Saturday, 30 April 2016



Well the plan is to cruise and more or less we are underway. Although there is no overall destination there are appointments, of health matters, needing the Captn’s attendance. Luckily the Bus Pass is a brilliant tool except for the ‘twirly’ (too early) appts, then the trusty car is needed. One day I expect to be old enough for a Bus Pass. There was a time, I remember, when I couldn’t wait for the day I would be a teenager. “Why?” I ask myself because I remember becoming the normal adolescent- from-hell. “Old people are so out of date and know nothing.” Oh and old people were at least 30 years old. I was the first kid to have life experiences and why should I tell anyone. It was confusing. Now I know different of course or was I off course! Anyway that was then and now I am at the age where I am not old enough for a Bus Pass. “Get over it, how lucky am I?!!!” I am fortunate to get to my age, have excellent health and continuing love from my man. I have reached the age where ‘old’ friends are not making it to old age, a right we always believed we had in the perfect world that does not exist.
Barrow Deep Lock ahead

We are moored near the Barrow Deep Lock at Barrow-on-Soar. As it is called the Barrow Deep Lock there is no surprise in finding out at 9’7” it is not a shallow lock! Della was very excited, yesterday, when we walked to the Lock and found a number of children lying down watching 2 large canoes rising in the Lock. Well they were lying down until she appeared surprised at seeing humans at her level. The Teacher was quick to remind the kids to lie down as a safety precaution at the Lock. I suggested to Della that she lie down but I wasn’t dominant enough for her to obey!

There are more than enough pegs at the Lock mooring and we are tied up, for a few days. The C&RT enforcement Officer will be aware that we are there. There is no signage saying no mooring ever, in fact there is no signage and we are planning to leave on Sunday.
During the meantime we have been busy, no time for snoozing or cruising. There have been a number of ‘finishing-off’ jobs and we have been making a start.....
I’m not a natural born painter-decorator. I have done a lot of house painting interior and exterior jobs, having been married to the unsettled carpenter for close on ¼ century. We have renovated some amazing places but I think I prefer ‘muck’, aka cement render, to wood. I think I’m pedantic at trying to get gunky bits close to perfect and I take it personally if I don’t get it right. So I let the carpenter get involved and get the project moving. Looking good and cosy homely. The ship’s wheel was a breeze for me.
Wheely good

Lastly, finishing with the weather. Close to two seasons in one day all week! And I’m not talking summer or autumn. There is only hope that there may be summer, this year. We have had the odd hint of a sun that could be warm, one day, and it maybe spring then the grey cover spreads bringing hail and snow with rain! I wish whoever is in charge would fix the leak in the sky! I heard the slugs are happy, this year, no winter cold to freeze their slimy bodies. Wait til they visit the lager bath!
Cruise is planned for Sunday whatever the weather.

Saturday, 23 April 2016


Standing upside down....a reflective approach

Here we go, kind of backwards to go forwards. Captain has 2D (Dentist and Dermatologist) appointments, imminent, and this is influencing the direction of our cruising path. Mind you we had 2 directions we could cruise but to go through Leicester and along the River Soar is more direct and a favourite.

We had been waiting at Market Harborough for our intrepid travelling Kiwi friends to arrive and spend a couple of days with us and experience a brush with canal life. We decided to take them up and down the Foxton Flight of staircase locks. Up would have been enough but we have to get down them to get on with our journey.

The Foxton Flight is managed by C&RT Volunteers and is a mixed bag of helpfulness as it is helpful for ‘newbies’ (holiday boat rentals) and for solo boaties but can be bothersome for those that do locks as second nature. The flight is not busy, at this time of the year, and I spoke to a C&RT Volunteer after DB had gone through the swing bridge into the Foxton 'Basin' to see if we could go straight into the bottom lock and up the flight.

"I can do it, I can do it" I said. "Red before white." He left me to get on with the job. A gongoozler helped me close the lock gates, so I suggested they go through the next lock on DB. We are like that...sharing the experience.

