Tuesday, 30 October 2012

I Fell In, to a Murky Pond of Water

Leaving Great Haywood

I am going to have to write a catch up blog or 3 when we get back to Mercia Marina. We are about 3 days away from Willington and the thought of electricity has an appeal. Not that it has been a problem. It is the change in climate, it’s getting colder and being able to have the heater plugged in continuously will be good.

The clocks went back, yesterday, and I went in for an early seasonal dip! It was the most unpleasant incident and I have no plans to repeat it. We had been moored at Stone and it was either go to the Launderette or move along the canal a few miles and look at some boats at Great Hayward Marina. Rain was forecast and there had been a bit of the wet stuff earlier but it looked reasonably clear in a grey sky way. So we untied the ropes and as we pulled out another boat had got the Lock first. I went to help and all was good. That boat went down and as it was leaving the lock they called out there was a boat arriving to go up the Lock. Their crew (that is one person) arrived and the boat went in. It was a holiday rental but they were, or worked for, the company. The skipper called out to his wench to help me, the ‘lady’, close the gate as I was struggling to swing the gate as it was in a tight location with not enough safe room for the ‘butt’ push. (there was a yellow sign also stating the danger of lack of  space and to operate the gate from the side I was trying to swing it from). As I was walking past the boat, matey advised me that using your butt to push the gate is the favoured option. Well he got a mouthful from me as I take pride in my knowledgeable position as a veteran lockie! We didn’t bond.

And off we cruised in the direction of Great Haywood. There was the occasional Lock but no great shakes, I even had time to make a small batch of fruit and date scones. Della and I had to spend time indoors as the rain started to get heavier and Chris was wet weathered up so he could deal with the conditions. At the locks I had to take extra care as the surfaces were getting slippery.
Great Haywood Marina

We arrived at Great Haywood Marina and went to tie up near the office but we were told to moor on the pier next to two boats for sale. Chris got us in position to reverse alongside and I took the centre rope and stepped off on to the pontoon. I remember stepping on to the pontoon and I glided as my foot slipped on the wooden surface. Shoot, there was no way out of this! My feet were of no use and my bum was suspended, briefly over the water and gravity pulled me down. It was certain I was going to hit the water. Either that or I’d hit AM and the water! All I knew was I didn’t want what was happening to happen. I think having layers of warm clothing helped my entry into the water and I floated briefly. Chris says he saw me get off AM and then I disappeared! He realized I must have gone in and he put AM into neutral, then reached down and hauled me out of the water. Man I was in shock, I know that, and I was not happy at being so wet! A woman came over to check I was OK and I was, I was not in any mood to talk. My Tourettes took hold!! Thinking about it now, I was really lucky that Chris acted so fast and he was able to lift me out of the water.
As a result we ended up spending the night on a berth at the Marina. We had electricity and we could use their Launderette. I’m laughing about my Splish Splash, now, and have no aspirations to be a mermaid let alone repeat swimming in murky waters.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Almost back where we started so I'll finish before the inbetween. That will come later

So to make a cruising ring get finished. Here it is. We did the Wiggles, the Mannie, the Ashton & Peakey, stayed at Bugsworth, went down the Mackie, Thru the Harey and have stopped at Stone on The Trent & Mersy. We are a few days from Willies and I'll blog proper soon. But in case you were wondering we are A+W. Trick or treat??

Thursday, 11 October 2012


Passing the Kellingley Colliery

Rising Coal
oh the power and the passion

And so we made it to the Leeds & Liverpool Canal following the Aire & Calder navigation which at times becomes part of the River Aire. Before we reached Castleford we had passed a couple of coal fired electricity plants and the Kellingley Colliery. Mounds of coal and high barbed wire fences were our view and I got camera snappy. How handy that a power plant was next door to the coal mine. It made me think of power usage and how our days of living without electricity, in Portugal, made me mindful of how much power gets wasted. I know I can be a pain (in many ways) and one of those is always turning out lights when no-one is in a room where the lights are turned on. On AM we charge up our leisure batteries when the engine is running and these power our low voltage lighting and shoreline fridge, and by using the inverter we can charge the mobile phones, computers, Twin Tub (not much thought of using this these days!!) and the hand held vac and the super KARCHER. The Karcher is my new essential gadget which sucks the condensation dripping down the windows on a cold morning! It is amazing how much water it sucks up.
M1 bridge over River Aire

