Thursday, 27 October 2016


I’m planning this to be my last cruising blog for 2016. There has to be a time to finish this one, we are off to España in a week’s time driving our red car down to the Costa Blanca for 5 months in the winter sun. If you are interested in an off the wall Blog about how we cope in Spain send me a comment por favor. There are a number of poor canal cruiser-people who leave their boat in the natural fridge of England while they chill out in Spain.

DB was moored for a couple of nights at Gas Street while I took in the city buzz. There are lots of places to visit as well as shopping and we will return to Birmingham, maybe next year. 

Go left

We cruised out of Gas Street and turned to port at the Canal roundabout (?Three-Ways) onto the Lock-free Birmingham Level Mainline. We saw Nb Areandare moored with their NZ flag flying, and we were greeted with waves and a fleeting chat as we passed them. Earlier this year we had met on the Shroppie and the Staffs & Worcs Canal, the world of boating gains familiarity with cruising!
Spot the Kiwi flags
We had @ 6 miles until turning to the Netherton Tunnel Branch Canal. There are heaps of Canals around Birmingham, some of them lead to the Canal Network and some are loops off the main canal. Lots of history involved and we were moving to ‘the Black Country’, where the heart of industrial England lay. 

I’m not a historian more a feeler that life existed before I visited and then the times were changing and still they keep changing, becoming fodder for the media to feed negative vibes to Jo Public.
In a hurry
The Netherton Tunnel (3027 yds) was opened in 1858 to ease the delays in the Dudley Tunnel and has a towpath, either side, running through it. 

Entering the Netherton Tunnel

I agreed that Cpt would helm this one as I thought I could make dinner for later while we were in this black hole. Occasionally I heard water falling; this was when we went under ventilation shafts. As far as tunnels are concerned this is a good one, no traffic coming the other way when we passed through, and no walls close enough to rub along if DB’s steering got confused! The poorly ventilated Dudley Tunnel (3154yds) does not traffic to use engines and passage must be booked to either be towed by an electric tug or if you are really keen you can ‘leg’ it like they did in the ‘old’ days. No the song says ’All I need is the air that I breathe’. Life was a killer in those days.

The light at the end of the Netherton Tunnel was bright and the wooded valley was coloured with trees shedding their autumn leaves. The area is known as Windmill End and Bumblehole. We were on the Dudley No2 Canal and made our mooring for the night close to the Visitors centre. The Dudley No2 Canal terminates at Hawne Basin, Halesowen and we weren’t going to cruise the 2 ½ miles this trip.

A Nb that we had met when we began climbing the Lapworth Locks (Stratford-upon-Avon Canal) moored up near us at Windmill End. It’s a small world. We, on DB, took off early in the morning as we hoped to get to the Staffs & Worcs Canal but we knew it would be a day of heaps of Locks. We did 25 Locks, that day! It is a lot of Locks to work through but we don’t see it as hard work.  One day sitting on your bum with nothing to do will be hard work.  
Dudley Tunnel -that way------

The working of the Locks is now divided between us as we take turns steering DB. The first Lock was at Blowers Green, a deep 12’ Lock.  We are entering the area of former Glass industry. We were chatting with a gongoozler and our Nb friendlies who might have been following us appeared. So we got on with the job of getting down the Lock and moving through Dudley town to Ninelocks as we wanted to keep ahead of them. We were on the move and they were close behind. 

VERY low bridge

Is there any life living on lock algae?

Which lock is this one? They all look the same!

Another stretch to breathe before 16 Locks which seemed to be eating into our day!

The days are definitely shorter and we gave up hope of getting to the Staffs & Worcs Canal that day. I don’t see the joy in cruising in the dark so we cruised along the Stourbridge Canal until we moored at the first mooring site we saw. It felt like it was dusk and then the late afternoon sun came out. 
Think I'll sleep tonight

All was good. I really like the rural moorings but not the muddy towpath when it gets walked into DB. It’s not that bad as the warmth inside the boat from the fire soon dries the shoe and paw prints up.

The last leg of our journey were the final Locks to Kinver and the hope that we would get a decent mooring before we move to Ashwood Marina on the 31st October. So we are at Kinver, have an optimal mooring and the red car is nearby slowly getting packed for España. I drove it to Merry Hill Shopping as I had to get my mobile phone working with me rather than against me. Merry Hill Shopping is huge and no charity shops, probably.
No thanks!

Meanwhile back on DB we have finished decorating the cabin sides, for this year. What a great installation idea, creative Cpt came up with and he stayed focussed on getting it finished. We are getting 100% favourable comments about it and it brings a smile to the faces of people of all generations. No paint was involved!!

Colour your world!

