Friday, 23 June 2017


Dolcima Dewdrop the Demon Dogette & Bently Blue the Beastie Boy (photo R S Abbott)

Words can only hint at the feeling of freedom living on the ‘Cut’. It is a joy to be back living our cruising lifestyle on our bespoke DolcieBlue. Yes, it sounds like luxury but it is being able to live in our living-with-less- but-having-close-to-everything ‘four walls’ floating and cruising the water without getting caught in the trap of having to spend money every time we open the door! I don’t have to have land-based transport to go to the shop, even to take an interesting walk; I plan so I don’t need to spend money every day and I’ve got legs. Are we lucky? It could be seen that way but we made a choice to move into this lifestyle. As with all choices in our life together, the indicators are needs, wants, challenges and a ‘can-do’ approach. Money helps but we worked hard within our means. 

Chris and I met in London in 1992, I was ready for a life partner and, fate decided, Chris got the job! I could write this in romantic phrasing but I’m not going to. That is for the book!! In the early 80’s had bought a donkey stable with terraced land in Portugal. Within weeks of meeting Chris we visited the Algarve, together, and he took me to the aforementioned Casa do Burro in Ribeira das Canas and I said “Let’s give it a go!” That was the start of our first shared dream. There was no electricity to the valley, no telephone line in the valley, no mains water in the valley, oh and we had to live in a tent and cook on the open fire and shower under the olive tree..... Sounds basic but it was the good life. To afford this life we had to identify and meet our needs which meant curtailing our wants. The most important ingredient is love.

What became of the Donkey Stable?!!

We are past Dream No.1 and all I can say is the ability to dream is free, and we are fortunate we can live the dream. We have worked hard to be where we are today and now we are living the dream on DolcieBlue.

I really like being a water gypsy. I have struggled with being a hormonally challenged woman and saddened with some moves from ‘happy’ places but I think happiness will stay with me forever. The DB experience gets better and better and I am in no hurry for the bubble to burst. I always say creativity is sanity and soon her ‘Random’ installation will be completed. What fun it has been to stick coloured vinyl squares on her body, in a fitting random fashion! 

How our 'random' began....what colour? (Aug 2016)
Let's start 'random' at the very beginning....(Aug 2016)
After the stern rail got grabbed,... (Sept 2016)
Sticking goes on in Kinver... (Oct 2016)
Stern rail back in situ, (May 2017)
Elvis and the Hula Lady  May 2017

Sticky fills in more space...May 2017

Side hatch finished almost. (June 2017)

Moving stickers into the stern (June 2017)

Bow wow!! 

Colour lights up a grey sky (June 2017)

 Every day we get positive passing comments about the colour, artistry and look.

“Wow that looks amazing.”
“I love it. I just love it.”
“The colours make me feel happy. I love colours.”
“My daughter says it looks like Elmer.”

We had not heard of Elmer so a Google search was informative. All I can say is there is no elephant on DB.

DB says it all

The colours of DB define our random lifestyle, there is no knowing what will happen next but it is certainly colouring our world bringing a smile to us and faces passing by as well as positive words being shared with us. 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017


Felt pic made by EJA. Just the dec for a carpeted cabin side. Thx Lizzie

A couple of days on the ring moorings near Dimmingsdale Bridge with fine weather saw DB’s aesthetic body works progressing. Cptn had sanded and repainted 2 coats to DB’s roof, her peachy shade of pale, in Ashwood Marina. She is looking fresh and shiny. Now it was the turn of her port-side for the same treatment. DOLCIEBLUE, her Art-Deco ‘badge’ is removed and there will be a new name tag put on eventually. It has been printed and is under wraps indoors in a safe place! Port-side is done and dusted and Starboard-side will be done soon. The joys of moving along and moorings move from one side to another.

