Thursday, 28 August 2014


Good Morning Sunshine

There is plenty of eye-candy cruising on the River Thames. I’m talking grand old houses, boat houses in a sizable garden (the garden was asking for it!) where the river laps its banks, leafy weeping willow trees, flower pot pubs with moorings, and the list goes on.

Hotel Boat. Look out canoeists

Kiwi cottage??

The Thames banks of Bray property have cloned wooden launches that look perfect for powering sedately across the river to visit the neighbours, lunch at the pub, or attract the paparazzi to shoot photos of one Aussie as he voyaged towards Her Majesty’s lock up.....
Example of a wooden launch at Bray

The ‘Yoghurt Pot’ aka ‘Tupperware’ aka ‘Plastic’ abounds on the River Thames. The rental variety has a pseudo French name (Le Boat) and is a high-rise water holiday at speed. The happy people will wave as they tear past us slow paced steels! The privately owned ‘cloud dusters’ are not outwardly friendly to steel and are rumoured to avoid sharing the ‘self service’ Lock by shutting the Lock Gates as the shapely Bow of steel approaches. The fear of a-steel ‘kissing’ a-plastic might have disastrous consequences......

From Teddington to Sheepwash Channel in Oxford is a total of 94 ¼ miles (where are the kilometres in this country?) and 23 Locks. It really didn’t feel like 23 Locks but the book says it is! Past Reading, many Locks appear to have ‘Self-Service’ notice in situ. The Locks with a Lock Keeper full up with water quickly (We were going up all the way!) and a fast full means a strong hold is needed to keep the boat close to the Lock wall. It is surprising how much the thick boat rope stretches when under tension. (Any physics bod will know how this occurs. Me and physics are not close friends.) The self service locks are on slow fill mode. One unattended Lock had canoe school practising in the Lock pound which is totally unsafe as boats cruise into that area to moor for the Lock as do craft exiting the Lock! The instructor was not happy with us for suggesting he act responsibly and not train kids in that danger zone.
Hampton Court Palace 

Mooring on the R. Thames is different to the Canal. To get information about moorings on the Thames is like getting water out of a stone. There are moorings and if you a R. Thames-phile you will know where you can get the freebies. We loved the 24 hour free mooring, officially sign posted at Hampton Court. We got the last mooring and had to ‘wind’ DB to face in the opposite direction so we could safely disembark off her stern. We didn’t like the Mississippi Style Stern Wheeler tourist Boat that went past twice every daylight hour. It caused us to lurch and curse. That is DB lurched. I suppose it was helpful in people not overstaying their mooring. Della was happy to have Hampton Court Park as her playground at our doorstep and she came alive with her green tennis ball play and meeting all the people walking by. The next morning on Della’s pre-breakfast walk, an inquisitive worker man stepped out from behind the high plastic barrier to enquire about Della and her breed. Obviously he recognised quality and I am talking about Della. Having answered his questions I said I wanted to take a photo of Hampton Court Palace and he said I could step behind the barrier to get an unobstructed picture.
Hampton Court Palace

Then it was back to DB, untie and head up river in the direction of Windsor. We met briefly with Bubbles, a friend of Chris, at Walton-on-Thames and walked into town to fill our trolleys with disposable ballast i.e. stock up DB’s pantry. That evening we found a free mooring at Runnymede and had another park on our doorstep. Della was up for more Ball chasing and catching. She really likes to catch the ball and her tail wags frantically when she hears the words Catch, Fetch, More? She is not always reliable with fetching the ball and will, sometimes, stubbornly stand there when the ball thrower has done the long throw!! Catching the ball has 100% Della involvement.
Don't just talk about the Green Ball.....

Windsor is 5 miles from our mooring in Runnymede and we stopped near The Bells of Ouzeley in Old Windsor to pick up Phil for the short trip into Windsor and down Memory Lane for Chris.
Phil's waiting

 Between Albert and Victoria Bridges we got views of Windsor Palace in the distance.
Windsor Palace

The towpath loses contact with the Thames River for less than ½ a mile in the vicinity of the Palace grounds. In Windsor, itself, moorings were mostly taken and it was no possible to squash 68ft into 50ft but we found a perfect spot as it happens and we could assemble the canopies. We didn’t expect moorings to be free in this location and it was within the hour that we got a ring on DB’s bell. Yes we could stay at this mooring and an official receipt was given for Windsor Riverside Mooring £8 per 24 hours which included discounted entry to Windsor Leisure Centre.
Windsor mooring

No problem. I could walk into town and Della had another green space for her Ball work-out. She, also, took herself across the park to see if any picnic people had housework opportunities for her. In fact we didn’t notice her missing until we put up the canopies Where’s Della? A sharp clear finger whistle from Chris always gets Della racing back to him. In her younger days she was rewarded with a tasty treat....Pavlov’s dog!!

