Tuesday, 30 June 2015


Heard on a Radio interview.

Interviewer gushing, “I'm thrilled to be able to meet you.”

Interviewee replies “It’s almost as good meeting you.”

I think ‘Who do you think you are? And why did I get sucked in to listening to this!’

I tried out the Interviewee response on an unsuspecting boater who replied “Madam I am but a humble oaf in the beauty of your radiance.” Now that is class to warm your heart.

Back to boating in Leicestershire. Having floated this water trail, last year, there is a knowing about it. Cruising familiar waters and passing by beautiful flowering fields of buttercups and the rise of the wheat crop past 'knee high to a grasshopper'. An overnight stop close to Newton Harcourt was a must. We found our mooring spot from last year and happily tied up DB overlooking the yellow medieval fields across the Canal.

Della and I walked across the fields to the Wistow Rural Centre. Signs on the fields clearly indicated there was no dog poo fairy and pick up after your dog. It was OK for sheep, of course. I picked up after Della and Della tried to pick up after the sheep. I growled at Della to drop the contents of her mouth. I informed her she would never be a sheep and ‘Hay’ she would never find a sheep’s diet would satisfy her. We walked on to the Rural Centre thinking there would be a ‘Doogy-doo’ Bin. Well there was no bin at the Inn and the cafe staff reluctantly agreed to let me put my doggy bag in the big bin. They voiced their annoyance that there is no Dog Litter Bin on or around the Rural Centre. 

I wrote to the ‘Wistow Centre’ and received a message back to say the Farmer and the local Council would not put in dog litter bins and we were lucky we could walk our dog over the medieval fields. A ‘Local’, I met on my walk, said she now understood why dog litterbags were attached to the fence near the rural centre.

Next day was a beautiful day for cruising DB and we passed lots of suitable moorings to remember for our next cruise in this area. We passed the first BBQ of the season and the smell of grilling sausages followed us.  
We saw Nb Matilda last year at Calcutt Locks

Close to the Foxton Locks is Debdale Wharf, a Marina that has ‘Dry Standing’, and we are planning to have DB out of water for the 5 month long winter season in England while we repeat the ‘winter sun’ in Spain. Makes sense to leave DB on dry land and in a secure location. At this stage Debdale Wharf could be the answer.

Sun setting near Debdale Wharf

Thursday, 25 June 2015



Winds calmer and skies bluer, cruising through downtown Leicester is a ‘Do-er’ in a day. Canopies down we headed into Birstall Lock where a cyclist stopped and offered to close the Lock Gate after we had gone through. That is thoughtful.

At the next Lock, Belgrave Lock, I was about to close the Lock gate when I saw another boat appear, in our direction, so I kept the gate open for them and we teamed up to share that and the following 2 Locks. 3 extra pairs of hands make for light work in a Lock. In my brief risk assessment of the Lock, I had noted that there was a transparent floating obstruction blocking one of our exit gates at the Lock. No big deal but inappropriate that a bobbing armchair should be floating in a river. We can exit through one gate but 2 gates are easier when there are 2 boats using the Lock. Being on the side of, sometimes misunderstood, good manners I warned an approaching Narrowboat there was an obstruction. Michelin Man gave a huff and puff giving me the impression he would be removing it.  Yeah right  how important is your back, I thought? ‘Elf and Safety would be best put into effect in this instance. I phoned C&RT to report the 'floater'. The operator put my call through to the 'no answer' telephone and, in what felt like a minute, my call was returned to the operator who told me my phone line was noisy and it was difficult to hear me. I told her I was on a boat, engines are noisy and she better get used to it in her line of work. Blah blah. I never did get a call back about the obstruction.

Close to Limekiln Lock we scraped over something crunchy and lost power in the Bow thruster and the other boat just lost steerage but managed to get into the Lock. They limped out of the Lock and moored up for further investigation. We moved on as the Bow thruster was not essential and, later, when we stopped for lunch Chris found a holey blue plastic bag where no plastic bag should be. At the last Lock near Frog Island, I was bordering on closing the gates when Chris saw our ‘partner’ boat appearing from behind. We waited for them. The source of their steerage problem was an abandoned soggy jumper wrapped around the ‘prop’.
Rasp/Straw berry jam in a 20 minute Lock Free moment

The day was not yet over but we said farewell to our Lock partners and stopped, briefly, at Castle Gardens so Della could have a walk before we cruised along the ‘Mile Straight’ followed by 12 Locks before we called it a day! The feel became rural and it is easy to question if we were on the River Soar or the Grand Union Canal. At Kings Lock the paddles need a BW key to be able to release a ‘locking’ mechanism to wind up the paddles. Some of the Locks were missing gate / ground paddles. Luckily a Lock can still fill on one open sluice. We witnessed no challenging behaviour, canal / river side in Leicester and have no fear about cruising through again.

