Monday, 21 July 2014


DolcieBlue has carried us under the M25 and we are in Watford on the outskirts of London-inium! It is taking us shorter than forever to get to where we are and we remain in no rush. Our lifestyle has been likened to living on the World's longest Village. I think that is an apt description.

The Grand Union Canal is a scenic joy of nature’s reflections in tea coloured water. Every time we go around the, literal, bend we get a new moving picture. There is still little boat traffic on the move. It is rare to see a wide beam moving. How can they see over their roof gardens? I observed a Narrowboat reversing along the Cut, yesterday, with a jungle on its roof. The man holding the tiller said it was the only way he could move the boat along the Canal.

We made an attempt to go along the Aylesbury Arm, near Marsworth, off the Grand Union Canal, and went as far as the bottom of the Staircase Locks at the start of the ‘Arm’. DB was in motion going under the bridge directly leaving the bottom lock and she got bit! We made a snap decision to reverse back into the Lock and go backwards up the two Locks that form the staircase. It did not make sense to go further and risk the fury of more bridges. We were grateful for the help given by a couple of boaters who had waited patiently for us, earlier, at the water point before the Aylesbury Arm. They were held up while we filled our water tank and, now, they were waiting to get down the Locks. It was great to have extra hands helping control the Lock mechanisms and we were all big smiley faces as DB reversed out of the lock to pass our ‘friends’ moored boat without ‘kissing’.

Back on track along the Grand Union and ventured into a series of 9 Locks that were close to reservoirs and the wind was blowing strong. No problems and the top lock brought us to the junction of the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal. There were no boats on the move so no help with setting the Locks. A young family took interest in DB ‘doing’ the Locks and father and daughter went for a cruise on DB up a couple of Locks with Chris and Della.
Wendover Arm

We met with C&RT Volunteers at the top Lock and they were confident DB would cruise the Wendover Arm. We did a sharp turn starboard, thank goodness for Bowthrusters, and cruised the long mile of the narrow shallow Arm. Our mooring was at the Arm's end and we had views across the yellow-green fields to the Chilterns. Tring is the nearest town and a good walk to get to the shops. The ‘Arm’ was not busy and moorings were plentiful at the end of the navigation. 

Canal of mud

The Canal is slowly being restored with the gift of donations and works carried out by volunteers. It was well worth walking the existing towpath to get good views of the grey muddy Canal  edged with a variety of grasses, weeds and pink flowers. In 10 years time this mile stretch of Canal is planned to be navigable but Wendover, at the end of the Arm, will have to wait.

London’s calling and we left the peaceful Wendover Arm, early morning, to avoid boat traffic. 

Back on the Grand Union we moored up for breakfast at the Water Point so we could ensure our tank was completely full. (that was 2 weeks ago!)

Berko (Berkhamsted) was another unexpected stop for us. We had intended to get a few groceries and head closer to London. We moored park-side so Della could have a run and I could get essentials at the supermarket. All done and we untied the ropes only to find DB grounded, stern end. It took us 20 minutes to get floating and moving in the direction of the next Lock. We were both tired but didn’t want to moor so close to the busy railway line and we anticipated we would need to travel another hour or two. At the next Lock we were greeted by some young Spanish people on holiday to learn English. I speak a little Spanish and a lot more Portuguese. One of the students was from Portugal and we had a short conversation. Another boat arrived at the Lock as I was closing the gates, so I had to open one gate to let it in. The gongoozlers opened the other gate! I'm positive they have a clear understanding, now, of  Close the Gate! After the boats moved out I had to ensure the gates were shut and I needed to walk the top gates to get to the towpath side to shut the remaining bottom gate. The top gates, now, had the gongoozlers sitting on them for a photo shoot. I told them to get off the gates. I wasn’t going to wait for them.

Orange Juice
Boarding DB, Chris said the other boat was going to moor up if there was mooring before the next Lock. There was enough mooring room for us, as well, so we called it a day. What a lovely place and we stayed for a week. The noise from the nearby railway line was dulled by the houses neighbouring it and we soon felt at home with the local land-based people who were very friendly and welcoming. We really were reluctant to move on and we do plan to revisit one day. The Rising Sun Pub, canalside, at Lock 55 is to be commended. A popular Pub with a comfortable outdoor area beside the Lock. 

We met a number of passers-by who took an interest in DB and we showed some of them on board. As much as people enjoy seeing on board, our home, it does give us a thrill to hear their positive comments.
A planned day cruise visit with mates meant we left Berko, after a week’s stay, and worked the 11 locks to Hemel Hempstead. We stopped for a lovely pub lunch, on the way, at The Three Horseshoes, Winkwell. We decided to carry on and moor up for the night at Hemel. Quite a change from Berko but we need to touch another reality sometimes.

The next day and another 11 locks took us under the M25 Bridge to the Grove, close to Watford. 
In the Grove....

The Grove is a posh Hotel with a Golf Course and we were moored out of sight. Della and I walked through the grounds with Jackie from and her dog from another boat. 

It was interesting but not busy. I didn't realise it was used as a holding ground for moneyed Footballers. No sign of stalking WAGs.

