Tuesday, 19 June 2018


Grrr... Last century we were raised with the believed benefits of learning ‘Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic’. 2 out of 3 weren’t bad for me and I could manage mental arithmetic but then mathematics became the buzzword and I was left behind with most of that! I think I have mild maths dyslexia and I fail to count how it has held me back.

Now I have been pondering over what I envisage to be the 3x R’s of the 21stCentury. I am writing examples using my lifestyle as a Narrowboater, in mind. Here goes remembering there can always be two ways (positive and negative) to look at things unless you are opinion struck-out ‘on the fence’
Wide-Beam country looms


Lock          - check the canal for oncoming boats. It’s a fine balance if the Lock is half full or half empty. If it’s you, carrying the windlass -on -foot, who got there first it’s yours. If the other party meet you at the Lock then talk about it at the Lock. It happened to me at one of the Locks near Stoke Bruerne. We were coming down the Lock ahead and a holiday boater moved out of the Lock below and I tried to signal and yell we were going to be at that Lock so LEAVE THE GATE OPEN. They still were not aware of us so I marched down, quickly, to reopen the gate and race back to DB to get her out of the other Lock. In those few moments, another boater shut the gate I had reopened and was winding the paddles to empty the Lock. I yelled out, I cannot write the words I was thinking and I felt no helpful kindness towards him. He got his boat into that Lock and I turned my back totally ignoring him. He was acting strangely pacing the perimeter above the Lock wall while it was filling with his boat in it.
Cptn was Locking, the other day, and he started to fill 'our' Lock after a Nb had left it. He had checked all was clear and assumed the boat moored, below, at the Lock had no active person on board as no intent had been shown they were taking the Lock. Suddenly a person with a windlass appeared and negotiated with Cptn that they were coming up the Lock. OK fair enough it was in their favour. So, paddles down our end and Cptn left them to get on with it. Best way to keep chilled. As the boat was rising in the Lock, I went and found out a bit about them. A team of actors having lunch and cruising to their next location. 

Mooring   - Be considerate when mooring in popular locations particularly where there are rings. We love being able to have solid ground rings in situ to tie DB onto if we are staying for a day or two, and there is usually a sign-posted restricted time limit. We do notice it appears to be popular to leave a gap between boats rather than moor up close and share a ring. Hey, we are 68ft and we can fit if you think to fill the gap rather than mind the gap. Respect!

Tic             - Imagine walking pace. In London, walking pace is a running walk. Those London Narrowboaters sure move faster than Narrowboats doing ‘tic’ out of London. I think it describes the big city speed of life? Whatever, here's a rope hint... triangulate the stern end ropes. Anyway moving at tic passing moored boats on the canal, outside Londonium, is respect.


Shut the gates- unless you are on the River Wey. Some Lock Gates on the Canal take superhuman strength to close them and I verge on being irresponsible if I can’t shut them. I could make it easier if I did a ‘paddle technique’ to get the water to help pull the gate in. Some gates shut easily but will swing open again. Again water can help and you need to take out levelling the water. I put it down to not worth the exercise to do this. As far as the canal code goes I could be seen as irresponsible but I have thought about it. I am not lazy! 
Wind the paddles down, i.e close the sluice - Read the signs on the gate where it will tell you to leave the gate paddles raised when you leave the Lock.

Tie ropes securely – Within 2 days of cruising down the Grand Union we passed 2 non secured boats, they were attached to their moorings with one rope meaning both were ‘swinging-out’. The first was a Nb in Berkhamstead and I blasted my horn in case the ‘Insiders’ were still asleep. I think they had probably gone to work. But to assume makes an ass out of you and me, n’est-ce pas? The second boat was a ‘Broad-beam’, a little way on from Denham Deep Lock and I was pissed off to see this grey monster lurching into the cut. Again, I blasted DB’s ‘car’ horn but as I cruised past it, at London tic speed,  I could see there was no life on board and the boat was in the early stages of being fitted out. How do people get away with this behaviour? Grrr. Chill Sarah chill.

Winding Holes- With all the mooring spaces on the Cut there is no need to moor on a winding hole. The winding holes are clearly sign-posted and little or large do not need to eat into the space. Some boats are longer than others and all need space to turn. Do not tempt an out of control steel kiss! Steel won’t hurt steel but your paint job might get marked. If you are ‘plastic’ .... I saw a fat Wide-beam in a fitting out stage abandoned moored on a winding hole. The nice C&RT license checker person was cycling past and said a letter had been left on that boat. I don’t know what power the letter has but I guess C&RT will have logged that boat on record. C&RT seem like nice people but have little power in managing responsible ownership. Chill Sarah chill.

Canal town

3.       RECYCLING
'Treasure from the Canal?'

I am proud to be a tidy Kiwi. TV always said we were tidy Kiwis! I am happy to endeavour (nothing to do with Cptn Cook) to be tidy with my rubbish. There is always a heap of poubelle, basura, lixo  yes just unwanted rubbish packaging that fills all our lives now. We all have to deal with it. On the Cut the C&RT provide Biffa Bins at sign-posted areas which are marked on Canal maps or if they have been relocated it is marked along the way. You can be 98% confident of Biffa Bins at Sanitary Stations. The bins are usually 3-fold i.e Glass; Recycling (Plastic, Cardboard/Paper, and Metal); General waste. It’s easy but that doesn’t stop laziness or lack of care. I know I am not perfect, no-one is but we on DB do try to sort out our rubbish ready for disposal to be dropped off as we pass our Canal rubbish stations. Thank you C&RT for making these stations available for us.

