Friday, 29 May 2015


Dentist done and dusted, we thought, now it’s onwards and upwards so to speak. It was 12 miles up the Trent & Mersey Canal to get to the River Soar. A repeat of last year’s intrepid journey, maybe. We have to be at Market Harborough mid June and then who knows. It felt comfortable almost exciting to be cruising the quiet Trent & Mersey from Stenson. Volunteers, familiar Mercia Marina faces, were keen to work Stenson Lock and told me to get back on board thank you very much. Bye and we were chugging along voluntarily paired with another Narrowboat. They were in no rush and we shared the Locks until Shardlow.

At Swarkestone Lock (10’11”) I asked a fit gongoozler to help me close a gate as no amount of my strength could budge it. At Weston Lock (10’11”) I was helped by a young woman while her father was moored at the Water Point. They had just come through the Lock and she was keen to pass the time of day helping us. We had to wind the paddle, on one gate, with two pairs of hands on the windlass. I noticed her Dad waving out to get her attention indicating they were ready to move on.

“Do you want to go back to your boat? I appreciate your assistance with the Lock but you don’t need to stay.” I said.

“No, I’ll stay and help you open the Lock gates.” She said.

Her Dad waves his arms again.

“I don’t understand why he does that.” she sighs. “He always says how peaceful and slow the way of life is on the Canal. I don’t understand why he is always in a rush to move on.”

“He might want to see what is around the bend. Maybe he doesn’t realise it drives you around the bend!” I said.

With that, the gates open she walked purposefully back to her Dad and boat.

Aston Lock is an 8’1” deep lock before Shardlow and the Lock was in our favour. The man and boy waiting to come up the Lock on their boat offered to work the Lock for us so I got back on board, thanking them of course. DB and our ‘team’ boat went down as we should until both boats started listing in to each other as the Lock was almost empty. We should still be floating and not touched the bottom of the Lock. We were not caught on the ‘Sill’. It was spooky. We all yelled up to the guys at the Lock gates “Drop the Paddles!!! DROP THE PADDLES!!!” They had no idea what we were saying and began opening the gates. We sensed an urgency to get the boats floating level. Me and the chap from the other boat in the Lock clambered onto the roof and climbed the Lock Ladder. I raced to the opening Gates, telling the guys “Shut the Gates and drop the paddles!” I raced to the other gates and wound up the Ground Paddle and the Gate Paddle with care. Thankfully our boats, in the Lock returned to a level position. We have no idea what caused the problem. As chance would have it the Canals & Rivers Trust (C&RT) appeared on the scene as we were fixing our problem. Maybe they knew about it, maybe they didn’t but they surely did now!

This was definitely a learning experience for me and made me aware of the need of taking responsibility when the boat is in the Lock. All well and good letting others do the labouring but my heart doesn’t need a repeat of that stress. Serious Lady Lock-n-Lol.

One more Lock incident, that day, before I put this Blog to bed was the event of the holiday makers who had picked up their Canal Boat and had had no physical instruction on Lock operation. They had watched the video but reported in their excitement they hadn’t watched it. As the Lock was in their favour, I didn’t turn a blind eye as they appeared around the bend. To say there approach to the Lock wasn’t erratic would be far from the truth. Four people got off the boat, having a laugh, and no sign of any windlasses. They walked to the Lock.

“Have you got your Windlass?” I called out.

“Ha Ha Der Ha ha.” Greeted me.

"Wait until your boat gets into the Lock. Have youse worked a Lock before?” I said.

“Ha Ha Nah Ha ha.”

“OK I’ll give you some instruction. We Boat people are nice people but look and learn. You need to take the Lock operation seriously.”

“Ha Ha Thanks.”

“Right the Bloke on the Tiller is The Captain and he is in command.”

“Ha Ha.”

“You, his partner, are the Admiral and you kids, well...”

“Ha Ha.”

They were willing to Lock and learn. A happy crew and their boat left the Lock.

Fox at Kegworth Deep Lock

We managed to get to our planned destination along the River Soar and moor up after Kegworth Deep Lock. A pretty spot we had found, last year. The air waves quickly reminded us that were on the flight path to nearby East Midlands Airport.

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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.