I winded DB at the nearest winding hole, it was the first time I had done this manoeuver 
since I did a 63pt wind on Avalon Mist a few years ago on the Macclesfield Canal. It was easy this time. Cpt gave me verbal instruction and we could head back to Kinver where we'll overstay until Sunday. I'll take DB to Ashwood Marina which is about 3 miles away and Cpt will take the car. He'll meet me at the 4 Locks along the way but if he doesn't make it due to the remoteness of the last 2 Locks, I'll manage.

OK that’s it; Della’s biscuits are baked and time to get strumming on my Uke.

Thanks for reading.

Leading in Kinver

Monday, 24 October 2016



We rested for 3 days in between the upper Lapworth Locks waiting for my mobile phone to be returned to a Carphone Warehouse in Leamington Spa. I wanted my phone back and I was getting annoyed waiting in a black hole for it. Finally, the call came through that it was ready for me to collect. Thank goodness we had our car parked in a handy location so I could put the imaginary Kojak flashing whirly light out to air! My phone was put out to the home for ‘unfixables’, and I was given a replacement which they say is the same type or better. Touch wood that it will give me a reasonable life in my hands! (Update - It turned into bleeding phone nightmare, I ain’t no nerd-geek and I have spent some days trying to work out how to ‘import’ the photos from my SD card. I think it’s sorted now!!! I have no patience none whatsoever anymore!!!! Thx Cpt. Hubby x)

Passing moored boats, tic tic....
It was a long cruise, for us, from our country mooring around the bend down from Lapworth Lock 5. We only had 4 Locks to work. Lapworth Top Lock 2 is the final Lock on the Stratford Canal. Where is Lock 1? I can only assume it must have been a Toll Lock or a flood Lock at King’s Norton Junction. It’s not mentioned in the Nicholson’s Canal Guide. 

Boat traffic appeared close to hibernation with minimal movement on the waters. Of course when it is least expected a Narrowboat appears. We were closing in on Bridge No.8, far enough away that I had time to prepare and grill a croissant toastie, a sort of croque monsieur á la Kiwi, let’s name it ‘Choke Bruce-mate’. With the fridge monitor lurking in the background there comes a time that the ‘Best Buy’ has to be used before I forget to get ‘a round tuit’. You know what I mean don’t you?!! So my ‘Choke Bruce-mate’ is home-made tomato relish, chorizo, small vine tomato, and Vintage cheddar on a croissant. Yum yum.

Autumn falls

Our plan was to tie up at the bridge mooring to gobble our lunch and have a ‘cuppa’ before I use the BW Key to stop traffic and raise the automated bridge. A holiday boat was moored at the bridge mooring, no sign of life so they must have popped into the nearby Pub. We had to do Plan B, and stop the traffic, raise the bridge and moor on the other side. Bridge instructions are clear on the small screen ‘Keep finger on OPEN button to raise bridge’ ‘Keep finger on CLOSE button to lower bridge’. As soon as DB’s stern was clear of the bridge, I pushed the CLOSE button. I didn’t check to see if there were any more boats coming. Finally, the barriers went up and traffic started moving and then I see another boat approaching! Shortly after, there were another 2 boats. That bridge is certainly a traffic stopper.

Eventually, we arrive at King’s Norton Junction where the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal terminates with a T intersection meeting the Worcester and Birmingham Canal. 

Starboard for Birmingham

It was a sharp turn starboard to go straight under the low arched bridge and about 5 miles to get us to Gas Street in central Birmingham. I was at the helm, all the way for this bit of the cruise. Highlights in the dimming daylight were
“Kiaora” said a man on foot.
“All is ka-pai?” I questioned and was greeted with a nod and a smile.
The canal straights were long, and it felt like it was taking forever to get to Gas Street. One bridge we approached I said to Cpt, “Is that a C&RT Boat on the other side of the Bridge or is it Hi-vis walking on water?”
Luckily we weren’t going at speed and I had to get Cpt to give me clearance that there was enough space for DB to get past. “Why was there no sign?” Word has it that signs do not stay in place very long in Birmingham!

We got to Gas Street just before dusk and there was a mooring waiting to be taken. Perfect.

Birmingham is very cool. Friendly helpful people and The Mailbox is a stone’s throw and opens to vibrant downtown Brum.  To me, it feels like a city should feel.

Shhhhhhh .............. It’s a Gas!

Gas Street, Birmingham

Sunday, 16 October 2016


At Lapworth on the GU, we were approximately 14 ½ miles to the end of our trek up the GU Mainline to venture in the spaghetti layout of the Birmingham Canals. The GU Mainline flows on for 3-4 miles to the ‘T’ junction with the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. It is a bit of a pasta dish to digest but apparently Birmingham has more Canals than Venice. Anyway, a bit of pondering over our onward cruise up the GU and comparing it with cruising up the Lapworth Locks on the Stratford-on-Avon Canal to get to Gas Street in Birmingham gave the advantage to the latter canal, fewer Locks and more direct. We need to get to the Netherton Tunnel and beyond to the Staffs & Worcs Canal.
The writing on the train says 'a DB company'
So I’ll stick with the recent past, and the here and now. We moved DB to the mooring at The Navigation Inn in Lapworth and tied up for three nights. I went to London to meet a friend, as you do, who was visiting from ‘downunder’. Wow, it wasn’t even a hard day’s travel by train to Marylebone Station (£5.50p each way from Leamington). It was 1 ½ hrs on the train to London! It took us 14 days on DB to get from Brentford to Leamington Spa!! It made me think about the history of train tracks and canals. I’d be mad not to take the train, so I did, and we met at the small London Train Station for a few hours to walk and chat and have lunch. Our first face to face meeting in 23 years is special and our friendship has not been found in a time warp.
Paddington Basin

