Thursday, 23 June 2011

short update

Just been down the pub, few pints of real beer. Sarah started out on halves, finished on pints. We are just having the very best time. Haven't seen anyone in black clothes with silver ferns. Love my country.............its civilized.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Girl Talk contd.

Well the longest birthday (for me this century) on almost the longest day has passed. And it was great to have so many birthday messages, e cards, and one actual old fashioned card card.

As Chris mentioned I did have fun with the Avalon Mist's shopping trolley, yesterday. I had to leave the Marina on foot and get out through the locked gate. I was told to press a button near the gate but I couldn't find the bleeding button, it was hiding from me!. I phoned Chris for help and before he came to my rescue, Norman appeared on the other side and let me out! Now I know where the button is, it took me all my strength to open the highly strung gate. Th trolley and I  made 2 trips to the supermarket and I made a third trip on my own to return a flat pack pine footstool which we didn't want as we have a blue plastic similar item already. The trolley is an icebreaker in meeting people (normally Della serves that role!). On my first trip to the supermarket, I needed directions and a woman in her early 80's walked with me along the pavement. I heard her say to her husband that she was going to show a lady how to get to the supermarket! No words to define me in a particular age group. Funny I am a "lady" now, not "young" lady or "relatively young" lady or "old" lady. Anyway I spouted forth about the joys of trolleyhood and that a trolley should not just be seen as equipment needed for old age or infirmity. It encourages fitness and independenc for me cos it means walking from the boat, means one doesn't need to have a coin to get a supermarket trolley, it can hold the heavy stuff, and the trolley can be filled without proper packing until after it has been checked out. This means identifying the length of conveyor belt needed and placing items so the heavy bulky stuff is at the front and the squashables are last so that I can pack with efficiency. Do not be fooled that you need to fill the trolley right up, each time, you go shopping!
We are now awaiting the hot water to heat up so that we can shower and be ready for cruising off after Norman has come to do the last minute mechanical thingies. The motor is running to charge the batteries blah blah (trolley talk is easier!) and it is rather loud. Oops Norman has just arrived and turned the engine off. Peace but hot water yet??
News just in .....the horn and the spotlight are now working! Watch out world!

Time to get this show on the canal. Laters......

Monday, 20 June 2011

Just about ready

Well we had a weekend away from the security of the marina which was great. Returned early this AM for Norman our great mechanic to fit the inverter and three new deep cycle batteries so we now have 240 volts on tap [or on plug as the case may be].
Sarah had a great birthday and discovered the joys of shopping trolly's with 3 trips to the supermarket [I have a feeling she had a bit of a chat with a pensioner on the way to get a bit of trolley etiquette and/or thuggery].
With a bit of luck we start our travels tomorrow, with a short trip to Devizes, laundrette and a  few final chores before we do the "trial by fire" Caen locks all 29 of them.
Watch this space......

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Girl Talk

Sarah writing 18 June 11:
Well the dream is now an actuality! Before I swan off into rhapsody of wow fab love the lifestyle, a few words to say about the past days. Jetlag, sleeping pills and the knowledge of an ageing brain have made their impact in my comfort zone. I forgot that this is a massive move and only in the movies can you write the way you want the story to go! I know sweet FA about boats, and what I should be doing. I’m really not keen on being told what to do but I forget that most people don’t like to be told what to do unless they ask for it (and in my world I’m the best in giving advice….apologies to those who have been on the receiving end of my overworked tongue)! Anyway my comfort zone has been flashing red lights and I have been slow in getting over it. The past days have been busy with getting our living space in order (ie the berths in Avalon Mist). And, yesterday, we pumped out the toilet tank into the canal. The fish were hungry and not discerning. It meant we had to take Avalon Mist to a more private area so that was our first move along the water (or should I say our collective first movement in the water). On the way back Old Man River’s brother had a go at me for poking my pole into his boat! Well his boat shouldn’t have been in our way even though he was parked, I mean moored. I practiced my language skills and found the right word when I got to F. But, today, we have finally motored out of the marina and chugged (the word sounds like a train) along the Kennet & Avon Canal, in the opposite direction that we will be heading. It is brilliant to finally be away from the marina and tied up to the side of the canal, by way of banging metal holding pegs in the ground and attaching ropes fore & aft (see nautical not naughty terms are being used!) I have chosen kitchen duties as my area of concern, along with those neurotic activities that domestic goddesses have in their make-up.
I also have my Op Shop 2nd or 7th hand guitar half restrung and I’m liking the warm sound that it is making. The Uke is still sleeping but will be out soon.
If you got this far on my blog then I can now tell you that we didn’t empty our toilet tank into the canal!
I’m thinking of our little Della Bella (there are so many placid dogs around) and I know Della is being loved and looked after by Jeanette. (Thank you Jeanette& Jim). I’m also thinking of our families, particularly those in Christchurch. Our thoughts and love are with you.
Now we saw hundreds of crows at dusk circling above us (reminding me of Daphne du Maurier novel“The Birds”) finding their nests. I’m wondering if any of you “Twitchers” out here know if birds find that all trees from above look the same N’EST-ce pas!