This day’s cruise must have taken us at least 10 hours. Sensibly Chris spotted out a good mooring site near Double Rail Lock. A beautiful countryside mooring with rural walks, and the neighbours, NB Dormouse, were a delight and give meaning to ‘Ships that pass in the night’.
NB Dormouse pushoff

Two days later we moved to Kilby Bridge. I had a struggle with the ground paddle at Double Rail Lock when my windlass was rejected under pressure by a ground paddle. I don’t know if it was under pressure but I couldn’t bleeding wind it and I fell, still clutching the windlass, landing flat on my tummy and knees. “Ouch!” I raised my arm thinking a thumb’s up would be seen on DB as surely my sudden disappearance would have been noticed! No I had not been missed! My jeans had a bloody rip at knee level but my moment was short lived and I got on with the job. Plaster not plastered came later.
Ribbon patch, from Ecuador, hides ripped jeans

Kilby Bridge is a stopover must. The Navigation Pub at Kilby Bridge is fantastic, the locals are friendly and the food looks excellent. Just like we thought last year, we shall return.

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Monday, 22 June 2015


This month is quickly getting away from me. It is a way to remind me I have good fortune in that the days of my life have no sign of tedium or boredom and I can appreciate the beauty of the countryside and friendliness of the people in England. It’s not the distance that needs to be counted. I really enjoy my home on Nb DolcieBlue and our mobile life has the continuity of feeling always at home in our floating ‘4 walls’.

The cruise through the green belt of Leicester City was as enjoyable as doing it last year. The weather, yes the weather forecast, was on yellow alert for gale force winds.

There was a damp feel in the air and it was almost not raining when we moored up outside the pub at Anchor Bridge. How convenient to get the mooring so I could take my half together (slightly broken) dodgy shopping trolley and get filled up with provisions at Aldi, a nearby supermarket a good mile walk away. I thought I would try to sniff out a shortcut.

I remember, some years ago in London, I overheard a couple of schoolboys on their way home saying
“That way is a shortcut but this way is quicker....”

So back to the here and now, I saw a way into an urbanisation and thought where there is a way in there must be a way out on the other side. I approached a Postman for direction confirmation.

“Ah.....Hmm...” he uttered as he processed the direction possibility “Oh yes, go along there, turn Right, down there to the end of there, and turn Left...”

“Thanks. Have a good day.” I said, and walked along ‘there’ and turned Right thinking I could always ask someone else. Well I needed to ask someone else, not long after, but there was no one else to ask as I walked along. There is not much foot traffic these days.
Me and my trolley moved on until I was a few yards further along the road I had turned off in the hope of a shortcut. Der......
 I did find Aldi, eventually, and filled my trolley and trundled back to DB following the reverse of the route I should have taken initially.

Groceries onboard, we moved DB to moorings the other side of Anchor Bridge where we had good paved towpath moorings with mooring rings beside the outskirts of the extensive Watermead Country Park. Chris wanted to do some carpentry work to frame the bathroom door, and install a folding ‘plank’ seat to sit on for those long occasions at the wheel. This environment was ideal for him to get his band saw out onto level ground and put in use.
This plank is not for walking

I was motivated or stupid to sweep the towpath clear of leaf & twig debris directly beside DB. Looks of disbelief that a broom could actually have a purpose resulted in the usual comments coming my way.

“When you’ve finished will you come and sweep my yard?”

It was a short lived feeling of satisfaction as the following day I woke to the sound of the strong wind shaking the branches with dead wood, twigs and leaves littering DB and the towpath. The bird life had attempted to make their presence known with ‘gifts’ dropped from above but the wind must have worked in our favour as minimal poop that hit the boat landed on the solar panel and gunwhale.

