Sunday, 22 December 2013


Music of the Night

It is ‘the best’ having DB a mere 2 boat breadths away to port, from AM, rather than at the end of the muddy field on the Cut. Chris is busy, daily, moulding DB into our new home-to-be. We have many helpful people in our midst and we are reminded to keep a smile on our dial as the boaters give us well meant advice. If only they knew the paths we have ventured these past 21 years!! It is good to be reminded that we as fellow helpful souls need to wait until we are asked for advice!


DB’s bathroom is now a room defined by 2 bulkheads. Today I lifted Della up to show her how a dog can be swung in our new bathroom. She wasn’t aware of any danger and enjoyed being able to view it at our level. The bathroom has a hip bath, bit like what we call a ‘shub’ in NZ and we’ll put in an over- shub shower! (try saying that quickly!!) Our new front loader washing machine, 420mm(d), will have pride of place in the bathroom and be positioned for its ballast quantity! The Twin Tub days are over and the little 'smiley lids' will move to a new home. 

As I am on a laundry rant I have had a couple of altercations in our Marina Cell Block Latrine Laundry. Don’t get me wrong, the Laundry is fantastic unless you become targeted by a moorer who sets her personal timer to a minute before your load of washing in the Dryer times out. The Cow is there watching ‘0’ show on the machine and pulls my tumbled washing out and is in the process of filling the Dryer as I walk through the door! She has done this to me twice. I had to express my dislike, in strong words, at her behaviour. She tells me it is her right to remove my washing if I am not there! So you can guarantee that there will not be a third opportunity arising for her. Now I put in 50p more which gives me 25 minutes more to ensure that my clothes are almost baked. She lucked out her last visit. Laundry etiquette rules!

Back to DB. The Morso Squirrel multi fuel burner (multi meaning wood and coal) is a success. A discretionary adjustment measure ensures that the fire will perform well from first light. For the sake of Bureaucrapracy the discretionary measure will be revoked for the purposes of honest form filling. We are stocked up with kindling, thanks to fit out scraps, and coal and now we have bags of mini logs. In former days, in Portugal, we would have been trawling our hillsides for firewood. We did the same, sometimes, in NZ looking out for the Council felling trees. Now we remember the way we got warm is to gather, saw and chop wood. Now we just buy a bag from the shop. There was a damaging strong wind, recently, which felled a few trees. I was tempted to take AM out on the Cut to gather some logs from the towpath but it is not our priority these days!

DB is plugged into the electric meter and we have a couple of halogen lights indoors and the power tools no longer require the generator.  We have a little yellow vacuum cleaner, Argos special, which glides over the floor, weekly, to make a tidy work space. Constant use would be frowned upon. I misplaced my trusty sander so, with encouragement, splashed out on a new one thanks to the ease of online shopping. The wonder tool arrived a couple of weeks ago, and in my spare time I have been sanding! It doesn’t sound like fun but it is rewarding to see that with the right density sanding paper and a sander fit for purpose that I believe I have 79% possibility that I can get the ceiling panels looking good.

In the New Year I am hopeful that I can spend more time working on DB and that I can keep the blogging update regular for a few weeks!!

              Happy Christmas and a shining warm 2014 filled with Love, Happiness and good Health 


Sunday, 17 November 2013


Popular Q’s
“Have you finished her?”
“When will she be ready?”
“How’s it going?”
“How long do you think she’ll take to fit out?”
“Are you going to sell your other boat?”
Popular A’s
“Yes, Chris has, but I didn't like her look and asked him to start again!”
“A couple of weeks!”
Indicate 4” / 6 cm by space between index fingers.

The 'wood-look' floor was 2/3rds completed prior to our summer canal cruise and Chris had made 2 top boxes that transform into 4 roof boxes. The idea is the A frame roof of the roof box will have a solar panel on either slope and be in an ideal position on DB’s roof to receive max daylight.  The obvious comment from the helpful people who see 2 roof boxes is “You won’t see over the top of them!” We are so thick-not... DER! Of course we will travel with an obstructed view and bounce off the steel boats that leap out at us. Who wouldn't do that?

