Monday, 21 April 2014


Picture this, if you will, it was 2126 on the Wednesday before Easter weekend 2014, when I started writing this blog! Whoops I could be confusing your time and dateline, but you read this far and I will continue with no more numerical confusion! Another day passes with only dreams of resting while the sun shines. We did stop to have a short lunch break to eat a ‘sarnie’. We are nearing a fortnight of living the ‘dream’ out on the Cut aboard NB DolcieBlue. Don’t get me wrong, you will now, she is beautiful.  We, seriously, do not want to forgo the trials and tribulations of organically moulding DB as she evolves into our home. We’ve done this building process ‘lots’ on land, and once on water with AM’ with her  re-style. Nb DolcieBlue began as a paper pattern and now we are living on her. She is part functional and part building site. We are challenged with the work that needs to be done and the enormity of being a 2 boat family.

We moved on to DB on April 5th, the day we left Mercia Marina. We cruised out in tandem, Chris steering  DB and I followed as ‘Tiller Queen’ on AM with Della as my navigator. It was a calm day and we turned starboard as we left the Marina and moored  round the bend! We could go no further on DB until we took down her impressive Stern and wheel house covers, to pass under the railway bridge. It was the best location for our first night on the Cut as we could double berth and step stern to stern (the lyrics from ‘the Water Gypsies’  hit off their  pending ‘Magnetic  Attraction’ album)  to transfer our  pre-loved ‘junk’ from AM to DB. The following day we were up early, breakfast eaten and the task of collapsing the pinned, studded  and Velcro pieced stern cover began. Chillax was my mantra and it almost worked. Task completed but it was the first of what will become a hoped for reflex action! I tillered AM under the railway bridge and moored up leaving a mooring space and more for DB following on my tail. Mooring up is easy to write but doing it solzinha (Portuguese meaning on your own, {buy yourself  this record}) was a little tricky! I left the throttle on a modicum of reverse throttle, jumped off AM holding the centre rope and attempted to pull her closer to the bank. Well reverse throttle understood reverse and the tiller swung to starboard meaning AM’s bum was headed for the other side with Della wondering what the heck was going on. AM’s Bow was still a leg stretch in reach and I stepped up to her gunwhale and carefully, but quickly, walked to her stern to take control of the tiller. I moved back on course and this time successfully moored, Della jumped  to the green grass, disguising the muddy bank and I went to help Chris put  DB’s covers back in place. These covers give DB an extra living space and they are the biz. We will wait until we are familiar and competent with this task before we go public in front of the ever so helpful people on the Canal!

AM had to go to Shobnall Marina in Burton-upon-Trent where she went into ‘Dry Dock’ to have her hull blacked. It is advisable to have Hull blacking done every 2 years and we decided, this time, to get the guys at the Dry Dock to do the work.  The price was good and they water blast the hull and apply  3 coats of bitumen over 4 days.  The four anodes, located on the hull, needed replacing as they had served their use .   AM in dry dock gave us the opportunity to paint above the water line and we took advantage of this. We visited AM, daily, to do our bit. We needed her to be presentable for sale. AM was in dry dock for 4 days. On the 5th day we had to take her back to Willington to rejoin DB. The weather was calm and the day sunny so I suggested to Chris that once we had gone down Dallow Lock I was happy to do the 2 hour cruise to Willington with Della. That would give him time to get the car and do other things until I met him at DB. Cool bananas!  It was a blast to be on my own, in charge of AM. I was fine, no nerves when I met oncoming boats, no close encounters with bridges. All was good. When I arrived in Willington I alerted Chris I was approaching and he indicated for me to go on beyond the railway bridge where I could moor and then help him to take down DB’s covers! Covers off took 25 mins, covers reinstated approx 45 mins.
So moving forward, we were happily moored with DB and AM. We were making plans to get AM to brokerage in Nottingham and I was exploiting my neurotic tendencies to get AM into a tempting state for sale! Yeah right!! We had AM advertised on www Apollo Duck and we had a couple of viewings from some interested people from London. The major missing point was no ‘solid’ fuel fire. Not a difficult thing to install but we weren’t going to do it.

Easter weekend loomed and Chris wentto the Library to print out a bespoke FOR SALE info sign to put in AM’s window. I stuck them in position as we cruised on AM to Willington C&RT sanitary station. There were 3 copies so I taped the last one to the Bow window. May as well use them all, I thought. I had just trimmed the sign, in Bow situ, as we went to ‘wind’ at Willington. The people with their boat moored at the services called out. “How many births?”  I thought they were talking children. Then I realised berths not births and it was boat talk.

To cut a short story even shorter, they had a look at AM. He was interested in the engine,  she was interested in the cabin layout. The overwhelming storage solutions won her over. The next day she phoned, made an offer, we refused. Next thing they appeared at our mooring and went on AM. Della and I went to get some eggs and came back about an hour later. We met the interested party walking along the towpath with glum looks on their faces. He said “You’ve got your work cut out for ya.” I raised my eyebrows and nodded in agreement. For a moment I thought they were talking about Chris. Then they smiled and said “We’ve bought your boat and we coming to collect it on Saturday! “ I was gobsmacked!  I responded with a hug for him and her, and shook the hand of their friend as I’d only just met him. They were over the moon as were we.

The following two days were full on with packing up everything in AM. We worked as we always do, focussed and achieving, needs must. Saturday morning arrived. The excited new owners turned up with a supermarket bag full of real money. Next thing AM became their baby.

Sensibility kicked in and Chris and I decided decided that  we would go back into the Marina for a week, go to the Bank immediately , and that night go to the pub for dinner.

Avalon Mist is sold and now we can concentrate on Nb DolcieBlue our Peachy Queen.

There is so much to share about DB and being able to put pen to paper, finger to a luxury as every day is busy busy busy...........

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.