Friday, 30 May 2014


We are moored up at Kilby Bridge on the outskirts of Leicester arriving at the 14 Day Max Stay moorings 7 days ago and, yesterday, moved to the 48 Hour Max Stay mooring (£25 daily fine if you are dobbed in overstaying). The advantage of the 48 hour mooring is we have bollards to swing our ropes around and the bank we disembark to is paved, and not a muddy sludge. DB is groaning with every movement, yeah the ropes must be hurting on the bollards! Tomorrow is the designated moving along day getting closer to the Foxton Locks. 
Spot the Car

We have spent the days, here, wishing and hoping the weather will brighten up. We did get Della out for her twice daily walks but the forecast was almost correct with rain and more rain, and Chris took the opportunity to use his free Bus Pass to pick up our car from Mercia Marina so we can get some unnecessary weight and ‘stuff’ off DB. I know the Band Saw was taking up space and it is still necessary,at times, although we can live without it for the cruising months. It has moved to storage in our car. Now the other Thetford toilet can occupy the space in the energy utilities room.

Our fire was put to bed, albeit briefly, a couple of weeks ago. It is now reinstated and using our ‘wheels’ we could track down some wood and coal. Charcoal was easier to find than coal, but we were looking for solid fuel and not even thinking BBQ. The contents of 2x 20kg sacks of coal are on-board, now, and will serve as ballast in the Bow storage and will slowly be used while we need to keep the Morso Squirrel lit in the evening. Funny how our fellow ‘Boatee talk’ has moved on from ablutions to type of heating. Shock is expressed when I say we don’t have radiators.

Jo Boater “How will you stay warm?”

  “We light the ‘ Morso Squirrel’ fire, DB heats up fast. I’m sure the spray foam insulation and the open plan layout of DB assists her heating.”

Jo Boater “Oh no, you need radiators. We have a Diesel fuelled fire. Have you got an Eco fan?”


Moving back to car-ease. The Sat Nav took us around Leceister to get fire fuel, and Chris and I agreed to look at home entertainment. A rainy day bank holiday weekend outing took us to a HUGE shopping park that was over filled with people-in-cars looking for parking spaces. Human kindness, behind the wheel, was underwhelming. A car horn honked at us, the length of the blast indicated an unhappy person. It was almost as loud as DB’s horn.  Enough words of terra firma except to say we bought a TV with an inbuilt DVD player, a sound tube to receive 'Blue-toothed' music, and the unexpected purchase of an indoor tv aerial. “Oh yes” we were told “it will work in a steel boat.” Okay we bought it but we knew, of course not, that we’d only watch tv if we really wanted to watch a program. The next day our future with tv was sorted, the aerial was plugged in and ‘NO SIGNAL’ appeared on the screen. Were we bothered?  I like being with the minority of people who don’t have TV on demand. The DVD screen is on a wall mounted holder that we can pull out for armchair or ‘Couch potato’ viewing.
Blue & Dolcie on the wall. Morso Squirrel pumping up the heat. DVD in stored mode

Something to do on a rainy day was the laundry. Of course I had to do it – too much laundry makes Sarah a dull girl. I thought of waiting for a sunny day but it seems to be a random opportunity as the weather forecasts give the micro climate percentage possibilities of rain and you could expect sun with a couple of showers. I decided to do the Eco wash on my machine while DB’s engine was running, to heat the water for showering. The battery power would be drained if I had relied on Solar energy to keep the batteries charged to run the washing machine (N.B.  I always use cold water  for laundry). I do not have a clothes drier. This was a good experiment to see how long it would take for the laundry to dry with the Morso Squirrel heat. Yes and by nightfall the washing was dry and all was neatly folded. There, that was a bottled blonde rave.

Now on to DB credentials.....

Engine:  Mitsubishi diesel marinised by Vetus.
              -1x Alternator 110 Amp hours  - 4x 110 watts leisure batteries
              -1x Alternator 85 Amp hours     -2 Bow thrusters
                                                                       -1 Starter battery
Vetus 3 KW Inverter
2x  250 watt Solar Panels  
Calorifier    -55 litres with 1kw electric immersion. The Calorifier works like Central Heating in that the water circulates around the engine. So when the engine is running the hot water capacity is 55 litres.

BYE 'Boat on Wheels' 

Friday, 23 May 2014


River Soar

It is seven weeks since we moved to live on NB DolcieBlue, and three weeks since we left the locale of Mercia Marina. I have put pen to paper and finger to keyboard, several times, but never managed to complete this Blog. My non-uploaded and un-applauded chronological chart bordered boring, in my opinion, so here’s a fresh start supplemented with photos.

 It is a different life outside Mercia. We have freedom in our movement, we are not in a Boat estate, we have choices where we moor, and we are not rushing the adventure. Practising rest and relaxation is important as the last six months have been very busy. Particularly for Chris who has maintained the energy for the never-ending functional fit-out of the steel shell that is our NB DolcieBlue (DB).
It was a joy to cruise out of Mercia with no pressure to return for the coming months. The ‘pound’ was calmer than a ‘milk pond’ (I’ll remember it as a ‘tea pond’, it is correct to write Mill Pond), on the day we cruised out. I called out to Jean on Destiny’s Dream “Take a photo please” and she captured us cruising out from our mooring.

