Since the untimely death of her husband, young mother Effie Grey has been forced to live on a narrowboat owned by her tyrannical father-in-law Jacob. In spite of her own despair, she is determined to protect her brother Tom and her baby son Georgie from Jacob's bullying ways - for she is all they have in the world.
But when Jacob hires villainous Salter and his vile wife Sal to run the barge, Effie's life becomes even more unbearable, and Tom is sent packing without a penny to his name. Forced to live on deck with little to shelter her and Georgie from the elements, tormented by the Salters, Effie is driven to desperation. And stealing Jacob's hidden cache of money she escapes with her son. As she begins her frantic search for Tom, Effie vows that whatever happens she will make a home for little Georgie and keep him safe from harm.