Monday, 28 November 2016


Leaving Newhaven

Day 1...Chris planned a great drive to ‘Home-Base’ Los Montesinos which took 6 days including the Newhaven to Dieppe crossing La Manche on the DFDS ferry. We left Keith, mate, in LA (LittlehAmpton) and drove the congested road in the direction of Brighton. The ‘Keep the Guard on the Train’ Southern Railway strike, that day, meant an increase in car traffic. We arrived with plenty of time to check in for the ferry and we were well placed for a quick exit into France. The crossing took 4 hours and we arrived in the rain.

Chris had booked accommodation for the road journey on and his plan was to avoid pay motorways and motorways, in general, in France. Not an easy drive, as daylight faded, on the country roads and there were bundles of fallen leaves covering the road markings. The road signs were awkward to read as our car head beam of light made the reflective background dazzle. I was happy when we got to our destination, guided by SatNav, in Normandy, a town called Juvigny-sous-Andaine and I had to unlock a bit of my ‘froggy’ lingo stored in the depths of my white matter to get instructions to locate our booked accommodation. I almost got it but not quite and had to return to have the instructions repeated.  “Merci beaucoup.”  The drive took about 3 hours and we decided, next time to book accommodation more accessible to Dieppe and keep the rural driving for daylight!

Day 2 was, at times rural, but we passed through some familiar territory, once upon a time we and 7 friends had bought a ‘doer-upper’ in the region of Maine et Loire. Another story, but as we were driving along I recognised some of the towns and then we were on the outskirts of Segré,
a place I remember visiting EDF (Electricité de France), to make a contract for electricity on one Easter Friday and they gave us little gifts of chocolate and stationary.
Crossing the R. Loire, Segré
 We were told it was not the French-way to be using electricity without a contract as we had been doing for about a year!! Oh the memories!

Our journey, on Day 2, took us to Lieu Dit Bois Bourdet, Souvigné east of Niort and another fab booking. Chris planned for our accommodation in France to be self-catering France tends to shut down early evening and we did not want to be driving out to find somewhere closed for dinner so we prepared simple food. Actually, I made a sizeable Bacon & Egg pie for the trip, it was simple to prepare and lush to eat. I think a healthy handful of bacon, ½ dozen eggs, and Crème Fraiche baked inside a wrapping of flaky pastry did the trick.

Della went off to explore while we talked, outdoors, with the BnB owner, and we were greeted minutes later by 2 chickens running for their lives being chased by Della! She stopped, as soon as Chris gave her strong words that this was not acceptable!

Day 3, and the weather was fine but cold so we got underway, early morning, to head south. We were going to avoid Bordeaux and SatNav took us on to the free N10 motorway and some kilometres later we were back on the little roads passing vineyard after vineyard to get to Saint-Sernin, in the Aquitaine Region, close to Bergerac. Yet another lovely stop with great rural accommodation. If you want details of where we stayed, in France, please message me. Our drive took about 3 hours and I enjoyed viewing the countryside as we drove along.

Day 4, this was the day we go through the 8.6km Tunnel du Somport into Spain. 

When we realised that we were not on the road to the Somport Tunnel!

Well that was the plan but SatNav took us on the ring road around Pau and then we got lost, sort of, and began climbing Les Pyrénees. 

We knew this didn’t feel right but we got so far and thought we’d carry on. I’m pleased the unexpected happened because if it had been suggested to drive over the Pyrenees I would have chosen the Tunnel. The sleety snow began to fall and the mountains, when we saw them, were amazing. This is a sight not to miss and the road was excellent, winding and narrow on the French side and in Spain it was wide in good condition, as Spanish roads are.

That night we were in Huesca and I wouldn’t rate our accommodation.

Day 5 and we were early to get on the road again heading to Cuenca. We could have, easily, got to Los Montesinos but Chris had booked the last night of the journey to be in Cuenca. The Hotel receptionist gave us a map of Cuenca marking a walk around town that she said would take us 25 minutes. I had no idea that Cuenca was a historic walled town founded by Moors! This is what we saw!


Day 6, and our last day of looking ahead seated in the red car. It was a short drive, less than 3 hours, and as we drove along, the grey sky became blue and the outdoor temperature went up about 12 degrees. I was getting excited about getting to our home in Los Montesinos.
Driving on the plain!

We had left our Apartment, in March, all ready for our return. A change from last year when we had had to set up our new home and deal with all that entails! Now it feels like luxury on land for us. No ropes to tie and the neighbours, touch wood, have quietened down.

I liken our Apartment to a wide beam boat as its living space is 12ft (3.7m) wide and not far off 70ft (21m) in length! We fit into it well and we look out towards the Torrevieja Salt Lake (Salinas de Torrevieja).
Home sweet home.