DB moved up the locks and sat in the 5th lock waiting for me to open the gate when the water was level with the mini pound. The Volunteer arrives smirking.

"I thought you said you knew how the locks worked. Ha ha you have to open the white paddle at the next Lock."

"I thought you were a Volunteer" I said as I began to walk up there. "Are you going to open that paddle for me please?" He was walking ahead of me.

“It's a fine line between pleasure and pain, you can do it once but don't do it again.” I commented to a fellow boater, from Debdale Wharf, who had stopped to chat. He gave me an understanding look.

All that is needed is a sign saying something like ‘Open the ‘bleeding’ white paddle at the lock above so you can exit this Lock.’ It’s kind of like lock synchronicity....Lock above needs to be empty so gates below can open likewise Lock below needs to be full so gate above can open. People think Lock operation is a piece of cake, or is that just me!

Soon DB was at the top Lock and we took our friends for a wee cruise of a couple of miles to just before Bridge 52 where there was a winding hole. I didn’t read the fine print in my Nicholson’s guide.

Cptn said “Is there any restriction on length for the winding hole?”

“Oops.” I gasped when I glanced at the page in question and saw 65ft max. 

We are 68ft and if we couldn’t turn around then it would have been a nuisance. Still we were going to see if we could turn, the canal level was good and it was to our advantage if we could get back to the Foxton Flight before it closed for the night. I went to the Bow end so I could jump off if a rope was needed to help swing her. A few ‘points’ into her turning and we were clearly going to face in the return direction. “Yay.”
Someone's working

Later and back at the Top Lock of the Foxton Flight, it took a while to locate a C&RT Volunteer. I had a sinus headache that needed attention from my medical stock and I persuaded the reluctant Volunteer to instruct and supervise our friends operating the Locks, to get us down the ‘Flight’ while I could stay calm onboard DB. Halfway down the ‘Flight’ and I was feeling better. I briefly chatted with the Volunteer who was very happy to be chatting with our friends. She told me that they were from NZ and she had just come back from a holiday in Wellington where they are from!!

Before hail

The end of day sunny sky swiftly became hail and snow which was a frozen white welcome in the morning. I didn’t take a photo but I did throw handfuls of snowballs and sheets of ice into the canal after we had said "Laters and Safe travels" to our friends. We stayed put for another night and moving a few metres along the canal, the following day, to wait for Lisa and David on Nb What a Lark (WaL) who would be passing in the opposite direction.

Nb What a Lark

We don’t want to rush but we want to get to Loughborough before May Bank Holiday. The Leicester Grand Union Canal is lovely. Beautiful moorings are everywhere. 

The Locks are hard work getting the paddles moving but I have been out of action for a while! Our first proper Locks and we shared with Nb Knickerbocker Gloria, (Knickerbocker Glory is a layered cream sundae), and its owners described how they share the steering and Lock duties i.e. they take turnabout with the tasks. We think that is a brilliant idea and will endeavour to copy it! In the event of injury / illness it is important I am skilled and competent with steering the boat!! Steering the boat involves concentration but it is not insurmountable. Contact sport it is not!!

Near Saddington Tunnel

No more comments from Joe Gongoozler when I am at the Lock “Why do you always get the hard job?”

near Newton Harcourt

Thursday, 14 April 2016


The Band of Horse Brasses

I finally got ‘a round tuit’ and completed half of a whole task that is one of many long standing finishing DB projects planned for this cruising season. I suppose being, currently, grounded on water is floating our boat and it makes sense not to waste time on twiddling fingers without purpose! Well that is my thoughts.

