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.

Friday 23 October 2020

Unexpected cruise down the Erewash

 So....how wrong were we to think our last voyage on the Erewash Canal for this year had come and gone. No...a phone call came from Norman, ECP&DA chairman, with a proposition for us. "How do you fancy taking Pentland (ECP&DA workboat) down to Long Eaton lock and leaving it with one of the members on their garden moorings"? Gosh just what we needed to ease the boredom, but we did inquire as to why. It was all to do with the continuing problems with the pound being drained between Dolkholme and Long Eaton locks. The finger had been pointed to the 'little darlings' supposedly raising the paddles but it transpired it was actually boaters leaving the bottom gate open and with a faulty ground paddle that refused to close, the pound water just drained away. So C&RT had asked ECP&DA if they would go and see what could be done.

Wednesday then, I took Pentland out from the Great Northern Basin, through the swing bridge and moored her next to FS in readiness for an early start on Thursday. Now here is a bizarre scenario and one maybe could be answered by your good selves.  The back aerial (for the bedroom TV) is raised by a good 4 feet missing any boats moored nearby. So why then when Pentland was brought in next to us, we lost the signal all together? Even Ian, my man that says he knows it all (or he likes to think he does) was completely baffled! Answers on a post card please (or preferably in the comments box). Anyway checks on Pentland were done before the off on Thursday and good job too because the stern gland was completely devoid of grease, nothing to prevent the water coming in, so very relieved Ian picked up on that as I didn't fancy that 'sinking' feeling!

Early to rise then yesterday morning. Ian estimated a good 6-hour journey, especially in these autumnal conditions. Those still cruising the cut at the moment will understand that statement. Leaves...massive amount of them on top of the water but more importantly those hidden beneath the waves attracted to the spinning prop and sticking to it like leeches! You can always tell when the leaf ball is at its worst when the boat gets slower and slower even when the revs remain constant. Knocking out of gear and a quick reverse usually does the trick but short-lived when just as you get a good head of steam, back you go to a snail pace again.

Langley Bridge Lock

See what I mean!

 Had a few dramas as is our wont. Pentland is old...very old...and its gear box is a right pain. Not the ease of movement from idle to tickover and beyond. No more like brute strength on the throttle to get it into forward or reverse. Then the mild panic as you try to knock her into neutral and realised she is still in gear and not going to stop! A frantic jiggle with the stick  throttle and a sigh of relief as she does as she is told. Very nerve racking at first but by the end of the journey both Ian and me had the handle of her!

At Stenson lock one of the top gates wouldn't close. Thankfully we had the right tools for finding out why, a very, very long boat hook. This is what we pulled out.

Joined at Hallam Fields lock by a lone Cygnet and it wanted to get into the lock! Even with Ian trying to shoo it away, it was having none of it so determined it was. Ian got a proper telling off by it as he approached the bottom paddles!

And the reason why it was so resolute? Parents and siblings were below the lock.

 Nearly at the troublesome lock and this seen on one of the canal side houses.


Eventually reached the lock in question, top offside paddle all taped up, this was the one to be repaired. Then on the descent immediately the reason for the repair was seen.

Ian's guesstimation was spot on. 6 hours from departing Langley we finally tied Pentland on the garden mooring. Just needed to get ourselves back to Langley and our work was done. This could now be something we are asked to do more often, probably not as far as Long Eaton but any trip away from the winter mooring will be a bonus.

Oh, and now for a head scratching moment. Why is this narrow boat confined to a large garage? You will have to scroll to the end to see why.


And wildlife



The answer? It's a fabulous unique and very clever painting on a property wall.

Monday 5 October 2020

Bit early for Christmas trees isn't it?

It was with heavy heart that at 8.30am FS was set free from her final mooring to travel up to Langley Mill. Our summer cruise has come to an end and although we may venture out sometime after Christmas, a lot depends on the weather, winter stoppages and more importantly, Covid restrictions. So with Ian in the car lock wheeling, Jenn deciding to walk almost to Langley, it was left to Jim and me to take Dire Straits and FS up the 8 miles and 11 locks.

