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.

Thursday 31 August 2017

Going in...no...coming out

Such a late finish last night. The missing nuts were found but two washers were not. A rummage in his 'man cupbourd' to find replacements and finally, with bated breath Ian turned the key to warm the glow plugs, waited the usual 10 seconds and .....yes, what a sweet sound of a perfect sounding running engine. No white smoke just the normal puff when the engine started. But, and slap our wrists, the time was way past the 8 pm allowed to run an engine. One plastic cruiser behind us but luckily no irate person emerged waving a fist. For about a minute the engine was run at about 1200 rpm before switching off. So one very oily person (Ian)  showered and then my 'man that can' downed a glass or two of wine which was well earned after spending the whole day on fixing the engine.

Glorious evening reflections
6.30am and the mist rising making another one of those magical mornings.

FS started up as normal thank goodness, so we got underway by 8.30 am. Destination Wheaton Aston for cheap diesel.  First though it was negotiate the narrows. Here I stayed right on Icing's stern so any oncoming boats would have to wait.

Next was Autherley junction where we turned right onto the Shroppie.Everything was going according to plan, Dennis started his turn knowing the lock was with him as a boat had just left, I hovered mid stream waiting my turn and then watched in bewilderment as Icing suddenly revered out again. "Odd" thinks I until it twigged that another boater must have turned the lock around. A hire boat who's crew didn't think to check the junction before filling the lock. Dennis ended up facing in the wrong direction and I was beginning to wonder if he was heading home again! Anyway eventually the hirer's emerged, Dennis did the turn into the lock and I followed behind.

Exiting boat

Going in and
reversing out

Icing now facing towards us

Very noticeable was the lack of boats moored at Autherley. We nearly always have trouble getting through with the Napton hire boats but today was a doodle. We stopped for water, Dennis started the fill first and then we waited...and waited...and waited some more! A sign saying 30 minutes stopping time only (that had been and gone) and Dennis gave up with a far from full tank. We did no more than put enough water in the tank for our immediate needs deciding to use the tap at Wheaton Aston instead.

Not a moored boat in sight

The A5 Stretton Aqueduct

Approaching Wheaton Aston lock. Dark skies beginning to loom up
 Dark clouds on the horizon and it was a case of will we or wont we get wet. Both Dennis and Ian filled the diesel tank at Turners with a good price of 58.9 Ltr. Setting off once more we had only gone about 15 minutes and the heavens opened. Oh well no point in stopping now that we were wet through. My only regret was the Kingfisher that flew through a bridge 'ole landing on concrete ledge not 5 yards from me. A very bedraggled Kingfisher and one I would loved to have got a photo of.

So after a long day we finally stopped at Gnosall near the boat pub. A well deserved meal and pint later is on the cards, a much better idea than having to cook.

And on route,

Not sure I agree with towpath shrines.

Hundreds of fish at the outflow at Wheaton Aston.

Wildlife today,

must get to the other side

Hmmm, so how do I do that?

Another time perhaps!

Wednesday 30 August 2017

Hmmm ...Pope or knackered engine!

 Even though it was tipping it down with rain this morning, we still decided to get underway. Dennis got away first and because I don't mind travelling with the brolly up (Ian hates that) I took the helm. Not long after Hatherton junction, I noticed both Dennis and Margaret looking back at me. "Hmmm...now why is that" I thought. Didn't think anything was amiss until I also glanced back. OMG.... clouds of white smoke billowing from the exhaust. Now, this can mean one of two things. Either we have a new Pope or our engine is knackered! Guess which one it was!!!

Ian was worried one of the injectors was the problem as the smoke came and went intermittently but then the engine started making funny noises and the decision was made to stop. A quick phone call to Margaret and they pulled over too.

There was nothing for it but to bite the bullet and change the head gasket. This meant staying put for the rest of the day and running the generator. While he stripped the engine I made Leek and Potato soup, well tried too as suddenly my blender gave up the ghost. For goodness sake, what else is going to go wrong! I was trying to work out how to puree the veg when expletives suddenly came from the stern. Rushing over to Ian I discovered an overturned plastic container with screws, bolts and nuts scattered, not just over the step, but in the oil covered engine bay as well! Hmmm, best to leave him to it me thinks!

This box was full!
 Anyway needless to say he did find most by fishing with a magnet but 4 are still missing. The new head casket is now in place and engine block torqued. But until those bolts are found we ain't going nowhere! Tomorrow I will either be one happy bunny 'cos we are on the move again or downright miserable because they have not been found!  So the question is, will the bolts ever be found? Will Ian still be down the engine ole tomorrow and will he be a covered head to toe in oil? Tune in tomorrow folks for the next thrilling instalment.

The black mark on the ring shows where the problem was

Tuesday 29 August 2017

What ya doing down the engine 'ole girl!

How remiss...We met another blogger yesterday and I clean forgot to give them a mention. A very brief encounter as it happened as I was on the way to Haywood lock when a head popped out of the side hatch and said he read my blog. Found out his blog was called  jemma the dog one I must read in the future but didn't actually get his name. Nice to say hello and thanks for reading my ramblings.

After leaving Stafford boat club Dennis took the lead and apart from being at Deptmore lock together we didn't meet up again until Hatherton.

