Boaters' Update 1 Nov 2019

Read on to find out about; how you can vote from a boat, news of next year's boat licence fees, a consultation on reducing emissions from boats, weeds, latest news, stoppages and events and more besides!

Fireworks over Anderton Boat Lift Fireworks over Anderton Boat Lift

Welcome to the latest edition. After all the speculation, it has been confirmed that the nation will have its third major political vote in four years – we’ll be shivering our way to the polls on 12 December. If you’re wondering how you can vote from a boat, look no further than the first article.

Elsewhere, you can read news of changes to next year’s boat licence fee, news of a consultation about reducing boat emissions and more of your feedback and advice on a range of topics from anodes through to considerate boating.

As ever, you’ll also find the regular roundup of news, upcoming events, and the latest stoppages.

If there’s an article you’d like to read in a future edition then please drop me a line.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and upcoming events         

Over the last few weeks you may have heard, or seen, that:

  • 15 Oct – The Active Waterways project for Cheshire’s over 55s was launched with £222,000 of National Lottery funding from Sport England and in partnership with Active Cheshire. It’s a key initiative within Sport England’s plan ‘Towards an Active Nation’.
  • 21 Oct – Every autumn, our waterways are transformed into spectacular corridors of red and gold. While they are great spots for a selfie, we are encouraging people up and down the country to pick up a piece of plastic as they pose for their perfect picture as part of our #PlasticsChallenge
  • 24 Oct – A flotilla of 50 boats is coming to Birmingham to celebrate the 250th birthday of the Birmingham Canal Navigations. If your boat is moored in the area and you’d like to join the cruise, which takes place on 2 Nov, you’ll find more details here.

Below I’ve picked out some events that you might be interested in over the next month. There are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities if none of the below take your fancy. Just visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.

  • 2 Nov to 1 Dec – Looking for a different way to enjoy time on the water in November? Look no further than the Puppet Theatre Barge in London’s Little Venice. There you’ll be able to watch a performance of ‘My Shadow and Me’ where you’ll meet Drew Colby, a man whose shadow can do almost anything. He makes enchanting shadow animals and fabulous shadow lands and even funny shadow people, all with just two hands!
  • 9 Nov – Come and join us for an Eco Diwali Day in Birmingham where you’ll be able to help us plant trees, litter pick on our waterways and even make an ecofriendly Diva candle to float on the water.
  • 15 Nov – Fascinated with history? Then why not come and hear about the construction of the replica Morton’s Patent Slip which is on display at the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port.
  • 16 & 17 Nov – Crikey, it doesn’t feel as though I should be writing this but, by the time you read this, there’ll only be eight more Mondays before Christmas! So if you haven’t started yet then why not kick off your Christmas shopping with a visit to the ever eclectic Stoke Bruerne Floating Market?

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Vote from a boat

It doesn’t matter which broadcaster you prefer, which newspaper you read or whether you avoid them all. News of the General Election has reached just about everywhere – online, offline, down the pub, in the office and at the dinner table.

We all like to have our voice heard when the country comes to making big decisions and the next election could be the biggest in a generation. So, below, you'll find a guide on how to make sure you get the chance to have your say on 12 December.

Firstly, check that you eligible. You can register to vote at 16 but cannot vote until 18 and either way, you must be:

  • Aged 18 or over
  • Registered to vote in the UK
  • A British or Irish citizen living in the UK

Or

  • A Commonwealth citizen living in the UK who has leave to remain in the UK or who does not require leave to remain in the UK
  • A British citizen living overseas who has been registered to vote in the UK in the last 15 years
  • An Irish citizen living overseas who was born in Northern Ireland and who has been registered to vote in Northern Ireland in the last 15 years
  • A citizen of the Commonwealth nations of Malta and Cyprus

All good? Then read on!

Voting if you have a permanent mooring

If you have a permanent mooring then you’re effectively a resident of that area and the process is the same as for your land-lubbing neighbours. Just visit the Government’s voting registration website.

