Monday, 28 November 2016


Leaving Newhaven

Day 1...Chris planned a great drive to ‘Home-Base’ Los Montesinos which took 6 days including the Newhaven to Dieppe crossing La Manche on the DFDS ferry. We left Keith, mate, in LA (LittlehAmpton) and drove the congested road in the direction of Brighton. The ‘Keep the Guard on the Train’ Southern Railway strike, that day, meant an increase in car traffic. We arrived with plenty of time to check in for the ferry and we were well placed for a quick exit into France. The crossing took 4 hours and we arrived in the rain.

Chris had booked accommodation for the road journey on and his plan was to avoid pay motorways and motorways, in general, in France. Not an easy drive, as daylight faded, on the country roads and there were bundles of fallen leaves covering the road markings. The road signs were awkward to read as our car head beam of light made the reflective background dazzle. I was happy when we got to our destination, guided by SatNav, in Normandy, a town called Juvigny-sous-Andaine and I had to unlock a bit of my ‘froggy’ lingo stored in the depths of my white matter to get instructions to locate our booked accommodation. I almost got it but not quite and had to return to have the instructions repeated.  “Merci beaucoup.”  The drive took about 3 hours and we decided, next time to book accommodation more accessible to Dieppe and keep the rural driving for daylight!

Day 2 was, at times rural, but we passed through some familiar territory, once upon a time we and 7 friends had bought a ‘doer-upper’ in the region of Maine et Loire. Another story, but as we were driving along I recognised some of the towns and then we were on the outskirts of Segré,
a place I remember visiting EDF (Electricité de France), to make a contract for electricity on one Easter Friday and they gave us little gifts of chocolate and stationary.
Crossing the R. Loire, Segré
 We were told it was not the French-way to be using electricity without a contract as we had been doing for about a year!! Oh the memories!

Our journey, on Day 2, took us to Lieu Dit Bois Bourdet, Souvigné east of Niort and another fab booking. Chris planned for our accommodation in France to be self-catering France tends to shut down early evening and we did not want to be driving out to find somewhere closed for dinner so we prepared simple food. Actually, I made a sizeable Bacon & Egg pie for the trip, it was simple to prepare and lush to eat. I think a healthy handful of bacon, ½ dozen eggs, and Crème Fraiche baked inside a wrapping of flaky pastry did the trick.

Della went off to explore while we talked, outdoors, with the BnB owner, and we were greeted minutes later by 2 chickens running for their lives being chased by Della! She stopped, as soon as Chris gave her strong words that this was not acceptable!

Day 3, and the weather was fine but cold so we got underway, early morning, to head south. We were going to avoid Bordeaux and SatNav took us on to the free N10 motorway and some kilometres later we were back on the little roads passing vineyard after vineyard to get to Saint-Sernin, in the Aquitaine Region, close to Bergerac. Yet another lovely stop with great rural accommodation. If you want details of where we stayed, in France, please message me. Our drive took about 3 hours and I enjoyed viewing the countryside as we drove along.

Day 4, this was the day we go through the 8.6km Tunnel du Somport into Spain. 

When we realised that we were not on the road to the Somport Tunnel!

Well that was the plan but SatNav took us on the ring road around Pau and then we got lost, sort of, and began climbing Les Pyrénees. 

We knew this didn’t feel right but we got so far and thought we’d carry on. I’m pleased the unexpected happened because if it had been suggested to drive over the Pyrenees I would have chosen the Tunnel. The sleety snow began to fall and the mountains, when we saw them, were amazing. This is a sight not to miss and the road was excellent, winding and narrow on the French side and in Spain it was wide in good condition, as Spanish roads are.

That night we were in Huesca and I wouldn’t rate our accommodation.

Day 5 and we were early to get on the road again heading to Cuenca. We could have, easily, got to Los Montesinos but Chris had booked the last night of the journey to be in Cuenca. The Hotel receptionist gave us a map of Cuenca marking a walk around town that she said would take us 25 minutes. I had no idea that Cuenca was a historic walled town founded by Moors! This is what we saw!


Day 6, and our last day of looking ahead seated in the red car. It was a short drive, less than 3 hours, and as we drove along, the grey sky became blue and the outdoor temperature went up about 12 degrees. I was getting excited about getting to our home in Los Montesinos.
Driving on the plain!