Seemed we managed to get another boat in between again and from then on they were but a distance memory. All was going well until we got to Penkridge lock.  It has particularily tight approach to the lock and what with moored boats, overhanging branches and the tight left hand bend it was here we met a complete idiot! He was determined to go into the one remaining space to moor completly oblivious to the fact I was approaching. Seeing his bow I off course moved over to the space to get out of his way but did he turn to get onto his side of the canal...no he did not! If only he had given a sign.. some sort of hand signal would have done to show he wanted to moor. A few choice words were said I can tell you and in the end he had to reverse back so I could pass on the wrong side.

Had my grumpy hat on from then onwards until....OMG look who we are passing..... Marilyn and David on Waka Huia Well, that was it...we had to stop and say hello. Last time we saw them was in New Zealand and the second thing I said to Marilyn after expressing delight in the meeting was "So what about the haircut promised!". This figure emerged from the engine hole in the process of doing an oil change. Blimey, girl, I didn't know you had it in you. That pumping action of yours to remove the oil...forget using the engine for propulsion, reckon you could do just as well.

Kettle went on, my banana cake brought over and eaten, then cheesy scones were hastily made by Marilyns fair hand and placed into oven (which had a good hefty kick to the door to close properly after David accidentally stood on it), coffee drunk, scones out of the oven and buttered and then the 12 made were devoured eagerly by us all. Delicious they were too. Then it was onto the towpath for the promised haircut, first me and then Ian.

In all 4 hours elapsed before we finally said our farewells. But what a fabulous 4 hours catching up with all the news. So with Jaq yesterday and Marilyn and David today I wonder who we will meet next?

Setting off we joined the queue waiting at Filance lock. From then on it was slow going until after Gailey. With no boats in front anymore and a text from Dennis and Margaret saying they were at Hatherston, we continued until we finally caught up with them by 6.15 pm. For us normally moored by about 3 pm, this was a long day but oh so worth the late finish.

Losing that weight of hair seems to have gone to my head!

Monday 28 August 2017

A meeting fianlly after 5 long years.

The evening was just perfect for the BBQ and hats of to the men for doing such a good job on the cooking. Margaret then comes out with dessert, rhubarb windows and custard, how yummy was that.

Don't ask!

Woke early this morning and happened to look outside the bathroom window. The mist was rising and all was still and apart from the odd bird song, nothing else could be heard. It's what we both call a 'canal morning'.

We thought we had left early enough to avoid yesterdays queues at the locks. Passing a lady attending to her garden she happened to say 14 boats had queued for Colwich lock last night, two of which were returning day boats. Think they may have been a bit late back. Hoped that wouldn't be in store for us today!

Above Colwich lock and the queues already forming.
 We were lucky below this lock, only Icing, a Ginger hire boat (which had got in between by pulling out in front of FS) and us waiting.

Things were set to change though! The long length of moorings at Shugborough hall had yet to be reached and I was pretty convinced boats would have started leaving. I was not wrong and quite dismayed to see a long line of waiting boats. In fact when we arrived by 10.am we were then 9th in line!

This was the queueing boats before the bridge.

and after the bridge looking toward the lock (apart from the first boat of course)
 I did feel sorry for this boater and I should have asked him where he got his diesel from. They were in the process of removing all the 'dirty' diesel from the tank and having it cleaned. Must have cost him a fortune!

1hour and 40 minutes later and it was finally our turn. Then it was turn left at the junction and down the Shroppie. Going past the Anglo Welsh yard at Haywood an engineer hailed me asking about the queues at the lock. It turns out an Anglo Welsh boat should have been back at base by 10 am (time was now about 11.40am). The boat in question was due out again in a couple of hours and the engineer was beginning to panic.

So onto Tixal wide and there, after all these years, I finally get to meet Jaq. Nearly sailed right past as Jaq was in the process of painting Valerie so no boat name! It was only because I was being nosey and looked through the window that I realised who it was. That's it, we had to stop and it was just like greeting an old friend, one that I had never met but knew almost as if we had. So much admiration for this lady especially after everything she had been through with Les. We laughed together, stories were told of some of Les's exploits when he was a single hander and also when they were both together, the odd moist eyed moment from both of us and of some of the problems encountered since Les's death. We had tea and cake and the time flew by. Fully aware that somewhere ahead Dennis and Margaret had moored and was ready to continue the journey, we said our fond farewells and hope that it wont be another 5 years until we meet again.

Jaq my hero.

Tixal wide.
Now in the process of saying farewell to Jaq, a canoeist appeared acting a bit erratic. We set off and he slowly followed us. Got to the wide bit and he shot off like a bullet. Thought no more of it until suddenly he turned made for the far bank, turned again and like a second bullet came straight across our path. In fact, if I hadn't reversed VERY rapidly he and his canoe would have been hit side on. He then careered straight into a moored boat and bounced off. The lady of the boat had the cheek to say we should have been looking out for him. Blimey!!!We had no time for anything but reverse! The canoeist should have been looking where he was going and to be fair he did apologised to us and the lady, taking all the blame himself. I was still shaking when we reached Icing because the consequences of that could have been catastrophic.

No queues at Tixal lock, what a nice change! A suggestion was made to see if Stafford boat club had room for two boats for tonight. Ian phoned to be told they had the canal side mooring free. So this will do very nicely especially as we can partake in their very good ales in the club house tonight.

And seen on top of a travelling boat,

Harris Hawks

And in the skies above,

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