Thursday, 23 June 2016


The Navigator is always on the look-out

Even in the slow chillaxed cruise mode we are not without itinerary changes. 

Barbridge Pub Mooring

We moved to beautiful Chester from Nantwich with the plan of going to Ellesmere Port, the end or the beginning of the ‘Shroppie’ (Shropshire Union Canal), with the knowledge of impending paperwork and an inspection from a ‘surveyor’ from the Manchester Ship Canal so we could use the Canal with the big ships to get to the River Weaver. (I’m realising, in England or is it Great Britain that rivers are named as the River ‘Blah Blah’ not the ‘Blah Blah’ River. In NZ the anglicised name of the River comes first e.g. the Clutha River.

Chester mooring

We enjoyed a pleasant and must be returned to, 2 nights in Chester, where we took prime moorings within easy walking distance of the beautiful Elizabethan/Tudor CBD not forgetting the Cathedral and  the city ramparts. As what happens every year it was my birthday and I had fun visiting the plethora of ‘Op Shops’ (Charity Shops) and spending minimal amounts of money. Our mooring was outside an Indian restaurant sandwiched between a dog friendly Cafe/ Restaurant and a dog friendly Pub. Need I say more? At the Pub we met some interesting people, a couple up from the ‘Land of London’ of 8.7 million people and another couple (it was ‘her’ birthday too and I was advised to google the Gemini-Cancer cusp for astrological information about the whys and wherefores that could make up, in my words, my ‘poisonality’). They were from Keswick (popn @5,300) in the Lake District who have a link with the ‘Prince of Darkness’.   Oh the joy of speaking with ‘randoms’ meant in the nicest possible way.
Boats can go up and down

Leaving Chester, The Staircase Locks was C&RT volunteer ‘manned’  which we were grateful for. They are deep dastardly locks and we had checked them out a couple of days before, on a Sunday. There was no volunteer working and a Narrowboat was moving up the staircase. We, as ‘the helpfuls’ helped out and lucky that we did as the gate into the Top Lock from the Middle Lock would not budge when it looked like it should move! 

Leaky leaky....

Obviously the Lock waters had not met level, problem with the leaky top lock gate.... I can picture why and how we resolved it but no need to explain it. Playing with paddles, in the Staircase system, was involved and a silent cheer from the handful of Gongoozlers when the gates opened.

“Thank you ever so much” was the warm message of appreciation from Mr & Mrs Fellow Boaties.

Doer uppers? It doesn't float my boat!!

We cruised on to Ellesmere Port enjoying the rural cruise and excited what the new adventure would bring. The Port is a Museum and we were able to moor up, down below so to speak, for a small fee. 
Are there pirates?

We anticipated we would be staying for a couple of nights while we got the paperwork for the Manchester Ship Canal attended to and paid for. That was when we first heard that there was a problem with the Lock onto The River Weaver from the shipping canal. 

Manchester Ship Canal

Sure enough, a phone call later and we were informed the Lock is out of use and waiting for a ‘Diver’s’ report. There was no identified timescale for this and we thought to head back to Chester the following day.
First was a night at the Museum. No pirates!
How many DB's go into Cuddington?

We hadn’t thought about having a Plan B and we have yet to confirm what we will do. 

Thx Mr Volunteer

But we had another night in Chester. I changed my Banjo (Birthday present) for a Bass Ukulele to begin my collection of Ukuleles! 

It's all about the Bass....

I have my trusty and much loved and used Cordoba concert Uke.
Tra la la........................

Sometimes I get to mosaic my paua pieces. Creativity is sanity!

Friday, 10 June 2016


Weather forecast!

We chose to make Wheaton Aston to Nantwich a slow four day journey. We had stopped for a long 48 hours that took 3 days, in Wheaton Aston waiting for our mate, from Hawaii, to meet and join us for a slow cruise passing beautiful green countryside with trees burgeoning with blossoms. 
Have Selfie!

We arranged for him to meet us at DB and we would drive to Brewood (pronounced ‘Brood’ of course) and go to a dog friendly canal side pub there. The canal side pub in Wheaton Aston is more a food pub and dogs indoors were vermin and had to be kept outdoors on the edge of the carpark. So we were not feeling encouraged to give them our custom. The Brewood Pub was dog friendly but noisy with children and pokie machines. Our best place, in hindsight, would be drinks on DB.

Next morning we were out of Wheaton Aston passing the end of field mooring that had been ours for 5 mins in 2013 when we had plans to moor DB there. 
Almost once was home mooring-to-be

I thought about the enxada, our hoe-shovel from Portugal, we had left there with thoughts of getting involved with planting! Now it’s a memory archived in my life’s laundry. The late morning sun was working at burning through the hazy cloud layer and soon the water point, just past Gnosall, beckoned. 

