Friday, 14 November 2014


Cruising Peachy Queen Blog formerly Travels on Avalon Mist Blog has morphed into Lady Lock-n-LoL Blog. My BlogSpot will continue to bring the flavour of our life living aboard Narrowboat (NB) DolcieBlue (DB) and cruising the Canals and Waterways in England. We, Chris and Sarah, have the good fortune to lead a transient life floating on tea coloured waters with our dog Della.

Three Little Ducks 

It was our carefully selected day, Sunday, with 6% risk of rain, to leave Lapworth and cruise down the Hatton Flight with the aim of mooring in Royal Leamington Spa. We were both awake before ‘sparrowfart’ as we had impetuously bid in a Boat Auction on the Apollo Duck website. The 50ft Widebeam boat being auctioned looked photogenic (I’m a bottled blonde) and the description gave ample information for a non threatening bid of £1. The Auction was ending after Cinderella time in the small hours of Sunday morning so before bed we hit the ‘play’ button, I mean ‘bid’ icon, and outbid ourselves raising the ‘anti’. I’m not sure what went on but we were still winning. I slept, that night knowing one thing and the dream of a possibility. The lure of the message alert from the mobile phone woke us at 345 with news of ‘the possibility’. Result, we had won the Auction. A celebratory or should it be commiserative drink was needed and it took the form of Aldi’s finest government tea. Repetitive limited words “Wow I don’t believe it” were to stretch our lips throughout the day.

The sound of the early morning chorus of birdsong re-woke us an hour later and we were motivated to get ready for The Hatton Flight repeat experience. The two canopies covering DB’s stern and wheelhouse needed to be dismantled. Captain ‘Elf’ & Safety asserted safety on this almost frosty morn and the wheel house canopy was taken down in two part harmony. Port-side was readied so DB could bow thrust to move starboard-side for access from the towpath. The risk of slipping off the gunwhale was allayed.

Della was in need of a longer walk in territory she had not set paws on for a few weeks so I took her along the muddy puddled towpath which gave me the opportunity to photo DB cruising along the atmospheric Grand Union canal in the early morning haze.  
The power and the glory

Back on board at the Tom O’ The Wood water point, water tank filled and halogen lamp in place for the Shrewley Tunnel we set off. We were not stressing the Hatton Flight of 21 Locks. Every Lock flight begins with the first Lock. As we cruised past our favourite mooring site near Rowington, I saw a humanoid on the stern of a boat and movement indicated the brass tiller bar was being attached to the tiller. He called out
“Are you going down?”
“Yes. Are you?”
“Yes. We are.”

Result! The boats met at the Top Lock, as boats do. Chris suggested the two boats rope together with one person at the helm giving an eco friendly and fuel saving solution. Not to forget there are now 3 people on terra firma to operate the Locks. Lock-n-Lol!
Lady Lock-n-Lol 

The top Locks were not smooth sailing. At the second Lock the picture of the pound, below, turning to mud took the smile off my face. The boats were going to ‘ground’ in the pond and corrective measures were needed. The boats left the Lock and we ‘Lockies needed to wind up the paddles in order to open the gate sluice to let in water, from above, to flood the pound below the Lock. This emptied the pound, above, so I had to return to the Top Lock and open the paddles......... I have been thinking about this experience and think it would be helpful to have a note from C&RT on the Locks to aid our awareness and the best corrective measures. I know what I’ll do next time. That’s for me to know and you to find out!

Once DB moved through the first 4 locks it looked promising. There was one dodgy pound a few Locks on where the current placed a challenge but Chris nosed the boats into the Lock wall, at an angle, which prevented the boats being pulled out by the current. That’s my account of what I saw. Shortly after this lock I went ahead to prepare the final 11 locks, no further boat traffic ascending the Flight. A smooth Flight was had by all and thumbs up was given as the DB entourage approached the final Lock.

A good day made even better when we made it to the Lidl mooring, 2 Locks later, before nightfall with only a light dusting of rain.

That was the day we won the Auction for a widebeam. No word to date. Are we bothered? It’s just one of those things!

Squirrel alert!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


November 1st and the day was warm enough to peg the towels outdoors on the clothes line on DB's Bow! It’s a girly thing talking about dirty laundry, but I am better than pleased at being able to avoid launderettes. In fact I have not been near clothes dryers since leaving the small township of Mercia Marina 6 months ago. My Indesit front loader 6kg max load Washing Machine works a treat and I have had no urge for an onboard clothes dryer as laundry dries under natural conditions on DB. I have a couple of £1 multipeg plastic hangers that can be used as wintry days approach with the ‘washing’ hanging nearby but out of danger of our fabulous Multi Fuel Stove (Morso Squirrel).

