Monday, 29 August 2016

CRUISING UNDERCOVER




I’m writing this, moored in a ‘Swallows and Amazon’ setting on the River Thames. We moved off the Kennet & Avon Canal (K&A) where it joins the R. Thames, at Reading Berks, on Saturday.


I’ll recap some of the journey on the K & A, after we left DeviZes on August 19th, in the rain. Some mad bad weather had been forecast and looking at the fine print with regard to headroom on the Canal, we became informed that DB would have 8 ft headroom to Newbury, which meant we could travel with her stern and wheelhouse canopies in situ! Perfect, meaning we can move undercover. 
 AM bought heree in 2010

We got a wee way out from DeviZes and moored at Horton Bridge, again a memory from Avalon Mist early days where the boat we had cruised with on a day trip out of the Marina had stopped and I saw their Dalmatian walk off their semi-trad stern and into the Cut! I remember being pleased that AM had a cruiser stern and Della would be less likely to fall in!

On to the here and now, we cruised off from Horton Bridge under the skies looking like rainfall was likely. We weren’t bothered, we are undercover! The day was almost Lock free, with a couple of manual swing bridges that swung. 
Boatneck

A few miles away was Honey Street, packed with moored boats of ‘continuous cruisers – not’, probably.  A different scene 5 years ago, plenty of moorings and we moored outside the Pub, then. The words that have become etched in my brain were first spoken to me then ‘You can tell a Yorkshireman, but not much’, and I have repeated them many times. There were no moorings, this day, and we hadn’t planned a stop there. Maybe Pewsey we’d be ready to tie up! But 4 miles on and moored boats were plenty. If the boats on the Visitor mooring had bunched together, then we and another boat would have fit! Bah humbug!! I’m in no hurry to return to this part of the Canal.
 
Locking undercover
We got to the final climb of Locks on the K&A and a Nb had just moved into the remaining mooring above the Lock we were going up in, Wootton Rivers Bottom Lock. I ‘collared’ a boat-looking person and enquired about moorings above the next Lock. He said there were moorings and better than the pound I had hoped for which tends to lose water and boats become grounded! So we moved onto the pound above Heathey Close Lock, which from my scribble in Nicholson Waterways Guide 7 we moored here at 4pm 06/07/2011! History is repeating itself!
 
BRUCE

The Bruce Tunnel, 502yds, was 2 Locks away and a quick squiz at YouTube looked like it was in good condition but we thought the weather looked like returning to sunshine and we may as well be exposed and take the canopies down. If we ever pass this way again, The Bruce Tunnel is one-way traffic, doesn’t leak and DB could be undercover!!

We did 12 Locks, alternating our skills between Helming and Locking. I’m feeling confident at ‘the wheel’, these days and Cptn is enjoying working the Lock. The day moves fast and the mileage slows with the Locks. There is a bit of boat traffic but not lots, like it was from Bath to the bottom of the Caen Flight. Next day dawned with 10 Locks to Hungerford and Tesco’s.

Day 3 and 10 more Locks to Newbury. A bit of boat share in the Locks, makes it easier, and our informal ‘partner’ was a solo boater who was ever present at working the Locks as well. As we were going down the last Lock before Newbury, a holiday boat arrived at the Lock mooring and made no attempt to meet and greet us! It is annoying when people sit on their boat and watch from a distance. I opened one gate, as we could bow thrust to position ourselves to get through the gate, and climbed down the Lock ladder to get on DB. I’d not be able to get on at the Lock mooring!
I glared at the happy holiday makers and said “You fail!”

“No-one told us to help other people at the Lock while we were waiting!” a bloke replied.
 
Leafy Willow trunk

Off to Newbury and Cptn was avoiding the stern of our ‘friend’s’ boat as it was mooring up. DB moved towards a leafy hedge, between moored boats on the other side. Next thing we were tipping to 30° and it felt like we were going to roll over. Bang and crash noises came from indoors as I squealed. Cptn kept calm and DB righted herself and we floated while I went to inspect the damage. The Greek washing up was done, a few bottles broken and my paua mosaic globe had taken a tumble. Oh well we were OK and that is more important than material loss. 
A bird in the bush is worth 2 on the wire. A messy position!
Della and a local celeb!


