Sunday, 29 May 2016


Leaving Handsacre

Yesterday’s cruise from our overnight mooring in Handsacre was beauty to behold. The sun burned through the morning haze just as we got moving. I think the Boater wearing a sleeveless Tshirt gave out a sign of encouragement. He certainly was full of positivity when I called out to him “Do you know something I haven’t heard about?”

Armitage Tunnel

We were on the outskirts of Rugeley, in no time at all. The Armitage ‘Tunnel’ may be a misnomer now but it is still narrow and one way traffic only.
“There is one boat heading, this way.” said Mrs Lady. “Actually there is my boat and another boat. Oh and there is one after that.”
“So there are 3 boats then.” I tallied it up. Three fingers! Simple arithmetic is ok for me. “I’d better walk to the other side and stop the boat traffic should any appear! Bye.”
All clear and I asked the last Boat to confirm with DB that the coast was clear.

Back on board and we cruised along to the water point. Topped up with water we pulled out towards the blind-sharp bend that included Bridge 62. Cptn blasted our loud horn and no responding signal was heard. On we moved. Of course, there was a boat coming, merrily, towards us. DB was put into reverse thrust immediately and a catastrophe was avoided. Eventually matey moves past us.
“Did you hear our horn?” I enquired.
“Awww, no.”
Further questioning from me “Did you use your horn?”
“Awww, no.”
‘Plonker’ I thought.

Weed hatch bonanza

That was when DB decided to put out sounds that something was caught in the weed hatch. No hidden treasure was found. What you don’t see under water level.

Ambling along the Canal on the outskirts of Rugeley town, I played my Ukulele with engine accompaniment. We passed by a lot of houses with creative and looked after canal side gardens. 

We did see one ‘doer-upper’, more than likely, a ‘puller-downer’ for sale. For us the memory of a former lifestyle, the attraction is inviting but our impulsive and hands-on drive has passed its ‘best by’ date.

Aquaduct over River Trent

Thought turned to mooring for the night after Rugeley. The countryside was dense with Spring colour and blossoms. 

There were pockets of boats moored up and we knew the railway line was nearby. We ended up moored at Great Haywood. Remembered by me for the time I fell into the Great Hayward Marina when I had no footing stepping off Nb AvalonMist onto a (Canada Geese to blame)pooh-covered boardwalk. So until now, Great Hayward was not on our list for stopping.

In hindsight, I was wrong. The countryside is outstanding. The Earl of Lichfield’s mansion lured us from the Canal but the internet signal was not strong enough so we moved up the Lock and moored near the Village of Great Hayward. It is welcoming and hope that our first meeting with a random local, by the name of Pete, is not our last.
Shugborough Hall
One fine spring day in Great Haywood is more than an act of luck. I remember Patrick Lichfield, the photographer in the days of Princess Margaret and I read that he became a pioneer in digital photography in the late 1990’s. He was the 5th Earl of Lichfield and his upmarket country residence, Shugborough, graces the River Trent and can be seen from the Trent & Mersey Canal. Before he died in 2005 he is remembered, locally, as a friendly person who talked with Jo Public walking Shugborough gardens. He gave the Shugborough Estate to the National Trust in 1960 in lieu of death duties.

JRR Tolkien also spent leave from WW1 in Great Haywood in January and February 1917 where he started to write ‘The Book of Lost Tales’. Did he find Middle-Earth here?

Well we may find out if we keep up with talking to gongoozlers.

Friday, 27 May 2016

BREAKING NEWS ...... LOCK GRAB – Hitch with a side hatch

We left Alrewas, early this morning. There was a trickle of boat traffic in front of us and the chap in the boat, in front, was a sad person who was wearing a troubled life on his shoulders. My instinct is to be helpful but I am wary of certain people. I was on the Lock role, at the first 2 Locks. Chappy, in front was solo and I did help him, a little, at the Lock. The next Lock, he departed leaving his emotional baggage and I got the Lock emptied and gates open for Captn to bring DB into. You know I was paying little attention, well no attention to DB slowly entering the Lock. I’m best informed to moderate my helpful nature and button my control of most situations!

