Tuesday, 6 June 2017

BADGER ALERT

Felt pic made by EJA. Just the dec for a carpeted cabin side. Thx Lizzie


A couple of days on the ring moorings near Dimmingsdale Bridge with fine weather saw DB’s aesthetic body works progressing. Cptn had sanded and repainted 2 coats to DB’s roof, her peachy shade of pale, in Ashwood Marina. She is looking fresh and shiny. Now it was the turn of her port-side for the same treatment. DOLCIEBLUE, her Art-Deco ‘badge’ is removed and there will be a new name tag put on eventually. It has been printed and is under wraps indoors in a safe place! Port-side is done and dusted and Starboard-side will be done soon. The joys of moving along and moorings move from one side to another.

While Cptn was busy with the paint roller and dry brush special application to steel technique, I got started decorating coloured vinyl squares on the actual side hatches. It is not a complicated task but it does involve patience and fine fingers. The effect is visually rewarding and we are always thanking people for their positive words and smiles that greet us as we move along the ‘Cut’.
I think we fit the make-up of a fine weather boater. There is no point moving in the rain unless it is absolutely 100% necessary. We have a barometer, access to a minimum of 3 hourly weather forecasts and most importantly we have our eyes to look up to the sky and watch the colour, depth and movement of the clouds when necessary. An ethereal reading or is that too poetic? So 2nd coat of paint completed and weather outlook ticks the fair weather box and DB untied and on the move to the Shroppie (Shropshire Union Canal). 

Autherley Junction is the sharp port turn, for DB, onto the Shroppie with the Stop Lock to pass through. I suggested Cptn work the Lock and I would bring in DB. I had to hold DB in position on the Staffs and Worcs waiting for a Nb, moving in my direction to go through the lock. Meanwhile, another Nb is heading towards me, not giving any indication of what its navigation plan was. I was not going to give up my position, why should I, so as they got closer I used my raised hand to query their plan. They indicated the direction of the Shroppie so I indicated them to STOP. Nb leaving the Lock sounds its horn and gestures it is turning Starboard. Yes, the horn does signal direction but I need to hone up on my horn signalling. Even more important now I am a wheel controller!
Navigator is confident Mum can do this!

With all the time in wait, I had moved into the best position to do a fantabulous sharp turn to port using the wheel, of course, bow thrusters and throttle movement forward/reverse. Not a bump or scratch touched DB. Result!!
 
Fill everything with water

We stopped after the Junction and filled up with water. Our tank was not low but it is good practice to keep it topped up. The water point needs maintenance, it took about an hour to top up our tank but I think we made a mud bath on the towpath and topped up the canal level at the same time. A passing boater called out “You would think the water fill up would be quick as the water point is located by the biggest reservoir in the West Midlands.”

Between Bridges 7 & 8 are excellent ring moorings, and at this time of the year there are few boats on the move. Weather showed rain was on the way. Cptn sanded and sugar soaped the DB’s starboard side ready for painting one sunny day in the near future. I made progress with vinyl stickers patterning onto the stern outside the wheelhouse. Looking good. The side hatches will need to wait for warmer weather, no point letting cold air indoors!

Cover up

Here, we were moored next to NB SLOWBOAT TO NOWHERE. In NZ, in the 70’s I visited a valley on Mt. Potts called Erewhon, which is nestled along the base of the Southern Alps. There was a rope tow giving access to a skifield and a ‘nutcracker’ was needed. The location did feel beautiful and free  like wilderness in the middle of ‘Nowhere’. It was so liberating to scream.
NB Slowboat To Nowhere owner’s were from the Black Country. They told us that often they received comments from people thinking The Black Country  was an area of Birmingham that described the ethnic make-up of people living there. The Black Country  is the name given to the West Bromwich, Oldbury, Blackheath, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Bilston, Dudley, Tipton and Wednesfield  area and came from when the coal and steel industries grew there at the beginning of The Industrial Revolution. It was a dirty time for people and I can only imagine the filth that they must have lived and worked in.

On that note, we left our mooring before the rains came and had a quick cruise to Brewood pronounced Brrrood. Yeah it’s obvious! Again ring moorings come into play and we are back into disappearing Internet signal. 

