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.

Monday 30 September 2019

I might start divorce proceedings!

Sunday 29th

More of the wet stuff fell overnight, you only have to look at the towpath to see how much rain we had.

I was just taking a few photos when.... EXCUSE ME!!!!!! What's going on here?????

Good job we have been friends with Lynda and Tony for years, I might start divorce proceedings!

A boater had told of large amounts of weed on route to Ellesmere Port. I had thought he meant duckweed but no, the problem was Penny wort. The blooming reverse had to be used because the prop was forever getting clogged up with it.  

Not just Pennywort we had to deal with. Offside vegetation and overhanging branches in full leaf all hindered our progress.

Now, what was I saying about the rain? Where was all this water coming from? Must be off the fields.

Oh goody, looks like more rain on the way!

10 minutes later and we would have been nicely tied and in the dry. Sod's law then, that the rain came down in torrents as we came into the basin.

First thing was to wind. The second was to fill the water tank and third empty the loo again (must be all that drink we had last night!) Winding was no problem but a boat was on the water point so we hung back until it left. Now you would think all the facilities would be in one place. Not here at Ellesmere. Waterpoint one side, elsan the other!

Having winded and waiting to reverse onto the water point.

The basin bathed in sunlight. Very short-lived, mind.
So then we had the problem of locating the elsan. There didn't appear to be any way to get to it. The bank had fencing all around it and a galvanised Haras fence stuck out over the canal. I managed to catch the attention of a C&RT volunteer, who pointed to where the boat shed was. Well, talk about difficult to get to! Weed, wind and lack of landing place made it almost impossible. I reversed FS as far back as possible, a yellow boom lay across the small dock from one side to the other, keeping the weed at bay so FS couldn't go too far back. In the end, Ian had to make a large leap, with full cassette in hand, onto the only bit of bank available. Then do the biz with the loo whilst I tried to keep FS in one place.  How we managed it I will never know, but Ian felt that moving the boom back a few feet would have made life so much easier.

I'm trying to keep FS in one place

That Haras fence very apparent here
We were most relieved to leave and head back through the bridge to moor on a 48-hour mooring. With one boat already there and only room for two boats, we breasted up with Merlin.

That moored boat had left by the time we returned from visiting the Port.

And during our (very wet) visit

The wooden stern end of a horse-drawn boat Lily

Top, Horse made of crochet squares and bottom, Inside a boatman's cabin

No not a new excise regime but trying to emulate the men breaking the ice.
And seen on route

Stanlow refinery.
Speed camera on the cut??? How amusing would it have been if it had flashed as we went past at 3mph!!๐Ÿ˜‚
And wildlife

Sunday 29 September 2019

Ian gets a proposition!

 Saturday 28th

The Shady Oak, a lovely pub serving great grub. Not so good on the ale front although Doombar was on tap. We stayed well past 9 pm, the meal had been for 6. 30 pm so certainly made use of their hospitality. No game of Mexican Train played as an early night was agreed by all ready for an early start in the morning.

We are in their somewhere.

Look at those lovely water droplets on the side of the hull. Great polish job methinks. Gave myself a pat on the back!
Today.... No rain...Yipee...and a very pleasant start to the cruise. Before we set off though, Ian had to go down the weed hatch. He removed from the prop a large linen sheet! No wonder it was most uncomfortable holding the tiller yesterday with all that vibration.

 Quite a few locks to do which all needed to be filled. And those bottom gate paddles...awful as they were the sort that for every two turns of the windlass, the ratchet moved up one notch. Took forever to get the paddle raised and to top it all, the gates were extremely heavy too! Also, the dreaded 1.5 miles of moored boats after bridge 114 had to be gone past on tickover. Last time we came it took 35 minutes to get from one end of the moorings to the other. This time took considerably longer because a boat was met coming toward us at bridge 115. With a breasted pair moored virtually in the bridge 'ole Tony, as lead boater, had to duck into a gap just before them. The oncoming boat passed but then Tony had to try and get Merlin out from behind the pair. The wind was blowing a hooley across the fields holding Merlin well into the side. A very nice gentleman from the moorings came and helped but it was touch and go for a while if he would ever get out!