Meanwhile, indoors, Chris is focused on fitting out the open plan kitchen/dining/living room, and is set to get the wiring and plumbing underway. DB has been covered with sterling board over the spray foamed cabin sides, and the upper wall and ceiling in the living room are now lined with wooden panels.The wooden panels need sanding, undercoating, filling, sanding, undercoating..... (my job). I have made a start.

A few trips to IKEA and we bought the flat packed cupboards for the kitchen. The day of purchase we risked driving down the muddy field to the boat to drop off the flat packs. Yes, we carried the packages to DB, in our best gumboots (Wellingtons) after the car wheels started spinning in the mud. The earlier IKEA breakfast gave us strength to inch the car over sterling boards and back on firm ground. Thanks to our friend from the rental boat company who had made a timely boat drop off and didn't walk past us! Next day Chris had the flat packs emptied and the kitchen took shape. Now a Kitchen consisting of cupboards is not a kitchen until there is something in it that gives it a functional clue. Our kitchen cabinets have started their use as a place for the work tools. Sensible really.

The fit out sounds a big job and it is BUT we have done bigger on terra firma in previous adventures. Yes our ages have not passed us by un-noticed but we are fit and healthy!

Yesterday, Chris lit the fire (Morso Squirrel) for its first time ever! We have had the fire board and hearth tiled with appropriate granite tiles and it looks fantastic. The fire regulation for a multi fuel fire on boats is clearly defined and there is no room for error. We have obeyed to detail! The fumes from the first fire were strong and we opened the Houdini hatches. I’m going to the boat, now, to check out the second lit fire! Will the kettle be boiling?

Check the Wheel House!!

Saturday, 12 October 2013


The DolcieBlue fit out moved to backstage when we realised there was a summer, this year, we'd would be mad if we missed the opportunity to cruise Avalon Mist and venture to territory we hadn't navigated while we could on our 53 footer. The Huddersfield Narrow and Broad canals became the plan and we left Mercia Marina in mid August. We filled the boat with 4 ‘Besties’ for a one way day non return trip to Alrewas. 6 humanoids and Della are a manageable group on AM for day travel. We plan DB to be spacious enough to cater for overnighters.

The following day, friends gone and a bit of a heavy head, we cruised on to Kings Bromley. The locks at Fradley Junction were quiet considering it was Bank Holiday Monday and there was only a short waiting time to use the locks. A C&RT Volunteer was helping on Lock 3 (by the gongoozler ‘Mucky Duck’ Pub) and as I arrived to take action on the lock, he had filled it to set it for a narrowboat heading down from the lock above. Only that boat was heading to ‘wind’ at the Coventry Canal junction and return up the flight! I think boaters could be better at signalling their intentions. We do a lot of shouting that is often not heard over the engine noise.  In this instance a raised arm moving in a circular motion would indicate that the boat is going to turn (i.e ‘wind’). 

The ‘semi trad’ boat that was ‘winding’ had a mechanical problem which made it a pig’s ear to do anything and it was in the queue at the next lock when we arrived. The mechanical problem was the gear cable had detached itself and ‘the Mum’ was armed with a tool, in the engine room, to put the motor in gear while No.2 son was on the tiller and No.1 son was filling the lock. It was a slow and frustrating process. I opened one of the lock paddles slowly under instruction and after the risk to hit the sill was gone I wound the paddle right up let more water in! Boy did No.1 son get a mouthful from his stressed Mum once the gate was open.  “You let the water in too quickly. Blah Blah Blah!!!” I called out to her that it was my fault. “Blah Blah Blah!!!” Then an older weathered bloke marched up and overwhelmed us all. He was rude and abrupt and it turned out he was in the lock queue and on a mission in his ‘working’ boat. I asked him if he had a windlass. “Of course!” he blurted, lifting his t-shirt above belt level where strapped was his windlass cushioned by his belly. The problem boat left the Lock and ‘matey’ took over.  He was of the opinion that the Mum and sons in the departing boat were fooling around.