The start of the big walk with Della

Tempted by the warm sun to leave the blokes on DB I walked the pretty towpath with Della to Norbury Junction. Della was a little perturbed that the ‘Team’ were being left behind but she soon got over it and followed along in her happy way. I stopped, occasionally, to talk with ‘random’ gongoozlers and Della got the customary pats from them. 

DB in the distance

We walked nearly 2 miles until the first ring moorings before the Junction and waited for DB to arrive. As soon as DB was moored Della and I stepped aboard. I gave Della one of her customised biscuits as a 3 second treat and I disappeared to the bathroom. I noticed DB was underway again and a minute or two later I went onto the stern deck to watch Norbury Junction pass by. There were a lot of moored boats and it was only when we got to the end of them that
Passing Norton Junction

“Where’s Della?” asked Cptn.

“Indoors probably, she must be tired from her walk and having a sleep.” I said.

“I’ll go and have a look.” Said Hawaii Tony. He returned “I can’t see her.”

Cptn does Della’s ‘Pavlov’s’ dog whistle that she always responds to. No Della appeared onboard and no sign of her running along the towpath. Exclamatory remarks, with sound, passed our lips and our faces wore looks of concern. We knew she would be all right but we knew we had to find her pronto. I got on land holding her lead and walked speedily back towards the Junction calling her name with a loud voice. Once under the bridge and over the footbridge I was passing The Junction Inn, listed in The Nicholson’s Waterway Guide 4 as a superbly situated canal pub. Guess who was on a lead lapping up the attention from a handful of people? Miss Della!!! Her olfactory centre must have got a whiff of my unique smell along with the familiar sound of my voice and she took a moment to leave her adoring crowd. So she wasn’t pining, yet, for us! Such a well adjusted little doggy. I listened briefly, to her ‘finder’ outline the events and thanked her profusely. Lead on, Della and I walked off as Cptn appeared from under the Bridge and we went back together as the ‘Team’ to DB.
Is that a wink?
Doggone, happy ending but fingers crossed, not to be repeated.

Still the same day we carried on to moorings at Anchor Bridge, Bridge 42. I had highlighted the mooring in Nicholson’s so that means we had stayed there before on Nb Avalon Mist. I think I remember it but the picture in my memory bank is different. Does that make sense? It does to me! But then my wanderlust lifestyle makes daily life a challenge sometimes. A rural setting with a Pub that would open at 7pm. What better than to sit on the stern deck, play Ukulele and Guitar and enjoy being bathed under the warm afternoon sun?
Anchor Bridge
Boats went by and some moored up then moved on. Late afternoon I heard a squeal then a splash then a squeal, a giggle and I put 2 and 3 together and realised a woman or a man with a high voice had fallen into the Canal. My character borders on being ‘over- helpful’ or is it the ‘big-Nose’ Pinnochio, anyway I stepped on to land with my rubber-neck and saw that a woman was in the water and her friend, another woman, was on land making moves to help get the laughing one out of the water.
Navigator is supervising.

So between us, that is the 2 women on land, we managed to assist the ‘faller-inner’ rise or was it roll, let’s say her R and R to land. No Rocks were involved! Della supervised the rescue at her chosen safe distance. Turns out that the ‘victim’ had untied what she thought was the Bow rope to her boat but was actually the Stern rope to the boat in front, and as situation confusion took over she must have fallen in. Needless to say the stern rope on her boat was untied and during the mayhem her boat started drifting off! No damage to boat or victim. Thoughtfulness to affect a tricky lift meant no injury to us ‘The Helpful’. Another happy ending.

All I can say is that‘ll teach us not to fall off a boat! Some people wear life jackets, on the Canal. That would only be good to reduce stress levels but may give something for a helper to grab hold of. The water is around my thigh height or shallower (I’m 1.7m or 5’6 ¾ in the morning!) The tricky part is being able to push up off a muck filled soggy underwater floor to get out of the water onto the bank of the towpath. Getting out of the Canal onto a steel surfaced Narrowboat is another story. We carry a rubber step rope ladder just in case!

Here are some photos of the next couple of days which involved some Locks, some 24/7 fall-out but all-in-all the beautiful scenery was the winner and now we have C&RT empathising our use of 48hr moorings in Nantwich giving us time to get our Canopies repaired.
Stop it's narrow in Wonderland, says Alice, and we've already let 2 boats go through.

I've been told not to jump but Cptn is allowed to step onto DB to cross to the other side!

Look there's a tree growing out of the paddle!