While Cptn was busy with the paint roller and dry brush special application to steel technique, I got started decorating coloured vinyl squares on the actual side hatches. It is not a complicated task but it does involve patience and fine fingers. The effect is visually rewarding and we are always thanking people for their positive words and smiles that greet us as we move along the ‘Cut’.
I think we fit the make-up of a fine weather boater. There is no point moving in the rain unless it is absolutely 100% necessary. We have a barometer, access to a minimum of 3 hourly weather forecasts and most importantly we have our eyes to look up to the sky and watch the colour, depth and movement of the clouds when necessary. An ethereal reading or is that too poetic? So 2nd coat of paint completed and weather outlook ticks the fair weather box and DB untied and on the move to the Shroppie (Shropshire Union Canal). 

Autherley Junction is the sharp port turn, for DB, onto the Shroppie with the Stop Lock to pass through. I suggested Cptn work the Lock and I would bring in DB. I had to hold DB in position on the Staffs and Worcs waiting for a Nb, moving in my direction to go through the lock. Meanwhile, another Nb is heading towards me, not giving any indication of what its navigation plan was. I was not going to give up my position, why should I, so as they got closer I used my raised hand to query their plan. They indicated the direction of the Shroppie so I indicated them to STOP. Nb leaving the Lock sounds its horn and gestures it is turning Starboard. Yes, the horn does signal direction but I need to hone up on my horn signalling. Even more important now I am a wheel controller!
Navigator is confident Mum can do this!

With all the time in wait, I had moved into the best position to do a fantabulous sharp turn to port using the wheel, of course, bow thrusters and throttle movement forward/reverse. Not a bump or scratch touched DB. Result!!
Fill everything with water

We stopped after the Junction and filled up with water. Our tank was not low but it is good practice to keep it topped up. The water point needs maintenance, it took about an hour to top up our tank but I think we made a mud bath on the towpath and topped up the canal level at the same time. A passing boater called out “You would think the water fill up would be quick as the water point is located by the biggest reservoir in the West Midlands.”

Between Bridges 7 & 8 are excellent ring moorings, and at this time of the year there are few boats on the move. Weather showed rain was on the way. Cptn sanded and sugar soaped the DB’s starboard side ready for painting one sunny day in the near future. I made progress with vinyl stickers patterning onto the stern outside the wheelhouse. Looking good. The side hatches will need to wait for warmer weather, no point letting cold air indoors!

Cover up

Here, we were moored next to NB SLOWBOAT TO NOWHERE. In NZ, in the 70’s I visited a valley on Mt. Potts called Erewhon, which is nestled along the base of the Southern Alps. There was a rope tow giving access to a skifield and a ‘nutcracker’ was needed. The location did feel beautiful and free  like wilderness in the middle of ‘Nowhere’. It was so liberating to scream.
NB Slowboat To Nowhere owner’s were from the Black Country. They told us that often they received comments from people thinking The Black Country  was an area of Birmingham that described the ethnic make-up of people living there. The Black Country  is the name given to the West Bromwich, Oldbury, Blackheath, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Bilston, Dudley, Tipton and Wednesfield  area and came from when the coal and steel industries grew there at the beginning of The Industrial Revolution. It was a dirty time for people and I can only imagine the filth that they must have lived and worked in.

On that note, we left our mooring before the rains came and had a quick cruise to Brewood pronounced Brrrood. Yeah it’s obvious! Again ring moorings come into play and we are back into disappearing Internet signal. 

I took Della for a short stroll and did a double take when I saw what looked like a long haired wet cat with a snout on the semi-trad stern of a boat. I glanced at it but needed to make sure Della was eyes ahead and on the move. It looked young and wet and was shivering. Within minutes I found out that it was a Badger. It was obviously not a pet and everyone was concerned. I offered to phone the RSPCA and take it from there. I walked to The Bridge Inn to see if I could get phone reception there. Luckily they had WiFi and I could use that to get the RSPCA contact number. It took ages to get through the answer phone listings to speak to a humanoid but I got there in the end only to be doubly frustrated with a bad phone signal and misunderstanding of my Kiwi dialect. I handed my phone to the Landlord to see if he could make some sense of this call. All said and done I headed back down to DB.

