Friday, 23 October 2015


Obstruction below

The final Locks of the season, for DB, is the Foxton flight of 2 Staircases consisting of 5 Locks per staircase, 75’ total fall (rise if you are going up!). This is a popular Gongoozler’s hangout.  The morning of our ‘flight’, movement was suspended due to an obstruction in one of the lower locks and it was likely it would be late afternoon before we would be on the move. The worst case scenario was we may have to wait until the following day for the all clear. A big thankyou to the Foxton C&RT Volunteers, they kept us well informed.

Following the incident in August 2015, Concrete slabs had been used to decrease the size of the hole from the pound into the Lock to prevent people who fall into the pound being sucked into the Lock. So the obstruction, on our day, was the slabs of concrete had got washed into the Lock. Naughty concrete, a Slab-ology engineer is needed!


We had planned to treat ourselves to breakfast at the Top Lock Cafe. I need to eat my words in thinking this would be a treat.

The photos tell the story. A beautiful setting that is spoiled by a rubbery overpriced breakfast. 

This is how a Gongoozler becomes bamboozled. I won’t go on about it but you won’t see me eating there again.

Back at DB, chatty gongoozlers stopped to pay us compliments in favour of DB. In between sharing our lifestyle who should walk by, The W-a-Ls. 

The WaL's

They were well back in the queue of boats but once they escaped our clutches they went off, on foot, to suss out the obstruction and head landward to Market Harborough.

Within an hour of them leaving, there was volunteer action and we were told we could move into the Lock!

“What about the boat in front?” I asked.

“There is no one on board” he said “They are crewless.”

I wo-manned the helm and let Chris do the paddle and gate action with a little help from the sprinkle of gongoozlers.

Once you are ensconced in the system there is no way out. In our case we are going down the flight. There is no possibility to turn around until we are out of the bottom lock. 
7 ft below

Looking up of course!

There is a feeling of abandonment as you drop 7ft to lock bottom but as soon as the front gates are open you are suddenly on the level ready to drop 7ft again! A life experience of being 6’ under! This is sounding theatrical. In Lock descent there is no chat apart from a bit of one way conversation with the trusty navigator, Della. 

On the ground the action is at Bow end. A thumbs up signal is the barest sign of communication between Chris and me and is important for the all clear for DB to go down.

Moving down the staircase is easy. DB is trapped for 5 locks, just a case of passing through the open gates between the locks. 

Speed is not a consideration just a gentle throttle to move her forward. Between the two staircases is a small pound which at a guess-timate it is 74ft long. The Locks are not flush in line, they are off centre. Why is that? I couldn’t get a visual overview of what needed to happen and my ‘sights’ showed that I was heading for a speedless slam into the lock entrance. Still it did cause me to lose my footstool footing and plonk on the floor. I dealt with it and down and onwards we went. I was told later that everyone hits that Lock.
Last Lock done and dusted

I was elated to leave the last Lock. Soon we’d be underway to Market Harborough, a place we enjoy spending a few days. Once I was fully out of the Lock, my last challenge was the sharp turn onto the Market Harborough Arm. Sometimes DB feels really long and she will only just fit the turn. I had to bow thrust her to move her Bow off the far towpath. Her stern was touching the near towpath out of the Lock. Have you gone to sleep yet? I got her moving and straightened up to move past the open swing bridge. Chris got back on board after swinging the bridge back into position and took charge of the wheel.
Last swing bridge ahead

One more swing bridge to go and Market Harborough was a few miles away. We moored up near the ‘gates’ to Union Wharf and within a couple of days we were plugged in at the wharf. £10 per day. 

Line up at Union Wharf

The last time DB was on mains electricity was 18 months ago! It is a real treat to have unlimited power. We can turn all the lights on! I can do the washing without running the engine. 

We can have a Wetherspoons breakfast that is good value and tastes great. 

The boat community is friendly as are the passing gongoozlers of Market Harborough.

I can watch the AB’s play the World Cup semi-final on tv.
Leaf seasonal soup.

I am naming Autumn on the Cut as Live Monet. It is a beautiful season.

Live Monet

We have been at ‘Arborough for  about 10 days and in less than 10 days we will be at our destination for DB, this year, Debdale Wharf. 

Debdale Wharf  Crane awaits

DB will be craned out of the Canal and placed on hard standing and we drive off to Spain for a few months under the winter sun.

