Tuesday, 23 December 2014


Day by day counts slowly in comparison to the flight of weeks! It is close to yesterday that I penned my last blog but the words have become a distant memory.
Autumn cruising

An update from then until now will put the Blog back on track. We had the brief reality of winning an auction for a widebeam. The seller’s non contact approach was strange but we resisted applying any pressure. My sleuthing nature found the same said boat under auction on eBay. We contacted Apollo Duck for more information on the Auction we bid on. Apparently the ‘seller’ thought we had spammed the Auction and placed the blame with us. Yeah right der! What a Wally! Luckily we do not own another lump of steel.

We moored in Leamington Spa where we experienced more nerdish behaviour. Twice in one week we woke up to DB adrift on the canal. The first time DB had floated to the other side, a bit disconcerting when looking out the window and thinking I’m sure my view was to the towpath side when I went to bed. Oh well ha ha, we’ll move back to where we were. That’s when 3 mooring pegs became 2. Mooring pegs do not float and we have an uber-magnet to fish out metal ‘drops’ into the canal. We put the event down to our hammered peg angle  in the wet ground. Three days later and another morning! Chris called out “We’re adrift!” This time we were resting, at 645 hrs, in the style of a ‘barrier’ across the Grand Union Canal. This could not be a coincidence and now imaginations pictured bored youth picking on us. 
Pegs don't float

A search in the murky depths for 2 mooring pegs was fruitless and we cruised along a few metres to a 48 hour mooring with rings and tied up without event. During this time we had to drive to Derby to finish clearing out our ‘Lock-Up’ facility on land we visited Midland Chandlers at Mercia Marina where we purchased new Mooring pegs in the shape of a lengthy P. Our mate at Midland’s knew Leamington Spa and said the sport of releasing mooring Pegs is not uncommon. Hopefully with this carry on, in future, we can be confident the rope will still be attached to the Peg and we can share the laugh at play time.

The mild autumn continued with a few patches of rain. The towpath becomes muddy and the hunt for ‘hard standing’ moorings is challenging. Gumboots (Wellingtons) are the best footwear choice and Della’s paw washer is a boon. DB’s floor is slowly being covered with my collection of cotton rag woven rugs. It is pointless to mop indoors.

We avoided the rain the day we left Leamington Spa and I trudged my way up the Fosse Locks. The two Bull Mastiff dogs were still hanging around one of the Locks and Animal Services at Stratford Council received a call from us. I’m sure the dogs are fine but they give out a threatening vibe and the last thing I needed was a wet muzzle sniffing my news.
Paddle up to empty Lock

Next day we worked our way up the Stockton Locks eventually to return to the top of the southern branch of the Oxford Canal to moor at Napton-on-the-Hill near the bottom lock, where we had arranged to meet family from NZ. We knew the Napton locks were closed with the bottom locks under repair and it turned out advantageous for us as after a night on a muddy mooring we reversed to a slot by one of the two water points which was on stony puddled ground where we stayed for a few days. Of course we were considerate and consulted other moorers and a person wearing a C&RT jacket.

It was a fantastic frosty day the day we took our family on a day cruise back along the Grand Union Canal and down the 3 locks by Calcutt Marina including a cruise past some Boat-candy in the Marina. The names on the boats were, at times, a source of amusement.

What goes down must go up and we did our final three locks of 2014 and cruised back to our illicit mooring at Napton to drop off our crew who were staying at the very comfortable and warm Converted Stable at the bottom lock Napton-on-the-Hill. A big thank you to Nigel for accommodating our large family. The nearby Folly Inn fed us delicious home cooked food and a good time was had by all.
Paint it pumpkin?

Back to the three of us, we cruised along the Oxford / Grand Union Canal to Braunston and turned to Port to enter the Oxford Canal where we moored for a few days to get a bit of work done on DB. The living area has been wall papered, the inside frame on the entrance door has been painted, the ‘dodger’ stern wrap has been sent for repair, and the bedroom porthole frames have been sent off to be extended.

Our 2014 Seven Month Canal and River Odyssey ends with Nb DolcieBlue tied up in an understated way but with safety at Barby Marina.

In contrast we, boarded our red boat on wheels, packed to the gunwhales, and drove to the sunny blue skies of the Costa Blanca Spain where winter becomes a past memory.

Hasta Luego.  


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.