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.