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.


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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.