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, 31 December 2021

Hmm to wait or to go?

 December 30th

Blooming weather, it's drizzling again! Good grief when will it end, mild though, makes a change not to wear long johns and thermals! Almost ready to leave when Ian mentioned staying for the rain to ease. It was me this time that decided not to. Pulled pins a tad after 9 and ascended the two locks, both which needed emptying first and thankfully not quite the same challenge trying to control FS with that wind as yesterday. By the Buckby top lock was the facilities. No boats on the move so stayed in the lock whilst Ian did the cassette biz before then heading toward Braunston.

Leaving the mooring


CRT yard on the right.

Norton Junction
 

Just after the junction two boats were ready to set off, they saw us coming and waited until we had passed, good-oh we would now be sharing the locks with one of them. But looking back a while later, where were they? My goodness either we travel fast or they were particularly slow because entering the tunnel not hide nor hair was seen of either of them. 

You can just make out the rain.
 

Surprisingly the tunnel wasn't that wet. Blisworth had more water coming from the ceiling than Braunston and I even managed to capture the vent without a single drop of water on the lens.

That bendy bit again but from the opposite direction


 Foggy is the way I described the inside. Another boat exhaust causing the haze I expect. In fact the end of the tunnel wasn't seen until we were almost upon it. 



A glance back and a boat light seen followed shortly by a second. A bit of a dilemma now. Do we wait for the boat behind to catch us up or continue down the locks on our own

This taken with a zoom.

 No excuse needed not to go it alone, after all, there were two boats following, both could share that lock. Also, a boat had just come up the lock leaving the gate open. The decision made, we go it alone.

 

 What we hadn't realised until descending this lock was that boater had left the top gates open on purpose not just the top lock, but the next two as well! If it hadn't been for meeting another boat on the forth, I expect all the rest would also have been left open. I shouldn't complain, we could sail straight in, but this was not good practice in keeping the water levels constant. The one reason I'm always harping on about closing gates is because of leakage. If gates are closed the water levels in pounds remain constant. We found this out on the next pound because of that open gate, it was down by a good 12 inches. 



Got to the bottom and stopped for water by Gongozzlers Rest. The smell of bacon, absolutely irresistible so while the tank was filling Ian bought us lunch. And what a lunch, huge baguette cut in half, filled with loads of bacon and sautรฉ potatoes on the side. The cost? Just a fiver and worth every penny.

Gosh the towpaths were muddy and plenty of water pouring off the fields. Trying to find a mooring without mud is almost impossible. It's that horrible thick, stick to your boots, type of mud, Every time we got off the boat at the lock or the water point, we must have gained height by inches with that glupie substance sticking to the soles. 



 

Back to single locks again tomorrow. So much easier than those doubles. Will it rain again? Knowing our luck it most probably will and it's New Year Eve. Hope to celebrate at a mooring at Old Oaks wood.

And FS being seen off by Swans





Thursday, 30 December 2021

Some boaters should not be allowed on the cut.

 29th December

 It was wet again, and yes with much reluctance on my part, we set off!  I did try to stop Ian from putting on the wet weather gear, said it would most probably dry up later, but no, "The more miles under our belt the better," he said.

I had the helm when the rain really got going, Ian had gone below on coffee duties so with him not by my side, the brolly came out. Have I mentioned he hates the brolly? Anyway he reappeared with two mugs, took one look at what I was clutching in my hand, passed me the mug and disappeared below with the words ringing in my ear. "Let me know when it stops!"  


What is it with some fishermen, I clocked the pole across the cut but no sign of its owner. Those poles are worth a fortune, some well over a thousand pounds and to leave it stretched right across the canal with no idea if a boat was coming, is madness. Still that's his lookout, I thought. If I can't see him, well it stood to reason he wouldn't see me. It was withdrawn rather rapidly as my bow came in line with that moored boat. Bet it gave him quite a shock!

We stopped for an early lunch, not planned but had an idiot boater who seemed determined to catch us up, not even slowing for moored boats. The last thing we wanted was to have to do locks with someone who couldn't give a damn about other boaters. In fact, as we pulled in, Ian only just about managed to grab the bow rope and I was pulling hard on the center rope before he tore past without a glimpse in our direction or a word said. FS took off and we had a hell of a job from keeping FS from hitting another boat. People like him should not be on the canals!

We did get away an hour later and approaching the bottom of Buckby flight, managed to lock up with a couple heading back to their marina on the Soar. 