I took Della for a short stroll and did a double take when I saw what looked like a long haired wet cat with a snout on the semi-trad stern of a boat. I glanced at it but needed to make sure Della was eyes ahead and on the move. It looked young and wet and was shivering. Within minutes I found out that it was a Badger. It was obviously not a pet and everyone was concerned. I offered to phone the RSPCA and take it from there. I walked to The Bridge Inn to see if I could get phone reception there. Luckily they had WiFi and I could use that to get the RSPCA contact number. It took ages to get through the answer phone listings to speak to a humanoid but I got there in the end only to be doubly frustrated with a bad phone signal and misunderstanding of my Kiwi dialect. I handed my phone to the Landlord to see if he could make some sense of this call. All said and done I headed back down to DB.

A gongoozler said he had contacted the Badger Society and he didn’t have much confidence with the RSPCA. He then said that the Badger had dived back into the canal and headed to the other side. Apparently there are Badger Setts in the area. That was a happy ending for the Badger but there is a but, the RSPCA had said to me that someone would come sometime soon. I wasn’t going to phone them back to cancel as it was too much of a palaver to get through to a humanoid. (I remember making a 999 call when I was house-sitting in Kilburn, London 1987. I thought I heard a gunshot from next door. I was on edge because I had had a break-in a couple of days earlier and a carving knife had been thrust into an office suitcase and stuff strewn around. The 999 operator said the Armed Defenders Squad were on their way. I hung up. Then I heard the musical sound of ‘whheeewheee’, Fire-bloody-Works not the IRA. I couldn’t phone back 999 to cancel the ADS! When the ADS arrived they were pleased I had contacted them. I don’t think the neighbours were.)

Out of the blue, so to speak, the gongoozler had noticed I had blue eyes and asked me if I realised it was likely I shared a common ancestor with blue eyed people. I googled it....It appears that a genetic mutation in a single individual in Europe 6,000 to 10,000 years ago led to the development of blue eyes, according to researchers at the University of Copenhagen. Well, who’d have thought a Badger would have brought that info to light up my world!!

That almost brings me to the end of this Blog. An RSPCA worker did turn up, a couple of hours later, and made contact with me. I reassured her that the Badger had jumped in the water and gone to the other side. She told me this is Badger country and they are nocturnal. It is unusual for a badger to be away from its home in daylight and on the stern of a boat.
Working on it

Ah well, all’s well that ends well.











Friday, 2 June 2017

MEMORY LANE plus MEANWHILE BACK ON DB, WE’RE UNDERWAY

R. Thames

DAVID'S STORY

David an Englishman from Staines now lives in New Zealand. He is very interested in my life cruising on a Narrowboat along the canals and rivers in England. He shared, with me, fond memories of a boating adventure in 1947 when he was larking about with 3 other boys all aged less than 12 years old. Picture yourself in this group on a ‘punt’ (a long flat bottomed boat square at both ends propelled with a pole) on the River Thames at Staines. There was one boy either end of the punt and two in the middle! David said the boys had promised their mothers they would be careful; there were no other rules that he recalls restricting their adventure. Now 70 years later he is smiling as he remembers.
“You wouldn’t be allowed to do it these days” he said.
“So tell me about your journey” I asked.
He began “We left from Staines. It was hard work punting up the river. We went up the river to Oxford.”
I think he was wearing rose coloured glasses for the memory and to be able to get so far, so quickly, would take ‘superboy’ strength. I know that pumping our Narrowboat along the Thames at a max speed of 1700 rpm, it still takes us a few days to get upstream from Teddington Lock to Oxford. On the canal, unless we are going at tic, 970 rpm (slow walking speed), we will be cruising max revs at 1300 rpm that. I get mathematically dyslexic trying to work that into mph or kmph. I can say we go faster on the River Thames than we do on a Canal.
Supervised entertainment on R. Thames 2016

David and friends must have needed food to fuel them and sleep to restore them. I’m not going to mess with his fine dream. How different life looks through the eyes of a child. He does remember going through a lock or two where he recalls the Lock-keepers were very helpful.
I mentioned boat ropes to him and he swiftly moved on to the return journey which was downstream. His face was filled with joy picturing him and one of the boys positioned at the stern of the punt holding either end of a rope laced through a big piece of canvas to catch the wind returning the punt back to Staines.
Oh what joy, what freedom! David thank you for sharing your boyhood adventure of life post WW2. Sounds like Swallows and Amazons.


