Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Girl Talk - Flat bottom boat you make the rockin' world go round!

5 July

Honey Street, Pewsey. Moored up outside 'The Barge Inn"' circa 1810. We are less than a stone's throw from the door to the pub!

We left Bradford-on-Avon a couple of days ago and swiftly chugged, via 15 locks on Sunday, to the bottom of the Caen Hill Flight. We wanted to have an early start on the "Flight" on Monday and let Matey Locky (of NZ "dog" notoriety) know our plans as he passed by on his 4 wheeler. Well he asked us first! We teamed up with holiday makers ( 2 women and an 11 yr old kid) who were in a narrowboat rental (probably 40ft) to go up the flight. Easier to do it with 2 boats than solo! Means teamwork working the locks. So 3 hours and 50 minutes later we were in Devizes. On the way up the "flight" the 11 year old was skippering their boat. He was doing a fantastic job but it didn't go without incident. On about the 7th lock he slipped in the stern on the slippery floor, as he was using his pole to keep the boat in line after entering the lock, and slid into the water. This happened just as Avalon Mist was entering the lock! Quick action from Chris in stopping Avalon Mist and encouragement from we women above averted tragedy. It took a lot of effort for the boy (Alex) to haul himself back on deck and he was briefly in shock but got his breathing back in control and then on with the job. In Devizes we stocked up on groceries which involved a bus ride to Lidl. (Kind of like Pak'n'Save in NZ and a supermarket we used to go in Portugal). We were moored, overnight, opposite the Devizes slipway wharf. We decided that we have our own reality tv station - 'Channel Can(n)al' Hanging out for some of the afternoon was a young woman who had the most annoying laugh, worse than Vicky Pollard if you have ever watched "Little Britain", and couldn't say a sentence that made sense. Later in our viewing was Canoe/Kayak school which would allow audience interaction. Dad and 2 sons in the canoe, Dad and the older son rowing and young son in the middle being young son in the middle. Chris commented to them how lovely it was to watch them busy and learning how to paddle. Youngest son said "But I'm not doing anything!" Later, just before sunset, the Swan family promenaded along the wharf. Then mum and dad Swan jumped in the canal followed by their 6 developing Cygnets and paddled over to see if there were any treats for their performance. No such luck!
The weather, the past couple of days has been warm and sunny. This morning started off sunny but the forecast was a 50% chance of precipitation and yes, as chance would have it, they were right. But are we bovvered? The laundromatted washing is hung out in the bow, under the cratch cover. We have now moved ourselves 7 1/2  miles in an eastward direction, from Devizes, and the adventure really begins. We moored for lunch (savoury scones) followed by a road walk into the pretty village of All Cannings and a field walk back to the tow path (2 miles we are guessing). The village was full of thatched houses, chocolate box pictures thought Chris. The village shop was run by volunteers from the village with pricing geared at encouraging the villagers to shop affordably, there, rather than pay the 2 pound return bus fare to Devizes. What a great idea and what a sense of community. They also had an old red phone box on the side of the footpath which was used as a book exchange (i.e. bring a book and swap it for another).
Now we are at Honey Street, in view of the 'White Horse" on the hill and  temporarily moored at The Barge Inn which was once a slaughterhouse, a bakehouse, a brewery, and a grocers. It is also the International crop circle centre. I reckon it's the White Horse that does the crop circles.
Right off to investigate. It could take some time!  Laters!

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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.