At the last lock of our day,’ The Little Chimney Company’ had their boat moored below the lock with the engine in gear. They were not facing the right way to go up Lock. We couldn’t work out why, as it is not helpful to obstruct the pegged lock mooring and they would be considerate, surely. No chance of avoiding contact with their boat as we went in to moor.  All became clear when I went up to the lock and the Chimney people were rope- handling their work ‘Butty’ (they tow it) down the lock. They explained they left their moored Nb in gear as it keeps the boat close to the mooring against the force of the water as the lock empties!  They had only tied up using their central rope.

The next morning we woke feeling bright and refreshed and ready for a day of cruising. There were no locks until we got closer to Great Haywood so I had a spell on the tiller. I have taken my time getting my steering ‘badge’ and so the plan was for me to do more tiller time and we would alternate the lock workout.  I knew that I would need to overcome the magnetic feel I get when I meet moored or moving boats.

Westport Lake
A couple of days later we were on the Macclesfield Canal (‘the Mac’). We had considered mooring the night at Westport Lake on the Trent & Mersey Canal, a pretty spot on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent, but after walking around the Lake we chose to cruise the mile to get the last passage of the day through the Harecastle Tunnel and be on ‘the Mac’ that night. We were the 4th and last boat in our convoy and the boat in front of us had 2 people on their stern. While Chris steered us through the tunnel (30 mins) Della and I sat in the Bow under the Cratch cover and observed the red brown water and the chiselled walls lit by our headlight. I could hear the eerie sound of voices but guessed they were from the boat in front. The tunnel door opened when we are about 10 minutes from the other side. Close to the tunnel portal I went to the stern to check how Chris was. He was good although said he doesn’t like being in the tunnel and he should have put on more warm clothing as it was cold. As we exited the tunnel the ‘tunnel’-keeper was on his mobile phone. He stopped his phone conversation as I called out to him “It’s a bit cold in there, can you turn the heating up please!” He laughed and took the comment in the manner it was intended.

The Macclesfield Canal is a favourite of ours. It has beautiful snake bridges and plenty of Visitor’s moorings. 

We met a couple of ‘locals’ (Mum and son) who were walking their young pup ‘Scrappy’ and I offered them a short cruise on AM. They had not been on a Narrowboat, before, and it was lovely to hear their joy on the short trip with us. We dropped them off and then we carried on to Bridge 85 and moored. We took a walk on terra firma following a Public Footpath uphill to Mowcop where there is a castle ‘folly’ and grand views. The walk included a field of potential murderous cows and I wasn’t keen on returning. I’m sure the cows were okay and only a couple of them gave Della an interested eye. The media had recently reported heinous cow incidents with Joe Public.

What goes up must come down and the Canal was about 3 miles walk away. We decided to take the road walk, back. We checked our route with a helpful Mowcop resident, who was unofficially counting the number of times a pretty woman was running around the block. He gave us directions and off we went and we were on a steep downhill stretch of road (steeper, I think, than Baldwin Street in Dunedin, NZ) and our helpful Mowcopean arrived in his car full of apology that he had misdirected us and was concerned that he had sent the Kiwis the wrong way! He insisted on driving us back to AM. There is human kindness.
We enjoyed the warm weather and the leisurely journey we could take on AM. Along the way we moored at Congleton, Poynton and, this time, there were moorings at Marple. We moved on to the Peak District Canal and went to Whaley Bridge / Bugsworth Basin intending to return to Marple and head for the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and Standedge Tunnel. I phoned C&RT to book our passage for the tunnel  and was surprised when the woman I spoke to gave us the boat height restriction. I just assumed we were OK and went on and booked it. Chris was belt and braces and measured AM and it looked like we were a couple of inches to high at the peak of the Bow! He spoke to C&RT and we decided that we couldn’t take the risk of being turned away at the Tunnel Portal. Oh well, a sometime never trip that one! A suggestion to C&RT for their Waterways website would be to inform us of the accepted boat measurements with a diagram, for the Standedge Tunnel passage.