The project in my hands is ‘tarting up’ the door that is in situ between the living room and bathroom. When we first moved to live on DB in April 2014 we needed to sort out some privacy in the bathroom and we hung a rug over the gap. That is, our beautiful Moroccan rug purchased early this century on a trip to Maroc. You don’t go to that country without buying a rug. It was so lovely, the rug that is, and the experience, mostly. That rug went to Portugal where we used it as a wall hanging and the sun began to fade it, then it went to New Zealand and continued as a wall hanging to fade in the sun. With the move to England we had no plan for its use and it was locked up for a couple of years in the garage we rented for our diminishing stock of Life’s Laundry. I didn’t want to part with it and it was nice to make a functional feature of it on DB. Now the rug is on the floor in Spain!
Rug 'door'

Ikea’s Bargain Basement beckoned, last year, and Captain Carpenter found a couple of wardrobe doors that would suit the purpose of becoming bathroom doors. Like its owners, the doors are not peas in a pod and both need a bit of work to get them in aesthetic ‘door’ condition. I won’t even go into detail about me and Cptn!!
I spent some time, last year, filling and sanding plus undercoating one of the doors and then a couple of days ago I gave it more attention to detail so I could get a finish coat of paint on it.

I knew that once the living room door-side was painted then the 30 Horse Brass collection, from Nb Avalon Mist days, could be taken out from ballast duties and put on show.

Thanks to Cptn for banging them in along with the suggestion of putting the fancy brass bellows in central position. It makes me feel we have our crown jewels on display.

You know it’s all about the Brass...... 

Friday, 8 April 2016


YES we are not on land but tied up and plugged in at Union Wharf, Market Harborough. Does this mean we are grounded on water because we are not moving?  It is a calm place to adjust our pace and mindset to living as water gypsies. It goes without saying but I’ll write it, we do feel at home again on DB and we are excited about cruising. There have been a few appointments for routine body maintenance, nothing to do with DB.

A couple of days ago, being in my Pinocchio frame of mind, I asked Cptn what he was doing on his laptop as he purposefully finger tip tapped the keyboard.
“Thanking.” he answered
“Who are you thanking?” I was puzzled.
“No, Banking.” He replied.
Was he mumbling or is my hearing becoming compromised? Banking, of course, it’s the bugbear.

The Bank, not to be named by me, in receipt of our attention invited a domino effect of events that are comedic material and must be shared. This hit my giggle button. I mean how could they be so inadequate, try as I may to be empathetic it’s just not happening.

It’s about an Internet banking Login failure that would have been dealt with IF the Bank had posted a new Log on PIN to our postal address, as they said they would. It should have been waiting for us, on our return from Spain. It wasn’t. A phone call to #0800 and they agreed to post a new Log on PIN but that is a problem as we are not near our postal address SO could they send it to a local Branch of said Bank near us. SO yes all Cptn has to do is make a request for Log on PIN at local Branch!

Cptn, accompanied by Della-the Navigator, walks to local Branch to make the request as mentioned above.
He is informed by gushing Bank officer “There is a new system in place and all you have to do is Log on to your account and you will be sent new Log on details.”
“Que? Der! How am I going to Log on if I can’t access my account because I need a Log on PIN to do this?”
Bank officer replies “Hmm yes well you’d better phone the 0800#. Use our phone.”
Real time 0800# voice says “Yes we can give you Log on details BUT first you need to sign up for the service WHICH means you have to log on to do this.”
Confused and bemused Captn discusses how can this be resolved and is told by real time 0800# voice “Complaints service.”
Cptn waits, holding the receiver, for more than 10 minutes when real time 0800# voice returns giving the following response “Sorry sir, you are not able to make a complaint because they are still dealing with another complaint you made, some months ago.”

You can be sure Cptn will never be caught in the ‘apathy’ trap.

The sooner we are chugging along on DB the sooner I can put my head in the clouds!

Wednesday, 6 April 2016


On the third morning of our return to DolcieBlue, a new day dawned frosty but sunny. It has to be said there was no sleeping in with a feeling of big action today. It wasn’t moving mountains but it was moving our 4 walls! We heard the engine of the mobile crane resound as it kicked into action from where it is parked 50 metres from us. It was the first time we had seen the crane in action as we had left DB in water when we left her in October ’15.

