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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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.