Monday, 13 July 2015


There were three things happening during our time moored at Braunston.  

My birthday arrived, on the same date each year, and it is worth mentioning breakfast at Maria’s Kitchen a Portuguese Cafe in Daventry. A special morning with the proprietors bringing me a piece of cake with a lit candle and singing me “Parabens a voce...” the full Happy Birthday song in Portuguese. There are more words to the 2 verses than the repetitive “Happy Birthday to you...” English verse and the first verse translates

‘Congratulations to you, this dear date, The very best wishes, all the years in your life.’

It brought a tear to my eye!

That evening we went to the Little Braunston Lock-side haunted Admiral Nelson Pub for dinner. Fabulous for the location (Braunston flight Lock Number 3), the service, top food and they were dog friendly.

The second thing we had do, while moored in Braunston, was de-clutter and re-pack our ‘Life Laundry’ that we had stored in our Caravan located nearby. I’ll briefly impart our caravan history.

We have owned 4 caravans over the last 20 years.
The mighty caravan in Portugal

The first caravan was purchased, 1995, when we lived in Portugal. While not being aesthetically pleasing, it had a couple of attractive qualities, the first being its small gas fridge with an integral smaller than small freezer. The valley we lived in did not get electricity until 1998 and we were not going to spend a load of money on a big gas guzzling fridge / freezer. The fridge was moved into Rose Cottage, our nest. The bonus with the caravan was it became a spare bedroom. The caravan was sold some years later and the fridge, I have no idea what happened to it.

The next two caravans were bought in England. It made economic sense to fill a container with a couple of caravans and ship them to New Zealand. Another story but we did use the larger caravan as a spare room before we sold it and the other!

Number 4 caravan was purchased, last year, solely to store our treasures a.k.a life laundry that would not fit on DB. We have found a place for our ‘laundry’ and as I write this it is being delivered to España por favour, where later in the year the winter sun beckons us.

Number 4 Caravan now has a new owner. The day of the box collection, someone appeared at the caravan and made some comment about its appearance. I retorted with “It’s younger than you!” He laughed and bought the Caravan. All’s well that ends well.

Our caravan daze are over.
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There was one remaining thing on our ‘To Do List’ to be done whilst moored in Braunston. It was to visit friends in London. This happened to be the same weekend as The 2015 Historic Boat Rally was happening on the Grand Union Canal in Braunston. We were on a 14 day mooring on the adjacent Oxford Canal and we had our car so why not drive the distance. It took us 2 hours to drive to London; it would have taken us a good 2 weeks by boat. A no-brainer, although the traffic on the motorway is mind blowing in comparison to boat traffic! We left DB for a couple of days in Braunston, she gets enough positive eye candy feedback, and watchful eyes to keep a watch on her! 

We momentary ‘land lubbers’ had a splendid weekend in London. We were staying within walking distance of the River Thames and Della loves the park walks as do we. Always keen to cast an eye over the mighty Thames, we walked to a bench seat, close to Marble Park, overlooking the bank side where we could check out the mostly motley display of moored ‘Tupperwares’. How can they be fit for prime moorings? I know aesthetics is in the eye of the beholder and it is not my role to judge the non-movers and shakers. Blah blah. 
Drat that rat!

I spotted a water-rat on dry land reaching for the sun so I pointed it out to Della. With no hesitation and in “I’m on to it” style she disappeared chasing the rat down the steps to the River Thames. I heard a splash bigger than any water rat could make. Chris and I walked in the direction of the steps and Della appeared shaking water off her drenched body. We laughed and she was like it was all in a day’s work.

Back to Braunston and in time for one last Historic Boat rally view.

Which is the oldest?

Monday, the next day, a glorious day weather-wise we moved on to the straight and wide Grand Union Canal below the Calcutt Locks.

Water the Allotment

Dog tired.

So quiet, so pretty, so sunny.

Need I say more

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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.