We spent a day and the rest cruising along the ‘Navigation’. Some of this is the River Aire and we were lucky we had done this prior to the last heavy rains which closed the river for several days while it was on red alert. Arriving on the outskirts of Leeds was exciting and we knew we would be able to get visitor moorings at the centrally located Clarence Dock just after going through the final automated lock. We headed for empty moorings and got caught by the wind as we were reversing alongside a pontoon. It was a close call missing the contact sport with a moored boat and big thanks to a fellow Moorer who took the ropes and helped to secure us. Once tied up we found out we were in the Long term moorings and were supposed to be on the other side tie up and double berth to another boat. There was no way I wanted to move AM out in the wind and then not have easy access for family we were expecting to visit us. Word had it to stay where we were and if C&RT wanted us to move wait for them to come and tell us. We called into C&RT’s plush office nearby and the 2 receptionists told us the computer says “no” when we asked if we could pay for the mooring, or better still, speak with the person who was responsible for the moorings. So we decided bah humbug we’ll just squat! And so we did, perfect.

Next morning, with our Jayne aboard, we started our adventure on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Journey planned was Leeds to Kirkstall. Rain was in the air and we needed to get off the River Aire by going through River Lock which is the start of the L & L Canal. We went in the right direction but the Lock we saw didn’t look like it was in operation, no signage to identify it and no welcome to the Canal. So we continued on the Aire in the direction of the Railway station where the River must flow into the darkness below. We quickly decided this is not right so reversed back to the Lock and I alighted on to the smallest less bollarded platform I have seen and went to inspect. Yes it was ‘our’ lock and I got on with winding up the gate paddles to empty it. At the same time another Narrowboat came alongside AM, at speed, and banged into the gates. I heard the bang and yelled out a fighting response, in fright, to the boat I couldn’t see!

So began numero uno experience of locks on this canal. We are on the up hill climb. All manual operation…. anti-vandal keys to unlock, ground paddles and gate paddles to be wound. I can do gate paddles, no problem. I have had some dealings with ground paddles but not the same variety of mechanisms that are on this canal. The ground paddles have different operational techniques. The first ones had no instructions and I realize, now, that I turn them clockwise to open. Anticlockwise to close. Der! It would be helpful if the lock came with written instructions particularly the first lock. Ground paddles are always opened first to fill the lock and as the name implies the water surges in at ground level. Once the level has reached the sluice level on the gate, then you open the gate paddles. If you want to have a water fight with the bow end of your boat then open the gate sluices early on. The lock fills fast but the water spurts out at pressure and will wash your Bow if you are not paying attention. Best practice is for the boat to be held close to the back gates. Once the lock water level is level with the canal level then the gates can be open and boat leaves. Some of the gates are a back breaker to open. Some of the paddles are extra hard to open. Always remember to close the paddles and the gates and to BREATHE! Later on along the Cut you get the ground paddles, wooden ones, that need to be lifted up in one swift motion. If you get halfway and it stops then you need to try and push it back down so you can lift it, again, in one swift motion. That you haven’t fallen in, in the process is always worth praise! Hard hard work!
Bingley 5 Staircase Locks

Ground Paddles open & leaky gates

There's an AM on the rise

It's a long way up!

The staircase locks are manned at the Bingley 3 rise and the Bingley 5 rise Locks and a couple of the 2 rise locks. Lock Keepers are a valued necessity at these locks. We really needed them at a couple of other 2 rise staircase locks. I lost any cool I might ever have had at the Newlay 2 staircase lock. This particular staircase was in flood when I got to it but I couldn’t identify the problem so I just set to and opened the lower lock so AM could get in. The top lock appeared too full but I emptied it into the bottom lock so AM would be raised to get into the top lock. The top lock wouldn’t totally empty and AM was now floating dangerously on top of the lower lock. The gongoozlers were totally in the way, the youth appeared on their pushbikes and got a mouthful from me! I had to walk through the flooded edges of the bottom lock and get the gate paddles open again. I was mortified! I swapped places with Chris and sat on AM with Della and phoned the emergency services. They told me a Lock Keeper was on his way and would be there in 40 mins! The only place I didn’t want to be was where I was!! Some time later Chris managed to get equilibrium between the 2 locks and I steered AM into the top lock. It turns out the ground paddles at the top lock had not been closed but the anti vandal keys had been secured. Not so confusing, now, but that was a learning curve for me in my risk management assessment (or lack of). Do not assume other boaters know what they are doing!

