Wednesday, 25 October 2017


Kissing fender

We are into the countdown for moving to Spain during the long British winter where walks by the Med are clean living rather than walking muddier than muddy towpaths. We have a life, for better or worse, and we need to live it while we are alive.
Nb Te Papa

We have been moored near Kinver since the month of October 2017 began. Kinver is nice, a friendly village on the outskirts of Stourbridge and close to Kidderminster. 
Whittington Bridge

The Staffs & Worcs Canal is quiet with boat traffic, pretty countryside to moor in and we are in no rush to move along while we wait to put DB to bed in Ashwood Marina on Nov 1st for her winter hibernation!!

A plus is we have the Yeti, nearby, and we made a bold decision to venture away from the Canal for 24hrs and drive to Blackpool to see The Illuminations and return via North Wales. 

This train lit up the Illuminations for us.

It was my first time to Blackpool, yes the night lights were illuminating and well worth a one-time visit. Cptn thinks he would have last come here as a 5-year-old, that was a long time ago!
Blackpool Tower

The drive back went over the R. Mersey and back to Kinver through North Wales and it was fabulous. 
Colwyn Bay

The bi-lingual road signs were interesting, I was driving so no photos. I think to speak, as a novice, Welsh words (full of consonants) are beyond me. Reading the written word using my brain full of English phonetics, at least 44 sounds (phonemes don’t phone me!!) plus my Kiwi dialect...blah blah. I got my tongue around Pontcysyllcte, earlier in the year but that is the sum of my spoken Welsh. I love hearing a Welsh Male Choir.

Anyway, it was a good ‘away’ trip. I had my first time driving the Yeti (1.793m width and 4.223m length). It is a lovely vehicle. It is more or less the same width as the Astra but it felt wider to me. DB is a few cm wider and a lot longer than Yeti (2.08m width and 20.73m length). The drive was good until the Sat Nav took me off course onto a narrow country lane. In hindsight, I should have turned around but I managed to get up close and personal with the edge of the lane and it reacted with biting a chunk out of the tyre. 

Damn bugger and blast!! I was instantly remorseful and not keen to keep driving once the wheel was changed to its standard temporary-not-to-be-used-permanently spare.

Well, it’s all sorted now with no big dent to the pocket and I’m back helming DB. Earlier in the month, we had DB’s Boat Safety Certificate renewed. It was her first 4 yearly inspection and she would not be able to be relicensed without meeting the safety regulations. It was an intensive 2-hour informative examination for DB and she passed with distinction!

Hurricane Irma brought sand from the Sahara and fire ash from Portugal. Eerie day sky.

We had some human, yearly service, and canine health issues attended to, as well. Storm Brian was forecast so we brainstormed a cruising plan and acting on impulse decided to go on a firewood hunt along the Staffs & Worcs Canal to Stourport-on-Severn before the storm hit. We had our eye on some willow oak logs we had seen a Lock away but thought we’d collect them on our return.

We passed some school kids and their teachers out for the morning paddling large canoes along the canal. It was pleasing to see they showed respect for Narrowboats and pulled into the towpath to let us cruise past. They gave us a warning that there was a fallen tree, ahead, blocking the canal. I didn’t take much notice until we followed around the bend after the 85yd Cookley Tunnel or is Tunnel Cookley, and the Canal was blocked by the tree. 

DB helping with tree pushing.

Fortunately, the workmen were on the job with ropes and chainsaw. DB floated, naturally, to the towpath and held her position without needing to be secured with ropes. Then the school canoes arrived. Their permanent mooring rings were adjacent to us, on the other side of the Canal and the school party left for lunch and Half Term.  

About 2 hours passed while we watched the tree get removed from the canal and we waited to be given the all clear for passage. 

Amazing what a length of rope and a car can achieve in raising a tree, not forgetting the blokes who made this happen. We were given the thumbs up to move and were happy to take the men across to the other side of the Canal. THANK YOU.

Our day for cruising had shortened.  Past Kidderminster we caught a glimpse of logs but they were not easily accessible, and the plan was to remember the spot and give it a go on our return trip. We had time to get to Stourport-on-Severn and get the canopies up, before nightfall.

Storm Brian brought a few wind gusts and rain but no harm was done in our neck of the woods. Our Brain Storm to get wood was made more of an impact! 

The day after was possibly going to be sunny and it was. We packed away the canopies and winded heading back to our latest seen log stack near Pratt’s Wharf. That was fun. Not the Towpath side but with a bit of manoeuvring I could get DB close to the bank. Cptn stayed dry when he did a wide move to shore and using the bow saw he could cut away some of the dried branch obstruction and secure DB with her stern rope tied further up the branch.
Throw me a Log!!

Then he got started with transferring the logs to me to haul onto the stern. What can be achieved with a thin sturdy rope! A total of 7 logs delivered in rhythm with the grand finale being the branch, that DB was tied to, cut from the dead tree and lifted across DB’s stern. 


Cptn could safely use this as a stable way to step back onto DB. Thankfully no traffic came past as DB was pretty much nose to Towpath straddled across the Canal.

Plan B was to saw the logs into smaller pieces. Early afternoon we moored above Wolverly Lock and out came the chainsaw. We had put the Wheelhouse Canopy up, thinking that we would stay the night but we were without Internet signal so we moved on with the canopy remaining in situ. Well, the obstacles would be a bridge and the next Lock. And as chance had it, it was all clear!! We cruised through ending the day close to the site of the fallen tree. Still no Internet signal but closer to the next wood pile! No not the fallen tree, too fresh and wrapped in a vine.

Heavy Log

Next day, we were back at the site of the heavy logs. Maybe they are newly cut Willow Oak Logs. A couple of rounds of sturdy string enabled us to carry these heavy 5 beasts to DB. We moved back to our favourite just-before Kinver mooring and were motivated to get these logs cut into rounds.

I’m not learned with the chainsaw but I am an adept hand with the axe. The small log rounds of the previous day were easy to chop but the oak was new felled, a few split with the axe but best to wait for seasoning!!

DB is bursting with wood

There was plenty of rhythm to our wood stock. Burn baby burn.

And to finish
Never on your own- under bridge to Kidderminster Lock

Going into Kidderminster Lock

Tow Path Meetings 21/10, here are my words in summation but their story left unwritten...
-The Couple from La Marina (Costa Blanca)
-The Man from Iran
-The Winter-in-Spain Caravan Man

Hasta luego.........

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.