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.

Thursday 30 November 2023

And we take to the river.

 Really didn't want to go outside this morning. Everywhere was white with frost again, and a thin sheet of ice lay on the water. 

I suppose we could have stayed another day, the smell of the sewage works came and went and if the river gauge was still in the red then so be it. To check we of course had to walk to the bottom gates of the lock and peer over the edge, so on went coat, hat, scarves, gloves etc just to walk the length of the lock landing to go and see. 

The gauge was in the amber, a good halfway between the red and green, no problem then for us to set off.


Ropes untied, but this time a lot easier than the fiasco of yesterday. Ian had for once not been quite so exuberant with the precise way to secure the bow, after all how many boats were likely to come past? So with the ropes looser than normal, so much easier to get undone.

Dropping to the river, hardly any water movement in the short lock cutting, but boy did I have to put the power on when FS joined the river and especially so when the River Derwent also entered the Trent. Eddies are formed and FS swung one way and then another. Not normally any problem at all when the levels are in the normal range, but with a bit of fresh on, well that was a different matter. Anyway, I managed to control FS, and soon we were racing down the river with the revs no higher than 1000. I stayed well to the right of the weir, and just beyond was the lock cutting approach to Sawley flood lock.


 I deposited Ian onto the bank, stayed in the middle waiting for the lock to be got ready. In the meantime, a chap walking toward me happened to mention a huge branch stuck on FS's bow. Ah, as Ian would only open one gate, Fs probably wouldn't fit with that attached to the bow, so reverse was necessary to shake it off.


Sawley's locks were showing a green light, these automated locks require a BW key and buttons have to be pushed. Which lock to go in was being debated when out popped a wide beam from the left lock. Decision made then, although I do prefer the right side. It's easier to get crew members back on board from this side. Anyway, once down, I cut across the right lock and hovered until Ian had pushed buttons again to close gates and drop paddles.

Back onto the river and down we travelled at a fair pace again. 

One thing I was dreading was doing the turn from the river into the Erewash canal. The entrance is angled, normally I go slightly beyond and come back into it. Today, though, a different strategy. I slowed FS down by putting FS into reverse well before the entrance, then started the turn a good 100yds before it was normally needed. This way the flow took me sideways down the river and as I approached the entrance, tiller forward and full throttle and in I shot through the bridge like a cork exploding from a bottle...phew! A got some praise for the manoeuvre by a chap standing on the bridge. although Ian somewhat deflated my ego by saying it was more by luck than judgement, and it was him who was the one to say give it some welly! Well he was right on that score, but as for luck...nop it was sheer skill on my behalf mate!


Another compliment was forthcoming when I managed to tightly squeeze FS into a space.  It was by the facilities and boats either side taking up the landing as well as overshooting the facility mooring. He was mightily impressed, said he would love to be able to do that. Only having had his boat for 6 weeks, I did mention that taking it slow was the way to go and was sure it wouldn't take him long to perfect. This time Ian was nowhere to be seen, so I could relish that compliment without his interference.

Roughly 90 minutes it took to get to Sandiacre. Long Eaton and Dolkholm Locks were against, but Sandiacre lock ready for me to sail right in.

Long Eaton lock

Dockholme lock

Ascended the lock and found a mooring behind two other boats. The car was then fetched, it needs a MOT on Saturday and hopefully Sunday we will make our way back up to Langley Mill. That does depend on the weather though, With it being so very cold lately, ice might become a problem, and we had been warned of snow for then. but only time will tell!


Wednesday 29 November 2023

Too stiff to undo

 Tuesday 28th

 What a difference a day makes. Today we woke to sunshine, still cold but a far cry from the rain of yesterday. We left late, hoping other boaters would have left the moorings at Shardlow, really needed to find a space and preferably by the New Inn pub. It was where we had arranged to meet our friends.

Shardlow lock was occupied, one boat coming up. The chap did say the moorings by the pub were full but plenty of room on the visitor moorings. That will have to do then!

5.30 pm we started the walk to the New Inn. Bloody hell, it was cold! One gets too comfortable and warm inside with the stove roaring away, so the shock to the system as we stepped outside was a real wake-up call! And gosh was it dark!!!!!  Glad of the torch, a small pocket sized one we actually found by the New Inn many years ago, with a very powerful LED light, better than any of our other torches on board. Once inside the New Inn the warmth immediately hit us, lovely, and Lynda and Tony arrived shortly after.  The meal ordered and arrived piping hot and very quickly. Curry for Lynda and me, Ham egg and chips for Tony and a Stilton chicken stack for Ian. All delicious and very reasonably priced too. Highly recommendable. By 9 pm, we braved the cold to get back to FS. The moon shone brightly, hardly a cloud to be seen, yep we reckoned it would be a very cold night.

Wednesday 29th

- 1 was the reading when we got up. A thick frost covered the ground as well as FS. By the time we set off for Sawley the frost still hadn't gone. In fact, undoing the ropes became a wrestling match. We laughed, debated what to do, I managed to release the stern rope, Ian had more of a struggle with the bow rope.

