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 Péage 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

1 comment:

  1. She sure looks great, good home coming too with that blue sky behind her. Enjoying your tales of the cut. Might spot you in Branson sometime, back in England in May for me. Happy cruising Sarah !


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.