Captain log Earth time approaching longest day.

Well a big week, lots of work cleaning up, sorting out etc, but progress is being made and things are starting to become ship shape and Bristol fashion. Yesterday made a dash across the marina to pump out the toilet holding tank as an overflow was imminent. Didn’t  do too well on the maneuvers around the marina but didn't hit anything.Arrived back at our berth dried off and went down to the local to meet the lads who work for and with the Marina. Great crowd, had a few pints of Pedigree [nectar] met a few boaties, have a pub lunch meet with one couple for Sunday lunch. Nice dinner of sausage and faggot casserole. Went to bed tired and happy.
Saturday morning managed to sleep until 0730, wonderful. Spent the morning sorting things, and we are now pretty sorted. Walked to the shops 10 min away, finding food really cheap, of notice cheese, a big round of Camembert for 8 pounds [16 dollars] Roll mop herrings 3 dollars a jar. Petrol more expensive, and not so many cheapy Chinese shops. Sarah took herself o town on the local bus, and I fine tuned the bicycles and took a small ride, mad me realise just how unfit I am. Sarah came back from town full of the joys and suggested that it was time that we left the safety of the marina for a cruise. There was a decent wind blowing and yours truly El Capitano made a real pigs ear of leaving the Marina. Every time I thought she was lined up the wind moved her and I hit more than a few pontoons but no boats, a decent experienced Captain would not have done that.
Very pleasant afternoon on the canal did a great swing bridge manoeuvre not to mention a pretty cool 8 point turn without touching either bank, not bad in a lump of steel 53 foot long in a turning spot of 40 foot.
We are now tied up on the canal bank surrounded by nature, and believe me there is a lot of it, rum and coke in front of me stuffed peppers in the oven, bit of luck could be roast Swan tomorrow..
Lets see what tomorrow brings……………………

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Almost Ready

Crikey, it feels like we have been here for ages BUT we haven't yet! Yesterday was a mad shopping day full of screaming children in the same shops we went to! Then we got home and the batteries hadn't held their charge and I almost lost it! Actually, I think I did. But I slept and woke up to the tweeting birds at 515. Got stuck into my neurotic habits and by 1430 I was packing away my clothes and ready for a shower. Chris started the motor 1/2 hour before shower time and I had a lovely hot water drenching....Baaa. Yeah living the dream is not always as sunny as it sounds but we are coming up roses now. One folding bike is up and running and #2 is in progress as I type. I have spent the day wiping any surface, washing the plethora of china & crockery left by the previous owner and biffing, I mean giving to charity, the items that are surplus to our needs. Chris got a pound token from the Charity Shop! Now charity shops, that's another story, but they abound in Devizes.(..not to mention Eastbourne).  I did buy a classical guitar at the Heart Foundation shop in Eastbourne. It is an EKO ("mildly collectable" said Bonners, the music shop. I thought the shop was called Bono's!!) and when I get a moment I will restring it. Captain Pugwash cleaned out the bow deck (for'd) as it was awash with oil! But all shiny clean and looking good covered with tools & bikes!

On the flat roof we have vegie plants to plant out (thanks Christinepops). At the moment they are getting a natural watering throughout the day. Thankfully Mother Nature is keeping the canals watered.
Well time to cook the Devon potatoes, green beans & sausages. It has been a hectic day but we are nearly ready to take AM out. I need to get my floaters Badge and we both need to get started cruising the canals.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Okay just a quick update. We are here. Last night was the, first night aboard which was great. We arrived yesterday late afternoon and really haven't stopped since. The people entrusted to do work and lighten our bank account have done 50% of that. Mess every where, engine oil spilt at the sharp end which seems to have been walked to the blunt end, which will now be called the Bow and Stern respectively.
I am starting to understand that boats are things that float on water that you pour money into.
Other than that, all good, we had a trip to IKEA which is great product, drive you mad sort of place.
Sarah got dive bombed by a trouble of Mallards, I said to her "duck" she said "I know!!!"
Will keep this short, as sausages are frying [thanks Pops]
All seems too good to be true, will do a real update soon.,

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Two days to go!!

We are excited, bags all but packed, passports dusted, and fridge contents depleted!
We have added some more links to the website....  Virtual tours of the Canals. This can be used to view the journey. Our first journey will be from Devizes to Bristol. The Caen flight, a series of more than 20 locks near Devizes, will be a fitness test so hopefully there will be some liquid refreshment at the end of it! I don't think I needed to put the word 'hopefully', this is the land of beer.
The other link is how locks operate. This will become old news after we have the Caen flight badge!
We would love to get comments from our blog watchers as we travel - you can sign using your name or anonymous when posting the comments and they will be viewed by us before they are posted. Promise we won't correct your grammar or spelling mistakes!!

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.