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 13 April 2024

Blacking begins.

Our doggie fix has come and gone, Toffee was returned to our sons a week ago, we have now resorted once again to being couch potatoes. Mind you the weather has been atrocious, not walking conditions at all, and the planned dry docking for Monday was touch and go at one point. Without any cover we were open to the elements and applying bitumen to a wet hull was a no no! We decided to go for it anyway as a small window of good weather was forecast from Wednesday onwards and Vikki & Dan (owners of the boatyard) gave us an extra day drying.

In the rain, we moved FS into the dock. Another boat joined us, Halcyon, not a DIY, so it would be left to Vikki to do the blacking. Anyway, soon both boats had descended and settled onto the steel sleepers and as soon as the dock had completely emptied, Ian set too with the jet wash.





Most of FS's had been cleaned and a very small area left when disaster struck. First the jet wash hose split, not a problem as Dan had a spare but as soon as the washer was once more switched on, the pressure valve gave up the ghost. Well, nearly two hours went by as both Dan and his brother Tom tried to fix it. In the end, they had to give up and bring out a small electric jet washer. Ian finished FS's hull, but I did feel for Dan trying to jet wash the hull of Halcyon. It took twice as long as it hardly had the power of the industrial broken one!



Tuesday was a day of fine mizzle and dry periods, but I did manage to get one coat of bitumen around the waterline. Ian blacked the uxter plate and swim, both protected of course by the rear counter.



Not a lot more was done by me that day, although Ian did titivate rubbing down the tunnel bands and applying undercoat in-between the showers. Thank goodness it was quick drying!


 

Wednesday the blacking really begun. Overnight the hull had dried, I was up at 7 am knowing I had but 4 hours in which to get the first coat on both sides. After midday, more rain was forecast, not a problem once the bitumen had been applied. I managed it in 3 hours, but gosh my back at the end screamed out in pain and trying to stand up straight was agony! Plenty of painkillers taken and the thought of doing it all again the next day to apply a second coat filled me with dread. Ian had been sorting out the tiller. Having bounced over some rubble on our travels in Birmingham, the steering had felt very light. Turns out the wedge Ian had placed in the cup had perished, so a new one was made from an old paint spray cap, and this did the job nicely. 

 


This was done before Ian had blacked underneath the uxter.
 

Anyway, by Thursday morning the painkillers had worked and Ian helped out by blacking the starboard side. While I went inside for a rest, he set too, rubbing down the gunwales and smoothing the newly applied undercoat on the tunnel bands in readiness to gloss. 


The finished tunnel bands

Friday it was all done, the big clean-up started, me on the inside trying to remove as much dirt and dust from floors shelves etc, and Ian on the outside replacing fenders and giving the gunwales a second coat of paint. 



FS was refloated this morning. Both sides and top were given a thorough wash before we brought FS back into the basin. We plan to leave in MB Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, heading South and to the Isle of White. All problems on MB have been sorted to our satisfaction, hopefully we will have trouble free summer but knowing our luck, probably not! Oh, the tar running down the flue on FS also seems to have been sorted. Since Ian used silicone as a seal, it's been okay.




Wednesday 3 April 2024

The saga of the stove continues.

Our week with Toffee has been a joy and would have been just perfect if it hadn't been for the weather. Being young, her energy levels are off the scale and if she could talk, would nag us incessantly to go out for walks. But plead as much as she likes, with the atrocious weather of late, conditions are far from ideal for long walks. The towpath along the Erewash is particularly bad, so the only place to go without sinking into the mud was along the old disused Nottingham canal. Luckily, today (Tuesday) it really felt like spring had finally sprung and that long awaited walk could finally happen.



Remember the sago of our stove?. The issues with the CO alarm going off was, thankfully, resolved, but now the latest problem has been tar running down the wall and chimney inside the boat! Okay, tar can sometimes be seen around the flue on the outside which occasionally flows down the cabin side, a lot depends on how the chimney is fitted, whether an inner skin is used and which coal is bought, but when it starts to run down on the inside....well that was unacceptable.



