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

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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.