Saturday, 25 July 2020



Nb Dolcie Blue

DB is at Whilton Marina Ltd for Brokerage which means she is for sale. I thought we would live on DB forever and a day. She is an ideal home for living on water and has brought us a lot of joy travelling the Canals and Rivers in England. I have health challenges and regrettably need to live on land. I loved living onboard DB and was very reluctant to make this decision. I need to keep positive and a fortunate person is going to invest in an affordable home on the water and live a comfortable life away from the hustle and bustle of land life. 

In 2013, under instruction from us Colecraft built DolcieBlue.

Spray foam in action

Morso Squirrel

Ikea kitchen -great storage and soft close cabinets. Not to mention 3 wall cabinets and glass splashbacks.

We had started our life on a Narrowboat in 2011 after Chris bought Nb Avalon Mist (53 ft) with the aim of returning to live in England from NZ with Della, our Miniature Schnauzer. We made some changes to AM's layout in 2012 but decided, in discussion with Colecraft, we wanted to go longer in length (we did not want to 'stretch' AM ) and we could maximise on the width by building in the style of a Dutch Barge. That way DB remains accessible to the Narrow Canals. With our experience of life onboard we knew what we needed for a functioning Narrowboat and what we wanted to have. We agreed our boat essentials and she left Colecraft, as a 'sail-away' and Chris, a Carpenter, did her fit-out. 

Me and Della on the Daybed ages ago


Day 1.

This could be the last cruise of Chris & Sarah on Nb DolcieBlue (DB). We leave our C&RT Leisure Mooring in Kinver at 9 am on a cold summer’s day (June 27) gusty wind with the possibility of showers given by an online choice of micro-climate weather forecasts. Yeah, right, whatever the weather we’ve packed the right clothes to wear. The challenge of blustery winds is not my steering choice and I need to keep DB’s flat steel bottom on the straight and narrow canal. I should take reassurance that she has been built to weather all conditions. Hey, as long as our precious lump of gorgeous steel floats and me, being the Captain, stay alert with the steering all will be fine. In our favour there is little traffic on the Canal, hence the reason to be cruising before holiday boats start on the Cut on July 4th.

2 days before the big cruise we drove our cars to Whilton Marina from Kinver and the Sat Nav estimated it would take 1hr and 23mins. I followed Chris until I lost sight of him at a crucial turn onto the M6. I cannot see through trucks. I got the motorway turning wrong 3 times. Why is there so much traffic? I stopped at a Petrol Station, for a rest stop to adjust the volume on my SatNav and phone Chris who answered saying he was not moving on the M6  due to a RTA ahead. It was enough to reinforce the positives moving at a slow pace on the Canal i.e. low-stress levels and little traffic. 

It has been yonks since I’ve had a day steering DB. I am skilled and safe working the Locks but over the past 14 months, which have been land-based, I’m a ‘falls’ risk so I’m locked out of the Lock job. I can keep my balance behind the wheel on DB and I steer her well.  I stand on my trusty footstool, in front of DB’s wheel where I look clearly ahead over the roof or down her Port side to get a clear view ahead. When DB is moving I can feel the rudder responding to the wheel and her Bow moves accordingly. The wheel turns easily and is never held in a static position when DB is on the move. Always keep mindful of the position of the wheel and remember how to measure rudder position with the wheel. 

The stern frame, canopies and Wheelhouse frame are packed away, Bow and stern ropes untied, centre ropes tied in position and DB leaves our home mooring in Kinver. Lips pucker and I run through a mental checklist -handbag- it's in the car! It’s not an item I can live without. I glide DB into mooring at the Kinver Sanitary Station and I could walk, not swim, back to retrieve my bag. All aboard the ‘good ship Lollipop’, I take her at the speed of ‘tic’ past the motley bunch of Narrowboats at Kinver moorings to nearby Hyde Lock.  Amazingly I got DB into the Lock without touching her sides on the Lock wall. Only 66 Locks and 109 miles to go!

The Staffs & Worcs Canal is a familiar run and I smiled knowingly what to expect apart from the unexpected! Day1 a total of 2 on the move.

The Anglers are out. Coarse fishing is natural social distancing and not a new normal- they sit canal side at least 2 metres apart. At one of the locks, there was a family group or 2 right on the Lock mooring! I kept my mouth buttoned but DB's nose indicates they need to move out the way.

