We collected the boat on Friday at around 2:30pm, Mick showed us around the boat, giving us good guidance on what (and what not) to do. He answered all our questions and made us feel comfortable with the boat.
We've hired many boats over the years, but never a narrowboat. The boat was clean and tidy with fresh bedding, toilet rolls, towels, cutlery, mugs, plates, bowls, etc, etc. all on board and all in good clean condition.
Even the fuel is included in the hire cost, which is real benefit as it is advisable to keep the engine running whilst navigating the locks.
Just a couple of comments to make about the boat - It will comfortably fit 4 people onboard in the rear double and centre double or 2 single berths. To get any more people onboard would mean using the supplied camping bed in the forward part of the boat. We were a party of 3 so it was no problem for us.
There is a leather easy chair in the forward part of the boat, which is a bit of a waste of space in my opinion. A bench sofa that converts into another bed, would be better and might make that area feel less cramped.
The only other comment is that the engine or prop has an awful rattle at 1000 revs, so I'd advise keep the revs just under that. You shouldn't be going any faster anyway, 900 revs is just right - walking speed!
All in all, it's a very competitely priced boat and given that there are at least a further 3 routes to explore from Shardlow, we will definitely be booking it again in the future.
Now a bit of useful general info..
Locks - Remember to open the ground paddle(s) first in the larger locks, it'll save you time and is much safer than just opening the gate paddle(s). There are so many helpful boaters on the canal, that we soon learned how to handle locks, some of which are babies (Shardlow Lock No. 2) and some are monsters (Aston Lock No.3).
I'd advise that you don't rely solely on the centre rope, when passing through locks (especially the big ones), have someone onboard controlling the boats movement, with the engine. Water is extremely powerful and will move your boat forwards, backwards and side to side, within the lock, which can be quite dangerous, if you aren't paying attention.
Keep clear of the lock cills, they are marked with white paint on the top of the lock wall.
Marinas - Mercia Marina is nice to visit and the sign on the canal says you can. Shobnall Marina is also a beautiful marina, but you aren't allowed to take your boat in. Moor on the towpath and walk to the marina shop/cafe, have a look at the pretty boat entrance and enjoy an ice-cream by the fish pond.
Route - plan your route before hand, so you know roughly where you'll be and when, but be flexible - sometimes you will have to wait at locks. Don't forget to plan for a place to turn around. The boat is 52ft long, so can't just be turned anywhere. Use canalplan.org, the timings it produces are almost bang on. There are several routes already printed out for you, onboard.
We had the boat from Friday to Monday and made Shobnall Marina and back, with plenty of stops for food, drinks and walkies with the hound.
Had a fantastic time on the boat .it was well maintained clean and had everything we needed.thank you Jane Alyson and family x
Well it was a lovely experience on the river !! Except ??? Downside was that shower was running dirty water kitchen sink was blocked cutlery in draw was dirty also central heating was hit and miss !!! Cobwebs all over side of blinds and main bedding was grubby !!!!!!