Friday, 23 October 2015


Obstruction below

The final Locks of the season, for DB, is the Foxton flight of 2 Staircases consisting of 5 Locks per staircase, 75’ total fall (rise if you are going up!). This is a popular Gongoozler’s hangout.  The morning of our ‘flight’, movement was suspended due to an obstruction in one of the lower locks and it was likely it would be late afternoon before we would be on the move. The worst case scenario was we may have to wait until the following day for the all clear. A big thankyou to the Foxton C&RT Volunteers, they kept us well informed.

Following the incident in August 2015, Concrete slabs had been used to decrease the size of the hole from the pound into the Lock to prevent people who fall into the pound being sucked into the Lock. So the obstruction, on our day, was the slabs of concrete had got washed into the Lock. Naughty concrete, a Slab-ology engineer is needed!


We had planned to treat ourselves to breakfast at the Top Lock Cafe. I need to eat my words in thinking this would be a treat.

The photos tell the story. A beautiful setting that is spoiled by a rubbery overpriced breakfast. 

This is how a Gongoozler becomes bamboozled. I won’t go on about it but you won’t see me eating there again.

Back at DB, chatty gongoozlers stopped to pay us compliments in favour of DB. In between sharing our lifestyle who should walk by, The W-a-Ls. 

The WaL's

They were well back in the queue of boats but once they escaped our clutches they went off, on foot, to suss out the obstruction and head landward to Market Harborough.

Within an hour of them leaving, there was volunteer action and we were told we could move into the Lock!

“What about the boat in front?” I asked.

“There is no one on board” he said “They are crewless.”

I wo-manned the helm and let Chris do the paddle and gate action with a little help from the sprinkle of gongoozlers.

Once you are ensconced in the system there is no way out. In our case we are going down the flight. There is no possibility to turn around until we are out of the bottom lock. 
7 ft below

Looking up of course!

There is a feeling of abandonment as you drop 7ft to lock bottom but as soon as the front gates are open you are suddenly on the level ready to drop 7ft again! A life experience of being 6’ under! This is sounding theatrical. In Lock descent there is no chat apart from a bit of one way conversation with the trusty navigator, Della. 

On the ground the action is at Bow end. A thumbs up signal is the barest sign of communication between Chris and me and is important for the all clear for DB to go down.

Moving down the staircase is easy. DB is trapped for 5 locks, just a case of passing through the open gates between the locks. 

Speed is not a consideration just a gentle throttle to move her forward. Between the two staircases is a small pound which at a guess-timate it is 74ft long. The Locks are not flush in line, they are off centre. Why is that? I couldn’t get a visual overview of what needed to happen and my ‘sights’ showed that I was heading for a speedless slam into the lock entrance. Still it did cause me to lose my footstool footing and plonk on the floor. I dealt with it and down and onwards we went. I was told later that everyone hits that Lock.
Last Lock done and dusted

I was elated to leave the last Lock. Soon we’d be underway to Market Harborough, a place we enjoy spending a few days. Once I was fully out of the Lock, my last challenge was the sharp turn onto the Market Harborough Arm. Sometimes DB feels really long and she will only just fit the turn. I had to bow thrust her to move her Bow off the far towpath. Her stern was touching the near towpath out of the Lock. Have you gone to sleep yet? I got her moving and straightened up to move past the open swing bridge. Chris got back on board after swinging the bridge back into position and took charge of the wheel.
Last swing bridge ahead

One more swing bridge to go and Market Harborough was a few miles away. We moored up near the ‘gates’ to Union Wharf and within a couple of days we were plugged in at the wharf. £10 per day. 

Line up at Union Wharf

The last time DB was on mains electricity was 18 months ago! It is a real treat to have unlimited power. We can turn all the lights on! I can do the washing without running the engine. 

We can have a Wetherspoons breakfast that is good value and tastes great. 

The boat community is friendly as are the passing gongoozlers of Market Harborough.

I can watch the AB’s play the World Cup semi-final on tv.
Leaf seasonal soup.

I am naming Autumn on the Cut as Live Monet. It is a beautiful season.

Live Monet

We have been at ‘Arborough for  about 10 days and in less than 10 days we will be at our destination for DB, this year, Debdale Wharf. 

Debdale Wharf  Crane awaits

DB will be craned out of the Canal and placed on hard standing and we drive off to Spain for a few months under the winter sun.

The question is will I blog as a Lady Landlubber?
                  Ella marinera de agua dolce..........................

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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.