Wednesday, 27 July 2016


Canal-side on the outskirts of Gnosall we had a successful 18 hours on a 48 hour mooring. It’s not usual for a Visitor mooring to be positioned adjacent to a water point so we decided to make use of it to do a spot of ‘housework’. Our water tank was due a dose of tablets to sterilise it. The water was starting to have a metallic taste so we were well positioned to sterilise the tank overnight, then washing it out and refilling it in the morning. Our tank is larger than normal @ 1200 litres. It has been suggested to me by a boater that I should get a tap water purifier thingy, he said it was great and that he would only drink purified tap water on the boat. I don’t imagine that we will get one but I will consider it if I find the metallic water taste returns to taint my taste buds.
With the water tank refilled then Chris got active with the pressure hose and jet cleaned the rope fenders and the roof including the Houdini hatches. DB looked good with her roof clean and shiny and we cruised off to Wheaton Aston, under threat of rain, with me at the helm. I’m building my confidence working the wheel and I did have some tricky bends to negotiate but I didn’t give out any steel kisses.

We needed to stay in Wheaton Aston as Della was booked for a groom with Stacey at Wags4me. Our car was nearby so Chris could go and collect DB’s side hatch that had been knocked back into shape and ready to be welded in situ at a later date. After that we could cruise to Atherton Junction and on to the Staffs & Worcs Canal.

I collected Della from her groom and walked her back to the ‘Cut’ where Chris was waiting to get cruising. Nb Bisous, who I refer to as ‘Kisses’ was moored two boats behind us so I wouldn’t walk past without greeting them. A brief catch up and a pat or 3 for Della then we got to DB untied our ropes and I walked to the Lock. When I arrived, the Lock was half empty or was it half full? As we were going to be going up the Lock, the Lock needed to be emptied. Looking beyond the Lock there was a boat coming the other way. I was at the Lock and I unilaterally decided that the Lock was in my favour as I was there and could empty it as fast as fill it.  
I knew that the people on the other boat were pissed off with me as after they moored they made no move to come and help me work the Lock and I had to call out to them to confirm that they wanted the Lock gate left open as we were leaving it. As we cruised past Missus Grumpy I called out to her
“I didn’t steal the Lock.”
“Yes you did” she snarled “A boater we passed said the Lock was set for us.”
“It was half empty,” I said loudly “it must be a leaky lock. If it was in your favour I would have filled it for you.  Silly cow.” I muttered. Honestly in this case it was first in first served and I was not going to fill the Lock when it took less time to empty it. Crikey!

We stopped under shady moorings at Brewood (pronounced ‘Brood’) overnight and took off early morning to cruise to Atherton Junction and turn starboard, on to the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal. I remember close to 5 years ago cruising this stretch from Stourport-on-Severn so it was interesting to see how clear my memory bank was! Not as clear, it turns out, as I thought. I must check back on some photos from that time on Nb Avalon Mist. What became clear is it is a really beautiful cruise, the vista from the Canal is scenic and the Canal was not busy with holiday traffic.

Our plan was to get to Kinver eventually sooner rather than later but not straight away. We spent our first night near Dimmingsdale Bridge and put the canopies up thinking with rain forecast  we might stay a couple of nights. 

The next day the sun was still shining and the promised rain was held at bay so we packed up the canopies and cruised along passing through some deep and leaky locks. A Narrowboat had recently come up Dimmingsdale Lock and I thought that it would be set for us. I walked along the towpath while Cptn was getting DB on the move and by the time I got to the Lock it was past being half full it was almost empty. That is how quickly a leaky Lock can empty!  All clear, I needed to wind up the paddles and fill her up!
Bratch Locks
Apart from the normal narrow locks along the Staffs & Worcs, the Bratch Locks are a flight of 3 Locks that look like staircase locks although they are not. The Lock empties into a pound, not seen, and not the Lock below.  There is a Lock keeper on duty, he kept his lips pretty much sealed and only opened them to impart instructions. He told me he would open the gates of the Lock that DB was in and I was told to go to the Lock below and open that gate for DB to enter.  That was when I realised this was not a staircase lock. A few gongoozlers were viewing the boat activity, one chirpy Muslim youth told me he was Burt Monroe. “The world’s fastest Indian?” I replied. We laughed.