A couple of days later a Head Honcho from C&RT came to visit, at Cptn’s request, as we were concerned with Canal safety. Fine to prune trees, please get your arbour experts to put up a sign warning DANGER.  The leafing stump is still a tree and not a willowy hedge.
 
Blade runner!
While we were waiting a visit from C&RT Cptn got started with the side hatch project. This continued with all the side hatches getting a strip of window, in each, when we got to perfect 48hr moorings in Aldermarston beside the defunct sanitary station, between the Lock and the key operated Lift Bridge. 
Side Hatch windows! YAY!!

There was a water point too so we topped up! On close inspection the mooring was 4 hour but someone had put an 8 in front of it! We stayed a couple of nights and the second night there were 4 boats snuggled in there.


We teamed up with Dina and Nick and their beautiful dog Bella, on Nb Geisha Tale, to share the Locks and automated bridges to Reading and on to the R. Thames.  Dina said she had seen us at Portishead, last month, and had taken a photo of us waiting to go into the Lock! 
DolcieBlue waiting outside Portishead Lock on the Bristol Channel!! Thx Dina

Of all the boats and all the Locks, in England, what a small friendly world we live in! We moved swiftly, only held up by Ozzy and his fuel boat, who was ahead of us. We bought a bottle of calor gas from him, with the thought he would have to give up his place while he delivered the gas to us. No chance, he was a man on the move!

Reading looked cleaned out of Narrowboats. There were only small plastics moored, as we passed through. At the second to last Lock, I didn’t see the Lock mooring until the last minute and in my haste to drop Cptn off I got pulled by the current and lodged between the gap of the Lock entrance and close to the rubber bollards preventing access to the weir. I was stuck and some early morning boozers came to try and pull DB back to working position! No luck there. Cptn came back and attached the long rope to DB’s stern and he took charge at the helm. With rope in hand, I climbed onto the bow of Nb Tale of Geisha and attached it to the Bow. DB was pulled free and both boats reversed into position to enter the Lock. Blah blah. We got the green light to go through the narrow bits through Reading town centre. I helmed so no photos!

Undercover of a bridge, as we leave Reading.

No boat traffic in sight then, and only one in view when we were on the straight to Blake’s Lock, operated by the Environmental Agency (E.A). There was nobody present and we let ourselves through, saying “Thanks and Laters” to our cruising buddies.
 
Sonning mooring
The R. Thames is special to return to. We went as far as Sonning Lock, thought we might catch up with the Clooney’s and some other named people that actually hang about in that area. The Bull Inn was an enjoyable revisit and we met a young family who were enjoying a few days out on their ‘Tupperware’.

Now we are at Wargrave Marsh, a delightful mooring on the R. Thames. Thanks to Clare and John, former steel boaters now Tupperware crafters, for showing us and saving the mooring for us.

The River is busy with huge boats and the occasional Narrowboat. We’re on a 7 day E.A license and will get to Brentford soon!

 
Sheltered from the main drag, Wargrave.







Friday, 26 August 2016

IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP IF YOU WANT TO LOCK-N-LOL



Reflection in Bath

We pulled the plug on Bath time as soon as Della’s Vet gave the all clear that normal duties could be resumed and she, Della, was fit to be on the move as long as we sent a sample of her pee in the fast post to be tested for ‘no blood present’! Great to have delightful Della returning to ‘normal’!!
 
Bath vista, the walk I found with Della on our last morning Bath!
DB was ready for departure and family friends of mine, who live near Bath, joined us for the cruise from Bath to Bradford-upon-Avon. It’s a long story but suffice to say I first met Harold 50 years ago when he was the visiting Trinity College of Music examiner doing the circuit in NZ. Time moves on but lovely to share our DolcieBlue with him and Helen.
 
