Wednesday, 9 August 2017


Etruria Sanitary Station.

We are loosely following the 4 Counties Ring so why not use the possibility of 4 weather forecasts to predict the conditions we may be cruising under. It’s all very well to hope that cruising will only take place, for us, under predicted fair-weather. The %-age risk of rain minimally varies but the time it may fall differs. Gone are the days, here, when the heart spoken words “What a glorious summer day” could last for the whole day let alone ½ a day. We are on the west-ish side of the Island and maybe that is part and parcel of the land/Oceanic climate here. But for the sake of sanity under the Jet Stream the polar front has stalled over the UK bringing wet and windy weather. Then the talk moves to Jet Streak... So much information, maybe it should just be called Jet Maelstrom. Anyway, instead of saying “What a beautiful day”, I am saying “What a warm sunny day at 9.30, this morning, and now, at 10.53 it's raining cats and dogs.” The weather may as well be timely in its description. 

One morning, on the Caldon Canal I woke up, I wake up every morning, the day was dawning treating me with a clear blue sky and when I rose a ray of sun shine beamed through a crystal hanging in the port hole window. Happy vibes! I dressed, early, to take Della for her morning walk. Della is a creature of habit and knows that when she has done her business it will be her same-as- always doggy breakfast, James Well Beloved biscuits soaked in water with a taste of added Pilchards. So we get off DB and I look into her black dog eyes to tune into which direction to take the walk – I look and point saying “That way, or the other way?” Decisively I command “That way.” I want to take a photo of nasty Bridge 42 while we are moored at Cheddleton.
See the gouged bridge!!

The arch of the Bridge is low over the Canal and has bitten other boats and it grabbed the starboard side of DB's front wooden wheelhouse panel. Honestly truthfully I wasn’t going fast and I had throttled back in reverse to slow almost to a stop to avoid contact. I turned on the bow-thruster, bzzt bzzt sounded as I buzzed to Port too late and the panel got grabbed but not swallowed. It looked and sounded worse at the time it happened. I am not happy about being involved in damage.  

Beyond the weather has been the journey along the Caldon Canal. We went on this Canal as far as Cheddleton in 2011 on Nb Avalon Mist. I remember it was and still is a narrow Canal and there were some windy days. I had my first attempt at ‘winding’ (turning the boat around) at Cheddleton, we didn’t venture to Bridge 42! 

Cheddleton, AM 2011...hi-vis marks the spot
After ‘winding’ AM I had jumped onto the towpath holding her stern rope and one of my feet went straight into a one-foot deep muddy hole. That must hold some humour! I wasn’t happy but no bones were broken, I remember it well. BW (British Waterways) were quick to the scene with orange high-vis to mark the point of danger!

I like the Caldon Canal, it is a quiet Canal with little boat traffic. Once we had moved out of the Potteries area and the Stoke-on-Trent ‘burbs we went past Hanley Park, nice but I wouldn’t moor there, and out into beautiful rural land. We moored further on, past Milton, and chatted with happy people walking the clean asphalted Towpath and picking the ripening blackberries.
Near Milton

“You wouldn’t think there was this beauty so close to Stoke.” said a happy pedestrian. 
I think  ‘Keep that a secret from the Southerners.’ 

We turned onto the Leek Branch of the Caldon Canal to make the short 2-mile cruise to the end of the Leek line. It was well worth it, the countryside is gorgeous green forested and lush. There was wood on the towpath from a fallen oak tree. Tempting but the canal was too shallow to get alongside the towpath and the lengths of tree were too heavy to ‘person-handle’. 
Leek Branch

Further along is the 130 yd Leek Tunnel. 

No difficulty for us to go through this tunnel, and it was the cleanest tunnel we have seen in our experience of passing through Tunnels on the waterways. There are a few moorings at the end of the Leek Branch but the moored boats were not close together and we struggled to moor. We tied up and met land friends who had driven to Leek to meet up with us outside Morrisons! Their journey was 25 miles, by car, and took just over an hour. When I phoned them to say we were close to Leek, our journey was about 1 1/2 miles, by boat and 1/2 mile on foot and took us about 1 1/2 hours. It is an IQ challenge to work out distance and timing as a water gypsy!

Later, we cruised back to be near to the Caldon Canal for an early start, the next day when we cruised as far as we could along the Canal past Cheddleton and onto the River Churnet. It was like being in the Botanical Gardens on the R. Churnet. 

R. Churnett

Beautiful and a couple of floating tree trunks purposely blocked the weir meaning a sharp turn to Port put us back on the Canal cruising a narrow stretch past the Consall Railway Station.
Consall Railway

We had to wind at Flint Mill Lock as DB is too wide at her cabin top for the Froghall Tunnel. Nevermind, next time I will walk the towpath!