We had left our Apartment, in March, all ready for our return. A change from last year when we had had to set up our new home and deal with all that entails! Now it feels like luxury on land for us. No ropes to tie and the neighbours, touch wood, have quietened down.

I liken our Apartment to a wide beam boat as its living space is 12ft (3.7m) wide and not far off 70ft (21m) in length! We fit into it well and we look out towards the Torrevieja Salt Lake (Salinas de Torrevieja).
Home sweet home.

It’s not exotic, but I’m not complaining it is my winter home and it is low maintenance and better than a season of muddy towpaths!

I think I’ll name this season of my Blog, ‘LANDED WIDE BEAM’ (LWB).

The Med.

Friday, 18 November 2016


Let’s face it, we lead the life of Riley. It sounds like paradise and it reads that way as I choose what to write and how to write it. The nature of being human doesn’t always give an easy ride but words are cathartic!?!

The sun shines in Kinver

Kinver was a great place to stop for the end of our cruising year. I cannot fathom why it is signed as 24-hour moorings in October. We overstayed for a week and there were a few but not many boats on the move. Della loved the café that we went to a few times. It was very dog-friendly and she was given her own bowl of dog treats.

Me and Her contemplating the life of a Troglodyte

I thought we should check out the troglodytes in Kinver, cave houses built into the hill. We walked up to the troglodytes, in Kinver, and poked our noses through the door of one. The National Trust is in charge of them and I don’t think anyone lives in them these days. We have driven past troglodytes in Tours, France, and Guadix, Spain, where they are habitable and there is smoke coming out chimneys which are built into the hills.

DB needed to be winded to get ready for her cruise to Ashwood Marina and this meant we could finish doing DB’s exterior decorating. Of course, there is more to be done but that will be next year and we need to put thought into it. I steered DB to the nearest winding hole and Cpt talked me through the task as I winded her. The only time I had winded a boat was at the tiller of Avalon Mist. It had been a slow process of 24+ point turns and I was not keen to repeat it. It was so easy winding DB, I think the bow thruster takes the effort out of it. OK, she is a long boat and it takes more than a couple of minutes to wind her but I did it! Another steering achievement for me.

I'm going a long way for a groom

The week in Kinver passed by quickly and our last journey was to Ashwood Marina, about 3 miles up the Staffs & Worcs Canal. Our car needed to be relocated and it made sense for Cpt and Della to drive it to Ashwood Marina, and to meet DB along the way at the Locks. 
Lock view of Toi Toi or Pamapas Grass?


I knew I could manage the Locks without help but Cpt was keen to be there to make it easy for me. The timing of our meet ups was perfect. I also took DB through a tunnel (short one but it was a tunnel) and over an aqueduct. In the middle of nowhere, a holiday boat appeared heading in my direction and they had no idea what side of the canal they should steer on if boat traffic was coming towards them! I moved to starboard and they moved to their port. I gesticulated meaningfully indicating they move to their starboard. I was beginning to get into the overgrowth and was losing my happy feeling!

Wifey said, “He doesn’t know which side he should be on!”
He said, “It doesn’t matter.”

Near miss avoided

Cpt and Della came aboard DB at the penultimate Lock of the day and I worked the last Lock. That night we stayed on the Cut close to Ashwood Marina feeling excited that DB was going to bed the next day and we would begin the drive to España.

Our final day on DB and we needed to pack up, clean up and get on with our next journey. Ashwood was not ready for us until the afternoon so we took DB up Greenforge Lock where we could tie above and load our ‘red’ car with far too much stuff including my classical guitar and 2 ukes. Once the car was loaded Cpt reversed DB down Greensforge Lock, Quelle manoeuvre, and back to waiting to go into Ashwood Marina.

Later, we got the call that our mooring spot was ready and I helmed DB in while Cpt was doing the final shut down! I was pleased that I negotiated the boats and crane-in-action as we tic’d along, and I concentrated to avoid a ‘Westie’.


All is better than good and DB is safe and sound for the winter.

The drive in the ‘Red’ car to London took 3 hours. We’re on our way.........

