Monday, 22 August 2011

Lady talks River cruises. Then Canal rage!

22 August 2011

Lady talks River cruises. Then Canal rage!

We are cruising along the River Severn, as I pen this. The morning cruise is beautiful and the river has been like a mill pond. We are heading for Stourport-on-Severn and then going to turn onto the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal (Staffs & Worcs).

The River Avon cruise passed quickly. Probably going downstream helped this passage. A pretty winding river with very little, in the way of, free mooring. Most of the locks had overnight mooring but little or no access to nearby towns unless it was possible to walk on water at the adjacent weirs! We had purchased a 7 day ticket (₤50) to use the Avon as this river is not part of British Waterways. (For the use of canals & some rivers we pay a yearly registration with British Waterways). Evesham was a fab Charity Shop centre, and free moorings near downtown. Pretty night light views from our window. A bit of rowing happening on the river in the evening as the club was opposite where we moored. Next day started with a bit of rain and the first lock had some newbies in it. I offered to assist but they were reluctant wanting to do it all themselves. Actually, she was happy for a hand but Mr Captain thought that was not the done thing! I felt their tension and I empathized with her. After they had gone we found a nearly new pair of gloves they must have left behind (just what we needed as ours were at the holey overuse stage). I hope she didn’t get into trouble! The funniest place name we encountered was Wyre Piddle and there was a free mooring site, for a drink, at the riverside pub. The opposite bank (no mooring) was Tiddle Widdle Island. As it was midday when we arrived there we had lunch, had a little walk, had a little beer and headed to Pershore which had the best free mooring on the banks of the park and only metres away from the supermarket and shops. Also the best kept, cleanest and sweetest smelling public conveniences (that’s what they were called) I have ever used! The toilet attendant gave me a card to fill in, in the hope Pershore Public Conveniences would win the Public Convenience competition.

The nearby Pershore lock was a tricky one as the lock was a diamond shape and it was not possible to snuggle AM close to the lock wall. 14 miles later we came to the end of the navigable Avon River at Tewkesbury. A sweet town with some beautiful Tudor and Elizabethan houses………………….

….We had just arrived at the last “manned Lock” on the River Severn, so I had to stop typing and go and assist the safe upward passage of AM and accompanying boats. Avalon Mist was a key part of this lock filling and we had a bit of chat with boaties tied on to us. It was the first time I’d been so close to the front gates and the possibility of water gushing in. But somehow the filling of these locks on the River Severn water doesn’t pour in within view, as is usual on Canal locks where you keep your distance. On  leaving the Lock we came quickly to Stourport-on-Severn. We knew there were Locks to experience in order to leave the River. So the Lock we needed to use was for a 7ft beam. It was a staircase Lock which means it is 2 Locks dependent on the other’s action to work, meaning the boat gets lowered or raised in 2 sequential moves. It seemed straight forward, at the time. We moored in the ‘Only mooring for lock’ and checked out the territory. A short climb and we see the initial staircase. A boat is coming into the top part of the staircase Lock and we liaise with a fellow ‘boatee’ from the last Severn Lock. We thought they were there first so they may as well go in to this Lock after the current boat that was leaving the flight. So we went back and pulled AM into queue no. 1 position. Then we went up to the Lock to help. That done we both had to go back to AM to facilitate her sharp right turn into the lower staircase lock. All good but the gates were not left open. At the gates, I jumped off AM and opened the gates, leaving it for Chris to shut them and I went ahead and to get the Lock above filled. As I went up I saw the lock was full (as we had expected) but the gate was open. I was pushing it shut when this man, windlass in hand, came rushing to me telling me the lock was his, they were coming down and I was not to shut the gate! I said we were already in the bottom lock, he said we must get back out on to the River. Suddenly it was Canal rage. A lot of words went flying and the intensity of the encounter was not pleasant. Windlasses were waved!

Our Lock mates, Barbara & Roy, were really supportive and Roy had come back to help us get up the next staircase, hassle free. Barbara was moored outside the top Lock and was going to stop anyone coming down while Roy wanted to wind up the ladders with me and open the Lock gates. So we got to the marina basin area and on our way to the next Lock we found diesel and gas at a reasonable price. That was good news. And then Chris’s John Lennon prescription sunglasses plummeted into the Canal and sunk! That wasn’t good news.

But we are back on the Canal’s’. The River Severn was an adventure in that we went to Gloucester, stayed in the Gloucester Basin (in the old docklands) with free 48 hr moorings. The city shopping was just down the road and round the corner. So was the amazing Gloucester Cathedral. We had gone from Tewkesbury down to Gloucester, a journey of 14 miles and thought we’d go to Sharpness (on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal). But we decided not to go on to Sharpness but to ‘wind’ and head to Worcester (30 miles away by boat). If we had gone to Sharpness we were only a short distance along the Bristol Cannel to another Avon River and the Kennet & Avon Canal, where our Adventure started.

We left Gloucester with a selection of boats sharing the Lock and cruised out in an orderly line for a mile or 2. Then the bigger plastic boats put their foot down and overtook us. We were heading for Upton-on-Severn, only 20 miles away. Chris put the revs up on AM, as we were going on upstream and we made good time and got to Upton after @ 5 hrs cruising. Upton is a cute little riverside town. Elizabethan houses and 16 pubs. There used to be many more pubs in the shipping days. A big tall wall is planned to be built as a safeguard against the River Severn-in-flood.  

We headed to Worcester, yesterday, and had a brief squizz at downtown, found Tescos then back to AM moored on ₤3.50 overnight moorings. The signage clearly stated the terms of mooring. It is really hard to find moorings on the R. Severn, a high banked deep river prone to flooding. We were preparing to leave this morning when I saw something like a parking ticket stuck on our bedroom window. We had had a calling card from the ‘Park Ranger, he hadn’t knocked or made himself known but he had written us the bill! I was envisaging a trip to the Council office but Chris said he had just seen a high vis jacket in the distance. I ran off and met Mr High-Vis and asked him if this bill was from him. He smiled and said yes, so I gave him the money, he gave me the receipt and I put it in my scrap album.

And then we cruised up the beautiful Severn River. Today it was like a Mill Pond……


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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.