The Holly Bridge, Denford

The Caldon Canal is worth the cruise from the beginning of the Canal at Etruria off the Trent and Mersey Canal. There is history along the way and there is no need to cruise the distance at speed. Be wary of the bridges, they are low. Another small accident was the low chimney got taken out under another bridge arch. That was owner error and I should have made sure the flat chimney cap was in situ! It was time to replace it, anyway!

The days' end of our journey was a fast, we thought, 2-mile cruise from Etruria to the Harecastle Tunnel. 

We thought being so close to the Tunnel we should measure up with the skilful advice of the Tunnel Keeper to see if DB would be able to make passage through it one day in the future. "YES" was the answer but we would be placed at the end of the queue so we would have no pressure to move at speed. It is a long tunnel, and there are low heights to be wary of. One day I will steer her through. Cptn has taken AM through 3 times and doesn't enjoy it. I think our lighting is better and I'm up for the job! 
Measuring up!


We thought that we would be able to Wind at the tunnel. We tried but we are too long.
Clear this bit away and it may be possible to Wind!!

Reversed back to Westport Lake, the Bowthrusters battery was tired but Cptn did the job well. Next day it was only a couple of bridges and the battery had recharged and we were able to wind and head in the right direction along the Trent & Mersey Canal.

Reversing looks easy!


Saturday, 15 July 2017


Looking down over the narrow edge towards DB & and our shadow

Our first and last time before this time, (got it?), cruising the Llangollen Canal was in 2011 when we were newbies, first timers, taking the long journey on Nb Avalon Mist from Devizes to Willington. I was tiller shy and avoided the long steel arm where possible as I felt I was an accident waiting to happen. My recollection of the Llangollen Canal was a pretty and scenic canal with a lot of holiday rental boats banging along. Now, thinking about it, who was I to have such an attitude when we were still nbb’s (new born boaties) growing through our infant stage. I decided then to nickname this canal as the ‘Clangy’.

The ‘Clangy’ hadn’t been on our repeat list but with few deadlines to meet in our 2017 unwritten cruising timetable we were close to Hurleston Junction with the choice of straight ahead to Chester or left to Welsh Wales. We decided Wales when we saw there was no queue apart from the mid-placed 34’ Narrowboat occupying the space of 3 boats, waiting to go up the flight of 4 locks at Hurleston Junction. The tiller-man was at the bottom lock, on his ‘mobile’ when I arrived there. I asked him in a deadpan way “Is that your heap of s boat down there?” He replied saying he was in no rush and we could go before him. I yelled down to Cptn and the rest of the nearby world, backing up words with hand signals for DB to move into the Bottom Lock. Later Cptn reported that the Bottom Lock is narrower than the other narrow locks. We remember in 2011 seeing a working boat try to get into the Bottom Lock. I think its stern must have been wrapped with fenders meaning its ‘bum’ wouldn’t fit and no amount of forcing would budge the lock. I expect it had to have a fender removal if it was going to get in. Who knows what happened?? I’m not bothered. Another memory from 2011, at the Top Lock, was I found €30. Finders keepers.

We cruised up the locks and no pounds dried up on us, not like in our 2011, some of the pounds were mudbaths and flooding below from above was the 'fixit' means. We were on the move but no rush as I was set on steering DB over the aqueducts in the next week or two, heights don’t make me squirm.

We didn’t move far on our first day but were happy to find ring moorings. Ring moorings are handy but not essential. I like them. I observed, as we cruised along the Llangollen Canal, there are plenty of isolated places with 48hr signage which indicate ring moorings.  Day 2 we got to Wrenbury, in time for lunch at the Dusty Miller. Great Sunday roast and dog friendly. We could have gone to see Elvis at the Cotton Arms but thought it might be a bit rowdy for the chilled mood we were in. I have heard that the food is great there but you need to pre-book. Wrenbury is a good stopping place and I like the moorings after the key operated lift bridge.

The weather, yes, there is no escaping the weather. It has been a mixed bag, as it is likened to in this country. We knew there was rain coming and we moved to Willeymore, no less, Lock where there is a remote pub family owned. The location sounded perfick for a couple of days and we could get on with some interior decorating works. 

The kitchen needed to be decorated and this meant the wall units needed to be removed. With the canopies in situ over the wheelhouse and stern we had room to move out from the kitchen. All good. It was a bit 'rocky' being moored near the Lock with the boat traffic rocking DB with every passing.

Day 1   1 wall cabinet emptied and down - sand, fill (Decorator’s caulk is the biz, you don’t have to sand if you use this stuff just smooth over with soft finger and wipe with damp cloth.) paint wall and ceiling.

We moved DB along the Cut and moored below the next Lock, Povey’s Lock. There are a couple of rings before the Lock mooring and the water is calm and boat traffic didn’t disturb us.

