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?


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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.