The question is will I blog as a Lady Landlubber?
                  Ella marinera de agua dolce..........................

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


Water Point bottom Watford Lock

We were warmly welcomed at the Watford Locks by the friendly volunteer ‘Lockie’ we met a few months back coming down the same said Locks. Nb DolcieBlue has a recognisable unique aspect. Shame about her owners!!

We had left Norton Junction, early in the morning and cruised under the newly risen sun to get to the Locks early so we could fill up with water and eat breakfast. No we didn't go to the nearby M1 Watford Gap Services. The approach to the Locks runs in view of the Services, the noise is loud but I was almost fooled into thinking it was a camping ground. I must have been dreaming when I thought I saw pitched blue tents.

The Lock rule of thumb is 6 boats up locks then 6 boats down and that worked in our favour as we were placed to be No.5 going up. I made the snap decision to take the helm and steer DB through the Lock sequence of 7 Locks which includes the staircase of 4 Locks.

I practised my ‘learned’ recent instruction to ‘SLOW DOWN’ when entering the Locks and achieved the skill in nudging or edging DB into position as she smoothly enterered the narrow space of the Lock. Once her ‘nose’ is in then DB glides along the water and when her stern is about to get level with the Lock cill marker I move her throttle to gently reverse as the Lock gates are being manually closed. Easy peasy.... The Lock fill is barely noticeable and there is no boat movement reacting to water gushing through the open sluice like in many Locks!

My manoeuvring challenge occurred exiting No.2 Lock into the pound before the staircase Locks begin. Any boat cannot physically turn until its stern is out of the Lock. DB needed to move say  a wide 30 degrees and then straighten up to line up to enter the next Lock by bringing the stern to the Right. Now this probably reads like gobbledy gook but I really wanted to point out that it involves skill to inch a boat, metrically speaking, into position without causing damage or an outbreak of verbal Tourette’s. I was ‘onto it’ and my success, in this, was acknowledged by Chris and the 'Locky'. Of course, the 'Locky' did say that he had seen a few boaters perform this better but I had a Bow Thruster in the equation! I can best answer this with my parody of Fred Dagg’s Gumboot song “If it weren't for your Bow Thrusters where would you be?”

On the rise, behind is the Pound challenge!

We were heading to Welford but realised that it was too far to go in one day, 16 miles more or less, and we needed to remind ourselves that we do no need to rush! The leaky Crick Tunnel loomed and I happily stayed indoors with Della as Chris steered DB through. Only one boat coming the other way this time. One boat is still one too many! We didn’t stop in Crick Village. The internet connection is non-existent and we wanted to be able to ‘go on line’. An hour or so later we found a beautiful rural mooring with unobstructed all day sun. We used our mooring chains to tie up and I took Della for her territory marking walk. She likes to know her boundaries so we won’t get lost!

NB What a Lark blinded by the sun.

A few boats cruised by on their way to somewhere but not here and the words spoken with a smile across the Cut were “Couldn’t ask for a better day.” Then we recognised W-a-L (Nb What a Lark) approach and turn in to moor in front of us. We spent the afternoon and the next day chatting almost non-stop to Lisa and David.

Sun going down

I highly rate this Leicester Arm of the Grand Union Canal. It hosts beautiful countryside and gives a sense of freedom. The towpath has a few ankle deep holes in it and I took a fall as I was too busy looking ahead when I was walking. The secret to falling, apart from ‘Don’t Fall’, is don’t put your hand out to save yourself just roll when you land. I let the workmen grouting a nearby canal bridge know of my misfortune. I also found a sizeable stick to plant in the hole as a warning. Impale at your own risk!

Sun rise

Two days later we were on an early morning move in the direction of the short Welford Arm to spend the night in Welford. We said our ‘see you later, whenever and wherever that may be’ to Nb W-a-L.
We were hopeful we would get to the end of ‘Arm’ 48 hr mooring at Welford and we did. As part of my tactic I helped a rental boat with a friendly couple aboard to ‘wind’, and moor in a shorter length mooring space available nearby. They could have moored alongside us but in the next few hours that space had been filled and then another three boats had creatively tied up meaning we were boxed in and the water point mooring was blocked. No worries, next morning we were freed and moved in the direction of the Foxton Locks. Chris took the helm, to get us on our way and through the Husbands Bosworth Tunnel. I took over steering while he went indoors to have his breakfast. I heard the blast of a boat horn from behind me and looked back to see who it was. NB W-a-L. Nice photo of DB on the move thanks Lisa, a rarely seen picture from our point of view!

