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, 30 September 2023

Things one chats about at locks.

 Sept 29th

So now I have developed a cough, Ian was worried and said I must take a Covid test. Well that was negative so what on earth I have picked up is anyone's guess. Anyway good old Actifed has been taken three times a day so fingers crossed I stop hacking soon.

It was about a twenty minute cruise to the top of Buckby Flight. A boat was already ascending and a volunteer lockie was on. I was asked on entry to the lock if I was prepared to wait for another boat to arrive. Hats off to this volunteer for asking that question, most don't bother. Normally we would have obliged but our time is precious at the moment. The reason for a hasty cruise to Milton Keynes is because of a funeral on the 2nd Oct. We must be in Wolverton on the 1st, a car has been hired so it's imperative that we get there and find a mooring. So I mentioned not having seen another boat following or one coming down from the Leicester GU Arm, it was agreed by all parties that we should proceed.



GU Leicester Arm

Would you believe it, paddles up and FS half way down when a boat was spied heading for the lock. I shouted to the volunteer that we would wait for them at the next lock and please could he let them know. . Ian then walked on to get that lock ready leaving the lovely volunteer to get me the rest of the way down.

You can tell the colder weather has arrived. Not sure what this boat is burning but it certainly not smokeless coal!

 
Waiting for them to arrive.

The boat duly arrived, a lovely chap who was feeling very sad today. This was to be his final cruise on  nb My Talitha, the boat was going on brokerage at Stow Hill Wharf. I asked from which direction he had come from. The boat had been moored just before the junction on the Leicester Arm, ah...so that explains why I didn't see a boat on the move when I looked.

Interesting what you find out about folk whilst chatting in a lock. Both his sons were getting married this year and how he hoped for the grandchildren to arrive soon. Hmm.... I don't think he quite knows what he is in for! Then he related the story of the time he got wedged by his fenders being down at Napton lock. Hmm, strange then that he has continued with this practice in spite of that. He also mentioned the interior of his boat My Talitha has some of the wood fittings that came out of the super yacht Talitha owned by Mark Getty Chairman of Getty Images. I'm sure this statement was true, but so far I haven't been able to verify it.

The flight of seven took no time at all. Only the second lock had to be filled, all the rest had boats coming up.


He's going to have to shift!

We said our goodbyes at the bottom lock, we to find a mooring at Nether Hayford, and them for a bacon butty and a cup of tea at the Cafรฉ at Whilton Marina.


 The intrusive noise of the M1 was with us for over a mile, that in itself was bad enough but the sun directly in our eyes made it extremely difficult to see. Even so this boat drew my attention. If we come back this way late November I wonder if it will be sitting on the bottom.



It was nice to moor up by 2 pm today. The wind was quite gusty, proper waves appeared on the water. And my mooring skills were brilliant, or so I thought. Came in nice and slow, touch of reverse and in came FS to nestle neatly next to the towpath, it was a text book manoeuvre. Then Ian burst my bubble, nothing to do with any skill involved, it was the wind blowing toward the bank that did it!

And seen on route



Friday, 29 September 2023

Full of sh*t and no...I am not swearing!

Sept 28th

 Back to my old self this morning, slept solidly for 8 hours although Ian wasn't quite so lucky. Blamed me for having to get up at 11 pm. Quite why is beyond me..... I still maintain I DO NOT SNORE!

Going to bed so early last night (9 pm was unheard of usually) I, of course, woke before 6 am. "Shall I make the tea" I asked as I siddled past the bed. The grunt I heard suggested a yes, after all if I'm awake so should he be! We breakfasted on bacon and eggs and by 8 15 am had left the Rugby mooring. I did wonder about those high winds of storm Agnus. They certainly didn't materialise here!

 Arriving at Hillmorton locks, this was a bitter-sweet moment for us because it was at the top lock that we said goodbye to Marilyn and David. Waka Huia looked a picture as we waved them all farewell, I do hope the new owners look after her as well as M&D did.


 

 The flight of three locks, all in pairs which, when all operational, does help to cut down on queues especially as these are reportedly the busiest locks on the system. Not so this morning though because our arrival at 9 am, we happened to be first to turn up. 



We were a bit disappointed that the volunteers didn't help at any of the locks especially as they had been hanging around since 8 this morning!



The view to the lock!

The journey to Braunston took an age. There are some boring bits, what I call the Barby straight goes on and on and on.....

The monotony was broken when we met this hire boat. Oh dear, somehow the boat ended up across the cut just after a bridge ole. The pole came out, they apologised, said this was not the first time it had happened. Pushing the tiller the wrong way was the culprit! They were very new to the boating malarkey.



It was a relief to see the church tower of Braunston. It was midday and a discussion was had on whether to stop and moor.

 

 

First a service stop and a quick walk to Midland Chandler. A boat was already on the service mooring but we had just enough room to get in front. It did mean the bow stuck out into the channel not a problem because this was to be a very rapid stop.



Ian came back with three litre containers of blue loo. He then went to empty our full cassette. But a problem...the Elsan basin was completely filled with poo!!! And I mean just poo. Looked as if someone had been collecting it in a bag instead of using their toilet. It was gross!!!! We should have phoned it into CRT but forgot. Will try and remember tomorrow!

We didn't stop at Braunston, well it was too early, not even lunchtime. So after stopping at another service point on the way to the lock, Ian was dropped off by the marina bridge with the windlass. Another boat was waiting, great a locking buddy but why was it across the entrance?