Bottom Bratch Lock

Soon we arrive at the Bratch Locks expecting a Lock keeper and volunteers to be present. No offical-dom was there and Chris said the Bottom Lock gate had a rope wire-tied on it to prevent being opened and no signage saying what was going on. I phoned  C&RT and an automatic answer informed me “only in an emergency call for assistance”. I checked  but no information given about the Bratch Locks. It is Sunday and there is bugger all traffic on the Cut. Will there be anyone there when tomorrow comes? 2 hours later the rain had stopped, we took a walk past the Locks and both agreed we should take DB up the Bratch. Chris always has a wire-tie at hand and the Bottom Lock will be left as we found it!

We cruised on to moorings above Dimmingsdale Lock. Pat on the back, Good effort to get here.


It was lovely to be back in bed on DB. Della used to sleep on her doggy bed arrangement that used to be next to my side of the bed.  I didn't mind Della having her space. She didn't have a 'doggy' smell or moult so always a clean space. Now I am able to step out of our bed and walk around it.
September 2017- getting my confidence on the Narrows

I was ready to get behind the wheel. An early start and no traffic would mean that ‘the Narrows’ just past the Shropshire Union Canal turn might be, fingers crossed, clear of traffic. The Narrows is @500 metres of very narrow++ canal going through a rock cutting. Normally one of us would walk the towpath to warn our presence to an oncoming boat but we figured we'll just keep on moving. Do not mention "No Boat" until the run is completed. DB was cushioned by the long grass towpath side and I didn’t let her scrape the rock wall on the other side.  Moving DB slowly, steadily and surely I shouted with glee at the appropriate time “Great we are through!”  Sure enough, as soon as those words are said another boat came into view. The only communication was thumbs up.

There are some awkward bends on this part of the Canal, blind bends and bridges. Always blast the horn! Today there was more oncoming boat traffic but no steel kisses. 

Did I mention that weather, today, was forecast strong winds blowing all day and temps not even close to being summer.

By evening, we moored in Penkridge. There was only us and another boat moored up. I've never seen it so empty.
Morso Squirrel on a summer's day.

Chris lit the fire and DB warmed up. The Morso Squirrel is effective and there is always firewood available. Collect it when you see it and again, excellent storage on DB to carry wood. We did not see the point of having gas heating, gas is expensive and heating uses up the gas bottle quickly. (We learnt this from having gas heating on AM). There is the ability to put in a diesel fire on DB.
Moored boats we had passed, today, had chimney's smoking. To be fair DB doesn’t get cold but an overcast sky with light rain falling is not even heartwarming. I think the cabin walls lined with carpet are an excellent touch, minimising maintenance and I used to have coloured felt patterns decorating parts of it. I do miss our homely touches.



Another day and no time to rest. Every day we are passing by people walking on the Towpath and we always get a positive response to DB’s vibrant pattern. On this cruise, I was saying "Even on a cloudy summer's day DB looks colourful and people always smile." In fact it makes me happy to see the colours of the Wheel House roof as it lies on the steel roof and I get an eyeful while I'm steering DB. Some people say it is like 'Elmer', I say I had not heard of Elmer and after a Google search, I say Elmer copied us. The pattern is random, like life on the Canal.
Surgical Blade is my decorating tool of choice.

The use of coloured vinyl print is an affordable way to decorate a steel boat, the colours don't fade and the shapes can easily be replaced.

As we got closer to Great Haywood I am warmed by sun shining on the lovely countryside.  The weather brightened after some early morning rain. After Tixall Lock there is the Broadwater often busy with Boats but not today. Of course, a boat decided to ‘wind’ just as I came into view, apparently to wind on the wide water you want to keep the boat in motion to complete the wide turn. I followed it until it moored leaving me with a clear run to the junction with the Trent & Mersey Canal.

I’d forgotten there was an Aqueduct to go over, I could see a low concrete siding to Port and before I could ask Chris to tell me how much room to the starboard side a resident boater yelled out “SLOW DOWN”. I was already going at tic, was he warning me about he Aqueduct? I lost my concentration and DB kissed the concrete to Starboard. At the junction, I blasted the horn to warn possible boat traffic but kept moving while checking the canal was clear as DB was turning. No problem and a comfortable turn onto familiar territory.

The weather today is staying dry and the canal is virtually mine until we get to Rugeley. Keep right, starboard, to oncoming traffic. After the wide 45° bend after the River Trent Aqueduct I was aware of a moving boat, I moved starboard and DB got up close and personal to a hobby angler fishing from his patio. Social distancing, don't touch, at least I could see him.

