Tuesday, 3 July 2012

3 July 2012


Blogland should be renamed Bogland. Cos’ when you step outside the 4 steel walls on water, you enter the wetness of the day, and the ground is sodden once you leave the pontoon. We have just fininshed the wettest 2 months in the recorded history of weather. I remember in the late ‘80s visiting Scotland and having a giggle at the Postcard that photographed Scotland in the rain with words to the effect of ‘Scotland on a good day’. Well that postcard would be appropriate to the Midlands.  
Needless to say it is now July and the weather shows no change.

We did have a day out cruising on AM last Friday when we went to Willington to collect Geoff and Jane. There was a bit of sunshine, that afternoon, and we thought we’d wind at Willington and then moor up to walk to the train station. We approached the Winding hole and were greeted, unexpectedly, by Isle of Aran, who had moored in prime position. So Chris moved AM alongside so we could double berth while we popped over to meet our friends.

Willington Train Station is just the railway track and 2 platforms. We climbed up the stairs to the platform and saw a chap, with a video camera on a stand which was close to the edge of the platform. I thought I may as well find out about the attraction of photographing trains, while we were waiting. What a nice man, he was mega enthusiastic about trainspotting and had been for some years. In his working life he said he had been a surgeon. I asked him if he was Mack the knife! To continue, he talked of all the wonderful train journeys he had taken in many places around the world. Some of them involved his day job but the locations sounded exotic. Anyway he looked so happy to be trainspotting. He said there is a big demand for photos of trains. I had no idea!

We walked with our friends to AM, got on board, Chris started the engine and we released ourselves from Isle of Aran. It was very pleasant cruising along, and enjoying the feel of AM on the move. A little while later we came to Stenson Lock. Our plan was to head from there to the next Lock and wind. So that’s what we did.
 I jumped ship with Della  shortly before Swarkstone Lock, thinking I could take Della for a walk and meet up with AM as she returned to Stenson. I called out to a passing narrowboat and the people on board said there was no winding at Swarkstone, we would have to go down the lock. I ran back in the direction of AM in case we had to go down the Lock. Thinking about it, now, I should have just left Chris to it. But we ended up going down the Lock. It was a real hard lock to work. Not only are the paddles difficult to turn, one of the gates is impossible to close singlehandedly for a woman of my age! We had to go, nearly a mile along the canal to get to the winding hole. Knowing that the speed of a canal-going boat is just slower than a fast walking pace, time was not on our side. We realized that the planned dinner out was a no-go, so I had to make a dinner I hadn’t planned on making. Yes the dinner was good, I have the best kitchen to work in.

I have emailed Canals&Rivers Trust (CART) formerly known as British Waterways about the Swarkstone episode. Copies of these will fill out my Blog….

Dear sir/madam,

Please will you explain to me why the Winding hole above Swarkestone Lock (which is marked on the Nicholson's waterways guide) is no longer allowed to be used. (I can only assume that the boat club have taken ownership of this part of the canal. Yesterday, we had planned to 'wind' at this point and head back to Willington. It was 5.30 pm when we arrived at the lock, and we would have had ample time to Wind and return to Willington where we had arranged to meet friends. A notice, in situ, from British Waterways stated that 'winding' was not allowed. We were extremely unhappy about this but went down the lock to the next winding hole before Bridge 11 (Sarson's Bridge). Swarkestone Lock is extremely difficult to work and is in need of urgent repair. One of the gates is impossible to close single handedly, and is dangerous. We last used this Winding point in September 2011 and had planned our journey with this in mind.

I await your reply

Thank you for your email dated 30th June with regard to Swarkstone lock.

With regard to the condition of swarkstone Lock. We are aware at the waterway of the issue with the downstream lock cill and the imbalance of the lock gate. We have panned in the winter stoppage to try to address both the gate balance issue and the Cill which should improve the operation of the lock significantly.

With regards to the winding hole. I have reviewed our current information provided on www.waterscape.com at  Swarkstone lock there are no winding holes identified. As I am sure you can understand the Nicholson's guide can only publish what there are aware of and we cannot guarantee that the information they contain is accurate. I have spoken to the supervisor who has looked after that area and as far as he can remember the sign has always been there with regards the “no winding”.

If you require any further information please contact me.

Oh well I suppose we’ll wind where we’re not supposed to wind, now, like everyone else does. I’ve written them my response. Oh, you can’t see it.

Jane, Chris, Geoff

We have been staying up until now at the Marina. Initially we knew we had to get work done to AM. The past few weeks we have been hanging out so I can play Ukulele at the Marina open weekend. Now we are days away from the event and 3 of us from the local Uke workshop are doing a ½ hour gig on Sat and probably Sun. I thought it would be fun to get out and play the Uke and have a wee sing. Oh the weather forecast is heavy showers, sun and cloud.  

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.