Turns out this was a lone boater on her first outing this year and had only had the boat since last November. What a learning curve, not just to do the broad Braunston locks but also Braunston tunnel with the S bend toward the end! Anyway she was very glad of Ian's help, I told her we could try to enter the locks together something she didn't think she was up to doing. Big thumbs up, high praise indeed from Ian and a cry of 'Girl Power' from her as we sailed in side by side! I wish her all the best, one very amazing lady.


Extremely low pound between lock 5 & 6

Top Lock


 

We moored at the top, gave a sigh of relief that we didn't have to do the tunnel today. That S toward the south portal is horrible, if you happen to meet another boat at that point it is really difficult not to scrape the tunnel side. So we made fast, got ourselves settled, tried the internet....nothing! Okay see if we have TV....nothing. Try the satellite...nothing. Was there a phone signal...no. We swore, not just once but several times! So that blooming tunnel had to be done after all and yes we met another boat but luckily not by that S bend!









Moorings were now becoming crucial. Very few with any piling before the start of the Buckby Flight and that in my book, was not going to happen today. And we come across a fat boat. Groan suddenly realised we were back in wide beam territory. Why have they been made so wide? The earlier boats were about 10ft 6" to 12 feet most exceptable and was no hindrance to other boats boats. Now at nearly 14 feet across it got ridiculous!With the state of the canals, no vegetation cut back and the overgrowth impeding the channel, its almost impossible to pass without scratching one's paintwork.

We never did find any piling to moor up too. Nothing for it but to get the pins out and cross pin in the hope no speeding boater would come pass and pull them out!



Thursday, 28 September 2023

Vaccine misery.

 What a night. Woke a tad after midnight feeling unwell and I'm sure it had something to do with the vaccinations. My right arm was throbbing and movement painful, I had indigestion, felt hot and very shivery and the mother of all headaches started around 2 am. Never have I been so pleased to see the light of day, It was one of the longest nights since the 26 hour journey home from Australia! Anyway I put it down to the Pfizer vaccine. Before we had Moderna and AstraZeneca so this was a new one for me.
For the first time I stayed in bed and Ian got us underway. So strange to lie there with the boat moving.  It felt all wrong, I had to get up and probably a good job too because the bread machine was on, Ian is the bread maker in our household, well he puts all the ingredients into the machine and after a certain amount of time the paddles would have to come out. This involves removing the dough from the machine, taking out the paddles and placing dough back and ta da...No huge great holes in the bread then! I didn't fancy taking over the steering in my PJ's just so Ian could do that job. 

As we approached Rose narrow boats, Ian gave then a ring to enquire the diesel price. Crikey talk about having gone up! £1.60 litre, I reckon this must be about the same as garage forecourt prices! Unfortunately we had met Jules fuels boat but both of us were going in opposite directions. We did manage to ask what their prices was At £1.15 a much more realistic price!


Rose boats pedestrian swing bridge

A much easier way to get off to do the bridge, Handy having hire boats there.

 In the end we stopped at Armada boatyard and dieseled up. At £1.20 litre this didn't seem too bad, Ian could live with that.




So we made it to Rugby and now will await the storm. Everything that needs securing on the cabin top has had bungees wrapped around. The wind has just started to pick up which is helping to dry my washing nicely. And what was very surprising for this popular place, plenty of spaces to be had!

Rugby

Wednesday, 27 September 2023

It rose from the depths.

 Sept 26th

 Vaccination day! Rain beat down on FS from early morning...groan we had to set off regardless of the weather. To Nuneaton, we travelled and had to be there in time for the morning surgery at the pharmacy. It was dull, damp and we got soaked! Still there are not many places on the canals that one can just walk-in for one's Covid jabs and finding that pharmacy a 10-minute walk from the canal took some research.

I hope this was just the soil washed out from the fields. No wonder silt builds up along the banks!

 

The rain did ease, in fact it turned out dry for over an hour but just as we stopped by bridge 21 the heavens opened and boy did it rain! We hadn't even got FS secured so yet another soaking as we frantically tried to put in the cladding pins and attach ropes. Isn't it always the way though, that as soon as you get undercover, the rain stops!

The walk to the pharmacy was in glorious sunshine, talk about fickle weather! On entry chairs had been placed in rows and all were empty, we gave our name and were called in straight away. Within 10 minutes, flu and covid jabs done, both jabs in my right arm but Ian had the flu jab in the left arm and covid in right. As we left, crikey every chair in the place was full. Our timing was perfect today.

Pins were pulled as soon as we got back to FS. Boot wharf was coming up, usually very tight to get past those boats but today, with towpath moorings free, was much easier.  

 Just before Marston Junction and the Ashby canal that sunken cruiser. was still there.  I wasn't sure at first as all I could see was that traffic cone. It wasn't until almost on top of it that out from the depths part of the cruiser appeared. Surly this is a proper hazard now, boats will run into it. Come on CRT. About time you got the thing out! And here are the before and after photos.

Early August

 

And today



 

Around Hawkesbury junction for the third time in 2 months, and this might not be the last! We still have to head back to Langley Mill from Milton Keynes but have yet to decide whether our return journey will be along the Leicester line and River Soar or back toward Fradley.

Oh, look...that cruiser Ian and Marilyn moved is still there! And has yet another overstay notice on it!
 



Sutton stop lock

It's been another longish day and with it now being mid-afternoon, we stopped at a short stretch of piling between bridge 11 and 12. Storm Agnes is coming...it is expected to hit our region of West Midlands. According to the local weather, yellow warning for high winds will be in place from 12 pm tomorrow. So a few hours of cruising in the morning perhaps?


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