Saturday, 28 April 2018


Example of winding

Yep we are sort of mostly back on the Cut but our times are a changing. We were overjoyed to find DB had worn well over the long cold winter as Cptn had not gone the full hog of winterising her. He thought the water tank had been emptied but I knew it was close to full. I remember him saying he had turned off the water tap so that no water could feed through to the pipe indoors. Really I should write down what, and its location aboard, that has to be done. Fortunately there was no sign of water where it shouldn’t be and no smell of gas. In fact the boat was water tight, smelt fresh and in fantastic order ready to go. The batteries had been trickle charged by solar power, yeah who needs full on sun! The engine started with the first turn of the key. What a boat!

Plastic fantastic naturally lights up life over the wheelhouse. It's great!!!!

Ashwood Marina kindly allowed us to plug into land power for our first and only night in the Marina. Best to be safe than sorry. The immersion tank will heat the water until the engine runs the calorifier, the fridge/freezer doing what a fridge/freezer does and we could enjoy lights indoors. DB’s batteries would be fully charged the next day. I think the biggest pull on energy is the Microwave and normally I start the engine when I use the we had scrambled eggs á la microonda for dessayuno. I am a lingual mess but the scrambled eggs were yum.

We woke early morning with the sunlight greeting us. Yay we reversed out of Ashwood and kept going in reverse for a mile or so including 2 Locks along the Canal until we got to the winding hole that was fit for our size. There is a winding hole in the other direction but our ‘Nicholson’s’ canal book measured it as 60ft. Word had it that it would take 70ft but word was not definitive. (I have seen written proof since, that the winding hole below Hinksford Lock can accommodate 70ft Nb).

Navigator back on the job

DB is class at being reversed but was not happy with Bow thrusters’ battery overuse but she kept up with it and it was a relief, for me, when we winded to face in the right direction! Kinver was getting closer. I had my first steer (not of the venison variety) of the season. Yep it felt natural and I even got DB into the Stewponey Lock without faltering with the steering. I thought the Bow thrusters battery was flat but that was only because I didn’t switch them on!! Tee hee!!! I can do it!!

Kinver was our chosen destination for a few days as we had our own yearly health maintenance to undertake. We were not in a rush to move and appointments increased as expected. Dentist, Doctor, ...the NHS came up trumps for us. Then there were the Spectacle people for me. I’d left my prescription glasses in France. I’m OK without them except for night driving...too much ‘glitter’ distracts my vision. So I got new glasses and found out a couple of ophthalmology issues that will bug me in 60 years time.

We found time to do a few things and cruised away for a couple of days to Stourport-on-Severn. 
St Mary and All Saints Church

On the way we stopped, briefly, at Kidderminster where we met some students from the Music Academy. 

They tried to tune my recent purchase of a classical guitar from a Kinver charity shop. If you are reading this ‘Kidder peops’ I followed your advice and got Cptn to adjust the low E machine head and with a bit of WD40 the guitar is in action.

The Staffs and Worcs Canal is lovely and a pleasant scenic cruise. It is not busy but that will change over summer. There were plenty of visitor moorings vacant in Stourport. I was told about a mooring in the Widebeam Basin and we checked it out, a lovely location overlooking the River Severn. It would be perfect except for the nearby Fun Fair.

“How long does the Fair run for. Is it seasonal??” I asked someone nearby.
“Oh it has been going all my life.”
“Not that long then.” I answered in return.
“That’s kind.” She said.

I am Lady Lock-n-Lol. Sometimes a timely reminder to butt out is needed. I am knowledgeable at working the Locks. I was taking Della for an afternoon ablution walk and rain had been and was about to fall. There was a Nb coming up the Lock as I was passing it so I shared the joys of the world under the sky that threatened rain, a darker shade of grey. I offered to close the gate after the Nb moved out. Thanks were offered and I smiled in return. I got the gate moving and positioned myself to bum-push it. It’s the easiest method to close the gate. I hadn’t carried out a full risk-assessment and unfortunately the treads of my trainers do not give any hold with the wet bricks that the former BritishWaterways laid in an arc that many a trusty foot uses when working a Lock. These brick paved arcs are not at every Lock but be warned they are dangerous when they are wet!!!