MEANWHILE BACK ON DB, WE’RE UNDERWAY.
Robin Redbreast perched on fence with natural graphics.

Our boat license is valid until June 2018. We are cruising. I knew I needed to get behind the boat wheel hoping the steering and length of the boat would feel familiar, like it had felt at the end of cruising 2016. It’s a similar situation as driving on the road whether it be England (stay left), Spain (stay right), NZ (stay left), oh here comes a round-a-bout. Normally I’m driving in a manual car, then in NZ I’m driving an automatic car..... Safe to say I managed.
We left the Marina on May Bank Holiday Monday, the day before Ashwood Marina ‘Crane’day, as we did not to be in the way of ‘swinging’ boats. We moored above Greenforge Lock on the 48 hr mooring, ideal because the waterpoint was as near as alongside and Cptn could pressure wash the stern, as well as the grubby wheelhouse canopy that had been in situ for 7 months. It was dirty but not green!
Moving to Hinksford

After a couple of nights in the shady mooring we moved the short distance into the light near Hinksford for the night. Della and I walked a triangular walk that followed a public Footpath edging a Livery and a field planted in wheat, now knee-high. I noticed a horse with rider heading in our direction so I followed tracks going downhill and came out on the Swindon Village Road. A dog walker heading towards us pointed out where the canal was and Della and I could get back to DB without having to re track our steps. This is the best sort of walk. Back on DB we lowered the wheelhouse, next day, and moved to Swindon. A bridge and 2 locks meant DB needed to be ready for height restrictions!

My junky eye now gungy eyelid needed medical attention so I made an attempt to book in as a non-resident patient at a GP practice that was only a couple of miles, more-or-less, walk away. I had phoned in the morning and was told to phone back at 1 pm to make an appointment for that afternoon. I set my timer and dead on 1 pm I phoned, engaged! I redialled continuously until I got a ringing tone. The ‘emergency’ appointments had been taken and I was told to go to a walk-in centre. Where is the walk in centre, and I was told it is only a 15-minute taxi ride away. So, literally, I can’t walk in. I found a pharmacy who said the prescription I needed could only be given by a Medical Doctor. I was getting frustrated as the antibiotic eye drops I had been given, over the pharmacy counter, a week ago had caused my eyelid to fester. I decided stuff and blow it, I’ll use good old warm salt water eyewashes. See, I think my eyelid is getting better!!

That Lock nearly has my name!

I was keen to get DB on the move, June 1st was here and we could get underway. I walked Della along the towpath and checked out the nearby Locks. One was straight forward followed by a staircase Lock and I decided it was now that I needed to get behind the wheel. I did and I was pleased that steering felt natural. I adjusted position and line up to enter locks with ease. Yes, über cool! All was great then we got to the ‘manned’ Bratch Locks which are a well known feat of canal engineering. They look like staircase locks but they have ‘impossibly’ short pounds between the Locks. What I experienced waiting for a Narrowboat to come down the Locks was an incredible force of water that took all my strength to hold DB with her centre rope wrapped around the bollard at the Lock mooring.
I was relieved when I got into the bottom Lock and thought ‘the only way is UP’. As I was moving between Lock 2 & 3 over the ‘impossibly’ short pound DB’s engine cut out. I restarted her and she choked and died! Before the engine had carked it DB had enough movement to drift into the next Lock but I had no power to stop the movement so her reliable nose made sure . Now I was captaining a disabled craft. The Lock Keeper saw a rope floating out of her ‘prop’! I saw the other end of the rope taut on its stern ring. It had strangled the propeller! OK so we need to get up and out of the Lock. I called out to the Lockies, ‘Take her up real slow!! I have no control!!’ Help was at hand from a Kiwi turned Ozzie, it happens. DB got pulled out of the Lock and I could use the bow thruster to keep DB out of harm’s way as she went round the concrete curve of the Lock mooring!
Cptn pulls the Propeller Strangler

Cptn soon had the weed hatch removed and got busy with the bread knife cutting the rope to ease it out of the prop! Problem sorted and we were off. It was still late morning and I had my mind set on getting to Dimmingsdale Bridge where I remembered there were ring moorings. I had one more go with taking DB into a Lock. This time there was another strong wash of water near the Lock entrance and it tried to sweep DB into the weedy bush before the Lock. Rather than panic, I dealt with it and I got into the Lock. End of story. I’m taking the ‘Mindful’ approach.
Canal calm.