The media would like you to believe that London is a hotbed of racism, violence, and ‘EU Remainers’. I saw no signs or felt any hostility. We only walked between Marylebone and Paddington as far as Paddington Basin. I wanted to check out the moorings and there were a few, which is 3, available, 7-day moorings. There was one boat I remembered seeing in Brentford! Anyway, the negative news fed by the newspaper wasn’t in my field of vision. We walked along Edgeware Rd thinking the food smelt good and we checked out the price. The Lebanese cafe we went into had a ‘mezza’ (sharing plate of goodies) for £80! What!!!? I didn’t ask how much a puff on a hookah pipe would be, there were women smoking these outdoors and really I don’t see any appeal. I’m an ex-smoker. I remember seeing the hubbly jubbly pipes in use in Dahab many years ago. The roads were busy with traffic, so many traffic lights, and pedestrians waiting for the ‘Green Man’, I certainly felt that I was in another country. I had to keep asking for directions, it is easy to get disorientated. No-one I asked was unhappy to have been asked but most people were unable to give directions. The population of London is getting close to 9 million people. It’s a huge place and I was a pin prick! The Evening Standard paper and Magazine is a freebie, now, at least it is a crossword for the train and the paper can be used to wrap stuff to take to Spain. Cool to pop in for a visit but I’m thankful to be able to return to my floating home and untie the ropes!

Now I am waiting for the return of my software problem Huawei phone. It is supposed to have been repaired and is being delivered back to Leamington Spa. We want to get moving but realise it is better to wait for the phone before we get into the heart of Birmingham. I want my phone!! It’s mainly for the phone camera; point and shoot are my style.
The Navigator is thinking it's very narrow!

We left The Navigation Pub, the sun was almost shining and Cpt reversed DB back to Kingswood Junction where we could get onto the Stratford-on-Avon Canal and head up the Lapworth Locks. The Locks are easy to operate Narrow Locks and we were given assistance by the C&RT Volunteer. By early afternoon we had moored up leaving 4 Locks and a couple of lift bridges to work before the run into Birmingham.
Peace and quiet near Birmingham. No traffic no trains.

You may notice DB is flying the NZ flag. I think less than a handful of gongoozlers have recognised it is the NZ flag. Most comments are “Australia!”
I say “No, New Zealand.”
I say “You will be!”  

NZ had a referendum in 2015, voter turnout was 67.8%. (In NZ there were 3,158,576 registered voters) 2,135,622 voted in the referendum.
Out of the people who voted 56.6% wanted to retain the current NZ flag (Option B) and 43.2% wanted to change it (to Option A.)

New Zealand retained their flag, now I am destined to repeat “I am Kiwi not Australian”.

NZ flag has 4 RED Stars

Saturday, 15 October 2016


The Lidl mooring between Leamington Spa and Warwick is fab, an ideal location to said store and nearby business park, supermarkets and train station. We thought this is a mooring we would overstay and the day we were marked by the C&RT enforcement inspector gave us a definite legal limit on our mooring. He said 5 days and he would be back in a week’s time. Cool bananas! My opinion is that it may have been 48hr mooring but without signage, it must be 14-day mooring. I think we maxed on 12-day mooring!! Shhhh..... Cpt had to use the wonders of his Bus Pass to collect the ‘Red Car’ to get it serviced and MOT’d. Plus he had to take the train to London for the tooth fairy to give him a new tooth. Car and tooth were successfully done and the green light is shining for the continental run next month. Our car is amazing; it started up the first turn of the key and passed its MOT first check. (Did you know in NZ that a car’s WOF has to be done twice yearly?)
Big Yellow Bus....our first final farewell leaving Europe trip 2004

Pimpmobile- Molesworth NZ

Little car,Van-Rouge and the Pimpmobile  - Tauranga NZ

Over the years we have been owners of vans and cars and they have generally had a name, maybe it is a ‘bogan’ idea but we knew what car we were referring to without writing words on number plates! There was the ‘plucky’ Renault 4, the ‘long’ car (Peugeot GRD 505) Blue and Dolcie each had their own length of passenger seats, the ‘Pimpmobile’, the ‘Van Rouge’ (VW Transporter), and ‘Jap Jag’ (Mitsubishi Diamante) to name a few. Our present car we call the ‘Red Car’ (Vauxhall Astra) and it is clocking up the miles. In NZ cars from Japan are popular and affordable, European cars are pricier and cars generally have high mileage (in kilometres). In the UK cars appear to be late-model and affordable. I do take interest in the age of cars; I can identify that by the number plate! The make is not even close to the tip of my tongue but I do recognise colours!!


