Tuesday, 12 September 2017


Grand Union Canal Leicester Arm

Crikey, even under grey skies interspersed with occasional periods of blue time moves quickly. I'm aware that memories of childhood when days lingered forever are never to return but the slow pace of canal life speeds by and suddenly it’s the weekend, whatever that means, again. Knowing the day of the week, on the day, is part and parcel of orientation. I knew, yesterday, that it was going to be Friday tomorrow but when I woke up today I was more concerned about where DB was moored. When I moved my brain into first gear I remembered we were in Rugby and then I needed to confirm that today is really Friday. Oh bollocks. Now it's Monday.

How did we get here? Nb DolcieBlue, of course. A week ago we were in Market Harborough, 2 weeks ago we were at Aylestone Meadows, 3 weeks ago we were outside Mercia Marina, and then 4 weeks ago we were in Rugeley. Wow, that’s from my working memory, it will all get filed away now and the Blog will be my forever memory that is embedded in ‘a small particle of brain in my skull’. So described by the youthful, then, Monty Python’s Flying Circus in 1970.

We cruised along the Trent & Mersey Canal in the direction of Trent Lock but turned starboard onto 
the River Soar at the end or beginning of the T&M. This is our 3rd trip up the R. Soar. I think we have done it at least once the other way, as well. Without getting saucy the R. Soar and the Grand Union Canal  Leicester Arm are a favourite of ours. This time, there was little boat traffic. I know not why??? The outskirts of Leicester are a rural attraction and a keen ride for cyclists as well as walks for pedestrians. But nowhere, in my opinion, has been busy.

We met with Bill (an ex-pat neighbour from Ribiera das Canas, Portugal, who we met in 1993), sadly his beloved wife Beryl has passed away but he brought his friend Ruth to spend an afternoon cruising with us to Kegworth Shallow Lock.

We also had our mate, Mark, travelling with us and for him, it was part of his annual holiday leave. Ruth was full of appreciation to travel on DB having never experienced the joy of cruising on a Narrowboat. We all met in Shardlow for the trip and we spent a happy day ‘chugging’ along. Having 5 people and Della on board worked well for a day trip and the rain held off until the evening, so we could all be comfortable outdoors for the day.

The R. Soar intersperses with the Grand Union Canal Leicester Arm. At times it is obvious, locks and nearby weirs, that indicate the Canal or River. As yet we have not been involved in high rainfall but word has it that the R. Soar is not slow to flood. I have noticed ‘dolphin’ moorings if need dictates and there are water markers at the Locks to mark the river level. Not forgetting the abundant weather forecasts! We have the Life jackets, at hand, and Della wears a harness. I know she can swim so I don’t stress her, or is it me, with the doggy life jacket.
Carrots blocking R. Soar weir

Mark had ‘4 nights’ with us and planned to leave DB near the city of Leicester. We didn’t feel pressure to be on the move but I had booked Della for a Rabies booster at a Vet she had seen before in Loughborough. So Loughborough was the next appointed stop. What a darling dog Della is. She takes everything in her stride and is a Vet’s dream when she gets a jab. Her Pet Passport is updated and she is now fit for winter in mainland Europe.

A night in Loughborough near the slowest-filling water point, may as well top up the water tank while I take Della to the Vet, and then on to Barrow-on-Soar to tie up at the 48hr Visitor moorings as the weather looked miserable. Within minutes of mooring, the clouds moved away leaving the day filled with blue sky and sunshine. Cptn spotted some abandoned branches of a tree, firewood, so moved them on to the Bow before we cast off and cruised to Mountsorrel Lock. There was enough room in the 24hr mooring space, above the Lock, to accommodate DB and we could have a relaxing overnight stop and dine at The Waterside Inn.
Mountsorrel Lock

Cptn had a flight test with his drone, an ongoing quest to get it operating to his satisfaction. Mark went for a walk to explore the local area via the Public footpaths. Meanwhile, I had noticed that the water was slow to drain from the kitchen sink. I tried to make the palm of my hand act like a plunger but that was a waste of time. I cast my eye over the trap and knew I would likely exacerbate the problem. I am fully aware it is not a favourite job for anyone but..... The boys ended up clearing and cleaning the stinky grungy sink trap. Thanks. I kept out of the way and for the first time I exited DB through a side hatch. I have always said that if we were indoors and needed to get off DB, in an emergency, the side hatch is the emergency exit. Yes it works. I can get out!

The Waterside Inn was fabulous for service and a tasty meal. The meals were freshly prepared and tasted great. For the first time, in ages, Della stayed home alone on DB. I don’t think that that made a difference to the meal or service we received, the pub is pet-friendly but Della was tired and I think happy to be left alone to sleep on DB.