Harold & Helen
The Canal between Bath and Bradford was busy, mostly with moored up boats. We did have more than a ‘steel kiss’ with an oversized wide-beam Hotel Boat. As to blame, it was a protruding obstruction on our starboard side that Cptn had not seen and I had been busy chit-chatting rather than being the helpful observant First-Mate. Cptn Matey, on the Hotel Boat, was not best pleased and accused DB Cptn of being drunk! I think if we had passed this way, recently, the narrowing caused by the obstruction would be memorable but this was the first time in 5 years! DB now sports 12 scratch marks, the length of her cabin side, but that will go with a wax and polish!
 
Pretty Canal
Without further ado DB cruised on to Bradford and almost fit the prime mooring before the Lock moorings. The short Nb behind us aptly named ‘Tight Squeeze’ could have pulled back and shared the ring behind it to make sure there was adequate space. Lacking consideration seems to be common mooring practise, on the canal. There are 3 choices....grin and bear it; request the boat ‘owner’ adjust the boat position to make more room; use initiative and care and move the boat yourself.
 
Bradford-upon-Avon
I took Della for a mega walk the following morning, at least 2 miles, and returned to DB as a Nb was going into the Lock. It made sense to share the Lock and get on with our cruise with our day’s destination being the bottom of the Caen Flight. The Bradford Lock was the first lock that I went ‘up’ on Nb Avalon Mist, 5 years ago! The days of inexperience when we held the ropes to prevent any loss of control of AM, as the rising waters looked menacing. So long ago on that learning curve! Now, the boat engine has become our friend and tool, as has commonsense with winding the paddles.

The K&A has more than a few locks, 104 to be precise and a fair few swing bridges that are mostly manually operated. The swing bridges we struck, not literally, that day were metal ‘mothers’ and the heat of the day was messing with their swing. Heave, grin and bear it worked on most and then there was one I couldn’t budge! A boatie showed me a knack that may work but I think we are past those bad bridges now!

Occasionally we came across some wide-beam or is it broad-beam boats, on the move. I think I would be on a river if I had that size of craft. The people, aboard, were empathetic and would give up their space in the queue at the Locks so 2 Narrowboats could move ahead of them through the Lock. One of the kids in a wide-beam let her windlass drop into the Canal. DB’s Cptn took his mega- magnet and spent some minutes trying to locate the windlass without success. Still we were rewarded in being able to cruise on ahead to the next Lock.

At Seend Cleeve we had another run of Locks. The pound near the pub was running dry and I tried to moor at the Lock mooring but kept being pulled to the Pub moorings opposite. I couldn’t see the Lock but guessed it was being emptied as the pound was filling with a cover of water. Chit chat with a thirsty person, while I waited.
I called out to a Mr Grumpy with a windlass, on the towpath side “Is the Lock ready?”
“Yes”
“Are you coming up as well?” I asked.
“No!”
“Thankyou, good moaning.” I said. (He wouldn’t have heard my pun!)


It took a fair bit of manoeuvring and a helpful push-off to get DB free and floating so I could throttle on to the Lock!

It wasn’t all Lock-n-Lol that day. We shared a Lock with a newbie and his partner who was reluctant to work the Lock and ended up staying on their boat. I must be scary but I do try to be helpful. The first Lock is the deepest?!!
Moving along with the day getting later I was steering and coming into view was a bridge on a blind bend, canal-vision! The boat ahead had disappeared and I gave a blast of DB’s horn. I think I had heard a horn and was kind of prepared for oncoming traffic. Suddenly the nose of a wide-beam boat appeared and I automatically throttled back. It reads like fast action takes place but remember boats do not move fast and once sighted cautionary action with steering and throttle takes place. Soon I was on the move and before long, DB was behind a ‘Holiday’ Boat getting grounded in the shallow muddy waters.

“Let us overtake” yelled Cptn. “Take our stern rope” as he threw it to them “ and we’ll tow you out of the mud.”

We shared the next 7 Locks with them which took us to our night mooring at the bottom of the Caen Flight. Phew, we made it. They were winding to head back but there was a boat already moored at the bottom of the Flight and I found out they were going up the next day. 
Morning before taking the Caen Flight 

Thankfully, there were 2 people aboard! We shared the flight of 15 Locks plus another 6, spaced out but close together, Locks to Devizes. Helen, my family friend, was joining us to experience the feeling of ‘going up a Lock’ and she also gave us a big helping hand with a number of the Locks.
 
