A Slow Meander to York – Part 1 – A Bumpy Start

Since selling up and moving onto our boat October 2017, it seemed to take quite a while to get ourselves settled in, which meant it took quite a while before going out  for a cruise, although we did have our first Winter on the boat, survived, loved it and were toasty warm.  Jon was also busy doing quite a bit of maintenance work on the boat which included booking her in to dry dock to get her bottom blacked – sounds painful, I know, but it’s just something that needs doing every few years, consisting of the boat being out of the water in order for us to check the hull, do any repairs or welding jobs and re-paint.  We were booked in for the end of July 2018, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to spend early July cruising up the Selby Canal and the River Ouse towards York and maybe beyond and as our neighbours were on their way to Knottingley to have their bottom blacked, we thought we’d join them for the first part of our slow meander.

The first leg of the journey would be a days leisurely cruise from Rotherham to The New Junction Canal just past Barnby Dun, where we’d be mooring for that evening, but it was to be a disappointing start for us.

IMG_0181As we nicely cruised into the first lock we felt very  relaxed, but that was to be short lived because when it was time for us to set off out of the lock, the engine stopped – great!! We must have been going for about 10 minutes!  All I remember was Jon saying words such as, ‘F**k’, ‘throttle’, ‘Damn’, ‘jammed’, ‘F**king Thing!’, ‘Damn it!’, ‘Throttle’ and ‘shut the lock gates again’, ‘grab the ropes we’ll have to pull her back out’ as I watched our neighbours disappear around the first corner, oblivious to our problem.  Now Jon is a very laid back person, he doesn’t have a temper, generally very calm, in fact nothing much fazes him and he rarely swears, so when I hear such expletives coming from his direction, I know to shut up and let him get on with whatever he needs to get with…so with me not saying much at all, I just wait for instructions.  The worst thing is if I don’t hear the instructions clearly as Jon’s usually shouting them from within the engine bay whilst facing the engine, not me and whilst I’m usually on the bank operating the lock or holding onto ropes, I may have to say, “what was that?” or “didn’t hear what you said, say again“, with a contorted face 😬, so thing’s can get a little, lets say…tense.  The good thing is that we can always laugh about these things afterwards.  It’s all fun and games this boating lark 🙂

Our engine is an old boy, a 1960’s Diesel Perkins which was taken out of a sunken boat.  He’s been great so far, but needs some love and care, luckily Jon knows how to ‘fettle‘ with him 🙂

We did shut the lock gates and filled the lock up again then pulled the boat back onto the mooring so we could take a good look at the problem, (funny I always say we, when I’m the one standing looking, but not having a clue what I’m looking at and it’s Jon who’s the main fix-it man.  I’m the one who very helpfully asks, “is it just a little blip, bad or Very bad?“).  Luckily it was just a little blip this time, something ‘Throttle related‘, meaning we were soon on our way again, catching up with our neighbours, whom I’d called to let them know of our little problem.  It was nice to get going again with hopefully no more hiccups, fingers crossed.

Our journey started on the South Yorkshire Navigation and was mainly the River Don, although every now and again, when the river becomes un-navigable, it would intertwine with a canal, but the majority was the Don.

A lift bridge near Barnby Dun

On this stretch of water we passed through eight Locks, one Swing Bridge and one Lift Bridge with the canal scenery changing between high banks of trees and foliage to a fairly open expanse of fields with some industrious views of old cargo wide beamed boats at Swinton Lock showing their history.   We enjoyed the fabulous view of Conisborough Viaduct too as we cruised underneath craning our necks trying to catch a glimpse of the castle.

Conisborough Viaduct

Sprotborough was next and has been a favourite of ours for weekend get-away trips on the boat for a few years.  It’s a lovely mooring with a good pub and great walks, although can be fairly busy.  You can read about a Sprotborough getaway Here.  This time though, we headed straight through and towards Doncaster snaking our way up slowly towards Long Sandall before reaching our chosen mooring at the junction where the water splits and the Don flows either right towards Keadby and leading to the River Trent or left which takes you along the New Junction Canal, leading to the Aire and Calder Navigation.   We would take the left fork the following morning, but at that point after hammering in the mooring pins into the canal bank, we’d set up for a BBQ and a much deserved Gin & Tonic.

Our mooring at the start of the New Junction Canal. A great spot for a BBQ

We’d moored there before and knew how lovely and peaceful it was with the only sounds being birds singing, fish jumping for their supper of flies and the odd boat chugging past, oh and the BBQ sizzling of course.

