Tuesday, 4 September 2018


OK so you’ve heard of ‘Tyre Kickers’ when selling a car. People look and dream about if they could become the owners, make the appropriate comments but mute money talk.

It is not a secret that we are putting our beautiful hunk of steel aka our home NB DOLCIEBLUE up for sale. Hence the name Steel Clappers, it could be Steel Cappers but no one wants to toe cap DB, they clap when they come aboard. It has been 7 years since we returned to England and began our dream life as water gypsies. Only it is not a dream, we took the first step and woke up to cruising the waterways.  Je ne regret rien.
Our life, together, has always been impulsive and we noticed we were drawn to the West Midlands and the village of Kinver on the Staffs&Worcs Canal has become a favourite place to moor. On a walk, in Kinver, earlier this year we saw a cottage for sale recognised it would suit us and meet our needs in our days of age and bought it. And so will begin another dream.  
DB, beautiful DB, is waiting to become a living dream for somebody else. Check Apollo Duck https://narrowboats.apolloduck.co.uk/boat/colecraft-68-cruiser-stern/571259 
We will put her into brokerage at a Marina soon.

We have been cruising up the Thames. My last blog had us leaving Limehouse Thames Lock late afternoon on a sunny summer Sunday. Four years ago we did this cruise and left in the early morning, a sunny day and the water was just waking up. It was still a mill pond at that time. This time it was choppy and windy. 

Della and I were indoors with both of us wearing our lifejackets. Cptn was at the helm in total control of DB and our friends, on board, appeared to be enjoying the ride and taking in the great waterside scenery that DB was passing.

My confidence returned  as we approached The London Eye and I removed my lifejacket and started helming. DB rides the water well and Cptn was the right person for the job to get us underway. Everyone had a turn at helming under Cptn’s watchful eye.

It took 3 hours to get to Teddington Lock and once we were through the Lock we moored up for the night. We had queried the need to book a mooring a few weeks back and were told there is never any problem getting a paid mooring there. So at the Lock I paid for a 2 week EA River license and a mooring for that night. The moorings were packed with ‘Gin Palaces’ and no room for us. Cptn phoned the Lockie who said reverse back and tie up near the Lock. The assigned mooring had a ‘Tupperware’ moored on it and we gave them their orders to untie their ropes and be gone.

The R. Thames is always a great cruise and, I hear, a blast up a River in a steel boat is good for the engine. We didn’t hang about. Teddington to Runnymede, where we tried to smash up the polycarbonate plastic but it wouldn’t snap even with the weight of 2 jumping on its curly bend. We were about to get the hand saw involved when a man of the land approached and asked if he could buy the plastic. He had a use for it so we were happy for him to take it away no charge. He came back with some home grown tomatoes and a few cans of beer. Nice but not necessary.
Windsor, feeding the Canadian Geese!
 Good pickings underwater in this River.

Wargrave Mooring

Clever in Sonning

St Andrews Church, Sonning

Smoke on the Water. Beale Park

Runnymede to Windsor, that was a short trip but we paid the mooring and stayed the night. The trip goes on....Wargrave Marsh, Sonning, Beale Park, Abingdon, then through Oxford past Port Meadow (Anglers to ‘port’ and they were not happy with DB’s position on the river, she was too close to them) and onwards to moor a river mile above King’s Lock.

We are now in new territory on the R. Thames or Isis as it is known. Our intention is to go to Lechlade. The River was running ok in the dry summer but it is narrow and the banks are overgrown. Its level was low and at times we lost steerage which was a problem on the winding bits. Fortunately there was not much traffic. On one of the bends before Radcot Lock we lost steerage and while coping with this, a ‘Broadscruiser’ coming downstream appeared, at speed, as it came round the bend. There was no way we could give way to downstream traffic as they had come into our stream that we were trying to get out of. Kissing boats. We needed to move out of the way and they were stuck between DB and the riverbank not to mention the overhanging dead tree. DB slid out of the way nudging their rubber-strip. The woman-at-helm was very unhappy that we had made contact with their boat. “What are you doing?” she said “We’re fibreglass you’re steel!” Her words were wrapped with more of the colour of the moment. When I got to the Lock, I discussed the incident with the Lockie. He said he was impartial as he had not seen the incident. While I was at the Lock he had a phonecall from the ‘Broadscruiser’ and all he could do was give them our boat name and state he was impartial.
You can leave your hat on. Radcot

This incident put us off going to Lechlade, yes DB is a long boat on a winding river. I helmed most of the return to Godstow Lock. I made sure every blind bend we tooted at. 1 blast for starboard turn and 2 blasts for port turn. I got stuck with the green and red markers, I couldn’t remember which side to pass them on. I knew to keep the red marker on my right but I wasn’t expecting to see a green marker where there hadn’t been one the day before! I had to make a snap decision and I kept it to my Right. Wrong wrong wrong. There were 2 boats moored ahead and I had to make a sharp turn to port to avoid sticking DB’s bow into steel. She turned OK but there was not enough time or space to swing the stern out of the way so I did a long rub along 2 steel boats. So is the problem of trying to avoid contact, to throttle back means any steering is lost, bow thrusters can help but a slow boat still feels like it is going fast. Time for a break, have a Kit Kat. In old days I would have a cigarette and breathe in the smoke. For some reason nicotine and tobacco was a panacea to the experience. I’m going to remain an ex smoker.


So that was close to the 2 weeks on the Thames. There was time to get back to Abingdon and Nb WAL cruised in! Then there was the rowing event when we left Iffley Lock. I suppose Oxford means rowing. They are a bit of a minefield on a Narrowboat........

Back to the Canals.

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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.