Bricks don't bounce and nor do I!!!!!!!!!!!!

There I am, my bum in contact with this wooden gate, and I am in a seated standing position. My shoes lost any grip on the bricks and I slid down in slow centre of gravity meant I went down in unstoppable slow motion and landed heavily on my coccyx aka tailbone. Only Della saw this happen. Proof was in the nasty bruise, I glimpsed, the next day although I felt the pain right from the landing.
Where’s the Arnica Cream?
That was 9 days ago! It still hurts and is uncomfortable, ibuprofen helps and I will recover.

I must write to the Canals & Rivers Trust. There is work to be done. Remove the brick surface in the Gate ground arc. It is dangerous in wet weather. Perhaps a recycled surface that is non slip can be laid. Environmentally friendly, promoting safety and lowering risk of injury meeting the needs of the boating community and Jo Public on holiday.

Doer upper?

Wednesday, 11 April 2018


It is a double-edged sword with a happy ending, probably. Spain, our escape from the long winter in Blighty, and NbDolcieBlue in England for the short 3 colour filled seasons. It sounds like a dream and I am often told that but.....
I am happy getting from A to B in a direct fashion wearing the same clothes so to speak.

Between our bases it is a long drive 2 days direct but we spread it over 5 days. There is a cost to that but I find it a boring slog avoiding the péage in France. I don’t think the countryside, we drive through, is scenic at this time of the year, early still looks and feels wintery. And I do not like the million roundabouts we drive around. SatNat pre roundabout build up “Drive over the roundabout”, I can imagine driving straight over the ‘round’. That is because my cognitive function runs on literal. What you say is what you get. Over the years I have managed to bend literal where my reaction is not always as written. But at the end of the day I’m a Kiwi and it takes far more time for my mindset to absorb into another culture. I digress, I’m good at that.

Spain, on the other hand, has great roads and driving distances diminish along the desolate countryside except when Sat Nav has other ideas and we follow her. In our road trips late last century I was the navigator, I could read road maps and we ventured far and wide, a lot being off the main route. The Bartholomews book was the best I used for hardcopy navigation of the Iberian Peninsula but now SatNav is confounded with new roads forever in progress. Our SatNav tells us, fairly often, “Off course. Turn around.” We have a SatNav that was purchased with lifetime updates guaranteed. Lies damn lies. It is not the end of the world but it puts stress on our relationship. We count our way around roundabout exits.

Our first day on the road from B to A  we leave Los Montesinos at 1000hrs. Today’s journey is anticipated to take 4 1/2 hours. SatNav finds the back of beyond roads and we make little progress snaking our way towards the Spanish plateau. The first place we saw for breakfast had a bus turning in and we imagined a long queue of people so we drove on. We were now driving along almost empty roads and there are no fuel stations/roadside bars until 2 hours later. The food was basic, a tostada with packet mashed tomato and self serve drizzle of Ext. Vir. Olive Oil. At the service station, Chris checked the tyre pressure and I went and asked for the road to Zaragoza. The guy was helpful but his directions were not. I should have said Tureul and we may have had a chance but his way to the Z place was motorway to Valencia turning in the direction of Barcelona. No way...7 hours if we took that route.

The trip started going downhill and we needed to about turn off the motorway. We purchased a Spain road map 2018, a hardcopy that should help us and it did, when I remembered to refer to it. Four hours to destination Calatayud . There were still a couple of blips to happen in our ‘perfect’ life on Day 1 but my whole attitude to this trip got so negative and I unhappily carried the freaking SatNav that day and the next. The SatNav holder had lost its Velcro attachments! My patience level had lost its reality attachment!

Phew, we arrived at 1900hrs and the hotel was comfortable. As a mood booster Chris suggested we eat out and have the Menu del Dia at the Hotel Restaurant, a couple of floors below our room. Before we’d taken our seats at our table we could hear the sound of beating drums outdoors getting louder. Looking out the window we saw a parade of drummers. They were dressed in the same blue robes with blue cone hats.... well we named them the ‘Blue Klux Klan’. Google reveals it is part of Santa Semana (Easter). Unexpected religious evening action and I felt like a stranger in a foreign land on this day.