I heard an agonising ‘grunch’ (onomatopoeia for combined groan and crunch) as half of the bedroom side-hatch was amputated from DB by the Lock Gate. It sounded as awful as the damage looked. I was alerted, by the noise, that something damaging had happened. I heard a plop and automatically gestured to Cptn to stop. That was unnecessary as DB was moving into stop mode anyway as she was almost fully in the Lock by this time.

In the candy floss that used to be my brain, I was looking for a piece of wood surfacing in the Lock. Thinking back there was the wooden lining on the side hatch that I had painted. Looking down over DB I saw Cptn appear on the stern with the heavy duty BIG magnet on a long piece of narrow rope. He dropped the magnet into the water and started fishing around on the Lock bottom in search of connection with the Side Hatch. Patience is a virtue and Cptn patiently fished around until he spoke these words. “I’ve found it.” He pulled it up to the surface and it was just out of reach so he watched as it slipped off the magnet and back into the water! “Get the Boat Pole.” I was instructed, as he fished around with the magnet. Soon the Side Hatch was on the magnet and as it was pulled to the surface the heavy duty plastic hook of the boat pole was put in position. The Side Hatch was lifted aboard....tut tut.
Hmm and we thought an amputated side hatch was a problem!

We have moored up, for the night in Handsacre, Staffs. Cptn has become Carpenter and done a temporary repair on the gap left by the Side Hatch. Security and weather protection are sorted temporarily.

How lucky that Chris is multi-skilled. No sleep to be lost.

Thursday, 26 May 2016


Alrewas and we have potentially 14 day mooring to hang out on here. Not sure if we’ll stay that long but it is a peaceful and friendly spot to stay with lots of walking available, chatty villagers, gongoozlers and boaties. We have had three days of sunshine, enough for me to forecast the beginning of the long hot summer ahead! Well I may as well spread the news for free, there are people who get paid and trusted for talking codswallop!
Della keeping her Team together

Every day the engine needs to be running, if we are not on the cruise move, for 2 – 3 hours to charge the batteries and generate hot water into the Calorifier for the shower and dishes. When, on a rare occasion, we are plugged into electricity we get hot water by switching on the immersion heater.

While the engine is running I like to use the available energy to ‘do the laundry’. I only use COLD water! I don’t want to create an obsession with laundry, I've been told, unofficially, that I am borderline neurotic but a small wash seems to make economical sense. Today is a cardi(gan) and a jersey (jumper not cow!)wash. Currently I’m up to date with day to day clothing and Manchester. Factoid: Manchester, a term still used in Australia for linen and towels. In 'the old days' Manchester was written on packing crates of cotton goods exported from the cotton factories Manchester, England.
Washing joy!

I am very happy with my narrow (not deep) Indesit washing machine. It fits in the bathroom perfectly and does not need to be hidden away in a cupboard. I am proud to have it on display!
An abridged, I say abridged as I am now no longer a spring chicken, history of me the Washer Woman goes like this:

70’s -The semi not -quite-automatic agitator washing had to move the dial to fill, then move dial to agitate, then move dial to empty, then move dial to rinse...... This high tech operation was followed by putting the washing through the mangle/wringer. There was no Health and Safety apart from common sense. Feed the wet washing through the mangle, and dry your hands on a towel rather than flatten them through the wringer. Take your flat pack laundry outdoors and shake items to bring them back to life to dry pegged on the Hills Hoist. An iron was necessary, in those days.

Early 80’s – I bought a quality F&P (Fisher and Paykel) top loader, on ‘lay by’ If you couldn’t keep up with the repayments then it was 'bye bye'. It was expensive but it was a lifesaver then, it did the work while I could stay out of the way!

Mid 80’s London and I met the Front Loader. I borrowed but didn’t beg or steal. I could watch the washing works,the reality tv of its day, while I had a cuppa and a natter sat at the kitchen table.

