The charity making life better by water

Boaters’ Update 20 October 2023

Complete your ‘to do list’ ahead of winter, find out about boater elections to our charity’s governing Council, and read why a Dragons’ Den panellist is supporting our Big Plastic Pick Up.

This edition also looks at how we’ve been celebrating volunteering excellence, and provides an overview of this weekend’s stoppages along with a deeper dive in to a select few.

There’s also an invite from Tracey Clarke, aka the blind boater, to an event about accessibility and the waterways. Finally, there’s an update on our roll out of contactless payment technology at our boater facilities.

Happy boating,


P.S. You’ll note that the list of stoppages is slightly longer than you’d expect at this time of year. Well, we have storm Babet to thank – as well as blowing trees down it’s also led to a landslide on the Worcester & Birmingham Canal.

Boats on the canal

In this edition:

  • Getting your boat ready for winter
  • Represent boaters on our Council
  • Celebrating volunteering excellence
  • Support our Big Plastic Pick Up
  • Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend
  • Gloucester Docks dredging update
  • Working towards accessible waterways – an invitation from Tracey Clarke, aka the blind boater (and others!)
  • Roll out of contactless payment technology at boater facilities
  • Bits & bobs

Getting your boat ready for winter

The first three weeks of this month have, as one meteorologist reportedly said, “gone from being six degrees above normal to six degrees below normal, so it’s a bit strange”.

British winters can be unpredictable and, for those of us with boats, it’s time to think about winterising them.

If you're going to leave your boat unattended for any length of time, you'll need to protect it from the damaging effects of winter. We've put together some tips to help you prepare your boat for the colder months ahead.

Inside the boat

The last thing you want when you return to your boat after the winter season are smelly, mouldy furnishings. Over the winter you should consider moving any soft furnishings to a warm and dry environment.

The engine

The best protection for the engine is to change the oil and service the engine according to the manufacturer's instructions before storage. This way all the filters are clean, water has been removed and corrosive elements that build up inside the engine are washed away.

If you have a sealed water system, the strength of the engine antifreeze should be tested and topped up or discarded if less than 50 per cent. This will prevent freezing and prevent corrosion by preventing air reaching internal components on the engine.

Where no drain plug is available, disconnect a hose, drain the water from the system and leave disconnected. Although this will not empty the system completely, it will allow for expansion should the water freeze and reduce the risk of ruptured pipes. It's also worth insulating any accessible tight bends as this is where fluid will collect even after draining. Once you're ready to start cruising again, reconnect any pipes, refill the system and open the seacock.

If the engine's winterised or the seacock's closed, clearly mark the engine and its controls; it should prevent accidental operation.

It is a good idea to place an oily rag in the exhaust outlet and to cover the air inlet to the engine, this stops the air moving through the engine and causing corrosion of the valve gear. Finally give the engine a good spray with WD-40 paying particular attention to the electrical components and wiring - this will keep the damp away and prevent bad connections in the spring.

Winter on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal


Water pumps should be disconnected and run dry to remove any traces of water. Water tanks, calorifiers and pipe work should be emptied.

Leave the taps in the open position. It's also a good idea to ensure the shower is drained and shower head removed, with the valves left open.


Batteries should be fully charged and ideally left on a float charge from a purpose-built marine battery charger. If this isn't possible then check their charge every month and top up when required. Make sure the electrolyte level is correct and battery terminals are free from corrosion.


If you're moored on the main line where there is a greater chance of craft passing by when the cut is frozen, you can drop planks of wood from ropes into the water to run alongside your hull. The planks will absorb some of the impact of the sheets of ice created when people start ice-breaking to get to the water points. These sheets of ice can shoot across the top of a frozen canal and can seriously damage the hull of GRP boats: they usually only scratch the paint or blacking of steel hulled narrowboats.

Freezing temperatures can cause splits and fractures in pipes which, if left, could eventually cause partial flooding. Make sure you drain down the water system and leave taps in the open position - if closed, any water left in the pipe could freeze.

