Monday, 15 August 2011

Pained Lady Talk

Blog 8

Pained Lady Talk, 15 Aug. Avon River.

Well the Hatton Flight fair stonkered me and I am slowly recovering from that over shoulder workout. I am now a novice Tiller Girl. It wasn’t the best time cos I don’t really enjoy steering AM or any boat. I am improved on my initial foray some weeks ago. In total I have had to steer in/out of 35 locks on this, The Stratford on Avon Canal. Yes, I am learning, and mostly I’m learning, Avalon Mist is a contact sport. I enjoy bringing AM alongside the bank. I have struggled with being able to get her into the lock without solid banging her sides. The locks on this canal are really narrow and when there are a number of them in the space of a mile, it can be tricky. We also had one of those ‘boat-is- going- to- roll-over on its side’ moments and I was on the bleeding boat, inside the lock, descending... I knew I was not resting on the ‘Cill’ (the slightly raised concrete platform at the bottom of the Lock gate generally submerged in water). But Avalon Mist wanted to roll over!! I yelled out to Chris, who once realizing what was happening opened the sluice to let water into the lock so AM was returned to a LEVEL position. Yep it momentarily freaked me.

Our purpose to go on the Stratford-on-Avon Canal was to get to the River Avon and beyond. I’ve been thinking the River Avon is a very long winding River spread throughout England. Chris googled it tonight and it appears that England has 4 x River Avon and Britain, in total, has 8x River Avon. Explain that?!?

Anyway along the Stratford Canal we have gone over 3 aquaducts, the first was hardly noticeable, the second at Wotton Wawen was over a busy road – it was very weird looking down at the traffic. The third was the Edstone Aqueduct which was impressive. I walked ahead of AM (me on Towpath) and then alongside her as she crossed over the aqueduct. Surreal….

Of places we moored at, Wilmcote was lovely and the locals were friendly. W e decided to spend the night there and check out the local hostelry. I, also, cycled down the towpath to the outskirts of Stratford-on-Avon and cycle/walk back again. We were so close to Stratford-on-Avon, very exciting. The next day we decided that we would take AM down the Wilmcote Locks to Stratford-on-Avon. It was about a 3 ½ hour run to get down the 15 Locks to Bancroft Basin moorings in Stratford-on Avon. I was gob smacked when we made the sharp turn into downtown Stratford and Bancroft Basin which had free moorings for boats. We were totally launched into touristville as there was a continual path of people looking at the moored narrowboats. We were literally a stone’s throw from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Christine came up from London for a couple of nights and we took ourselves down river on AM.

We left the bustle of Bancroft Basin mooring and went down the Lock on to the Avon River. This is an experience. A crowd gathers as knowledge of a boat using the Lock spreads. Suddenly the world is my oyster, I have captured an audience. We strut around with our individual windlasses and work the gates. This experience has happened more than twice in the last 2 days! I greet the crowd, say someone will be coming round with a hat (they look disconcerted so I say “just joking”) and get started on the Lock preparation routine. With two of us it makes the Lock procedure easy. The gates don’t always close completely and I am learning that the ‘draught’ caused by the opening of the sluices will probably shut a semi-open gate. (But what if it doesn’t?!! – the uncertainty means I will go back to try and close it again or Chris will have a go). Anyway now the lock is filling up, so as I walk around I pass a guy in the crowd and say “Are you Romeo?” That brought a smile to more than one person and suddenly Romeo is helping us. Who needs Verona?!!

So we were back in Stratford, last night. And, early, this afternoon Chris and I went down Lock and back on to the Avon and covered 9 ½ miles. During this time I managed to maximize on using my smiley Twin Tub and the clear waters of the Avon River. Not forgetting that we have passed through 6 locks on the river. At every Lock the river is divided into two as the ongoing flow passes over a weir. Now we are staying the night at the salubriously named ‘Inland Waterways Association Lock’.


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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.