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.
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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

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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.