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 รก 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

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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.