Next day we had rain but Thames cruising meant the canopies could stay up and we could keep dry as we moved along. Tee hee!!! Phil’s fleeting visit was over and he walked into the midday cloud and we untied our ropes and headed to Cookham. No particular interest to stay in Cookham but the light of day is only so long. 
Cookham mooring

The only available moorings were just past the Sewage works and we moored by a friendly privately owned high-rise ‘plastic’. It turns out we were officially in Marsh Meadow and moorings were £5 per 24 hours and £1 more as a steel boat! I was not impressed. It was a high bank and no poles or rings to tie on to. Am I expecting too much?
What happened to the light of the silvery moon?

The River Thames was slowly losing its appeal. We pay for a short-period license to use the R. Thames. A 7 day license is £79 and a further 2 day license was £44.50. Yes the longer the time you spend on the R. Thames the cheaper it is. The automated locks are fantastic and the Lock Keepers and Volunteers are, in general, helpful and understanding. Well worth paying a license for. The moorings are a different kettle of fish.

Mooring fee sign

After Cookham we put in a long cruise to get us closer to Henley-on-Thames. We knew there would be a mooring fee collected in Henley so pulled in for the night alongside a field between Medmenham and Hambleden where a Public Footpath and the towpath are and on every tree by the river a cheap sign is hammered stating Mooring £6 per day. We arrived late in the day and moored up and were very reluctant to pay for a site if someone turned up, which they did. I ignored their first attempt at making contact with us. The second attempt I answered the door and queried the collector from S.R.B Moorings. Why do you charge a mooring fee and what do you do for the fee? He responded in a surly way stating he collects mooring fees for Westfield Farm. He has been doing it since the 80’s and thank you good evening. Next day as we cruised through Henley-on-Thames S.R.B Moorings were ubiquitous with their mooring signs. It has left a bad taste in my mouth. I would be happier to pay a rural fee if you could look like you are not just a back shed bloke and put a few rings or posts in the ground to make the moorings fit for purpose. You don’t get the thumbs up from me.

We found 5 out of the 8 moorings we used on our voyage to Oxford were free. Above Sonning Lock is 24 hour free mooring as is Beale Park between Mapledurham (I like that name) and Goring Locks, and Culham Cut before Abingdon. Abingdon also has free 24 hour moorings but can be busy if you are not there before 1500 hrs!

We have cruised the R.Thames from Reading to Dukes Cut in 2011 on our first voyage on Nb Avalon Mist  from Devises on the Kennet and Avon Canal to destination Mercia Marina, Trent and Mersey Canal.
This time, on DB, we enjoyed the easy river cruise at the wheel.  
Sometimes I steer and can take a photo at the same time!

Even I enjoyed taking the wheel from time to time. I know one day it is our plan to cruise the Thames to the head of the navigation at Lechlade and I would certainly enjoy doing the trip to Reading to get to the Kennet and Avon Canal. Back on the R. Thames I  would motor it from Sonning to Runnymede and Runnymede to Hampton Court. The tidal Thames is a repeatable experience. Brentford to Limehouse return is on the cards.
Park dreamer

Now the Oxford Canal beckons.

Friday, 22 August 2014


10 Bridges covered and 19 Bridges to reveal along with some sights that bridges don't appear. I have photos galore of the day.

Della is singing 'Doing the Lambeth Walk'

Looking back to Vauxhall Bridge. Glimpse of MI6 to port!
Della likes the Batter-se-a Power Station

Victoria (Grosvenor) Railway Bridge
Chesea Bridge
Battersea Park on Left
Albert Bridge
Battersea Bridge
Battersea Railway Bridge
Putney to Blackfriars by Riverbus
My place or yours?

Wandsworth Bridge
Fulham Railway Bridge
Putney Bridge
Stay alert Matey

Squirrel watch?
Are there squirrels or rabbits at HARRODS? Just asking!
A Bridge too far. Della was overcome by tiredness.
Hammersmith Bridge
Barnes Railway Bridge
Chiswick Bridge
Kew Railway Bridge

Kew Bridge. Catnap done and dusted. Where are the squirrels?
Cos I'm Happy Now!

Look  full throttle and no handson wheel!
Thames Locks, Brentford. This way to the Grand Union Canal. 
Richmond Footbridge, Lock and Weir

Twickenham Bridge

The penultimate....Richmond Railway Bridge 

Christine & Stephen snapping DB cruising past!!

**********Richmond Brdge**********

Looking over Richmond Park etc.

Moored outside Hampton Court Palace. One has to do it!

My name is Della the Navigator. I am on adventures no other dog could dream of.

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.