Oh so just dump the rubbish?

Well I've had my last ramble being in the F-age. Tomorrow I meet the S- age. I see it as a wise beginning.

Of course life is about being under constant change. Nothing stays the same forever and as much as I am more of a stick in the mud, I need to open my eyes and be happy that future is always on the cards and others, still a ‘sparkle’ destined to be, will live into it and beyond!

Here's a funny incident that happened to me in Berkhamstead. I was calling out Hello to a Fisherman on the other side of the Cut. We got talking and he stopped concentrating on his line. Next thing his fishing rod flew out of his hands into the Canal and seemed to be floating towards my side and DB. Yikes, I got the extendable boat pole but it didn't reach the rod. Rod moves along the length of DB and eventually I managed to 'hook' it with a long bendy plastic tube. I grabbed the rod with my hands and pulled it out of the water. Only to find I had 'caught' a fish. Well there was a fish at the end of the line. Mr Angler was happy he had got his rod back and I was happy to see the fish released after it must have had the swim of its life taking the rod for a swim.

DB was this side and the Angler was on the opposite side.

Saturday, 9 June 2018


The signpost outside my port-hole, where we moored in Milton Keynes, reads 31 miles to Braunston. 

Really, we have done all those miles over a couple of days of cruising not to mention 2 tunnels and 17 Locks. 

We did take a rest day and spent a day in the middle taking time out doing what life on the Canal is believed to be all about. Resting, no hurry, what a wonderful life. The thought is there. We do variations on the thought it has to be said and mostly we are focused on moving!

We moored DB in a Lock pound, 3 Locks up from Braunston outside the pub that does great food, The Admiral Nelson. Our intention was to moor just before the third Lock as there had been space for DB. But when we got there ‘holiday-boaters’ had taken 'our' space. 'You can't always get what you want...' is luck on the Cut. We could have reversed back 100m to a mooring but we were moving on up and that would mean one less Lock the following day. The mooring was good and quiet and we had tied up using mooring pegs. 

The pub dinner was excellent and we slept well that night. I woke before 4am as dawn was over. I got out of bed and I immediately realised  DB was leaning to port and there no motion of being on the water.  A look through a Porthole confirmed the ‘pond’ was empty and we were grounded on mud.
View ahead

“Right” I said, “DB has grounded and I’m going outside to check the Lock below to make sure the paddles have not been left open and then I’m going to walk up alongside the 3 Locks ahead and wind up the starboard paddles and get water flowing to flood ‘our’ pound.”
Who pulled the plug?

Wow, once upon a time when I was a ‘newbie’ boater I couldn’t have acted dynamically in this situation! Now it is the obvious solution and with my windlass. at hand,  DB refloated within 30 minutes. Luckily Cptn, carrying a windlass was following my footsteps and wound the paddle I had missed.

Anyway I had planned for an early start because the Braunston Tunnel (2042yds) was close and I was chancing that there would be no oncoming boats and I could get DB through that black hole with no steel on steel kisses.

As soon as DB was floating Cptn untied the ropes and I got the Lock Gates open. We were underway. I worked the Locks and took over the helm before the Tunnel entrance. In my head I crossed my fingers for no boat traffic and once enveloped by the tunnel the view ahead was the dim daylight at the exit hole beckoning a long way away. But I could see it and the tunnel was clear. Focus Sarah focus. You may think helming a more-or-less straight path of water would be easy but to keep DB in line meant constant turning of the wheel (clockwise..anticlockwise..). Cptn says the tiller is easier than the wheel negotiating a Tunnel. I had one meeting with the wall of the tunnel but I got myself in line. 

My line of vision in the black space is always looking along port (left) and using the water line as the measure. The tunnel opened in 1796, is 1.867m long and 4.8m wide 3.76m high. It has a slight S bend. There is room, just, for 2 Narrowboats to pass. I was glad to get to the end and said “Yay no boats!” as DB exited the tunnel.

I shouted (that’s the only way to be heard over a running engine) to the first oncoming boat that met DB and I said with a smile “Nice morning, good to see you, I’m glad we didn’t meet in the tunnel. Haha.”
Wide Locks, DB can share or stretch out

We teamed up with NB Elizabeth Jane to go down the 7 Buckby Lock flight. I and the Cptn from NbEJ worked the final 4 Locks after helming down the first 3. There was a boat, in front of us, who were new owners and they got into difficulty at the next Lock. Obviously when you are Locking you keep your eye on traffic ahead which determines whether to leave the Lock gates open or shut them. I could see far enough in the distance that the boat ahead was going up the Lock, the paddles were up letting in water and the Stern end of the boat was coming into view. Aha he people in front of us. Hmmm what is going on. Once I had opened our Lock Gates I walked the distance to the next Lock and met a slightly distressed woman who had managed well when their boat had got its ‘prop’ caught on the Cill as the Lock was emptying. Quick reaction means close the paddles immediately to stop any more water leaving the Lock and open the paddles at the other end to refill the Lock until the boat is floating again. I think that it happens to every boatie, once and then it will never happen again.  It has happened to us. Always keep the boat stern forward of the white painted line marking the Cill when going down Locks. I gave reassuring words to the woman and her partner and said it happens to most people on canal boats and that was part of the boat learning curve. Respect for the Cill and staying alert working the Lock.