So instead of moving in the Manchester direction we went back down the ‘Mac’ thinking we’ll go back to our base at Mercia Marina. So rain threatened when we left Bugsworth Basin. We looked for rural overnight moorings closer to Marple There are plenty of lovely spots but mooring is impossible as The Peak Forest Canal to Whaley Bridge is in dire need of dredging and we kept grounding with each attempt to moor. The lucky boats that were moored don’t indicate how long they will stay. Some looked more permanent than others. Luckily, we got a Marple mooring, again. We almost fit into a mooring slot but we needed about 10 inches more to be comfortably moored. The Nb behind couldn’t move any further and the Tupperware moored, in front, hadn’t considered another boat mooring! I am reluctant to move boats but all this involved was to move it along one mooring ring. So I did it and I ‘fessed up when the Tupperware owner returned. He apologised for his thoughtlessness. No harm done.

Next day we stayed at Gurnett a pretty spot past Macclesfield. I was gaining confidence with steering remembering to react to obstacles in timely fashion and focus on one side of the boat when passing close to others. Harecastle Tunnel was my aim!

 There are two bridges before Macclesfield that require operating. The automated bridge is straight forward, put in the key, turn the key and keep your finger on the button! Stop the traffic stuff. The other, a manually operated swing bridge was problematic when we were going ‘up’ didn’t want to swing but this time it swung! AM got grounded on a concrete slab at the mooring point and Chris attempted pushing her out using the pole. I swung the bridge to halfway point so I could get on the towpath and use another pole to see if 4 hands could budge AM. She floated once Chris got on land and could use his pole as a lever while I used mine to push her. Della stayed on board watching from her vantage point! Still water has its advantages. Chris insisted on working the 12 locks on the Bosley Flight and I was on steering duty. No worries.
Chris was steering when he lost his concentration (we were having a chat) at a crucial time as we came to one of those bridges where the walls jump out at you. We ended up banging into the bridge wall and experienced a ‘boat-shake’. I went indoors to inspect damage. There was a lot of stuff strewn on the galley / living room floor and one glass broken! Steel boats don’t bruise. No outstanding marks that a lick of paint won’t hide.

We moored overnight at Dog Lane Aqueduct (Congleton) and moved on the following morning to the Trent& Mersey. As planned, I was on the tiller as we approached the Trent & Mersey Canal and was prepared to turn right to the Harecastle Tunnel but in a spontaneous moment we agreed turn left and do the 12 locks of ‘heartbreak hill’. We took 3 locks-in -a -row turns and made Rode Heath in the late afternoon. As usual, we gave Della her early evening convenience explore walk, and walked past the canal side Broughton Arms Pub and did a double take at their menu. The Monday special was any two meals from the grill menu for the price of one. We were very happy with the mixed grill x 2. It set us up for the 17 locks, the next day, to Middlewich. 
The cruise we were doing is called the ‘Four Counties’. The only bit of canal we hadn’t previously done was the Staffs & Worcestershire [North] Canal. We left Middlewich and the rain came down. We had moored near Kings Lock beside a busy road. There was no need to stay more than a night and I walked Della before we made our move. We passed a dog that looked familiar but I didn’t recognise the owner. It was only when we cast off and the owner called out my name that I realised he was a ‘newbie’ on our Pier at Mercia Marina!!

And so began a wet weather day on the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. Chris was suitably attired in his wet weather garb and I only ventured out to partake in 5 locks, and 2 were before the rain. We made the mainline Shropshire (‘Shroppie’) Union Canal and were yelled at by a discontent grunting-moorer who thought we were speeding past him. We know what ‘tick-over speed’ is and what is going backwards speed. There were boats on long term moorings on either side of the canal and a boat coming in the opposite direction. Some people have to get a life! That evening we moored after the Llangollen Canal ‘Hurleston Junction. We had had enough rain and there was no point going any further.
 I enjoyed Della’s morning walk alongside the 4 lock flight that we weren’t going to do, and remembered when we had done it in 2012. I had found 15 euro’s near the lock gate at the top lock! There was no abandoned money this time.