Voting if you’re a continuous cruiser

Boats on the Rochdale Canal, Hebden BridgeIt’s slightly more complicated if you’re always on the move and don’t have a home mooring. If this is your situation then you must register a declaration of local connection, which, when approved, will be valid for 12 months (or until you cancel it).

It’s not too hard though. Find your local electoral registration office via Google. You’ll then need to pop along, explain your local connection and fill in a form. The ‘local connection’ should be at a place you spend the most time or where you have some connection. This could be where you were last permanently registered or any boatyard or marina you regularly use for maintenance.

Be aware!

Please be aware that if you're not on a mooring with full residential planning permission and already listed on the council tax register, you will most probably only be able to register to vote by either declaring homeless with local connection or by using a family or friend’s residential address. Both of these options may affect your credit rating and access to financial and other services.

Once registered

If you didn’t apply to vote by post, all you now need to do is turn up at your nearest polling station…

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Boat licence fees for 2020-21

Earlier this week (31 Oct) we announced that headline private and business boat licence fees will rise by 2.5% from 1 April 2020.

As previously announced, in March 2018, following the national boat licence consultation, a number of changes will be made to licence fees over five years. 

Boats going into AylesburyFrom 1 April 2020, a 2.5% ‘prompt payment’ discount (reduced from 5%) will apply for those who pay on time in full, and a new 2.5% discount will apply for those who manage their payments online including, for the first time, for boaters paying by direct debit. This means that boaters who may not be able to afford to pay in one lump sum will also be able to benefit from a small discount on the full licence fee.

In addition to the current length-based pricing, from April 2020 the Trust will start the phased introduction of additional pricing bands for boat widths over 2.16m (7ft 1”), as announced in March 2018, with a surcharge of 5% applied until March 2021 (when it will increase to 10%). This means that boats over 2.16m wide will be subject to an increase in licence fees of 7.6% overall from 1 April 2020.

Jon Horsfall, head of customer service support, said: “Income from private boat licences accounted for around 10% of our annual income last year, and helps ensure that we can carry out the vast amount of work needed to keep the waterways available to boaters.   

Boats in Brecon Basin“We know that not every boater is in a position to pay their licence in a single payment so we’re pleased to be able to extend a portion of the previous ‘prompt payment’ discount to those paying by direct debit, as well as all those managing their payments online. We’d encourage boaters to sign up to online licensing to benefit from the 2.5% discount.

“The changes we’re making to boat licensing are intended to ensure the financial contribution made by boaters towards the cost of looking after the waterways is spread fairly across the boating community. We are staggering the changes for wider vessels that we announced last year over a five-year period from 1 April 2020 so there’s no sudden impact on any boaters.”

Take a look at the latest Boater Report to see how we use income from boating, and other sources, to maintain canals and rivers for navigation.

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Weeding out problems

Truxor weed-cutting boat clears duckweed north PrestonMost of us have been there. You spend spring sowing seeds and planting bulbs and, as they start to come through, so do all the things you didn’t plant – weeds! To stop our precious borders and tubs becoming overwhelmed we’ll spend the following months in a persistent battle for supremacy.

As a boater you’ll probably know it’s much the same out on, and by, the water – except some of those we deal with can grow up to 20cm a day! Here’s a rundown of the weeds we’re consistently up against (actually, with the exception of duckweed, they’re all classed as invasive non-native species or INNS):

