We want everyone to stay safe this summer, so here are some of the common causes of sinking boats on our canals and rivers, together with a few pointers about how to prevent it happening to you.
There has been much comment and speculation across the internet this year after two narrowboats sank after being rented out by their owners, one in London and one in Lancashire. As neither craft had been let with the correct type of boat licence or safety certificates, both the renters and boat owners have been left massively out of pocket as their insurance hasn't covered the damage.
Sadly, it’s not just rented boats that sink, but any boat if you are not careful about what you are doing while on the water.
One of the most common causes of sinking boats on the inland waterways is a problem with the weed hatch, usually omitting to secure it properly to prevent ingress of water into the engine bay. When water comes through your weed hatch your boat can sink remarkably quickly.
A less common cause of hang-ups has been navigating locks with fenders dangling down the side or forward and aft fenders either being in poor condition or not suitable for the purpose.
Other hazards which could lead to sinking include navigating in flood conditions (red boards), which is never recommended, and ignoring danger signs, especially 'Don’t moor here' danger signs, which are usually placed in front of underwater obstructions, ledges and sluice intakes.
In a collision, either with another boat or waterway infrastructure, plastic and wooden craft are more prone to sinking, but some metal boats may have very thin hulls too. Old Springer Engineering built narrowboats have been known to spring a leak or two.
Constant vigilance and making sure your crew is properly briefed is key to preventing your boat from sinking:
Should your boat unfortunately sink, it’s your responsibility to salvage it, not ours. Your first priority should be making sure everyone in your crew is safe. The second thing to do is to contact your insurance company and then to contact us.
Our local teams will go out to the boat’s location to ensure that any pollution is contained and that the boat is secured in a way that isn’t causing a hazard to navigation. Your insurance company will arrange with a specialist recovery company to salvage your boat, if that is included in your insurance. If it’s not included, or for any reason (such as renting your boat out without the correct type of licence) you have invalidated your policy, we have two pre-approved contractors who can salvage your craft but you will need to arrange that directly with them and pay for the recovery yourself. If you’re not going to use one of our pre-approved contractors to salvage your boat, the company undertaking the work will need our authorisation first before starting work to rescue your boat.
It’s always worth paying for the most comprehensive insurance cover you can afford as salvage costs can be very expensive. Always read the small print of your policy carefully, and be aware that if you only Third Party, Fire and Theft, the cover is normally just that and won’t cover salvage if your boat sinks.
Stay safe, be careful out there and hopefully a sinking will be something that never happens to you.
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