The rain had stopped and we moored at Nantwich, a pretty town, with an abundance of charity shops. As we had Della, with us, we needed to find some outdoor seating and proper coffee. A pot of tea is reliable but a coffee that has colour is, sadly, hard to find in England. They have the coffee machines but it is only the big franchises that appear to have Barista trained staff. I did have a great ‘flat white’ at a non franchise cafe in the centre of Nantwich.

Nantwich didn’t attract us for an overnight stay, the sun was shining and we cast off and enjoyed the Shroppie, passing a lot of ripe blackberries. We pulled in at one spot but we got the stinging nettle instead of blackberries. So gave up on that one! Next year!! We had a few miles with the occasional lock and called it a day when we got to the bottom of the Audlem Flight. We immediately took Della for her walk and realised it would be better to take AM up the first 2 locks, now, rather than get caught with lock jam the following morning! So we did that and one more! I checked space above the 2nd lock and there was a vacant mooring alongside The ‘Shroppie Fly’ Pub. We had a pre dinner pint, then back to AM for an early night.  
I was awake before 6 a.m. and toying with an early start. Half an hour, later, I was walking Della and one Nb went past us and I heard the paddles in action emptying the lock they had just left. Right, it was time for us to get going. We let the next boat go past and then followed it before another boat went past. That day we did 22 locks, 13 locks (of the 16 lock Audlem flight) to start the day! There was a flow of traffic on the flight. A mile after the last Audlem locks there are the five’ Adderley’ locks. We met Liz & Robert, Nb Blue Point, at the start of this climb and they followed us up. Liz, kindly, helped us with Locks as she needed to set them after we moved out of the Lock. It was a chance meeting and we all got on really well. We were of the same thinking about helping at the Locks. I think I left them a few items at the wonderful canal side Farm Shop, at the top of this flight. I know I got a good supply of freshly laid eggs!
New mooring!
The Shroppie passes through some attractive countryside and we were enjoying the journey very much. Not far from Wheaton Aston we saw some end of field moorings where people had little gardens, sheds and decking and we thought ‘one day’......   Closer to Wheaton Aston (WA) we noticed a handwritten sign advertising an end of field mooring. We called out to two blokes who were standing on one of the moorings and they yelled “Come back!!” And so we did and the following day we had ourselves an end of field mooring! Our first thought was to bring DB and AM to WA but sensibility came into play. We will spend the winter at Mercia and get DB habitable and AM ready for sale. In the spring we will head to WA and a life of continuous cruising with a ‘home base’.

It took us 3 days from WA to cruise back to DB and Mercia Marina. A total of 152 locks and some miles this holiday! We’ve been back at Mercia for about 3 weeks, now. DB is a work in progress and next blog will be the rise of DOLCIEBLUE.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


DolcieBlue was in the Marina and now floats on the ‘Cut’ A beautiful peachy queen. A fine feat of 68 feet (20 metres) of steel and we are delighted with the new material member in our family. DolcieBlue arrived on Friday 12 July 2013, under the heat of the midday sun, at Mercia Marina. She has captured the interest of fellow moorers, as we have talked, often, about her arrival these past 2 months. I don’t think anyone envisaged such a eclectic grand package of beauty. She is suitably long and will give us the space to live our new dream of being water gypsy time travelers on the Waterways and Rivers in England, and who knows where else this adventure will take us.

I’ll recall the day of her arrival. We had a few close encounters with delivery dates and at the eleventh hour on 2, or was it 3, occasions she wasn’t quite ready. During the week beginning July 01 we had confirmation that she would be delivered 12 July. Three days before her delivery date we had double confirmation of her definite arrival on 12 July 2013. I completed the C&RT form (4 pages) to register her and posted with enclosed cheque expecting it would be a couple of weeks for the Admin process to kick in.

