Living With Our Rapido 963f Le Randonneur Motor Home.

Friday, 30 September 2011

The Lancaster Canal

Back in 2005, after a break of boat ownership for many years, we decided to buy again. We were unsure what area of boating to pursue at that time, and decided to buy a used cruiser, that was capable of both river estuary cruising and wide canal cruising. As well as providing a relatively cheap entry back into boat ownership, it also gave us time to decide whether we both wanted to make the leap, and major investment required into a more substantial boat, and also provided time to decide what type of boat to buy.

During ownership of this boat, a Freeman 24, I took the RYA exams required for safe estuary cruising and VHF ship's radio operation. The ex River Thames boat was placed on the Lancaster Canal, a wide canal, that was connected to the River Lune at Glasson Dock, and also the River Ribble at Preston, via the new Ribble Link. We owned her from 2005 to mid-2009, several months after we had decided to buy our current narrowboat. We have happy memories of her, and this is a way to have great times with a boat for relatively little investment, for anybody who is thinking the same way. I had previously owned a boat on the Lancaster Canal back in the early 1970's, and before the Ribble Link was opened, there was not a single narrowboat to be seen there. Even now, as can be seen by the marina view, fibreglass cruisers are still the most common type of boat. The Lancaster Canal is lock free for 43 miles from Preston to Tewitfield, near Kendal, with a branch, which locks down from Galgate to Glasson Dock and the Irish Sea. Here are some photos of a day out in 2007. The canal is now accessible from the rest of the canal system by pre-booked passage on the Ribble Link during the Summer months. This, however includes a short trip on the tidal river Douglas and Ribble, so needs careful preparation.

We moored the boat at Moons Bridge Marina, very close to the M6 and Preston, which gave easy access to home within 30 minutes. We had a premium frontage mooring on the main line, which provided much more interest than if we were within the marina itself.
There are two entrances to the marina, which are not connected. Mooring within is on wooden fixed pontoons.
The area is completely rural, with many destinations for whatever kind of walk you happen to prefer.
There are BW moorings, just South of the marina, on the off-side.
This is the marina from the amenity block and car park.
The building shown here is the marina owner's residence, which has a well stocked chandlers shop attached. All repairs are undertaken by the marina owner, which includes anything from woodwork and fibreglass repairs to engine servicing. There is a slipway into the canal adjacent to this building. A small charge is made for launching and recovery of boats not based at the marina.
This is Bilsborrow, an hour's cruise North from Moons Bridge. There are BW services here, a couple of pubs on the off-side, and Owd Nell's at Guy's Thatched Hamlet on the tow path side, which is a reproduction olde worlde village that becomes very busy at weekends, with its bars and restaurants.
The helm is by steering wheel, and very different to controlling a narrowboat tiller. She is fitted with DSC VHF radio, and a Garmin GPS plotter.
The comfort levels at the helm far exceed those of the most spacious cruiser stern narrowboats!
 Moored at Bilsborrow and time for a cuppa.

Not as clear visibility as being out in the open on a narrowboat, but much warmer - and dryer! The plug in 25 watt solar panel effectively recharged the 110ah domestic battery, via a suitable controller, between weekend visits.
The boat was built in 1984, 2 years after Freeman got into financial difficulties, and ceased production. The company name lives on however, and there is still a huge following for these high quality boats, supplied with correct parts from this company, which is based on the Thames.This particular example was a one off, in mint condition even as we sold her, commissioned and fitted out by Val Wyatt Marine on the Thames, having been built by Aquafibre in Norfolk, which was a subsidiary, and hull builder, of Broom Boats. She was branded as the Freeman Finesse.The quality was extremely high, and she was fitted with every extra, to be shown at the London and Southampton boat shows of 1985, including a Practical Boat Owner Magazine test in the same year. She has the benefit of a hot water calorifier, stainless steel tanks throughout, pressurised water system, shower and lavatory cubicle, gas warm air heating etc. and sleeps 4 in comfort. She is fitted with A BMW B130 petrol engine and BMW MKII stern drive, which made her ideal for river and estuary cruising. However, her build costs were high, making her selling price high, the cost of an average house in 1985, and she never went into full production, remaining a one off. Named by her first owner - Sheer Madness, we really enjoyed our time with her. Back in the 1970's, you hadn't arrived on the Lancaster Canal boating scene until you owned a Freeman. We were 35 years late!

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