DolcieBlue, our ‘peachy queen’ is a Narrowboat with a widebeam boat appearance. It’s the Dutch Barge look about her. She gets a lot of favourable comments. A memorable one “She looks like a Boat, not a Caravan!” She is spaciously cosy indoors and the stern and wheel house give a social area whether we are moving or moored. The stern and wheel house canopies are amazing, (made by   ).  Assembling and disassembling the canopies is getting easier, with familiarity, and we aim to have both canopies assembled when moored for more than one day. Our lucky day was cruising from Kegworth to Loughborough, on the River Soar one rainy day, with the canopies in position. The bridges were of a size to more than accommodate us. Joy!

Avalon Mist

We followed the Trent and Mersey Canal to the River Soar. It is a comfortable cruise on the River Soar and we passed NB Avalon Mist heading towards us! It is easy to recognise ‘Arthur’, her figurehead, from a distance. Big smiles were worn on all our faces. Our new cruising style is if we like the location then stop and stay. Unless signage identifies fixed period of stay we can moor for 14 days before moving on. Kegworth was a tranquil location on the East Midlands Airport flight path. The planes were not every 3 minutes, like Heathrow, and being a seasoned passenger of long haul flying I found it comforting seeing the aircraft’s belly and hearing the sound of a jet plane. These were only ‘small’ planes to UK/Europe.

The need of a supermarket visit meant moving on to Loughborough where we stayed at the Loughborough Basin for three nights. The spring weather had moved back to April showers in May and the wind was blowing strong so we overstayed. Only one night, honestly, but it gave us time to empty our capacious water tank and sterilise it, rinse it and refill it with the aim of removing the metallic taste the water has. More work needed on this. Any helpful ideas out there, please?

From Loughborough, canopies removed, we went to Barrow-Upon-Trent. Found a mooring, further on from the Lock and banged the mooring pegs in and stayed there for close on 10 days. Over the towpath and behind the hedge were horses and alpacas. The other side of the canal was a quiet residential area. Down the Canal are the C&RT Sanitary Station and Barrow Boats opposite The Navigation Pub. I think there are a lot of pubs in this country and a lot called The Navigation! Further on from Barrow Boats the towpath becomes fields on the banks of the River Soar and we enjoyed walking Della along there and negotiating the grazing cows and horses. We did walk a nearby designated Public footpath, one day, to Quorn Village and that was through a field of interested cows. I called them murderous, on the day. I had Della on her lead and I knew we were being followed but I didn’t look back. My experience is to give the appearance of being a large person. It worked and we made it through to the next field, in the nick of time. I turned around and saw the cows huddled looking at us through the gate.

We enjoyed several days of spring weather at Barrow and I enjoyed getting to know my proper washing machine and hanging the washing out on the clothes line. I didn’t enjoy it enough to write any more about it. R & R were taking effect and we were ready to do some tasks on DB. Decorating DB will take some time but little by little. My major accomplishment was tiling the bath/shower wall, before we left on our voyage. Now I’m prepping the living room so the woodwork can get painted before the walls are papered.

Meanwhile on the big works front the two Photo Voltaic Units (250 watts each), aka solar panels, are now trickle charging DB’s leisure batteries. This means we only need to start the engine to heat the water. It is still a novelty to look at the solar meter to see what charge is coming through, even on a cloudy day. Chris wired it all up after  I helped him feed the two 70 foot cable lengths, tied together, from the roof and down into the boat and along the cables and plumbing floor line to the inverter room. It was no mean feat of planning, I tell you.

A short cruise from Barrow to the outskirts of Leicester was our next move. A short stop at a Boatyard provided us with the necessary purchase of a 12 ft Ash Boat pole. We had the splinter pole on AM but realised that a wooden pole with flexibility is essential for those grounded moments when tonnes of steel needs human power with wooden leverage to move out of a stuck situation.

Leicester is a definite must see, to visit by boat. The mix of Grand Union Canal and River Soar make the place seem like a Botanical Garden. There are lots of great walks and the Watermead Country Park and lakes shine. On DB we slowly cruised along enjoying the sunshine and the city appearing. We stopped at the pontoon mooring at Castle Park Gardens to eat lunch. We moved on, as rain was forecast for the following day and we wanted to get rural moorings that evening. I was 'cream crackered' after the 11th lock of the day and we found the worst mooring where we had to walk the plank to get ashore. Next morning the rain had raised the canal water level and we were level floating.

Castle Gardens 

Now we are at Kilby Bridge and will moor here, for a few days. Chris has used his bus pass to get our car so we can take off the Band Saw (It's not a musical variety unless you are into ear piercing) and a few other items that are not needed for this trip. I have spent the day with Della, and we have been home alone on DolcieBlue.


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.