Thursday, 3 September 2015


Heron art

The moorings, across the canal and opposite The Three Horseshoes Pub, Winkworth near Hemel Hempstead, are a great place to stop and tie Db onto fixed mooring rings. We chose not to visit the Pub although the possibility was loosely discussed. We were, both, a bit tired after the unplanned journey and Locks after Berkhamstead. Still we thought we might stay there a couple of nights, as rain was forecast and we were inclined to be fair weather boaters.

Swing Bridge ahead

The nice evening sunset was forgotten in the morning as rain was in the air. Nb Gui Lei, the boat moored in front of us, showed signs of preparation for movement with the tiller handle extension pinned into position and engine running.  Chris had a quick word with the occupants when he walked past on his Della constitutional morning walk.

“You moving on?” he asked them.

Given a positive response we had no hesitation in pairing with them to share the 18 locks that were scattered en route to Cassiobury Park.  I paced off prepared with my ‘BW’ key to slot into the automated operation box for the swing bridge. It was before 0800hrs and a few road vehicles appeared just as I had my finger pushing the OPEN button. Oh the acoustic warning jangle alerting all and sundry that the barriers were imminently dropping. Nothing the landlubbers could do but wait as there was no going back from my task at hand. DB chugged out from her mooring but Nb  Gui Lei hadn’t quite got her act together and was slow in gaining momentum. I was indicating encouraging ‘get moving you slow boat’ signals as well as avoiding eye contact with the wannabe roadsters. Eventually both boats passed by and I pressed the CLOSE button only removing my finger when the barriers returned to their resting position. Oh the responsibility and control I briefly held at my finger tip!  I know I make a meal out of this operation but it is fun.

Job done and now on to Lock-n- Lol with Merv, the sole crew from Nb Gui Lei, while the Captains’, Chris and Phil took our respective boats to the first Lock of the day. Rain drops began to fall and my waterproof jacket was put to the test. It was not 100% but it was a better find than other jackets I’ve found! I teamed it with my waterproof trousers which were the business!

Della insisted on sitting outdoors in her navigator’s position on Db. A combination of our not so waterproof extras did combine to give a modicum of protection over her in her box. Her face peeked out at us and she weathered the storm without giving any emotion away!

We met the Waterways Chaplains assisting at one of the locks in Hemel Hempstead. They reported they visit people, on boats, in need of benefit advice and making sure their basic needs, like food and water, were being met. It was kind of them to assist us through the Lock given the grotty weather conditions. They radiated warmth and goodwill.

Nb Gui Lei Captain Phil at the helm

I knew the next Lock was more than a hop skip and jump away so I stepped aboard Db. Merv, on the other hand, was told that the Lock was nearby so he walked the few yards and the rest, which was closer to ¾ mile!! I think he must have taken over the tiller command, soon after this.

When we reached the M25 Bridge we knew, for us, that we were close to finishing for the day. A few more Locks and then we could tie up. Always an unknown as to what available mooring space would be available. The low level of the canal turned out to be the problem when we got to Cassiobury Park as we ran aground leaving a water gap to step over to the Towpath. Finally we got in but we were on an annoying lean and loosening the mooring ropes didn’t float us level. Easy decision to move, early next day, and we headed through Rickmansworth tying up at the Tesco moorings for a quick shop and followed by breakfast, on board.
August 2015 Rickmansworth
July 2014 Paddy's Basin

I recognised a huge Dutch Barge that we had seen moored at Paddington Basin last year. Not a vessel I would choose to continuously cruise but each to their own....
VW cruise away

We continued past the line-up of continuous cruising boats and at the end of the line we moored up before the rain poured down! There was a hint of effluent smell, outdoors, and a glance in the trusty Nicholson’s Waterways guide identified our position close to the Sewage ponds. The smell was inoffensive as the wind and weather was not ramping up the odour. More importantly the rain was not going to hold back and we managed to get the wheel house cover up before the raindrops began to fall. 
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We stayed moored for 48 hours and moved on when we could see more than a patch of blue sky two days later.

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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.