Friday, 27 June 2014


DB moved us to Crick for our next rest stop. The settled weather means we don’t have to assemble the canopies and can sit out on the open deck. As per usual we talked to foot traffic mostly with dogs walking past DB. Della feels her job is to meet and greet.  Della is interested, sometimes, to meet dogs and she gets very excited the bigger they are. We talked with the owners of Chico, a calm Jack Russell, who is getting fame for ‘his’ Narrowboat diary. It is giving me an idea to pen ‘Paw Prints’ on behalf of Della who is a deep thinker rather than a barker and the delight of the many humanoids, she ‘knee’ hugs.

The weather bode well for the journey through the leaky Crick Tunnel and beyond to the Watford Locks. The Crick Tunnel is a wet ride of 1528 imperial yards, and I’m sure sun or rain makes no difference to the traverse and you can be sure the Captain and the boat get a free wash. Della and I stayed indoors sitting on the Daybed and listened to the whoosh of water washing the tunnel walls. I cast my eye through this week’s ‘OK’ mag, speedily handed to me along with a door stopper of this month’s ‘Marie Claire’ as we left our Crick Mooring. The Marie Claire reminded me why I only bought it when I was living the best 10 years of a woman’s life between 28 and 32. The only substantial thing about it was its size.

At the end of the tunnel, as darkness was replaced with daylight, Della and I went back up on deck, with me mop-handed to put the free wash of DB’s deck to purposeful use. I had hardly begun when we got grounded starboard side. The new Ash pole is securely locked in place on the roof and there it stayed. Chris took hold of the short Blue pole (from AM days) and I used the plastic handle of the mop stick to push the bank away as we floated into position and full speed ahead.

In next to no time at all we were pulling in to waiting position for the first of the Watford Locks. These are 7 Locks of which 4 form the Staircase Lock. The Locks were being manned (they were blokes) by two C&RT Volunteers and were getting busy. It is important to inform one volunteer who acts as Lock Keeper (‘Lockie’) that you were in line to ‘come down’ as it was important for those waiting to come up to inform the ‘Lockie’. It transpired we were now part of organised chaos and boats at the bottom of the locks were moving to the small pond at the bottom of the Staircase Lock before they let the ‘Lockie’ know they were awaiting instruction. I would have organised it differently but that’s my opinion and that’s all I’m saying. We were 2nd to last in the line of 4 boats moving down the Locks before the boats at the bottom came up! My feathers were ruffled at the end of that work out and the serenity of the remainder of the Leicester Section of the Grand Union Canal was welcome.

Norton Junction is an easy turn to Port to follow the Grand Union Canal eventually taking us to London.  We were immediately at the ‘Top Lock’ of 7 staggered Locks that leads to a clear Lock free run to the Blisworth Tunnel (3rd longest tunnel on the Canal network).  A helpful C&RT volunteer arrived at the Top Lock with his windlass, at the ready, and I didn’t need any persuasion to stay on DB as we went down the Lock. The Locks were, again, the size that would fit a Wide Beam boat or 2 Narrow boats again. (Widebeams cannot pass the Foxton and Watford Locks.)

We moored for a couple of nights below the Top Lock with the thought of relaxing. Truth is I rarely relax as there is always something to do but it was good not to be on the move. When we are on the move, Chris spends hours standing at the Wheel and having to concentrate on steering, which is not the same as holding a Tiller. On the ‘To Do’ list the Wheel needs to be raised to give a better steering position.

Chris has the fortune, in his golden years, of having a Bus Pass and used it to free -ride the local bus, to Daventry, with DB’s ropey- looking shopping trolley and did the grocery shopping. His report of the journey was the helpfulness of the other people on the Bus in making sure he got off at the right stop. He returned with a trolley full of groceries and fresh broad beans from the market. The broad beans were good but not on a par to the ones we used to grow in our sustainable garden in NZ.