Took some cleaning and the smell was pretty bad.


This last week it's been cold and wet, so the stove had to remain lit for warmth. It was the smell that grabbed our attention first, and the side of the copper kettle was covered with the stuff. No way could anything be done until the stove was cold, so when the sun finally put in an appearance, it was the perfect opportunity to let the fire go out and for Ian to see if he could reseal the top of the flue. Well, what appeared to be a simple job turned into a massive one. 

First, the chimney was swept, which resulted in the brush becoming well and truly jammed! A lump hammer and a lot of bashing on the handle did the trick, thoughts of having the brush stuck almost 3/4 down the chimney didn't bear thinking about.  The resulting soot and congealed material (probably tar) was found to be the culprit.



Clumps of the stuff

 Next he applied heatproof silicone on top of the old fire rope, hoping this would seal the flue surround to stop the tar from spilling out…another failure as the silicone didn't stick at all! Then, as he was trying to dig the newly applied silicone out to start over, a small section of the chimney liner broke away! Oh, eck...now what??? He decided to remove the old fire rope, but that rope was covered in nasty stuff and had gone solid, so a drill was needed to make a few holes to allow a sharpened screwdriver to start the removal. Crikey, it was awful stuff to remove having gone fibrous and took nearly 2 hours to dig out!

j
The old silicon removed and new was to be applied.

Old fire rope cavity ready to be filled.

With that job done, the gully was refilled with the silicone, and allowed to cure overnight. So we hope this will be the end of it for the time being. A bodge job indeed, as we will have to replace the collar and flue pipe once the stove is allowed to go out for good. Hopefully the bodge will last long enough to see us through this month!

And the ducklings are down to 12!




Tuesday 2 April 2024

Recent update

Blast, MB failed its MOT. For heaven’s sake, the amount of mileage done last year was almost non-existent. Yes, it was taken for a jaunt to Scotland by Marilyn and David, but the mileage would have been minimal. It failed because the front LED high lights didn't work, Ian was astounded, all the exterior lights worked when we were away, headlights, sidelights, reversing lights, indicators all good and even those high lights on the motorhome, front and sides. So it was baffling as to why those front ones had given up the ghost. Anyway, a retest would be needed within 10 days, so Ian set too to find the cause. Turns out after a bit of research that the Sargent Unit was the culprit and of course that had been sent away for repair! 

 What to do? Phoning the company repairing the unit, mainly to find out when it would be returned, he was told it was already on its way back. Good news you would think, well in a way yes but when he was told they could find nothing wrong, the worry now was why had the heating and lights failed when we were away!Anyway two days later the unit was back, and within an hour of it arriving, had been reinstalled in its rightful place and yes he was very glad of the photos taken to see where those wires went! Oh, and the interior lights started working as well,.. hmm, most strange. Anyway, Ian now had to find the cause of why the heating and hot water didn't work. and the only clue he had was that the error code on the control panel pointed to the fan. A company called Premier Technical Services was found in Cannock that dealt with these fans so that day it was sent off to await the verdict.


Heating fan

Well, two days later it was returned fixed. Something on the circuit board was the problem and yes it now worked a treat. So everything on MB is now all tickety-boo and yes it also passed the MOT. 

Whilst this was all going on, I had a birthday, a good one at that because lunch was had at our daughters and dinner at our sons. This all coincided with our son jetting off to Austria with the family for half-term, and we had the pleasure of Toffee's company for the week.



 
I think she's pleased to be back!
 

Next week we dock the boat. Weather so far has been awful and with the dock not being covered, I am keeping everything crossed for some dry weather.

New life had also arrived in the basin. A duck with her 13 ducklings, but how many will she keep? Too many Pike about in these waters, mores the pity, and then there are all the cats around here too. Poor ducklings, the odds are stacked against them!





