Sunday, 14 April 2013


Blue and Dolci sunbathing on our terrace in Portugal

We continue to live aboard Avalon Mist at Mercia Marina having been moored, continuously, here for the past 5 going on 6 months. The Marina was busy over the winter but now there are many available moorings as people move back on the ‘Cut’. I think after last year’s wettest drought, boaters are giving up on the thought of a Spring season coming anywhere close to Spring as we know it but are not letting that deter them cruising.

An interesting thought, for us, is that by next winter, if not before, we will be living aboard DolcieBlue (DB) and she will be fit for a cold winter without having to buy electricity!!. We went to visit her a couple of days ago. Our road trip went very smoothly and we followed Sat Nav directions all the way with no thoughts that ‘She’ doesn’t know where we are or ‘She’ has got it wrong again. I used to be a great navigator and I could get us, by road, through France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands and Germany with little difficulty. We used to have a great road map book (Bartholomew’s) for Spain and Portugal. We could find our way whatever type of road. I first used Sat Nav on a road trip in California and I was hooked. Now the print on paper maps is too small for me to read without my reading glasses, I am   a Sat Nav fan.

Back to our steel boat in the workshop at Long Itchington. We had been expecting DB to be an ivory beige colour and the portholes and houdinis fitted but due to the painter being sick, DB was a gleaming structure in polished steel ‘sitting’ on the floor. I ran my hand along her body (sounds saucy) it was cold and dirty but smooth. We climbed the ladder to climb onto her cruiser stern and carefully stepped into the Wheel House avoiding the gaping hole on the stern floor where the engine will lie.

Awaiting the engine

It is a long view down the roof length of the boat and clutching an imaginary wheel in the Wheel House didn’t make the length look any shorter! I’m hoping the view on the ‘Cut’ will put the length into perspective. At this point I don’t see myself as the new Tiller / Wheel Queen!

View from Wheel House to Bow!

I left Chris and Gary talking important build stuff that involves ‘measure twice cut once’ and I stepped inside the cabin. It is exciting; it is huge and hard to imagine it all getting ship shape! Its colour, for now, remains black and light. That is the light shining in through the port holes, houdinis and side hatch openings. Sounds like the build up for a circus performance.

Chris & Gary

I walked do the Bow-end, taking care not to trip over the metal strips that are at floor height once the ballast is loaded. Oh I’m getting so nautical in my vocabulary these days. Our bedroom will be down the Bow-end and the ‘bow thruster’ will be placed in the ventilated steel cupboard in front of the head of our bed. We have a porthole above our bed and as well as a view we can see the location of the big water tank and handy storage that is the Bow. The Bow will not be a sitting area and not cratch covered. We figure that we will have enough outdoor space on the cruiser stern as well as the joy of  the Wheel House that can be kept covered when we are moored.

Looking to Stern

Even looking along the indoor length back to the Stern, the finished layout takes some imagination. A CAD drawing would be useful. Chris has done a floor plan and that is all we need but 2D would be good. I feel an IKEA visit fast approaching! A big job awaits and it will be exciting as Chris / we get underway. We’ve done big projects before. My mother notably said we build in an organic way.

Meanwhile we get prepared to receive DB as a Sail-away. I’ve phoned C&RT, (Canals & Rivers Trust) to confirm what paperwork we need to get done as DB will not be ready for a Safety Certificate but we need to register her. All good. They are used to this sort of thing and the paperwork from Colecraft  and boat insurance will be enough to get her registered. Wow the registration will be close to a grand for the year!

Back on the road from Colecraft. We do not need Sat Nav for this bit. We take the country (B) road route, it is a relaxing way to go back and we have found the pub to stop at in Silsden. It is called the Cock Inn and is of the olde worlde build. Thatched roof and lime washed, and indoors many of the crucial oak beams are ill positioned for anyone above tall hobbit height.

Then we Sat Nav it to a National Park area, south east of Burton-upon-Trent where Chris has discovered a comfortable dog friendly circular walk. Della is hop, skipping and running with the smells that attract her. She is always busy on her walks but has her ear tuned in to our commands which may mean a treat for her. There are friendly people walking their dogs, oh, and their children!

And back we went to AM. Chris has been busy undercoating AM in preparation for our undercover slot at Shobnall Marina in early May. We’ve booked a week to tart her up. We had booked for the first week in April but the weather was too cold to keep the paint brush thawed, let alone dry the paint. So the weather is slowly getting closer to warming up although I wouldn’t say we are in Spring. In fairness the drizzle is not falling as snow flurries. In fact, there has been very little rain, a lot of breezy cold wintry winds. If and when we see the sun there is warmth but the outdoor ‘air con’ effect is not right.

That’s enough weather report. On a parting note, I have a friend (well I have more than one) but this one was asking me if Narrowboats can be constructed from aluminum. I put this question to Gary the boatbuilder. I started with has he ever built a boat from aluminum and he said yes he has. I said oh really! He said that it was very expensive material, compared to steel, and not strong enough for the contact nature of cruising a Narrowboat. There you go Rob. Keep those planes flying, the skies are wider than the Canals!

Friday, 5 April 2013


This Blog is written in the memory of my Dad, Robert Shelley Abbott QSM  1930 – 2013
Here’s to you Dad. May your memory live as a treasure forever.

I am sat on A.M., next to Della and wearing my Dad’s beautiful warm cardigan and getting my thoughts around ‘DolcieBlue’. DB is to be our new mobile home as we live our foreseeable future as ‘water gypsies’. Chris is cooking up a tasty mushroom omelette and the mushroom smell is wafting. Yum, I’m starting to feel hungry……….

The birth of a flat bottom boat

Today we visited Colecraft Boat Builders where DB is under construction. She is getting closer to being in Chris’s hands for the ‘Fit-Out’. DB will leave Colecraft as a ‘sail away’ which means the engine will be operable and all the necessary steel work is done.

The DB ‘build’ started as a 10mm(d)steel plate to cover 68ft, the overall length of her hull. I had only imagined what that must look like, as I had missed her start. In the noisy workshop there was a new boat in the early days of its build so I took a photo. DB’s cabin walls are 8mm (d) and the roof is 6mm (d). {“Safe as houses” as the saying goes}

DolcieBue, alongside, had the whole workforce working on her. Outside was being sanded into a smooth surface ready for painting next week. The portholes were now obvious round holes (as you would expect) and the side hatches were hinged. Indoors, more sanding was being done. I had hoped to step aboard but there were sparks everywhere. I poked the camera through the porthole and took a shakey photo. Nothing inviting about that shot! The rudder is attached, the fuel tank in situ, and the Wheel House looking good.


Early next week, DB will be painted with 3 coats of paint and moved to outdoors to the boat waiting yard where the fine tuning will be done with the engine. Then she will have her first ride on the back of a truck and a lift into the plonk via crane. Watch this space!

We will be living on AM until DB is fitted out. No pressure!! There are a few jobs to do on AM and I will endeavour to get them done with humour!!

We can’t stop talking about DB and are thrilled at how she looked today. AM has been a great starter to this lifestyle of freedom in a confined living space.  H

And so starts the story of DB. 

Did I mention the weather..........?

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.