Monday, 25 May 2015


Weather has a profound effect on our daily life. The weather forecast can decide whether or not we untie the ropes and ‘cruise’ on. DolcieBlue (DB) on the move is the way we choose to live. I’m not sure if it’s the trust in the nation’s meteorologists or the weather presenters ‘spin’ in creative presentation of the weather scenario. We live on an island affected by an oceanic climate which, in the big picture, needs to be translated to regional micro climates.  A double tap with the blunt end of an index finger on the barometer can be of more help. OK we are not in the South East, where the weather is likely brighter and warmer, we are in the East Midlands with changeable weather, but usually drier than the West Midlands and Wales. Today it was forecast over 56% possibility of rain. There were a couple of drops this morning but nothing to speak of.  

The step off DolcieBlue (DB) onto terra firma or terra ‘squirma’, depending on the ground moisture content, is mostly on to grassy towpaths where the nearby towpath track is dirt or patchy gravel unless its seal has been upgraded. The Canal & River Trust have responsibility for the towpath and I am guessing they work with local councils in some regions where the towpath is accessed by ‘others’ on the ‘green corridor’, as it is known, as well as boat traffic. ‘Others’ refer to cyclists, anglers and gongoozlers to name a few. Oh yes the diversity of our world.
Kiwis aboard

Nearly 2 weeks ago we left the Ashby Canal to cruise along the Coventry Canal before it morphed into the Birmingham & Fazely Canal which will take us to Fradley Junction. Along the way we had loosely arranged to meet up for five minutes with Kiwi friends who drove to our mobile meeting point. Mobile in that we were on the move and it was through technology of a mobile phone and social media that we could keep in contact. While they travelled by car from Bakewell in the Peak District we were on the move for 10 miles to hopefully meet at our last suggested meeting point at Hartshill Yard near Atherstone. They arrived a few minutes before we did and when I phoned them to confirm we were close they were in the distance walking in our direction along the gravelly towpath. The smiles didn’t leave our faces. Where there’s a will there’s a way!

Catch up done, we cruised a couple of miles to the Atherstone Locks and did 9 out of the 11 locks including a pantry fill up at a nearby Aldi. I found a patch of hardstanding or aka concrete on the grassy towpath between Locks 9 and 10 and we moored up in what felt like the middle of nowhere. This is what is so nice about being Water Gypsies, there is a feeling of space and freedom in this crowded country.

The following day was calm and bright and sunny as was our disposition and we cruised a few miles to Hopwas. I got behind the wheel and could finally understand that no wind gives 120% confidence in steering. DB can keep a straight line with the handles on the ship’s wheel being fed hand to hand. I enjoyed it. It could almost be called relaxing. Oncoming traffic and moored boats were no stress, and a wave or a hello was possible.

We decided to moor for a couple of nights due to the weather forecast indicating 70% chance of showers the following day. I jumped off DB under the arched bridge at Hopwas and the spring in my jump meant my head thwacked the ceiling of the bridge. No damage done to me or the bridge just a quiet “ouch” left my mouth. Recently mown grassy moorings were our chosen spot and we tied up using our mooring rings. I relocated some of the grass clippings so they wouldn’t be walked on or blown on to DB. Once upon a time when we had lawn we used to compost lawn clippings. Good food for our veggie garden. None of this activity for us now. There were a few boats moored nearby and the warm day meant ‘land’ people were walking on the towpath. Della and I went to check out what the attraction was. It must be the Hopwas Hayes Wood and safe to walk through as there were no red flags flying which would indicate the Army were using the Whittington Firing range. The perfume of nature was potent with a spicy floral scent that stimulated my olfactory centre. I didn’t think it was the scent of Bluebells but it might have been. I know blooming Bluebells give beautiful ground cover. The next day under moist grey conditions the ‘heady’ perfume was barely noticeable.
Back to the weather forecast. Fine weather was forecast for the weekend after a day of rain in Hopwas. So canopies down and we headed to Fradley Junction to join the Trent and Mersey Canal and spend the weekend in Alrewas. We know it well, it felt like being back in ‘home’ territory. We thought we’d stay a few days, that is more than 48 hrs so mooring time limit is well marked and we had to reverse back to available moorings.

Some Captain Clever Clogs, in his boat, called out to me “What is that terrible sound coming out of your Bow?” I knew exactly what he was going to say but I looked at him in a puzzled way and hopefully gave him a Manuel from Fawlty Towers “Que”? Irritating Clever Clogs replied “Bow Thruster, terrible Bow thruster.” He left me no choice in my response “Where’s your horse?”
As with all the best planning we became aware the weather forecast had changed and a couple of days later we moved to Willington and moored up at a favourite spot, of ours, an open space towpath side near Mercia Marina. 
Mercia Marina

We had D Day deadline to meet. D Day, loosely speaking, was marked as a family day booked for us some months ago. We all had our Dental treatments. Of course Della was booked in to her Vet’s for a tooth clean.  I hear too often of dogs having their teeth pulled as they get older and think that we can be proactive for Della. Della is not her normal happy self after this palaver, the general anaesthetic has upset her routine. But........

We are on the move again under the mixed bag called the Weather. Will summer be here next week?

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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.