Cruising along, I noticed the blue sky was disappearing and the water-bearing clouds were gathering. Soon we neared ‘the staircase’ Locks. A boat had just left and I could see that someone was emptying the bottom Lock! I was momentarily annoyed and thought I’d keep my distance, they should have let us go down the Locks. Oh bah humbug... chill I thought. No point getting upset so I went ahead and checked the Canal ahead for traffic. Then I share worked the Lock for the boat coming up and the woman apologised for taking the Lock. I must remember Lock-n-Lol means laughter not hissy-fits.

Then the rain began to fall and when we got to Greenforge, it was time to stay indoors and wait for the sky-fall wet stuff to clear off! Cptn looked in the ‘Waterways Guide Book’ and found Ashton Marina was a short distance from the Lock ahead and they had Boat repairs listed. A phone call to them put us in touch with  Welder - Steve, and when the weather cleared we met up with him and agreed for the work to put our side hatch back where it belongs. 

We needed to wait for a couple of days and we moored in Ashton Marina and enjoyed a couple of nights plugged in to electricity in the sleepy backwaters. At the same time Cptn got busy with the paintbrush and started painting black gloss below the gunwhale.


Once ‘Welder’ Steve had ‘done’ the side hatch we took off, the slow way, to Kinver. Great moorings but I think we were under the shade of a Lime Tree. We agreed that if Cptn turned DB round I could paint the other side of DB with black gloss to the gunwhale and do the Bow. Cptn took DB to the winding hole and back while I stayed behind to keep claim to ‘our’ mooring. All good and a few hours later, job done.
Add caption

We left for Stourport-on-Severn, the next day beginning with Cptn reversing DB the ½ mile to the winding hole where DB was put back in the right direction. Sun shining and enjoying cruising to Kidderminster where we moored outside a Shopping Centre. Cptn went to explore and for some reason he had decided that he would try to get a couple of fan belts from Halfords. No luck, I think that you have to order them online as they do not stock them in the shop.

We cruised on, the day was warm and sunny and it felt like summer had finally arrived. The Locks through Kidderminster require an anti-vandal key. I had not used our anti-vandal key since the Leeds Liverpool Canal and I needed a reminder in how they worked. Thanks to the holiday boat crew for showing me. Easy peasy. Soon we were close to Stourport and passing a moored boat when we heard a loud high sounding bleeping noise. We’ve never heard that sound on DB before so thought it must be the moored boat. The noise stopped after we passed them and we were wondering what it was. Then BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP started and continued and we realised it was DB. Cptn checked the inverter and the electrics. We pulled over, moored up and Cptn looked into the engine bay. One of the 2 fan belts had broken! Amazing that this happened just after Cptn had been looking for spares!

We could still cruise to Stourport although the Bleeping noise was irritating. The mooring outside ‘Bird in Hand’ Pub was perfect as was the Pub. I took the time to give DB’s roof another clean. It looked dulled and felt sticky, blimmin’ Lime Tree in Kinver. So much for the pressure hosed water clean in Kinver. Breathe....

Cptn was informed that Lloyds Garage in Stourport would be able to help with Fan Belts and possibly other parts for the boat engine. Lloyds were very helpful and were able to get the parts needed, in store, the following day. Mr Lloyd even drove us back to the Bird in Hand. Cptn replaced the fan belt and something else, I’m a bottled blonde! That night we were the filling moored between 2 holiday boats, thankfully lovely happy holiday makers. We had a laugh and the following morning we were queued behind them at the Lock and they gestured to us to go down the Lock first.

