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.

Tuesday 30 November 2021

Situation critical

 November 29th (yesterday)

 -3 again last night, not what we wanted at all! More ice on top of the existing ice, no way could we even attempt to make a break. Really getting concerned now. Plenty of fresh water on board but never, have we ever, been in the situation with near full cassettes and nowhere to empty. Not even a convenient tree for hubby nearby without a bit of a trek. Will we have to resort to bucket and chuck it job?  So hope not!! The only saving grace is the weather conditions are set to improve. No ice forecast for tonight and the temperature is already on the rise. Never have I been so glad to see the barometer record a temperature of 2.3.


No fenders needed on this mooring.

Looks to be water but it is all ice.

 We have to go tomorrow regardless of conditions. Fingers crossed we make it out.

 And the Buzzard was back on the pylons today.

Monday 29 November 2021

We ain't going nowhere!

 November 28th

Best laid plans went completely awry! Woke to -3 temperatures, opened the curtain to see ice on the canal. Oh well, can't be much we thought. After all this was only the second real cold spell of autumn. 


The Houdini was frozen, without that cover it was bound to happen. Once that frame warms up God help anyone standing under it. Cold water dripping down one's neck is extremely unpleasant.

So after a substantial bowl of porridge to keep us warm, the tiller was attached to the swan neck, warm outer wear put on and engine started. First thing Ian did was replace the Houdini cover.


Then we tried to undo ropes! Frozen solid they were.  Anyway that was achieved with a bit of jiggling and tugging but trying to get the pins out...well that was another matter. Feeble me had no hope, it took my burly 'man that can' to prise them out of the ground. Ian pushed the bow out, got on to the back deck and I tried to drive us forward. Hmm, that ice was slightly thicker than we had anticipated! 


Power on and away we went, through the bridge ole, past the point where the Litchfield and Hatherton hope to restore the canal (CLICK HERE)  and breaking ice as we went.


And then...that blooming Azolla weed, well it was like trying to steer through a carpet! That weed had formed a very thick ice layer and FS was being pushed one way and then another,  I came to a dead stop, ah....not good! All we could do was reverse, back through the bridge 'ole, and back to our mooring. But we are now in a bit of a pickle! Both loo cassettes are full and the third (thankfully we took the spare out of the motorhome) had just been replaced. Two days we reckon if we don't drink too much. Anyway we stopped by the bridge, it's in the sun, so solar panels should help boost the batteries.

Reversing FS back through the bridge 'ole

I went off to see how far that Azolla weed stretched. Quite a way, although it did improve before the next bridge came into view. But of course, there may be even more further along. Nop best stay here then. We really hope the weather will improve and melt that ice. If not, with the situation getting desperate, we may well have to try and break through anyway. 

That's as far as we got.


Oh and its snowing again!

FS attracting some attention.

Sunday 28 November 2021

Storm Arwen arrived with a vengeance!

November 27th 

OMG...what a night!!! Storm Arwen had well and truly arrived. Twice we had to brave the elements outside, once at about 9 pm when we moved FS forward. Yep pins were pulled and only the torchlight to see by. W heaved on the bow and stern ropes to get her moving and it was all because of a bush! Only small so we didn't think there would be a problem but the insistent banging and groaning coming from the stern when the hull moved forward and back was annoying. It had to be from  an underwater branch 'cos there was nothing of any consequence above water. It was enough for us to decide this would be too annoying and sleep impossible if left.  And then by 10pm the gales really started! Solar panels rattled, top box lids kept lifting and the covering over the Houdini very nearly took off! (We have the cover to stop condensation, it acts like a double-glazed unit and it really works). Anyway out we went again to remove that cover and Ian placed a bag of coal on the top box lid That did the trick and then it was off to bed.