Friday 15 March 2024

Too wet to fly

 The phone call from the Falconry centre arrived well after 5 pm with the news I had been dreading, no flying or handling the birds in the morning. The inclement weather put paid to that! Another couple had also booked at the same time, there would have been four of us.  As the other couple were locals, it was easy enough for them to rearrange within a day or two, but for us, well that was a different matter.  David expressed his concern that we had come all this way only to be disappointed, but when I explained we would be returning later in the year, I could hear the relief in his voice. Such a lovely man. So it was agreed that we could come again in June, a date was set, and we now keep fingers crossed the weather (then) will be a lot kinder.

So now back to our lighting dilemma. Without lights, a torch had to be used. One we bought in NZ was multi functional, it could also be used as an insect zapper, which worked brilliantly in killing those horrible sand flies. Anyway, shining the light up towards the ceiling worked a treat as the beam bounced back illuminating the table, so playing Quiddler was a lot easier than we thought.    



 

The rain and high winds continued well into the night, but sods law said it would be dry when we awoke. And such was the case! Not only that, but the sun put in a very brief appearance too! It was but a short respite because the forecast showed more high winds and rain. By the time we set off toward Beverley, the rain had started, it diminished the further East we went, and I was beginning to think we could have gone to the Falcon centre after all. A quick look at the phone for weather in Settle and it showed this.




It took the best part of 2 hours to reach Beverley. A stop at Sainsbury for lunch and whilst in the car park  Ian removed the Sargent unit. Gosh, the wires seemed to be in a tangle and I wondered how Ian would remember where they all went. Very wisely, Ian took loads of photos so that when we eventually have it sent back fixed, he knows exactly where each wire bundle goes.




Having taken the unit out, it meant that all remaining electrics failed, including the fridge. It couldn't even run on gas because the igniter was electric. We knew, though, that as long as the door was kept shut the food in the freezer would stay frozen, but it was the retractable step I had most trouble with. I forgot that it wouldn't come out to allow me off MB, much too long a drop for my little legs, so my only means of getting out was through the passenger door. 

Sargent electrical services was eventually found at Tokenspire business park, then it was a matter of handing the unit over with the reassurance that it would be sent back to us within 2 weeks. I do hope so because we hope to leave with MB again after Easter! Anyway, a further 2 hours later we were back on FS, and bringing the rain with us.  The stove was lit and MB unpacked. Such a shame we had to return early, and I was disappointed on not handling those birds of prey today, but something to look forward too in the summer. Our next adventure on MB will be after we have blacked FS's bottom. Toffee is also coming to stay for a week over the Easter break, so really looking forward to that.


Thursday 14 March 2024

More problems with MB (Mini Beast)

Turning mild, we didn't need the heater on this morning. Shame the rain hasn't eased, though. In fact, it was that and the wind that woke us before dawn. With no plans today, should we stay at the site and watch a film or two? We were so close to the Dales that I fancied a drive out and, heading toward Settle, decided to find the Falconry centre at Feizel.to find out if tomorrow's Bird of Prey experience was still on. 

Well the sat nave took us along some very narrow roads, onto the Dales and even one with a width no more than 7' 6". It was too risky to even try, so we did no more than turn around (not easy) and find another route.



Eventually we found the Falconry centre, gosh the road to it was EXTREMELY narrow and how we made it there without meeting another vehicle was sheer luck. I would hate to try and get there in the height of summer! Although to be fair this place is open by appointment only so the chances were pretty slim. Anyway no one was around so all that way for nothing! We did find a lay-by which seemed a good place to stop for lunch. It was high on the Dales, and we watched the horizontal rain crossing a very misty landscape. If the rain had eased we may have been able to go exploring because this lay-by also had an information board about the Winskill Stones



After an hour of listening to the wind and rain, it was decided to head back to the camp site. At least we could watch a film and switch on the electric fan heater. The journey back was along the main roads, so no trying to negotiate those tiny lanes.