Later, in the day, we walked the towpath and passed the 6 locks we would do the next day. I suggested we start early in case the day became hot like it was during our reccy. We were down the six locks before we had our breakfast at Whilton Marina. Even better Della enjoyed Rabbit TV in the Pet store near the Marina. She just stands with her paws planted in Fight or Flight position, nose twitching with the smell of live Rabbit and selective hearing in place. The only way to move her is to pull her, by lead, along the slippery floor. Note: To reduce risk of dog choking remember to make sure dog wears harness.
Fool's paradise The M1 is over there 

The day was warm and we cruised on beyond the glimpses of the M1 and the busy railway line. We moored at Weedon and watched a bloke poling his working boat past us.  The conversation went like this
Are you really going to pole the barge to London?
Have you considered using a horse?
“Yes but they are too expensive to look after.”
Oh well you’ll put muscles in your arms as you train to be a pole dancer. Byeee.

We gave him plenty of chance to pole-on while we went to explore the limited delights of closed antique shops in Weedon. We agreed to move down the canal and found a quieter location just passed the Rugby Boats office. Well it was quieter when the noise of the ride-on mower cutting the massive lawn canal side of the big house, opposite us, had finished giving the grass its No. 1 cut.


Della is booked in for a groom next Monday near Bridge 76 in Milton Keynes which means our stops are limited until then.
Is using strength of arm to pole mean your boat is powered? 

Yesterday’s cruise took DB through the Blisworth Tunnel (3057 yards) to Stoke Bruerne and slightly beyond. Della and I remained calm, indoors, while torch and DB’s headlights lit the shiny walls of the tunnel.
The Black Hole is near 

We met 2 boats heading the other way and passed without incident. Again as daylight got close, Della and I left our comfortable and dry space.

That light in the distance is oncoming craft and not the end of the Tunnel 

Unexpectedly for us, we had gongoozlers greet us. I got mouthy

There is light at the end of the tunnel. We have come out of a black hole. Is this other side?

In their response I heard the Kiwi dialect and then I noticed the map of NZ on a T shirt.

 Kia ora bro!

Yay and they were Mainlanders. We moored up and I walked back and asked if they’d like to have a wee cruise with us to Stoke Bruerne. It was lovely being able to share a snippet of cruising on DB with Maureen & Ray (from Mosgiel NZ) and Jan & Mohammed. Great that DB can take 4 plus us on board in the stern /wheelhouse area not to mention the laundry drying (the Tunnel wasn’t too leaky) on the clothes rack in front of the directors’ chairs. Della took up her cooler weather position as Navigator sitting in prime position on the ledge above the Wheel. The Locks appeared as we arrived in Stoke Bruerne and thanks to Ray for helping with the 2nd lock. Chris says you guys thought I was strong! Thanks, you should have seen me later! We went down 2 locks with the Kiwi crew, said our farewells and then thought we would find a mooring spot before the next lock.

Chance would be a fine thing but the boats we passed were erratically moored and there was no space for 68ft of DB. I wish people could think to move closer when moored in limited space. No mooring meant we had to go down 5 more locks which was really hard work. We were both tired and I needed to open and close both top gates for DB to enter the lock and to open bottom gates for DB to leave the lock and walk to the next lock to get it ready while DB was going down the Lock and back to let DB out and close the gates and the ‘pounds’ were very full and the locks were overflowing and I lost my cool demeanour if I ever had it...... It was tough but a “Big Up” to the random help I had at the 3rd and 5th Locks.
Thankfully we found a good mooring where we could bang in our pegs and tie up before it started raining.
And still the complimentary comments and smiles for DolcieBlue keep us buoyant.
“She looks just like my home.”

DolcieBlue is our home.


  1. Many thanks, Chris and Sarah, for allowing us fellow Kiwis to join you at Stoke Bruerne. It was a great experience going through those locks with you. Will be following you on your journey!

  2. Your days are one adventure after another! Wat fun!

  3. MAUREEN AND RAY5 July 2014 at 18:14

    Kia ora Sarah,Chris and lil Della, well we back in the mainland in NZ 'the icebox',just wanted to thank you guys so much for allowing us the wonderful opportunity to spend time on DB with you guys,it was our last day of our holidays ,and wow what an awesome experience and memory we had to bring home,just loved it,thank you both so much,will follow your journey,take care,from the kiwis!


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.