Thursday, 1 September 2011

Ladies do Head Banging

September 1st 2011  

Shropshire Union Canal, between Audlem & Nantwich near the Secret Nuclear Bunker

Today, we had a rest day from travelling and a busy day, of course (how could we not), getting AM more prepped for painting which involved sanding and undercoating the side we could get to from the towpath. The side we didn’t do was done about a week ago when we moored just before Wolverley Bridge north of Kidderminster.

The day after Stourport Lock Rage we headed along the beautiful Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal (aka Staffs & Worcs Canal) through Kidderminster which had the usual abundance of charity shops (even one for Staffy dogs!). The moorings, for boats, was beside Tescos. In order to get to Kidderminster we needed to have an anti vandal key, to unlock the ladders to wind up the sluices to the locks. No-one told us about this, so we were unaware of this requirement. Fortunately we weren’t the first boat in the queue to use the lock so the anti vandal key wasn’t needed. The lock we needed to use after Tesco’s had the impressive view of “the dark church of St. Mary’s and All Saints”. There were 6 people seated with their easels painting the church while I pleaded with the woman from the boat, in front, to leave the ladders unlocked! The woman was not too happy about that and did so reluctantly. Of course I didn’t snib the lock after we used it, cos another boat was waiting to use the lock! Then we stumbled across Sainsbury’s and I raced in for some red wine. We went to push the boat out and it wouldn’t move but there were some helpful people from the Sainsbury’s building site who gave us that extra push!

Some of the canal is a bit shallow and we needed to be aware of this as we ticked along. My best purchase, that day, was “The Rocky Horror Show” CD and I cranked it up on the CD player and sang my heart out. We had a bit of a family walking their dog along side us. I asked the boys if they knew the music and they said “no” but their Mum probably did. Later at the next lock, their Mum was able to tell me “it was the best album ever!” The raunchy bits, I did turn down! (Sometimes one has to be Responsible lady!)

I don’t think I’ve mentioned too much about the weather but it deserves a mention again. Crap! But the day, after Kidderminster, dawned with a bit of clearish blue sky and we decided to get on with sanding and undercoating. Actually we had started after we moored the day before. Are you with me?! All the allotment rooftop garden was put on the towpath and the roof got a good sanding and strips were undercoated as we need to make some of the surface nonslip blah blah blah. A woman walking her dogs, stopped to have a chat. A sad story followed as she told of how she and her husband used to have a narrowboat and had dreams of spending some years of their retirement voyaging the canals. Sadly, he fell into a lock and died. Yes, do not take locks for granted and always hold onto the rails when walking across the lock gates.

We finished, what we could, of the painting, before the rain clouds appeared and then motored on up to Kinver passing red cliffs and wooded canal sides. Kinver is very pretty. There are some troglodyte buildings and well worth a revisit, one day.

Moving along the Staffs & Worcs we passed some cute named locks & bridges, amongst which Botterham, Wombourne, Giggetty and Bumblehole made me smile. Then we came to a staircase lock comprising of 3 locks. This staircase had a resident Lock keeper (we bought an Anti Vandal Key from him) who was keeping his son busy in the school holidays by assisting us canal people. The rise went without incident and I relayed our unfortunate Stourport experience to the Lock keeper. On that note, I had written to British Waterways a few days back, to express our experience. Here is the reply I received

“Dear Sarah
Thank you for your email dated 22nd August 2011.
I am  very sorry that you had a bad experience whilst  traveling up the staircase at  Stourport. Unfortunately we are  unable to man these structures, but are in the procedure of putting up extra signage up with the basin duty phone number on so customers can summon assistance.
I have asked members of staff who work at Stourport to watch out at  busy times for this sort of antisocial behaviour.
If you could forward me the details of the boat of which the person exchanged  heated words with and was threatened with the windlass I will pass this on to our Enforcement Team who will investigate the matter.  We would also encourage any antisocial incidents of this nature  be reported to the local police.

I would like to once again say, I am very sorry about this incident you have gone through hope this has not put you off coming to this area again.

Kind regards”

Nice letter, I thought.

Now we are on the Shroppie Canal and it is, again, another lovely canal. Not so many locks but I am having a bit more ‘Tiller Girl’ experience. I still don’t like the locks but there are not so many except yesterday was 20! Little locks and a lot of traffic going up and down so that means we work in with the boats coming in the opposite direction. The locks are narrow and not too deep. I can jump, without danger, onto AM’s roof while she is in the lock and step onto the other side to get to the other gate. Well if you can why wouldn’t you!?! And, if you are wondering, I am now healed from the Hatton flight. Some of the locks, yesterday had veggie, meat, egg & cake stalls. I couldn’t resist ½ doz double yokers. I asked the chap I bought the eggs from if he was Jamie Oliver. He said “no” but he wishes he was as handsome as Jamie. I don’t think Jamie is handsome.

And, now, to my title about Head banging. AM gets sympathy because she gets the occasional bump and scratch. Narrowboats are a contact sport, they expect it. They don’t have feelings and they don’t experience pain! If they bump a lock wall, it’s hard not to when you should see the narrow space they have to negotiate, it is called a ‘kiss’. We all try not to bump other boats and generally we don’t. However either exit from AM within her walls is not always smooth due to me being a lady that multi tasks I quite often bang my freakin’ head. Ouch ouch ouch! Yesterday I was bringing in the dry washing from under the cratch cover in the bow and keeping my eye on the approaching lock and I forgot to duck. The sunglasses, on my head, tried to embed themselves in my scalp, ouch. Then there’s the steel hatch at the stern end which has 4 steps to climb. If the weather is inclement which it can be on a regular basis, then the hatch cover is pulled over making it a keep- low- as- you -exit activity. I’m getting better at avoiding contact but my head is feeling a bit of wear and tear. My advantage is I’ve got ‘big’ hair but I tell ya it doesn’t soften the blow if I make contact.

Laters. We are moving to the Llangollen Canal.

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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.