Next day I had another Tunnel and Lock challenge. The Blisworth Tunnel opened in1805. There was major rebuilding of the Tunnel in the 1980’s. It is 2.813m long and 4.6m wide. There is enough room for 2 Narrowboats to pass. I just realised, as I’m writing this, that the Harecastle Tunnel is 2.676m long, hah 137m shorter than the Blisworth!! 

This is like my view helming the Blisworth Tunnel.

I entered the Blisworth Tunnel with obviously the boat light on but the tunnel is dark with no glimmer of the tunnel exit ahead. Cptn had turned on a halogen light to shine out from the wheelhouse but this was too light-bright near me. I struggled with myself keeping DB comfortably in line. I had a mild panic but held it together and was better when the halogen lamp got moved out of my visual field. All I could see was the shine of the water in my visual-line beside me and I aimed to keep that as my marker. For a short time, I was going at tic speed and Cptn said it would be better to increase my speed so I did. Phew no oncoming boats, and it seemed like ages until I saw daylight signal the end of the tunnel in the distance. Focus Sarah focus. There were the occasional heavy showers of water along the way. First I could hear the sound of water then I could see DB getting the shower of water which meant I was going have a hair wash. Oh well the shower was over until the next one.

What joy to get out of the Tunnel and I was keen to operate the 7 Locks at Stoke Bruerne to take away my tunnel tension. That turned out to be physical work-out. Those Locks are hard, it wasn’t winding the paddles but the weight of opening some of the gates into the overfull pounds. Quad strength and good shoe grip were called for! Man I’m nearly 60 but the girl is still there!!!

Live and let live. Hopefully my hormones are moving towards an even keel!!

Inside DB looking out! 

Sunday, 3 June 2018


We’re on a mission, probably my mission by admission to get to London. I have waited three score years for the day to arrive and I wasn’t sure until recently where I wanted to be! Is this a little bit cryptic? Whatever!

We have a couple of weeks give or take to get there and although London is about an hour away by train, it’s a different scale in Canal-time. Now that we can both Lock or Helm it means we can travel further in a day. But then isn’t life on the Canal meant to be a chillaxed journey?

The Canal planner app times our trip to cover 170 miles and 118 Locks from Willington Bridge (Trent & Mersey Canal {T&M}) to Paddington Basin taking 85 hours and 9 minutes. We were thinking of going along the River Soar and through Leicester which is a few more miles but 151 Locks. Chillax prevails!

So up the Canal to Fradley Junction, met with Baz & Celia on Nb April Fool and had a uke blast joined by a mandolin on the brief R. Trent stretch before Alrewas. Baz’s glasses fell into the water and he couldn’t locate them with the blind magnet. I thought they would not be found and he, reluctantly, stepped barefooted into the thigh-high waters and foot-felt finding his glasses. Result!

The grey sky dissolved with blue coming into view. Yay! I keep singing, in my head, that song “When the weather is fine, you know it’s the time for cruising along on the river.” I must cana-ba-lize it!! At Fradley Junction we left the T&M taking a family of gongoozlers for the short trip onto The Coventry Canal (or is it the extension of the Birmingham-Fazely Canal, am I bovvered?). We meet people, occasionally who are interested in what it must be like to move and live in a floating container, I mean a Narrowboat. It is interesting getting 68ft around a 90°bend at a watery T intersection. Get the picture? Not forgetting there is a boat moored at striking distance in the turning circle. I don’t believe in doing a ‘Westie’ so I need to concentrate doing my helming manouever. Great I went round the bend, no steel kiss BUT damn bugger blast I didn’t accurately judge the narrow channel where the swing bridge sits and the concrete hit port-side. No damage but I’m a tryer not perfect!

There is a lock free long chug to Fazely Junction so we made a good start before mooring for the night. In the morning there was a bit of traffic, in our direction and I had to wait for 2 boats to pass before I could move out. Matey, in the front boat  NB Blue Sky was determined to maintain the speed of ‘Tic’. The NB, filling in the middle of the boat sandwich was not being assertive in showing intentions to get past. I blasted my horn but Mr Blue Sky didn’t hear me and tic tic tic. I told passing foot traffic, in jest, that Mr Blue Sky was running the risk of thunder and lightning. Ha ha. Chillax Sarah. It was probably for a couple of miles we followed Mr Blue Sky and us, the followers cheered with thumbs up when he moored at the Junction.

Just like that, DB was on her own and all was good for 2 minutes. A narrow stretch opened into a tight bend and I was being followed by a ‘plastic’. I knew the locks were near and I wanted to keep my position of being first in the queue if there was a queue. But I didn’t manoeuver DB easily around that bend and got her nose into the trees. Guess what the name of the plastic was? ‘Misty Blue’. I think Blue was the magnetic name pull that day! Breathe Sarah breathe.