It's moi!

I almost had a close encounter with an arched bridge, a bit further on. A boat had appeared from around a bend heading towards me. Navigation rules means traffic steers on the Right when oncoming traffic approaches. I got over to the Right and became slightly grounded. It happens. I used my nouse to get moving but the bridge was close and I had to take effective action to deal with the situation. Chris appeared and offered to take over. I refused his help as it is important for me to be able to cope with all and sundry!

That day, we stopped about a mile from the Foxton Locks. There were the last of the blackberries ripe for picking and compote to be made. More good Lock-ins could wait for now.

Thursday, 15 October 2015


Safety compliant?

In brief an update of where we are. We are here in Market Harborough for the rest of the duration. I know what that means and all will become clear in this Blog or the next or the one after. It depends on how many interruptions I allow!! It can be a busy life when you put the ‘R’s back in Lock-n-Lol. That’s my excuse and I’m adhering to it.

How do they get away with it?

Braunston became a 5 day stopover. There were ample moorings given that boat traffic was busy but not congested. Our red car had spent its summer holidays parked up and undisturbed in a choice layby near the Grand Union Canal in Braunston. No Traffic Wardens in this neck of the woods. It was happy news that Chris reported back to me of red car firing up first turn of the key.

Back to boats, an important Autumn consideration is be aware of leaf fall and unless you are hiring a boat do not moor under deciduous trees unless you want to gather leaves for mulch. Wind, wildlife in trees and gravity can have an adverse decorative effect. Our first mooring in Braunston was under a pesky tree and I was happy to see the end of it when we made our move to moor above the first Braunston Lock. A lack of official, if any, signage indicating no mooring was our invitation to slot in our ring chains and tie up.
Nelson's Pound

Mr Know It All, with no authority and re’fained’ vehemence told me “The Boat that didn’t wait for you at this Lock will wait for you at the next Lock.”

“Thank you but we are going to moor in the pound above this Lock.” I said.

“You are not allowed to moor in Nelson’s Pound.” He postulated.

“There is no signage indicating this.” I retorted.

“You are NOT allowed to moor there.”

“Speak to my husband.” I finished.
Stop horsing around on the Bridge!

We moored up and I breathed easily with no falling leaves in sight. A few hours later the C&RT appointed Volunteer stopped to tell us.
“You are not allowed to moor in this pound.”

“Blimey,” I said “where is the signage?”

“It has been removed as they were the old British Waterways brand. We are waiting for the C&RT No Mooring signs.”

“Why didn’t they leave the former signs in position until the new ones were ready?” I finished. Der!!

We moved above the next Lock the following day for a couple of nights. Only 4 Locks left until we reached the Braunston Tunnel and a clear run to Norton Junction where we turn onto the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union.

And so on we moved. We only had one boat heading towards us in the Tunnel and then an easy cruise meaning we moored up in the early afternoon. Robbie Williams unexpectedly ran past DB  and knocked on our window. We think we will see more of him over time.

I went to rest and read a book when Chris called out to tell me

“Someone called Lisa wants to say Hello.”

The thread of Blog and here, unexpectedly, was Lisa from NB What A Lark. She and her husband, David, had just moored nearby.

The beginning of a new friendship methinks.