A gongoozler said he had contacted the Badger Society and he didn’t have much confidence with the RSPCA. He then said that the Badger had dived back into the canal and headed to the other side. Apparently there are Badger Setts in the area. That was a happy ending for the Badger but there is a but, the RSPCA had said to me that someone would come sometime soon. I wasn’t going to phone them back to cancel as it was too much of a palaver to get through to a humanoid. (I remember making a 999 call when I was house-sitting in Kilburn, London 1987. I thought I heard a gunshot from next door. I was on edge because I had had a break-in a couple of days earlier and a carving knife had been thrust into an office suitcase and stuff strewn around. The 999 operator said the Armed Defenders Squad were on their way. I hung up. Then I heard the musical sound of ‘whheeewheee’, Fire-bloody-Works not the IRA. I couldn’t phone back 999 to cancel the ADS! When the ADS arrived they were pleased I had contacted them. I don’t think the neighbours were.)

Out of the blue, so to speak, the gongoozler had noticed I had blue eyes and asked me if I realised it was likely I shared a common ancestor with blue eyed people. I googled it....It appears that a genetic mutation in a single individual in Europe 6,000 to 10,000 years ago led to the development of blue eyes, according to researchers at the University of Copenhagen. Well, who’d have thought a Badger would have brought that info to light up my world!!

That almost brings me to the end of this Blog. An RSPCA worker did turn up, a couple of hours later, and made contact with me. I reassured her that the Badger had jumped in the water and gone to the other side. She told me this is Badger country and they are nocturnal. It is unusual for a badger to be away from its home in daylight and on the stern of a boat.
Working on it

Ah well, all’s well that ends well.

Friday, 2 June 2017


R. Thames


David an Englishman from Staines now lives in New Zealand. He is very interested in my life cruising on a Narrowboat along the canals and rivers in England. He shared, with me, fond memories of a boating adventure in 1947 when he was larking about with 3 other boys all aged less than 12 years old. Picture yourself in this group on a ‘punt’ (a long flat bottomed boat square at both ends propelled with a pole) on the River Thames at Staines. There was one boy either end of the punt and two in the middle! David said the boys had promised their mothers they would be careful; there were no other rules that he recalls restricting their adventure. Now 70 years later he is smiling as he remembers.
“You wouldn’t be allowed to do it these days” he said.
“So tell me about your journey” I asked.
He began “We left from Staines. It was hard work punting up the river. We went up the river to Oxford.”
I think he was wearing rose coloured glasses for the memory and to be able to get so far, so quickly, would take ‘superboy’ strength. I know that pumping our Narrowboat along the Thames at a max speed of 1700 rpm, it still takes us a few days to get upstream from Teddington Lock to Oxford. On the canal, unless we are going at tic, 970 rpm (slow walking speed), we will be cruising max revs at 1300 rpm that. I get mathematically dyslexic trying to work that into mph or kmph. I can say we go faster on the River Thames than we do on a Canal.
Supervised entertainment on R. Thames 2016

David and friends must have needed food to fuel them and sleep to restore them. I’m not going to mess with his fine dream. How different life looks through the eyes of a child. He does remember going through a lock or two where he recalls the Lock-keepers were very helpful.
I mentioned boat ropes to him and he swiftly moved on to the return journey which was downstream. His face was filled with joy picturing him and one of the boys positioned at the stern of the punt holding either end of a rope laced through a big piece of canvas to catch the wind returning the punt back to Staines.
Oh what joy, what freedom! David thank you for sharing your boyhood adventure of life post WW2. Sounds like Swallows and Amazons.

Robin Redbreast perched on fence with natural graphics.

