in the 1080's.

Dennis, Margaret and Ian


Saturday, 7 February 2015

Getting water?? Should be easy shouldn't it?

For those out on the canals and having to put up with being frozen in, getting water is hard enough. For those in a marina or basin with water at hand it should be easy (that is unless the tap freezes). With us in the Great Northern basin water is available but on the other side. A previous post showed how we rigged up a rope and pulley system. This has worked extremely well until today, and what a day for it to go wrong. Six nations Rugby is on and Ian is an ardent viewer. In fact it is the only program he will sit glued to shouting 'Knock On' on a regular basis. So when I realised our tank gauge showed nearly empty, and wanting a shower, I persuaded Ian, before the Ireland v Italy game started, to walk over the road bridge, onto the moorings across the basin, attach the hose to the pulley and then for me to pull it across to fill the tank. The fill went as planned, it was when Ian was trying to pull the hose back that the problem arose. Half way across the pulley jammed. Ian tried to get it going again but it was having none of it. So I tried pulling the hose back. Not a hope. Ian then got cross and gave it an almighty heave. The inevitable happened. The hose came away from the pulley and very luckily stuck on the bow of Dave and Heathers boat Nb Vixen. If the hose had gone into the canal an awful lot of sterilizing would have had to be done before I allowed it back in the tank!  So with a lot of cussing and with the Six Nations game about to begin he decided to wait until the half time whistle before doing something about it.  During the match he came up with a eureka moment. Attach the rope to a ball and throw that across, so at half time this is exactly what he did.

Canal is still frozen which does help somewhat. This is Ians first attempt. Rope was to short.

 By now the second half was about to start so he sat down with coffee (to early for a beer) and continued his 'Knock On' shouts. When the whistle blew at full time, his mood was much improved. Ireland had won but he would so have loved Italy to have been allowed that last try in the dying minutes.  Anyway back to getting the rope across. This time with a much longer rope he launched the ball and it ended up against Nb Vixen. With the ECP&DA's keb, picked up the ball and rope and fastened it back to the fence. So job done and now all ready for our next fill in about a week. Just hope we don't have to go through that whole rigmarole again. 


Last of the wildlife from across the waters

Egyptian fly. Look the same as UKs

Busy Bee

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