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!

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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.