News article created on 12 January 2018

Boaters' Update 12 January 2018

Welcome to the first 2018 edition of Boaters' Update. Now that we're well and truly into the new year, this inaugural edition focuses on plans for the next 12 months. Other than that you'll find news on boat licence auto-renewal, the latest news, stoppages and events.

Staffs & Worcs Canal at Awbridge

I appreciate that we’re already nearly halfway through January but it’s the first opportunity I’ve had to wish you Happy New Year. While some wince when contemplating the 12 months ahead most boaters I know are already studiously planning which cruises to cross off their bucket list this year because they know life is better by water.

In a similar way, I’m using the first article to ask what you’d like me to plan in for the 25 editions of Boaters’ Update you’ll be receiving in 2018. Aside from that there’s a collection of your frequently asked questions, a reminder about boat licence auto-renewals and the latest news, events, and stoppages, and much more besides.

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and the fortnight ahead

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

  • 18 Dec – Just before Christmas we replaced the massive lock gates on the River Lee in Great Amwell.
  • 2 Jan – We're looking for people who want a new challenge for 2018 and love working with children to help our education team bring our Tees Barrage to life.
  • 2 Jan – We're on the lookout for volunteers to join our Towpath Taskforce to improve the Grand Union Canal near Alperton: it’s a regular group that gets out by the water to clear vegetation, tidy the towpath and paint bridges (and a great way to stick to that resolution to be more active!)
  • 8 Jan – We're calling on people across Yorkshire to support the region’s canals by becoming a volunteer lock keeper.

Below I’ve picked out some highlights to see and do over the next fortnight. Of course, there are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities around the network: visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.

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What you want to read in 2018

‘Lottery winner donates £100million to Canal & River Trust’, ‘Manchester City capitulate on final day of season and hand league title to Huddersfield’, or even ‘Government signs off on Low Speed 1 - new canal to be built, from Lands’ End to John O’Groats’ might all be articles you, or another boater, would like to read in 2018.

Boats at KintburyWhile I’m reasonably sure I won’t be able to report on any of the above in the next 12 months I can, and will, cover the inland boating topics you want to read about. Of course, there’s likely to be a long list of these topics so  I’m planning to start with the most suggested and work my way down.

To help inspire a thought or two I’ve listed some subjects that you might want to see covered. All you have to do is click on the relevant link below, give a little more detail about what you want to read, and then click send:

  • Boat maintenance and upkeep – There’s a huge range of jobs that need doing, from blacking the hull to changing the oil in your engine, to keep a boat in tip top condition.
  • Boating tech – You may want to read about the latest innovations for inland boating or to see an article that sets out the tech that will be needed in the coming years.
  • Boating etiquette – Regular readers will know that last year, between us, we created the GOODBOATER guide (polished version coming before Spring). Don’t let that stop you suggesting a specific topic to cover in more depth.
  • Cruising guides and suggestions – There’s a wealth of information about each individual navigation on our website but perhaps you’d like to read boaters’ opinions on a particular canal or river. Or it may be that you haven’t decided where to cruise this year and want other boaters to make suggestions based on your criteria.
  • Canal and river profiles – It’s usually only when I’m back in the office that I learn more about the waterway I’ve just cruised on (most of my time afloat is spent basking in that wonderful glow that you only get by water). If you’re the same then you may suggest some waterways to profile.
  • Our work and plans – As you probably know, looking after 2,000 miles of canals and rivers means that we employ an incredibly diverse range of professions. From ecologists to highly skilled heritage bricklayers, you may want to know more about their day-to-day roles. The same goes for our wider plans in 2018; you might suggest a topic that you want to know more about.
  • How you can get involved – A decade ago volunteering wasn’t so widespread or varied on the waterways. Nowadays, there are so many different ways in which you can help look after your local canal or river; you might want more detail featured in Boaters’ Update.
  • Inland waterway history – Our own team of heritage experts, who look after our huge collection of scheduled monuments and listed buildings, could write about the long and varied histories of the waterways you enjoy most; let me know if this is something you’d like to see.
  • Something else – Please don’t feel constrained by the list above; let me know of anything else you’d like to read about this year.

If you needed any more incentive (other than getting to read something you suggested!) then there’re five copies of the hardback edition of Timothy West’s ‘Our Great Canal Journeys’  to win – five of you who write in with suggestions will be randomly picked

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Your frequently asked questions

It’s been a while since I’ve featured this article so I thought it’d be a useful way to start the year. These are the most common questions you’ve been asking those lovely people in our customer service team over the last month or so. Of course, do let me know if there’s a question you want answered when I next run a version of this article in February.

When can I get a Gold Licence for next year (2018)?

Gold Licences can be purchased at any time.

Can I book passages online or do I have to call to do this?