Consider fitting an automatic bilge pump float switch. Moored boats can rock from side to side in high winds, or even the wake of passing boats, and take on water. An automatic bilge pump float switch will give you piece of mind as you can be sure that small amounts of water will be removed from your bilge.

Always test the bilge pump and battery charge levels before leaving the boat and when you return, or before a long journey.

Heavy rainfall, leaking stern glands and issues with weed hatches can result in water ingress that can quickly fill a boat and causes it to sink. If batteries go flat at a critical point, it can be devastating.

Grease the stern tube before leaving the boat, this will prevent water ingress. Although most stern glands leak once the propeller turns, the grease acts like a seal whilst not in use.

Ventilation can be improved by use of wind socks, which are sold specifically for ventilating boats. These will deflect most of the winter weather and allow proper ventilation of the cabins.

Make sure your boat's mooring pins and ropes are secure, yet slack enough to deal with the normal rise or fall of water levels. Where possible attach a long rope to a tree or higher ground, so that if flooding occurs, or the boat becomes loose in high winds, the additional rope could provide a much-needed safety line. In extreme weather or prolonged rainfall, visit the boat regularly to adjust mooring ropes and check bilge pumps and batteries are coping with the situation.

It's also a good idea to run the engine for an hour every time you visit as this pushes oil around the engine and prevents rusting, plus it tops up the battery if left running long enough (beware of doing this if you've drained the cooling system!).

Spray terminals with a silicone-free lubricant and grease all available grease points on the engine and drive, plus electrical connectors. Also lubricate linkages and gear/throttle slides, this will prevent rusting/corrosion and give these components a longer life.

A wintery canal scene


If not in use, store in a gas-tight locker. The same regulations as Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) apply.

Protecting possessions

Even if you have a secure mooring, it's a good idea to remove or put out of site any alcohol, valuables and electrical items. Make sure you have decent locks and adequate insurance. It’s also worth checking all windows are firmly shut and any vents are closed.

Don't forget to visit!

Spending time at the canal is, of course, a lovely thing to do. And whilst there, you can regularly turn over the engine and charge the boat's batteries too. You should run the engine for at least 30 minutes until it reaches its normal operating temperature for 20 minutes.

While you're there you should also pump out rainwater and clear cockpit drains and bilge pump suctions of leaves. Boats should not be left for long periods without some form of inspection by the owner or a friend/boatyard to check on the mooring and condition of the boat.

Walking along the Macclesfield Canal in winter

Represent boaters on our Council

As you probably know, we have an advisory Council made up of up to 50 members. It includes a mix of elected and independently nominated individuals together with the six Regional Advisory Board chairs.

Council members reflect the wide appeal of the waterways – from boating and angling through to walking and conservation. They are the legal company members of the Canal & River Trust and have responsibilities granted them by the Trust’s Articles of Association.

The Council, chaired by the chair of the Trust Board, David Orr CBE, is responsible for the appointment of trustees. It debates important points of principle to provide guidance and perspective from different stakeholders, suggesting issues of concern for the Trustees to pursue, and acts as a sounding board for the Trustees in relation to the development of proposals and strategy. Council members serve for a period of four years.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, in the near future there’ll be Council elections and boat licence holders will receive an email that will explain what you have to do if you want to be nominated to sit on the Council to represent the interests of boaters. There will also be elections running for boating businesses, volunteers, anglers, those making a regular donation to the Trust and a place on council for a Trust staff representative too.

Council by the River Mersey, Liverpool

Celebrating volunteering excellence

In the last edition you may have read that one of our charity’s achievements highlighted in our latest Annual Report is that we passed the massive five million volunteering hours mark. Put differently, that’s equivalent to 625,000 working days. Wow.

The difference that volunteers make can’t be underestimated and that’s why, together with Marsh Charitable Trust, we are pleased to announce those who have been recognised in our annual volunteer awards.

Awards have been given to teams and individuals across the network and reflect the fantastic range of volunteering that takes place. This year, as we face the challenge of a significant cut in its future government funding, the importance of volunteering has never been clearer.

Christine Mellor, head of volunteering, said: “Volunteers are an integral part of our charity, working with us, across the Trust, and making a valuable impact in caring for our 250-year-old canal network.