  • Floating pennywort. It’s only relatively recently, since the 1980s, that this one has been a problem (after the aquatic nursery trade introduced it to the UK). It grows very rapidly in late summer, up to 20cm per day, and is responsible for swamping waterways, blocking water flow, crowding out native plants and taking oxygen from fish and insects. Like the next one in the list, it can grow from miniscule fragments, making its removal incredibly difficult and expensive.
  • Japanese knotweed. One of the most invasive weeds in Britain, its dense growth crowds out native vegetation, erodes riverbanks and causes structural damage, having the ability to grow through tarmac and concrete and breaking the surface open in the process. It can grow up to 2cm a day and up to three metres.
  • Giant hogweed. This former ‘beauty queen’ of 19th century ornamental gardens can now be found along waterways, reaching heights of up to five metres. It closely resembles harmless cow parsley and our native (and harmless) common hogweed, but don’t let its pretty flower-like appearance throw you off. This giant contains sap that can burn skin when exposed to sunshine. It can keep causing skin issues for months afterwards. Please don't ever touch this plant.
  • Himalayan balsam. This densely growing pink and red-stemmed weed stifles any native grasses and plants in its path. Its seed pods explode open when ripe and can shoot seeds up to seven metres away – with each plant able to produce around 800 seeds, it’s no wonder this plant dominates certain areas. It doesn’t need much light itself and will grow in a wide range of habitats. However, this weed tends to shade out other plants and when it dies back in autumn its destructive legacy lives on; as it leaves waterway banks vulnerable to erosion. As a slight aside, a boater wrote in earlier this year with a foraging tip: “…the leaves are quite peppery, the flowers make a very pleasant wine but best of all, armed with a bag to place over the seed pods (as the explosion is amazing!!) gather the seeds. They are really tasty either just as they are or lightly baked in the oven! If you can't beat them eat them!”
  • As its name suggests, ducks do eat duckweed but, given that according to the RHS, “…the plant mass can double in size every two or three days in optimum conditions over summer…”, it’s no wonder they can’t keep it under control. With such rapid growth the vast green carpets of duckweed can block out the majority of sunlight from reaching the water beneath.

If you cruised, or even just visited a towpath, in London over the last several months you would have seen that the first and last in the list above were a particular focus for our team to deal with. Over the course of six months, in London, we removed the equivalent of around 600, full to the brim, 14-yard skips.

The method of removal varies according to which pest we’re dealing with and at what point it’s at in its growth cycle. Sometimes it’s mechanical, sometimes biological and, less frequently, chemical. It’s Himalayan Balsam with purple flowers on both banks of narrow waterwayworth noting that mechanical doesn’t always mean machines - balsam bashing, where the shallow rooted Himalayan Balsam is pulled up before it flowers in June, is one such way where the plant can be eradicated from an area within a few years although its prolific seed spreading does make this a challenge.

It’d be nice to think that once it’s removed its job done. Sadly not. Depending on the invasive species, we must dispose of the waste in a special way to prevent its further spread and keep a regular watch on the original site to tackle any new growth.

Almost invariably one factor has a consistent effect on weed growth– the weather. More specifically, temperature. The graph below shows, in London, that a warm spell is followed by more weeds being removed.

Weed vs temp

Unlike fitting a new lock gate, mending a culvert or repointing an iconic hump back bridge there is no quick fix as far as weeds are concerned. So, next year, when you’re cruising past a crew working to remove weeds, a cheery wave will help sustain them for their long battle ahead…

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Single-handed, considerate, boating with anodes

Ok, a confession. This article isn’t about skippering a boat considerately with only anodes for company. While some of you may already do that, this article doesn’t give instructions to those who don’t.

Boats on the Shropshire CanalInstead, it’s about the three topics that you’ve been getting in touch about. The first is quite simple to address – more of you, thanks, have sent in advice for those new to, or considering, single-handed boating. If that sounds like you then it’s worth having a read, along with the previous, and extensive, batch of advice.

The second topic, about being considerate (specifically at visitor moorings) invoked a resounding response from those that got in touch.

To summarise, the scenario was that a single-handed, female, boater is arriving at a visitor mooring that has limited space but another boater is stood on the towpath and indicates to the arriving boater that the remaining empty space is reserved for a couple of boats that will be arriving soon (of which he is part of the crew).

The question was: Should the boater on the towpath be, in effect, reserving the space?

You unequivocally said no. Which is a relief as it’s in line with our guidance too! With the exception of, currently, a couple of locations in London, visitor moorings cannot be reserved or booked and are used on a first come, first serve basis.

It’s worth noting that between 1 November 2019 - 29 February 2020 some sections of some visitor moorings are put aside for winter moorings.

The final topic, on whether anodes are of benefit on canals and rivers, also inspired a one-sided response. Ironically, it was a positive response (editor’s note – I did have to double check that anodes are negative…) and matched our article on hull maintenance.

The full detail of the responses makes interesting reading but, to generalise, you agree that anodes are needed.