I was feeling close to calling it a day and we chugged along, after the locks finding the perfect spot to moor and enjoy relaxing in the sun. I got my Uke out and had a good play. The can-you-believe weather forecast was good for the next couple of days and we thought we’d stay a couple of nights in situ before doing the 11 Atherstone Locks. 

Next day morning arrives and it was not promising weatherwise. We moved and did those locks, sharing helming-locking. I’m always keen to keep up with onboard provisions and I did a fill my shopping trolley at Atherstone. Until I started walking to the shops, I couldn’t recall their location. Then it all came back to me. I am familiar finding my way to supermarkets in so many towns, on the Canal network now. I don’t always remember their location in my memory cell but generally, it comes back pronto with visual prompts. Mobile data is a great help! 

Knowing that 91% chance of rain is high likelihood that it will rain, I was ready to take the helm dressed for conditions. And it rained quite a lot in the morning. Cptn brought me out a bacon egg and tomato sarnie covered with a good quality paper towel. I got through ¾ of the yummy sandwich but gave up on the sodden last ¼. It rained most of the morning and my almost waterproofs got a good try-out. I think it was at lower arm level they struggled but nature brought in a bit of dry warmish air mixed in with my body temp to dry them out.
Narrow narrow it's narrow but no problemo.

It was a novelty, for me, to helm in such wet conditions. But I’m not put off with it. On that day DB cruised 17 miles. No locks make it an easy path of water to cruise along. There were a couple, well 3 events that need to be noted.

11.   Hawkesbury Junction is the start of the Oxford Canal (North) and is a fine wide but sharp entrance to the stop lock. I excelled in my negotiation of this entrance and I received lovely compliments at my management of this turn. Chest puffs!!!

22. There are some holiday rental boats on the move near here and there are some blind bends. Chances are boats will be coming round a blind bend and meeting could be the end of a happy occasion. Toot your horn Toot your horn, can you hear me!! I had a meeting of such but thankfully a ‘Westie’ was averted. Reverse thrust and loud horn turned on by me. I had a brief glimpse of concerned looks from the approaching bow. Crisis averted!

33.  And No. 3. This one shook me up! I phoned C&RT up, my cathartic approach after the event. Here is what I recall happening. DB got to the swing footbridge at Stretton Stop, no problems the end of the journey, Rugby is getting closer. DB goes under the next bridge and there is a long stretch ahead. Soon I see what looks like a craft heading in my direction but it is a long way off. As I get closer to it I realise it is static orange things, floating carrots. I think this is not right obviously it is a signal of some obstruction. Orange means caution Red means danger. I hadn’t seen any warning sign alerting me to a problem ahead. There is a NB coming the other way, it hasn’t stopped and nor have I. I have slowed down and after I pass the obstruction I have moved DB more to the right thinking I’ll stay close to the Towpath. Next thing that happens is DB tilts 45° and it feels we are going to go over. Bang crash as things topple indoors and Cptn yelling out for information on what is happening. Of course I have automatically put DB into neutral. It is not a pleasant occurrence. No injury, no damage... But there is another NB coming the other way and the young fart (well he's younger than me I assume) on the helm is yelling at me with 4 letter words...I switch on selective hearing.......Man what’s his problem, I had no idea of the danger putting me at risk. I don’t need Canal rage. Chillax. I phoned C&RT. They were very empathetic. They said they will check the signage. Apparently this obstruction has been there for years and they do not have the money to undertake this repair. Please, I said, ‘high-vis’ it. It is dangerous. One way traffic it!!
BEWARE OF THE CARROT!! It was carrots, like these more in number but less in size, I think I saw. 
It has been an eventful trip.
After the day is almost over.

We have made it to Rugby and beyond. There is more to write... keep tight and stay on the right!

Tuesday, 29 May 2018


Shobnall Fields

In my world, I get close to going around the bend on the straight and narrow. I live the dream life as a water gypsy, and then out of nowhere, I change direction. We have the best life and are very happy with our random world but..... I have been thinking of the many adventures I have taken along my way in my life that could be viewed as a dream. But that is book material and one day I must write it. In this world of lies damn lies, I stand honestly in that I haven’t had to fake my dream. I am living it with our choices. I am so fortunate.
Shobnall Fields

The joy of cruising along nature’s blooming botanical garden has opened my eyes to beauty on the Cut. Our gardeners do a wonderful job keeping the towpath accessible and maintaining clear signposted mooring sites. A couple of days ago we were moored at Shobnall Fields in Burton-upon-Trent and had moved to the ‘other side’ to paint DB’s starboard gunwale. The grass had been recently mown and I didn’t expect the gardeners. I had been painting for about 10 minutes and I heard the sound of a big petrol lawn mower. I grinned gritting my teeth as hi-vis wearing earmuffs appeared. He turned his mower engine off and smiled as he walked past saying “I could see you were painting so I’ve stopped mowing near your boat.” Ditto when ‘Strimmer-man’ appeared. It is heart-warming that the gardeners have their mind working over matter and can be considerate humans.