 Della is comfotably camouflaged

I have been asked for the dog biscuit recipe

-rolled oats    I use porridge oats (no flour, no salt)
-chicken stock   I ask the butcher for some chicken scraps and make my own stock and include some of the meat off the bones
-tin of sardines

Method..... 2 - 3 cups of oats adding enough stock to mix into a biscuit texture including the sardines.
I put baking paper on the base of the oven dish and use plastic wrap to scoop the biscuit mix into the dish. The plastic wrap also makes it easy to pat the mix flat. Use a knife to mark the small squares so it is easy to break into pieces when baked.
Gas Mark 6 (Moderate oven @ 180C) 45 mins then turn biscuits over to cook another 15mins or until biscuits are firm. I don’t want them to be soft as moisture will cause them to go mouldy! I don’t have space in the freezer on DB to store them. My oven is a normal oven, not a boat oven! (In Spain, I freeze the biscuits.)

Della seems to like these biscuits. She is not fussy about food!

Thursday, 27 October 2016


I’m planning this to be my last cruising blog for 2016. There has to be a time to finish this one, we are off to España in a week’s time driving our red car down to the Costa Blanca for 5 months in the winter sun. If you are interested in an off the wall Blog about how we cope in Spain send me a comment por favor. There are a number of poor canal cruiser-people who leave their boat in the natural fridge of England while they chill out in Spain.

DB was moored for a couple of nights at Gas Street while I took in the city buzz. There are lots of places to visit as well as shopping and we will return to Birmingham, maybe next year. 

Go left

We cruised out of Gas Street and turned to port at the Canal roundabout (?Three-Ways) onto the Lock-free Birmingham Level Mainline. We saw Nb Areandare moored with their NZ flag flying, and we were greeted with waves and a fleeting chat as we passed them. Earlier this year we had met on the Shroppie and the Staffs & Worcs Canal, the world of boating gains familiarity with cruising!
Spot the Kiwi flags
We had @ 6 miles until turning to the Netherton Tunnel Branch Canal. There are heaps of Canals around Birmingham, some of them lead to the Canal Network and some are loops off the main canal. Lots of history involved and we were moving to ‘the Black Country’, where the heart of industrial England lay. 

I’m not a historian more a feeler that life existed before I visited and then the times were changing and still they keep changing, becoming fodder for the media to feed negative vibes to Jo Public.
In a hurry
The Netherton Tunnel (3027 yds) was opened in 1858 to ease the delays in the Dudley Tunnel and has a towpath, either side, running through it. 

Entering the Netherton Tunnel

I agreed that Cpt would helm this one as I thought I could make dinner for later while we were in this black hole. Occasionally I heard water falling; this was when we went under ventilation shafts. As far as tunnels are concerned this is a good one, no traffic coming the other way when we passed through, and no walls close enough to rub along if DB’s steering got confused! The poorly ventilated Dudley Tunnel (3154yds) does not traffic to use engines and passage must be booked to either be towed by an electric tug or if you are really keen you can ‘leg’ it like they did in the ‘old’ days. No the song says ’All I need is the air that I breathe’. Life was a killer in those days.

The light at the end of the Netherton Tunnel was bright and the wooded valley was coloured with trees shedding their autumn leaves. The area is known as Windmill End and Bumblehole. We were on the Dudley No2 Canal and made our mooring for the night close to the Visitors centre. The Dudley No2 Canal terminates at Hawne Basin, Halesowen and we weren’t going to cruise the 2 ½ miles this trip.

A Nb that we had met when we began climbing the Lapworth Locks (Stratford-upon-Avon Canal) moored up near us at Windmill End. It’s a small world. We, on DB, took off early in the morning as we hoped to get to the Staffs & Worcs Canal but we knew it would be a day of heaps of Locks. We did 25 Locks, that day! It is a lot of Locks to work through but we don’t see it as hard work.  One day sitting on your bum with nothing to do will be hard work.  
Dudley Tunnel -that way------

The working of the Locks is now divided between us as we take turns steering DB. The first Lock was at Blowers Green, a deep 12’ Lock.  We are entering the area of former Glass industry. We were chatting with a gongoozler and our Nb friendlies who might have been following us appeared. So we got on with the job of getting down the Lock and moving through Dudley town to Ninelocks as we wanted to keep ahead of them. We were on the move and they were close behind. 