As chance had it the ring mooring I had in mind is ours, sign posted 5 days max.  

There’s work to be done.


 
Our view for a few days



Tuesday, 30 May 2017

ON THE CUT AGAIN....GET THE PICTURE


Seven months reads a long time but it feels like it has floated away now we spend our first full day on the Staffs & Worcs Canal ( Staffordshire & Worcester Canal for those uninitiated to shortening the long words) after reversing out of our home marina, Ashwood Marina yesterday.

In brief, follows a pictorial history of my 7-month peregrination. My feet were involved in the daily dog walks in Spain, then traversing the International Airports particularly Gatwick and Dubai and only mentioning Alicante, Brisbane, Auckland, and Melbourne because they were in that long haul can of worms. Long haul travel does not hold its appeal for me, anymore, but the light at both ends of the tunnel is well worth it. I’m Kiwi and I hold my homeland dear. I am a 5 year old water gypsy and I love sharing this and España with Chris and Della (our ‘chica guapa’).

Caged sunset, Spain Dec 2016

Snow falls in the aptly named Costa Blanca Spain, Dec 2016. 

Our view to Salinas de Torrevieja
Nice hat. Water gypsy and Uke chica. Spain Jan 2017

Hanging out at Lo Pagan, Spain Jan 2017

Glimpse of the Med., Guardamar del Segura March 2017
Stormy weather at Dubai InternationalAirport. A leaky pane dripped on me!

Anyone for cricket. Mirimar, Wellington NZ


Predator-free fence!

Sumner, Christchurch NZ

Hokey Pokey Icecream yumyum

Leg of Lamb

Tui tv in Waitati

Koreru (wood pigeon) surveys food for grabs!


Dunedin Harbour from the Albatross Observatory April 2017 
Observing a Royal Albatross chick  April 2017

Bungee Jump. I heard a squeal! Waiau River near Hanmer Springs NZ

Is that the propeller disintegrating? Flight ChCh to Tauranga and then came turbulence!

Probably that way! Walking Mauao ( Mt Maunganui/Tauranga) NZ May 2017

I'm on the one in the middle!! May 2017


I arrived back in England, a week ago, it was a gruelling 30 hours from Auckland to London Gatwick followed by a further 5 hours to get to NbDolcieBlue. There is no romantic fantasy in that but “YES” to my reality. Dream on....

DB is fit for purpose. DB is lovely. DB is real. DB is my home with Chris and Della.

Going up!!


Now begins our adventure of cruising 2018. You know nearly as much as me about that now!


WHAT'S NEXT......

Monday, 28 November 2016

DESTINATION LOS MONTESINOS

Leaving Newhaven


Day 1...Chris planned a great drive to ‘Home-Base’ Los Montesinos which took 6 days including the Newhaven to Dieppe crossing La Manche on the DFDS ferry. We left Keith, mate, in LA (LittlehAmpton) and drove the congested road in the direction of Brighton. The ‘Keep the Guard on the Train’ Southern Railway strike, that day, meant an increase in car traffic. We arrived with plenty of time to check in for the ferry and we were well placed for a quick exit into France. The crossing took 4 hours and we arrived in the rain.

Chris had booked accommodation for the road journey on Bookings.com and his plan was to avoid pay motorways and motorways, in general, in France. Not an easy drive, as daylight faded, on the country roads and there were bundles of fallen leaves covering the road markings. The road signs were awkward to read as our car head beam of light made the reflective background dazzle. I was happy when we got to our destination, guided by SatNav, in Normandy, a town called Juvigny-sous-Andaine and I had to unlock a bit of my ‘froggy’ lingo stored in the depths of my white matter to get instructions to locate our booked accommodation. I almost got it but not quite and had to return to have the instructions repeated.  “Merci beaucoup.”  The drive took about 3 hours and we decided, next time to book accommodation more accessible to Dieppe and keep the rural driving for daylight!
 
