Wednesday, 26 August 2015


Opposite Whilton Marina

Focusing on a London visit, we have been moving in 10 mile bursts, probably, most days. I read about the boat that made it from Birmingham to London in 69 hours. Not us no rush. There really is not much in the way of traffic on this Canal.  
Inside the Blisworth Tunnel

And moorings, touch wood, have been available.
Sky colour has changed from grey to blue and back to grey again. Not much wet stuff dropping, only the Canal levels. 
Blackberry compote

Nature’s harvest is ripening for the picking and the blackberries are swelling by the day and make a yummy compĂ´te to cover the morning serve of greek yoghurt, fresh fruit and muesli. Of course the best berries are on the opposite side of the towpath. Passersby are concerned the towpath side berries, low to the ground, will have been peed on by dogs. Yeah right dogs make a bee line to pee on the prickly berry bushes. I see it all the time, not!
Bitch wanted to meet Della

So the low Canal level restricts us from moving DB over to the berries, on the other side. It is best we keep to the centre as we cruise and only move starboard direction when oncoming traffic approaches or we let a faster moving craft overtake us. The latter happened, the other day. I became aware that an ‘eyebrow’ fender on the bow was loose and half was dragging along the water, at risk of getting close to the starboard Bow Thrusters hole which needs to be kept clear at all times to avoid any problems when the Bow thrusters propeller is in action. The thought of an eyebrow fender being sucked in and spat out is unthinkable. Gives a whole new meaning to eyebrow plucking! I walked the gunwhale to pull out the floating fender and lift it to safety on the roof. At the same time DB grounded and I felt like I was higher and drier on a lean to port. I mouthed a few un-write-ables, breathed and walked the gunwhale back to stern base.
Grounded and forgotten.

I do not like it when we scrape rock bottom or slide at an angle along slush bottom. DB, 68ft of her, either sounds off metallic ‘GROINCH’ or gravelly ‘SCHLURUP’ and we lean either to port or starboard and loose stuff on the kitchen bench has been known to take it out on the floor, the soft close cupboards open menacingly and the daybed drawers reveal their hidden mess. Get the picture!
Meanwhile back on deck tenacious Chris gradually levers DB, using a boat pole from a pole stash in easy reach, back into free float position. I am more than tempted to be helpful but I keep my lips zipped about using the very long and flexible teak boat pole that is safely padlocked out of reach and temptations way. Now I can write about it, living the dream and all that.
Moored opposite between Milton Keynes and Leighton Buzzard

Not long after this incident and up and out of the next lock we took refuge, briefly, at a nearby water point while we explored mooring potential on the other side of the bridge. The gap between two moored boats looked promising and Della and I waited, on guard duty, while Chris fetched DB. All good and we were soon in moored position tied onto our mooring rings and floating level. We were keen enough to walk to the pub that was more than a hop skip and jump away. Country roads, OK if you are behind a steering wheel but a little scary to walk when there is no path for most of the way. Della doesn’t like these walks as the sound of vehicles, she can hear but not see, freaks her. So she takes up a comfortable position in my arms and does not squirm or fret to be released! Same for the return to the Canal, shortly after a white wine spritzer for me and a pint of ale for he.

Next day the Blackthorn bush (Sloe Berries) in the hedgerow turned out to be a Damson Plum Tree with a bumper crop of damsons. A search with Google verified they were Damsons and within 2 minutes I had picked a guesstimate of 500gms to turn them from a tart tasting inedible plum into a jar of sweet sour jam. My recipe instruction warned me to avoid burning my finger tips as I removed the plum seeds from the now hot and simmering plums, by using a slotted spoon in one hand and a fork in the other. Perfect. A further 5 minute collection of damsons was gathered for a friend who will make Damson gin.
Ice cream 'shack' yum yum

We moved from Slapton to meet mates who came up from London for a day cruise on what must have been the second hottest (30C) day this summer 2015. It was a beautiful day and lots of laughs were had.  And we several locks were achieved with us finishing a bridge on from the Wendover Arm in the direction of Berko.
Hot summer day in Marsworth

1 comment:

  1. Dog wee on blackberries gives them an additional tangy flavour!


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.