Sunday, 9 December 2012


"Dancer" line up pointing to our bright lights

And so December progresses. 

The Marina is lighting up on land and water. It’s kinda nice to have coloured lights, some flashing, if you leave the boat after 1645hrs. A few boats have got a light show switched on and the numbers are increasing daily.  

There is no doubt about the outside temperature. The question is can frozen ice get colder? Some mornings there is a deep white frost on the boats, pontoons, and grounds of the Marina. The road gets patches of ice which I am concentrating fully on when I am walking. Della doesn’t seem bothered by the cold temperatures and doesn’t avoid anything that looks cold underfoot. She loves the muddy walks and tolerates the lower leg wash, that is inevitable, when we get to AM. A very content and happy dog who spreads her affection to people she meets on her daily walks. Lovely.

As usual the week melts and we have been getting AM as watertight as possible. She’s not bad. Most boats have a degree of condensation. I do my Karcher workout daily and sometimes twice a day… but not always. We have tried secondary glazing, i.e. a cellophane sheet, and that seemed to have some effect but we still got water droplets forming inside the window. We realize heating and ventilation are of prime importance with a “live-aboard” and I will be really thankful if we can beat condensation. From our early days of talking toilet and water tanks with fellow moorers, conversations have progressed to heating and ‘how to beat’ condensation.
The View down Pier-Q-liar

And, on land, we have had a day out and driven to IKEA to check functional furnishings with storage solutions to line the walls of DolciBlue. IKEA is a great start to the day and we were early. We saw ourselves at the start of a short queue waiting for the ‘pre-store opening’ which in other words is breakfast at the IKEA Restaurant which opens at 930hrs. 930 arrived, and then 935 and no sign of the door opening until a bloke in the queue did a friendly knock at the door which alerted Security to open the door! The breakfast is a squashed 1/4 of omelette, bacon, sausage, baked beans, potato cake and half a tomato and priced at £1.50 including refillable tea / coffee /hot chocolate. I rate the self serve hot chocolate. Sadly, this visit, the hot chocolate machine was O.O.O. The coffee’s not bad actually.

The lights are on in and out AM
Breakfast over we entered the IKEA labyrinth and, first, in our tracks was the sofa section. The Sofa Assistant showed us a choice of two sofas that give us integral storage plus the potential to be a guest double bed. I was surprisingly surprised. I would agree to either. One is L-shaped and the other isn't! Moving along, with pamphlets in hand we passed Storage, desks and tables, chairs and lights. We didn't hang around. We know folding desks will be useful, and we have our glass dining table from NZ (if there is room). Soon we were in Kitchens. It was easy to identify what cupboards / benches would work in the new Galley. I really like the ‘kitchen’ on AM. It works well, we have ample space, and I would be happy to have a similar layout fitted. We will go for a full size pantry drawer / cupboard.  

After Kitchens we wound our way to Beds. We thought a bed that has accessible under bed storage would be ideal! Thinking about how we are going to position the bed on DolciBlue can present accessibility barriers. A bed is a mattress on a base. To use the Bed base as storage we either need to have under the bed pull out drawers with the bed positioned with access from the side or from the bed end. We needed to see if there was another possibility. (Our bed on AM has been converted to meet our needs. Initially the original bed base was covered to disguise the hollow base. Chris got out the saw and cut an opening on one side of the bed, so we could store our clothes and bags under the bed. That was last year. This year we have been using 2 units that have a series of sliding plastic bins, with our mattress positioned on a board on top. The mattress slides out and then is bolstered on the gunwale side with pillows. This gives us ample sleeping room and a place for Della.)  The helpful IKEA Bed Assistant, who had amazing false eyelashes, showed us a bed where the mattress base can be lifted so opening a bed base of storage room. Perfect. Now is it going to be memory foam or inner sprung mattress? The weight of the mattress will have importance. This will also mean we can have the bed positioned looking down the boat.

Finally we stopped at Bathrooms to look at wash hand basins. A brief stop and then we were at Market Hall. Market Hall begins at the junction of the Restaurant and the main entrance. I decided I had had my fill of IKEA and wanted to race over to BOOTS to buy some false eyelashes. Chris went on to IKEA’s Bargain Basement and we met back at the car.

