Thursday, 20 September 2018


I'm getting tired of pole dancing.

We decided almost definitely that our destination is Kinver and it made it easier to plan the voyage giving us a few weeks to get DB unpacked and ready to go to brokerage. I can write this sounding bright and cheery but I do feel sad that DB will no longer be our home. Cptn and I have had a number of life moves over our 27 years together and all our homes have been amazing whether they are little or large. We agree small spaces work and DB on water opens up the Waterways in England to us. I think one day if it is me myself buy yourself this record, I’d land a Narrowboat and live on that, I don’t need muddy waters and I’d put it into a ‘grand little design’ with a veggie garden. Dream on.....

The Oxford Canal is shared with the Grand Union from the Napton Bottom Lock. You don’t really see widebeam boats until the Canal junction, opposite Wigram Turns Marina, and the GU either goes to Birmingham or south to London. The Oxford Canal leaves the Grand Union Canal at Braunston Turn. Best to Google it! Turns or turn.....

We’re on the move. We did see a wide-beam boat once, probably 4 years ago cruising towards the  Napton Locks. I remember saying “You shouldn’t be on here, it’s a narrow canal.” They had just bought the boat and brokerage must have said you can cruise until the winding hole before the narrow Locks. So true in hindsight.

We turned to Port and onto the GU to cruise to Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick then the Hatton Flight and beyond. It all felt better than the Oxford Canal (South). There was little moving traffic and when we arrived at the Stockton flight of 10 Locks we had 2 choices. If we were feeling ‘chilled’we could wait but I wanted to keep moving, so I said I’ll work the Locks while Cptn helmed. Sometimes our backs groan with winding the paddles. The paddles, at some Locks on the Oxford Canal were nasty turners. Now on the GU the first 3 x wide Locks back by Calcutt Marina were good, back on the hydraulic paddles and working one side of the Lock means 26 rotations winding up a paddle, upper limb work out but little risk of the windlass biting back!! There’s no need to obsess with working both the paddles either side to empty or fill the Lock. Leave that for Lock sharing. We were going down so if the Lock needs filling for DB to enter winding one paddle to open the sluice is enough. Likewise the same going down the Locks. Get the picture. Same result but it’s either wait and save energy or save 60 secs and use up energy. I’m fit for purpose and have no weight / wait issue but I’m past being a spring chicken.
Anyway we started the Stockton Locks, and pedestrian traffic passed on important information “There is a boat coming up the Locks.” Great I said and ask how many Locks away is it.  I would look knowing I could see clearly 3 Locks ahead then more Locks but there was no clear definition of movement. Maybe in the distance there was someone. OK we started the move and after 2 Locks I was told there is a boat  coming down obviously a Lock share opportunity for us both. The boat we eventually teamed up with was a ‘Tupperware’. This fibreglass boat dripping with fenders was happy to share the locks with steely DB and we had 3 pairs of hands to work the Locks. I could go ahead getting the Locks ready for ‘us’ boats. There is happiness in sharing a Lock!

At the end of the Stockton Locks we passed near to Long Itchington, the village where DB began as sheets of steel at Colecraft  Engineering. We had no reason to stay here, we were on the move and rain was forecast. We found moorings later on in between some sections of Himalayan Balsam. That is near where the Begonias got beheaded!

This is the GU. The Canal Bank is too overgrown, bring on the gardeners.

Next morning DB was starting to ground, in fact the levels were dropping as soon as we moored up. Nothing we could do, cooking on a lean, that’s fun.  So the shallows remained but we floated more or less, DB was resisting being pushed out but no big problem, as long as the Bow is floating the stern can be brought out using fair means...

A light rain was falling, Cptn was helming and an hour or so later we had the mooring we hoped for outside Lidl. Perfect, my favourite location to nibble croissants for brunch!