Helpful Holiday boaties


Way out from Stourport

Saturday, 16 July 2016


Wheelhouse Canopy 

Once we got moving down the Shroppie we got moving. The Wheel house canopy has been tweaked and with a new metal beam and a replaced metal beam, both with a noticeable tangential curve that will eliminate the ‘ponding’ that was caused by the central straight metal beam. It was a design fault but the result is well worth the time and effort we put in to getting it sorted out.

With the continued never-ending inclement weather we are putting the Wheel house frame and canopy up each time we moor (less than 15mins work) and the stern canopy goes up (another 15mins work) if we plan to stay for more than one night! If the weather looked like a long settled period, once referred to as Summer, then we’d not bother with canopysing (I invented that word!) the stern end of DB.
Crossing Nantwich Aquaduct

Our plan is to cruise South and get away from the watery skies that are beginning to drown my attempts to ‘chillax’. We left Nantwich under fair-weather and remembered the moorings near the secret nuclear bunker and where we had seen a couple of hot air balloons flying above us when we were on AM in 2011. I had forgotten it was also in the vicinity of the clay pigeon shooting range but was reminded when I started to hear some vibrating bangs not long after mooring. Della tuned into the noise quickly and started to look agitated with mild shaking. The solution was to untie the ropes and cruise away from this noise as we didn’t want to upset Della.
Della looking to Overwater Marina

We found a nice mooring site near Overwater Marina and not far to the Audlem Flight of locks. The Marina was not in our view just beautiful countryside and we thought we could stay here for a couple of nights. The only sight that annoyed me was a boat cooker that had been fly-tipped on the side of the towpath. Lazy so and so’s. I have been thinking about people’s attitude to rubbish. This includes the small stuff, as well. I remember in the early 70’s there was a ‘Be a Tidy Kiwi’ campaign that affected me in my school years. To this day I still remember it and the feeling of pride I had at being a tidy Kiwi. I still keep putting rubbish where rubbish should go!
Reflecting on night vision

When it came time to move on, we planned an early start on the run of 15 Locks. And we were the first on the move from the bottom of the flight. Another boat turned up, behind us, just as we were on the rise in the first Lock. Fab, it was holiday makers from Sth Africa who were in a hurry to get up the Locks and their ‘Lead’ Lockie helped us, as well. We started to meet other boats, eventually, coming down the flight and synchronicity came into play. All good.

After the Audlem Flight, we stopped for breakfast and I walked back to the Farm Shop at the Top Lock. I couldn’t turn down a tray of 2 ½ dozen farm eggs for £5. It amazes me how the hens can put a printed red number on a clean egg shell. Country farming has come a long way.

The Adderley 5 Locks were next. The traffic was mostly one way and there was some waiting involved. I gave some help at the first Lock to the solo boater, in front. He wasn’t exactly happy with my assistance; he didn’t think it was necessary to move out of the Lock until the boat waiting for the next Lock ahead had gone into the Lock. I think he was not in favour of women, saw them as bossy and he said the name of his boat read backwards as his ex-wife’s name. Whatever, I got behind the helm of DB and left Chris to Lock with ‘matey’.

We soon made it to Drayton (aka Market Drayton) and got a good 48 hour mooring, where we overstayed ever so slightly due to rain! Nice place and friendly boaters passing through.
Thanks to Ray & Linda on Miss Elouise for your friendship and help with the positioning adjustment to the stern fender and the addition of the button fender. It was bloke’s work and you and Chris both did a fine job.

Arthur leads AM

I was sitting out undercover on the stern minding my own business when I heard a siren horn blast and “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah...” being called. I stuck my head out and saw ‘Arthur’ on the bow of Nb AVALON MIST!!!  It was a wonderful sight and we were both so pleased to see Chris and Kev and see how they had made her their home. I had forgotten the sound of AM’s horn, but I still think it is cool and unique on the canal.

Off again to the 5 Tyrly Locks. The Canal was busy, that day, probably because there was a bright light in the sky! We pulled out and were well underway when another boat decided to pull out in front of us. It was one of those things but, in my book, if the coast is not clear you wait. They obviously didn’t want to be in the back of the queue for the Locks.