Tucking into a gap
The long length of moorings
 In Chester, there were the usual moored boats and very few spaces to be had. It wasn't planned to stop today as Ellesmere Port was the destination for tomorrow and the hope was more mooring opportunities would become available after the weekend. We did have to avoid the trip boat heading straight for us, blooming great wide beam taking up nearly all the width.

A narrow cutting, with high walls of Chester towering overhead, led us to Northgate staircase lock. We entered the top lock but before we could descend, the water levels had to be adjusted in the lower chamber. There is a marker gauge on the sidewall on this chamber and if it shows red, the lock needs topping up before the top paddle can be drawn. Ignore this and there won't be enough depth of water for the boat to get over the cill.

Looking back

Second chamber

Waiting to descend.

Marker showing red.

Lots of Gongoozlers watching our descent, one was a lady from South Africa who got very excited watching the whole locking procedure. She jumped up and down and clapped her hands continually. Both Ian and Lynda referred to her as a 'dizzy blond.' She even made a proposition to Ian, offering to come and live with him on the boat. He was all for it, rather fancied someone that could cook South African cuisine. But then she dropped the bombshell, she couldn't cook! His decision...he's sticking with me!

We needed the facilities at the bottom of the locks. Water was fine but as for emptying the loo...Ian couldn't get anywhere near the hut. All fenced off because of a collapsed path by the lock so the only way we could get to it was to reverse into the arm.

 Then we had the problem of getting back to the main channel. That wind, fierce it was and tried to keep FS against the side. Ian resorted to using the pole to keep the front out while I steered and put the power on from behind.

Another few miles travelled before stopping about 7 miles short of Ellsmere. Ian cooked chilli for us all and I made an apple and blackberry crumble for afters. It all went down very well with wine and a few beers. Still no Mexican train played. Strictly Come Dancing had started so we all sat and watched that.

And some more photos of the journey,

Colours of Autumn

Flooded towpath

I think this was Tarvin lock
 And wildlife

Saturday 28 September 2019

Iron lock, a right pain in the proverbial

Friday 27th

Rain, rain and more rain. In fact for the whole of next week, the forecast is bad. Not good then for Lynda and Tony's week holiday on Merlin.

Anglo-Welsh moorings
 I must say Anglo-Welsh did a very quick turn around on Merlin. We watched her go past FS a tad before 9am. Lynda and Tony arrived around 1 pm and Merlin was very nearly ready for the handover. As we were above lock we left them unpacking and brought FS down. Just in time to pair up with another boat.

Merlin is the one facing toward the bridge 'ole
 Tilstone lock and we had to sit right back off of the lock landing. In fact, the landing was almost non-existent and had what we call 'Defra rash' all around it. Two boats were ascending and it seemed to take forever for the gates to open.

Blooming rain started again just as we got into Beeston Stone lock. Did I feel sorry for Ian and Lynda having to walk to the stone lock? Hmmm, what do you think!

 Beeston Iron lock was a pig in more ways than one. First, the wind across the fields caused Merlin to try and head for home.

This is also the lock where it is not advisable for two boats to use the lock together. A big red sign warns of danger as boats have been known to have been 'hung up' on the iron band running along the lock walls. This lock again took an age to fill. Both paddles had been whipped up but one only has to see the gap on the bottom of the gates to realise why!

Will you look at that leakage, pretty bad eh! See that bollard on the right of the photo. Well, that is part of the iron staging.
  Then there was the exit to this lock. A very short iron grating landing was all you had to try and get onto. A right pain so I went past thinking I could stop by the grassy towpath. Bad move! A ledge about eighteen inches from the bank stops boats from getting close in. I had managed to get off on the iron grating but now I was stranded on the bank.  No way was my legs long enough for me to get back on so I tried bowhauling FS to the bridge 'ole. Failed miserably and Ian had to come to my rescue by leaping on FS's stern, take FS to the bridge so I could get back on.

Wharton's lock was the last of the day. I couldn't believe my luck when a Kingfisher flew past FS and landed on the lock railings. Even with Ian walking toward the lock it didn't fly away. Suddenly it dived down, came back up with a fish in its mouth. Unfortunately missed that photo opportunity but did get it on the grab rail.

Shady Oak pub was but half a mile away and as it was getting late we decided to stop for a meal.
Tomorrow we hope to get to Elsmere Port but several boaters moored at the pub are also heading for that destination so it all depends on who gets away first and the queues at the locks.

And wildlife,

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