Our family of 4 rented the Sir Melleaus for a week at the end of July and the early days of August 2016. Upon arrival we were an hour early and prepared to wait until it was our turn. However the staff at Countrywide Cruisers invited us to get on the boat earlier, as soon as the filling of the water tank was completed. That took just a few minutes allowing us to have a chat with Cliff, the clearly proud engineer of the company. After transferal of our gear we got a very good and lengthy introduction to the boat and its maintenance, the kids were handed their buoyancy aids and our wife was elected captain. As three of us have extensive rowing/coxing/coaching two sea kayaking experience we were happy to set off from the mooring without someone of Countrywide to get us going. So we did get the proper attention and care required for the first time narrow-boaters we were. We elected for a return trip in the direction of Chester on the Shropshire Union Canal. Eventually we made it to beyond Beeston Castle, winding between bridges 108 and 109, just after Wharton's Lock (and back turning after Brewood between bridges 9 and 8). The boat performed really well and without any issue. The only 'technical issue' was that the DVB-T aerial of the boat didn't work well, but fortune had it that I had taken our own DVB-T aerial along (with a magnetic base!) as used by us on campsites. Choosing the moorings wisely we had all the TV channels and programs we wanted. With regards to navigation we did not have any trouble as we had read the proper documentation and seen the dvd's/youtube footage about narrowboating before going on this trip. If you also stick to the navigational notes about the canal you are on you should not get into any trouble. A Scottish party leaving the same afternoon as us did get into trouble in the very first lock (we came later from behind to help them correct their mistake...) and were reported to have later gotten stuck at a very well known spot between two other locks (navigational note!), having to be freed by another boat.
That does not mean that we didn't have some challenges, with 40 mph winds, rain and some other boaters making life 'interesting'. And of course it is a challenge to enter a lock cleanly when the canal overflow hits the boat from the side some 2-3 meters before the entrance......
I must also mention the great wildlife presence during the trip. For instance, you will be very unlucky not to see several Kingfishers in the trees near the canal, following you and every now and again catching and eating a fish. Best chance in the early morning at the very wooded sections of the canal.
To sum up, we had a great week on the boat, with our captain (my wife) receiving praise at several moments from other more experienced boaters and the crew receiving offers to be hired by other captains ;-) . It turned out to be an especially confidence building trip for our two (11 and 13 year old) sons.
At the end of the week we had a simple almost businesslike transfer of the Sir Melleaus to the staff of Countywide cruisers. Again nothing but praise for their attitude and behavior towards us.
All in all we can very much recommend a narrow boat trip in general and especially one with Countrywide Cruisers on the Shropshire Union canal.