Thursday, 8 October 2015


Good Moo-ning

The Lift Bridges and Lock obstruction meant we didn’t get to Aynho as we had loosely planned. But a field mooring where cows were our liberated neighbours was something different.
NB Smine we knew from Mercia Marina

It was a new experience waking up to a cow calling to a bull in the field on the other side of the Canal. We thought an early move to Aynho would be more comfortable for us and we cruised into our hoped for 48hr mooring there. This was our chance to catch up, briefly, with our friends who host our land based mail. They visited bringing not only our mail but windfall Bramley apples, yum. I gave them my small offering of handpicked Sloe berries, the fruit of the Blackthorn Tree that I had seen growing in the hedgerow near DB.

Canal levels were higher than we had anticipated which meant we needed to keep DB’s Bow low in the water. Topping up the water tank capacity of 1250 litres equates to 1250 kgs weight in the Bow plus adding 5 x 25kg bags of coal on the Bow deck is another 125kgs. And in the Stern, the diesel was filled up to hold 512 litres (512 kgs). There you go! Chug chug we were sweet and off to Banbury.

‘Cruise Dolcie Blue to Banbury Cross
 Mooring rings on chains
 And Bell on the door.....'

I felt a little twinge in my lower Right shoulder when I wound the gate paddle at the first Lock. I ignored it and carried on. Banbury wasn’t far away and we got a mooring within easy walking distance of Morrisons Supermarket. The sun was slow in rising, the next morning, so we moved along the canal into town central. Only one Lock and a windlass operated Lift Bridge to operate. A youngster in a buggy clapped with his hands and beamed with joy as I wound the bridge back down. 

In our past visits, here, it has been near to impossible to get moorings but no problem this time and we stayed the full 48 hours.

To top this we had the light of the blood moon.

Which light is the real moon?

Banbury has a pretty town centre, lots of charity shops and is pedestrian friendly. There is a shopping centre close to our mooring and it was fun to do some window shopping for a change. 

We popped into a Pub called The Reine Deer which had been recommended as a proper pub by some local Banburians. It was worth visiting and Della always gets comments.

“Oh she looks just like my brother’s dog, Buster!” said a woman seated, at a table, with her family.

The name Buster and miniature Schnauzer got me asking. “Does Buster live in Oxford?”

“Yes” she answered.

“Does your brother walk Buster along the towpath near Aristotle Bridge?”

“Yes.” She affirmed.

“We know Buster. We met him and your brother, the other day in Oxford by the Canal!” I squealed.

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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.