Friday, 11 September 2015


We were keen to get moving on from our night’s mooring near ‘grounded-zero’. I walked back to the site of our mishap and saw C&RT works vessel moving through the bottom lock of the Hanwell Flight. I decided to inform them face to face about our murky muddy mishap.

“Yes we know about it. Heavy rain flooded the Brent River and swept the sandbank out. A dredger will deal with it in a couple of days.” He said. “We are going to clear the debris at the weir.”

“Good” I said “but a sign is needed to inform boats leaving the Lock to keep to the Right due to risk of grounding.”

“A dredger will deal with it in a couple of days.” He said.

Broken record kicked into play with me too. “A sign indicating a high risk of grounding, now, would be helpful, please.” I said.

“I’ll tell someone.” He said.

‘Yeah right sometime never.’  I thought.
Loch Ness Monster?

We moved on down through the last two Locks into the basin at Brentford. I could feel that the metal gates on the Grand Union Locks had tenderised my tail bone and I came to the realisation that a large bubble bum, like Kim Kardashian’s, would be ideal in pushing the gates.  On second thoughts I could design a hi-vis quality fashion bum belt with encased ‘gellies’ that may as well incorporate a windlass holder as well and to seal the package could be sold with a Drone that could be used to  check out boat movement near Locks with a view towards water conservation.  Just need to find an Engineer to put together a prototype. #I’M ON TO IT

We chose to moor up before the A4 bridge opposite the GlaxoSmithKline building. The road noise was constant with heavy traffic but it was all right until we had put our ‘intel’ into the area. Passing gongoozlers went by and a small child peered in our window with the hanging Elvis. She looked troubled when she saw my face behind the little Elvis. I don’t think Elvis looked scary but it could have been my giant face!  

I stepped outdoors to say “Hello” and let her mother know that I was not an alien. Kiwi accents prevail and the long and short of it is we had both lived in the Bay of Plenty NZ. Chris used to write, sporadically, in his own inimitable style to her parent’s weekly newspaper. Her Uncle is a close friend of mine and I probably knew him before she was born. It’s a small world.

Next morning on the Della walk, Chris said he had met Mr Wellington. That meant he had met someone from NZ, on a Narrowboat, who comes from Wellington. The side hatch, on their boat, was open as we walked past so I called out and we had a conversation with him and his wife. 

They live in the same street as one of our nieces and she had told them that we were on a Narrowboat in England. Of all the canals and Narrowboats in England..... They also know another of our nieces in Christchurch and are related to her husband. It was a squeal moment again and I was full of amazement with the connections we had experienced in 24 hours.
Look beyond the close up!

We decided to move to the 14 day visitor moorings at Brentford Basin and I must say we got the prime mooring close to the facilities block with free hot water showers. 
We got it!

A  Widebeam boat informed me they were leaving at 1300hrs so we made sure to be hot on their tail to take the vacated mooring. 

We planned to stay a couple of days and then cruise the tidal Thames, downstream, to Limehouse. The weather forecast was suspect with a 43% chance of rain. The Lock Keeper, at Thames Lock Limehouse did not give us confidence over the telephone.

“The deadline to be at Limehouse Thames Lock is 1730hrs on Sunday and if you arrive later than that you will not be let into the Lock until morning high tide. When you get on to the Thames at Brentford, at 1445 you will be punching the tide for an hour and then you will be moving with the tide.”

Yikes.  We were aware that there were three elements in the equation, the weather, punching the tide would slow us down and the surly sounding Lock Keeper.  Over the past week we had become aware of the effect of the‘super moon’ and  ‘super high tide’ and we wanted our ‘super life’ to remain without risk.

A new plan took shape. I cancelled our booking at Rembrandt Gardens, in Paddington, and we decided we’ll go up the Thames to Lechlade and then head back down river and get on the Oxford Canal.

A day before we left on this new mission we decided to explore the River Wey. We could get a 24 hour license for the River Thames and then chug up the River Wey.

We booked the Thames Lock Brentford to open their gates for us at 0745, as the tide was still rising, on a day that promised warmth and sunny blue skies.
Early morning on the River Thames

"I'm up for it!"

Brentford to Teddington Lock took 1 ½ hours where we purchased the £10, 24 hour river license and cruised on to 24 hour moorings below Shepperton Lock where the Dunkirk boats were temporarily moored on the Dunkirk Veterans cruise.

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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.