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.


  1. When we were there, I was told it was pronounced Zotch.

  2. Della, I notice, with my cynical feminist eye, that hovering, helpful men appear to 'assist' women way more than men - at locks, when steering, when mooring. I've also noticed that men feel more comfortable criticising whatever we do as women on the boat whereas they wouldn't do so to the chaps. Like you, we've been boating for many years and have both gained a lot of experience in our respective spheres, me steering, David locking. But when our NZ accents are heard there is occasionally an assumption that we are bunnies. That is not helped by my being a small grey haired woman at the helm ... Most of the time though, it's fine. My bugbear at the moment on this trip are the commercial operators who think they own the canals - don't get me started!
    Cheers, Marilyn (


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.