We did it! Took our first narrowboat journey. It was a long weekend with local hire company Shire Cruisers. We booked a Friday to Monday on their smallest boat Devon. On arrival we were told Devon had sadly had an engine issue so we were being upgraded to a bigger boat. Gulp! It turned out to be a good thing. Devon was very compact and the bed was a make up from the sofas type. Whereas Norfolk had a permanent double bed. We were very glad to have a ready made bed at the end of our first day cruising.
And we are off!
From the aft (rear) we had an area with hanging space, the control panels and the bed.
Here is Jess in her snazzy life jacket, you can see the bed behind her. After the bed was a corridor with a small bathroom to one side. The bathroom had a small bath with shower over it. A loo and a hand basin. It was compact but had everything we needed. After this was the kitchen area. All you needed in a very small space, microwave, full size oven and an under counter fridge.
Finally there was a sitting area with 2 chairs and a table that could be taken down or put up as required. There was also a tv. We did not use this though so we have no idea if it worked/got signal.
Shire Cruisers helped us through the first 3 locks. Good job too as neither of us had any narrow boating experience – other than the one time we went on a horse drawn boat. The Calder and hebble navigation has a unique type of device to operate the paddles (bit that lets water in or out of the lock). A handspike. It is basically like a pickaxe handle and you use it to wind the gears up. Over the 3 locks we used the handspike, a windlass and operated a guillotine lock.
Me winding the paddle with a windlass.
Our narrowboat route
We left from Sowerby Bridge basin on Friday at about 1.30pm and then did 5 locks before realising light was fading and we needed to moor up, we spent our first night just before Elland Basin, not ideal as we had to moor up on pins and there was a small gap to hop onto the tow path. Alright for us, but the dog was not keen. She was happy to jump off the boat, but not back on. Proper full on butt plant and refusing to move. We ended up using one of the old towels we use for paw wiping as a kind of sling round her torso so we could hoist her on board between us. A ramp has now been ordered so she can be more confidant and comfortable in getting on and off.
Saturday – Elland to Brighouse
We set off quite late on Saturday, it was absolutely tipping it down first thing, so we waited until the rain eased a little and made our way down to Brighouse basin. Here we topped up the water, turned the boat around. Moored up at Sainsburys. Yes! A supermarket with its own moorings. Very convenient. Tim went in to get food and I stayed with the boat.
After this we pootled off back down the canal and once again with light fading fast decided to moor up. Naughty us moored on a lock landing at Cromwell Bottom nature reserve, it was past 4pm and we did not think it was wise to try and do a lock in the fading light. Especially as we were warned by the Scouts boats on our way down that the lock took forever to fill.
Luckily only one boat came along and they were on their way up to Salterhebble for their winter mooring and were keen to get as far as possible before dark. It was a mostly peaceful spot. Spoiled only by what was probably a wedding party at Casa Brighouse
Noise carries a long way at night, especially near water. I felt very sorry for the staff dealing with the squawking women and the loud Scotsman. The music was terrible too. Thankfully we could only hear it when we had the hatches open. Fireworks were also going off, luckily Jess is bomb proof when it comes to bangs. Odd I know as seemingly innocent sounds scare her. Rustling paper, washing flapping on the line. We did have a wonderful nights sleep here and I was only woken a couple of times by geese and ducks calling out.
Sunday – Cromwell Bottom to Salterhebble
The next morning we were up with the larks, well the geese and the ducks and set off on narrowboat Norfolk as soon as we were allowed. It is recommended not to move before 8am or after dark/8pm. We got through the lock with ease, not half as bad as the scout master had made it out to be, off we went only to find the boat from the previous night moored on the next lock landing.
We ended up sharing most of the locks for the rest of our cruise. They stopped to have breakfast, but soon caught us up. It was nice to have someone to share the work with and fun to get the experience of sharing a lock. At Salterhebble we waved goodbye, they went off a little way towards Sowerby Bridge for their mooring and we went down the disused Halifax arm to moor up for our final night.
This was a really lovely place to stop for the night, although very busy with walkers in the day we did not hear a soul go past once it was dark. Had a fab nights sleep and woke up early to birds singing and rain pattering. From here it was a simple lock free cruise back to Shire Cruisers wharf.
We did run aground a couple of times, but the barge pole soon freed us. We almost got hit by another narrowboat. It was as if he had lost control and his back end drifted in toward us, he said he thinks his prop got stuck. I think he just forgot his left from his right. No damage done though. Phew.
The narrowboat experience verdict
We both loved it. Even though it rained for much of it. The locks were mostly easy to operate. Mooring was good, annoying that some of the prettiest spots had signs saying not to put mooring pins in as there were underground electrical cables. We met lots of super friendly people. So, the big question now is do we want to live on a narrowboat full time and the answer is hell yeah! One of the things that worried me was power, but we did just fine.
Internet was as good if not better than at home even without having the mobile wi-fi router connected to an Ariel. We streamed video just fine and browsing email was no different to being at home. So now we await the lift out and hull survey of the boat we have on deposit. I am both excited and a little bit scared.
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