There are a few bridges to pass through in Rugeley and there were 3-4 boats on the move. Why do boats seem to meet close to bridges? Signage indicated there was a floating JCB in action before one bridge and DB was waved through. Maybe a couple of inches to spare. BREATHE. I can do this! It is a happy thought to know that with my helming experience I can take on obstacle challenge.

Armitage Tunnel

The smell of Fish & Chips greeted us when we moored in Handsacre and the sprinkle of rain drops was a timely reminder to stop, eat and relax. We hadn’t planned to have F&C but they filled the spot.



I was back into the routine of waking up early. Small pot of tea, the large pot is no longer on DB, have a shower, drink tea then cruise off. Most days I have cereal but I had no Banana today. I had toast with fresh tomato and basil.

Sourdough Bread baked in a 'Dutch Oven' in the oven. 

I’ll digress and write about Sourdough Bread. I recently started making this type of bread after my friend insisted on giving me a Sourdough starter and instructions on how to make the dough. When we lived in Portugal I used to bake Bread in our Bread Oven. I thought my days of making bread were done and dusted. Moving on to 2020 I am very happy with making sourdough bread and if I was living on DB I would make certain that I baked our bread. It is easy to feed a Sourdough starter to keep it alive or leave it dormant in the Fridge. DB has excellent kitchen space for bread prep and 'stretching' the sourdough, and a normal size oven to bake the bread at high temperature in. I know DB is a boat and I should call the kitchen a galley but I don’t have to get on my knees to get to the back of a cupboard!
Chris in the Kitchen.
The 2 single Pullman's which are positioned both sides of the folding tables make a practical change to the DayBed and dining chairs we used to have. The Daybed was comfy but when it was used as a double bed it blocked the entry to the kitchen. The Pullman's are not fixed to the floor so they can be moved to a position of choice and used as 2 single beds or a double bed within the main cabin
The cruise along the Canal is beautiful even if the weather is crap. It is early summer and there is a lot of verdant vegetation to pass along with the sound of chirpy birdsong. The birds must be happy. DB has a 'hospital silencer' and I can hear the birdsong giving music to the rural cruise.

Approaching our first Lock of the day I saw the silhouette of a humanoid holding a windlass at the Lock Gate indicating is a boat on the rise! I dropped Chris at the Lock mooring then kept DB, un-tethered, expecting that the wait would be short. Chris chat chatted for a long time. I think the other boater must have been lonely. The Lock filled very slowly. I couldn’t be bothered to tie up and there was not even a slight breeze so I went indoors and washed the dishes.

At Fradley Locks a volunteer at each Lock assisted Chris. No wind today, clear entrance into the Locks followed by the turn onto the Fazeley&Birmingham (Coventry arm) Canal.

An Angler called out “Why do you Canal Boats have to get so close to the Towpath?”
I could think of words in response but thought I’d use my selective hearing. I've got to concentrate on the awkward turn to get under a bridge.

No Locks and the threat of rain made for an easy run. There are certainly places we could stop at but no Della and no need to stop, we are on a mission. As per the other days there was a lack of boat traffic and I knew we would be reaching 3 Locks once we passed the Birmingham and Fazeley junction with the actual Coventry Canal.

Can you believe just as we passed the Junction and a moored Narrowboat pulled out in front of us! I suppose they didn't expect traffic as they didn't look behind them as they jumped on their boat. I blasted my horn but they kept on going meaning they arrived at the Locks first. I almost gave them a hand signal at the Locks but I thought 'Breathe' I’ll social distance. I do not want to help them let alone meet them. Yes, they had made me angry with their thoughtlessness. Isn’t Canal life supposed to be love and peace?

 Another long cruise and we moored up near Alvecote and towpath walkers said there were ruins of an Abbey nearby. Given that the sun was shining and we were missing Della, a little walk would be a nice finish to the day.