VERY low bridge

Is there any life living on lock algae?

Which lock is this one? They all look the same!

Another stretch to breathe before 16 Locks which seemed to be eating into our day!

The days are definitely shorter and we gave up hope of getting to the Staffs & Worcs Canal that day. I don’t see the joy in cruising in the dark so we cruised along the Stourbridge Canal until we moored at the first mooring site we saw. It felt like it was dusk and then the late afternoon sun came out. 
Think I'll sleep tonight

All was good. I really like the rural moorings but not the muddy towpath when it gets walked into DB. It’s not that bad as the warmth inside the boat from the fire soon dries the shoe and paw prints up.

The last leg of our journey were the final Locks to Kinver and the hope that we would get a decent mooring before we move to Ashwood Marina on the 31st October. So we are at Kinver, have an optimal mooring and the red car is nearby slowly getting packed for España. I drove it to Merry Hill Shopping as I had to get my mobile phone working with me rather than against me. Merry Hill Shopping is huge and no charity shops, probably.
No thanks!

Meanwhile back on DB we have finished decorating the cabin sides, for this year. What a great installation idea, creative Cpt came up with and he stayed focussed on getting it finished. We are getting 100% favourable comments about it and it brings a smile to the faces of people of all generations. No paint was involved!!

Colour your world!

I winded DB at the nearest winding hole, it was the first time I had done this manoeuver 
since I did a 63pt wind on Avalon Mist a few years ago on the Macclesfield Canal. It was easy this time. Cpt gave me verbal instruction and we could head back to Kinver where we'll overstay until Sunday. I'll take DB to Ashwood Marina which is about 3 miles away and Cpt will take the car. He'll meet me at the 4 Locks along the way but if he doesn't make it due to the remoteness of the last 2 Locks, I'll manage.

OK that’s it; Della’s biscuits are baked and time to get strumming on my Uke.

Thanks for reading.

Leading in Kinver

Monday, 24 October 2016



We rested for 3 days in between the upper Lapworth Locks waiting for my mobile phone to be returned to a Carphone Warehouse in Leamington Spa. I wanted my phone back and I was getting annoyed waiting in a black hole for it. Finally, the call came through that it was ready for me to collect. Thank goodness we had our car parked in a handy location so I could put the imaginary Kojak flashing whirly light out to air! My phone was put out to the home for ‘unfixables’, and I was given a replacement which they say is the same type or better. Touch wood that it will give me a reasonable life in my hands! (Update - It turned into bleeding phone nightmare, I ain’t no nerd-geek and I have spent some days trying to work out how to ‘import’ the photos from my SD card. I think it’s sorted now!!! I have no patience none whatsoever anymore!!!! Thx Cpt. Hubby x)

Passing moored boats, tic tic....
It was a long cruise, for us, from our country mooring around the bend down from Lapworth Lock 5. We only had 4 Locks to work. Lapworth Top Lock 2 is the final Lock on the Stratford Canal. Where is Lock 1? I can only assume it must have been a Toll Lock or a flood Lock at King’s Norton Junction. It’s not mentioned in the Nicholson’s Canal Guide. 

Boat traffic appeared close to hibernation with minimal movement on the waters. Of course when it is least expected a Narrowboat appears. We were closing in on Bridge No.8, far enough away that I had time to prepare and grill a croissant toastie, a sort of croque monsieur á la Kiwi, let’s name it ‘Choke Bruce-mate’. With the fridge monitor lurking in the background there comes a time that the ‘Best Buy’ has to be used before I forget to get ‘a round tuit’. You know what I mean don’t you?!! So my ‘Choke Bruce-mate’ is home-made tomato relish, chorizo, small vine tomato, and Vintage cheddar on a croissant. Yum yum.