Friday, 9 October 2015


Looking along to our Cropredy Mooring

The predicted ‘Indian Summer’ happened. Beautiful clear sunny skies after a misty daybreak just the ticket to motivate us to move up the Oxford to Cropredy and beyond. The name Cropredy reminds me of a random meeting with a boater, on the outskirts of rural Banbury, in 2011 when we were newbies on Nb Avalon Mist. He was telling me, excitedly, that he was off to Chiropody on Wednesday. I failed to understand his excitement about his feet being a point of conversation to share with a stranger. Poor bloke his feet must be painful, I thought, or he must have Diabetes to be getting someone to carefully cut his toenails. Now I realise that it was his vernacular that had caught me out, just as my Kiwi twang and colloquialisms can bring a chat to a halt or start a ‘Chinese whisper’.
So now it is 2015 and we were on the move to Cropredy. Only a few locks but a steady flow of Canal traffic as the Banbury Canal Festival was imminent. I charge up to the first Lock and, helpfully, start winding a gate paddle for a boat coming down the Lock. Ouch I feel an excruciating white burning pain in my armpit under my Left shoulder. It took my breath away and I tried to self diagnose. Rotator cuff injury came to mind. Is it a torn ligament attached to my Deltoid muscle? All I knew was I was not fit for Lock operation. Shite I had to change places with Chris and now become Skipper of the good ship Lollipop while he got into Lock’n’Lol. Basically the day had finally arrived that I would take charge of DB going into Locks and the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of riding the Lock. ‘Even Cowgirls Get The Blues’! I felt naked, so to speak, without my windlass. More likely I wasn't confident and recently I had taken the wheel when I couldn't raise a lift bridge. On that occasion I managed to change the shape of our chimney cap as it rubbed the low side of the raised bridge.
Now I was under tuition...

He said “Don’t go into the Lock fast......You’re going too fast....You drive a car too fast....SLOW DOWN.” 

That day I had only two locks to negotiate. We struck lucky with getting a 48 hour mooring in town and were just ahead of the game of another boat that was coming down the Town Lock when we moored.

The sun was shining and I got my Ukulele out and had a play. It is therapeutic and fun. Little did I know that Joe Brown lives in Cropredy. ‘I’ll see you in my dreams’. I wish I could have met him! Joe Public was my best bet that day.


The new day dawned, bright and sunny,  and I was at the wheel to take DB to the Lock. We had promised the owner of the boat moored behind us that we would pull his boat into our mooring when we left. We attached a rope to DB and I pulled the ‘tow’ boat along a few yards and Chris retied it. I headed towards the Lock as a boat was exiting it. They left the Lock gates open, thank you, but I had to move out of my direct approach to the Lock to let them past. What looked easy became my nightmare. The prickly bushes beckoned DB and the arched bridge became a threat. I couldn’t work out how to untangle myself from this mess!

Chris yelled helpful instructions to me “Turn the wheel full to the Left, quick full throttle blast, Throttle back, straighten the wheel, Bow thrust Left.”

I was a blithering, jittering idiot stuck in the backend of a boat trying to get out of this quagmire. In hindsight I have taken on board, so to speak, that this action moved the stern to the right and out of the bushes and lined up DB to go under the arch bridge leaving that and DB in tack. Once DB, with Della and me aboard were ensconced in the Lock and Chris shut the gates.

“DON’T PUT THE PADDLES UP TOO FAST” I yelled. Yelling is necessary to be heard and to hear above the noise of the engine. If the water flows into the Lock too quickly the boat goes bump back onto the gates, not a problem, but with the motion it lurches forward and rams the Lock Gate sill, a concrete ledge of varying heights. I need to keep DB’s throttle in reverse to hold her back when we go UP a Lock until the sill is covered with water. One day I will feel skilled but that one day didn’t feel anywhere near now!

The whole day was a learning curve, a massive learning curve. I did it but I wasn’t happy. I missed being on terra firma having random Lock conversations. Oh well I knew I had to get over it. I appreciate that my husband is happy for me to take over duties at the wheel. Some partners are very precious with their steel palaces!

Fenny Compton Tunnel

Fenny Compton was our stop that night. There is a pub, by the canal, that is known for its pies. Did we eat here, last time? I don’t remember but we certainly didn’t this time. Robbie Williams moored behind us. He said his name was Dave but he looked a spitting image of Robbie.

There was no point, in us, staying for more than a night at Fenny. It was time to do the windy winding section of Canal towards the Napton Locks. The wind doth blow and it is no fun cruising a flat bottomed boat in the wind. Better to get to the flight of Locks early the next day before the wind!

Near Priors Hardwick

We found a brilliant rural location with blackberries and sloe berries at our doorstep. A footpath field walk into Priors Hardwick was inviting and a good afternoon walk.

Begonia display

The icing on the cake was a help yourself bowl of Bramley Apples. I didn’t take them all but sufficient to stew up to eat for a series of breakfasts with the blackberry compote. Yum.

An infield mooring?

Now it was time for the Napton Flight of 9 locks to Napton, or should it be Nappers like we likened Slapton to rename it Slapper!