There are some nice moorings on the way to Cassiobury Park, Watford, but shallow waters make it difficult to moor and so we moored at Cassiobury Park, a few days ago, and have been enjoying Watford’s Jewel in the Crown, as well as the proximity of our friends, Steve and Prema. 

Cassiobury Park has wonderful walks through the park and is very user friendly. Again, we have met interesting people from our global world.

We will return and we hope to view the Bluebells in the adjoining Whippendell Woods next Spring.
And now her name has been applied.....Yay!!!!!

              YOUR BOAT IS CLASS we have been told!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Next stop London!

Thursday, 3 July 2014


Milton Keynes

The tantalising prospect of summer has tickled us these past few of days and a warm sun has been kissing my fair arm. Factor 20 is rubbed on my arms and Factor 45 on my nose!
Della has been to a randomly selected Groomer and we had hopes of a trimmed mini Schnauzer ready for Navigation duties. She has certainly been clipped and I was told she had matted hair and needed a drastic groom to cut out the clumps. She looks a little different but her hair will grow again and we can get her back to Schnauzerville in the future.

Milton Keynes is a ‘new’ town that started appearing post WW2. I remember learning about the new towns that were being built in England, when I was at school, and I had guessed they would not be attractive. Well that was my assumption. The scenery and green space of the Grand Union Canal in the Milton Keynes area is beautiful and definitely worth a return visit. The Canal skirts around some of the perimeter of Milton Keynes before it continues south to Leighton Buzzard. There is moving boat traffic, on this wide stretch of Canal, more than we have seen in recent weeks and there are attractive end of field moorings. It is not difficult to moor up, on the passing traffic side of the Cut but pegs are needed more often than not. Pegs are OK but they react if boats do not slow down to ‘Tick’ speed. It is not uncommon for a boat to get loose i.e. one end of the boat moves out to pole-axe (is that the right word) the Canal as the peg is remotely dislodged by a passing  thoughtless throttle user. We passed one boat that had come loose from its long term mooring. Nothing we could do and it drifted crossways to block the Canal after we passed. The question is Why doesn’t some 'boatie' on shore pull her in? A=path=y?

Albino Mummy duck and babes.

A mile or so on at our chosen mooring we had to bang the pegs in and be aware that they could dislodge. Later on the rain stopped. Did I mention rain? Stepping off DB to take Della for a walk we noticed the boat moored in front of us was drifting out to the Canal centre. This time we could be helpful. I stepped on the stern and gunwale- walked to the Bow and watched the towpath getting further away. Chris collected his handy rope retrieving creation and threw it to me so I could attach the Bow rope and throw his rope retriever back to him to pull the attached Bow rope back to shore. It is interesting to watch rather than reading the description. The words to ‘Tie a yellow ribbon round the old boat rope.....’ comes to mind.

Once Della had completed her appointed close shave with the Groomer we could set off.  We moved on to Bridge 91 thinking we would go to the Pub for dinner. The Pub is closed on Mondays and it was Monday so it was closed. No worries, we had fine dining aboard and planned the next day to get close to Leighton Buzzard and have dinner at the pub near the site of the Great Train Robbery .
Boat Bath

I have succumbed to training for my Wheely Queen badge. I did enjoy steering using a Tiller but DB has the wheel. I stand on a footstool which gives me the height I need for clear-ish vision to avoid hitting any craft that might jump out at me. Not sure if I would see a canoe though! The turn of the wheel, from straight ahead are max 3 whirly wheels to starboard (R) & 3 whirly wheels back to midway & max 3 whirly wheels to port (L). The minimal white matter in my cranium was full of counting 3’s. There is manoeuvrability if you just turn the wheel but for rapid response the whirly handle on the wheel is the best solution. And then a boat came towards me. I thought I’m not magnetic and nor is DB. Maintain position; focus on starboard, moored boats are far enough away, cool bananas! Anything I can do I can do better. Unexpectedly the Narrowboat coming round the bend had a ‘Working boat’ clipped on to it making its combined width 14 ft. Oh crikey, but I kept focussed and no nudging passing boats this time!

We are slowly but effectively Lock and Lol-ing along the Canal. Today we have moved through 5 Locks. Chris insisted I take DB into the first 2 Locks while he worked them. I wasn't overjoyed at the thought of doing this but I did and it was OK. My former experience on AM is helpful and I didn’t scrape into the Lock although it did help having 2 gates open to enter the Lock. 
Chocolate Box cover

Which brings me back to the “Fend her off” shared Lock experience a few days ago. We were sharing a Lock with another boat and the other boat had gone in. DB had to pass the Lock Gate that wouldn’t completely open, to go alongside the boat in the Lock. The woman on the Tiller called out “Fend her off” and I muttered under my breath as I tried to girl handle DB to stay directed starboard! Then I noticed that DB’s side fender, attached to the Bow, had come loose and was floating! How inflection can cause misunderstanding. I think I am dialectically challenged or am I dialectically challenging. The answer will be blowing in the wind!

In the Jungle the mighty Jungle....

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.