Friday, 9 October 2015


Looking along to our Cropredy Mooring

The predicted ‘Indian Summer’ happened. Beautiful clear sunny skies after a misty daybreak just the ticket to motivate us to move up the Oxford to Cropredy and beyond. The name Cropredy reminds me of a random meeting with a boater, on the outskirts of rural Banbury, in 2011 when we were newbies on Nb Avalon Mist. He was telling me, excitedly, that he was off to Chiropody on Wednesday. I failed to understand his excitement about his feet being a point of conversation to share with a stranger. Poor bloke his feet must be painful, I thought, or he must have Diabetes to be getting someone to carefully cut his toenails. Now I realise that it was his vernacular that had caught me out, just as my Kiwi twang and colloquialisms can bring a chat to a halt or start a ‘Chinese whisper’.
So now it is 2015 and we were on the move to Cropredy. Only a few locks but a steady flow of Canal traffic as the Banbury Canal Festival was imminent. I charge up to the first Lock and, helpfully, start winding a gate paddle for a boat coming down the Lock. Ouch I feel an excruciating white burning pain in my armpit under my Left shoulder. It took my breath away and I tried to self diagnose. Rotator cuff injury came to mind. Is it a torn ligament attached to my Deltoid muscle? All I knew was I was not fit for Lock operation. Shite I had to change places with Chris and now become Skipper of the good ship Lollipop while he got into Lock’n’Lol. Basically the day had finally arrived that I would take charge of DB going into Locks and the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of riding the Lock. ‘Even Cowgirls Get The Blues’! I felt naked, so to speak, without my windlass. More likely I wasn't confident and recently I had taken the wheel when I couldn't raise a lift bridge. On that occasion I managed to change the shape of our chimney cap as it rubbed the low side of the raised bridge.
Now I was under tuition...

He said “Don’t go into the Lock fast......You’re going too fast....You drive a car too fast....SLOW DOWN.” 

That day I had only two locks to negotiate. We struck lucky with getting a 48 hour mooring in town and were just ahead of the game of another boat that was coming down the Town Lock when we moored.

The sun was shining and I got my Ukulele out and had a play. It is therapeutic and fun. Little did I know that Joe Brown lives in Cropredy. ‘I’ll see you in my dreams’. I wish I could have met him! Joe Public was my best bet that day.


The new day dawned, bright and sunny,  and I was at the wheel to take DB to the Lock. We had promised the owner of the boat moored behind us that we would pull his boat into our mooring when we left. We attached a rope to DB and I pulled the ‘tow’ boat along a few yards and Chris retied it. I headed towards the Lock as a boat was exiting it. They left the Lock gates open, thank you, but I had to move out of my direct approach to the Lock to let them past. What looked easy became my nightmare. The prickly bushes beckoned DB and the arched bridge became a threat. I couldn’t work out how to untangle myself from this mess!

Chris yelled helpful instructions to me “Turn the wheel full to the Left, quick full throttle blast, Throttle back, straighten the wheel, Bow thrust Left.”

I was a blithering, jittering idiot stuck in the backend of a boat trying to get out of this quagmire. In hindsight I have taken on board, so to speak, that this action moved the stern to the right and out of the bushes and lined up DB to go under the arch bridge leaving that and DB in tack. Once DB, with Della and me aboard were ensconced in the Lock and Chris shut the gates.

“DON’T PUT THE PADDLES UP TOO FAST” I yelled. Yelling is necessary to be heard and to hear above the noise of the engine. If the water flows into the Lock too quickly the boat goes bump back onto the gates, not a problem, but with the motion it lurches forward and rams the Lock Gate sill, a concrete ledge of varying heights. I need to keep DB’s throttle in reverse to hold her back when we go UP a Lock until the sill is covered with water. One day I will feel skilled but that one day didn’t feel anywhere near now!

The whole day was a learning curve, a massive learning curve. I did it but I wasn’t happy. I missed being on terra firma having random Lock conversations. Oh well I knew I had to get over it. I appreciate that my husband is happy for me to take over duties at the wheel. Some partners are very precious with their steel palaces!

Fenny Compton Tunnel

Fenny Compton was our stop that night. There is a pub, by the canal, that is known for its pies. Did we eat here, last time? I don’t remember but we certainly didn’t this time. Robbie Williams moored behind us. He said his name was Dave but he looked a spitting image of Robbie.

There was no point, in us, staying for more than a night at Fenny. It was time to do the windy winding section of Canal towards the Napton Locks. The wind doth blow and it is no fun cruising a flat bottomed boat in the wind. Better to get to the flight of Locks early the next day before the wind!

Near Priors Hardwick

We found a brilliant rural location with blackberries and sloe berries at our doorstep. A footpath field walk into Priors Hardwick was inviting and a good afternoon walk.

Begonia display

The icing on the cake was a help yourself bowl of Bramley Apples. I didn’t take them all but sufficient to stew up to eat for a series of breakfasts with the blackberry compote. Yum.

An infield mooring?

Now it was time for the Napton Flight of 9 locks to Napton, or should it be Nappers like we likened Slapton to rename it Slapper!

Just a thought. Me, I was in my new position as Skipper to undertake DB going DOWN the Locks. While I was waiting for the top Lock to be set for my entry I was talking to a couple of people in their back garden by the Canal. They were gushing over seeing Della, in her Navigator position, as they had two Mini Schnauzers who had mated and now had a litter of 8 puppies. The woman owner was from NZ. I could have chatted more but the Lock was waiting for me and I needed to accomplish a tricky turn into the Lock without scraping DB's sides more than I could help.

Going DOWN

This was my first time taking DB down a Lock. The Lock gate sill is at the stern end and I am concerned that if I move too far forward the Bow ‘Button’ fender will get caught on the front gates. The Lock is emptying and I leave my throttle forward too late and DB is tipping forward and I can’t move DB off the Lock sill.

“PADDLES DOWN” I yell to Chris, “HURRY UP!”

Chris responded immediately and with the front gate paddles down he went to the back gate and raised a paddle to refill the Lock. What a feeling to be floating level again. Right let me try this again. Rudder does not appear to be damaged. Keep DB forward and don’t worry about the Bow Button. Right computed!
Opening the gates

9 Locks later we are at Napton. Result is I feel confident with taking DB down the Locks. I don’t really enjoy the isolated feeling of being in a Lock but if I have to do it I will.

Buffaloes at eye level

Napton was lacking in a reliable signal for the Internet and the sun was beckoning us on. We had to take cover when a wide beam boat was reported to be heading in our direction. It is not usual for a wide beam boat, probably 11-12ft wide to be on this part of the canal. “It’s only my 3rd day on this boat.” said its Captain. I was not impressed, your boat is on the wrong Canal. He should be heading the other way to Braunston.

Although Braunston was our next destination we pulled DB over for to moor near Wigram Turns. 

Braunston was left for the next day. 

Is that how you airbrush a photo?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sarah and Chris! We met very, very briefly earlier this year in Market Harborough, where you kindly gave us a guided tour of your composting toilet, after the marina in the basin there wouldn't let us have a pump out. We are still pumping out, somewhere on the outskirts of Manchester this evening. I had a good laugh reading your blog - very entertaining :) Hope your shoulder is okay Sarah, hang in with the driving!! Aileen NB Quaintrelle


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.