Got there eventually but trying to curl them up had us giggling like school kids!

So finally got underway, sailed past the New Inn, yep the moorings were still full and headed toward the floodgates,

  It was here our laughter turned to dismay, Red lights showing both the River Soar and Trent were closed.. Bugger!!!! I checked CRT emails this morning and nothing came up. I should have looked at yesterday's emails 'cos there it was, Cranfleet flood lock was shut and boaters advised not to travel!

So now what to do? Turn around and head back, or continue in the hope the moorings by Derwent Mouth lock would have some spaces. And we got lucky having decided to continue. So we stopped just before the lock, walked down to see what the height gauge was reading and sure enough, river in the red. Only just mind, but enough to not risk trying to make it to Sawley today.

 How long we have to stay is in the lap of the Gods, shame we have the sewage works as neighbours. So far the smell isn't too bad, long may it continue.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

God give me strength!

 Monday 27th

We set off in mizzle and much earlier than planned. Weather was for heavy rain starting at 10 am, so to get a couple of hours under our belt seemed like a good idea. By rights, we would have hunkered down, enjoying the warmth inside and watching other boaters looking miserable going past. Our plan was to stop at Shardlow and meet friends Lynda and Tony on Tuesday so unfortunately for us, we had to leave. The forecasters were nearly right though. Not the 10 am on the dot but 15 minutes earlier and the heavy rain stayed with us from that moment on. 

We arrived at Stenson lock, it was full...goody...this is a deep lock which takes forever when ascending. Going down was so much quicker.

I found myself a nice bit of treasure at that lock. I happened to spy a rope fender complete with rope and handrail clip as I descended. Shame the clip had broken, but as to the rest, well it will replace the one we lost very nicely!

Such a deep lock

. Had it been left to me,  we would have stopped below the lock, but Ian was adamant the rain would stop soon so we should carry on. Fine, he can get wet...I don't mind staying nice and dry inside! I had settled down nicely in the warm, a coffee had been brought up to Ian, time was passing me by so engrossed was I in sorting photos when the doorbell rang making me jump. Ah, Swarkestone lock was coming up. Blast, now had to leave my cosy chair and get fully kitted up with wet weather gear and brave the cold again! 

The lock took forever to fill, in fact the gate paddles were usuless, only a trickle of water coming from the ground paddles. I was getting very wet just standing holding FS on the landing, so decided to secure FS and go see what was the problem. Took the two of us to open one gate and realised as I descended why!All four gate paddles culverts were chocker block with debris. Hardly any flow so the ground paddles had to do all the work.

 Anyway, getting ahead of myself again. Walking back at FS and three people came towards me with windlasses. Hmm, where did they come from? Turns out it was a RYA boat instructor giving his clients tuition on the workings of a lock. They had just bought a share in a boat and never having boated before had organised a boat handling course. Very wise and something certain people would do well in doing. I will tell you why later.

The chap in orange was the instructor

Ian got back on board, what great timing for us and beneficial to them to see a boat actually descending. We wished them happy boating and went on our way.

Another 30 minutes and I felt the rain was getting heavier. In fact, I went all authoritarian on Ian saying he had to pull over and stop. No objection was forthcoming, he was cold and very, very wet! A hot coffee and a slice of banana bread warmed him up nicely.


Lunch was had, still it rained but then a break, quickly Ian got the soggy wet weather gear back on and set off toward Weston lock. A boat was coming up, excellent. Also helping at the lock was a chap who had recently purchased the lock cottage at auction for a cool £250,000. Ian had a long chat with him and was told that the boat in the lock had been bought at Castle Marina yesterday and the four on board were on their way to Milton Keynes. What grabbed Ian's attention was they expected to be there in two days. Ha…someone hadn't done their research!

 I had hoped to share the lock, much easier with two boats in these big locks, and had a quick look back with fingers crossed.  No boat approaching, but what I did see was this.

Ian was most indignant when I mentioned he may have gone past that boat to fast! 

The chap who bought the cottage.

Lots of reeds to contend with too. These stopped the gate from opening.


So remember yesterday and those newbies on the wrong side of the cut? Well, it happened again today! Coincidence or maybe my theory of things happening in threes is correct. Yes I know only two things have happened...so far...but wouldn't it be uncanny if it happened again during this week!  So today, another boat did exactly the same thing. In fact, he pulled right across our bow, "Mooring are you! we shouted at him but no, and when we asked what the hell he was playing at, he had the audacity to say we were on the wrong side! A few swear words were said back to him, but there was no convincing that ignorant B. High on wacky backy no doubt or something stronger! He'll soon find out who is right and who is wrong by the next boater he meets!

Aston lock was ahead, it was full so instead of stopping above, we took advantage of it being with us and descended. Shardlow was now so close but with it starting to get dark, and with the rain beginning again, decided to stop on the first available mooring. Just past the lock actually, with only a wide beam moored further on. Then coming towards the lock, another boat. Headlight shinning bright, I wonder if he plans to continue in the dark?

And seen on route

More Pennywort

flooded fields.

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