Sunday, 6 January 2013


The joys of life in the Marina were brought to a sudden end beginning with boat number one mooring Port side of us on the other side of the gangway. They are friendly people with a well behaved dog but they choose to have the main entrance onto their boat at the Bow. This means they walk past our boat every time they step off theirs. And when they get visitors there are lots of legs! I was coming to terms with the invasion when another blimmin’ Narrowboat cut the mid morning ice  to moor on the other side of us!!  This time the boat is brand new, so new it does not have a name. The ‘skipper’ appears to have no experience of boating and needed the New and Used brokerage to steer his new purchase to its mooring. My initial surprise at seeing a boat in motion on the ice actually became shock at it mooring alongside us. Talk about claustrophobia! Other boatees live with neighbour’s a stones throw, if that, away from them but the double whammy of being sandwiched within days has driven me mental.

We had to go for a walk for me to calm down, Chris was calm but I was fuming. After a 3 hour cool down period I went into the office to see what alternatives we had. There is an empty double berth for 2 but this, apparently, has been booked by a phantom Widebeam so not available for the taking. We have decided to take a mooring a couple of places ‘east’ of us and will be alongside a non residential Narrowboat with a gap Portside where our friends, WbTakeyTezey, are moored. It will be good to have a view of the water and a chance of checking out when the cleaners are at Shower Block Latrine!

That was written about four weeks ago. December is all gone and the Christmas decorations on AM were looking so last year that I was happy to take them down. We have settled into our new berth and are pleased 2013 has arrived. The final weeks of December, for us, are as follows.

December was memorably as wet and played into the year of the wettest drought. We did have a brief flash of the ‘Beast from the East’ which meant frozen surfaces and ice forming on the pond. Walking Della is a delight in the frosty conditions. She doesn’t seem bothered by the cold or the wet ground. She is getting used to wet and wearing her ‘raincoat’ if it is really necessary. Walking on frozen and frosty ground is the best for all of us as “A frosty ground gathers no mud” and walking along the towpath is what it is all about.

We commissioned the build of MV DolciBlue and we are excited. We visited Cole Craft, the Boat Builders, a couple of times in December, and we are gearing up for end January build start. I’m dreaming of taking the photo of flat sheets of steel before they are formed into the DolciBlue.

Christmas Day started with a Skype call with some of my lovely family in NZ. Skype is wonderful bringing families together from opposite ends of the world, even with my mobile (aka cell phone in NZ) ‘hotspot’ connection.
Christmas Day was an interesting experience. Chris was keen to do some volunteering and found The All Saints Church in Burton-upon-Trent was looking for volunteers to serve Xmas dinner to the Homeless and Family-less. Chris and I volunteered, and Chris ‘helpfully’ let the Co-ordinator know that I liked playing uke and singing so I agreed to sing with my uke an eclectic mix of Christmas carols/songs.

Della stayed with Heth and Dave from WbTakey-Tezey, while we were doing our Christmas service. We left Mercia Marina in our ‘boat –on-wheels’ and had to face the she-devil Sat Nav. Well we knew where we should be going but we succumbed to her instructions and she took us to somewhere remote which involved crossing a flooding road and being sprayed by an oncoming Range Rover. Sat Nav told us “You have arrived” and we told it what we thought of it and the Range Rover as well! We had a brief moment of panic and then with the help of the mobile phone we were able to find out how to get out of this mess! We found the Church and then drove back to Willington to pick up a Christmas Dinner guest. The Hall was busy with volunteers and guests who sat down to a huge 3 and more course Christmas meal. Dave and Heth were preparing a feast for us on Takey Tezey so we just served the others and then I ventured to my corner where I had a microphone set up. With the support of a couple of volunteers we started to sing carols. My uke sounded flat so we sang Acapela for a few songs. By the time Jingle Bells, the eighth song came around, the uke sounded like it was back in tune. I finished with “We wish you a Merry Christmas” and then we headed back to Marina-land and Della, and Christmas Dinner with our friends. A fun day with a feel good factor.

Two days later, we drove up to Buxton for a couple of nights. A brief land treat for us and a chance to catch up with a special friend who drove up from London. We went for a drive to Bugsworth Basin where we had taken AM, a couple of months before. Great to see a few boats moored up and tempting us with the dream to be continuous cruisers. One of the moored Narrow boats was called AWATEA meaning ‘Bright pathway’. The name was written over a map of New Zealand, an island drawn in the style of the game 'Battleships and Cruisers'. 

So here ends the year of 2012.

A couple of helping hints

1)  If you burn yourself, wrap the burn area with cling film / plastic wrap

2)  If you get a cold, menthol tissues are a must

And a on a final note, just cos you thought you filled the water tank a couple of days ago  in the dark doesn't mean it's full you fool. Yes, but, it's empty! I'm going to try brushing my teeth in flavoured water. I remember my grandparents saying they brushed their teeth using whiskey when travelling in the Continent in the 60's. The quality and not the lack of water was their concern.


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.