I was so tired, don’t get me wrong, steering is stand up on your own 2 feet for hours each day and it is not a laugh a minute but holding the wheel helps me keep my balance and it gives me a bit of wriggle room. I could ask Chris to share it but he has steered lots over the years and I want to put in a good final effort. With practice, steering improves and Bow thrusters are handy but only use them when they are needed, remember they suck the charge out of their designated battery. The ‘bzzst’ of the thrusters will always get a response from other boaties  either “You’re lucky I wish I had a Bow thruster” or “Cheat!”. I think when the wind blows it is a blessing to have the Bow thrusters to get into a Lock. The other advantage for Bow thrusters is ‘winding’ (changing direction on the Cut at a ‘winding hole’)- remember DB is 68ft long. Of course, it aids with reversing DB, that's not a common occurrence. Use the Bow thrusters for intervals of 5 seconds, count the seconds, this avoids flattening their battery. The Bow thrusters are located either side of the Bow as if it isn't obvious. We don’t have Stern thrusters fitted!

Back to Day5 on the Cut. I started off writing I was so tired. I slept well but at 3am the annoying sound of a fly woke me. It didn’t sound like a mosquito. I pulled the sheet over my head, there was no point turning the light on for fly-tennis, I hadn’t brought a fly swat with me. I used to play fly-tennis when we lived in Portugal. I went back to sleep.

Morning, fly gone and I left Chris sleeping while I cast off DB. I passed a group of people walking their dogs, about 8 dogs, one dog for each person. I have a heavy heart and I wish Della was still with us, she had a good life and so did we with her being our 'Babe' for nearly 14 years.....

Guess what the weather seemed brighter. We have the 11 Atherstone Locks ahead and time for a cooked breakfast. We stopped just before Bridge 50 to have a cooked Brekky, thx Chris. A full belly and I went out to untie DB. I noticed a boat on the move towards us, of course I was tempted to cast off but I’m polite, they’ll get to the Locks first.

They, being the boat in front, moored up for lunch after the 7th Lock of the Atherstone Flight so we slipped ahead.

Rain was falling before we got to the Top Lock but a Volunteer was sort of helping as we exited. I thought the rain would stop and declined using an umbrella. A cup of tea and a cake was offered but by then the rain was bucketing down and it would be a fool’s errand to stop. I had my 'better' waterproof jacket on and even wore its hood. I cruised on until I started going under a bridge and thought I’ll stop when the Wheelhouse is under bridge cover. Looking behind me I wasn’t being followed and fingers crossed there were no boats in the opposite direction. OK, cuppa and cake. A few minutes later I ducked indoors. When I stepped out, the rain had stopped and a boat appeared in view behind me so I moved DB on and kept in front for 9 miles giving us a clear sharp turn onto the Hawkesbury Junction and up the ‘Stop’ Lock onto the Oxford Canal. It was a good feeling.

At least 13 miles covered today and I weathered the rain. We are progressing the final cruise. Canal life is supposed to be relaxing but this is nowhere near that. We are on the mission to get to Whilton Marina.

DAYS 6 & 7


It’s a straight run to Rugby and the day was overcast and a bit wet to start with. I'm getting used to it. Chris held an umbrella up for me until the rain stopped. Didn't we used to have  Rainbow Umbella hats? That would be useful. I agreed to share the steering with Chris. The plan was to get to Rugby and maybe the Hillmorton Locks but we got to the top lock at Braunston meaning 24miles covered in a day including 8 Locks.

At Braunston we moved onto the Grand Union Canal and wide Locks. There were no boats to share the Locks with but only one gate had to be opened at each Braunston Lock for Nb DB. I’ve finally got my steering badge!

This was the last big day on the Cut and it would be a short trip to Whilton Marina, on DAY 7.
We planned to be underway, early, on the last cruising day and Chris agreed to take DB through the Braunston Tunnel. I did not fancy steering in a dark hole for 40 minutes. Success, we had the Tunnel to ourselves and we didn’t take any piece of tunnel with us!

DB moored near the top Lock of the Buckby Flight of Locks giving us time to do bits and bobs on DB while we were waiting for a boat to share the Locks to our ‘ground zero’ Whilton Marina.

A fitting end to the cruise sharing the Buckby Locks with a friendly couple on a boat with their dog. The Blokes worked the Locks and we women competently helmed the boats.

The wind was fair blowing us to Whilton Marina. It's not blowing me away!

I was in tears when we drove off.

This final Blog has been more Lock than LoL.

Thanks for reading.

Beautiful Uke customised by Bespoke Paints. 
Instagram: @bespokepaints
Fb Bespoke Paints

Please read my Blogs and check out Nb DolcieBlue photos. She is a great home for life on the water. If you have any questions about her please message me through this Blogger.

Contact Whilton Marina Website for brokerage information
or check them out on Facebook

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.