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!

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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.