Day 2    2 wall cabinets emptied and down - sand, fill, paint wall and ceiling. Restore.

A good job was done. There is still more to do in the open plan living area but it is straight forward. Cptn had his power tools out and got some stuff finished near the entry door. I’m determined to get the decorating done this year. Yep, DolcieBlue was launched 4 years ago!!!

In the small world of life on the Cut, Sonja and Ian from Nb Isle of Aran were moored nearby and they were cruising up the Clangy. We first met them in 2011 on the Kennet & Avon Canal, not long after we had begun our adventure from Devizes on AM. In fact it was Ian who gave me my initial tutorage on filling the Lock as AM was going ‘up’ in the Lock. I was competent with how to empty a lock but filling a lock was another story. I was concerned I would drown AM and avert the disaster was in my hands. As we were the only boat in the wide lock, Ian was keen on using ropes to keep AM in position. All I can say now is we don’t use ropes, some boats do but we don’t unless we are instructed by Lockies on the rivers. I am in tune with the movement of water in the filling Lock. I always wind the paddle up halfway on both gates and check the water pressure. If the force is strong, I’ll wait until the cill is covered but if it is a piddly flow then I’ll wind up both paddles. Each to their own but always check if you help out with another boat. If the water flows in too fast then I find DB lurches and bangs her nose, there is also a chance water may douse the Bow.
Whitchurch Arm

After the brief stop for works to DB we moved to the Whitchurch Arm. Nice moorings and a bit of a walk to town. Baz and Celia on NB April Fool arrived. They were close to our mooring when we were in Mercia Marina. We had hoped that we would catch each other on the Clangy and we did. Baz and I play the Uke and fortunately, we met up again the next day in rural canalside moorings. We all enjoyed spending some time together and we could do some Uke-ing. See yas next time, maybe Willington or R. Soar?

Navigator on duty

Narrow bridges on this canal. 

Mid boat traffic at the lift bridge meant no stopping!!

Who lives here? Worzel Gummidge?

The Mere near Ellesmere

Our next stop was Ellesmere, close to the Montgomery Canal and not far to the Chirk Aqueduct and Pontyscyllte Aqueduct. I had to book passage on the Montgomery Canal and was gobsmacked when C&RT said when would we like to go? “Tomorrow?” I enquired. They confirmed tomorrow was fine and totally in concord with us having 4 days on the Canal.

Comfy mooring

Narrow means narrow.

Horse drawn craft

Lock house

The Montgomery Canal gives us 7 miles and back of cruising along a restored Canal from Frankton Locks to Gronwyn Bridge just past Maesbury Marsh. The restoration is continuing and a few miles remain to be linked to the Welsh side, I think. The signs as we move along the Montgomery Canal were probably meant to be positioned on the other side of the Canal. We came from the Frankton Locks and the sign reads we continue on to the Frankton Locks or return to Newtown!! You need to visit the Canal to make sense of this. But thoroughly worth the time out from the Clangy

The bow thrusters had a hissy fit and on the last day I had no back up for a sharp bend which left me and DB nestled in the shallow waters and trees. Here was I thinking that I had mastered the helm but this one was a learning curve. At this point I must write when people say we have the cheat’s button I get pissed off. It is really handy as we are 68 ft of steel and it is useful to be able to nudge direction when necessary. I can steer DB and I will use the Bow thrusters when I deem necessary. They are there to be used. What I have learnt is I must be prepared to manage without them when they don't work! Cptn had to wind DB, the day before, in awkward circumstances without the Bow thrusters. The winding hole is not clearly sign posted at the end of the Montgomery and I insisted DB be winded where a Boat Club have boats moored. A sign clearly says ‘No Winding’ but the C&RT scribbled sign doesn’t clearly indicate the winding hole is at the end of the canal 250yds further along. The Lift Bridge at the end builds muscle and once, to me, was enough. The cyclists and cars that were waiting seemed to enjoy a social occasion in the sun!

We were back on the Clangy after 4 days on the Montgomery Canal and we cruised on to Chirk on a beautiful summers day. Lots of boat traffic with smiley happy people. The next day, we crossed the Chirk Aqueduct with me at the helm and went straight through the Chirk Tunnel. Quite a long one, cruising into the current of water flowing from the River Dee.
Chirk Aqueduct

Not far, now, to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. I thought the Chirk Tunnel had the strong water flow but it is the Whitehouse Tunnel that has the strong up canal flow. I remember AM struggling through this tunnel and I had thought it would be good to have some helpful leg power! We moored just before Fron(cysyllte), a mile to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. The weather would have been beautiful, that day, to go over but we were waiting for an old friend who was going to cross with us the next day. It turned out he was unable to make it and the weather looked a bit sorry but we decided rain or shine we would do it. The sun shone through a cloudy sky and it was FAB. My dream had been to steer DB and now it is no longer a dream. In fact, I didn’t need to hold the wheel, although my hands rested on it. The water level on the aqueduct wouldn’t let craft go over the edge. I had joked about having some elastic around my ankle..... All tickety boo. 

