Saturday, 13 August 2016


Pirates on Bristol Floating Harbour
Sunday night in Bristol was quiet. The people on terra firma didn’t mooch about for long and I had dinner to prepare, I can’t remember what we had, it had been a long day getting from Sharpness to Bristol. I know we were tired and elated with our day’s achievement on new waters. I needed sleep and went to bed early. I remember hearing an inebriated reveller close to DB and reports, the next day, were said person teetered on falling in. I’m glad there was no alarm raised for rescue!

As usual in the morning, we woke early and decided to get underway and have a late breakfast. I am told Bristol has lots of places of interest but we were keen to move out of the Floating Harbour and back to the River Avon finding somewhere rural to spend a couple of days while rain was forecast! I took the DB’s wheel and steered the interesting waterway. It was not clear which way to steer out of the harbour but 6 eyes and a harbour map helped. There were some harbour-side works going on and there was one moored boat with ‘high-vis’ aboard having ‘Smoko’. Is that term still used for tea-break or has it become Vape-break?  Shortly after this an outboard work dingy thingy boat of life jacketed ‘high-vis’ went by heading in to town probably. Beats train travel!
Netham Lock
 It felt like we were on R. Avon but Netham Lock signifies the end of the Floating Harbour and meets with R. Avon. The Lock gates were open so we just continued on through. Time and tide were in our favour. I found out, a couple of days later I could have phoned the Lockie to find out what times the gates would open, it was just good fortune that our psychic channel was on!! So we were, now, back on C&RT waters and the Locks would be for our own manual labour. The R. Avon would take us to Bath where we will begin the Kennet & Avon Canal.
Back on the R. Avon
The first Lock, Keynsham Lock, gave us a view of a Visitor Mooring pontoon ahead and the thought of breakfast gave us impetus to get tied up and have some food. 

We appreciated that both our canopies were in situ, as the rain clouds approached, and without hesitation made the decision to stay put for a couple of days and to test out the dinner menu at one or both of the establishments a hop skip and jump away. Della had become lethargic and not interested in going for walks. We thought she was showing signs of aging, she is almost 10 years old, and let her sleep more. Being the  ‘navigator’ is not all a bed of cushions and treats! We all enjoyed having some rest and Phil went and collected his car which meant he could take me to one of my fave supermarkets to stock up with fresh food.

Phil left and Mark arrived, a smooth changeover with guests while the rain stayed. I’m naming this summer ‘Bummer Summer’ cos that’s the truest definition of it, for me. We are given forecasts for sweet dreams but the reality is far from days of sunshine and roses more like rain with a sprinkling of more rain. The weather did improve for our cruise, the following day, to Bath. I enjoy river travel on DB, it is a calm cruise and easier, than the Canals, being at the Helm. 

Swineford Lock, I think.

However, it was Mark’s turn to get his ‘badge’ and he steered well including in / out of the Locks. Della came out for short courtesy calls with me as I worked the Locks. For the first time, I let her walk across the Lock gate platform which was wider than the same on canal locks. She didn’t see bothered by the potential drop to the water below, in fact she never glanced at the danger below!
Skipper Mark getting close to start of K&A Canal

There were a few good rural river moorings, we passed, but Bath was our destination and we were going to get on the K & A Canal. There were moorings near some big building works, in Bath, but we soon saw the start of the Canal, missed letting me off at the lock moorings
View from land looking down river to K&A Lock Mooring ahead. The sunk boat to the (R) just got sold on EBay!

The sign wasn’t obvious and there was a Nb heading into the Bottom Lock so Cptn tooted the horn to indicate we’ll share with them and I did a last minute jump to a step that got me landed in walking distance to the Lock.
2 Locks become one Bath Deep Lock 8/9   It's a long way up if you want to Rock-n-Roll

Our partners with the Lock were newbies on their newly bought Nb and were intent on using ropes to keep them safe in the rising Lock. I empathised with them, remembering our early days on AM, when I was concerned she would get into trouble if we didn’t use the centre rope in the Lock. I said that 2 boats in the Lock will keep the boat stable but he wasn’t having any of that. By the time we got to the 5th Lock he had stopped using the rope! Cptn had reassured him that all would be good. With experience, on the Canals, the boat engine is the controller. Keep the Stern close to the back gates when going up a Lock. Keep the Bow close to the front gates when going down a Lock, this avoids getting the Stern caught on the Cill. You never want to get caught on the Cill, your boat could drown!
Overstaying with permission

We found a mooring at the top of the 5 Bath locks and I took Della for a short walk before doggy-dinner. I noticed, then, that she had blood in her wee. Alarm bells rang and I asked a passerby, walking a cute Mini Schnauzer, if she was a local, “Yes” was her reply and I got the name of her Vet! I was straight on the phone, in the morning, and Della accompanied with a fresh pee sample had her first consultation. The vet was fantastic, ‘Ashman Jones Vets’, and within 2 days Della had been x-rayed, confirmed diagnosis of 2 bladderstones and booked in for an op.
Della wears the handbag well.

As we were going to need to stay in Bath for more than the 48hr signposted Visitor Mooring gave us,  I phoned the K&A Enforcement Officer to request permission to overstay our mooring time.  The Officer was very understanding and could see by our cruising pattern that we were not in the habit of overstaying as we moved around the Canals and Rivers network. I have kept in touch with her and fingers crossed little Della-dog will be fit for travel on August 16. She is making a speedy recovery, following the rules, and should be back to chasing rabbits and squirrels soon.

We have enjoyed being moored in Bath and have caught up with Nb Jonesfield who we met a couple of years ago when we shared the Thames Lock at Limehouse and pretended we were in a Nb flotilla doing the bridges of London. We met, again, last year at the Hatton Locks and now near their home mooring in Bath. The small world of England’s waterways.
Holborne Museum

Bath is a friendly and pretty city where we have been warmly welcomed.  Our life is destined to keep on the move but I expect to return some sunny day!

R. Avon not accessible for the likes of us

Downriver from the weir. We are foot traffic at this level!

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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.