Delivery Day Dawned! We were moored in AM, on the Canal, metres from the Mercia Marina entrance arriving there the day before following our short cruise break! We woke early and cruised the calm water to our usual berth in the Marina. I phoned Colecraft who clearly told us that DB was on the transporting truck’s trailer (say those last 4 words fast!) and would begin her road journey at 11 am. We anticipated it would be 1330hrs, at the earliest, that she would arrive. I put my laundry in the washing machine at the Facilities Block, it’s a girl thing, and marched off to the road entrance that only opens for boat deliveries/removals and took a photo. Well it was open for our boat! I wasn’t going to hang around waiting for the first sighting of DB. During the meanwhilst, I moved the washing into the clothes drier and an hour later, it would have been midday and I was in the Laundry room folding my washing with a smile of anticipation on my face. Maureen aka Mrs Mercury entered the laundry and asked “Is your new boat being delivered soon?” I replied “Yes, this afternoon”. She said “Well a boat on a trailer has just gone by on the perimeter road.” My mouth opened in surprise, I squealed and raced outdoors. Sure enough in the distance on the launching pad was the grand view of DolcieBlue. I was overcome with emotion and had to hold back the tears. Finally DolciBlue is here. It’s not that I would cry over steel but the value of her name is priceless. I walked to AM, as fast as my big feet would safely take me, to shout out to Chris “DolcieBlue has arrived!!”.

I raced back to the Laundry to collect my washing before it went to the Moorer’s ‘help yourself’ table! I remember being told of a moorer who left her ‘best’ towels on the table and when she returned to collect them they had been rehomed!!

Back to DolcieBlue arrival. I hitched a ride to her and the truck! Chris ambled the 350 metres and got waylaid chatting. Della stayed on AM as she would have overheated outdoors! DB epitomized my idea of ‘cool’, that day. The Truck Driver said they had left Colecraft at 10 am. It did cross my mind that if they had left at 11am, they would have set a new land speed record for carrying 18 tonnes (18,000 kg) of steel. Now we had to wait the arrival of the Crane! Rumour has it that crane companies never tell the truth about their arrival time. Two hours later the crane was in position. Action stations under the burning sun. I had pictured DB being hoisted off the truck and swung over the water. 

What happens is…..the crane has a couple of slings dropped from its hook which are fastened around the breadth of DB at two balance points based on her weight. The crane lifts DB a few centimetres to clear her hull from the truck and the truck drives away! DB is now swinging above the ground and is moved by crane and ‘man’ handled into position so her length is over the water. DB is dropped GENTLY into the brink, avoiding any contact sport with other moored boats!! As expected when her hull kisses the water she floats and the hoisting slings go slack. WOW. Impressive to watch, even more so when it belongs to you! Now here’s the video!

She is some length to manoeuver and it will take me at least a month of Sundays to get a modicum of comfort and ability with steering her. (I’ve only recently got used to steering 53 feet.) 

I was a bit perturbed with observing Chris turning the ‘wheel’ as I thought the turn of the wheel would be like steering using the tiller. (i.e Tiller to the Left to turn Right. BUT it is turn Wheel to the Right to turn Right!!!) Luckily Chris knew what he was doing. He says the wheel is not as responsive as a Tiller but we have the Bow Thruster!!

We cruised DB to her temporary mooring beside AM. 

DB has now been battened and spray foamed, thanks to Chris and Lloyd. 

Sprayfoam day

We took her out to her new working space on the Cut last weekend. She’ll be moored there for however long it takes for her to turn into our home. 

DolcieBlue at work!

The daily question, from helpful and interested people, is “How long will it take?” We are not rushing. We will do an organic fit-out. Chris certainly has his work cut out for him, but he sees it as an easier task than his previous life of renovating houses.


Tuesday, 9 July 2013


A Dutch Barge style NB

DolcieBlue was unable to meet her last scheduled delivery date. Her delay was due to last minute paint induced psoriasis – my lay-boaty term given to her peachy paint blistering and peeling. As she shed, she was still shed – bound and needed to be rubbed and sanded, undercoated and reapplied generously with gloss peach paint that had well mixed in working agent hardener. She is now doubly confirmed for delivery, this Friday July 12th 2013. So this has given us unexpected time for a cruise.