Just a thought. Me, I was in my new position as Skipper to undertake DB going DOWN the Locks. While I was waiting for the top Lock to be set for my entry I was talking to a couple of people in their back garden by the Canal. They were gushing over seeing Della, in her Navigator position, as they had two Mini Schnauzers who had mated and now had a litter of 8 puppies. The woman owner was from NZ. I could have chatted more but the Lock was waiting for me and I needed to accomplish a tricky turn into the Lock without scraping DB's sides more than I could help.

Going DOWN

This was my first time taking DB down a Lock. The Lock gate sill is at the stern end and I am concerned that if I move too far forward the Bow ‘Button’ fender will get caught on the front gates. The Lock is emptying and I leave my throttle forward too late and DB is tipping forward and I can’t move DB off the Lock sill.

“PADDLES DOWN” I yell to Chris, “HURRY UP!”

Chris responded immediately and with the front gate paddles down he went to the back gate and raised a paddle to refill the Lock. What a feeling to be floating level again. Right let me try this again. Rudder does not appear to be damaged. Keep DB forward and don’t worry about the Bow Button. Right computed!
Opening the gates

9 Locks later we are at Napton. Result is I feel confident with taking DB down the Locks. I don’t really enjoy the isolated feeling of being in a Lock but if I have to do it I will.

Buffaloes at eye level

Napton was lacking in a reliable signal for the Internet and the sun was beckoning us on. We had to take cover when a wide beam boat was reported to be heading in our direction. It is not usual for a wide beam boat, probably 11-12ft wide to be on this part of the canal. “It’s only my 3rd day on this boat.” said its Captain. I was not impressed, your boat is on the wrong Canal. He should be heading the other way to Braunston.

Although Braunston was our next destination we pulled DB over for to moor near Wigram Turns. 

Braunston was left for the next day. 

Is that how you airbrush a photo?

Thursday, 8 October 2015


Good Moo-ning

The Lift Bridges and Lock obstruction meant we didn’t get to Aynho as we had loosely planned. But a field mooring where cows were our liberated neighbours was something different.
NB Smine we knew from Mercia Marina

It was a new experience waking up to a cow calling to a bull in the field on the other side of the Canal. We thought an early move to Aynho would be more comfortable for us and we cruised into our hoped for 48hr mooring there. This was our chance to catch up, briefly, with our friends who host our land based mail. They visited bringing not only our mail but windfall Bramley apples, yum. I gave them my small offering of handpicked Sloe berries, the fruit of the Blackthorn Tree that I had seen growing in the hedgerow near DB.

Canal levels were higher than we had anticipated which meant we needed to keep DB’s Bow low in the water. Topping up the water tank capacity of 1250 litres equates to 1250 kgs weight in the Bow plus adding 5 x 25kg bags of coal on the Bow deck is another 125kgs. And in the Stern, the diesel was filled up to hold 512 litres (512 kgs). There you go! Chug chug we were sweet and off to Banbury.

‘Cruise Dolcie Blue to Banbury Cross
 Mooring rings on chains
 And Bell on the door.....'

I felt a little twinge in my lower Right shoulder when I wound the gate paddle at the first Lock. I ignored it and carried on. Banbury wasn’t far away and we got a mooring within easy walking distance of Morrisons Supermarket. The sun was slow in rising, the next morning, so we moved along the canal into town central. Only one Lock and a windlass operated Lift Bridge to operate. A youngster in a buggy clapped with his hands and beamed with joy as I wound the bridge back down. 

In our past visits, here, it has been near to impossible to get moorings but no problem this time and we stayed the full 48 hours.

To top this we had the light of the blood moon.

Which light is the real moon?

Banbury has a pretty town centre, lots of charity shops and is pedestrian friendly. There is a shopping centre close to our mooring and it was fun to do some window shopping for a change. 

We popped into a Pub called The Reine Deer which had been recommended as a proper pub by some local Banburians. It was worth visiting and Della always gets comments.

“Oh she looks just like my brother’s dog, Buster!” said a woman seated, at a table, with her family.

The name Buster and miniature Schnauzer got me asking. “Does Buster live in Oxford?”

“Yes” she answered.

“Does your brother walk Buster along the towpath near Aristotle Bridge?”

“Yes.” She affirmed.

“We know Buster. We met him and your brother, the other day in Oxford by the Canal!” I squealed.

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.