These Tyrly Locks have a vicious side wash below the lower two Locks and we had discussed ways of dealing with this with NB MissElouise and the method to try with Tyrly was with the bottom gates open for access, at the same time wind up the top ground and gate paddles with the hope the side wash would diminish. And YES, our discussed surge management plan worked! As DB made a controlled entrance into the Lock, I wound the top paddles down.
Woodseaves Cutting

At the top lock, the Nb that had pulled out in front of us, earlier on, waited until we had got out of the Lock and let us go first. We guessed they were going to let us lead them through the narrow Woodseaves Cutting and we would be able to let oncoming boat traffic know that they were following. Were they conniving or were we getting paranoid?  So we got to Woodseaves Cutting and just as we were going around a blind bend we saw the nose of an oncoming boat! Holidaymakers, they were considerate. They stopped and edged into the bushes and we got through with no steel kisses. It doesn’t have to be a contact sport. I gestured to the boat behind to stop and that was the last we saw of them.
Nature's offering

We thought of stopping at Norbury Junction but there were few moorings and no Internet hot spot. 

We called it a day when we got to Gnosall got set up for rain.

Water and mooring!

Wednesday, 6 July 2016


River Weaver

I do like it when there is a run of words that more-or-less sound the same but have no link to their meaning. Try saying these words with a NZ dialect! It’s like the deadpan run of bare, beer and bear.
The suffix – wich refers to the presence of salt and not the presence of witches! We have been in the locale of salt towns in Cheshire. I never thought what ‘wich’ meant until this cruise. 
Road salt in case of ice!

You do get some unusual names in this country and it is a sign of the variances in language and spelling as well as the progression of life over the centuries. Over recent days we have passed through Middlewich, Northwich and Nantwich. (I’m starting to think that the English names of my country North Island and South Island may have emanated from some creative person in this part of England. On a google search, Wikipedia says that the English name for the islands was never formalised and they were commonly referred to North Is. and South Is.)
Anderton Boat Lift from the River

So the aim of our trip to this neck of the woods was to get to the River Weaver. We were close when we got to Ellesmere Port but due to the breakdown of Weston Marsh Lock on the River Weaver we had to back track to get to the Anderton Boat Lift on the Trent & Mersey Canal. This meant back to Barbridge Junction to turn onto the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. It took us two days to cruise to Big Lock on the Trent & Mersey Canal, Middlewich. A pleasant enough cruise although it was under mixed weather conditions. 

We, I mean I, saw a couple of ‘tupperware’ boats moored below the Lock and there were some available in-ground rings just in front of them. Perfect, there was no sign indicating ‘no mooring’ or ‘lock mooring’ so we tied up and went to the Pub with the intention of going back to home base for dinner. And so we did, eventually. We got as far as the ‘Tupperwares’ on our return to DB and got chatting with the ‘friendlies’ for more than a quick chat. I even succumbed to the invitation to play a wee tune or three on my Uke!!
Mooring confusion

Next morning a little later than sparrowfart, there was boat traffic on the move. A Narrowboat was edging in towards us for a controlled steel kiss. 
“You’re moored at the Water Point” said matey.
“This is not a water point.” I helpfully retorted back.
“Yes it is and I’m going to come alongside and tie onto your boat.” He said.
“Why isn’t it signed as a water point? I can’t see the water tap.” I did a quick scout around and sure enough it was a water point but the box which housed the tap looked camouflaged in 2 colour paint (black and ‘red ned’{a.k.a anti-rust}). 

I removed myself from any need for further comment and went and chatted to a holiday-maker queuing for the Lock. I was invited onboard for tea and homemade chocolate cake!  
Breakfast spot canal side

Soon we were free to move on without rocking the boat! The cruise from Middlewich to the outskirts of Northwich is picturesque along a wide canal with some hairpin bends. 