“In the face of some daunting challenges, we could not maintain our waterways without the passion, commitment, skills and talent of our volunteers who support us in so many ways. It demonstrates how much we can achieve when we work together – and shows the power of canals to inspire and connect people.

“Every day we see the impact that our volunteers make. They lead and advise on how the Trust works and free-up colleagues to enable us to do more. Volunteers get stuck into practical activities that improve our waterways and surrounding green spaces for people and wildlife; they talk to and support boaters through our locks and lead walks along our towpaths.

“These awards recognise just some of the people who have made such a significant contribution in keeping our waterways alive. Our canals need this support more than ever, and I'd encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering to come and join a welcome event. We have so much to offer, that is flexible, fun, and can develop your interest, skills and knowledge. Come and make new friends and make a difference to your local community. Join us and #VolunteerByWater. We have something for everyone.”

Read the full press release to find out who was recognised in your region.

Volunteers at the Marsh Awards

Support our Big Plastic Pick Up

Did you know that an estimated 14 million pieces of plastic rubbish end up in or around our canals and rivers every year? That’s the equivalent of 38,356 pieces every day.

This is why we’ve launched a campaign this autumn to do something about it and we’d like you to join us. Among others, Deborah Meaden from TV’s Dragons’ Den, already has: “14 million items of plastic rubbish end up in and around our canals and rivers every year and, despite the Canal & River Trust spending over £1 million trying to tackle the problem, this litter still causes devastation for wildlife in our waterways and the oceans beyond.

“It’s a massive problem; particularly in the light of the recent government grant review announcement confirming that Canal & River Trust will see a significant reduction in its funding from 2027 onwards. But the good news is that, together, we can end plastic pollution by joining the Big Plastic Pick Up in three easy steps: Donate £14, pledge to pick up 14 pieces of plastic rubbish and tell a friend to tell a friend. If enough of us accept this challenge, we stand a real chance of getting rid of plastic rubbish by canals and stopping plastic becoming part of our nature.”

To recap the steps that Deborah mentions above, it’s easy to take part:

  1. Donate £14 to help fund our work.
  2. Pick up 14 pieces of litter to help rid our waterways of damaging plastic waste.
  3. Share with 14 friends and encourage them to join the #BigPlasticPickUp

What you'll receive:

  • An eco-tote bag made from recyclable materials to use on your litter pick.
  • Exclusive emails relating to the campaign, and updates on how your support is helping.
  • The Big Plastic Pick Up guide.
  • Access to download and use our official Big Plastic Pick Up social sharing graphic.

Your £14 donation could help fund:

  • Bubble Barriers, which catch plastic and prevent it from ending up in the ocean. The bubbles also oxygenate the water, helping fish and other species.
  • Sea bins, which skim the water's surface and intercept floating debris, macro and micro plastics and even micro fibres. They can also clean water of contaminated organic material that is not normally possible to retrieve.
  • A volunteer with the equipment to litter pick. Our volunteers work in teams using long pickers to remove rubbish from the water, which is then recycled where possible.

Join the Big Plastic Pick Up today.

Picture of a woman bending down to pick up litter

Maintenance, repair and restoration work this weekend

As someone who’s out on, or by, the water more often than most, you’ll know that there are times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. So, below, you’ll find a list of navigations that have ongoing restrictions that may affect you if you’re planning to get out on the water this weekend:

When restrictions to navigation happen, we get them up on to our website as soon as we can – always best to have a scan before you set off. As set out in the article above, you can set up your smartphone to automatically alert you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. Check out this guide to setting it up.

If you have any questions about a specific closure, or spot an error in our system, please get in touch.

Gloucester Docks dredging update

Following a pause over the summer months, dredging has recommenced at Gloucester Docks as part of the work to maintain suitable navigable depths for boats at the historic inland port. Dredging has been underway for three weeks and there has been good initial progress made so far.

From the week commencing 23 October, dredging will be focused on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal south of Llanthony Bridge. This section of dredging will be looking to create a 3.5-metre-deep channel.