It's an eye-level view when you're looking back on the Helm!

Loving the Salopian feel of the ‘Shroppy’Canal.

 'From here until tomorrow
  It might take a year
  How long it takes to get there
  I don’t really care.’  

 S. Abbott 8/06/2016

 The term "Salopian", derived from "Salop", is still used to mean "from Shropshire"

Friday, 3 June 2016


Navigator Della is keeping her eyes on the Lock fill

The Staffs & Worcs Canal northern branch begins or ends at Great Hayward. For us it was the beginning and our aim was to get to Penkridge and moor up for a couple of nights with canopies over stern and wheelhouse in situ while rain was forecast to pass overhead blah blah. Bank Holiday Monday was sunny and warmish in our locale and the scenery improved as we made our way along the canal. There was a steady flow of boats moving in both directions that can give a synchronicity to Lock use. The deep narrow Locks give a steady fill and raise DB up where she belongs. The action is from winding up the ground paddles rather than gate paddles which means the water pressure entering the Lock is not seen by the person wielding the windlass. Paddles opened fully straight away mean the boat lurches forward and reverse thrust is not effective to hold the boat back. In our case, DB takes up a lot of the Lock and when she lurches onto the button Bow fender there are a few upsets in the cupboards and bench tops. Not the end of the world but a measured winding up of the paddles halfway negates the water surge. Fully wind up the paddles when the Lock is past a 1/3 full. That’s my take on it. If helping another boat then ask them how they would like you to help.

The fish torturers, I mean Anglers were lined up near one Lock we were approaching. Some were holding titanium fishing rods that looked the size of weapons of mass destruction slung over the Cut. They moved them out of the path of DB at the last possible second. Imagine if they were just hooking a fish! The Anglers do not appear a cheery bunch but it could be their state of deep concentration or is it meditation. Like I am reminded every day on planet earth ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’!

Penkridge on a sunny cooling spring afternoon is a fine place to moor. The towpath was busy with people wearing smiles. We got busy with the Canopies and within 15 minutes we were ship-shape or is it boat-fit?

Cptn disappeared although I could hear his voice. Turns out he met John who lived in the house behind the fence where we were moored. A lovely man who had invited Chris and later, me, to see his tidy garden display of early vegetables and flowering shrubs. He proudly shared with us that he and his wife had recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Wow, he carried a clipping from the newspaper with an article and photo of them, and he said that HM Queen Elizabeth had sent them a card. Who’s going to send the Queen and her man a card next year when they make 70 years of weddedness? I wonder what precious jewel is left for her - a vintage Philip?

While I was looking at John’s garden there was a knock on the garden gate-door.
“Is this your dog?” the woman asked John. “It was standing outside the gate-door when we walked past and I said to my husband that if it is still there when we walk back I’m going to knock on the door because it might be lost or abandoned.”
I thanked them very much and reassured them that she was my dog and lived on that boat behind them. Once again human caring and thoughtfulness appears. Della is always keeping an eye on the hand that feeds her. She likes to keep up with where her ‘team’ is.

The Penkridge Wednesday Market was mostly stalls of the usual tat with less than a handful of produce sellers. It was similar but much smaller than the markets in Spain and Portugal. We did get 3 huge packs of bacon and gammon cuts for £2. Good we have a freezer!

Time to pack up DB and get under way. I fancied a rural stop, for a change. Yes it is England and yes it is like that song “Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of ticky tacky...” but as I keep reporting there are rural areas that are still farmland and not everywhere are the power lines and chemical factories seen. But I was keen to be away from civilisation for a night.

We did the Lock – Helm share doing turn-about. I’m feeling more confident or is it competent behind the wheel. I steered DB for a distance after the last Lock which had a few tricky manoeuvres. The Cut became less busy, fortunate for me because there are a few blind bends. 

Wasgij moment. Hatherton turn behind me.

The Hatherton turn was one of the tricky bends once it became apparent the Canal didn’t turn to port but was a sharp turn to starboard. The working boat moored just on the turn was not helpful and perhaps a sign indicating the way the ‘real’ canal goes would be helpful. I’ll remember now! As chance has it the nose of a Narrowboat appeared heading towards DB. I held DB back, it was close but no cigar. Another boat held back while I turned DB and moved to the starboard edge of the Cut. No steel kisses to be had.
I took a selfie photo to try and capture the Hatherton turn rather than me! I was trying out my skills of multitasking at the wheel. I could see another bend approaching but I thought I had time to get DB around that with no problem. Fine chance, I got her stuck in shallow water and needed Cptn to talk me through a get out technique.

We moored up in the spot I had hoped we would find.

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.