Thursday, 2 July 2015


Turning off the Grand Union into the Market Harborough Arm

We were at Market Harborough with 6 days to spare before our friends from Malibu arrived. Their itinerary meant we needed to ‘ang at ‘Arborough. Last year the mooring time limits, at Market Harborough, were flexible with the C&RT Enforcement Officer. This year we didn’t see any sign of the Enforcement Officer and we stayed put in ‘our’ ideal mooring for more than 48 hrs hoping to be able to see him. The moorings were never full to capacity.

Nb Tupelo, the Ice-cream Boat moored up behind us, almost a year to the day when we first met, and we were mutually overjoyed to meet each other again. They report ‘Sarah’s Hokey Pokey’ Icecream has been a big success and has had positive comments from all including visiting ‘Kiwi’ customers. The day Nb Tupelo winded at Union Wharf cruised past us, they shouted out for our attention and put 2 pottles of their Lemon Curd Icecream into a fishing net they held out for me to reach in and grab. How kind!

Nb Sundowner, a time share boat, moored up near us and I had an albeit brief speed chat with the woman on board. I cannot remember her name but we are both from New Zealand. We both trained as Occupational Therapists (OTs) within a few years of each other. She worked at Christchurch Public Hospital and was OT on the Orthopaedic Ward prior to moving to England in September 1984. I worked at Christchurch Public Hospital as OT on the Orthopaedic Ward from September 1984 until I moved to England in February 1985. We had never met before until, by chance, now. That, to me, is a small world.

Della is such a sociable dog and sees almost anybody and everybody human as a petting machine. She does socialise with dogs and likes larger dogs and Miniature Schnauzers. Della is always keen to go out for a walk whether it is a short or long walk. If she has had enough walking she’ll plant her legs until we turn around or change direction. The Waste Disposal Area (aka Rubbish) at Union Wharf Moorings is a walk past a Cafe/Restaurant and people may be seated outdoors. So we are on the rubbish run and Della walks up to people, at a table, on the terrace for Afternoon Tea. A woman asked me what Della’s name is. I told her and she said her name was Della, as well. It’s not a name often heard. I explained we formed Della’s name from the Portuguese word Cadela, which means ‘female dog’. Yeah right we couldn’t go round calling her ‘Bitch’. 

As Della and I moved to continue our walk I asked the human Della if she would like to come for a walk as well. We both laughed and Della-dog and I continued our walk.
Almost ready to move from 'Arborough

The Malibu connections, four ‘old’ friends of ours, turned up as planned and were at DB, on time early morning on the 15th June, ready to cruise DB to Welford which included The Foxton Locks, 2 staircase flights of five locks each. It is not common to have more than 2 Locks forming a staircase. 

At the Foxton Locks there is a Passing Bay between the 2 Flights. A staircase Lock means that the emptying Lock will fill the Lock below and raise the boat in it to its level and the gates will open allowing the boat to move between Locks. Adjacent to each Lock is a water pound and the working of the Lock paddles has some influence on the pound and the Lock. All I remember is ‘Red’ paddle before ‘White’ paddle. The Foxton Locks are a popular gongoozler ‘hang-out’. There were at least 3 C&RT Volunteers to assist with safe boat passage on the day we were there. We were the only boat in the pound at the bottom of the Locks and, as there was no Lock Keeper or Volunteers at ‘ground level’ I needed to climb to the top of the Flight to get the OK to get  started up to the Passing Bay. There was one boat beginning its Lock descent as we began ours. We now had a Volunteer to assist our progress and we were at the Passing Bay in record time. The Boat coming down must have been making a meal of it and had completed 2 Locks when we tied up at halfway.
A last year at Foxton Locks photo. 

And so began the LONG wait. I’m sure the Chief Chap, which is the one in charge, lost count of the boats coming down. After what seemed like a lot of boats coming down and still there was another one entering the top staircase, I went to the ‘Head Poncho’ to see if we should set up our mooring for the night. I know I was getting snarky and he responded
“You were lucky I let you come up to the midway point. If I had known how long your boat is I would have kept you at the bottom. It’s six boats going down then six boats going up.”
I thought, size doesn’t matter, and was tempted to say “How many is six?”
We offered a couple of gongoozlers the opportunity to experience the feeling of a Lock on the rise and they waited, on board, until we got the all clear, from above, to move up the last staircase. They couldn't thank us enough, very cool.

Yes we got to the top of the Foxton Flight and still had enough of the day left to get to Welford, at the end of the Welford Arm off the Grand Union Canal. Alan, our cheerful Lock Volunteer had found out the Welford Lock would be open between 1500 – 1700hrs. Thanks Alan. The beam on one of the Lock Gates had broken when some ‘Walkers’ had posed for a group photo standing on the Gates.
We throttled up on the Grand Union as time was not on our side, now. We passed through the 1166yd Husband’s Bosworth Tunnel which brought squeals of joy from our friends as they looked for all creatures’ great and small stalactites.
One friend asked “Is there a Wife’s Tunnel?”

Soon we turned to the Welford Arm and through the Lock just before 1700hrs. The end of the Arm was nearly full and there was no mooring room for our size. We could have squashed in if Boaters were more thoughtful and adjusted their moorings when boats leave meaning there is no gap between boats. We winded and had to moor with our ‘Nose’ pointing a little into the Winding bank.
Matey, in front of us, fitting out his boat on a prime 48hr mooring site said “It’s a winding area.”
I said “Yes, I know.”
He said “It’s a Winding area.”
I said “Yes I know, there are no other moorings and the Lock is closed now so I don’t think anyone will be winding this evening.”
He said “It’s a Winding area.”
I wanted to say “And how long is your 48hrs.”
I kept my mouth shut.

Cheeky Mooring

That evening we had a fabulous meal at The Wharf Inn, close to our mooring, a fitting end to another memorable day. 

Who needs reality TV? 

Our reality

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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.