Then there are the swing bridges! We have had to deal with more than 40 swing bridges. Most are manually operated needing an anti vandal key and the power of your butt and then ‘swing out sister’! One bridge needed 3 more people to assist me. It was a rural property and I was pleased it was a multicultural experience! A couple were semi automated bridges, read the instructions. Flashing lights and bells doesn’t mean the bridge is always on an automated opening system. Nup your butt will be the power of movement! There was one fully operational bridge that I couldn’t find where to insert the key!! The C&RT emergency service was able to locate it for me over the phone!

Along the way we broke down. Fuel was not getting through and AM limped to a stop outside a Boat yard, luckily. We had John, the mechanic who worked with Chris to identify the problem. Chris walked about 5 miles to get spare parts and the next day AM was purring again. Our fuel tank was not properly cleaned after the fiasco earlier in the year. Probably bits of dirty diesel got stirred up along the way and …….. I better understand how to use the kitchen.
Mandarin Duck we saw swimming along before Bingley 3 rise locks

Oh how we needed some rest and aimed for Skipton as our holiday mooring. The day before Skipton, high in the Yorkshire Moors, we spent the night at Kildwick. The following morning we had a chat with the vicar at the impressive CoE St Andrews Church which had an amazing graveyard with many aged tombstones. Some of the tombstones were used on the paths and the graveyard had been documented. Some of Chris’s family is from this area and likely they have been buried here in the 1700’s!!

Then we got to Skipton and spent about 5 days in the 3 day visitor moorings. What a pretty town with a market 4 days a week. Beautiful walks but probably too pricey for us to consider living here. The charity shops had too much stuff overpriced, I thought.
The new Lake District near Kildwick


It was really nice playing the we are on holiday game. We did have a long walk back along the canal on the muddy tow path. I slipped over but no injury sustained. (My favourite shoes with no tread had to be replaced the next day!!) When it started raining, Della had to wear her new raincoat! She absolutely does not think a raincoat is needed in her world! We think differently and she will be wearing it, and its thermal liner when necessary, you can be sure. We walked to the village of Cononley, in the rain. Located a couple of houses where the Laycock’s of the 17C have lived and then popped into a local hostelry and were greeted with warmth. Della made a hit and had to have her photo taken with an admirer. We got the train back to Skipton. Sunday and a free ride!!

We were ready to move along the canal as the forecast looked promising for a few days. More likelihood of sunshine than rain. We were moving towards the highest point in our journey so that meant a few more locks. We teamed up with another Nb (Narrowboat). I think matey thought we were newbies and he was very helpful, so helpful, I switched off! Next day his wife worked the locks with me and we all got on a treat. Really nice people and again makes me realize what affect over helpfulness can have. Note to myself, only be helpful when it is asked for Sarah!!!!

We moored the night at Wilkinson’s Farm. There is a Livery there. Happy young women giggling about the naughty horses. The horses have a mechanized walking roundabout, so they can be exercised. At night we got the light show from the heap of steaming straw manure that was in a heap. There was no smell blown in our direction!
Wilkinsons Farm steaming pile
The Penine Way

The Yorkshire Moors are stunning and we were beside the towpath that is briefly a part of the Penine Way. A further 3 locks brought us into Lancashire. We refuelled, it is best to check out best value for red diesel and I steered us towards Foulridge where there is the traffic light operated tunnel. I am doing more steering these days. I think I am better than, last year, and can now get under bridges with more speed. Well that’s what I thought until Bridge 151. Bridge 151 is a sharp Left hand turn and the speed I approached it was too fast and I was too late in thrusting the lever into reverse and BANG I hit the Bow and BANG I hit the stern. We did take a few crumbs of bridge with us and I left Cptn Faithful to sort out the direction of AM. Still steel boat is OK and so are the glasses that got upturned in the cupboard.

We found excellent moorings at Foulridge.

In summary, a long blog, a physically exhausting canal, sore lower backs, more rain than sun, little traffic, radiators on board are working, beautiful countryside, friendly people and we are now on the down hill run.

Green means Go through the Foulridge Tunnel

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.