I'm looking!!!!

Family event, I can't see anything!

The towpath has a fence.

Then there were the Kiwis walking across the Aqueduct. All excited to see the NZ flag flying. We winded and cruised about 14 miles, getting to Ellesmere and moored on the arm 7 hours later. I was tired, I had steered all the way except for the last couple of miles. It was a downstream feel and we moved quickly. Don't be fooled that steering is the easy task. There was almost boat jam as we exited the Chirk Tunnel. Holiday boaters not knowing how to stop craft coming through the tunnel.... not my problem, we got through. Yep there were 4 boats waiting and 2 more boats coming across the Chirk Aqueduct. We were 1 boat waiting along with 2 more coming through the Tunnel. Tee hee, I got them moving!!

We got back to Hurleston Junction, on Thursday morning. That took us just over 2 days, if that, from crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. We had a rain rest day in Ellesmere. Yep, not much traffic really. At least one close call when I blasted my horn at the nose of a Nb appearing from under a bridge. Always be alert when on the Helm. There is always hope the reverse throttle jammed into full reverse will back out of the situation. And the hope is that the oncoming boat will do the same thing. And so they did. I eventually got around to turning off my horn. And in the small world we live makers from Waikuku, NZ. A short time makers from Fairlie NZ. Yay mainlanders!
And that’s it. 

It’s a Canal to repeat. Loved it and beautiful scenery. Lots of pastures, woodland and lakes. Almost made me feel at home. 

Beauty is everywhere, look and you will see.

Friday, 23 June 2017


Dolcima Dewdrop the Demon Dogette & Bently Blue the Beastie Boy (photo R S Abbott)

Words can only hint at the feeling of freedom living on the ‘Cut’. It is a joy to be back living our cruising lifestyle on our bespoke DolcieBlue. Yes, it sounds like luxury but it is being able to live in our living-with-less- but-having-close-to-everything ‘four walls’ floating and cruising the water without getting caught in the trap of having to spend money every time we open the door! I don’t have to have land-based transport to go to the shop, even to take an interesting walk; I plan so I don’t need to spend money every day and I’ve got legs. Are we lucky? It could be seen that way but we made a choice to move into this lifestyle. As with all choices in our life together, the indicators are needs, wants, challenges and a ‘can-do’ approach. Money helps but we worked hard within our means. 

Chris and I met in London in 1992, I was ready for a life partner and, fate decided, Chris got the job! I could write this in romantic phrasing but I’m not going to. That is for the book!! In the early 80’s had bought a donkey stable with terraced land in Portugal. Within weeks of meeting Chris we visited the Algarve, together, and he took me to the aforementioned Casa do Burro in Ribeira das Canas and I said “Let’s give it a go!” That was the start of our first shared dream. There was no electricity to the valley, no telephone line in the valley, no mains water in the valley, oh and we had to live in a tent and cook on the open fire and shower under the olive tree..... Sounds basic but it was the good life. To afford this life we had to identify and meet our needs which meant curtailing our wants. The most important ingredient is love.

What became of the Donkey Stable?!!

We are past Dream No.1 and all I can say is the ability to dream is free, and we are fortunate we can live the dream. We have worked hard to be where we are today and now we are living the dream on DolcieBlue.

I really like being a water gypsy. I have struggled with being a hormonally challenged woman and saddened with some moves from ‘happy’ places but I think happiness will stay with me forever. The DB experience gets better and better and I am in no hurry for the bubble to burst. I always say creativity is sanity and soon her ‘Random’ installation will be completed. What fun it has been to stick coloured vinyl squares on her body, in a fitting random fashion! 

How our 'random' began....what colour? (Aug 2016)
Let's start 'random' at the very beginning....(Aug 2016)
After the stern rail got grabbed,... (Sept 2016)
Sticking goes on in Kinver... (Oct 2016)
Stern rail back in situ, (May 2017)
Elvis and the Hula Lady  May 2017

Sticky fills in more space...May 2017

Side hatch finished almost. (June 2017)

Moving stickers into the stern (June 2017)

Bow wow!! 

Colour lights up a grey sky (June 2017)

 Every day we get positive passing comments about the colour, artistry and look.

“Wow that looks amazing.”
“I love it. I just love it.”
“The colours make me feel happy. I love colours.”
“My daughter says it looks like Elmer.”

We had not heard of Elmer so a Google search was informative. All I can say is there is no elephant on DB.

DB says it all

The colours of DB define our random lifestyle, there is no knowing what will happen next but it is certainly colouring our world bringing a smile to us and faces passing by as well as positive words being shared with us. 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017


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.

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.