Monday, 30 April 2012


30th April   

There is a sense of fulfillment in our world. Della has arrived safe and sound just as we had left her as promised by Jeanette, her Carer, and George, her Exporter. Della is now a tangible part of the Avalon Mist Adventure. We have pictured having her on AM and now she is here!

It was human to visualize her voyage to the UK. We are forever grateful to Jeanette who cared for Della as her own, and followed up with sending her to us when the day arrived. Thank you Jeanette. Della appeared in front of us at the Animal Reception Centre at Heathrow Airport – a bundle of joy. She did what we wanted to do to her – she bounded between us with joyful squeals and kisses. Four hours later we were back on AM.

Della dozed, for most of the car journey, on my knee. The last ½ hour she was alert and looking out the window, with interest, and took in the moist smells. It was raining! The predicted drought may be over. Della tentatively walked the slatted L-shaped pier to AM. She followed our instruction…’stay close’ …..’careful’….  Chris has secured orange plastic thick mesh fencing around the edge of  AM’s stern (rear end of a boat). She went down into AM at the Stern end. We opened the door, and she stepped – no missed the second step – I mean slipped down into AM.

Anyway Della is now on board and has settled immediately. Her new bed, given to her by Sonya and Ian, is well padded and looks like the most comfortable ‘chair’ in the room. “Possum” and “Ballduck” are nearby, but she is not taking much interest. Routines are getting established.

The layout of the Marina gives us a 1 mile walk door to door and there is a well marked path down to the Trent and Mersey Canal. So we will all be doing walks galore. Today we drove to find the woods covered with bluebell carpets. We let Della off the lead and she tiptoed through the bluebells! Back at the Merina I took her into an adjacent field, without the sheep, and gave her a workout with the ball thrower. Well that was my intention but she was keen to see what was happening back on the boat!!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Kitch-up Kontinued

The diarist in me wants to complete the saga to date!

So we did Dry Dock and after 3 days of mostly hull blacking toil and Dave welding vital points which included overplating, Needless to say the weather was ‘lucky’ (that what was beyond our control) as summer made a brief appearance. Summer was not the word I used but the locals were adamant it was! AM was lowered back into the ‘Cut’. As hoped for she floated, the dry dock trailer was quickly towed out from under her and back up the ramp. Her engine started started and no sign of sinking so Chris could take her back to the marina. I got in my land wheels and drove to Mercia, all smiles. I informed the happy (marina) campers that AM was moments away and all was good in our world. Then my phone rang! Captain Chris informed me AM had broken down and he was dealing with it. The domestic goddess in me thought I may as well deal with our laundry in the Cell Block Latrine facitilies and pass the waiting time productively. That is stuff as many clothes into the machine, press the buttons and then go to Global Spirit for a caffeine buzz followed by a walk around the Marina to check the boundaries, get some coins for the clothes dryer, and keep my eye out for AM.

AM did make it back, under her own steam but a bit more diesel cleaning was needed. So we were grounded afloat at our mooring again! But works indoors continued. The walls got painted and IKEA is in the kitchen! We have used their functional storage concepts to maximize our limited galley space and it is fabulous. It looks good, it works and is affordable. At this point we are awaiting the gas to be connected to the hob, and a hole to be drilled into the side of AM (so she sinks, just joking) so the washing up water can drain directly into the canal and not have to be ferried out in a bucket.

We have been busy and that is obvious. The engine is now running as it should and we went out with friends on Saturday onto the canal. I was not that happy about going out as it was really windy in the Marina. Flat bottom boats and wind are not a happy combination and I was not comfortable. We were being blown close to the moored boats and I had the short pole to try and stop contact. The process meant I came close to falling overboard, sustained a series of injuries which put plasters and arnica cream into use. Then once we got to the canal I put the kettle on and blew up the inverter!

And now, with that shortened version, I am up to date in Blogland.

Only 10 days until DELLA DAY!!!

Monday, 9 April 2012

I Drought it!

Visualise the weather for this week. At least I can wear my barely pre-loved muck boots for a few days appropriately (thank you Sonya) and, should needs must, my TradeMe oilskin can be christened! And the weather service are forecasting a drought.

