Saturday, 2 July 2011

Girl Talk again


Just checked the date as I need to confirm that today is actually today! And, yes, I had it right but only after thinking about it for a minute or two. So, somewhere along the calm waters 10 days has passed since we added to the Blog. Yesterday, we were in Trowbridge (‘.row..’ is said like row your boat, not ~row~ with someone. I tried the ~row~ way with the bus driver and he said “where?”), for cheap shopping and a WiFi connection where we uploaded some photos on Blogspot. The photos were taken after the Caen Hill Flight, so we will post some of the previous ones once I have sorted out downloading them off my mobile phone. (Our current internet connection on AM is non existent where we are moored.)

So to backtrack (or do boaties say  to ‘backwater’?) we departed Devizes Marina and headed the short distance to Devizes on Tues 21 June and found a mooring on the canal close to the town centre. I managed to jam a fingernail as I was sliding the metal hatch cover and closing the metal door to the stern. That hurt, and I high tailed it to Superdrug to get some Arnica cream applied as quickly as I could.

The next day, Tony arrived from Eastbourne and we set off under rainy skies towards the Caen Hill flight of locks. We had six locks to pass through before hitting the rapid 16 flight of locks. Initially the rain got worse and we thought we’d moor up and carry on the next day. Then the sun came out and we got stuck into it. I say we, but I was not lock active until mid flight when I was allowed to take hold of the windlass and wind the paddles up or down. All I know is some are easy and some are not, definitely an Upper Limb strength builder. Then there are the gates to open and close. Once the water in the lock is level with the water outside the lock the gates can be opened / closed, one’s bum is generally used to push the wooden gate lever over the space of a wide semi circle. Over a series of locks the tail area starts to feel a little tender! The last 3 locks of the “Flight” were assisted by the British Waterways Lock keeper who was keen to get us out of the monitored are so he could have an early end to his day. When he found out I was from NZ, he said that he has one word that he associates with New Zealand and that is “DOG”! We looked at him in surprise and he asked us to guess what he was talking about. I said “Fred Dagg, get in behind”, and he said “Footrot Flats”. Yeah right whatever! I told him that Caen in Portuguese means Dog. By that time we were on the last lock of the day and we cruised off to moor up and find a pub. We found a place to moor but there was no pub a short walk away! So we watched the sun set from Avalon Mist, had drinks and dinner then went to bed weary from the days efforts. It had taken us @ 7 hours to do 1 ½ miles that day!!

We woke up early, and after our standard breakfast of fresh fruit, cereal, yoghurt and milk we were off to the first of 13 locks that day. There was good distance between locks and we went just over 5 miles. Apart from locks there is also the occasional Swing Bridge to open. Locks and bridges mean getting off the boat to operate them unless there is other canal traffic that will do the work. The locks need to have their gates and shutters closed unless someone is going to use it straight after we have, and the sing bridge needs to be reinstated for pedestrian or vehicle use. This means many jumps on and off the boat depending on the frequency of the aforementioned. ‘Fit not Fat’ are the words of the moment. I enjoy the graceful glide of Avalon Mist as she is gently pushed out from the edge of the Canal as I climb aboard.

So that evening we were in Semington, a stone’s throw from the Somerset Arms Pub. The Pub had a nice drop of real ale and I was partial to the one called ‘Gem’, same name as my parents dog! We ate, on board, then an early night and I was up early for a morning walk on the tow path. What a fabulous time to take photos. I posted some of the shots on the Blog. I am now waiting for delivery of a battery charger as I left mine in NZ thinking my battery was compatible with Chris’s and it isn’t!

Oh well, off we went to Bradford on Avon, a further 5 miles along the canal in the direction of Bath. Tony left us the following day, and we went on to Bathampton, 6 ½ miles. Moored up close to “The George” Pub for 3 nights. We took our bikes along the towpath and checked out the locks that take the boats down to the Avon River. We had decided that we would go no further than Bathampton in AM but it was great to have the bikes to see what we were missing out on. We were just turning the bikes around when Steve and Prema phoned us to say they were at AM. for a visit.

So we winded (turn around) at Bathampton and went to Dundas wharf to fill up with water and then stopped at Limpley Stoke for the night. Had a fab walk through 2 villages (Limpley Stoke and Freshford) which involved walking through fields and ended up in Avoncliff at the “Cross Guns” pub drinking ale from Box Steam Brewery. A quick, just over a mile, walk got us back to AM and we found ourselves cramped in by a tourist wide beam boat. So we moved and next day headed to Avoncliff and we have been in that area for the past few days. Dave & sandy came and stayed a couple of nights and we took them up canal a little way which included going up (and down) the Bradford on Avon lock. We have met some lovely English people (Ian & Sonja) who have a beautiful narrowbeam boat and they went ‘up’ the lock with us as I was needing some instruction cos I realize that as the lock is filling there is a risk of water flowing over the bow and I don’t want that.

And here we are, it is now July 2nd. Chris has fixed the dripping tap in the kitchen and sorted out the alternator position so that the fan belt won’t get chewed up again! Amazing how he can do these tasks. I’m so lucky. We are finding canal life is very pleasant. Having said that, our days have been busy and, today, I am trying to relax.

I’m very happy with my Trolley. I wheeled it to Sainsbury’s, yesterday to get some water, milk, Stilton cheese and other things which seemed to fill the trolley! Then as Sainsbury’s didn’t have an adjustable spanner or white spirits, I hauled the trolley onto the Sainsbury’s bus to be dropped near the hardware shop in town. I sat on the bus and the driver said to me “are you going to buy a ticket?”. I said “I thought it was a free bus” and he said  “no” so I said “I’d better get off” and he said” haven’t you got any money” and I said “no” and he said “oh well I’ll just mark you off as having a bus pass!”  Nice bus driver.


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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.