Within 3 hours we were at the Anderton Boat Lift. I went into the busy Visitor Centre and was directed to the ‘behind closed doors’ check –in desk. Through the boaters network we had been informed we could pre- book a passage for £5, reasonable fare, but there were financial repercussions if we didn’t turn up at the appointed time. So as we were prepared to wait I booked the passage, on the spot, and we only waited a couple of hours. 
Della under contol

Enough time to walk Della, where I got chatting with a couple of gongoozlers and, in friendship, offered them a ride with us on The Anderton Boat Lift. It was great to meet you Christine and Alan, thanks for the lovely Shropshire honeycomb icecream!

The Anderton Boat Lift is high tech.

Ground Control

When I booked I wasn’t sure if we were going up or down. I thought there would be a booking office for craft coming off the river and I was coming off the canal. Well for craft coming off the canal, the lift is going down. Thoughts of ‘Are You Being Served’, the sitcom, came to mind....possibly, Swimwear Department. At 1440 we were asked to move to the ‘holdings’ mooring and wait instructions. 
Boats that pass!

We and another boat were moved into lane position to then ‘chug’ onto our metal tub. 

It looked like the metal hatch at the back end of the tub was dropped, not literally, into position thus enclosing the boats and crew as we were gently lowered down to river level. 

At the halfway stage we met alongside the tub being raised which had a tourist boat full of tourists in it. We shared smiles and waves given with the good spirit of sharing a new and unusual experience. It’s not an everyday occurrence.
Chemical Factory in view

We loved being back on a river. The River Weaver is a tea-coloured smooth flowing River that would give good reflection if the sun decided to shine. 

In ‘old’ days it was reported there was a lot of river traffic and the Locks were designed with that in mind. 
Home sweet home?

All 5 Locks have C&RT lock-keepers to operate the mainly manually operated Locks. Size matters with the windlasses they use to wind the paddles to open the gates and sluices. 

We were just small fry in the Lock. At one Lock, quick action from the ‘Locky’ saved us from what could have been a bad experience that could have sunk DB, the case of the rim of the hull getting jammed into the Lock wall and....... We were OK thanks to Cptn alerting Locky who reacted quickly. It is so important these people are kept on the job!!

Highlights from the Weaver experience were:

-recognising my full name on a boat that was named after me?

-The mooring outside ‘The Red Lion’, a community Pub in Winsford, was ideally located on the banks of the River Weaver. There is no tv and no fruit machines. The people that work there are creative and musical and give out friendly energy. We went to the Monday night game evening. It was fun and welcoming.

-The rural mooring at Barnton Cut.

-We met NB Comfortably there anybody out there. They were seated, on shore, under a huge umbrella kept from the days when umbrellas were built to last all the days of your life and more!
The Gemini in me could be a Brolly Dolly and a Trolly Dolly

-The walk to the T&M Canal that was up an incline and round the corner. I could see that we have to do the 3 tunnels, up there, one day and on to the Bridgewater Canal.

-Waving out to our ‘Tupperware’ friends from Middlewich when we cruised past their land base.

We did cruise down river to the Frodsham Cut and then turned back to Barnton Cut so we could take an early morning cruise to the Anderton Boat Lift to get back on the Trent & Mersey and meet up with our mate, Phil, who was going to be with us on the cruise back to Nantwich. We thought it would be easy for him to meet us at Marston, rather than meet at the Boat Lift. All good in theory.
Flash walk on the wich

I had time to walk my trolley, not fly my broomstick, across the gravel lined paths which criss-crossed or is it zig-zagged along the ‘flashes’ of Northwich salt marshes to Aldi supermarket. 

The nice store assistant freed a shopping trolley for me because I had forgotten a coin. If you don’t ask you don’t get! All good and I remembered how to get back to the boat. A couple of hours well spent!

As for Phil travelling from Bournemouth, he was having difficulty getting from Crewe to Northwich and the bus timetable was not working for him. He eventually found us. 

Next day we were underway through foul means or fair.....

Need I describe this?

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.