Driving has been part of our life together. It feels like we’re driving each other crazy now. The last 4 years we have driven England to Spain return. Last year I missed out on the back to Blighty trip by land, I did the long haul flight to NZ return. It is always getting to the destination that keeps my spirit lifted. Hey and back to long drives together, we started in 1992 and that was England to the Algarve, (Portugal) return over a number of years before SatNav came in to our lives. Here’s a photo of what happened in 2004 as we were exiting Europe for the last time..... It wasn't my fault

Now SatNav is the nonhuman involved in our megadrive. Utterances along the way from me (M), him (H) or it-that-has a woman’s voice (SN).

SN “Off route”

H “She’s worthless, she doesn’t know”

M “Change it to a bloke’s voice”

SN “Go over the roundabout”

H “She always screws up”

M “Let’s get a new SatNav”

SN “If possible turn around”

Day 2

Blue sky with patchy clouds above and I look to the snow covering the Pyrenees. It is cold outdoors. It could be Winter but the calendar says it is Spring and we are past the Spring Equinox. The SatNav is held in my hand or rested on my knee which mutes that voice. We know we will get to the Somport Tunnel soon and feel confident that we know the way without SN. Then, out of the blue comes HiVis and road works, big road works.  It’s ok, a bit of stop/start and then free flow until a few kms away from Jaca. We see a sign saying Somport Tunnel, Françia and then a dreaded roundabout approaching and I see no clues as to which exit to take. I didn’t see Françia or Tunel de Somport. SN made no comment. We take the first exit onto a new dual carriageway. It was probably the right route but we thought it was probably not so we turned back and took the other road to Jaca. (I use a lot of ‘we’ in this navigation thing). I should have looked at the hardcopy map but I keep forgetting it is there! The dual carriageway was the right road, of course, and we met up with it again as we got closer to Jaca. Are you readers still with me?

We took the turn to Tunel de Somport. We were in the tunnel. Chris thought I had told him the tunnel was 80km long, I don’t remember saying that. It is 8.6 kms long, no hardship and we exited into falling snow in France, slush slush.

I have noted, on my calendar under November, the names of the small villages (Urdos is the closest one...) and N134 in France near the Somport Tunnel. Twice we have tried on our November drive to Spain to go under The Pyrenees through the Somport Tunnel, and twice we have failed to find the Tunnel! Third time should be lucky!!
Lots of roundabouts to Dax but we were there in good time.

Day 3.

Il pleure encore plus the day I took control of the wheel and drove the Motorway to Bordeaux did the ring road and the N10 (free motorway) to Poitiers and continued on some cute roads to la belle Gite rural DUNAND in a small village Tournon Saint-Martin,  near Poitiers. France is very pretty in the country off major roads, especially when driving through old villages. But early spring, for me, is dismal particularly this spring where winter was hanging in the air. The gîte was beautiful, a memory of the place in France that we once shared with friends. (French France, another story 1997 – 2001). The gîte had the solid oak beams, I was in heaven! We’ll stay there again one way or the other.

Day 4.

Our final day in France and a 4 hour drive to Dieppe. That went well. Yay it was nearly the end of our mega journey. Chris arranged accommodation about a 5 minute drive from the Ferry Terminal. It was perfect, brand new fit out and comfortable in every way.  It is an ideal location for the Ferry port. I was tired and we had a 530 am wake-up. I woke during the night, thirsty, and reached for my small bottle of water on the bedside table. I blindly opened it and went to take a gulp but was awake enough to know that the liquid closing in on my tongue was not water. It was the other bottle I had put on the table, Della’s hypoallergenic dog shampoo!!!  My words are clean in this story.

Day 5.

The bulk of travelling was on the DFDS Ferry to Newhaven. It was a calm uneventful cruise and 4 hours later we were in Newhaven and the rain was pissing down. Back in Blighty and it was yuck and I almost brought an end to my 'Dream life with the Yorkshireman'.

I’m going to end this adventure on a light note and will begin DolcieBlue 2018 soon. I discovered in Spain the answer to the question below.

Q.   Why do chickens cross the road?

 A.              To get taken out!”

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.