So to continue from the end of the previous blog....  I pulled myself together post fall and took off to AM. She looked pretty much as when we left her but as we stepped on board and opened the stern door into the boat the smell of newly applied oil based paint greeted us. Of course we had had nothing painted but that didn't register until later. As pre-planned some weeks prior we took off to the Green Man with Sonya & Ian,  for a burger and pint as you do to get over jet lag and reduce the reality factor. But the reality factor reared its head, later in the night, as bed called! I remember waking in the night feeling sick with the heavy smell of diesel fumes. There was no way we could spend another night  aboard. Turns out the Boat Safety Certificate had found rust on the fuel tank and that it needed to be dealt with. We had left AM with a full tank of diesel (necessary for winterizing ) and the process of sanding the rusty area had made a hole in the fuel tank. Not the wielder of the sanding tool's fault but the thinness of the metal. Imagine if that had happened while we were out on the "Cut". Word has it that most of the fuel was saved and rehomed!! But the stink was overwhelming and we needed to wait for the engine area to be cleaned out properly and for the fumes to dissipate. One night aboard was one night too much! I couldn't find my 'black' humour button. I even thought I would sink but I swum the moody channels of my white and gray matter. Writing this down, I know it wasn't the end of my world and I realise there are events happening in the world where people have no control and life is fragile but this was MY world and I crashed. It wasn't all about the fuel tank, it was about going through a life change and my personal fuel tank was running on empty!

Back to AM. We spent a couple of nights away from the Marina and were going to stay on for a few nights at the local French chain Hotel (ETAPS - a fantastic no frills but the best customer service hotel, and I would highly recommend it). Then a fellow moorer offered us a week on her aptly named narrowboat 'Global Spirit', while she was away. Maisie came to our emotional rescue and we were staying less than a stone's throw from AM. Looking back it was probably a cathartic week being able to rip out the living room, galley and dining area in AM. Oh and then there was sanding the Swedish sauna effect-that-was then undercoating.  At the end of each day it was great to rest on Global Spirit enjoying the home comforts warmed by the coal fire and watch TV! (Coro Street, which is 1 1/2 years behind in NZ!). One week later we were able to sleep on AM for a night. No running water but we have a tap  on the jetty and 2x 5Litre bottles.

Then AM was booked for dry dock, which meant being towed to Stenson Marina. Chris and a friend (Tony, Bushmansfriend, visiting from NZ and who has a boat on the Whangaparaoa Peninsular) manned AM either end while under tow along the canal. It was good to see AM moving even though it wasn't her own steam! I watched them go and was there to facilitate their arrival. Well I thought I would make it easier. At least I could forewarn the marina they were on their way and locate the mooring slot!! All good. We were back to ETAPS for what turned out to be 4 nights. The first evening we drove into Derby and met Tony and Judy. Our trusty SatNav guided us into Derby and a passerby helpfully suggested and directed us to an establishment where we could sit outside, catch up and eat. That was the beginning of the warm spell! Luckily it was warm enough to sit outdoors cos indoors the sound systems were blaring noise and sports. Later some live music sounded out from an adjacent venue and I had to sing along to Crowded House 'Fall at your Feet'......

Next day we were up bright and early (in fact most days when redirecting body clocks into a new time zone,  early is a feature and bright is possibly debatable) and down to Stenson to see AM be towed up to dry dock. But we were too early, so went to B&Q (I call it the ghost shop - you know they are staffed but you can't see them) and then breakfast. Back to AM who was now on a trailer at the top of the ramp.... (to be continued).

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Blog is in the Air

It has taken me a while to venture back into Blogland but I'm nearly ready to start penning, done enough pining and as per our nature we have been ever so busy. I think I'm sounding pommyfried!!
We have been back on Avalon Mist and if not always on her we have been nearby. When we flew out of NZ we were in raptures about all the good fortune that had buoyed us as we had packed up our lives to begin afresh in England. (Although I have had a period of being in my own Angerland - put it down to a grief process....but the glass is half full again). We even managed to get a standby upgrade with AirNZ and that was brilliant. Breezed into Heathrow with 4 suitcases, 2 full of necessary Job's-On tools. And Della's Possum & Ballduck, harness, leads and vet records ready for her arrival in late April.
A couple of good nights sleep and hospitality at Chateau St Margarets (thanks Pops) and we were ready for the drive up the M1 in the rental car. Popped into IKEA, Wembly for a cheap but cheerful meatball plate and 5 hours later we were at Mercia Marina. The bright red car in the carpark was our new motor. So handy to have wheels and to have a SatNav, not to mention 6 gears and reverse! I've never heard of a car having 6 gears but then I've been mostly driving automatics in recent years!
The walk down to Avalon Mist was exciting but I should have known falling over on the steps down to the boardwalk was an ominous start....

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.