“I remember your beautiful boat”, said a person walking into Lidl’s. We often receive heart-felt comments about DB’s colourful decoration. She brings out a comment and smile in mostly everyone.
There are only so many trips needed to Lidl and I got to Morrison’s as well. Of course a Della-walk to nearby Pets at Home is essential where she could enjoy watching reality Guinea Pig TV. She loves the little creatures, and can get up close but not personal. A visit to ‘Pets at Home’ also includes the Dog Treats aisle where she makes sure to do the housework! No stealing from the bins but there must be some out of sight treat fall-out on the floor.

Enough shopping distraction, there was the mega flight of Hatton Locks waiting for us and we definitely wanted to share the Locks. It was Bank Holiday Monday so there must be boats on the move.  We made our way to moorings near the Bottom Lock and it was all quiet on the Hatton front. We could be there for the rest of the day. There was a lot of foot traffic and I was tempted to invite a couple of people to share the Locks, but I kept my mouth shut. Thankfully a holiday boat arrived and we were happy to team up with them. There was a young guy called Billy on the boat who turned out to be a Lock Superstar. He had left his windlass at the previous Lock, at the Cape of Good Hope, only ½ mile away, so I loaned him one of our ‘found’ windlasses and he got to work. His mother disappeared she walked back to try and find the windlass!

The Hatton Locks and there's more.

I helmed up a few Locks being alert to the previous time we had taken DB up the Hatton Locks and DB’s cruiser stern rail had been grabbed by the protruding Lock gate arm which appeared to over-open and not stay flush with the Lock wall. I say ‘then’ because the gates must have been repaired, thank goodness, and DB was not attacked!!

Billy’s Mum returned clutching the forgotten windlass. I was surprised she found it, great. Her mother who was on board the rental boat had been in tears worrying about her daughter’s safety and concerned her ‘middle-aged’ daughter would go missing. They live in London, what does that say about London?

Here come the boats

I got on with Locking. Again 3 people with windlasses make a big job less heavy. We had interest from some gongoozlers (GGs) and I asked them if they’d like to go up a Lock with Cptn on DB. Next thing 2 GG’s were on board with Cptn but their wives chose to remain on land. Happy chappies and I left them to get on with it. Hopefully one of them didn’t lose a hearing aid!  At the Top Lock a random GG approached with a found ‘fallen’ hearing aid at a nearby Lock enquiring if it belonged to us. He ended up taking it to the nearby CafĂ©.

OK the Hatton done and we cruised to our favourite mooring on the Rowington Ridge. That is a happy place for us and worth a 2 night stop. Nearby I found Damson plums and greengages, I can’t refuse nature’s freebies. Damson jam is yum, I’ve heard damson gin is good but the jam takes the biscuit this time.
Jam beginning

We cruised along to Kingswood Junction to move to the Stratford Upon Avon Canal and began another series of Locks. Back in the Narrow Locks and we were ahead of a ‘share’ boat, they were at a water point and I worked the Lock getting DB started going up a Lock giving me time to power walk to the shop to get sugar, how can you make jam without sugar?  On my quick return DB was moving into the Lock ahead, helpful boaters (Australian that once was a Kiwi) so all good. 

After the next Lock, I had time to be ferried in DB to Lock 14 and the upcoming flight of  Locks. I was thinking sweet jam as Cptn was moving DB closer to the Towpath so I could jump to land! Suddenly the prop’ made a sickening-clanging-loud-squeal as a hidden obstacle carried out its attack. The facial expressions from GG’s seated near the towpath, mirrored our feeling for DB and her injured prop’. She could move but she didn’t sound happy. Best to move up the Locks and find a place to moor and Cptn could assess the damage. Cptn has a lot of tools on DB but the one he needed was not in the collection.
Long term moorings on the Stratford upon Avon Canal

A fat hand holding a clamp (I made that vision up) is not powerful enough to bend steel in the confines of a weed hatch and DB was going to have to limp along. Cptn phoned around to find a dry dock and the possibility of repairing or replacing the prop. We both agreed that DB out of water would be an ideal time to black her hull.
Cosy fit on the guillotine-gated stop-lock at Kings Norton  

Droitwich Marina was selected, they sounded extremely accommodating with short notice and we were booked in meaning we had 4 days to get there.

Go Left DB...The Worcester Birmingham Canal ahead.

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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.