 

Chatting as you do, and mentioning dogs (they had a rescue Staffy) we got to talking about how the rescue centres are very anti boaters, so much so that to apply to any of the charities means immediate rejection. And all because those living on a boat don't have secure gardens! But we struck lucky with this pair. They, too, had been rejected but heard of Nanna Pet Rescue place in Northamptonshire and the owner was more open-minded about allowing rehoming to boaters. The number was given to us, I'm pretty sure we will phone in the New Year.


All we needed was a plane!

 That wind had really picked up and trying to keep FS away from the side was getting more challenging. Allowing her to go up against the edge caused her to get 'pinned'. This became a problem whilst Ian was at the lock getting it set. Every time I pushed the bow out, raced back to the back to put the power on, the bow swung back again. I resorted to keeping the revs on, tiller over toward the bank to swing the bow out and running the stern along the edge until she eventually came out. Not good for the paintwork or the edge! I did try reversing off, usually this would work but not today! So after 5 locks we moored. Our locking partners carried on. Tomorrow we do the last of the locks and head for Braunston.
 

And wildlife,

Collared Dove


Red Kite


Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Oh how embarrassing and surely not a widebeam coming through the tunne!

December 28th

 Funny sort of sunrise this morning, and looking toward the lock the evidence of what was to come did not thrill me at all! Looking toward the aqueduct on the other hand, and a glimpse of fair weather. Shame we were heading toward the dark skies then and not away from it!


 Windy as well, that and the drizzle constantly in our faces, made for an uncomfortable journey. One good thing, the water levels were up by a good 5 inches.  This meant that long shallow bit before Thrupp Wharf, well we could actually increase the revs. No wash was created along the offside, in fact we travelled at a good 3mph. What was very noticeable was the flooded fields. With more rain to come, I expect the rivers to stay at flood alert for several days yet.

We also saw a fox racing across a sodden field. Seemed rather dark, more like GSD colours but it was definitely a fox.




Finally after 2 hours of enduring the wind and rain, Stoke Bruerne bottom lock came into view.


Plenty of water flowing into the canal. Tributary of the River Tove maybe?


 Groan, high hopes of an easy ascent up the flight was dashed when all but the final two top gates were open, the wind blowing across from left to right causing no end of problems when trying to get into the lock, and with an idiot fisherman on a lock landing meaning I couldn't get onto it and wrapping the center rope around the bollard to stop FS from being blown across the pound, it was very, very stressful! Ian was rushing to the next lock to close the top gates and then opening paddles to empty the lock and all this happening for the next four locks. He was knackered by the time we reached the top!


Gongozzlers full of questions on how a lock worked. Couldn't conceive that FS would fit through one open gate.

The one thing I did do much to my horror and in full view of a couple walking right by the lock was a Prunella! (Great Canal Journeys) For those that know what I'm talking about will probably laugh and call me a dimwit, and for those that don't...here was what happened. The wind being a nuisance. Ian at the next lock getting it ready, FS had ascended so I tie the center rope to the bollard, that will stop me blowing across to the other side I thought, I go to drop the paddles just as Ian returns to open the gate. Ever mindful of that wind on the cabin sides trying to push FS away, I jump back on board and puts on the power and then.......FS came to an abrupt stop! Yep I had forgotten to untie the bl**dy rope!!!

Blisworth tunnel and I'm on the helm to steer through. Positioning FS as far over to the left as possible to see if anything was heading toward me, I had a moment of confusion. Two lights side by side not the usual central light seen on a narrow boat. Oh help....was this a wide beam disobeying the rules? What could I do? Full reverse, took the bow out of the tunnel entrance but was now on the wrong side of the canal. Took several manoeuvres and lots of forward and reverse to bring me onto the tunnel landing. I had thought Ian to come and see what was wrong but no, down below he stayed!

And what appeared was not the widebeam I thought it to be, it was a blooming narrow boat with lights on the port and starboard side, not in the center! I'm sorry to say I was a bit miffed and told them as much. "But it's good for seeing in the dark" he said. "That as maybe" said I "but very confusing in a tunnel!"


Two more boats were met in the tunnel. No touching of steelwork on either, and even the wall was only scrapped once. Not so on the second boat to come past. A lot of scrapping and bouncing from that one.

The first boat's headlight.

 We didn't quite make it to the mooring we wanted, stopping instead at the Gayton visitor moorings. We both needed to warm up by the stove with a hot chocolate. Tomorrow is set to get warmer, maybe reaching 15 degrees but it is also going to be wet again. Oh joy of joys!

And wildlife,


Lapwings


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