Saturday, 29 August 2015


Look out!

Berko we planned as our next stop. We have happy memories of our visit, there, last year and we were looking forward to a couple of days tied up. 

Not a long haul to get there and we were on the move early in the day. Of course the weather forecast was for more than a possibility of rain but its arrival to be around midday. The Canal levels look like they could tolerate a fluid injection. 

Low waters of the Grand Union Canal

We became aware that Berko was looming three Locks before we got close to town. We pulled up at Bushes Lock where I was greeted by a chap downing his 1100 hours can of lager. I assume not his first and definitely not his last. He was friendly but kept his distance while I was setting the Lock for DB to enter.

“Your boat is an old boat.” He declared.

“She’s 2 years old.” I said knowing that I was stepping into the trap.

“No she’s an old boat.” He repeated.

‘What a waste of space’, I thought. He took his can in the direction of Chris and repeated his words to him.

Gas Lock 1 and 2 followed. The top Lock was in our favour, just the gate to open and the next Lock was in view and in the process of a Narrowboat and a plastic boat leaving. It was too far for my voice to carry but I waved my arms and windlass in the hope they would be looking ahead. No chance and I watched the gate being closed. I left Chris in DB in the emptying Lock while I walked the 50 metres to open the gate they had closed. As I walked past them they said their boats were ‘doer uppers’. I said they can be whatever but it would have been thoughtful if they had left the Lock gate open.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.” Said one of them.

I walked on and due to it being a leaky Lock I had to wind up the paddle to get the gate open. I wasn’t going to rush back to let DB out. Canal- life games. I was probably the only player! Chill, Sarah, chillax.

Matey appeared later looking for his windlass. I shrugged my shoulders and carried on with my task.
We moved through Berko as the rain pelted down. Our favoured spot to moor was full with Narrowboats and we were tempted to be thoughtless and squash 68ft into 58ft of space before the next Lock and encroach on one of the bollards that are specifically for boats using the Lock. We half attempted to moor but we listened to the call of responsibility and 2 locks later we were tied onto our mooring pins and thinking that we’d stay there until the morning. The rain was easing when a ‘Kate holiday boat’ forgot that their water skier had fallen in and came past us at speed and ripped out our mooring pegs.

We took it as a message to fire up DB’s engine and head towards Hemel Hampstead and chance getting a mooring with rings opposite the Three Horseshoes Pub in Winkwell.
Three Horseshoes Pub to port

And so we did.


1 comment:

  1. Hi hope you are both keeping well, just a quickie to say we saw your old boat Avalon Mist at Great Haywood today.
    Steven N Denise Essendee


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.