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.

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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.