Back to DB... staying on the water. We have kept busy with DB’s aesthetic exterior coloured pattern installation and enjoyed the positive comments she receives.
“Never seen anything like that before on a boat. Love it” said a gongoozler.
 “It is ‘Random’ like our life on the water,” I reply.
The day we started to continue our move up the GU Canal Mainline, I did the last minute heavy stuff shop at Lidl thinking that a small Lidl trolley would make an easy transfer of goods onto DB. I was not aware that trolleys now have an anti-vandal lock if they are moved out of their comfort zone! I soon found this out and had to haul the trolley along on one castor to get it to DB!! Had to haul the empty trolley back to Lidl and ask a ‘friendly’ to unlock it so I could get my £1 coin freed from the slot. I told him I was a ‘Trolley Dolly’ and made the appropriate gestures. He laughed, I laughed and I got my £1 back.
Cpt had been to have his spine tweaked and as soon as he was home we untied the ropes and were set free, smiling with being on the move. I insisted on helming, I’ve got the feel of the wheel now and my steering is close to accurate. Cpt reminded me there was a sharp bend after we pass the Tesco mooring so I blast my horn and seconds later the nose of a Nb moves into sight. I move DB to starboard canal-side and no ‘Westie’ occurred. They hadn’t heard my horn and they hadn’t sounded their one. What’s the point?
Cape of Good Hope

We spent the night moored outside the Cape of Good Hope Pub, Kiwi owned and managed. We ate their good food but didn’t stay for the Quiz night. I think with our limited knowledge of sport, current music, movies and tv our chances of even marking the board are restricted and we’d feel dumb and dumber. I did see that movie at least 20 years ago!
Going up the Hatton before the incident.....

Up bright and early in the morning, Cpt side-moved DB to the water point and while filling her almost empty tank the clear sky clouded over to give us a gloomy start to our climb up the 21 Hatton Locks. We’ve done these Locks a few times and this time, we could alternate jobs as Lockie and Helmie every 5 Locks. It all started very well until 4 Locks in, a Lock gate caught the stern rail on the starboard side and DB lurched.
Yikes, I squealed “This is not good. Why is this happening?” The rail had bent but was still intact.
At the next Lock, Cpt had noticed that when the Lock was full the open Lock Gate doesn’t keep flush with the Lock wall and needed to be positioned so it wouldn’t grab the stern rail. The fabrication of the rail by Colecraft is not right; it should have been better positioned to avoid this contact! We used to have looped braided fenders hanging on the hull sides but they were recently removed for repair as they kept getting pulled from their position. We were opening only one gate, that is how we Nb’s do the wide locks.
Moving up Locks we now had a method to avoid damage. We were happy that a Volunteer started to help us and Cpt had instructed him the method we needed to use for leaving the Lock. When I got back on the Helm, I forgot to remind the Volunteer to correct the Gate position and DB got caught again! Steel groans and a lurch as the rail got grabbed and barely stayed intact. The rail was now busted and bent horizontally over the water and I knew I couldn’t get into the next Lock through one gate. I gave a few blasts on the horn to try and get Cpt’s attention and soon I was slowly cruising into the Lock. Too late, the stone wall before the Lock Gate got DB’s damaged stern rail, amputated it and it slid down into the water. Not even a splash!
Oops Yikes Damn Bugger Blast

I was agape, shocked at what had happened and you have to imagine the words that passed my lips! What an event I wish had never happened. Well, it was a clean break and not a happy situation to be in but it had happened. I don’t handle this situation well thankfully my partner does! Mind the gap!! DB is made of steel and a new rail with a bit of surgery from the Welder followed by a lick of paint should return her into aesthetic shape.

We don’t have to stop cruising. No stern canopy to erect for the rest of our voyage. We got to the top of the flight, and after refreshment at the nearby Cafe we moved on to Rowington with me at the Helm. We had to follow a holiday boat that was moving slower than ‘tic’ which does cause difficulty with steering DB. They made no move to let us pass them and I was tempted to irritate them but I held off and they gestured to us on DB to pass them as they left the Shrewley Tunnel. I saw them the next day and they said I should have indicated I wanted to pass them. Here’s a thought, if you are aware you are going slower than slow and a boat is on your tail surely you would just move out of the way to let the boat go past!
Don't cry no tears, rail will be fixed next year!