Support AndertonYou can now book passages through Anderton Boat Lift, Standedge Tunnel and other major structures online as well as visitor moorings such as Rembrandt Gardens in London. To do this, simply log into your online account and select “Book Passage”, alternatively you can call customer services (0303 040 4040) and they can process this for you over the phone.

Are the licence fees going up next year?

Yes, licence fees will rise by 3% from 1 April 2018, roughly in line with inflation forecasts.

Is it too late to purchase a Winter Mooring?

Not at all. Winter Moorings are available until March (permits can be purchased up to the end of February). We still have spaces available. You can purchase these by logging into your online account and selecting “Winter Moorings”. Simply search your location and the nearest Winter Mooring will show.

What waterways do you cover?

Islington City Rd Basin boatsLots! We currently maintain over 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales. As some will know, there’re ongoing discussions about the feasibility of assuming responsibility for Environment Agency navigations, including the Thames. The best place to find out whether it’s one of ours is on our map – they’re clearly highlighted and, even better, you can zoom right in to see associated boating facilities. Which brings me on to the next frequently asked question.

Where is the nearest Elsan point or pump-out station?

As mentioned above, the best place to find this out is on the map. Besides learning where to get rid of your waste, you’ll also find details of visitor moorings, events, stoppages and winding holes and locks so it’s a great place to start when planning a cruise.

How long can my boat stay in one place?

It depends! In some popular locations we have visitor moorings ranging from 4-hour ‘stop and shop’ spots to 24 and 48 hours or 7 days so that more boaters get to enjoy that particular location. In the winter period (1 Nov – 31 Mar), these revert to a 14 day stay time unless local signs say otherwise. The general, year-round, rule is that where there are no local signs indicating a shorter mooring time then you can moor for up to 14 days. Of course, if you have a home mooring, you can leave your boat on that all year round if you really wanted to.

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Boat licence auto renewals

In the introduction I talked about making plans for the year ahead. It can be a daunting task with so many things to consider. One thing you can cross off the list is renewing your boat licence. As mentioned last May, your boat licence will be automatically renewed if you’ve stored your payment details in your licensing account when first making an application for a licence.

Boat on the Leeds & Liverpool CanalAmanda Crosland, business support & licensing manager, explains: “At the end of an application boaters’ have the option to store their card details. If they do, or have elected to pay by direct debit, then they’ll receive a renewal reminder six weeks before the licence is due to expire. This will confirm that the licence will auto-renew and detail how to cancel it if, for some reason, they don’t want it to. Boaters’ don’t have to wait until renewal time comes around though, they can opt in or out at any time either via their licensing account or by calling customer services on 0303 040 4040.”

It’s not just licence renewals that can be done online. You can check and edit your information to make sure everything is correct, including:

  • Boat owner details including contact email and phone number
  • Boat Safety Scheme and Boat Insurance details
  • Mooring status / mooring location

If you don’t have an online licensing account setting one up is simple. There’s also a video guide demonstrating how straightforward it is to buy your licence online. That said, if you want a helping hand, just give our friendly customer service team a buzz on 0303 040 4040 and they’ll be happy to help.

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More ways for you to get involved

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

  • If you’re a regular visitor to other parts of our website then you’ll likely have come across our online map. Since its first introduction we’ve continually updated and added new information. 2018 marks the start of an additional Towpath Access Map – it displays towpath access points as well as the towpath surface and gradient. This will help you plan the best spots to moor up to enable easier access to surrounding amenities and attractions – especially important if you have mobility challenges. We haven’t made a big song and dance about it just yet as, before we do, we’d like your help to refine the information. Please check out the areas you know well by zooming into the map. If you think that anything is amiss, please fill in our online feedback form which you’ll find a link to after you’ve clicked on the particular stretch of towpath, or access point, you want to comment on.
  • While we’re on the subject of maps, you may recall me mentioning the free canal mapping service offered by Open Canal Map. Well, the Android phone users among you will be pleased to hear that it’s now available for your device!

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

We’re now into our £38million winter restoration programme - we get out our big toys and restore things while you’re less likely to be out on the cut. Of course, there are other times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. So, below, you’ll find a list, by region, of anything that’s happening that may affect you if you’re planning on wrapping up for a winter cruise.

Just click on the one where you’ll be and a webpage will open listing any stoppages for that region (if your region isn’t listed then, yay, there aren’t any navigation closures there!). If you’re not quite sure which region your planned cruise falls in to please take a look at this map.

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. If you have any questions about a specific closure then you’ll find the email addresses for our regional offices on our contacts page.

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Bits and Bobs

  • Earlier this week we read of the sad passing of Sir Frank Price, former British Waterways Board Chair. Sir Frank, BWB’s longest serving Chair from 1968 to 1984, is credited with being a major force in the renaissance of the inland waterway network.

Happy boating,

Damian

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