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).

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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.