Thursday, 8 September 2016


I don’t think we are on a cruising ‘ring’, but we have been on a few rivers this year.... R. Soar, a touch of R. Trent, R. Weaver, R. Severn, R. Avon, a hint of R. Kennet as it merged with the Canal that shares its name, and our finale of the season on the R. Thames ending with a snippet on R. Brent.

On the river DB is ready, with her canopies, to adapt to the vagaries of weather in this climate- challenged country. The Thames was going to be a mixed bag, weather-wise, and we started off in Sonning with the Wheel House canopy in situ. We bought our Environment Agency (E.A) Thames license, from the Sonning Lock Lock-keeper, issued as we went down the Lock. We were legit to be on the Thames and could take our time, 7 days, to get to Teddington Lock where we would be lowered on to the tidal Thames, controlled by Port of London Authority (PLA), cruising 4 miles to Thames Lock, Brentford.
Thames traffic

The river was busy mainly with fancy white‘Tupperwares’ jetting up and down. There were the occasional  ‘Steels’, some yachts, dinghys, kyaks and rowing boats with or without coxswain. Generally big boat traffic keep to the rules, the others can be a different kettle of fish.

Last year, we cruised without paying mooring charges. This year, for my memory and to share, I’m going to list our R. Thames moorings.

  • ·         Wargrave Marsh, at least 24 hr free mooring. Lovely spot we found for 2 nights.
    We were round the bend from these boats! 
  • ·         Bourne End, £5 / 24hr collected by Margot . There is a railway line nearby for the local train service (Marlow – Bourne End) and I have to say very considerate train drivers who slow down approaching the nearby pedestrian railway line crossing. The train makes minimal noise that doesn’t intrude.
  • ·         Windsor, £8 / 24hr collected by a mate of our friend Keith. No mate’s rates given! The island mooring on the river was ‘bouncy’ with all the active boat traffic but a move into the cutting and tying onto the mooring rings was a comfortable solution. I don’t think we’ll put Windsor on our mooring list, we  can avoid stopping here.
  • ·         Old Windsor close to ‘The Bells of Ouzeley’ and not far from Magna Carta Island, free but noisy road traffic. We had intended to go to free Visitor moorings in Staines, but a planned meeting with friends had been cancelled and I could live without a supermarket shop!
  • ·         Penultimate night in Shepperton, free mooring opposite Desborough Island.
    We found out about this mooring off the main ‘drag’ when we had pulled up after exiting Shepperton Lock at the free 24hr moorings we had used, last year, before we went on the R. Wey. There was a notice saying the Dunkirk Little Ships would be using the mooring and we would have to leave by 6am! Cptn spoke with another moored Nb who first told us about the moorings we used that night.
     We put our pegs in the ground although it was signed ‘No Mooring’ but some of the boats using the legal mooring Rings didn’t look like they were in a rush to move.
    I called out to a man on a Narrowboat “Do they monitor these moorings?” He shrugged and shook his head. Another Nb was moored in front of us and we soon met and shared our lack of concern over our disobedient behaviour.
     We were only going to be an overnight stay!
  • ·         Our last night on the river we stayed at Walton-on-Thames, free mooring, slowly moving back from outside ‘The Anglers’ Pub as the ‘plastics’ left their moorings. I went for a walk in the rain into Walton and filled my trolley with goodies from Sainsburys and Aldi, both within easy walking distance.
    Greedy Swans

We have been informed that some small ‘plastic’ boats are being stripped of their name and identity number and mooring long term in Visitor Moorings used for accommodation. The boats are not licensed to be on the water. We came across a couple of these boats and I wonder what The Environment Agency is doing about this. Tut tut, it annoys me but no-one and no organisation are perfect!

On the final day of our river License we left Walton-on-Thames and cruised towards Sunbury Lock where we were stuck in boat congestion! 60 minutes later, guesstimate, we were approached by the line of Dunkirk boats en masse as they were heading up river.

Dunkirk's passing the waiting boats
There had to be a few Lock fills to get their group at ‘our’ level and the growing queue of boats held-in-waiting were puzzled that no boats were being put into the Lock before it was emptied for more Dunkirk’s! Still we got lots of waves from the Veteran’s as they cruised past our smiling faces. Thanks, a WW2 memory never forgotten by many that lives on.

Later, we got moving and only Molesworthy Lock, near Hampton Court Palace to go through before mooring up above Teddington Lock to wait for the incoming tide to be almost at high tide. We checked in with the Lock Keeper and moved back to the front of the queue! Perfect. I gave Della a walk and called out to Chris, the Narrowboater who witnessed our derring-do on the K&A Canal at Newbury. I had recognised him waiting for Teddington Lock on his Nb! An unexpected meet up but a small world indicative of the life we lead.

Time didn't stop and boats started up their engines giving the signal that the Lock had its 'green-for-go' traffic light glowing.

 We went in Teddington Lock and soon out on the tidal Thames punching the last of the incoming tide.
Leaving Teddington Lock
It was a 4 mile cruise with the ‘revs’ up to get to turn to port on the R. Brent. I took the helm for some of the journey and enjoyed the responsibility and recognising some of the familiar Richmond / Twickenham landmarks. It took about an hour to get to the turn on to the R. Brent and soon we were at the Thames Lock and with the green light to enter one of the 2 automatic and staffed Locks.

DB had the Canopies in situ and we were warned that they may have to be removed before the road bridge to the Brentford gauging locks. So the tide was now going out, ebb tide, and this we hoped would mean the canopies would be OK. Cptn went out snail’s pace and I noticed we were pushing a huge amount of river weed. A reverse thrust didn’t dislodge the weed from the Bow and I became aware there were 2 Narrowboats now following closely behind DB. This meant there would be competition to be first out of the Locks thankfully operated by C&RT volunteers leading into Brentford Basin moorings and the start of The Grand Union Canal.

Suffice to say we only just cleared under the road bridge, were first into one of the two wide Locks, first out of the Lock, and first to get the only remaining mooring in the Basin.
The last space!

If our mooring quest had turned to custard, there are mooring rings just outside the Basin and the other boats bar one managed to get their ropes on these. There was still space for the last boat to bang their mooring pegs in.

DB in the best spot!

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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.