Finally, we were on the Rowington Ridge. Our favoured mooring spot was taken by 3 boats but there was plenty of room ahead. The water was a bit shallow as I found out the next morning when I was moving DB solo-handed with Della to Lapworth. A push off the bank, with my big foot, and a bit of reverse throttle got me central on the Canal. Cpt had taken the bus to Leamington to get our ‘Red’ car and we had agreed that I would get DB to Lapworth.

For me, that was an achievement to be on my own by myself without fear of failure! I felt I was the bee's knees when I tied up just after Kingswood Junction.

GU Canal -Mainline    Kingswood Junction

Saturday, 8 October 2016


Braunston to Royal Leamington Spa

We are cruising familiar ground, I mean waters. We’ve done this stretch there and back, back and there and back and so on. It’s like flying to NZ or driving to Portugal, it gets familiar over time and is loosely filed into the rose coloured memory bank. Aging loses definition detail and to agree on who what where and why a Blog and a calendar have their uses. I’m rambling... now where was I!?!

Braunston for a couple of days and the canal is definitely a spot both of us feel ‘at home’ on. This time, we weren’t planning to hang about too long, the tooth fairy was going to be calling Cptn soon and Leamington Spa would be a stop of more than a couple of nights. 
Midland Swindlers

A quick visit to Midland ‘Swindlers’ to buy coal and then I was at the helm. Another first, for me, was reversing DB back onto the straight and narrow of the GU Canal. ‘Swindlers’ is on Braunston Turn, the meeting of the GU Canal-Mainline and the (North) Oxford Canal. No big deal moving DB as a passing boat confirmed there was no traffic following behind, and I trusted them. Reversing DB makes use of her Bow thrusters and it is easy to keep her in line. It was an easy cruise apart from a few dodgy bends and overhanging foliage that block vision, on the way to Napton Junction. It’s fortunate I have become proficient with blasting the horn, although with one close encounter I think in my excitement or was it panic- in- haste I switched on all the row of buttons and thought the horn button had jammed. The vision of the nose of a boat coming around the bend and no view to life and its stern makes it a close call but no ‘westie’ (the new word for contact sport). Remember the view from the oncoming boat is the same as us!

We met Billy, solo boater, at the Calcutt Locks. While we were waiting for him to move his boat into the Lock a passing boat crew on foot said “Possibly an Apartment is coming up the Locks, and the pound below is drying up.”
Moving the Apartment lessons

DB got down the Locks, no problem! Billy asked if we wanted to share the 8 Stockton Locks and he was keen to work the Locks, as well. He suggested I helm his boat, taking the tiller for a few Locks if I wanted to. I knew the last time I was ‘Tiller Queen’ had been on Nb Avalon Mist and I wasn’t 100% competent really. But he wasn’t to know that and I thought if I can do DB with her wheel, into the Locks, then I’d be all right with some Tiller action! I reassured Billy that I’d be OK, I could do it and I remembered that the Tiller pushed to port moves the Bow starboard. ‘Piece of cake’! The only tricky bit was judging the length of the boat and the reverse throttle action... No worries. Cpt says that using a wheel takes more skill!
Billy ahead.

We left Billy behind near Long Itchington and we kept on cruising hoping we’d find a decent mooring and get to Leamington, the following day. By early evening we moored somewhere in a nowhere place – Welsh Lock, and I added to my day's pickings of sloe berries and blackberries. Enough ‘sloes’ collected for the Sloe Gin recipe, stuck them in a bag and popped into the freezer.... google the recipe and you’ll see how easy it is.
Before we were visited by Aliens in a plastic boat.

We had ‘us’ dinner and had just sat down to watch a DVD. I heard noises outdoors, I was sure it was not from the TV, and then a light flickered through a nearby porthole and something brushed on the roof! Had aliens landed?

Cptn stepped up to the Stern. “Oi, what are you doing? Hey, you’ve knocked my window into the Cut?!!”
Night-shadow replied, “We have to move the boat...engine broken...gotta take it to Bridge 30 for boat Rescue to fix it!!”
“You’ve knocked our window into the Canal.”
“So sorry but we have to move...” says Night-shadow.
“But it’s DARK. It’s dangerous. Get our window out of the Canal.”
Torchlight, there was no silvery moon, showed it floating just out of reach. A few minutes later Cpt has plugged the halogen light in and the window now it is still floating (wooden frame and perspex, not glass windows) further away but in the opposite direction. It will be out of the light range soon and someone needs to get to it soon before it is lost!
“So sorry but we have to move.”
“Get my window or I’ll call the police,”says Cpt.
“I’m not going in the Canal, my mate will!” Matey is still fluffing around on his plastic boat now moored near the Lock.
“Get my window or I’ll call the police!” Cptn again threatens.
Matey arrives and says “Give me some rope. Give me a life jacket.”
“It’s not deep.” I say “The water will probably just come up to your knees.”
“I can’t swim. I’m scared of water” Says Matey.