90’s Portugal. It was basic, I started washing laundry on the rocks down in the river.  The early days of the ‘Good Life’. It wasn’t long before I became the proud owner of a concrete tub with an integral ‘washing’board. I remember we left it at the roadside while renovation works to our donkey stable aka house-to –be began and once we had a solid ground space outdoors we moved it down. It really is another story. We didn't have water, on tap so to speak. Our valley did not get electricity until 1998. Think about that!
Para enxugar ropas com mano

The advantage with hand washing was that on a building site I always had clean hands whatever dirty job came my way. The rotary clothes line was a bargain purchase from Argos, it wasn’t up to the weight of the washing and one winter’s day it collapsed under its heavyweight! Bugger and blast. Repeating the washing task was more than a chore!! Wet clay soil should remain on the ground and not infiltrate clean wet laundry.
Milennium... I had an Ariston front loader washing machine. Electricity had arrived, for us, in 1998. We’d moved up the road, to a new home rebuild and my pay off for moving was an automatic washing machine to take me through more building site days. I had plenty to do that didn’t involve labouring with hands-on washing!
2005 NZ 9kg top loader machine. Big beast, much bigger than what I needed but the price was tempting and included a clothes drier. I didn’t need a dryer and I used it rarely. I like hanging my clothes outdoors on the clothesline. Hill’s Hoists have been overtaken by plastic fantastic rotart clotheslines.
England and Nb Avalon Mist....intitially I returned to hand washing or Laundrette, if found. Then I discovered the little twin-tub, light enough to carry to the Bow and powered when engine on and we were cruising. Small enough to manage 4 tshirts, knickers and socks etc., better than handwashing.
.... Mercia Marina. Great equipped laundrys with appliances that take coins. No tolerance from management to hang washing in view of humans, therefore dryers in constant use. Occasional altercations with other boatees who forgot to remove their laundry from the dryer or washed their laundry onboard and then used 2 of 3 dryers!! Get my drift! doesn’t get better in England than this. No mess Charlie and we stay clean and mean.

Comment from the ‘Cut’ in Alrewas.
“You still doing the washing? We passed you at Stenson!”

Country walks

Monday, 23 May 2016



As said before and to be said again and again the weather is influential in the impulsive nature of our cruising movement. The 3D appointments are over for Cptn but the big ‘D’ date is upon us for Della’s groom. I don’t know if our wanderings are ‘normal’ but they are for us, we’re all individuals, and with the benefit of Cptn’s Bus Pass he is able to keep our car accessible meaning we can have choice in terra firma matters. Della is booked in for a tart up in Kilsby, at the Groom Room. They do a good job and Della seems happy when we collect her, as she always looks the ‘bee’s knees’after a cut and polish!
Goosey Gander

Back to ‘weatherville’ forecast, it looked the ticket’ to move on to Shobnall Fields for a few nights. When we got there it was signed as 48hr mooring so we decided to be led by ‘If it rains....’ It was a beautiful cruise along the quiet Canal. We did get into a brief boat jam with a couple of slow, really slow, holiday boats. One did a ‘quel manoeuvre’ turn towards the towpath and jumped boat holding the middle rope to use muscle to pull the steel  into the bank. The second boat was more graceful as they pulled in behind.

“Thanks for letting us past” said Cptn, and helpfully added “If you use a bit of throttle you’ll find the boat easier to manouever.”
“Where are you from?” I called out to the people on the front boat.
“Sve-e-e-den” A happy chappy shouted back.

Tourist trail left behind we cruised along to arrive at Dallow Lock, our first narrow Lock since Foxton. What a gentle surge of water to fill the small Lock after the wide Locks we had gone up on our way to Stenson. There were 3 boats queued to go down and help was at hand to work the Lock. Nice. Shobnall Fields came into view and the moorings were empty. We had spoken with a boater, at Stenson, who said that his boat had been released overnight at Shobnall Fields. Probably bored youth. We decided to make it difficult if anyone wanted to play with our ropes but, happily, we didn’t have problems while moored there.

It rained quite heavily, overnight, and we went to check out the shops and partake in a Wetherspoon’s breakfast  that day. Me and my Galaxy Note2 phone/camera had to part ways. I really like the camera on that phone but the photos were getting purple squiggles, a fault with the hard drive. I readily accepted that to get repair work done would be more expensive than a new phone/camera. I’m still of last century make-up that I do not like to chuck something that works and, in those days repair was always cheaper than buying new. Mobile phones didn’t exist, the mobile brick was probably being talked about. But not now, out with the old and in with the new. Once upon a time everything special was expensive. Special, in material terms, probably doesn’t exist anymore. Android is affordable and Who-are-we (Huawei) is my new phone with a 12megapixel camera. I think it likes me as I haven’t had a hissy-fit using it yet!!