Della does look out duty

Before we headed out, we had friends, Viv and Pam, visit from NZ. We took them for a short 9 hour return cruise to give them a taste of Canal. In fact it was Della who literally got the taste of Canal. We, girls, had decided to walk a good mile between locks. Nothing like the feel of the tow path track under foot. Della was walking ahead, behind Pam, and Viv and I were having a good catch up of Tauranga Hospital days. Chat stopped when Chris sounded AM’s siren. “Why is he doing that?” I said. As I turned around I commented “Where’s Della?” I walked in the direction of AM, as Chris steered her into the towpath, leapt off  and reached into the canal and pulled out a bedraggled Della lump by her harness. Della had dug her claws into the muddy bank and clung on squealing for attention. Amazing that Chris heard her over the sound of  AM’s engine. She was unperturbed by the incident, gave a few doggy shakes with the idea of removing water in her hair and I attached her to a lead and we continued our walk. I expect it was a ‘chase me’ creature that tempted her to speed undercover back to the floating foliage on the side of the tow path. How she managed to get from A to B passing me unseen is a puzzle! A great day out was had by all.


A great perk of living aboard is the thought of moving can become a reality, within seconds. No need to pack but only untie the mooring ropes, thank you good morning. Our 10 day cruise on AM began under cloudy cool skies which within days bloomed into sunny blue skies. There is a buzz on the canal and a steady flow, not a glut, of Narrowboats. Mooring spaces are easily found and often a synchronicity in Lock movement occurs. We sometimes see fellow Mercia Mariners, it is easier if they have a dog as we tend to recognize each other. I say once a Mummy Bitch, always a Mummy Bitch!
Alrewas (a corruption of the words Alder Wash) is one of our favourite destinations and takes us about 6 hours and we work 6 locks. It was a cold July day, leaving Mercia, but the Lock gets the blood flowing. Land lubbers ask us if we get cold on AM. No, we don’t. If we get cold we turn on the heating, but we have not been cold enough to do that this month or last month. We are both in receipt of a bothering ‘summer cold’. Chris picked it up from one of his concessionary travel outings, probably, and I caught it off him. But it hasn’t stopped us actively cruising. Alrewas was busy but we found our mooring close to the ‘winding’ hole. A ‘vitamin C’ ale at the Local and a good night’s cough and sleep set us in shape for the 5 locks to Fradley Junction.

Before the 5th Lock we needed to moor to fill up with water, empty the unmentionables at the Elsan disposal, and dispose of the rubbish. The Tupperware boat, that had been 2 Locks ahead of us, was moored inconsiderately in front of the water tap making no effort to not even do nuffin’! The person left on board greeted us “All rooit”. I responded “Not really”. We managed to squeeze in front of him and then had to pull AM even closer to the 'Plastic' as our hose length is finite. I had to sit holding the hose in position to the water tank as any water movement moved the hose end into the brink. I reported the Tupperware to the C&RT office. Fine to moor but don’t stay in front of the much used water point.

Water tank filled to the brim we worked the next Lock and turned sharp ‘Port’ on to the Coventry Canal (aka Birmingham & Fazely Canal at this point). We were met by a Swing Bridge and the memory of the Leeds Liverpool Canal meant total preparation for whatever resistance we were up against – windlass, BW key, and bum power. None of the aforementioned was needed- easy roll on the swing and we entered the lovely Canal. Picturesque in part but a few random boats that are either unregistered or moored in a permanent looking way take away some of the beauty.

Short sleeves

Wet blanket

The weather became summer on Day 4 and the canal reflected in its tea coloured waters. We are learning to relax rather than race and Della is settling into the laid back lifestyle. We decided the 11 Locks at Atherstone were not to be on our list this journey. We had 2 at Fazeley repeated on our return. Back down the Fradleys and to Alrewas for a couple of nights.

Coventry Canal


Willington calls and all is set for DolcieBlue day on Friday.

And the cow jumped over the moon

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.