As the day progressed the wind appeared to be blowing itself out and the clouds were parting to reveal patches of blue sky. I walked Della to Thurmaston Lock checking out the height of bridges, as one does when the stern canopy and wheel house canopy are in situ with the hope they could remain in place if we moved DB up river. I got talking with a woman walking her lovely rescue dog on my way back to DB. In conversation she told me that Birstall Lock (the Lock after Thurmaston) had good moorings and a pub that is dog friendly.
Birstall Mooring

Chris agreed to move up river / canal to Birstall Lock. We left the canopies up, untied the ropes and motored off. Soon the darned wind got blowing again and was a right pain when Chris took DB out of Thurmaston Lock. DB got blown to the far bank of the river and Chris made a long winded attempt to get DB back to me waiting on the towpath near the Lock. DB was close but not close enough for me to step on to the stern. I yelled out to him to motor on and I would walk on to a calmer place, if it existed! He was not best pleased as he had almost got DB within reach of me but I did not feel safe stepping out to DB in the gusty wind conditions.
I clutched my windlass, mouthed expletives and paced my way along more beautiful walking tracks in Watermead Country Park. The river became hidden and the towpath was non-existent, for a while.  I could see DB through the trees and all I could do was continue walking until I came back to the riverbank and the fine moorings at Birstall.  DB arrived and all eventually returned to calm in our world.

The day ended at a 'dog haven' Pub. The non alcoholic beer for dogs was sold out!

And so ended another day.

Does my boat look big wearing its canopy?


Monday, 1 June 2015


Slowly and certainly we are Market Harborough bound. The weather still rules and I won’t go on about it. Suffice to say it has watered our roof garden more often than I have. A few days ago we left the ‘fright path’ with canopies down and ticked up to Zouch (without an ‘e’) and I wonder if it is pronouced ‘ouch’ with a z? I forgot to ask. A good circular walk for Della and the last work out for a few days for her. She was not well with the D & V’s (as it is known in Hospital talk) and we hoped the gremlins would work their way out of her system pronto. Della is a thoughtful dog and she was able to wake us through the night when nature called. We moved on to Barrow-upon-Soar and her condition needed medical attention. Chris did the Bus Pass slog back to Willington to collect the car. A four hour trip, and I sourced a Vet to see Della later in the day.
I couldn’t leave Della alone to get a word of mouth recommendation for a Vet so I googled some local Vetinary Clinics and made a decision through their feedback. Appointment made for mid afternoon when I was sure that Chris would be back with our car. To cut a long story shorter, Della was given the 3 anti ‘mix’ jab to dry her up, stop the ‘chucking’ and kill the gremlin. Miraculously the next day she was better but had a repeat jab and a short course of antibiotics. Fingers crossed and touch wood she is over it and I am in no rush to be proactive with her teeth again.

To put a bit of brightness in our day, Hawaii Tony popped in for a 24 hour visit. He is a regular once a year visitor who has experienced our life on Avalon Mist and DolcieBlue. Tony was instructive in my Lock operation Badge back in 2011 when I had my first introduction to Canal life on the heap of steel fondly known as Nb Avalon Mist. He was the third party in our crew including the Captain on the day we left Devises and went down 22 Locks which included the 16 Caen Hill Lock Flight. I remember being anxious about the Lock chambers,

I was sure that I’d not be able to remember the Lock operation and it would be easy to lose footing and fall in. As to the descriptive words like windlass, paddles, gates, lock set blah blah I was learning a new language. I could hold the rope and be helpful with that. Anyway that day has long gone and I am a natural with Locks now.

Or so I believed that I would not be overcome with a quirky Lock, I may not look like I have a 6 pack toned abdomen, beefy biceps, and maintain the looks of a spring chicken but I’m not dressed as mutton. We moved on from Barrow and enjoyed the slow pace of cruising the river and the pretty rural scenery. Day trippers shared some locks with us and we decided to moor up DB with a view to spending a few days in the Leicestershire countryside before we cruise through Leicester City. The towpath was grassy and I walked some metres beyond the Lock, ahead, to check out if there were better mooring spots. I found the towpath was paved. Hard standing! Yes as long as our internet signal remained good then a clean mooring had an appeal with the forecast for rainy weather.
We agreed to move on a few metres. The Lock was in our favour so I opened the gates and DB entered. All good and gates closed I wound up one of the ground paddles and walked over the gates to open the other ground paddle. I noticed the Lock was a leaky lock as water was exiting the back gates as quickly as it was flowing in. I couldn’t get the 2nd ground paddle to wind up, without busting a gut, so I carefully wound the gate paddle taking care opening it.  I noticed Mr Helpful, on foot, carrying a Windlass and almost running across the Gates. He didn’t say anything to me and just wound up the ground paddle with macho gusto. I said “Thank you” and walked the gates to the other side with him following close behind. He was hovering and watching as I got my windlass in position to wind up the paddle. I really disliked having his beady eyes taking over my territory and I told him I was well experienced with Locks. It was an unhappy ending.

When I reflect on this event, I have learnt that being helpful should not involve taking over an activity. It could look like an extra pair of hands would be useful but talk to the Lock ‘operator’ first.  
To assume makes an ass out of u and me. This was not an emergency.

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.