Sunday, 12 May 2013


The month of May has arrived and we have spent a week undercover at Shobnall Marina. Undercover means not in dry dock but floating moored out of rain’s reach with a lean-to roof over AM.


The day before we went undercover, we arrived a few hundred metres away at Shobnall Fields, Burton-upon-Trent. We moored, on the 48hour Visitor Moorings, beside the late blooms of more than a thousand daffodils. It was a, without question, Spring day, - warm sun and happy people. The cruise from Willington was seamless. We left Mercia Marina on May 1st, departed like we were off on a long summer cruise. I had toyed with the idea of going to Stenson Lock for a cuppa tea and ‘winding’ there, when at the same time the engine would be heating the hot water in the calorifier. Sensibly Chris turned Right, rather than Left at the Mercia entrance and we moored just metres away where there is an open space for Della to chase squirrels and we have connectivity with our phones. No hot water though! And we could lift our ‘Stern’ box onto dry ground so Chris could paint it. While we were there I was able to motivate myself to finish the paua mosaic window sill that I started nearly a year ago.

AM had never lost the aroma of diesel even though the fuel tank was repaired last year. Chris lifted the floor over the ‘Bilge’ (i.e. where the engine is located) and noted that the area was covered in shallow water with a film of diesel floating over it. The motor hadn’t been started for some time as we have been static in the Marina, and the rain has been less than in former months. So here we are on the move, again, and the injectors are spitting diesel. The bilge had to be emptied and there were two possibilities for disposal and only one choice. Chris chose the clean way using a plastic hand pump thingy (I’m a bottle blonde, now, I don’t retain the words like I did when my colour was natural mousey brown) and he quickly filled a large bucket with the cocktail of water and diesel. As chance would have it he found the perfect receptacle for disposal, on his Della circuit the next day, in the Marina rubbish area. One Man’s junk is another Man’s treasure…..(kind of…).

It’s been lovely to be back on the Cut with different sounds, smells and smiles. After two nights close to Mercia we set off, early morning, at ‘tick’ speed to Burton. Breakfast was at Willington Sanitary Station because we could and we needed to make use of the facilities. It was a slow trip with Chris and Della at the helm, while I set to with necessary tasks to do on my laptop.

Just before entering the outer ‘burbs of Burton we go through our first lock shallow ‘Dallow’ lock. I call it shallow cos it’s not deep. We are now in Narrowboat area. Not fit for Widebeams, here, but 70 ft Narrowboats are accommodated. About 200m further along we get to grassy Shobnall Park. We see NB Global Spirit, from our Pier at Mercia, and moor just in front of her. Global Spirit (Maisie) has just begun her 5-6 month cruise. Della has suddenly come alive with the bounty of park life, and apart from her being drawn to anything human, she is overwhelmed with her memory of having the tennis ball thrown. She loves the chase and barely gives me a chance to step off AM before she is trying to bite my ankles and bark, yes BARK for the ball! We managed to run her off her feet that evening.

Next day, Shobnall Marina was our destination. Another 300 metres away so we thought we’d breakfast before we chugged along. As we started moving along, the rain started and persisted with force! The case of ‘If’ we had waited for breakfast we wouldn’t have got wet. I didn’t get wet but Chris did!! There is a sharp turn at the ‘Winding’ spot outside the Marina entrance which took us under a narrow towpath bridge. The Marina has prevented unauthorized entry by having a footbridge under the bridge that has to be raised by someone in the know! We stayed under the bridge and waited for a boat, on our booked undercover space to move. During the wait Chris was able to retrieve our boat-on-wheels, which he had parked down the road and round the corner, and park it at the Marina.

As soon as he arrived back at AM we were given the all clear to move to our mooring under cover! Sheer luxury and the sun was shining again. We got started straight away with getting plugged in to the electric and our sanding tools were shimming over the Port cabin side. (Port means Left, Port and Left have 4 letters!). A few hours later we had the first coat of satin Grey done. Chris, deftly, used the mini hand roller and I followed using a ‘dry’ paint brush in a rapid horizontal then vertical brush stroke manner. Writing it makes it sound easy but Chris had been slowly and surely working, over the last 10 weeks, towards prepping the sides to make this work stint go smoothly. The next day, the paint had dried, and we gave AM port-side, the second coat and turned her around to repeat the process on the starboard side. Shobnall Marina is compact compared to Mercia, and to turn around with minimal effort takes good planning and instruction. My job was to stay on shore and hold the Bow rope tight while Chris reversed the Stern out and I did a hand held pivot! Flat bottom boat smooth water glider!!

In the midst of painting, we had the Mechanic give AM a service. He did a great job and as a result we have a healthy sounding engine and the diesel smell is a distant memory. The contaminated receptacle was sent to the place where it should go.

Yesterday, our time was up at Shobnall and we left and returned to Shobnall Fields. We thought we might moor up for a few days, there, but the weather is inclement so we have returned to Mercia Marina.

Now Chris is finalising the completion of DolcieBlue and fingers crossed we will get the boat shell of our dreams. All I can say is watch this s    p    a     c     e!!!!!!!!!

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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.