View of a 'Mini-me DB'

We were told we were #2 in the boat movements today. The first boat for the mobile crane was the new arrival on the back of a truck. My curiosity for information was answered by my sleuthing skills. The truck, Tuckey’s (based in Southam), is the same company that delivered DB to Mercia Marina in July 2013. So that indicated that the boat on its trailer was possibly from Colecraft, the boatbuilders (Long Itchington) that built DB. The new build Narrowboat on the trailer was in the style of DB! Are we becoming common? Hardly!

Rise DB

After a long and patient wait it was our turn and it was an amazing experience. I didn’t have any collywobbles about it. I trusted these guys my yet to be penned parody of the song, ‘About the Bass’.... “It’s all about the boat, about the boat no pressure.”

Bye. (Why is Cptn carrying a ladder?)

Our beautiful @20~metric~tonne DolcieBlue was harnessed and raised off the ground. Sounds like Nb S&M!! 

Rust bum! We'll get this blacked next time.

Awestruck with open mouths at the presence of her steel splendour as she was carried, legless, to a resting place 50 metres from where she lifted and lowered onto a trailer which would attach to a tractor. 

Db's got wheels

Right down the country lane or Left to water?

Trailer skills

DB was towed to the final lift location where she waited 'in limbo' on the trailer parallel to the water’s edge.

Lift me up before you go-go

She was harnessed onto the static hoist, with tender loving care, and her centre of balance was found before she was raised and ‘inched’ (that’s not metric!) over the water and lowered slowly with hands steadying her to guide her into the tight bay. No splashing was involved.

Drop me in the water...a fitting end.

Yay Dolcieblue is back where she belongs, on the water.

Would we do this again?



Monday, 4 April 2016


The Day before

I suppose the heading is not pc (and it’s not techno talk) but DB does not have human rights, she is a steel boat and rust will never sleep. Rust can be kept at bay with attention. At the build of DB she had twin pack epoxy applied to her hull. We understood that this would give her hull protection for 5 years. 2 ½ years later has proven this is not the case and we need to take action before rust stays awake or pitting occurs.... blah blah blah. Her hull needs blacking! It wasn’t so bad but it wasn’t so good and we are proud of our vessel. A slip slap slop of bitumen paint is cheaper than epoxy which is cheaper than long lasting ‘Zinga’ (anti corrosive ‘zinc’ paint).

Now to play favourites with the spring weather fairy wishing we can get two coats on her before she is lifted back on water! No pressure. The weather forecast is mixed. Yes we are back on the wee Island of varied weather where the most we can be guaranteed is that there will be a little bit of whatever is forecast. Eyes down for purposeful action and eyes up to the clouds to recognise rain carriers!!
Chris, on the tools not toys, had the angle grinder with wire brush in use to prep the hull while I made a cup of tea or something. The down-wind was in our favour so I could get the paintbrush swinging without excuses! There was a lot of sq ft or cubic metres to cover. (Q. How long will it be before the EU create a law to end ‘willy nilly’ Imperial measure and use the metric system?  ‘Half’ a metre is OK.)

Well on Day 1 the paint flowed like the traffic in Spain and the hull was transformed. A few raindrops but nothing paint stopping!

We were nearly jumping for joy but we held back until we had done the second coat, the next day. I tell you we grinned from ear to ear after we had got the second coat done. Literally, seconds after we had finished it snowed light snow but it was snow!
The Day after

Happiness is the moment. Tired YES but FIT for age!

Sunday, 3 April 2016


Five months away from life on NB DolcieBlue and we are safely back onboard following our non-winter interlude in Spain on the continent of Europe, I mean EU. I make a pointed reference to Europe as the ‘not as’ mighty United Kingdom is still Great Britain and the country we have returned to is England which is a mix of counties! I ask ‘English’ people here, of a certain age, if they refer to themselves as European. In general with puzzled thought they respond “No”, “I’m English”, “I’m British”, “Yorkshire”. Whatever! It makes me reflect on my feelings of my birth country, New Zealand, where I am recorded as a European New Zealander. Bah baah... I refer to myself as a New Zealander, a Kiwi, and in cultural terms a Pakeha. What a web of p.c. defining words we use now....and I remember ’sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you.’ What happened to the 3 ‘R’s Respect, Responsibility and Rugger? Then there is Risk, Remorse and the list of lost words grows.....
But I digress enough. Word on DB is ‘get over it and move on’......