Locking done

Locking up with a steel kiss!

I collected mail I had had sent on to ‘Poste Restante’ at a Post Office near the top of the Flight and then continue Lock duties. 

I stepped into a grass covered hole at Lock 47 and fell onto soft ground. I think I have flexible ankles as a pat of arnica cream seemed to give comfort to the affected area. I think it was quite a spectacular fall and holding the windlass away from me meant I didn’t try to save myself! I just rolled and walked away.
 
Nearly there!
Yay, we made it to Devizes and Market Day and in time to have good moorings and be ready for our friends from California who were staying the night!
 
Left to Devizes......California is on DB



Saturday, 13 August 2016

EVERYTHING’S GONNA BE ALL RIGHT


 
Pirates on Bristol Floating Harbour
Sunday night in Bristol was quiet. The people on terra firma didn’t mooch about for long and I had dinner to prepare, I can’t remember what we had, it had been a long day getting from Sharpness to Bristol. I know we were tired and elated with our day’s achievement on new waters. I needed sleep and went to bed early. I remember hearing an inebriated reveller close to DB and reports, the next day, were said person teetered on falling in. I’m glad there was no alarm raised for rescue!

As usual in the morning, we woke early and decided to get underway and have a late breakfast. I am told Bristol has lots of places of interest but we were keen to move out of the Floating Harbour and back to the River Avon finding somewhere rural to spend a couple of days while rain was forecast! I took the DB’s wheel and steered the interesting waterway. It was not clear which way to steer out of the harbour but 6 eyes and a harbour map helped. There were some harbour-side works going on and there was one moored boat with ‘high-vis’ aboard having ‘Smoko’. Is that term still used for tea-break or has it become Vape-break?  Shortly after this an outboard work dingy thingy boat of life jacketed ‘high-vis’ went by heading in to town probably. Beats train travel!
 
Netham Lock
 It felt like we were on R. Avon but Netham Lock signifies the end of the Floating Harbour and meets with R. Avon. The Lock gates were open so we just continued on through. Time and tide were in our favour. I found out, a couple of days later I could have phoned the Lockie to find out what times the gates would open, it was just good fortune that our psychic channel was on!! So we were, now, back on C&RT waters and the Locks would be for our own manual labour. The R. Avon would take us to Bath where we will begin the Kennet & Avon Canal.
 
Back on the R. Avon
The first Lock, Keynsham Lock, gave us a view of a Visitor Mooring pontoon ahead and the thought of breakfast gave us impetus to get tied up and have some food. 
Hanham

We appreciated that both our canopies were in situ, as the rain clouds approached, and without hesitation made the decision to stay put for a couple of days and to test out the dinner menu at one or both of the establishments a hop skip and jump away. Della had become lethargic and not interested in going for walks. We thought she was showing signs of aging, she is almost 10 years old, and let her sleep more. Being the  ‘navigator’ is not all a bed of cushions and treats! We all enjoyed having some rest and Phil went and collected his car which meant he could take me to one of my fave supermarkets to stock up with fresh food.

Phil left and Mark arrived, a smooth changeover with guests while the rain stayed. I’m naming this summer ‘Bummer Summer’ cos that’s the truest definition of it, for me. We are given forecasts for sweet dreams but the reality is far from days of sunshine and roses more like rain with a sprinkling of more rain. The weather did improve for our cruise, the following day, to Bath. I enjoy river travel on DB, it is a calm cruise and easier, than the Canals, being at the Helm. 

Swineford Lock, I think.

However, it was Mark’s turn to get his ‘badge’ and he steered well including in / out of the Locks. Della came out for short courtesy calls with me as I worked the Locks. For the first time, I let her walk across the Lock gate platform which was wider than the same on canal locks. She didn’t see bothered by the potential drop to the water below, in fact she never glanced at the danger below!
 