Our Morso Squirrel is coming into use after nearly 5 months of hibernation during ‘summer’.  In preparation for cold weather and we have collected a good quantity of free firewood and purchased a few bags of coal. 
The branch fell from above.

Yesterday we dealt with a large fallen Oak Tree branch that probably fell in the gales last year. We were unable to moor DB close to the site as the Canal is mega silted and in need of dredging. (I have been told that if the Canal gets dredged then the muck can only be put back into a canal as it is contaminated waste.) 
Branch remains

Chris chainsawed the branch into manageable 7" thick rounds that we physically carried close to DB moored 5 minutes walk away, where I chopped them into quarters using the axe. Oh the sound of chopping seasoned wood, I felt strong! Takes me back to our days of collecting wood when we lived in Portugal. There, not only did we use the wood for the winter fire but also for the bread oven and most importantly in daily use for cooking. We cooked on an open fire for 4 years! We led the good life but it is another story.
Squirrel again

The Morso Squirrel is our only form of heating, on DB, unless dinner is underway and our New World gas oven is in use. DB does not have central heating. Nb Avalon Mist did have gas fired central heating but we rarely used it. Some people, who live on steel boats, rate the Ecofan which circulates warm air without using electricity or batteries to run it. The fan is designed to sit on top of a woodburner. At this stage we are remaining Ecofan free. We believe that DB’s spray-foamed insulation and open plan layout will keep her warm and cosy with the Squirrel sited mid ship.
Rowington Mooring- beautiful shhh!

The squirrel went that way!

We remain moored on the Grand Union in Warwickshire. It is a beautiful region and we have moved minimal miles, in recent weeks. Birmingham will wait until next year. The Grand Union Canal is quiet but that makes it a joy. We meet a lot of landlubbers who are envious of  the mobile life that we lead and the fortune we have to be on a DB, a beautiful unique boat. It is not all sunshine and roses but it is pretty close. 

Recent highlights, to name a few, have been

  • -          The short and sweet visit from my brother, Mick (from NZ). We moved DB from our rural tow path mooring to the water point at Tom O’ The Wood to meet him and rather than take him out on DB we did a circular walk mostly on the Towpaths that took in the Grand Union Canal to Kingswood Junction where it linked to the Stratford Canal. I think the day of his visit was the last day of the late summer. It was lovely to spend some time with him and his children had sent us gorgeous handmade gifts.
  • -          The company of the Keith and Susan, the Rector and the Vicar, on a mini cruise from Lapworth to the Hatton winding hole, between Bridge 56 and 55, return that took in the Shrewley Tunnel (433yds).
  • -          Mooring alongside the garden of The Navigation at Lapworth, a fine hostelry owned by Mark and Alison who along with their great staff have made us feel very welcome.

Now Toilet Talk. The days of carrying the Thetford ‘potti’ to the Elsan disposal have gone. Before DB was fit to live aboard we had designed the bathroom with a view to having a composting toilet. Wiring was in place to put in a small fan that would vent odours out through a pipe to the great outdoors. Last minute concerns about whiffy smells meant we put off the composting loo until we had talked with people who were actually using a composting loo on their boats and gave positive reports. 

We, recently, agreed the composting loo was a ‘goer’ and a last ditch internet search found and the result is the purchase of a Separett Privy 501 urine-separating compost toilet kit with regular toilet seat. Youtube gave a good visual on the operation and the ‘Little House’ location was literally just down the road and around the corner from where we were moored.  I am a great believer in fate!
It's the biz.

To Thetford or compost that is the question?


The toilet seat and separator were a similar price to a Thetford cassette toilet. A visit to IKEA, Coventry branch was closest, was necessary to check out their ‘Bargain Spot’ (BS) for a suitable cabinet and Melamine board. Good fortune was on our side as the BS had low priced stock that met our need.

Chris constructed the ‘Throne’ and the necessary ‘pee’ and ‘pooh’ containers were incorporated inside the cupboard. An unwanted former bread box is ideal as a footstool and toileting storage.  All in all the result is amazing, better than we ever envisaged and the total cost was under £140 compared to loads of money! We are so effluent! The odour is minus zilch with the low voltage fan running 24 hours. My olfactory organ is not compromised.
Take an angle on theVent. Watch his space.

We will be starting our cruise back down the Hatton Flight, next week. More blog to come before DB moors up for winter at Barby Marina.

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.