Our boat license is valid until June 2018. We are cruising. I knew I needed to get behind the boat wheel hoping the steering and length of the boat would feel familiar, like it had felt at the end of cruising 2016. It’s a similar situation as driving on the road whether it be England (stay left), Spain (stay right), NZ (stay left), oh here comes a round-a-bout. Normally I’m driving in a manual car, then in NZ I’m driving an automatic car..... Safe to say I managed.
We left the Marina on May Bank Holiday Monday, the day before Ashwood Marina ‘Crane’day, as we did not to be in the way of ‘swinging’ boats. We moored above Greenforge Lock on the 48 hr mooring, ideal because the waterpoint was as near as alongside and Cptn could pressure wash the stern, as well as the grubby wheelhouse canopy that had been in situ for 7 months. It was dirty but not green!
Moving to Hinksford

After a couple of nights in the shady mooring we moved the short distance into the light near Hinksford for the night. Della and I walked a triangular walk that followed a public Footpath edging a Livery and a field planted in wheat, now knee-high. I noticed a horse with rider heading in our direction so I followed tracks going downhill and came out on the Swindon Village Road. A dog walker heading towards us pointed out where the canal was and Della and I could get back to DB without having to re track our steps. This is the best sort of walk. Back on DB we lowered the wheelhouse, next day, and moved to Swindon. A bridge and 2 locks meant DB needed to be ready for height restrictions!

My junky eye now gungy eyelid needed medical attention so I made an attempt to book in as a non-resident patient at a GP practice that was only a couple of miles, more-or-less, walk away. I had phoned in the morning and was told to phone back at 1 pm to make an appointment for that afternoon. I set my timer and dead on 1 pm I phoned, engaged! I redialled continuously until I got a ringing tone. The ‘emergency’ appointments had been taken and I was told to go to a walk-in centre. Where is the walk in centre, and I was told it is only a 15-minute taxi ride away. So, literally, I can’t walk in. I found a pharmacy who said the prescription I needed could only be given by a Medical Doctor. I was getting frustrated as the antibiotic eye drops I had been given, over the pharmacy counter, a week ago had caused my eyelid to fester. I decided stuff and blow it, I’ll use good old warm salt water eyewashes. See, I think my eyelid is getting better!!

That Lock nearly has my name!

I was keen to get DB on the move, June 1st was here and we could get underway. I walked Della along the towpath and checked out the nearby Locks. One was straight forward followed by a staircase Lock and I decided it was now that I needed to get behind the wheel. I did and I was pleased that steering felt natural. I adjusted position and line up to enter locks with ease. Yes, ├╝ber cool! All was great then we got to the ‘manned’ Bratch Locks which are a well known feat of canal engineering. They look like staircase locks but they have ‘impossibly’ short pounds between the Locks. What I experienced waiting for a Narrowboat to come down the Locks was an incredible force of water that took all my strength to hold DB with her centre rope wrapped around the bollard at the Lock mooring.
I was relieved when I got into the bottom Lock and thought ‘the only way is UP’. As I was moving between Lock 2 & 3 over the ‘impossibly’ short pound DB’s engine cut out. I restarted her and she choked and died! Before the engine had carked it DB had enough movement to drift into the next Lock but I had no power to stop the movement so her reliable nose made sure . Now I was captaining a disabled craft. The Lock Keeper saw a rope floating out of her ‘prop’! I saw the other end of the rope taut on its stern ring. It had strangled the propeller! OK so we need to get up and out of the Lock. I called out to the Lockies, ‘Take her up real slow!! I have no control!!’ Help was at hand from a Kiwi turned Ozzie, it happens. DB got pulled out of the Lock and I could use the bow thruster to keep DB out of harm’s way as she went round the concrete curve of the Lock mooring!
Cptn pulls the Propeller Strangler

Cptn soon had the weed hatch removed and got busy with the bread knife cutting the rope to ease it out of the prop! Problem sorted and we were off. It was still late morning and I had my mind set on getting to Dimmingsdale Bridge where I remembered there were ring moorings. I had one more go with taking DB into a Lock. This time there was another strong wash of water near the Lock entrance and it tried to sweep DB into the weedy bush before the Lock. Rather than panic, I dealt with it and I got into the Lock. End of story. I’m taking the ‘Mindful’ approach.
Canal calm.

As chance had it the ring mooring I had in mind is ours, sign posted 5 days max.  

There’s work to be done.

Our view for a few days

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.