Autumn falls

Our plan was to tie up at the bridge mooring to gobble our lunch and have a ‘cuppa’ before I use the BW Key to stop traffic and raise the automated bridge. A holiday boat was moored at the bridge mooring, no sign of life so they must have popped into the nearby Pub. We had to do Plan B, and stop the traffic, raise the bridge and moor on the other side. Bridge instructions are clear on the small screen ‘Keep finger on OPEN button to raise bridge’ ‘Keep finger on CLOSE button to lower bridge’. As soon as DB’s stern was clear of the bridge, I pushed the CLOSE button. I didn’t check to see if there were any more boats coming. Finally, the barriers went up and traffic started moving and then I see another boat approaching! Shortly after, there were another 2 boats. That bridge is certainly a traffic stopper.

Eventually, we arrive at King’s Norton Junction where the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal terminates with a T intersection meeting the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. 

Starboard for Birmingham

It was a sharp turn starboard to go straight under the low arched bridge and about 5 miles to get us to Gas Street in central Birmingham. I was at the helm, all the way for this bit of the cruise. Highlights in the dimming daylight were
“Kiaora” said a man on foot.
“All is ka-pai?” I questioned and was greeted with a nod and a smile.
The canal straights were long, and it felt like it was taking forever to get to Gas Street. One bridge we approached I said to Cpt, “Is that a C&RT Boat on the other side of the Bridge or is it Hi-vis walking on water?”
Luckily we weren’t going at speed and I had to get Cpt to give me clearance that there was enough space for DB to get past. “Why was there no sign?” Word has it that signs do not stay in place very long in Birmingham!

We got to Gas Street just before dusk and there was a mooring waiting to be taken. Perfect.

Birmingham is very cool. Friendly helpful people and The Mailbox is a stone’s throw and opens to vibrant downtown Brum.  To me, it feels like a city should feel.

Shhhhhhh .............. It’s a Gas!

Gas Street, Birmingham

Sunday, 16 October 2016


At Lapworth on the GU, we were approximately 14 ½ miles to the end of our trek up the GU Mainline to venture in the spaghetti layout of the Birmingham Canals. The GU Mainline flows on for 3-4 miles to the ‘T’ junction with the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. It is a bit of a pasta dish to digest but apparently Birmingham has more Canals than Venice. Anyway, a bit of pondering over our onward cruise up the GU and comparing it with cruising up the Lapworth Locks on the Stratford-on-Avon Canal to get to Gas Street in Birmingham gave the advantage to the latter canal, fewer Locks and more direct. We need to get to the Netherton Tunnel and beyond to the Staffs & Worcs Canal.
The writing on the train says 'a DB company'
So I’ll stick with the recent past, and the here and now. We moved DB to the mooring at The Navigation Inn in Lapworth and tied up for three nights. I went to London to meet a friend, as you do, who was visiting from ‘downunder’. Wow, it wasn’t even a hard day’s travel by train to Marylebone Station (£5.50p each way from Leamington). It was 1 ½ hrs on the train to London! It took us 14 days on DB to get from Brentford to Leamington Spa!! It made me think about the history of train tracks and canals. I’d be mad not to take the train, so I did, and we met at the small London Train Station for a few hours to walk and chat and have lunch. Our first face to face meeting in 23 years is special and our friendship has not been found in a time warp.
Paddington Basin

The media would like you to believe that London is a hotbed of racism, violence, and ‘EU Remainers’. I saw no signs or felt any hostility. We only walked between Marylebone and Paddington as far as Paddington Basin. I wanted to check out the moorings and there were a few, which is 3, available, 7-day moorings. There was one boat I remembered seeing in Brentford! Anyway, the negative news fed by the newspaper wasn’t in my field of vision. We walked along Edgeware Rd thinking the food smelt good and we checked out the price. The Lebanese cafe we went into had a ‘mezza’ (sharing plate of goodies) for £80! What!!!? I didn’t ask how much a puff on a hookah pipe would be, there were women smoking these outdoors and really I don’t see any appeal. I’m an ex-smoker. I remember seeing the hubbly jubbly pipes in use in Dahab many years ago. The roads were busy with traffic, so many traffic lights, and pedestrians waiting for the ‘Green Man’, I certainly felt that I was in another country. I had to keep asking for directions, it is easy to get disorientated. No-one I asked was unhappy to have been asked but most people were unable to give directions. The population of London is getting close to 9 million people. It’s a huge place and I was a pin prick! The Evening Standard paper and Magazine is a freebie, now, at least it is a crossword for the train and the paper can be used to wrap stuff to take to Spain. Cool to pop in for a visit but I’m thankful to be able to return to my floating home and untie the ropes!