Canal cleaned wheelhouse window hatch

I handed him a life ring and while he was fetching the Wheelhouse window hatch, I went indoors and got him a towel. When I got back the window had been landed and Matey was soaking wet. Both were very sorry. I let him keep the towel!

Sid and Elvis's boat!

Without further ado, we moved, in the morning, to Leamington Spa and got the Lidl ring mooring. There is no sign telling us of the mooring time length and we assume it is 14 days. The enforcement checker has said it is 5 days. I’ve not seen any mooring sign that says 5 days Mooring.

Random decorative Installation begins.....

Cptn had to see the Tooth Fairy and he now has a Maryland Bridge. The result, he can eat corn on the cob again.
ARGOS sorted out the problem I had with my electric toothbrush. “You look very helpful,” I said when I met the Customer Services chap. It turns out, he was. Some months ago I had bought a pack of 4 replacement brushes and recently I had tried to fit one of the brushes. There was no way I could make it fit and I thought I had been sold the incorrect replacement brushes! I had no til receipt to authenticate that ARGOS were the seller but luckily the toothbrush container had an ARGOS batch sticky on it. I don’t need to go any further, him at Customer Services found out it was a faulty brush head and he gave me a new one to replace it. I highly recommend ARGOS.

Now CARPHONE WAREHOUSE is sorting out my phone, my Huawei has a software meltdown and has been sent away. I insisted they loan me a phone, they did and now I am waiting for the return of my own one. I’m hoping that they will give me a new one pronto. No news yet.

So we are still in Leamington Spa. Most days we have been busy with DB’s decoration and we are getting 95+% positive reaction. We’ll make a move up the Hatton Flight on Tuesday. I have to get the train to London on Thursday and then we’ll head through Birmingham.

3 weeks until DolcieBlue will be at her winter mooring!!!!!!!!!!!

Della could watch reality TV for hours!

Sunday, 2 October 2016


DAY 1......Bulbourne

We stopped at the bottom of the Marston Locks, near the Wendover Arm Junction, after cruising on from Berko. It was a good journey sharing the Locks with Dave and Judith (she was helming due to sustaining a recent Colles’ fracture) to their stopping place at ‘Pulled Pork’, I mean Cow Roast (A small hamlet in Wigginton, Herts in the District of Dacorum on the outskirts of the bustling metropolis of Tring). A comedy in the making, say no more!

There were a lot of moored boats to pass, after we left our lock buddies, at Cowroast and Tic mode was in operation with me in charge of the helm.

I heard words from a moorer, as we went past “You’re going a tad too fast!”

I returned the comment smiling, with a mouthful “Tie your ropes properly, you mongrel!”

My eyes to the Cut ahead and keeping my pace at tic speed I had to be mindful of the beginner rowers who were strewn on the waters ahead. Some were to Port, where they should be, and some wrongly positioned to starboard and one was in mid-stream. A blast of DB’s horn as a warning and the rower moved in panic. Round the bend were more rowers heading towards us, and their ‘cox’ on a cycle following behind them was of no help guiding their safety. Thankfully no one ended up in the drink and, again, there is comedy waiting to be written.

DAY 2.....Leighton Buzzard

A holiday boat went ahead of us up the Marsworth Locks. We weren’t ready to team up and when we got to the Locks, the lock gate paddles were raised meaning the Lock was empty. I assumed it was the holiday boat that had neglected to close the gate paddles. I got to it and filled the Lock, DB went in and once she was going down the Lock I walked to the nearby Lock ahead. Same thing, oh well I started filling that Lock and returned to help DB move out of the previous Lock.

Then the C&RT bloke appeared on the scene explaining that he had been raising the Lock paddles as a pound a few locks on was practically empty and he politely requested us to wait until normal water levels were restored.

“Sure, no worries, thank you.” we appreciated his help and that he was there sorting it out. Soon we were moving down the rest of the Marsworth Locks, 7 in total, and stopped for breakfast. I had time to hang out laundry on the clothes dryer rack I had put on the stern. It’s not all a holiday you know!
Lock partners following us

As timing would have it, a boat came into view heading in our direction. When they were within earshot I boldly shouted out to suggest we share the locks ahead. We were underway with the owners of a Hotel Narrowboat who were having an end of season holiday. Cptn and I were sharing the Lock and Helm, alternating tasks every 2 Locks. Mrs Holidayboat preferred to do the Locks rather than helm, and when I write ‘do the locks’ she went at them heart and soul and I had to be on my toes to keep up with her. She walked to the next Lock and I followed her at the pace she set but I was not going to run to catch up so I could trot alongside!

Anyway, they were stopping at Church (Lock) and we continued on enjoyed the beauty of the Canal as we approached Leighton Buzzard and moored in time for rum o’clock near some other boaters to enjoy a quiet rural setting.