Garden before rain and before mowing

Eventually we returned to DB, after sitting in the car listening to Jeremy Vine BBCRadio2 and his invited random representatives, living in London, of the 28 countries that make up the United States of Europe. It’s the countdown to the EU referendum. Interesting light discussion about how people love to live in London and they felt the EU membership had enabled that. As a child of the colonies (Commonwealth), I had a ball in London in the 80’s. I worked hard and I travelled a lot to many countries. The easiest thing about coming to the ‘other side of the world’ was that I could speak Unglush and I had work opportunities. The wages slowly improved but were considerably better than NZ which had been going through hard times since the EEC had taken Britain out of our equation. Another story.

I’ve got to keep it at boat level. My jaw dropped when I realised the gardener had been and the grass had been cut. Wet grass is like a magnet to shoes and dog paws. To keep it real, it is not the end of the world. Some countries don’t easily grow grass. Ground cover is good. Leather Danny, a neighbour in Portugal who lived 300 metres away, grew grass and although he didn’t have a golf course he certainly had his well being pumped overtime. Blue and Dolcie used to like eating grass. I think it was more to do with thirst. We used to make the comment “Grassy Arse” to them.

Happily the sun was trying to shine, the following morning, and we hastily took the stern canopy down, lowered the wheelhouse and took off in slow mode to Shobnall Marina for fuel and breakfast. 

Capable Cptn reversed DB under the entrance to the Marina where we could moor temporarily. He spotted some wood being given away for the fire. Waste not, want not.

Hi ho and off we go to Alrewas. Pretty spring coming into view all the time but it was impossible to drown the noise of the busy A38 that runs alongside the Canal. The Barton Turns Lock challenged me. There was bridge work going on at the entrance to the Lock and the works area encroached onto the Lock mooring. I jumped onto land and had to go the long way to the Lock. I climbed through a wooden fence and thought it could be a bit tricky if you weren’t fit and bigger sized. Then, as I was walking along the roadside I saw that there was an opening to the lock mooring but the works ‘Hi-Vis’ markings didn’t make it clear for crew to access the Lock. A sign would be useful. I should write to C&RT but I’m writing my Blog! I couldn’t see a clear simple way to the Lock area except walking over the bridge. At the same time a huge truck turned to drive over the bridge. Is this why works are going on beneath this bridge because the bridge is no longer fit for the purpose? I could understand a tractor using the bridge but the truck was huge. I hastily moved to get across the bridge and to the safety of the Lock grounds. The Lock chamber was empty and the gate opened easily so, to save time, I took the quick way across to the other gate. That is stepping from the open gate onto the closed gate....A bit like the Moon landing ‘One small step for man, one large step for woman’. I haven’t got time to correct that one! I stepped across safely and then almost, I say almost, fell over the gate arm as I was rushed to get my feet on the ground as DB’s bow appeared, at the corner of my eye. It was close but no cigar.

Looking back to Barton Turns Lock

I was pleased to get back on DB and leave Barton Turns Lock. Now, in our game of swapsies, I was at the helm. Della made it known that nature was calling her and she needed some land time to empty her systems. Della doesn’t whine or yelp to make her needs known, she just looks imploringly then goes indoors then sits and waits. It’s a guessing game but generally we get the idea. Chris stepped off with her and I was on my own watching them walk along the towpath as I moved at their pace on DB. 


All good and Della sorted herself out. To re-board DB under a bridge should be a good place for this activity and I thought “I can do it.” I lined up and was in a good position but Della was not coming to the party and resisted being lifted into Chris’s arms. I must remember not to do what I did and even that is hard to remember. Yes, I got confused and as DB’s stern drifted away from the towpath under the bridge it drifted into the other side of the bridge and I got my steering confused and there was a crunch with a bit of the flat packed wheelhouse structure. Yikes, I took it personally and watched my new-found helming skill float away. It wasn’t so bad and Cptn, in his carpenter role, had to fasten a broken thingy with his electric screwdriver.

That was all the fun and games and in Alrewas we got ourselves on to a 14 day mooring.


Saturday, 21 May 2016


Room for a view.