In the next one or two editions I’d like to share your best tips for winterising your boat – please do send them in, thanks.

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Getting in touch in an emergency

Things sometimes do go bump in the night. And while this week’s Halloween celebrations might be a bit of fun, out on the cut, you may find that you need urgent help long after the sun has gone down and the office lights have been turned off.

Most of the time, such as for a lightly damaged lock gate, a hole in the towpath, unlicensed or speeding boats, or facility breakdowns (water points, pump outs etc.) you can report it via our website.  

Sometimes, though rarely, emergency situations arise. If at any point there’s any risk to life, risk of serious injury or illness or fires or an explosion on a boat then you should immediately call 999. The same goes if properties are at risk or a crime has been committed.

Middlewich breach from the airWhen the situation is urgent, but not an emergency - please call our 24-hour emergency contact number 0800 47 999 47. Some examples of when you should use this number are:

  • If you come across a dangerously damaged bridge, lock or tunnel
  • A boat is trapped in a dangerous situation e.g. on a weir or a lock
  • A boat is causing a dangerous navigational hazard
  • There is serious flooding or a breach which risks lives or property
  • Serious pollution

If your situation isn’t covered by any of the above then you can always talk to our customer service team on 0303 040 4040 who are now available seven days a week; Monday to Friday(8am-9pm), Sat & Bank Holidays (8am-7pm) and Sunday (9am-7pm).

If you’d like to send in some hypothetical scenarios then I’ll happily list which number should be called in each instance in the next edition.

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Get Involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering,  donating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded plastic. As you’re such an integral part of what makes waterways so wonderful, and life better by water, I thought you’d like to know about other ways you can get involved:

  • As mentioned in a previous edition our Council elections are underway. We’re looking for four private boater representatives to join our Council and the nomination process runs until 18 November.
  • As you may have seen, the UK Government has announced plans for the UK to be "zero emission" by 2050, and this includes inland waterways. Achieving a zero-emissions waterway sector will take some time and has many challenges. The Government is currently consulting to obtain background information to help decide what actions, if any, they need to take to assist in meeting that target. To help us prepare our response we would be grateful if you could spare a few minutes to complete this short survey. We would like to reassure you that all responses are anonymous and will be used only to inform our consultation response.
  • The East Midlands region is hosting its first ever Boaters’ Conference on 25 November 2019, replacing this year’s waterway forum with a conference aimed specifically at boaters. The full agenda is still being worked on, but I do know that chief exec Richard Parry, and others, will be giving presentations. Some of the topics being covered, as well as a Q&A are; how to improve services for boaters, facilities most desired and moorings to name just a few. You’ll find more information online along with how to register your interest!

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising 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 anything that’s happening that may affect you if you’re planning on a cruise this weekend.

Below you’ll find, by canal or river, those that may affect your plans this weekend:

When any 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 for a cruise. The tech savvy among you may already know that you can set up your smartphone to notify you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. For those that didn’t know, check out this guide to setting it up.

If you have any questions about a specific closure then just get in touch.

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Bits and bobs

  • And finally, some of us were walking around with appreciative smiles after receiving this lovely message: “Thanks to the Canal & River Trust and the gang of contractors who attended the stricken and stranded boaters on the Staffs & Worcs between Dunsley Tunnel and Hyde Lock near Kinver. A huge 300 to 400-year-old beech tree had finally given up and collapsed entirely across and beyond the canal, trapping boaters and towpath users alike. After a call the tree lads and machinery had arrived through the woods to disperse the massive beech. Three hours later they had amazingly cleared our waterway once again, including scouring underwater for sunken branches etc. The combined efforts of the Trust and this group of men were impressive and greatly appreciated by us all. So, I would like to shine a light on these men and their machines who came, did their job and quietly disappeared again into the woods. A huge thank you!”

Happy boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 1 November 2019

About this blog

The boaters' update

Think of this blog as your one-stop shop for up-to-date boating news. It's packed full of useful information about boating on canals and rivers, as well as important safety announcements and upcoming events.

Sign up to receive the Boaters' update by email

See more blogs from this author