DAY 3.... outskirts of Soulbury

The day dawned bright and sunny and we got started with decorating the outside of the wheelhouse keeping on with the random sticking the coloured vinyl squares. Cptn peels and I stick resulting with the pattern being affected by the effect. That was fun to do and to write about, the joys of the English language. Now there were no maths involved!
Leighton Buzzard
We could hear the distant sound of the Gardeners busy with mowing the grass edging the towpath. Passersby had alerted us that ‘today’ was the final cut of the season and a final cut meant no boat would be spared by the proximity of the cut. The first Hi-vis walked up to us and told us what was happening. He had the Leaf Blower that he used as a grass blower and he told us that he would blow the cut grass away. Great, but I thought we should get moving to the Tesco ring moorings a ¼ mile away and so quickly the ropes were pulled in and we cruised off. The sky darkened and soon rain was falling, I popped into Tesco and Aldi to give my trolley a workout.

Once the rain had passed we finished decorating and Cptn went into town. I probably blogged. It’s never a write up on the day; I’m always busy doing something else! Leighton Buzzard has so many ducks and they are fed by every child in town. They, the ducks, give the impression that they are never fed and delight the children by taking bread out of the hand that feeds them! I think the environmentalists are encouraging people to feed ducks raw vegetables. I have tried with parsley, basil and lettuce but you can be sure bread is their choice. Even Della walks past the ducks now, she will try to grab a morsel of bread but doesn’t see the point in getting playful.
Afternnon sun

The mid-afternoon sun was warm and it was time to move on. The Lock had a boat in it and we were happy they were getting on with the job. While we waited another boat appeared and we could share the Lock with them. They were returning their boat to Braunston. For a minute, I thought we may end up travelling together. Round the bend was The Globe Inn, which is close to the site of The Great Train Robbery, and we pulled into ring moorings right outside the Pub. We waved farewell to the holiday makers. About 10 mins later we got moving again. The location of the pub car park meant that traffic would go past DB and I had the feeling it could be a ‘raspberry jam’ risk for Della.

We didn’t go far but we were pleased with the country mooring we found. It was near to the mainline railway and there were a lot of Virgin Trains running until the small morning hours. The passing noise sounded louder at night and it was good to know I had gone to sleep when I woke up!

DAY 4... Milton Keynes

The canal feels like it loops around Milton Keynes, but it doesn’t. It just seems to have the built up city on port side all day long. There are very few Locks to work and there are quite a few stretches with linear moored boats, and minimal boat traffic. In fact, there has been little boat traffic on this GU trip. Leighton Buzzard area had some hire boats on the move. Where are the Continuous Cruisers?

There was a volunteer helping out at the Soulbury Three Locks, our first Locks of the morning. The boater that shared the Lock with us was intent on tying his boat rope on the Lock Bollard and winding the paddles. I helpfully suggested that he stayed on his boat and I and the Volunteer would work the Lock. That was obviously the worst idea that had ever been presented to him and Cptn and I planned to get well ahead for the next Lock.

It was my turn to Helm so once we passed the moored boats I gave the throttle a nudge which meant we were now out of sight. The next Lock was busy with a boat of holiday makers and we left them to it. Matey, from the previous Lock, arrived, and he managed to get in behind DB to wait with us. We didn’t share words. That was the last we saw of him and we began covering the miles around Milton Keynes.

We chose a choice place to moor up, it felt like the middle of nowhere, and there were some good tracks just inland from the Canal. Della could hear Cptn’s voice when we were walking along one of the tracks below but in line with the towpath. She wanted to race off but I advised her there was no exit through the brambles!

DAY 5.. Bugbrooke

Early start and a quick take-off as a large boat were heading in our direction. It must have moored up as there was no sign of it as we went over the aqueduct before Cosgrove. The nearby visitor moorings were empty with a meaningful sign, occasionally seen along the Cut, 14 Day Moorings. No, return within a Year. That’s telling you. They don’t have that at Brentford.

It was a quiet Lock-free run for 5 miles and then the start of the Stoke Bruerne Locks appeared 7 in total. I quickly jumped off to get to the first Lock 20 and was surprised to see someone had taken the Lock and not seen we were nearby. I was not slow in letting them know that I was unhappy that they had not waited for us, saving water and all that! Cptn 'Mad' had a crowd of 8 friends he was taking for a day out and they were clueless, I mean novices in how the Lock worked. Cptn 'Mad' agreed to wait at the next Lock for DB and we could share the remaining 6 Locks. I’m not going to write too many words on this.

Here’s what happened, in brief:

11.       We shared Lock 19 and then moved to Lock 18.

22.       4 of the ‘party’ went ahead to Lock 17 to get it ready. I think they hadn’t observed what exactly had been happening with the 4 Locks they had been helping with. They didn’t realise that a Lock is like a chamber that has gates either end and to empty the Lock all the gates need to be shut and then the sluices are raised on the gates that will be opened when the Lock is empty. About 10 mins, later, I looked up to the Lock and saw there was a lot of water gushing out from the gate sluices.

