About Us

My photo
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 31 August 2018

A most idiotic day!

It's been one of those days when a silly thing led to more even sillier things and it all started as we got underway this morning.

We had 10 locks to do today, all spread out so we got underway before 8am. Ian took his time untieing the bow rope leaving me holding the stern rope and wondering what was keeping him. Ian then pushes the bow out, I get on, Ian joins me and away we go. Past a moored boat and towards the bridge ole. "Where is the cladding pin?", asks Ian. Oh for heaven sake...I've only gone and left it attached to the cladding. So into reverse and drop Ian off where he legs it back to retrieve the pin. Talk about a senior moment but this turned out to be the first of many.

Three locks later we reach Penkridge lock. Before I reached the lock two boats had come past and with no boats in front of us, in my mind the lock would be empty. Ian gets off and heads for the lock. My last shout to him was that I would bring FS into the lock entrance. In I goes and then ....OMG, the gates open and I'm nose to nose with an exiting boat. Now the fun starts, I try to reverse but as is the way with FS she never goes back in a straight line (of course it's not operator error!!!) I'm now across the cut. The look of exasperation on that boater face was more than justified. I felt like the biggest idiot out and couldn't apologise enough when I did get myself sorted. And where was Ian while this was going on? Totally oblivious of the scene unfolding as the canal below the lock was not in line of sight. His "Where did you get too?" did not go down well I can tell you! Senior moment 2

Then senior moment 3 happened.

Now you may well think nothing could get worse than that. Well.....I pulled in between a boat waiting for the lock and a moored boat. Dropped Ian off again and went into reverse. Stopped FS (or so I thought) and grabbed the centre rope. Could I get FS to stop? I was left frantically pulling the rope for all my worth trying to stop from careering into that moored boat. So thankful that Ian noticed my plight as he suddenly realised I had left FS in reverse. He scrambled on board and stopped her just in time to avert disaster.

Obviously no photos of those idiotic moments other than the last Otherton Lock. This was taken when I first came in between the boats. It was after this and when I had hold of the rope, that the senior moment 3 happened.

There were more photos of the journey, This one at Robaston Lock where the lack of landing due to subsidence and fishermen at the only place one could actually get off to hold the rope meant a difficult drop off for Ian.

And this morning very early (Ian was still in bed) a lovely sunrise.

 And seen on route,

Thursday 30 August 2018

Just when a reverse is needed boats appear.

Silent stealth mode as we crept past boat after boat trying not to disturb those still asleep. Time 7.30am. We didn't want to repeat the lock queues of yesterday and knowing that Colwich lock was one of the busier locks at a popular attraction, Shugborough Hall, leaving early seemed the logical thing to do.

It paid off as not a single boat was waiting at the lock landing.

Hmmm....a reed roundabout.
 We cruised past the long length of moorings at Great Hayward and surprisingly for this time of year not many boats moored.

Shugborough Hall

 Up through Hayward lock and onto the facility moorings by Anglo-Welsh hire boatyard.
Heading toward the Hayward junction

Unfortunately, we had to go past the Staffs and Worcs Canal to get onto the facilities which meant a reverse when we were ready to leave.

Staff and Worcs canal and Anglo-Welsh hire fleet
 Water tank filled and the reverse to the junction started. Typical... Not a boat to be seen until we started going backwards then three came out of the junction and turned left toward us.  Help was at hand from a lady by the bridge, who kindly informed us when the coast was clear so Ian could complete the manoeuvre.

Lady standing to the left.

Heading toward Tixal Wide
We were informed of a long queue at the lock as we passed some moored boats on the wide, but on arrival, only one boat ascending and no more waiting below.  I take FS in and there was Ian left alone to close the gates. I wonder sometimes if boaters waiting their turn at the locks don't think it necessary to come and help. Locking would go so much quicker if they did.

Boat waiting at the top

Narrow channel, oncoming boat who should go first?
 After 6 miles we reached Deptmore lock. Time was now about 2ish. Ian wanted to clean the brasses so decision made to stop at the top. Bit early I know but as said in a previous post, we are well ahead of schedule so can now afford ourselves time to relax.