It’s not exotic, but I’m not complaining it is my winter home and it is low maintenance and better than a season of muddy towpaths!

I think I’ll name this season of my Blog, ‘LANDED WIDE BEAM’ (LWB).

The Med.

Friday, 18 November 2016


Let’s face it, we lead the life of Riley. It sounds like paradise and it reads that way as I choose what to write and how to write it. The nature of being human doesn’t always give an easy ride but words are cathartic!?!

The sun shines in Kinver

Kinver was a great place to stop for the end of our cruising year. I cannot fathom why it is signed as 24-hour moorings in October. We overstayed for a week and there were a few but not many boats on the move. Della loved the café that we went to a few times. It was very dog-friendly and she was given her own bowl of dog treats.

Me and Her contemplating the life of a Troglodyte

I thought we should check out the troglodytes in Kinver, cave houses built into the hill. We walked up to the troglodytes, in Kinver, and poked our noses through the door of one. The National Trust is in charge of them and I don’t think anyone lives in them these days. We have driven past troglodytes in Tours, France, and Guadix, Spain, where they are habitable and there is smoke coming out chimneys which are built into the hills.

DB needed to be winded to get ready for her cruise to Ashwood Marina and this meant we could finish doing DB’s exterior decorating. Of course, there is more to be done but that will be next year and we need to put thought into it. I steered DB to the nearest winding hole and Cpt talked me through the task as I winded her. The only time I had winded a boat was at the tiller of Avalon Mist. It had been a slow process of 24+ point turns and I was not keen to repeat it. It was so easy winding DB, I think the bow thruster takes the effort out of it. OK, she is a long boat and it takes more than a couple of minutes to wind her but I did it! Another steering achievement for me.

I'm going a long way for a groom

The week in Kinver passed by quickly and our last journey was to Ashwood Marina, about 3 miles up the Staffs & Worcs Canal. Our car needed to be relocated and it made sense for Cpt and Della to drive it to Ashwood Marina, and to meet DB along the way at the Locks. 
Lock view of Toi Toi or Pamapas Grass?


I knew I could manage the Locks without help but Cpt was keen to be there to make it easy for me. The timing of our meet ups was perfect. I also took DB through a tunnel (short one but it was a tunnel) and over an aqueduct. In the middle of nowhere, a holiday boat appeared heading in my direction and they had no idea what side of the canal they should steer on if boat traffic was coming towards them! I moved to starboard and they moved to their port. I gesticulated meaningfully indicating they move to their starboard. I was beginning to get into the overgrowth and was losing my happy feeling!

Wifey said, “He doesn’t know which side he should be on!”
He said, “It doesn’t matter.”

Near miss avoided

Cpt and Della came aboard DB at the penultimate Lock of the day and I worked the last Lock. That night we stayed on the Cut close to Ashwood Marina feeling excited that DB was going to bed the next day and we would begin the drive to España.

Our final day on DB and we needed to pack up, clean up and get on with our next journey. Ashwood was not ready for us until the afternoon so we took DB up Greenforge Lock where we could tie above and load our ‘red’ car with far too much stuff including my classical guitar and 2 ukes. Once the car was loaded Cpt reversed DB down Greensforge Lock, Quelle manoeuvre, and back to waiting to go into Ashwood Marina.

Later, we got the call that our mooring spot was ready and I helmed DB in while Cpt was doing the final shut down! I was pleased that I negotiated the boats and crane-in-action as we tic’d along, and I concentrated to avoid a ‘Westie’.


All is better than good and DB is safe and sound for the winter.

The drive in the ‘Red’ car to London took 3 hours. We’re on our way.........

 Della is comfotably camouflaged

I have been asked for the dog biscuit recipe

-rolled oats    I use porridge oats (no flour, no salt)
-chicken stock   I ask the butcher for some chicken scraps and make my own stock and include some of the meat off the bones
-tin of sardines

Method..... 2 - 3 cups of oats adding enough stock to mix into a biscuit texture including the sardines.
I put baking paper on the base of the oven dish and use plastic wrap to scoop the biscuit mix into the dish. The plastic wrap also makes it easy to pat the mix flat. Use a knife to mark the small squares so it is easy to break into pieces when baked.
Gas Mark 6 (Moderate oven @ 180C) 45 mins then turn biscuits over to cook another 15mins or until biscuits are firm. I don’t want them to be soft as moisture will cause them to go mouldy! I don’t have space in the freezer on DB to store them. My oven is a normal oven, not a boat oven! (In Spain, I freeze the biscuits.)

Della seems to like these biscuits. She is not fussy about food!

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.