So I return to the drive of @ 1300 miles aka 2000kms and counting. It was a leisurely drive, as a passenger, and a comfortable 3 days to Dieppe. Thx to Chris planned a dog friendly mix of B&B and self catering accommodation in both Spain and France.

We drove a new route, for us, taking us north of Zaragoza to Huesca, in Spain, to the Pyrenees where we drove the traffic free Tunel de Somport into snow brushed southern France.

The roads in Spain are, in a nutshell, fantastic. The roads in France, apart from the PĂ©age motorways, are not always easy to travel and the Ms Sat Nav needs to be kept in check to avoid the costly motorways. Cities are always traffic busy++ and we need to use 2 pairs of eyes, in our (R)hand drive car, to ‘easily’ negotiate them. We did have a blip with our routing and we had to ‘leg’ it from Bordeaux on the pricey-but-necessary motorway to Poitier (I drove the 130kph limit...yeeha) and then lesser roads to Saumur.
Rive Loire

Our last night in ‘Europe’ was in Dieppe. We did a reccy to the Ferry Port as our sailing was at 630hrs on the morning that summertime started meaning that in real time we would have to awake at 330hrs to get done and dusted and checked in. There was a small encampment of ‘refugees’ (I was told...from Morocco, Albania and Afghanistan) near the ferry terminal, keen to get to England. The terminal perimeter fence was lined with barbed wire and rolls of barbed wire. The French Immigration was thorough in checking us when we went through at 500 hrs.

The Crossing over La Manche aka The Channel (formerly called The English Channel) was rough. The ferry needed to use its stabilisers which effectively worked while I was seated. A walk to the girly room was physically like being a ‘Drunken Sailor’. Della Dog slept the trip in the car. The Purser with the sexy ‘Froggy’ accent assured us that if she had been distressed they would have called us on the P.A system. How easy it would be to humanise how a dog must feel because if I was a dog I would be pissed off with my owners leaving me to weather such torture!!! She looked well rested and no worries.
Border Force 

Back on Blighty and checked by ‘Border Force’, formerly known as Border Control, Immigration, Customs....obviously necessary but, again, it is just name change and new uniforms and badges! Where are the uniforms designed? Who makes the uniforms? I struggle.......Anyway Border Control inform me that if any illegals get caught, they are sent back to France!

Moving on.... Back on land and we drive to Hove to meet ‘our’ Keith from LA (Little Hampton) for breakfast at trusty Wetherspoons. The only available nearby parking was an empty line of parking for Disabled Parking (‘Blue Badge Brigade’)! So to follow the rules we drove round and round until we stumbled upon, I mean we drove into a supermarket Car park. It is Easter Sunday and most likely that parking rules are not being reinforced while chocolate being eaten.

With our bellies fuelled we set off into the traffic in the direction of the M25, and my phone suddenly started getting random message alerts about congestion hotspots we were heading towards. So much traffic, of course meant accidents and breakdowns but were par for the journey around the outskirts of that place of minions, I mean millions what is bleedin’ called LONDON. It took us forever to get to the M25 and to leave it.

“What did you do for Easter?”
“Oh thanks for asking I went for a wee drive around London, it was great. I left on Friday, like everyone else and got back on Monday, like everyone else. Oh to be an individual!!”

Back to earth, we made it to the A40 which upset Ms Sat Nav and all she could bleat out to us was “Turn around”! She didn’t give up until we were on the M40 and allowed her to direct us cross country to the M1 and on to the country roads which took us home to DolcieBlue at Debdale Wharf.

The country lanes were muddy edged but the sight of swelling leaf buds getting ready to burst on the bare trees, the green fields, the new spring lambs and yellow flowers of the daffodils gave a calm ending to a long journey.

Then we saw the majesty of our DolcieBlue.


5 months out of water

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.