As Sunday morning dawned, we decided on a leisurely start, making sure all traces of the BBQ and us had gone and we were leaving the bank clean, as if we’d never been there.  We gave the outside of the boat a little brush and clean and then after breakfast we cast off and headed up the New Junction

Just coming over the first aqueduct

Canal, soon reaching a couple of  interesting little Aqueducts, which run over little streams running from The River Don.   The second of the two Aqueducts being a swing bridge.  The engineering of all the locks and bridges along the canal network always amazes me and it’s on my never ending ‘To Do’ list to study the history of the canals further.


As we cruised up the New Junction Canal we operated around five Swing and Lift bridges before reaching the Aire and Calder Navigation, there just seemed to be bridge after bridge and I always feel a little guilty when I’m working them as you have to stop the traffic, whilst the bridges are in operation in order to let the boats go passed.

The sign as you turn onto the Aire & Calder River

I love turning onto the Aire and Calder as it’s a contrast again with such a wide expanse of water and open views of fields then roads in the distance.  It was a left turn for us.

The Aire & Calder Navigation

We headed left towards Knottingley, our next planned mooring for that evening, but as we weren’t too far away, decided to enjoy a few hours break at Whitley Lock for a spot of lunch and a bit of a chill, oh and to top up the water tank.

It was then on to Knottingley for us where our boat was actually made and where we initially spent many hours working on her, turning her from an empty rusty shell to a live-aboard, so she’d was coming home, (unlike a certain World Cup football trophy).  The owner of the boat builders yard very kindly let us moor in the secure area of the yard as we’d be leaving the boat for the day as Jon needed to go to work and I had to take my car for a service, so we appreciated that it would be safe.


If you’re wondering at this point how we have our cars with us?  Well we initially take one car to the point where we think we may moor that evening, cruise the boat to that point and then go back for the second car.  It’s a little game of car hopping.

Our mooring at Knottingley was a very noisy place, not only because we were on a working boat builders yard, but because we were next door to a glass factory which runs 24/7 with its constant hum which meant that evening was a definite contradiction to our previous peaceful mooring.  In fact, unfortuantely due to Jon’s work we ended up staying there for two nights, so when Tuesday evening came, we were more than ready to wave goodbye to our neighbours and to the hospitality of Knottingley to carry on our journey along the very winding and faster flowing River Aire.

Mummy duck

Anybody cruised up towards York?  

Any tips would be welcome please as we’re a little nervous about The River Ouse.  It’s tidal so can be a little fast!

Watch out for part 2 of our cruise as we tackle different locks, snake along The River Aire and take a sharp turn onto The Selby Canal, where there was a green carpet awaiting us and where we’d been told the bridges are somewhat low and we may not fit under – Eek!



Me with Crazy Rose (left) and our beautiful, (late, but always remembered) Jenna 💕

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43 thoughts on “A Slow Meander to York – Part 1 – A Bumpy Start

  1. It’s another world and I find myself slowing down to read your post as though I am meandering on a canal myself. Very pleased the throttle was a blip and nothing to hold you back for long 🙂

    1. Thank you Osyth. I’m thinking about starting a YouTube video series about the boating we do and other travels, mainly because it’s not that easy to portray how relaxing it is through words. I think a video would be easier to watch and meander along with 🙂 I will be practising my video skills as we have a challenge with the River Ouse coming up tomorrow. It’s our first attempt at navigating a fast flowing tidal river – Eek, things may get a little less relaxing, for 6ish miles anyway 🙂

  2. Loving this odyssey, Sam! I’ve only ever been on a canal trip in France — Canal du Rhone au Rhin — but would love to discover the British network. Adding to my bucket list 🙂

    1. Oh that sounds wonderful, we’d love to cruise the canals in Europe. Yes it is lovely and we feel we are really getting out and about now, using the boat as it should be used. We have a challenge coming up in the morning with the River Ouse, it’s tidal which means it’ll be fast and difficult to navigate, so fingers crossed it’ll go ok – Eek 🙂

    1. Lol! Thanks Suzanne, we have a very fast tidal river to come, so things may just turn a little interesting – Eek. Video at the ready and here’s to hoping the steering and engine behaves itself whilst The Ouse flows us to York 🙂

    1. It really is lovely Cynthia, thank you, got the River Ouse to come, so things may get a little more exciting 🙂

  3. Well good to see after the initial dramas you appeared to have a lovely cruise. I find it fascinating hearing about the locks etc as we don’t have those here is Australia (or that I’m aware of). I also think that cruising along would be so relaxing rather than trying to just drive up the motorway. Actually it reminds me a little of Wind in the Willows. Enjoy!

