Monday, 29 August 2016


I’m writing this, moored in a ‘Swallows and Amazon’ setting on the River Thames. We moved off the Kennet & Avon Canal (K&A) where it joins the R. Thames, at Reading Berks, on Saturday.

I’ll recap some of the journey on the K & A, after we left DeviZes on August 19th, in the rain. Some mad bad weather had been forecast and looking at the fine print with regard to headroom on the Canal, we became informed that DB would have 8 ft headroom to Newbury, which meant we could travel with her stern and wheelhouse canopies in situ! Perfect, meaning we can move undercover. 
 AM bought heree in 2010

We got a wee way out from DeviZes and moored at Horton Bridge, again a memory from Avalon Mist early days where the boat we had cruised with on a day trip out of the Marina had stopped and I saw their Dalmatian walk off their semi-trad stern and into the Cut! I remember being pleased that AM had a cruiser stern and Della would be less likely to fall in!

On to the here and now, we cruised off from Horton Bridge under the skies looking like rainfall was likely. We weren’t bothered, we are undercover! The day was almost Lock free, with a couple of manual swing bridges that swung. 

A few miles away was Honey Street, packed with moored boats of ‘continuous cruisers – not’, probably.  A different scene 5 years ago, plenty of moorings and we moored outside the Pub, then. The words that have become etched in my brain were first spoken to me then ‘You can tell a Yorkshireman, but not much’, and I have repeated them many times. There were no moorings, this day, and we hadn’t planned a stop there. Maybe Pewsey we’d be ready to tie up! But 4 miles on and moored boats were plenty. If the boats on the Visitor mooring had bunched together, then we and another boat would have fit! Bah humbug!! I’m in no hurry to return to this part of the Canal.
Locking undercover
We got to the final climb of Locks on the K&A and a Nb had just moved into the remaining mooring above the Lock we were going up in, Wootton Rivers Bottom Lock. I ‘collared’ a boat-looking person and enquired about moorings above the next Lock. He said there were moorings and better than the pound I had hoped for which tends to lose water and boats become grounded! So we moved onto the pound above Heathey Close Lock, which from my scribble in Nicholson Waterways Guide 7 we moored here at 4pm 06/07/2011! History is repeating itself!

The Bruce Tunnel, 502yds, was 2 Locks away and a quick squiz at YouTube looked like it was in good condition but we thought the weather looked like returning to sunshine and we may as well be exposed and take the canopies down. If we ever pass this way again, The Bruce Tunnel is one-way traffic, doesn’t leak and DB could be undercover!!

We did 12 Locks, alternating our skills between Helming and Locking. I’m feeling confident at ‘the wheel’, these days and Cptn is enjoying working the Lock. The day moves fast and the mileage slows with the Locks. There is a bit of boat traffic but not lots, like it was from Bath to the bottom of the Caen Flight. Next day dawned with 10 Locks to Hungerford and Tesco’s.

Day 3 and 10 more Locks to Newbury. A bit of boat share in the Locks, makes it easier, and our informal ‘partner’ was a solo boater who was ever present at working the Locks as well. As we were going down the last Lock before Newbury, a holiday boat arrived at the Lock mooring and made no attempt to meet and greet us! It is annoying when people sit on their boat and watch from a distance. I opened one gate, as we could bow thrust to position ourselves to get through the gate, and climbed down the Lock ladder to get on DB. I’d not be able to get on at the Lock mooring!
I glared at the happy holiday makers and said “You fail!”

“No-one told us to help other people at the Lock while we were waiting!” a bloke replied.
Leafy Willow trunk

Off to Newbury and Cptn was avoiding the stern of our ‘friend’s’ boat as it was mooring up. DB moved towards a leafy hedge, between moored boats on the other side. Next thing we were tipping to 30° and it felt like we were going to roll over. Bang and crash noises came from indoors as I squealed. Cptn kept calm and DB righted herself and we floated while I went to inspect the damage. The Greek washing up was done, a few bottles broken and my paua mosaic globe had taken a tumble. Oh well we were OK and that is more important than material loss. 
A bird in the bush is worth 2 on the wire. A messy position!
Della and a local celeb!

A couple of days later a Head Honcho from C&RT came to visit, at Cptn’s request, as we were concerned with Canal safety. Fine to prune trees, please get your arbour experts to put up a sign warning DANGER.  The leafing stump is still a tree and not a willowy hedge.
Blade runner!
While we were waiting a visit from C&RT Cptn got started with the side hatch project. This continued with all the side hatches getting a strip of window, in each, when we got to perfect 48hr moorings in Aldermarston beside the defunct sanitary station, between the Lock and the key operated Lift Bridge. 
Side Hatch windows! YAY!!

There was a water point too so we topped up! On close inspection the mooring was 4 hour but someone had put an 8 in front of it! We stayed a couple of nights and the second night there were 4 boats snuggled in there.

We teamed up with Dina and Nick and their beautiful dog Bella, on Nb Geisha's Tale, to share the Locks and automated bridges to Reading and on to the R. Thames.  Dina said she had seen us at Portishead, last month, and had taken a photo of us waiting to go into the Lock! 
DolcieBlue waiting outside Portishead Lock on the Bristol Channel!! Thx Dina

Of all the boats and all the Locks, in England, what a small friendly world we live in! We moved swiftly, only held up by Ozzy and his fuel boat, who was ahead of us. We bought a bottle of calor gas from him, with the thought he would have to give up his place while he delivered the gas to us. No chance, he was a man on the move!

Reading looked cleaned out of Narrowboats. There were only small plastics moored, as we passed through. At the second to last Lock, I didn’t see the Lock mooring until the last minute and in my haste to drop Cptn off I got pulled by the current and lodged between the gap of the Lock entrance and close to the rubber bollards preventing access to the weir. I was stuck and some early morning boozers came to try and pull DB back to working position! No luck there. Cptn came back and attached the long rope to DB’s stern and he took charge at the helm. With rope in hand, I climbed onto the bow of Nb Geisha's Tale and attached it to the Bow. DB was pulled free and both boats reversed into position to enter the Lock. Blah blah. We got the green light to go through the narrow bits through Reading town centre. I helmed so no photos!

Undercover of a bridge, as we leave Reading.

No boat traffic in sight then, and only one in view when we were on the straight to Blake’s Lock, operated by the Environmental Agency (E.A). There was nobody present and we let ourselves through, saying “Thanks and Laters” to our cruising buddies.
Sonning mooring
The R. Thames is special to return to. We went as far as Sonning Lock, thought we might catch up with the Clooney’s and some other named people that actually hang about in that area. The Bull Inn was an enjoyable revisit and we met a young family who were enjoying a few days out on their ‘Tupperware’.

Now we are at Wargrave Marsh, a delightful mooring on the R. Thames. Thanks to Clare and John, former steel boaters now Tupperware crafters, for showing us and saving the mooring for us.

The River is busy with huge boats and the occasional Narrowboat. We’re on a 7 day E.A license and will get to Brentford soon!

Sheltered from the main drag, Wargrave.

1 comment:

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.