Deptmore lock

 Two more photo's, a field with narrowboats.

 And seen on route,



Wednesday 29 August 2018

Near collisions and canoeists, quite a day!

Yesterday must have been a fluke as my initial observations of leaving early to avoid the queues was correct. Wish I had followed my own advice today.

Needing to empty loo we waited for a hire boat to leave the facilities before setting off, only for another boat to arrive just before we untied. Oh well, thankfully we didn't have to take on water (such a slow fill) and only had the cassette to empty. It did mean though that our departure was delayed somewhat and it was well after 9 am before we entered junction lock.

The boat near the lock on the left is the one on the facility mooring.

Turn left at the junction above the lock and it's onto the Coventry canal. Not so for us as we went straight on but it did mean those boats coming out from the Coventry were now in front. For the remaining 3 locks, we had to contend on being patient and wait.

Junction lock with C&RT volunteer

Shade house lock and C&RT volunteers were there to speed things up but it was not just novices that get it wrong. This lady volunteer unintentionally started closing the top gate on the boat waiting to descend. Not quite the speedy lock wheeling we had imagined.

Most of the journey to Rugeley was uneventful. I say most because not long past Handsacre and on a right-hand bend, we came across a boat on our side of the canal. The chap at the back made no attempt to avoid us and a collision appeared imminent. But then we realised this chap had a serious problem. Smoke was pouring out from the back cabin and a loud beeping was heard. The best thing for me to do was to reverse and try to get out of his way. No manoeuvrability from him understandably, but the boat had slowed down sufficiently so to avoid the collision. He waved us past, I asked if help was needed but he declined which I thought very surprising. I asked if we should stay in case of an emergency but again he declined. Oh well, only so much one can do.

 Then through the bridge 'ole and we meet two men in a canoe. Next thing they head straight for the offside bank and gets tangled up in the vegetation. No help needed this time but we did all have a good laugh.

At Armitage narrows another hairy moment when an oncoming boat decided he would like to join us. Bit difficult as the narrows can only accomadate one boat width!  His wife tried to warn him by phone to not enter and looked exasperated when he didn't pick up and nosed in anyway. I can imagine what will be said on her return.

That's the wife on the phone

In spite of the lock queues at Fradley, we made it to Rugeley in a tad under 4 hours. A space was found and a walk to Wetherspoons for a late lunch before grabbing bags and doing a Morrison shop. Good time after the walk to put feet up but not to rest. No....with FS going backwards and forwards as well as sideways (and Ian had put on a bow spring) it was moan about at all those speeding boaters tearing past who have no idea what tickover is!

And seen on route

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Luck be with us.

It's not often that a day goes so well as it did today and so unexpected considering the time we set off. To be in front of the pack one must leave the moorings early so as to beat the queues at locks. We didn't get going until after 9am so it stood to reason that delays would be inevitable. But, and this is where luck was definitely on our side, we crept past boat after boat all nearly ready to set off with some putting on the tiller, others untying ropes and a few taking down pram tops. And the luck didn't stop there. Every lock either had a boat exiting or was empty and ready for us to go in.

Dallow lock and a paddle left up
I was interested in seeing how much progress had been made in the development of Branston. Not a lot was my initial opinion until we reached the water park. Then it was obvious that houses had replaced the green belt land surrounding the park.

Always a problem here at Branston with oncoming boats. Too much vegetation and not enough space.

Receding lake water. Needs a lot of rain to bring the levels back up
 And another development under construction but this time at Fradley. A new marina is being dug out below common lock and according to the sign, room for 60 boats. Doesn't look big enough at the moment but I suppose come back next year and the difference will be immense.

 The usual busy Fradley was, as usual, busy. Whereas Alrewas was surprisingly quiet when we stopped for a trip to the butchers.

Moored at Fradley

Our route plan has been torn up. Because of the great time we made today (Ian had planned our moorings for Alrewas but felt midday was too early to stop) we now have time on our hands. So maybe another late start for tomorrow and you never know, the same luck as today will be with us tomorrow.

And seen on route,

Blog Archive