Back at the site and..... groan....yet another problem with MB. Discovery made that the satellite wasn't working and that wasn't all, no lights either apart from the one in the loo (at least Ian will be able to see where to aim) and the outside lights. Was it a fuse, and if so which one?

 Unfortunately, all seemed to be working okay, so what could it be? When we bought the van it was found that the Sargent power unit had a fault, luckily it was exchanged, but we have no idea if it was replaced with a new one. It seems strange that the heating packed up a couple of days ago and now the lights. We have a horrible feeling that the unit is to blame. Groan again....why now...although at least it didn't happen when we were on our way to Shetland! Ian phoned Sargent electrical services, who mentioned it could be one of the circuit units having failed. The good news is it is repairable but obviously at a high cost. To send the unit would add another £15  but on enquiry as to where they were, turns out they are in Beverley near Hull. Good news in a way because at least we can drop it off on our way back to the Mill. 

I also phoned the Falconry centre to see if all was good for tomorrow. So far I'm still waiting for a return phone call, but the weather looks to be as bad tomorrow. Somehow I think they will reschedule, although the earliest we can do it now will be June. We wait and see.

The biggest concern though was how to cope without lights. We have torches, so that will have to do.


Wednesday 13 March 2024

On route to Settle

 The rain started again in earnest in the wee hours. Huddled deep into the sleeping bag, even the extra blanket didn't keep out the chill. Luckily I had a thermal long sleeved vest in the cupboard so that, and thick socks for my cold feet, went on. I noticed Ian had also grabbed a blanket to put over him.  And he wore a woolly hat to keep his head warm. Ha....so much for he never feels the cold! And if you're wondering why we didn't cuddle up, well this motorhome has two single seats either side which can be made up into a double by adding a centre piece, but we find it easier to sleep on them as singles. 

7 am, both lying awake, Ian drew the short straw to get the kettle on. The gas ring, once lit, gave out enough heat to take the chill from the air but the continuing rain made inside feel damp. Unfortunately the cassette light came on during the night which meant Ian had to brave the rain to go and change it. It's a shame it couldn't have waited for another hour because suddenly the incessant drumming of droplets on the roof stopped. Of course both of us needed to use the loo so that job had to be done pronto.

Water tank filled and waste water emptied, we headed off to Wicks (not Argos as I stated yesterday) to collect the heater. I don't envisage being cold tonight as it has two heat settings and a thermostat!

The Sat nav had the co-ordinates put in for the next camp site at Coniston Cold. It was the nearest Camping and Caravan site we could find to Settle and as I mentioned two days ago, this will be the place to go to for the flying and handling of Birds of Prey, another gift from Marilyn and David. Thursday is the day for that

The 55 mile journey took us over the Holme Moss Summit. The climb was bad enough, ears popping on the way up, but the descent was as terrifying as the Remutaka Pass in NZ.  This from Wiki. 

Holme Moss is high moorland on the border between the Holme Valley district of Kirklees in West Yorkshire and the High Peak district of Derbyshire in England. Historically on the boundary between the West Riding of Yorkshire and Cheshire, it is just inside the boundary of the Peak District National Park.

Why does Ian insist on letting MB run with his foot hovering over the brake pedal? Hands clenched, I was preying for him to brake but no, great pleasure in terrifying the misses! When he finally did have to break on an S bend, my prayers went to the brakes, hoping they actually worked! Very relieved to get to the bottom, and Ian's comment of "Just like those hills in NZ" made me realise he was wishing he was back there.


Going up

View from the top

 And this was seen on route at Glossop,


 

The camp site was lovely, in fact we were the only van there. The only downside was how far the showers and toilets were from the hard standing. Predominantly a camping site, a huge field was set aside right by the facilities and only 6 hard standing areas were available for caravans and motorhomes. I expect it had something with our having toilets and those camping did not.

In the field opposite were sheep with newborn lambs. A constant 'baaing' has been going on since arrival, wonderful as this means Spring is just around the corner. 


 

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