We moored up in Alrewas and the grass was recently cut. The moorings are clearly signposted to the length of stay. We were on 14-day moorings, to begin with, and there were mooring rings we could tie on to.  48 hr moorings were signposted from the Footbridge to the Lock.  Matey, in a small Nb moored literally a stone’s throw from the canal bridge, tucked in no moorings land, i.e the 48 hr sign was not indicating that small space was signposted. Helpful-me told him it was 48hr mooring. He said “No it’s not it’s 14 day mooring and anyway my car has broken down and I need to be moored her so I can get to work.”  I, being helpful, suggested he phone C&RT and speak to the Enforcement Officer.  I said I have always found them very understanding in cases like this. He responded that he has not found them helpful or understanding and he didn’t want anything to do with them. He said they only check  boats every 14 days around here which brings me to conclude that he takes his boat away for a few hours and brings it back again to ‘his’ spot. I realised that we wouldn’t agree to disagree and I was wasting my time. Good for him having his boat, sad for him not taking responsibility.

We were all young once, now we are on the count to being a long time dead. I was young once, the girl is still inside me and happy memories are remembered. I trained to become an Occupational Therapist so I could start my travel the world dream, it was called ‘O.E’ (Overseas Experience).  

When I left NZ in 1985 I didn’t have much money. NZ had moved on from being ‘the land of milk and honey’ and the economy was struggling after Britain joined the EEC.
That meant as soon as I arrived in London I had to get work. I had the support of my older brother and his wife in the early days to get my bearings and it wasn’t long before I moved into a ‘flat’ with friends and friends of friends. We colonial people in my crowd mostly were Kiwis & Aussies. I moved into a flat (Flat =group home = rented house). There were 6 of us as permanent transients in the Flat, a house in Golders Green and we knew that to get along with life in the big country of England we needed to be responsible and pay for the accommodation and utilities, we needed to eat ‘healthily’ which meant taking our turn cooking meals for the large group of people. We put money into a kitty for food and groceries. We wrote on the blackboard (it was and will always be called a blackboard, for me cos it was a board painted black and we used chalk and sometimes drew pictures) shopping lists with food we needed to cook the meals we wanted to cook. We filled in the days of the week calendar written indelibly in chalk on the blackboards with the day we would cook. Sometimes we would team cook. None of this Come Dine With Me carryon, every day was a feast. We all took responsibility in giving our share of rent money etc to the nominated person in the group who managed the bills. Life skills developed trust and appreciation, respect and responsibility. We shared our home with ‘Dossers’ young people like us who were on their overseas experience. Dossers, maybe 2 or 3 would stay for a few days pay a few quid, not loads of money, and their financial ‘donation’ would be put towards the Utility Bills and the money grew so we bought equipment like a record player/tape deck etc. We had a good life and we knew how to PARTY!
Now I am swiftly leaving my years of ‘Muddle-Rage’ and moving to my 3rd Age. My memories are still alive. We grabbed opportunities when we were young and made sure we could meet our needs.  Now I have decided to go back to work but not in a way that I have to be consumed with it.

On the Cut, we lead a ‘random’ life. We are so fortunate but our dreams move on to new dreams. The Seven Year Itch.

During the meanwhilst, we are off to London, that country down South where the word has it on the cut that London Boaters double or triple breast up. I don’t like the sound of that. Not my choice.  I’ve lived in London in a ‘Flat’, last century. That was my time and that was a good time.
I’m a bit pissed at the Michael Fish-ism. I was in London when the non-forecast cyclone hit on the night 15th / 16th October. Meteorology hasn’t changed this century. I was in Portugal when the heavens opened and our valley got decimated from 5 hours of torrential rain, lightning and thunder. Now in the UK, we are warned that we have ?% risk of rain. Why don’t they say we have ?% chance of sun rays. That could be known as mindful weather.

Back to here and now.

Lots to blog, I think. Cptn and I will share the Locking and the Helming to London and beyond. I’ve gained my ‘H & L’ competency.  

Here we go!!!

Coventry Canal

Friday, 18 May 2018


Canopies concoction 

It must be close to 4 years that we had a canopy to cover the wheelhouse and cover the stern. The wheelhouse canopy was put in situ most days. I remember the first time we put up both frames and covers. It was difficult to feel the joy while the task was being carried out but since the first time it got easier to assemble but still took quality time. Now the wheelhouse canopy became worse for wear and it appears to have shrunk making it difficult to clip one side into place.  

Cptn had given a lot of thought about what could be done to improve the cover over the wheelhouse and, last year, he said he wanted to change the canopy and make a roof that would fit over the wheelhouse. ‘Yeah right whatever’ I thought. I wasn’t full of enthusiasm as I imagined it would involve heavy and awkward lifting. Once upon a time, I had a different attitude to change but the 21st century has arrived in my playing field along with ageing white matter taking a hammering.

Still, this material change is amazing and Cptn has designed a perfect cover a.k.a ‘roof’ for the wheelhouse. It is easy to put together and fits perfectly in place. There is no awkward or weighty lift involved. I’ll try and show the process with photos. I could drone on but.....

The 'roof' rests on the roof in front of the front wheelhouse window
The other 4 wheelhouse windows are secured in place.  I have climbed onto the steel roof to lift the front of the polycarbonate roof and Cptn has climbed on the steel roof above the wheel. He places the boat pole to lay in a horizontal position, and he lifts the back of the polycarbonate roof and places it on top of the boat pole that acts as a 'roller'. This makes it easy for me to slide the 'roof' along the length of the windows. 'Team work' means the roof slides into position.