Autonne

Day 2 was, at times rural, but we passed through some familiar territory, once upon a time we and 7 friends had bought a ‘doer-upper’ in the region of Maine et Loire. Another story, but as we were driving along I recognised some of the towns and then we were on the outskirts of Segré,
a place I remember visiting EDF (Electricité de France), to make a contract for electricity on one Easter Friday and they gave us little gifts of chocolate and stationary.
Crossing the R. Loire, Segré
 We were told it was not the French-way to be using electricity without a contract as we had been doing for about a year!! Oh the memories!


Our journey, on Day 2, took us to Lieu Dit Bois Bourdet, Souvigné east of Niort and another fab Bookings.com booking. Chris planned for our accommodation in France to be self-catering France tends to shut down early evening and we did not want to be driving out to find somewhere closed for dinner so we prepared simple food. Actually, I made a sizeable Bacon & Egg pie for the trip, it was simple to prepare and lush to eat. I think a healthy handful of bacon, ½ dozen eggs, and Crème Fraiche baked inside a wrapping of flaky pastry did the trick.

Della went off to explore while we talked, outdoors, with the BnB owner, and we were greeted minutes later by 2 chickens running for their lives being chased by Della! She stopped, as soon as Chris gave her strong words that this was not acceptable!



Day 3, and the weather was fine but cold so we got underway, early morning, to head south. We were going to avoid Bordeaux and SatNav took us on to the free N10 motorway and some kilometres later we were back on the little roads passing vineyard after vineyard to get to Saint-Sernin, in the Aquitaine Region, close to Bergerac. Yet another lovely stop with great rural accommodation. If you want details of where we stayed, in France, please message me. Our drive took about 3 hours and I enjoyed viewing the countryside as we drove along.


Day 4, this was the day we go through the 8.6km Tunnel du Somport into Spain. 

When we realised that we were not on the road to the Somport Tunnel!

Well that was the plan but SatNav took us on the ring road around Pau and then we got lost, sort of, and began climbing Les Pyrénees. 

We knew this didn’t feel right but we got so far and thought we’d carry on. I’m pleased the unexpected happened because if it had been suggested to drive over the Pyrenees I would have chosen the Tunnel. The sleety snow began to fall and the mountains, when we saw them, were amazing. This is a sight not to miss and the road was excellent, winding and narrow on the French side and in Spain it was wide in good condition, as Spanish roads are.



That night we were in Huesca and I wouldn’t rate our accommodation.

Day 5 and we were early to get on the road again heading to Cuenca. We could have, easily, got to Los Montesinos but Chris had booked the last night of the journey to be in Cuenca. The Hotel receptionist gave us a map of Cuenca marking a walk around town that she said would take us 25 minutes. I had no idea that Cuenca was a historic walled town founded by Moors! This is what we saw!
 
Cuencal

Cliffhanger


Day 6, and our last day of looking ahead seated in the red car. It was a short drive, less than 3 hours, and as we drove along, the grey sky became blue and the outdoor temperature went up about 12 degrees. I was getting excited about getting to our home in Los Montesinos.
 
Driving on the plain!

We had left our Apartment, in March, all ready for our return. A change from last year when we had had to set up our new home and deal with all that entails! Now it feels like luxury on land for us. No ropes to tie and the neighbours, touch wood, have quietened down.

I liken our Apartment to a wide beam boat as its living space is 12ft (3.7m) wide and not far off 70ft (21m) in length! We fit into it well and we look out towards the Torrevieja Salt Lake (Salinas de Torrevieja).
Home sweet home.

It’s not exotic, but I’m not complaining it is my winter home and it is low maintenance and better than a season of muddy towpaths!

I think I’ll name this season of my Blog, ‘LANDED WIDE BEAM’ (LWB).

 
The Med.




Friday, 18 November 2016

BEFORE OUR LIFE STARTS FOR WINTER ON TERRA FIRMA


Let’s face it, we lead the life of Riley. It sounds like paradise and it reads that way as I choose what to write and how to write it. The nature of being human doesn’t always give an easy ride but words are cathartic!?!

