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!

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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.