Skipper Mark getting close to start of K&A Canal

There were a few good rural river moorings, we passed, but Bath was our destination and we were going to get on the K & A Canal. There were moorings near some big building works, in Bath, but we soon saw the start of the Canal, missed letting me off at the lock moorings
View from land looking down river to K&A Lock Mooring ahead. The sunk boat to the (R) just got sold on EBay!

The sign wasn’t obvious and there was a Nb heading into the Bottom Lock so Cptn tooted the horn to indicate we’ll share with them and I did a last minute jump to a step that got me landed in walking distance to the Lock.
 
2 Locks become one Bath Deep Lock 8/9   It's a long way up if you want to Rock-n-Roll

Our partners with the Lock were newbies on their newly bought Nb and were intent on using ropes to keep them safe in the rising Lock. I empathised with them, remembering our early days on AM, when I was concerned she would get into trouble if we didn’t use the centre rope in the Lock. I said that 2 boats in the Lock will keep the boat stable but he wasn’t having any of that. By the time we got to the 5th Lock he had stopped using the rope! Cptn had reassured him that all would be good. With experience, on the Canals, the boat engine is the controller. Keep the Stern close to the back gates when going up a Lock. Keep the Bow close to the front gates when going down a Lock, this avoids getting the Stern caught on the Cill. You never want to get caught on the Cill, your boat could drown!
 
Overstaying with permission


We found a mooring at the top of the 5 Bath locks and I took Della for a short walk before doggy-dinner. I noticed, then, that she had blood in her wee. Alarm bells rang and I asked a passerby, walking a cute Mini Schnauzer, if she was a local, “Yes” was her reply and I got the name of her Vet! I was straight on the phone, in the morning, and Della accompanied with a fresh pee sample had her first consultation. The vet was fantastic, ‘Ashman Jones Vets’, and within 2 days Della had been x-rayed, confirmed diagnosis of 2 bladderstones and booked in for an op.
 
Della wears the handbag well.

As we were going to need to stay in Bath for more than the 48hr signposted Visitor Mooring gave us,  I phoned the K&A Enforcement Officer to request permission to overstay our mooring time.  The Officer was very understanding and could see by our cruising pattern that we were not in the habit of overstaying as we moved around the Canals and Rivers network. I have kept in touch with her and fingers crossed little Della-dog will be fit for travel on August 16. She is making a speedy recovery, following the rules, and should be back to chasing rabbits and squirrels soon.


We have enjoyed being moored in Bath and have caught up with Nb Jonesfield who we met a couple of years ago when we shared the Thames Lock at Limehouse and pretended we were in a Nb flotilla doing the bridges of London. We met, again, last year at the Hatton Locks and now near their home mooring in Bath. The small world of England’s waterways.
 
Holborne Museum

Bath is a friendly and pretty city where we have been warmly welcomed.  Our life is destined to keep on the move but I expect to return some sunny day!



R. Avon not accessible for the likes of us

Downriver from the weir. We are foot traffic at this level!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

CANAL ESTUARY CHANNEL RIVER


The 15 ½ mile Gloucester & Sharpness Canal was once the broadest and deepest Canal in the world and was a route for cargo ships and barges that used the Severn Estuary to Sharpness, Gloucester Docks and beyond to Tewkesbury and Stourport accessing Canal Transport to the Midlands. That is a simplistic way of describing the former use of the Canal but it is well worth finding out more information through an Internet search engine or your local Library!
 
Lift Bridge out of Gloucester Docks
After a few days in Gloucester  woken by loud gulls, shrieking and fighting during the early morning hours at a nearby refuse centre, it was time to cruise to Sharpness.  We decided to keep our canopies in situ for the trip. We had 15 ‘manned’ swing bridges to pass, if DB was normal Nb height then one bridge would not need swinging. A low bridge had to be raised before we could leave the Basin and we showed our direction and intent by casting off and tooting DB’s horn. Soon we were signalled by the flashing red traffic light and the bridge rose and we got the green light. Close by was a high bridge to pass under and then we moored for breakfast at the Sainsburys Superstore. Breakfast at Tiffanys it wasn’t but still it was breakfast.

Swing Bridge

The swing bridges are, in view, frequently and were operated effectively. The one bridge that Nb’s can pass under needed to be swung for us. We may have made it without it swinging, we got as close as DB’s nose going under but it wasn’t worth risking the canopies!