We moored at Stenson Lock for long enough, in our thoughts, and the next stop was Willington just along the Canal and around a bend or two. For ease of location we agreed that I could helm DB and Chris and Della would take the car.  This was the first time that I had moved DB being on my own by myself! The weather, yes the weather whether you are interested or not was forecasted to be bright and sunny for 3 days before it became cloudy and wet for..... That May was predicted to be hot and dry was just the Met Office having a bit of a joke. We are onto it and believe that if you’re going to move, then move if it is less likely to rain, making hay while the sun shines is just fanciful thinking.
The day dawned at an hour too early for me to wake up to and, as usual, it was after 7am and my cuppa tea when I got moving. Chris and Della had gone for her morning constitutional and I took the opportunity to start taking down the stern canopy and dodger before they returned. It was a calm, clear and beautiful day. The wind is known to breeze up as the day progresses so getting prepared for an early cruise-off involved good organisation. We are now working as a team in assembling and disassembling the canopy and Wheel House structure. In fact, our shared language for this task which used to be either berating each other or the inanimate object has become congratulatory, and having a covered conservatory space over the stern is the ‘icing on the cake’, so to speak. ‘We can do it’ is our positive thinking again.

We delayed breakfast until we got to Willington, so we could get moving. Cptn pushed DB out and I throttled up to move her along. I didn’t move much faster than ‘TIC’ as it wasn’t far to go and Chris and Della would walk along the towpath to meet me eventually. Looking behind me another boat came into view so I throttled up to keep it at bay. All good and I got my ‘sights’ and depth perception fit to go under the bridges without adjusting speed. This part of the canal is still suited to wide beam boats. In time, I saw Cptn and Della in view at the footbridge near the Mercia Marina entrance. Feeling boosted with good feeling and confidence, I moved in to ‘pick up’ and achieved the action very well. Famous last words, but that’s a Blog away!
Leaving Willington mooring

Willington, remains a familiar spot and a boat at the Sanitary Station was minutes away from moving out when we closed in. Suffice to say we were moored up within minutes and DB’s water tank was filling. I don’t think the water pressure is on a par with some of the water points we have used but it is not the trickle that is on offer at Kingswood Junction. Ok our water tank is above average in size but it was only just over a week since we had topped it up at Weston Lock. We are used to conserving water but what the heck, it took a while to fill and we even gave up to let another boat in. Friendliness and consideration, in life........ Cptn had talked to the Fender-trading boat that was in a mooring we had our eye on. The Fender chap remembered us and our purchase of fenders for DB from him in 2014. She reminded me we had given their dog a warm coat that Della didn’t wear. Della won’t wear clothes, I told her, and she wants to keep up the visual impact that she is actually an all-weather dog. I didn’t mention that Della loves being dried with a towel or a hair dryer is even better.

Fender boat moved off as we moved in giving up their space for us. Well they were on their way and just stayed in situ while we were getting water so we could take over their mooring.

24 hours in Willington felt like 2 days. A lot seemed to have happened....I went to the Post Office to see if our mail had been delivered to Poste Restante. No it hadn’t arrived and is now making me question the meaning of First Class post?? The next delivery would be the following day between 1100 to 1200hrs. After a chat in the Post Office I went to the almost new Co-op on the site of the old GP surgery. Walking back to DB, I cast my eye in the direction of the old Co-op building that is being renovated to be used as an Indian restaurant. ‘Hairs & Graces’, my favourite hairdresser, has disappeared. I miss that Judith is no longer there, having someone that can tame my mop is a rare find. Being on the float in our boat, it is not always easy to find someone that I can trust who can cut hair at an affordable price. (So far on my rating list, Abingdon and Quesada). Finally the newest open place in Willington is the Chip Shop. Say no more.

I enjoyed a mid afternoon meet-up with some creative crafty women in Willington. A few friendly faces from my Mercia days that meet up and spin a yarn, weave a web etc. Go girls, I believe craft is sanity in a world of madness. I was tempted to buy yarn but I have still got too much to use up, in Spain. My stock has followed me from NZ to England to Spain and I’m working though it!

Late afternoon and the sun shines. Friends turned up at DB and there was total agreement on sitting outdoors at the Canal side pub ‘The Dragon’ and having a beer. All very proper except Della had to go and visit everyone who looked like they had pat or food potential. Eventually she returned to us and lay down on the artificial grass and had some ‘shut-eye’. The life of Della is a good life, I think.