The Boat pole waits to get removed.
The stern canopy fits into the total equation!!

Natural daylight pours indoors.

Saturday, 28 April 2018


Example of winding

Yep we are sort of mostly back on the Cut but our times are a changing. We were overjoyed to find DB had worn well over the long cold winter as Cptn had not gone the full hog of winterising her. He thought the water tank had been emptied but I knew it was close to full. I remember him saying he had turned off the water tap so that no water could feed through to the pipe indoors. Really I should write down what, and its location aboard, that has to be done. Fortunately there was no sign of water where it shouldn’t be and no smell of gas. In fact the boat was water tight, smelt fresh and in fantastic order ready to go. The batteries had been trickle charged by solar power, yeah who needs full on sun! The engine started with the first turn of the key. What a boat!

Plastic fantastic naturally lights up life over the wheelhouse. It's great!!!!

Ashwood Marina kindly allowed us to plug into land power for our first and only night in the Marina. Best to be safe than sorry. The immersion tank will heat the water until the engine runs the calorifier, the fridge/freezer doing what a fridge/freezer does and we could enjoy lights indoors. DB’s batteries would be fully charged the next day. I think the biggest pull on energy is the Microwave and normally I start the engine when I use the microwave....so we had scrambled eggs á la microonda for dessayuno. I am a lingual mess but the scrambled eggs were yum.

We woke early morning with the sunlight greeting us. Yay we reversed out of Ashwood and kept going in reverse for a mile or so including 2 Locks along the Canal until we got to the winding hole that was fit for our size. There is a winding hole in the other direction but our ‘Nicholson’s’ canal book measured it as 60ft. Word had it that it would take 70ft but word was not definitive. (I have seen written proof since, that the winding hole below Hinksford Lock can accommodate 70ft Nb).

Navigator back on the job

DB is class at being reversed but was not happy with Bow thrusters’ battery overuse but she kept up with it and it was a relief, for me, when we winded to face in the right direction! Kinver was getting closer. I had my first steer (not of the venison variety) of the season. Yep it felt natural and I even got DB into the Stewponey Lock without faltering with the steering. I thought the Bow thrusters battery was flat but that was only because I didn’t switch them on!! Tee hee!!! I can do it!!

Kinver was our chosen destination for a few days as we had our own yearly health maintenance to undertake. We were not in a rush to move and appointments increased as expected. Dentist, Doctor, ...the NHS came up trumps for us. Then there were the Spectacle people for me. I’d left my prescription glasses in France. I’m OK without them except for night driving...too much ‘glitter’ distracts my vision. So I got new glasses and found out a couple of ophthalmology issues that will bug me in 60 years time.

We found time to do a few things and cruised away for a couple of days to Stourport-on-Severn. 
St Mary and All Saints Church

On the way we stopped, briefly, at Kidderminster where we met some students from the Music Academy. 

They tried to tune my recent purchase of a classical guitar from a Kinver charity shop. If you are reading this ‘Kidder peops’ I followed your advice and got Cptn to adjust the low E machine head and with a bit of WD40 the guitar is in action.

The Staffs and Worcs Canal is lovely and a pleasant scenic cruise. It is not busy but that will change over summer. There were plenty of visitor moorings vacant in Stourport. I was told about a mooring in the Widebeam Basin and we checked it out, a lovely location overlooking the River Severn. It would be perfect except for the nearby Fun Fair.

“How long does the Fair run for. Is it seasonal??” I asked someone nearby.
“Oh it has been going all my life.”
“Not that long then.” I answered in return.
“That’s kind.” She said.

I am Lady Lock-n-Lol. Sometimes a timely reminder to butt out is needed. I am knowledgeable at working the Locks. I was taking Della for an afternoon ablution walk and rain had been and was about to fall. There was a Nb coming up the Lock as I was passing it so I shared the joys of the world under the sky that threatened rain, a darker shade of grey. I offered to close the gate after the Nb moved out. Thanks were offered and I smiled in return. I got the gate moving and positioned myself to bum-push it. It’s the easiest method to close the gate. I hadn’t carried out a full risk-assessment and unfortunately the treads of my trainers do not give any hold with the wet bricks that the former BritishWaterways laid in an arc that many a trusty foot uses when working a Lock. These brick paved arcs are not at every Lock but be warned they are dangerous when they are wet!!!

Bricks don't bounce and nor do I!!!!!!!!!!!!

There I am, my bum in contact with this wooden gate, and I am in a seated standing position. My shoes lost any grip on the bricks and I slid down in slow motion...my centre of gravity meant I went down in unstoppable slow motion and landed heavily on my coccyx aka tailbone. Only Della saw this happen. Proof was in the nasty bruise, I glimpsed, the next day although I felt the pain right from the landing.
Where’s the Arnica Cream?
That was 9 days ago! It still hurts and is uncomfortable, ibuprofen helps and I will recover.

I must write to the Canals & Rivers Trust. There is work to be done. Remove the brick surface in the Gate ground arc. It is dangerous in wet weather. Perhaps a recycled surface that is non slip can be laid. Environmentally friendly, promoting safety and lowering risk of injury meeting the needs of the boating community and Jo Public on holiday.

Doer upper?

