Learn about life afloat the easy way

Life on a narrowboat can be as peaceful as it is idyllic BUT you need to understand the pros, cons, highs, lows, and day to day logistics in living on England's inland waterways. Let me help you find out all you need to know before you commit to what could be a very expensive mistake.

Find out more

A two week cruise to the Ashby canal – Day Twelve: Ansty To Hillmorton

Yesterday was a late start. We slept surprisingly well considering we were moored closed to a busy railway line – a railway line which was our companion for much of the day.

The weather forecast warned of gale force winds and heavy rain. However, most of the cruise was in bright sunshine with little more than a strong breeze. The wind speed increased as the day progressed which meant passing moored boats slightly faster than normal to avoid being blown into them.

2013 06 12 Ashby Canal Cruise-031

Sally has been spelling me at the tiller more and more frequently recently. She enjoys steering the boat but she’s frustrated because she can’t easily see where she’s going. She’s only five feet tall so she has a problem looking over the top of the boat and over the sides when we come to bridge holes or moored boats. We’re going to buy a removable step for her to stand on. She experimented very briefly with a paint tin. It worked perfectly for her until she fell off it.

We had a bit of an incident in the heavily wooded area just after Brinklow Arches. A large oak had fallen across the canal fairly recently and had ben cut to allow passage for single boats around it. The blocked section of the canal was on our port side. There was a boat coming towards us as we approached the blockage but as our side of the canal was clear, and as we were slightly closer to the narrow section than the other boat, I assumed that they would slow down and wait for us to pass. They didn’t. They headed for the middle of the gap which meant that they were coming towards us head on.

I slowed to tickover and moved to the right as much as possible – which meant that the front of James was aground. They hit the bow a glancing blow which, I was secretly pleased to note, redirected their boat straight at the fallen oak. I managed to back James off the silt then squeeze past them as they were busy untangling themselves from the tree.

Normally I would have stopped and offered to help. As the very angry looking couple were addressing me in terms that I haven’t heard since I was manager of a rough estate pub in south east London twenty years ago, we decided tha they were better off on their own. I don’t know why they were so angry but I didn’t want to hang about and get into a heated discussion.

A little later we caught up with a hire boat which was enjoying a very leisurely cruise at tickover. I know that different people like to travel at different speeds but in order to keep a reasonable distance behind them I had to go so slowly that I almost had no steering at all. Given that the wind was increasing all the time, passing moored boats was a very hit and miss affair.

The hire boat finally pulled over at the visitor moorings just afer Newbold tunnel (I remembered to take my sunglasses off in the tunnel this time. I could see so much better). As I passed the hire boat they were busy tying it to the railings.

We stopped by bridge 58 so we could stock up at Tesco and treat ourselves to some Danish pastries for a late lunch. Dark rain clouds had been building for the previous hour. We managed to get the shopping back to the boat before the heavens opened and the wind picked up to gale force.

After about an hour the rain stopped and the wind died down a little so I decided to carry on. I knew that if the rain continued I had my super waterproof Guy Cotten top to keep me dry.

Five minutes later and the heavens opened. Rain was bouncing six inches off the roof hatch. Although I could feel the impact of the rain on my shoulders, not a drop found its way under the waterproof.

Unfortunately I had forgotten to put my waterproof trousers on so the rain was cascading down my top and onto my shorts, down my legs and into my trainers. I cruised for the next hour in the rain squelching every time I moved my feet (Note to self: must put waterproof trousers and wellies on in heavy rain).

We topped up with water below Hillmorton Bottom lock, emptied the Porta Potti between the Bottom and Middle locks and moored up above the Top lock. That’s where we are now, with our dear friend the West Coast Main Line just a couple of hundred metres away. I’m getting quite used to the noise now. It certainly didn’t prevent us from enjoying a very sound sleep last night.

Useful Information
Paul Smith

After six and a half years living on a narrowboat on England's inland waterways, Paul and his wife Cynthia wandered Europe by motorhome during the winter, and on the Dutch and French waterways in the warmer months on their 35' Dutch motor cruiser. However, the pull of England's muddy ditches proved too much for them. Now they're back where they belong, constantly stuck in mud in a beautiful traditional narrowboat.