Mark had another day and a ½ with us. We stopped for breakfast on the ring moorings outside the Watermead Country Park, north of Leicester, which has a network of artificial lakes over an extensive area. I walked Della around John Merrick’s Lake watching young people learning to sail, while the chaps on DB had the chainsaw and axe out tidying up the recently collected wood. Great another job was done and we have enough firewood to see us through spring next year. There is a lot of windfall wood around but DB can only carry so much and fresh wood needs to season.

We decided we could get Mark into the City of Leicester, the following day, and he would be within walking distance of the Train Station. On his last night, with us, we moored on the bollards at Birstall and did the river/canal cruise into Leicester in the morning. We noticed new pontoon mooring at Friar’s Mill that looks well positioned, and safe from the madding crowd. The Castle Garden moorings are OK, secure but there were no boats moored there. We moved over to Castle Garden moorings, after breakfast and walked with Mark in the direction of the Train Station.


I checked, earlier, that the canalized R. Soar ‘Mile Straight’ was navigable as there was two working craft with crane scoop to hauling bulk water grass matter out of the water. There was heaps of it floating. I’m guessing Duck Weed. I was told that the floating barrier would be lifted up to let us through and the ‘Mile Straight’ was navigable and would clear before we got to Freeman’s Lock.

No problem, we were quickly underway aware that we were the only Narrowboat on the Mile Straight. Back into Lock-land and a quick Aldi stop, because we can just after Aylestone Mill Lock. Time moves on and we agreed Kilby Bridge was a Bridge plus more too far for the day’s destination. We found a perfect rural mooring just after Blue Bank Lock and spent a quiet night there enjoying the feeling of being on our own by ourselves.

We still had a distance to get to Kilby Bridge and Cptn has noticed the Locks on the Grand Union Canal are getting a bit testy to work. Maybe this is why this stretch is little used. I have heard that the majority of boat traffic on the Leicester Arm of the GU Canal is on the move between the Foxton Locks and the Watford Locks. Ah yes they are the easy Narrow locks and in good working condition.

Aylestone Meadows...view from the otherside

View from indoors looking out to the other side

Ideally, we would share the locks if there were other boats on the move but the morning that we left for destination Kilby Bridge, had 2 boats go past us minutes before, and another 2 arrived as we were ‘going up’ the first Lock of the day. Kindly they closed the Lock Gates after us and we never saw them until the next day? 

The water level was low and luckily we only met one boat that moved us into shallow waters. I don’t like that ‘tippy’ feeling as DB scrapes the Canal sludgy side bottom. The loose items on the kitchen bench are likely to end up on the floor. Part of the prep for cruising should be ‘damage control’ i.e. relocating loose items on the bench. Failing that then always be prepared for quick action!! The best thing is, at the helm to reverse thrust let the oncoming boat pass and the non-helmer to race indoors and stop the 'bench' slide.

I didn’t feel hopeful that we would get a good 48hr mooring at Kilby Bridge as it was getting late into the day when we arrived. But, I think, Cptn could see there was space at the front of the mooring bollards, because we got the place we wanted. We decided we would make use of 48 hrs and relax rather than rush off. The rest day was warm and sunny, ideal to hang the laundry on the clothesline. I checked it a couple of hours later and I noticed a chap using a controller standing in the open space outside DB.

“Are you flying a Drone?” I said. I couldn’t hear any sound and the widgets on the controller could have been a Wii thingy. I’m a technophobe, out of touch or out of synch?? Whatever!!

“Yes.” And he pointed out where it was flying.

Spot DB, in plain view!

I asked if he would please email me an injury free photo of DB, shot by a drone. I called out to Cptn as I thought he might be interested to talk to a person with Drone success.

We had a long conversation and invited Pete the Drone and Dani for a Bank Holiday Monday cruise on DB, the following day to the medieval field (Wistow) near Newton Harcourt.

Lock share


We enjoyed our morning with P & D although we said farewell before our destination. C&RT emergency had asked us to wait for a couple of hours before we moved through the last 2 locks at Newton Harcourt, shallow waters near Leicester meant water had to be sent there from the Saddington reservoir near the Saddington Tunnel via open Lock sluices and boats in the flow needed to tie up until the all clear was given. We weren’t bothered, it was a beautiful day, probably the last attempt for a summer’s day and we had been sharing locks with another Narrowboat. There was no hardship in waiting and when we were told we could carry on, we did and we got our favourite mooring opposite the Medieval Field. And we had the first and last BBQ of 2017!
Medieval Fields

A ray of sunshine

We didn’t loiter and a quick look at the weather forecast, of course, meant that we’d move on. I put in practice taking DB through the Saddington Tunnel. Good for me to cope with sharing the narrow space with an oncoming boat. It was fine, although I don’t like it. More tunnels later down the Cut.