Wednesday, 11 April 2018


It is a double-edged sword with a happy ending, probably. Spain, our escape from the long winter in Blighty, and NbDolcieBlue in England for the short 3 colour filled seasons. It sounds like a dream and I am often told that but.....
I am happy getting from A to B in a direct fashion wearing the same clothes so to speak.

Between our bases it is a long drive 2 days direct but we spread it over 5 days. There is a cost to that but I find it a boring slog avoiding the péage in France. I don’t think the countryside, we drive through, is scenic at this time of the year, early spring...it still looks and feels wintery. And I do not like the million roundabouts we drive around. SatNat pre roundabout build up “Drive over the roundabout”, I can imagine driving straight over the ‘round’. That is because my cognitive function runs on literal. What you say is what you get. Over the years I have managed to bend literal where my reaction is not always as written. But at the end of the day I’m a Kiwi and it takes far more time for my mindset to absorb into another culture. I digress, I’m good at that.

Spain, on the other hand, has great roads and driving distances diminish along the desolate countryside except when Sat Nav has other ideas and we follow her. In our road trips late last century I was the navigator, I could read road maps and we ventured far and wide, a lot being off the main route. The Bartholomews book was the best I used for hardcopy navigation of the Iberian Peninsula but now SatNav is confounded with new roads forever in progress. Our SatNav tells us, fairly often, “Off course. Turn around.” We have a SatNav that was purchased with lifetime updates guaranteed. Lies damn lies. It is not the end of the world but it puts stress on our relationship. We count our way around roundabout exits.

Our first day on the road from B to A  we leave Los Montesinos at 1000hrs. Today’s journey is anticipated to take 4 1/2 hours. SatNav finds the back of beyond roads and we make little progress snaking our way towards the Spanish plateau. The first place we saw for breakfast had a bus turning in and we imagined a long queue of people so we drove on. We were now driving along almost empty roads and there are no fuel stations/roadside bars until 2 hours later. The food was basic, a tostada with packet mashed tomato and self serve drizzle of Ext. Vir. Olive Oil. At the service station, Chris checked the tyre pressure and I went and asked for the road to Zaragoza. The guy was helpful but his directions were not. I should have said Tureul and we may have had a chance but his way to the Z place was motorway to Valencia turning in the direction of Barcelona. No way...7 hours if we took that route.

The trip started going downhill and we needed to about turn off the motorway. We purchased a Spain road map 2018, a hardcopy that should help us and it did, when I remembered to refer to it. Four hours to destination Calatayud . There were still a couple of blips to happen in our ‘perfect’ life on Day 1 but my whole attitude to this trip got so negative and I unhappily carried the freaking SatNav that day and the next. The SatNav holder had lost its Velcro attachments! My patience level had lost its reality attachment!

Phew, we arrived at 1900hrs and the hotel was comfortable. As a mood booster Chris suggested we eat out and have the Menu del Dia at the Hotel Restaurant, a couple of floors below our room. Before we’d taken our seats at our table we could hear the sound of beating drums outdoors getting louder. Looking out the window we saw a parade of drummers. They were dressed in the same blue robes with blue cone hats.... well we named them the ‘Blue Klux Klan’. Google reveals it is part of Santa Semana (Easter). Unexpected religious evening action and I felt like a stranger in a foreign land on this day.

Driving has been part of our life together. It feels like we’re driving each other crazy now. The last 4 years we have driven England to Spain return. Last year I missed out on the back to Blighty trip by land, I did the long haul flight to NZ return. It is always getting to the destination that keeps my spirit lifted. Hey and back to long drives together, we started in 1992 and that was England to the Algarve, (Portugal) return over a number of years before SatNav came in to our lives. Here’s a photo of what happened in 2004 as we were exiting Europe for the last time..... It wasn't my fault

Now SatNav is the nonhuman involved in our megadrive. Utterances along the way from me (M), him (H) or it-that-has a woman’s voice (SN).

SN “Off route”

H “She’s worthless, she doesn’t know”

M “Change it to a bloke’s voice”

SN “Go over the roundabout”

H “She always screws up”

M “Let’s get a new SatNav”

SN “If possible turn around”

Day 2

Blue sky with patchy clouds above and I look to the snow covering the Pyrenees. It is cold outdoors. It could be Winter but the calendar says it is Spring and we are past the Spring Equinox. The SatNav is held in my hand or rested on my knee which mutes that voice. We know we will get to the Somport Tunnel soon and feel confident that we know the way without SN. Then, out of the blue comes HiVis and road works, big road works.  It’s ok, a bit of stop/start and then free flow until a few kms away from Jaca. We see a sign saying Somport Tunnel, Françia and then a dreaded roundabout approaching and I see no clues as to which exit to take. I didn’t see Françia or Tunel de Somport. SN made no comment. We take the first exit onto a new dual carriageway. It was probably the right route but we thought it was probably not so we turned back and took the other road to Jaca. (I use a lot of ‘we’ in this navigation thing). I should have looked at the hardcopy map but I keep forgetting it is there! The dual carriageway was the right road, of course, and we met up with it again as we got closer to Jaca. Are you readers still with me?

We took the turn to Tunel de Somport. We were in the tunnel. Chris thought I had told him the tunnel was 80km long, I don’t remember saying that. It is 8.6 kms long, no hardship and we exited into falling snow in France, slush slush.