 OMG again!!! That wind pushing hard on FS's port side kept tipping the boat toward the bank. In a way I was glad it wasn't the other way around because I very much doubt if those pins would have kept us anchored.  Both of us did eventually fall asleep only to be woken at 5am. More bangs coming from somewhere, could have been the chimney cowl and there was a wind whistle through the porthole window. It was also cold and even with the small travel rug over the quilt I struggled to keep warm. Only cuddles would help with that. So we got up and wow, a sight greeted us that we hadn't expected. A winter wonderland. Snow was still falling, so of course photos had to be taken.


From then until roughly 9 am we had blizzard conditions. Ian reckons a good 2" of snow had accumulated on the ground. As soon as it stopped, wellies went on and out I went.

It had to be done!

The temperature hasn't been above 2 degs today and leaving FS that wind chill felt a lot colder than that. The weather has improved, in fact the sun came out later this afternoon. The snow has started to melt but is still very much in evidence as the sun went down. 


Tomorrow we should be travelling again, not really looking forward to that if that icy blast is still with us. Maybe we should stay for another day.

And one buzzard braving the elements

Saturday 27 November 2021

Ever tried pushing through sludge?

 November 26th

 What to do? Rain had arrived at first light and it was getting a bit blowy. Knowing storm Arwen was about to arrive did we really want to move? We had been told by CRT this was to be just for overnight mooring. With the rain lashing down we decided to ask to stay for the weekend but then, blue sky appeared, the wind dropped, a wonderful rainbow appeared, and a decision made, make a break for Pelsall.

The first part of the journey wasn't too bad, a bit slow-going again especially when we were doing CRT's job for them by dredging the bottom with FS's hull! And the usual debris was rolled over at bridge 'oles but it was past Birchills Junction that our troubles begun.

It was left for us today to continue on the Curly Wyrley. To the right was the Walsall canal.

Gosh that sky looked ominous and sure enough we were in for a drenching. Well Ian was 'cos he was at the helm, no point in both getting soaked.

 It was during the downpour that another section of weed greeted us. This time I could identify it as Azolla weed. I took this excerpt from invasive specious.org

Native to the Americas, Azolla filiculoides was introduced to the UK in the 19th century and became naturalized, going on to become widespread on slow moving and stationary water bodies, frequently infesting valuable or threatened habitats. Azolla can have a variety of impacts: it can reduce light and oxygen reaching submerged flora and fauna; outcompete native aquatic plants; alter pH and other physiochemical variables; block drainage systems; inhibit leisure activities such as angling and boating; and pose a risk to livestock and people when mistaken for solid land.

This was with us for miles! It was like pushing through sludge and FS was constantly put into reverse to try and clear it from the prop. On one such reverse disaster struck. All backward momentum was lost. Forward was just about possible and we coasted toward the bank as seen in the photo above. All along the Curly Wyrley the side has been that shallow getting to the bank was impossible but here we struck lucky. FS got right alongside. Then while I held the rope, Ian went head first toward the weed hatch to get his arm as far down as possible toward the prop. And what he found was not pleasing...be it a rug or carpet the outcome was the same. How to get it off!

Lots of cussing and tugging but mainly cutting with scissors eventually got that rug off but wrapped around even tighter was a large plastic sack!

Even though the debris was off the prop, FS refused to go any faster than tickover, and then the sky turned black again.

Would we be able to outrun it? That Azolla weed disappeared and FS took on a bit of a spurt and had high hopes of arriving at Pelsall in the next 40 minutes. The channel was free, but it was the appearance of reeds lining both sides that slowed us down again and they were that tall, no oncoming boat would have been seen. Not that this worried us because for the last two days we haven't seen hide nor hair of even one.

About a mile further along and wow, we spied a possible mooring. Would there be enough depth? Wonderful, there was and what a fab place to sit out the storm. Only on pins, not ideal but I very much doubt if another boat will pass by and yes we got moored before the next downpour arrived. Pelsall will have to wait until Sunday 'cos we won't be moving until then.

And this seen from the bridge and is what we will have to expect again when we move. And just when we had seen the last of that weed!


This from yesterday,

Blog Archive