Now I am waiting for the return of my software problem Huawei phone. It is supposed to have been repaired and is being delivered back to Leamington Spa. We want to get moving but realise it is better to wait for the phone before we get into the heart of Birmingham. I want my phone!! It’s mainly for the phone camera; point and shoot are my style.
The Navigator is thinking it's very narrow!

We left The Navigation Pub, the sun was almost shining and Cpt reversed DB back to Kingswood Junction where we could get onto the Stratford-on-Avon Canal and head up the Lapworth Locks. The Locks are easy to operate Narrow Locks and we were given assistance by the C&RT Volunteer. By early afternoon we had moored up leaving 4 Locks and a couple of lift bridges to work before the run into Birmingham.
Peace and quiet near Birmingham. No traffic no trains.

You may notice DB is flying the NZ flag. I think less than a handful of gongoozlers have recognised it is the NZ flag. Most comments are “Australia!”
I say “No, New Zealand.”
I say “You will be!”  

NZ had a referendum in 2015, voter turnout was 67.8%. (In NZ there were 3,158,576 registered voters) 2,135,622 voted in the referendum.
Out of the people who voted 56.6% wanted to retain the current NZ flag (Option B) and 43.2% wanted to change it (to Option A.)

New Zealand retained their flag, now I am destined to repeat “I am Kiwi not Australian”.

NZ flag has 4 RED Stars

Saturday, 15 October 2016


The Lidl mooring between Leamington Spa and Warwick is fab, an ideal location to said store and nearby business park, supermarkets and train station. We thought this is a mooring we would overstay and the day we were marked by the C&RT enforcement inspector gave us a definite legal limit on our mooring. He said 5 days and he would be back in a week’s time. Cool bananas! My opinion is that it may have been 48hr mooring but without signage, it must be 14-day mooring. I think we maxed on 12-day mooring!! Shhhh..... Cpt had to use the wonders of his Bus Pass to collect the ‘Red Car’ to get it serviced and MOT’d. Plus he had to take the train to London for the tooth fairy to give him a new tooth. Car and tooth were successfully done and the green light is shining for the continental run next month. Our car is amazing; it started up the first turn of the key and passed its MOT first check. (Did you know in NZ that a car’s WOF has to be done twice yearly?)
Big Yellow Bus....our first final farewell leaving Europe trip 2004

Pimpmobile- Molesworth NZ

Little car,Van-Rouge and the Pimpmobile  - Tauranga NZ

Over the years we have been owners of vans and cars and they have generally had a name, maybe it is a ‘bogan’ idea but we knew what car we were referring to without writing words on number plates! There was the ‘plucky’ Renault 4, the ‘long’ car (Peugeot GRD 505) Blue and Dolcie each had their own length of passenger seats, the ‘Pimpmobile’, the ‘Van Rouge’ (VW Transporter), and ‘Jap Jag’ (Mitsubishi Diamante) to name a few. Our present car we call the ‘Red Car’ (Vauxhall Astra) and it is clocking up the miles. In NZ cars from Japan are popular and affordable, European cars are pricier and cars generally have high mileage (in kilometres). In the UK cars appear to be late-model and affordable. I do take interest in the age of cars; I can identify that by the number plate! The make is not even close to the tip of my tongue but I do recognise colours!!


Back to DB... staying on the water. We have kept busy with DB’s aesthetic exterior coloured pattern installation and enjoyed the positive comments she receives.
“Never seen anything like that before on a boat. Love it” said a gongoozler.
 “It is ‘Random’ like our life on the water,” I reply.
The day we started to continue our move up the GU Canal Mainline, I did the last minute heavy stuff shop at Lidl thinking that a small Lidl trolley would make an easy transfer of goods onto DB. I was not aware that trolleys now have an anti-vandal lock if they are moved out of their comfort zone! I soon found this out and had to haul the trolley along on one castor to get it to DB!! Had to haul the empty trolley back to Lidl and ask a ‘friendly’ to unlock it so I could get my £1 coin freed from the slot. I told him I was a ‘Trolley Dolly’ and made the appropriate gestures. He laughed, I laughed and I got my £1 back.
Cpt had been to have his spine tweaked and as soon as he was home we untied the ropes and were set free, smiling with being on the move. I insisted on helming, I’ve got the feel of the wheel now and my steering is close to accurate. Cpt reminded me there was a sharp bend after we pass the Tesco mooring so I blast my horn and seconds later the nose of a Nb moves into sight. I move DB to starboard canal-side and no ‘Westie’ occurred. They hadn’t heard my horn and they hadn’t sounded their one. What’s the point?
Cape of Good Hope