I have noted, on my calendar under November, the names of the small villages (Urdos is the closest one...) and N134 in France near the Somport Tunnel. Twice we have tried on our November drive to Spain to go under The Pyrenees through the Somport Tunnel, and twice we have failed to find the Tunnel! Third time should be lucky!!
Lots of roundabouts to Dax but we were there in good time.

Day 3.

Il pleure encore plus the day I took control of the wheel and drove the Motorway to Bordeaux did the ring road and the N10 (free motorway) to Poitiers and continued on some cute roads to la belle Gite rural DUNAND in a small village Tournon Saint-Martin,  near Poitiers. France is very pretty in the country off major roads, especially when driving through old villages. But early spring, for me, is dismal particularly this spring where winter was hanging in the air. The gîte was beautiful, a memory of the place in France that we once shared with friends. (French France, another story 1997 – 2001). The gîte had the solid oak beams, I was in heaven! We’ll stay there again one way or the other.

Day 4.

Our final day in France and a 4 hour drive to Dieppe. That went well. Yay it was nearly the end of our mega journey. Chris arranged accommodation about a 5 minute drive from the Ferry Terminal. It was perfect, brand new fit out and comfortable in every way.  It is an ideal location for the Ferry port. I was tired and we had a 530 am wake-up. I woke during the night, thirsty, and reached for my small bottle of water on the bedside table. I blindly opened it and went to take a gulp but was awake enough to know that the liquid closing in on my tongue was not water. It was the other bottle I had put on the table, Della’s hypoallergenic dog shampoo!!!  My words are clean in this story.

Day 5.

The bulk of travelling was on the DFDS Ferry to Newhaven. It was a calm uneventful cruise and 4 hours later we were in Newhaven and the rain was pissing down. Back in Blighty and it was yuck and I almost brought an end to my 'Dream life with the Yorkshireman'.

I’m going to end this adventure on a light note and will begin DolcieBlue 2018 soon. I discovered in Spain the answer to the question below.

Q.   Why do chickens cross the road?

 A.              To get taken out!”

A brief history

This is a blog set up by Chris and Sarah so family and friends can catch up with their travels on the British waterways in the summer of 2011. In 2010, I went to England with the idea of getting a narrow boat built. I had specific requirements so I thought that a new build may be the way to go. I e mailed to numerous boat builders, a great percentage of whom ignored me. The problem of having a family name of Laycock is that hotmail and a few others think that I am a porn star. At an early age you learn not to put C Laycock on your school books. But I guess that my nephew Paul did worse. Anyway I spent a very pleasant few weeks driving around the beautiful English countryside visiting boatyards, marinas, boat builders and just a few pubs. I had narrowed it down to two builders and in the last week I was in Devizes Wiltshire when I came across "Avalon Mist" 54 feet of throbbing neglected narrow boat. The past owner had lost interest, hadn’t maintained her and to add insult to injury had been made redundant. After a very short negotiation I was able to buy her for a pretty fair price. On the day the sale took place I had to beg her to take her trainers and a few rather suspect items of clothing, in other words she left everything. Lock stock and barrel.

Soon after the purchase I flew to California to meet Sarah and have a short holiday. Once back in NZ I started to try and organize works. The first thing that I learnt was that the marina does not allow any contractor on site, only their chosen ones, the excuse given is a concern about insurance, the suspicion is, graft, pay back, baksheesh, call it what you like. It is possible to take the boat off the marina to have the work done, but not really practical.

The first job to be tackled was to “winterize” the boat, i.e. drain off all the water, check the anti freeze in the engine and central heating and fit an automatic bilge pump.

No real problem there except communication, the mechanic just didn’t answer e mails. Difficult to do business like that.

The nice marina lady had a quiet word with him, and things did improve, thanks Debs you have been a star through out . He later confided in me the reason for this was that he was dyslexic, apparently a malady [he] claims affects a lot of mechanics.[It turns out that he is a great mechanic and a nice guy to boot].

That goes pretty high on my list of lame excuses, the top one being a really nice Irish guy Pat, who I had employed as a carpenter years ago when I lived in London. He was always a bit late for work, when I finally collared him about it; he said he could never decide what to wear to work.

Nice one Pat.

I digress, the boat was winterized, which was just as well as it was a cold one and the whole marina froze over.

Next job was to have her taken out of the water, have the hull stripped back to bare metal and have a bit of over plating done. There were a couple of areas where there was pitting, and I though if she’s out of the water, may as well do the job right, so a small amount of over plating and then the hull was blacked, and the engine bay partially de-rusted and then back in the water.

Seems like a good job was done, I had the marine surveyor who had done the original survey, check out all the major works and give me written reports and photos, so all good except once again communications.

I then came across a great guy, the partner of the woman who runs the marina and a carpenter/narrow boat fitter outer .He replaced the stern deck and did a great job, also did a great job on de-greasing, de-rusting and painting the engine compartment. A job I should have done myself, but I just didn’t fancy it, not only that be was great with communications and chasing other people up

So that takes us up to present.

There needs to be a bit of electrical work, not much. The outside is badly in need of paint, Sarah and I can do that and a bit of a tidy up inside, and then she will be a really nice boat.