The sun shines in Kinver


Kinver was a great place to stop for the end of our cruising year. I cannot fathom why it is signed as 24-hour moorings in October. We overstayed for a week and there were a few but not many boats on the move. Della loved the café that we went to a few times. It was very dog-friendly and she was given her own bowl of dog treats.

Me and Her contemplating the life of a Troglodyte

I thought we should check out the troglodytes in Kinver, cave houses built into the hill. We walked up to the troglodytes, in Kinver, and poked our noses through the door of one. The National Trust is in charge of them and I don’t think anyone lives in them these days. We have driven past troglodytes in Tours, France, and Guadix, Spain, where they are habitable and there is smoke coming out chimneys which are built into the hills.

DB needed to be winded to get ready for her cruise to Ashwood Marina and this meant we could finish doing DB’s exterior decorating. Of course, there is more to be done but that will be next year and we need to put thought into it. I steered DB to the nearest winding hole and Cpt talked me through the task as I winded her. The only time I had winded a boat was at the tiller of Avalon Mist. It had been a slow process of 24+ point turns and I was not keen to repeat it. It was so easy winding DB, I think the bow thruster takes the effort out of it. OK, she is a long boat and it takes more than a couple of minutes to wind her but I did it! Another steering achievement for me.

I'm going a long way for a groom

The week in Kinver passed by quickly and our last journey was to Ashwood Marina, about 3 miles up the Staffs & Worcs Canal. Our car needed to be relocated and it made sense for Cpt and Della to drive it to Ashwood Marina, and to meet DB along the way at the Locks. 
Lock view of Toi Toi or Pamapas Grass?

Autumn

I knew I could manage the Locks without help but Cpt was keen to be there to make it easy for me. The timing of our meet ups was perfect. I also took DB through a tunnel (short one but it was a tunnel) and over an aqueduct. In the middle of nowhere, a holiday boat appeared heading in my direction and they had no idea what side of the canal they should steer on if boat traffic was coming towards them! I moved to starboard and they moved to their port. I gesticulated meaningfully indicating they move to their starboard. I was beginning to get into the overgrowth and was losing my happy feeling!

Wifey said, “He doesn’t know which side he should be on!”
He said, “It doesn’t matter.”

Near miss avoided

Cpt and Della came aboard DB at the penultimate Lock of the day and I worked the last Lock. That night we stayed on the Cut close to Ashwood Marina feeling excited that DB was going to bed the next day and we would begin the drive to España.


Our final day on DB and we needed to pack up, clean up and get on with our next journey. Ashwood was not ready for us until the afternoon so we took DB up Greenforge Lock where we could tie above and load our ‘red’ car with far too much stuff including my classical guitar and 2 ukes. Once the car was loaded Cpt reversed DB down Greensforge Lock, Quelle manoeuvre, and back to waiting to go into Ashwood Marina.

Later, we got the call that our mooring spot was ready and I helmed DB in while Cpt was doing the final shut down! I was pleased that I negotiated the boats and crane-in-action as we tic’d along, and I concentrated to avoid a ‘Westie’.

'Westie'


All is better than good and DB is safe and sound for the winter.

The drive in the ‘Red’ car to London took 3 hours. We’re on our way.........


 Della is comfotably camouflaged

I have been asked for the dog biscuit recipe

-rolled oats    I use porridge oats (no flour, no salt)
-chicken stock   I ask the butcher for some chicken scraps and make my own stock and include some of the meat off the bones
-tin of sardines

Method..... 2 - 3 cups of oats adding enough stock to mix into a biscuit texture including the sardines.
I put baking paper on the base of the oven dish and use plastic wrap to scoop the biscuit mix into the dish. The plastic wrap also makes it easy to pat the mix flat. Use a knife to mark the small squares so it is easy to break into pieces when baked.
Gas Mark 6 (Moderate oven @ 180C) 45 mins then turn biscuits over to cook another 15mins or until biscuits are firm. I don’t want them to be soft as moisture will cause them to go mouldy! I don’t have space in the freezer on DB to store them. My oven is a normal oven, not a boat oven! (In Spain, I freeze the biscuits.)

Della seems to like these biscuits. She is not fussy about food!







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.