We spent the night moored outside the Cape of Good Hope Pub, Kiwi owned and managed. We ate their good food but didn’t stay for the Quiz night. I think with our limited knowledge of sport, current music, movies and tv our chances of even marking the board are restricted and we’d feel dumb and dumber. I did see that movie at least 20 years ago!
Going up the Hatton before the incident.....

Up bright and early in the morning, Cpt side-moved DB to the water point and while filling her almost empty tank the clear sky clouded over to give us a gloomy start to our climb up the 21 Hatton Locks. We’ve done these Locks a few times and this time, we could alternate jobs as Lockie and Helmie every 5 Locks. It all started very well until 4 Locks in, a Lock gate caught the stern rail on the starboard side and DB lurched.
Yikes, I squealed “This is not good. Why is this happening?” The rail had bent but was still intact.
At the next Lock, Cpt had noticed that when the Lock was full the open Lock Gate doesn’t keep flush with the Lock wall and needed to be positioned so it wouldn’t grab the stern rail. The fabrication of the rail by Colecraft is not right; it should have been better positioned to avoid this contact! We used to have looped braided fenders hanging on the hull sides but they were recently removed for repair as they kept getting pulled from their position. We were opening only one gate, that is how we Nb’s do the wide locks.
Moving up Locks we now had a method to avoid damage. We were happy that a Volunteer started to help us and Cpt had instructed him the method we needed to use for leaving the Lock. When I got back on the Helm, I forgot to remind the Volunteer to correct the Gate position and DB got caught again! Steel groans and a lurch as the rail got grabbed and barely stayed intact. The rail was now busted and bent horizontally over the water and I knew I couldn’t get into the next Lock through one gate. I gave a few blasts on the horn to try and get Cpt’s attention and soon I was slowly cruising into the Lock. Too late, the stone wall before the Lock Gate got DB’s damaged stern rail, amputated it and it slid down into the water. Not even a splash!
Oops Yikes Damn Bugger Blast

I was agape, shocked at what had happened and you have to imagine the words that passed my lips! What an event I wish had never happened. Well, it was a clean break and not a happy situation to be in but it had happened. I don’t handle this situation well thankfully my partner does! Mind the gap!! DB is made of steel and a new rail with a bit of surgery from the Welder followed by a lick of paint should return her into aesthetic shape.

We don’t have to stop cruising. No stern canopy to erect for the rest of our voyage. We got to the top of the flight, and after refreshment at the nearby Cafe we moved on to Rowington with me at the Helm. We had to follow a holiday boat that was moving slower than ‘tic’ which does cause difficulty with steering DB. They made no move to let us pass them and I was tempted to irritate them but I held off and they gestured to us on DB to pass them as they left the Shrewley Tunnel. I saw them the next day and they said I should have indicated I wanted to pass them. Here’s a thought, if you are aware you are going slower than slow and a boat is on your tail surely you would just move out of the way to let the boat go past!
Don't cry no tears, rail will be fixed next year!

Finally, we were on the Rowington Ridge. Our favoured mooring spot was taken by 3 boats but there was plenty of room ahead. The water was a bit shallow as I found out the next morning when I was moving DB solo-handed with Della to Lapworth. A push off the bank, with my big foot, and a bit of reverse throttle got me central on the Canal. Cpt had taken the bus to Leamington to get our ‘Red’ car and we had agreed that I would get DB to Lapworth.

For me, that was an achievement to be on my own by myself without fear of failure! I felt I was the bee's knees when I tied up just after Kingswood Junction.

GU Canal -Mainline    Kingswood Junction

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.