DB cruised on turning at Foxton and onto the Market Harborough Arm. I did the helming and Cptn worked the 2 swing bridges.
Swing Bridge, Foxton

Market Harborough Arm on a fine day

Berry nice

Plenty of the 48hr C&RT moorings were available at 'Arborough. Where are the boats, there used to be boats?! I had phoned Union Wharf to book into moor plugged into electric for 3 nights. Having more than 2 lights switched on at the same time on DB is a luxury.
Free form waiting at Foxton Locks

On the 4th day, we were ready to get going and move up the Foxton Locks. No queue when we arrived but a Trip boat was in the way loading up with passengers and blocking the Lock mooring. I did a crafty manoeuver and managed to hold DB alongside the Trip boat. 

Meanwhile Cptn sauntered off to book in our passage up the Locks. We only had to wait for 2 boats coming down the Locks. The first one was a 70’ rental and they wanted to turn sharp starboard out of the Lock. DB was in the way so I had to reverse DB almost to the moored boats on the other side of the basin behind the Trip Boat sidled off as well. Did I mention an outsider arriving fo the 'Up' Lock wait? I’m trying to give the view of ‘Strictly Boating’ in a ‘Line Boating’ movement. The spectators were watching with interest. With the Trip Boat gone we could get moored albeit briefly and then it was DB’s turn to begin the staircase Locks. I took her all the way up while Cptn worked the red and white paddles and offered some gongoozlers to ride up a Lock with me at the Wheel. It is nice to share the experience as all I could say with the rise in each Lock, it must be like being born again. I know going down the Locks is going 6 ft under 10 times!

10 Locks later, bye bye Foxton and a pretty cruise into the sunset. But sunsets have been rare this summer, plenty of cloud cover with little view of the sun setting!


Husband s Bosworth Tunnel

Husbands Bosworth Tunnel was on the agenda, early the next morning. I was reluctant to commit to taking DB through but we waited for an oncoming boat and I could see the tunnel was clear of traffic so I steered DB. Again we moored in a favoured rural setting for the night. I remember seeing ‘shepherds’ on 4 wheel drives rounding up sheep, here, 3 years ago! Now the fields were scattered with round hay bales. 21st century farming!!
Bales of Hay

We held off with cruising and waited for the end of weekend traffic, that is we moved on a Monday to get past Crick, and through the Crick Tunnel and down the Watford Gap Locks. Yep I helmed for the Crick Tunnel. I always thought it was a leaky tunnel but it wasn’t bad. I could see there was an oncoming boat as I entered the Tunnel but I could do it. What I didn’t know was it was a working boat towing another working boat. That meant over 140’ of steel but it kept to its side and I kept to mine. No scrapes remembered. Our boat headlamp is LEDx3 and it is good to be able to clearly see into the black hole ahead.
Watford Locks

Cptn took DB through the Braunston Tunnel. A boat was just exiting as we were entering. Cptn of the approaching boat was unhappy with our lights “There should be a law against those lights” said that Cptn Sensitive Ocular. Turns out he had had a go at the boat ahead of us for having bright lights. I think he has a dim outlook. Ships that pass in the night????? How does he get on when the bright sun shines on his face?

Braunston an overnight stop but not much to keep us moored here. Let’s cruise up the Oxford Canal, North. Just getting on the move is in our bones and we are lucky that our lifestyle means we can do this. We are never really sure where we will moor, most days, on the move but occasionally we will have an aim. We just wanted to leave Braunston. Watch out for the burnt sunken boat near Bridge 90. Lucky a boatie told us “Watch out for the sunken boat.” With warning I was able to avoid it but where is the warning sign and hi-vis tape indicating ‘danger obstruction’! I suppose the best warning was the verbal warning and we were lucky to be given it and to hear the words!!
Compote in waiting

I loved our next mooring and I went off with a plastic container to collect blackberries, sweet juicy blackberries. As I walked along I remembered we had walked along here before, this was the first time probably since3 years ago and then we had seen a drone in action flown over some land that was being marked out for an inland marina to be designed by an Architect who was involved in the Eden Project in Cornwall. I thought that the Marina hadn’t gone ahead but lo and behold we cruised past last Thursday, and there was Dunchurch Pools Marina. Well, that was a surprise!

And so to Rugby, where we are moored for a few days. It wasn’t planned but we need a change in road vehicle for the forthcoming drive to Spain. Plus, out of the blue, my younger Bro is going to be in London so I’m going to train to London to spend some hours with him tomorrow. Then we're on the move.

That’s it Blog is up to date! Now to post it!!

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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.