    1. Thanks Sue, it is very much like Wind in the Willows 🙂 and very relaxing, although tomorrow morning won’t be as we’re heading into the River Ouse which is tidal and fast. It’s our first time on a tidal river so we’re a little, no I’ll re-phrase that, we’re Very apprehensive about it 🙂

  4. Love all this, Sam. The idea of living on a boat and having he ability to just head off on it when you want has loads of appeal. But to have the confidence to do it, I do feel you need to be like Jon and actually know what to do with the mechanical parts. I haven’t got a clue – or even an inclination to learn – so for now I’ll stick to the occasional holiday. But it’s great to read your experiences. Looking forward to more.

    1. Thanks Graeme for reading 🙂 we’re really nervous about reaching the Ouse as it’s our first time on a tidal canal and it’s very fast, lets hope our Go-Pro works along with our steering – Eek

  5. Such a delightful read Sam and great photos depicting your travels. I love your descriptions and explanations as I know nothing about boating. I get the ‘it’s not coming home reference’ 🇬🇧 Have fun!

    1. Thanks Debbie, we travel up the Selby Canal next and then in the morning hit the Ouse which we’re quite nervous about as it’s Tidal and Fast, Eeek!

    1. Thank you, we’re a little nervous for the Ouse as we went up there last night to take a look and it’s Fast and flat bottomed narrow boats aren’t designed for speed! Eeek! We’re going to try to video it all – fingers crossed. Thanks for reading 🙂

      1. So awesome! And, please let me know when you are planning on that post we have been working on together. I will be traveling from 7/21 to 7/26 and it will be in an extremely remote area, may not have a great connection 😬. You may not hear from me for that reason-or, my junk email has taken over again 😫

  6. It sounds idyllic, apart from the first hour or so. I’ll be crossing the Ouse soon, but in a car. It’s probably the most interesting part of the journey, because the bridge goes on forever.

    1. I wonder if you mean the A64? We did go right under that. We’re moored in York now, it’s lovely 🙂 Thanks for reading April

  7. What a delight to find myself here and captivated by your great adventure. I have very little experience at all with boats and this is a new world for me to peek into, and I must say I’m definitely captivated. Your lovely photos and descriptions have me feeling like I’m leisurely cruising with you. Your next leg, the tidal canal, sounds like it will be less cruising and more adventure, and I’m wishing you luck, laughter, and plenty of enjoyment.

    1. Thank you for reading Deborah, I’m delighted you have enjoyed the journey so far 🙂 The next part, to be published very soon, will be a short River Aire cruise then a very different,, sedate canal called The Selby which is only 6 miles long, but quite interesting. It’s at the top of this canal where we face our challenge of the tidal River Ouse which is the scary part of the journey 🙂 Thank you so much for reading

  8. I think boating along the canals sounds like a perfect way to live – we had friends who did it for a holiday one year and I was quite envious. You’re making me want to add this to my bucket list of retirement long lazy holidays (hopefully a hire boat won’t have “throttle blips”!

    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM x

    1. Thank you for sharing Leanne, appreciate it 😊 Boating is a lovely, slow pace, we love it. Thanks for reading #MLSTL

  9. Well I have learned something here. I have only seen boats doing this on documentaries and other shows on TV. Being an Aussie, this is not familiar territory, except for the learning to say nothing while the other half is fixing stuff…. yikes! Good on you for sharing your journey..literally. Denyse #MLSTL

    1. Thank you for stopping by Denyse 😊 nice to meet you #MLSTL. Living on a boat is a very slow way of life, not for everyone but we do love it 😊

  10. Sam I really felt as though I was on the boat with you and felt your frustrations at the beginning. Your post also reminded me of when I visited my daughter in London. We rode our bikes into the countryside on weekends and I was really taken by the locks. We don’t have them here and I just loved watching the boats coming and going.

    1. Thank you. Yes locks are so interesting & have such an amazing history. When we go through locks they can be so different & invariably we have people stop & watch us. It’s nice to chat to people too 😊

  11. That sounds like such wonderful freedom. I didn’t realise that houseboats, like salmon, return upstream to the place of their birth every so often 🙂

  12. Cruising in a boat sounds right up my alley! We just got a new travel trailer we park for the summer at our windsurf campground (an hour from home). We spend our weekends there. Those leisure spaces are so important for our sanity!

    1. Oh yes, absolutely 🙂 Everybody needs that special place to go to, we just live on ours now 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting

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