Sunday, 7 August 2016


Queuing for the Staircase Locks.

At Stourport-on-Severn we left the Staffs & Worcs Canal via the 2 sets of staircase Locks (4 locks in total) onto the R. Severn.  I have a lasting memory of these Locks from 2011 when I experienced Lock rage with another boater who was determined that the staircase Lock from the River had been set for them. Now I could see what had upset him but I was justified in knowing the Locks should have been ours and he should have moored up in the middle pound and waited! Knowledge acquired through experience. Now it’s 2016 and there were no boats coming off the River so it was smooth locking for us going down. The boat behind was on our tail and its crew of 2 youths were pumping the paddles. As DB left the bottom Lock and I was closing the gates they had already started emptying the Lock above into the Lock I had just vacated. This meant the draw of the water shut the second gate with force. It almost sent me flying onto DB and a deluge of unfriendly words escaped through my lips.

R. Severn

Phew, we began to cruise the R. Severn and expected Worcester would be our destination for the night. On arrival we read the Mooring charge was £4 for the night and we would need to pay at the Car parking machine. Blow that, I couldn’t be bothered locating the Car park so we continued to the Lock. The way you are made aware that the Lock Keeper has noticed you is the Red Traffic Light flashes and when the Lock is ready for your entrance the Traffic Light becomes Green. This is the nonverbal communication used for the River Locks.
Worcester Cathedral

We cruised 10 miles, down river, to Upton-upon-Severn hoping we would get a mooring. As luck had it we moored beside ‘the steps’ and, later, offered another Narrowboat to double berth for the night as there were no vacant moorings. I think it is important to be considerate even though I was tired and would have preferred not to be involved!  
Floating Mooring looking towards Step Moorings. The 'dolphin' is not a chimney! Think how high the river can rise!!

Next morning we moved to the floating pontoon moorings, when a space became available, and stayed a second night in Upton. There is a bit of boat traffic that cruises the river particularly known to we ‘steels’ as ‘tupperwares’ / ‘plastics’ of the large variety. We met a friendly couple from Welsh Wales in their comfortable ‘plastic’ who were moored alongside the steps when we had arrived. The steps have a variety of mooring rings and poles but care needs to be taken climbing the challenging steps. Remember never to moor there if the rain is falling heavy in Wales as the Severn River is affected from this and is prone to flooding. The floating pontoon moorings are interesting as the steep walkway leading to it is on wheels and adjusts to the rise of the river. I’m not planning to be there when the river is in flood but I’ll keep that info up my sleeve!
How high does the river get to level the pathway?

Leaving Upton, I thought it would only be a couple of hours to get close to Gloucester, I think it took more than 2 hours to get to Tewkesbury. We cruised on past Tewkesbury, remembering that we had ‘done’ the River Avon on Avalon Mist and we needed to get to Gloucester as Cptn had an appointment looming in Birmingham and for ease of land travel as well as our cruise plans Gloucester was the temporary destination. So keeping on the R. Severn we came to Upper Lode Lock with the red traffic light showing. 

We waited and we waited and blasted our horn. The Lock keeper obviously hadn’t seen us and was still blindly not seeing us. We should have had our handheld VHF Marine Radio switched on and then we could have alerted him on Channel 74. I found the telephone number for the Lock and made contact that way. Lockie apologised for not seeing DB and immediately the Red traffic light signalled our presence with continuous flashing. We were pleased to see the Lock gates open and a Narrowboat exiting. The Green traffic light signalled us to enter and I was surprised to see the size of the Lock.
Yachts on the river

Moving along the Severn I noticed, in the distance, a small yacht that increased in number to 9 yachts. This is a river, not the width of an estuary, and I was surprised to see sailing taking place. As we passed I called out “Americas Cup trials?” A windswept smile acknowledged my comment!

Cptn contacted the Gloucester Lock while I was on Helm duty and the green Traffic Light was showing as the Lock came into view. We went straight in but had to wait for a giant Tupperware! Gloucester Lock is deep and it seemed to take ages to rise to the level of the Gloucester Basin, the end of the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, lined by the renovated Gloucester Docks.
Gloucester Lock
A few angled Pontoon moorings were available and Cptn skilfully reversed into one of the moorings while DB was being blown by the wind. I threw a rope to a helpful moorer who understood the wind was not our friend!
We moved from angled mooring to linear
Wait there’s more but I've got to write it first!

The Severn estuary in -Waiting!

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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.