Tuesday, 8 September 2015


The cruise from our mooring near the Maple Cross sewage works to the bottom of the Hanwell locks near Brentford is worth comment.

Our day began under sunshine and clouds with a chance of rain. The first Lock of the day had two boats, a 40 ft Narrowboat and a 24 ft Tupperware boat at the ready to enter. I’m guessing their length but suffice to say we could have all shared the Lock. She, who owned the ‘tupperware’ was not agreeable to sharing the Lock with us and brought damage control into the equation when the maths clearly added up that there would be room for all three boats.

“I’m really sorry” she said “I’ve only owned my boat for 2 months and I’m worried your boat will squash it.”

“Okay, it’s your call. We wouldn’t touch let alone squash your boat. Sharing locks is necessary to conserve water but it is not the end of the world” I said.  ‘Precious moo.’ I thought.

I worked the Lock for them and refilled the Lock for DB. Eventually we were underway and at the next Lock we met up with Shirley and John on was it Nb Prospero? I remember the people names! I had met them the day before when I was walking Della and I had hoped we would be able meet up with them.  We shared a number of similarities with our lifestyle adventures. It was a good pairing and we hope we’ll meet up again.

We parted company at Bull’s Bridge where they turned onto the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal and we continued on towards Brentford. There were 10 more Locks to go through before we would get to Brent Lock. We were on new turf. I was surprised that there were C&RT volunteers at the Norwood Top Lock and I was happy. I left them to work the Lock for DB and I took off, on foot, to get the next Lock set. I saw a volunteer speed past on his bike. I didn’t see him again. Must have been his 1600hr curfew.

About two hours later we were in the penultimate lock of the Hanwell Flight and a Narrowboat was in the Lock below on its way up the flight. 

The person who was waiting to work the lock had little to say apart from telling me that we needed to keep to the right when we left the bottom lock as we may get 'grounded'. The same warning was given to me from the skipper of the waiting boat. I passed the message to Chris. We, both, couldn’t understand why boats were moored on the towpath side, the side we had been warned to avoid.

Little did we know that the River Brent had flooded 24 hours before and a sandbank was, now, hidden under water. Long story gets longer. We ran aground. We couldn’t move backwards or forwards or sideways. We were stuck. Chris carried the long pole to the Bow and attempted to push us back with me giving the throttle a burst in reverse. No go. I walked the gunwhale to the Bow and had a poke with the pole. Deep slush with nothing solid to poke into. 

We were fortunate that friendly gongoozlers were keen to assist with refloating us. The only way we could get moving was to throw a rope from the stern. This meant the gongoozlers had to rip their way through a field of overgrown weed and pull the long rope we threw to them.

Phew we were freed.


No comments:

Post a Comment

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.