Cruising On The River Soar

Allan almost lives with his ex wife Toni. They cruise the waterways network together but on their own seperate boats Pengalanty & Snowdrop. Allan is a very experienced continuous cruiser but here’s what can happen if you cruise on a windy day. {{{0}}}

An Eventful Day in March 2012 written by Allan Cazaly.

It was on Friday, 30th March, that Antoinette and I departed from our overnight stop near Loughborough railway station.

We continued our cruise in the direction of the Trent & Mersey canal, on the Leicester Navigation of the Grand Union. This section is actually the river Soar and is already quite wide by the time it reaches Loughborough

We woke up to deteriorating weather conditions with increasing gusty winds but quite manageable. The two boats were breasted together (Tied side by side) for the next part of our journey, as Antoinette, (On Snowdrop), was not very well. This enabled her to rest, whilst I did the helmsman “Duty” steering the two boats, as one.

Cruising on the river Soar at Ratcliffe

Cruising on the river Soar at Ratcliffe

I used Snowdrop for this as she has a larger engine and is a heavier and longer boat; best of all the 4 bladed propeller “Grabs” the water. Whilst Pengalanty, (With a custom made 3 bladed prop), can do the same job, it weighs under 16-tonnes against Snowdrop’s almost 21-tonnes and cruising is faster with Snowdrop and more responsive

All went well until we were passing the small village of Normanton-on-Soar and a left hand curve on the river. The area is exposed and we were subjected to fairly high cross winds, normally OK when keeping well to the middle of the river

From nowhere, without warning, we had a sudden squall and fierce crosswinds! Although the two boats were steered into the wind, almost pointing towards the bank and increasing engine revs, the boats were still drifting towards the Normanton bank, closer and closer to the trees. I had now put on full power and I was still getting closer to the trees!

By this time, I almost succeeded the fight against the severe wind before it subsided. Unfortunately, a large branch caught Pengalanty’s rotating toilet vent cowl, crushed it flat and removed it from the terminal point on the roof. It did not go into the water fortunately but remained on the roof. I retrieved it later

The same branch then picked up my new Rutland Wind Generator by the tail fin. The WG lifted off the roof, still on it’s hinged mounting pole. It went 180o to vertical and continued until it was parallel with the Tiller arm of the boat and it looked in a sorry state. The fin was bent and twisted and it seemed as though the WG unit had suffered severe damage (More on this later)

My concern was to take back control of the boats breasted together, now that the squall has subsided. This did not take long. I did not know at the time but my stainless flue chimney extension, (Used when moored), together with some other items had disappeared into the water, (From the roof), without trace but I didn’t discover this until later, about a mile further. This was the first opportunity with suitable moorings with rings set in concrete – quite important when cruising on a river! We stopped over here overnight

We moored just before Zouch Lock (55) on the River Soar. For readers that are not familiar with the English canal system, the river Soar is the upper reaches of the Grand Union (Leicester Line)

The Grand Union (Leicester branch) uses part of the river network here to connect to the River Trent, (The way to the North), the Erwash canal, (Leading through the Industrial area of Long-Eaton to Eastwood and also the way to the T&M canal; in effect, it is like a very large crossroads

Some of the signage is not clear and one can easily make a mistake, (Like we did – Sorry! I did). However it is easy here as the expanse of water enables one to complete a large circle and have another go at entering the mouth of the T&M, the direction we wanted. I actually held back to allow a cruiser to complete his way through, towards the way we had just come

I don’t want too many experiences of this nature – toooo expensive!


  • Paul says:

    This sort of thing happens to us all in boating. On the Middle Levels last summer, we picked up weed on the prop and were forced onto the bank. We couldn’t move off the bank for 24 hours.
    happy boating

  • admin says:

    It’s not just the wind you have to watch out for either. We had a family hire a boat from Calcutt last year. As part of their initial instruction, we take them up through Calcutt Top Lock and along the canal for about 400m to where the canal narrows and the intructor as a chance to jump off the boat onto the towpath. The guy that was steering, confidently navigated to within a foot of the towpath so that the instructor could jump off, then made the mistake of forgetting what he was doing while he said goodbye. As a result, he over corrected as he moved away from the towpath side, put the bow into the hawthorns on the offside, and dragged his bare armed wife in her little summer top for twenty feet through the bushes. She suffered some pretty nasty scratches, but I think her husband came off worse once she had finished telling him what she thought of his helmsmanship!

  • 2escapees says:

    Three weeks ago the purchase of our first narrowboat was completed and she was moored on the Soar at the previous owners house. Our first trip was up river to Sileby Mill Boatyard where new signwriting was about to be completed. That day the Soar was very high, following fast and it was raining and windy. Although we had just undertaken the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman course the short trip was difficult. As we approached Montsorrel lock we realised a widebeam was coming through the lock towards us.. As the lock gates opened the wind struck and sent us diagonally across the river. Judith had the mid line and we managed just to get to the bank to allow the other boat to pass. The first hour in our new boat was not one to repeat. This week we start the journey south through the newly opened Leicester Line just hope the wind is kind to us. Wach out for La Licorne our 50 foot beauty.

    • admin says:

      A regular baptism of fire! The IW helmsman course is a great start but real life experiences like that teach you far more. I’m sure it won’t be your last adventure on the cut though. Enjoy the experience!

  • morris says:

    hi there all, quite new to this boating game been living aboard for the past 8 months on 60ft “Lifes Dream” an old boy gave me some sound advice when I bought the boat,if the wind picks up pull in ope up and put the kettle on, you`ll not beat mother nature. Just had 43 nights out on the cut learning ropes, went to Llangollen for our first long trip from Sawley,
    One thing I have learned from this boating game is to have a big respect for the water and your boat. happy boating!!

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