I may be small to look at but my brain is larger than you could imagine. I am a dog not a handbag!

Friday, 20 May 2016


Stenson Lock was the perfect stop for a few days that became a week. Great mooring site with hard standing, mooring rings and not too busy with passing traffic. Boats rarely moored overnight and the Lock was personned 7 days by uniformed (not uninformed) C&RT volunteers, many from the boat ‘burbs at Mercia Marina. I think the volunteers do a great service for the holiday boat rental lock novices. Stenson Lock is a deep one and the vision of water entering the filling lock initially from opening the ground paddles followed by the gradual opening of the gate sluices can invoke fear rather than awe. Yes I think it is best to have a dutiful person doing the deed. As for me, I’m Lady Lock-n-Lol, I sometimes appreciate a breather especially when the Lock paddles are not as forgiving as most that I encounter. Stenson Lock does have one paddle with issues.

Home improvements continue on DB but with less gusto than earlier. Door frames in the bathroom got a tentative coat of top coat but are still in progress.

Dog walks were great. Della warms to the scent of squirrels and rabbits but, to date, she doesn’t make contact. The moorhen chicks are starting to appear. We need to watch Della as she can make their life appearance very short. The hissy swans are nesting and the Canada Geese are parading their ‘yellow’ chicks.
Moorhen chick 

We walked a good mile, likely 2km, to Mercia Marina from Stenson and not forgetting we walked back. Della and I did it, one way, a few days later and Cptn drove us back. It was lovely to see old friends and familiar faces at the Marina. I dived into a couple of the ‘Life’ Laundry spots to check out junk and treasure opportunities. That’s all I’m disclosing or declaring.

I do understand how people feel at home in a welcoming and organised community but I do not miss living in boat urbanisation. Life moving along the waters of the Canals and Rivers has a free and independent feel. Sure there are some rules and responsibilities but no great shakes.

A spontaneous moment saw us become land lovers for an afternoon when we drove into the Peak District, along country roads and gasp at the natural eye candy of Spring beauty over the fields and far away. 

Chatsworth House

I had seen some of the countryside during a bleak midwinter when I worked, briefly, in Bakewell over 2 years ago. It was lovely then but even lovelier now.

How lucky are we to explore near and far, on the same day and then return to DB and know we have hit the jackpot. I don’t even have to buy a Lotto ticket.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


It’s not a race to achieve distance and it is beneficial to stop and smell the roses. Hang on, it is seasonally not time for the roses. So it is spring and the countryside is full of bluebells, daisies, dandelions and blossoming trees. 

Kegworth Deep Lock round the bend

After leaving Barrow-on-Soar we passed through Loughborough and moored above the Kegworth Deep Lock under the East Midlands Airport Flight Path. The plane traffic is few and far between, not like the continuous 2 minute gap of craft coming in to land at Heathrow Airport. Mostly the planes are domestic flights (the Kegworth Air Disaster occurred on 8 January 1989) as well as Easyjet and Ryanair and others from the ‘homogenised’ countries of Europe.
St. Andrews Church, Kegworth

But no time for plane-spotting, there was rural walking to do with Della and interior finishing and decorating works to be done on DB. We have been living aboard DB for 2 years, now, and we need to get her finished indoors! I had a meltdown trying to get the surfaces prepared to a suitable standard so I could paint them. 
Good mooring while working on DB

Chris took over the task, and got the job moving. It’s not the first time I have had to ‘make good’ work but I was struggling with the tube of filler where the filler was reluctant to leave the tube, if you get my drift. 
Gotta be done

But the epiphany was when I was handed the filler’s filler dream. It fills cracks, followed along with a nail-free fingertip to smooth it and finally a damp cloth to smooth it more and the job is done ready for painting. It’s a kind magic. A result and no more tears of frustration and inadequacy!

Result, the bedroom is finished and the bathroom is almost done.


Enough for a pat on the back and agree to leave the River Soar and cruise to the Trent and Mersey Canal. I think it is one of the joys of boat life where the decision to move impulsively is carried out without obstacles. It took us a day to get to Stenson Lock. 

Stenson Lock


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.