Also, from 23 October for two weeks the Gloucester Lock chamber and other areas will be being dredged. The sediment from this will be loaded onto lorries and taken to a recycling facility where it will be assessed for potential re-use opportunities.

Boaters can continue to use the docks while the work is ongoing though are requested to pass through with due care and follow any instructions from the dredging crews where necessary.

Gloucester Docks dredging

Working towards accessible waterways – an invitation from Tracey Clarke, aka the blind boater (and others!)

In just under six weeks, on 2 December in Birmingham, the newly formed Accessible Waterways Association, in conjunction with us, will be hosting a day dedicated to accessibility and the waterways. The day is aimed at anyone with accessibility needs: boaters and others who want to enjoy the inland waterways.

The day starts at 10:30am with registration and refreshments. The main programme commences at 11:00am with Tracey Clarke, founder of the Accessible Waterways Association and the self-styled ‘blind boater’, giving a brief talk outlining the day.

Keynote speaker, Paralympian kayaker Rob Oliver headlines the agenda of speakers.

From the Trust, there’ll be an interview with our national towpath advisor Dick Vincent, and Marcus Chaloner, national design manager, will be introducing the new “Accessible Mooring Bollard” being developed in consultation with disabled boaters.

Speakers from the Waterways Chaplains and Marie Curie complete the formal presentations, and Liz Humphreys will talk about having a new boat bespoke built for her accessibility needs. The agenda allows plenty of time to mingle, chat and investigate stall holders exhibiting how they are working towards making our inland waterways as accessible as possible. There will be time for Q&A, informal discussion, and feedback.

A buffet lunch will also be provided. Note that there is no charge for attending, but any donations would be appreciated. You can do this via the GoFundMe page.

Further details will be made available soon, but get your booking in early, as places are limited and will be on a first come first served basis. Book now!

There is also the capacity for a couple more exhibitors. If you would like to book one of these then please follow this link.

For speaker biographies and travelling/venue advice please visit the AWA's website.

For any further information please contact Tracey Clarke on [email protected] or call 07354 918196.

Accessible moorings in Central Birmingham

Roll out of contactless payment technology at boater facilities

As promised in the last edition, here's a list of dates that we aim to upgrade card readers around the country at customer service facilities to contactless.

We are arranging a PO Box Address specifically for the return of any paper cards which will be confirmed in the next edition. This service will be active for six months from 1 Nov until 20 Apr 2024. After which we will not be able to accept requests for refunds on pump out cards. When sending in your old paper cards the following information should be included:

  • Name / address / contact telephone number / email address (if applicable) / customer number (should we need to contact with regard to the refund)
  • Only return unused cards (these will be checked to ensure that they have not been used)
  • Details of where the card was purchased and proof of purchase (this will speed up the refund process)
  • If we do not hold card / bank details, a member of the Trust may contact you to obtain details to enable to refund to take place, please do not send card / bank details in the post.

Note for boaters in Yorkshire, North East and East Midlands

Please note that the customer service facilities (CSFs) at the locations below will take a bit longer to convert. If you use any of the facilities listed below then please keep hold of your cards as they will be needed in the foreseeable future.

As an aside, the reason that these will take longer is that they are higher voltage units and require a slightly different approach. We are currently looking at a couple of options and as soon as the most appropriate is identified, they’ll be scheduled in:

  • Torksey Lock CSF
  • Kilby Bridge Yard CSF
  • Leeds CSF
  • Castleford Pump Out Housing
  • Ramsdens Swing Bridge CSF
  • West Stockwith Lock - CSF
  • Shireoaks Marina – Pump out
  • Aspley Basin CSF
  • Hebden Bridge CSF - Pump out
  • Ripon CSF
  • Naburn CSF
  • Boroughbridge CSF
  • Selby CSF
  • Long Sandal Lock Control Cabin
Front of a boat cruising on a sunny day

Bits & bobs

As mentioned in the last edition, winter moorings are now bookable. If you’re taking up the opportunity to stay put on a mooring this winter and have a car, please remember to park considerately and not block any local residents’ access points such as a driveway.

Happy boating,


Last Edited: 20 October 2023

photo of a location on the canals
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