The Sat Nav was turned on and she proceeded to direct us through down town Nottingham in the direction, most of the time, of our intended destination Newark-on-Trent. Sat Nav didn’t realize that there was a new roundabout onto the A1 and we ended up going a convoluted lesser road way. It involved the decision of should we drive over the swift running ford or not. We drove off in another direction and left ‘her’ to recalculate the route. Eventually we were deposited on the A1. Our plan was to view a block of 4 garages. We were late for our appointment with the agent and he telephoned just after we had got on the A1 to see if we were still going to view. I was able to let him know we were only 1.3 miles away and we blamed her on the Sat Nav, of course.

Funny thought, it took us 3 days by boat to get to Newark and it took us one hour by car!! I know which transport I prefer. 

We went back through the outskirts of Nottingham and went to visit Bill & Beryl who used to be our ‘neighbours’ 20 years ago in Portugal!! It was lovely to catch up and to share with them the rise of DolciBlue.

While we were doing this, snow arrived in England but didn’t appear where we were driving. News reports said snow in the East Midlands but then we must be in the Mid Midlands (I am going to call them the stuttering Midlands).

The other major highlight, this week, is I have booked my return flight to NZ. I am hoping for a bit of warm weather. The Travel Agent, who booked my flight, was so friendly and we had a laugh during the booking process. She needed to write down my address which I gave her over the phone. I took care to say Willington not Wellington. When I got her email with my address written on I had to email back the following to her Woolington is actually commonly known in these parts as Willington!! Just cos I'm Kiwi doesn't mean everything is sheep related!!!!!!”

Kaimai View, Dec 2011,  from our old home in NZ

Sunday, 2 December 2012

DolciBlue Dream Weavering

Della glides over frost

It’s wintertime. At least this season seems to be in shape of doing it properly. It is a warm feeling being able to dress in lots of clothes. Longjohns (that doesn’t sound girly but warmer than tights) and layers of clothes to trap the heat. Boots, a long woollen coat, scarf, hat and gloves. No wonder we need more space on the boat!
Our Pier Q...liar

We have been back at Mercia Marina for a month and have settled back. Warm greetings given from the familiar faces of long term moorers and Marina employees. And the daily meeting in passing with our dogs. The other day we went to the Quiz night with our neighbours Takey Tezey. We didn’t win but we didn’t lose. Chris and I got called up for a random quiz into how well you know your partner. It seems after 20 years we know each other very well in the public arena.
Throwing stones doesn't sink them.

We do go to our ‘lockup’ sometimes to try and reduce some of our Life’s Laundry. It seems strange to have freighted all our stuff over from NZ in order to make the decision of what to fill the ‘Sally’s’ bag with. Chris deals with this task in an unemotional way but I’m never a happy bunny on these days. We don’t have to give away everything, he reassures me. We have decided not to get a land base for the foreseeable future and we do need to downsize our material possessions. There is no pressure to offload personal treasures.

Over recent months we have become enthusiastic with living our next years as Water Gypsies and in order to follow that dream we have been searching for a boat that will meet our needs so we can live aboard comfortably. We need a longer boat, AM is 53 ft and an ideal starter boat. We have considered 70ft but have decided 68ft. About 80% of the waterways in England will take 70ft but we have heard that some of the Locks are leaky at the gate ends (not to mention the walls!!) so we need to consider our position in the Lock! We have talked Narrowboat or Widebeam and agreed Narrowboat.  A Widebeam, while having the feel of  a moving house on water with roomier space, does not have the navigable range on the Waterways that Narrowboats have. We have looked at a few Narrowboats, on brokerage, but nothing has jumped out and said “Buy me!” So we have been drifting from do we build to our specification or do we buy a pre-loved boat and modify it..
Similar to what we want

The swing has swung and the outcome is building our ‘DolciBlue’, a 68ft Dutch Barge style Narrowboat. We have commissioned Cole Craft to build her to sail away state. Cole Craft built AM and their boats are quality. Gary Cole appears passionate about his craft, no hard sell, and easy to discuss plans with. We are excited and the build slot is for the end Jan 2013. ‘DolciBlue’ is the name formed from our beloved dogs in Portugal who shared our dream when we lived in that country. It was always Blue & Dolci Doo (Bently Blue the Beastie Boy and Dolcima Dewdrop the Demon Dogette) and now Dolci will have premier position in the naming!! Writing about them makes me wash my face in tears. 

Blue & Dolci

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.