33.       I ran up and shouted at the sunbather to get off the gate arm and drop the ‘paddle’, and I yelled to the party animals at the other gate “Drop the paddle!” I saw the gates at the far end of the Lock were both open wide and the muddy floor of the pound was appearing.

44.       I ran to Lock 16 and opened the sluices on all the gates so the pound below would fill with water, which is so there would be enough water to fill the Lock below and for the boats to move over without getting grounded. It’s not rocket science! But it is an unfortunate scenario and can have consequences on water levels above and below!

55.       I walked, a good distance, to Lock 15 and emptied it, The Lock gate on the (R) wouldn’t open fully so when I saw DB, I signalled her to go in on the (L) side and bow thrust to take the (R) of the Lock chamber. Cptn 'Mad' was closing in from behind and I gestured to him to STOP. Of course, he didn’t and he came into the Lock and rammed into the side of DB as he pushed her into the semi-open Lock gate. The boats were jammed together with the gate and it wasn't an easy release. I was happy to let them get on with it. Out of sight out of mind.

66.       The last Lock, Lock 14 and I stayed clear. I was over it and them.

 DB had some heavy metal music clanging from her hull and a clean out of the weed hatch didn’t 
put any light on the matter. The noise went away and we went through Blisworth Tunnel. I had been going to take the helm through the tunnel but I wasn’t in a happy tunnelling mode!

I did get behind the Helm after the tunnel and was beginning to chillax again. It was a Lock-free run and we made headway passing the Northampton Arm and beyond. There seemed to be more boats on the move, heading in my direction, and it was fortunate that I blasted my horn when I was nearing ‘blind’ bridges. I had a horn sounded back at me and a couple of seconds later the bow of a wide beam carrying military red coats in wheelchairs came into view. Thank goodness for reverse throttle and a wheel that works. One old soldier called out “G’day cobber”. (I get so many comments about being Australian and I fly an NZ flag!)

Bugbrooke mooring, Wheel House Canopy in situ and rain for the night.

DAY 6. Braunston

Again, there was more boat traffic in motion probably holiday makers. We stopped at Rugby Boats to fill up with diesel. Good price and good to have a full tank, winter is approaching!
We ate breakfast as we moved along. No one to share the Buckby Lock flight but it didn't concern us, we appreciate our independence doing 3 Locks then changing between Lockie and Helm. I was at the helm getting DB in position for the Top Lock. There is a bit of a tight turn to get to the Lock mooring and drop off the Lockie. The Lock was in the initial stages of emptying as I managed to drop off Cptn and DB swung out but I recovered position and reversed back down the Cut to get away from the flow. A year ago, I would have panicked and thought the world was going to end! Did I mention the wind was blowing a gale?

I went into the Lock and was greeted with kind words by someone who recognised DB and us from Debdale Wharf. Cptn got on board as we left the Lock and we were soon nearing Norton Junction. A Narrowboat pulled out from the Leicester Section of the GU and was in front of us moving at Tic speed. I wasn’t sure whether I could pass or I would have to crawl behind. I saw my opportunity as we were on their tail dawdling along a bit of a ‘straight’ before a bridge and the boat heading towards me was far enough away not to be a problem. I gave a blast of the horn amd throttled up. I think it was a first, for me, overtaking on the Cut! The people on the holiday boat were the couple we had shared the Lock with after Stoke Bruerne! So once we got through the Braunston Tunnel we knew who we’d be sharing the Locks with. Good result!

I was going to take the Helm to “do” the Tunnel but I realised I hadn’t put the dinner on to slow roast a shoulder of lamb. I know you’re not supposed to have the oven turned on when you are in the tunnel but...
I managed to have the meat in the oven just as we entered the Braunston Tunnel.

‘It’s now or never’ I thought and said “I’ll take her through” to Cptn. It was an experience. I wasn’t happy knowing there was a boat in the distance heading towards DB but there was no turning back now. We have good lighting from DB, shining ahead from the Bow and softer lighting putting an 'aura' over the Wheelhouse. It's definitely 2,042yds keeping eyes straight ahead, kind of known as tunnel vision. As we got closer to the approaching boat I started to throttle back.

“Keep up some speed, don’t throttle back, you’ll lose your steering.” said Cpt.

I had her at Tic speed. The Tunnel had a few sticky-out bits and one of those 'bits' got DB and she had a measured ‘Westie’ with the passing boat. Really the tunnel looks too narrow for 2 Narrowboats but there is just enough room. A ‘wide beam’ must call C&RT to get clearance to pass through the Tunnel. Do they pay for that?

OK, we got out at the other end and it was a worthwhile experience for me at the Helm. We shared the Locks to Braunston town and moored up for a couple of nights.


This butterfly arrived as we DB was going up a Lock

Nb... I haven't taken my ususal number of photos as I have been busy!! 

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.