Initially we were going to head straight for Sharpness to cross the Severn Estuary / Bristol Channel to Portishead, with a Pilot. The boat engine needs to be in good condition, the fuel tank needs to be clean and the vents taped up safety is the concern and the age and condition of the boat are considered. Chris had pre-booked the Pilot but we needed to be flexible with the ‘crossing’ day as the weather would dictate whether it was safe for ‘flat bottom boat’ to cross or not. The weather forecast for Friday, our booked day, was not good overcast and windy. A wind greater than Force 3 was not a goer. The next possible ‘cruising’ day looked like the following Tuesday so we pencilled in the Pilot for that. We stopped for the night, early in the day, at Saul Junction where the Stroudwater Canal is slowly being restored to Lechlade and the R. Thames. I think not in my lifetime but a wonderful possibility for the 22nd Century!

Next day we cruised to the Visitor Moorings in view of the Sharpness High Level and the Sharpness Low Level Bridges where the Sharpness Docks and Sharpness Lock lie in the waters behind. 

We had been going to do the ‘crossing’ with Nb EvaLouise , that morning, and they were moored at the Visitor Moorings. They told us the trip had been cancelled due to winds above Force3 but they were going the following morning at 0400hrs. It was on ‘his’ bucket list but wifey was not looking excited. We wished them good luck and I thanked them for going first adding “If you don’t make it, I won’t go.” Later, on Saturday, we heard their trip had been amazing with the estuary being like glass. That put it on my bucket list for me and made us reconsider the weather forecasts yet again. Sunday looked better than Tuesday and we made a snap decision to do it on Sunday providing the Pilot was able to accompany us.
 
Visitor Mooring, Sharpness
It was a last minute decision but workable. Things got moving once Pilot Ricky contacted us and we had a couple of hours to move under the High Bridge in wait for the Low Bridge to swing open at 1630 for our entry. I just had time to finish painting DB’s portside gunwhale before we got mid canal and waited.  
Non slip gunwhale finished

Not to mention time to catch up with news from a fellow boater on NB Oak, from Mercia Marina Days, you don’t just get sharks in the water eh Reg and Randy. Thoughts with you both and hope the nightmare becomes a dream again.

It was a novel feeling going into the Sharpness Docks onboard DB. DB would be ‘trapped’ until 0430hrs Sunday when the Lock Gates open, by C&RT, for our entrance and we would meet Pilot Ricky. It was quiet, moored in the Docks, and we cleared DB’s roof ready for the high seas! I walked to get a view of the Severn Estuary and marvel that we would become a dot in it, the next day. There was no breeze and that, I hoped, was a good sign.


Sharpness Docks


I don’t think I had a deep sleep, that night. I knew that the sunrise wasn’t until 0530hrs and I was hopeful there would be enough light so we didn’t need to shine our own light. I know I was looking forward to getting on with the crossing. 

Sharpness Lock

I wondered if we were really going on the Bristol Channel. I was wide awake to watch the sky slowly lighten to give the day a magic feel. 

Day dawning

The weather was ‘textbook’ and I smiled all the way to Portishead. Reactions from people about doing the crossing are “Ooh! You are brave.” “Aren’t you scared?” I think, with planning, there is no reason to feel scared and with a life jacket on there is security with that. Oh I can swim, I prefer to wear a bodysuit in a cold sea but I had no plan to swim that day!
 
Pilot Ricky doing very well

It was so calm going over the Estuary. Our Pilot Ricky (£200) was informative, trustworthy, friendly and steered most of the way explaining why he was steering the course he was steering. 

Sunrise as we begin crossing.

We left Sharpness as the tide was still coming in so we stayed close to the bank then as the tide was going out we moved towards the other side and then central. 
Severn Bridge

Second Severn Bridge

R. Wye Bridge


I suppose there are channels involved. I didn’t want to get too blonde in my comments! Pilot Ricky enjoyed being at the wheel under cover of the wheelhouse, a warmer place than being exposed to the weather steering with a tiller.