Reeds and weed, still a big problem and one I can't see being rectified unless a weed cutter can be brought in. 

  I may have mentioned this before but several locks have low bridges on the approach. Not only that but due to the arch profile boats trying to enter the lock together, well it would be disastrous. Judging by the damaged brickwork I expect the reverse has happened by boaters trying to leave together!

Hallem fields.



At Barkers lock gosh there was a big problem with the top gates. The water is pee'ing from beneath the cill. Another email will be sent to C&RT with photo. Looking at the winter stoppages this is not one of the locks due for an outage. It was also here where the Christmas tree was seen. Almost fully submerged it was a good job Ian saw it rise to the surface. 

Barkers lock

What a surprise to see C&RT at Shipley lock. Me thinks they are fighting a losing battle trying to remove the weed with a keb. Far more practical would be to "Get a proper weed cutter"!

Weather hadn't been brilliant today. Sun and showers. Quite a bit of rain this morning, not so much this afternoon. I was okay with the trusty brolly but Jenn not only got drenched on the walk but also with the blowback spray from opening a ground paddle. πŸ˜‚

6 hours it took to reach Langley Mill. We did stop for a coffee break at Gallows for 20 minutes though. Noticed that all the moorings were all taken. Good job we have our own mooring. Jim and Jenn are due to go back into the basin but with dark clouds on the horizon, decided to put that off for another day.

So that's it for now. If we decide to take the Beast out for a week or more later on rest assured, you will all be the first to know.πŸ˜€πŸš

A few more photos of the journey

Another dive into the weed hatch. This time plastic bags was the culprit.


This amazed me. 4 adults all together with their cygnets. Normally battle commences when two adult pairs meet.

Friday 2 October 2020

Cork balls. One or two?

 Spiders!!! I hate them!!! No...that's not strictly true. They have been put on this earth for a purpose, to get rid of flies and I HATE flies! What good are flies on this planet?? Oh okay, they feed the larger insects and animals! But when a spider is seen, a movement caught out of the corner of my eye, I freak out and rush to the other side of the boat with cries of "Ian get it, for God’s sake get it!"

Ian the brave. So courageous is my man that can!

Jenn collected horse chestnuts (conkers) at Derwent mouth lock 'cos an old wives tale stated that spiders dislike them. I poo poo'd the very thought but I'm now willing to give it a go 'cos I don't want an invasion of these.

Been quiet here at Sandiacre, no excitement at all, well maybe just a bit. Yesterday C&RT spent all day running water down to fill the pound between Long Eaton Lock and Dockholme lock. We watched as our water levels slowly disappeared. This time the reason wasn't the little darlings lifting the paddles, no it was a branch stuck in Long Eaton bottom gate paddle that was the problem. Then a boat turned up wanting to descend, the lady jumped off to speak to C&RT before the boat was secured and although she made it to the bank, her boat keys didn't! Cork ball should have saved the day but so much weight with numerous keys that she watched as the whole kit and caboodle sunk to the depths. Out came the sea magnet but after 30 minutes of fishing not a sign. Finally, she decided to try at a different part of the bank and 15 minutes later and with lots of rusty bits of metal as well, she got lucky and hauled them up. Moral to this tale. Check your balls! One ball may not be enough, two might just save the day!πŸ˜‰


Today a boat I knew well came into view. It was ECP&DA work boat Pentland. The society had been called out to remove a small tree that had collapsed over the towpath. Whilst at Sandiacre a job that had needed doing for ages was carried out at Sandiacre lock. The removal of the false paddle gear.

ECP&DA members on Pentland.

So yesterday, with us now having the car, we took a trip to Halford's to pick up some paintwork restorer. Extensive research (quick look on a search engine) and I came across Mequiar's Ultimate Compound. To see the Website click HERE

Itching to see if it worked I tried it on the back panel. Very impressed with the outcome so will do the rest of the bodywork back at the Mill.

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