The trip to Portishead took us 3 hours and we cruised in ideal conditions. Pilot Ricky pointed out and told us, more than once, where the mouth of the River Avon was. This was important as we would have no pilot after Portishead. It was important to trust that the smaller lighthouse marked the entrance to the River Avon. More about that, shortly.

The shorter Lighthouse indicates R. Avon on starboard side!

Portishead Quay Marina was an unknown to us. We knew that it cost an arm and a leg for an overnight mooring. The word “amazing” escaped my lips as we entered the poshest deep Lock I’ve ever been in. 

Cascade in Lock


Through the Lock gates DB went alongside a floating pontoon which I walked on to tie DB’s Bow rope to its mooring pin. I walked back to our stern and stood on the pontoon as the water surged into the Lock. An impressive close-up white-water viewing experience without getting wet. Halfway up Pilot made his farewells walking up the metal stairs integral on the Lock wall. The Lock was 2/3rds full when Chris went to book us in to the Marina for few hours and book the Lock so we could continue our journey with the incoming tide. Job done and gates open we cruised the length of the Marina, past the multitude of expensive plastic boats and sail craft, before returning to our temp mooring. I think we were the only steel boat! Portihead Quay Marina definitely has a Mediterranean feel.
 
Spot the difference!

Chris said we were booked to go down the Lock at 1400 hrs. This gave us enough time to have breakfast at the outside Cabin Cafe Shack, very good breakfast, well priced, and proper coffee well made and presented. Time also to walk some of the coastal path on the perimeter of the village and look down at the mud flats showing the tide was definitely out! Back at DB, I decided to wash her roof down using the hosepipe that was lying in wait for me. May as well, I thought. Then I played my ‘Bari’ Uke cos I could, until the Lock gates opened.

I was a little nervous being without a pilot but I knew Cptn would keep in control. The Lock was easy and we were sharing it with 3 ‘plastics’ and a yacht. We let the ‘plastics’ go first, out of the Lock, and soon we were underway. We had been told by the Pilot, earlier, to watch out for fishing lines at the end of the ‘wall’ before the Channel. We forgot and I know someone was yelling and doing a dance at the top of the wall but I had no idea what had happened. Like we can see cat gut, just hope it didn’t get wrapped around our rudder.....
 
Keep going the mouth of the R. Avon is opening for us!!
We were back on the Bristol Channel, the Severn Estuary ends at the 2nd Severn Bridge and avoiding drifting on to the nearby mudflats. Cptn tried to reassure me that if we got grounded on the mud it would be a fleeting moment as the incoming tide would lift us. Our uncertainty was about trusting the intel from Pilot Ricky and the river charts with certainty that the wall starboard of the small Lighthouse actually indicated the entrance to the R. Avon and was not the mudflat mound. Truthfully, it was concerning. I need to take more notice of a river mouth and realise that when it meets the sea that clear water mixed with mud looks muddy brown not river blue!
 
Clifton Bridge and Bristol is almost round the bend!

It was a relief to be on the R. Avon. The waters of the Bristol Channel had become choppy and the wind was getting stronger. The tidal part of the R. Avon would last to Hanham Lock taking boat traffic to the Floating Harbour in Bristol and, unbeknownst to us when we joined the R. Avon again for a short distance at Netham Lock. The tide was still coming in on the R. Avon and we needed to keep central on the river and avoid the sloping mud banks. I took over the steering and realised that the proximity of the banks moved from side to side and concentrating on the task was important. It wasn’t a worry and we would be fine. Not far from the Clifton Bridge and Chris used VHF to contact Hanham Lock. The Lockies warned us that 3 passenger boats would be heading in our direction as they exited the Lock.

Next we were up the Lock and soon out floating on the Floating Harbour. A friend, who we had arranged to meet, spotted us from land and called out to me. I think I heard him on his second yell! We left it to him to find us when we had moored. We found a pontoon mooring that had Nb EvaLouise (the one we were going to do the Bristol Channel with) in the line-up.
 
There we are moored in the Foating Harbour Bristol
That was a happy ending to a memorable day.



 
Trip info when we arrived at the Portishead Lock






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.