Welcome to the inaugural edition of 2017. There's lots to read and, if you have the time, give your feedback on.
Welcome to the first edition of 2017 – Happy New Year! Hopefully the fog of festive over-indulgence didn’t linger for too long and you’ve been able to get out on, or by, the water.
A year ago I was sat penning the first edition of 2016 in a far more sombre mood. Parts of the north west had been deluged, and damaged, by the wettest month on record, culminating in the Boxing Day Floods.
Thankfully, in boating terms, 2017 has started without an appearance of Mother Nature’s really wild side (I hope I’m not tempting fate!). But while it might still be cold and gloomy outside, it’s not so long until the green shoots of spring appear.
Like me, I’m sure many of you are counting down the days to its arrival and especially those with green fingers and an interest in growing things on their boats. If you like to garden aboard (however small a space you have), we’d love to hear from you about tales or tips for gardening afloat and what your horticultural plans are for this year.
Once you’ve done that you’ll find that this edition is packed with the usual eclectic range of news, information and, if you have the time, a more few requests for feedback:
Although the first article does cover the subject, if there’s a particular topic you’d like to see, or a regular feature you think will be useful, then please get in touch.
Since the last edition you may have heard, or seen, that:
And if you’re wondering what you can enjoy on or by a canal in the next couple of weeks then you might be interested in these events:
Of course there are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities around the network so please visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.
If you’re a regular reader you’d have seen the discussion about cruising past moored boats that was featured in Boaters’ Update late last year. Many of you took the time to share your thoughts and this is something I’d really like to continue with in 2017.
We’ll return to the discussion of cruising past moored boats in the coming months but what I’d like to know is what other topics you would like to see covered.
Below I’ve roughly grouped the subjects that have been suggested. However, before I rush head long in to contacting the experts on each subject, I want to know what you think.
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. The most commonly suggested maintenance and upkeep topics are:
The list isn’t that long and there’s likely to be others you want to see so do please tell me your top three maintenance or upkeep topics that you want to see in Boaters’ Update.
As demonstrated by the number of you who got in touch about cruising past moored boats, a shared understanding of how to behave on the cut is important to you. Other subjects suggested have been:
As with the maintenance and upkeep list, this one isn’t particularly long so do drop me a line with any other etiquette topics you’d like to see discussed.
Some of you would have been out to see how we maintain parts of the network at one of our Open Days. This inspired some of you to drop me a line asking for an article that delved deeper into one or another aspect of our work. Others have just got in touch when a wave of curiosity has struck them. The topics suggested so far are:
With such a diverse range of disciplines needed to maintain the network, there’s a good chance that you have an interest in something that’s not listed above. If this sounds like you then drop me a line…
With 24 more editions, after this one, planned for 2017 there’s definitely room to fit in all of the above along with a few more suggestions if they’re commonly mentioned. Of course, if there’s something else you’d like to read about but it’s not covered above, just let me know. Thanks!
Every month or so those lovely people in our customer service team let me know what questions you’ve been most frequently asking. The following five are those you were calling about in December along with their answers.
When can I get a Gold Licence for next year?
Gold Licences can be purchased at any time. We can process your Gold licences now ready for next year.
Will the prices be increasing for next year’s Gold Licence?
There is no price increase for 2017 Gold Licences.
Can I book passages online or do I have to call to do this?
You can now book passages through Anderton Boat Lift, Standedge Tunnel and other major structures online as well as visitor moorings such as Rembrandt Gardens. To do this, simply log into your online account and select “Book Passage”, alternatively you can call Customer Services and they can process this for you over the phone.
Are the licence fees going up next year?
Yes, licence fees are being increased by 2.5%. Having capped licence fees to inflation for the past three years, the 2017 increase anticipates the prevailing inflation rate which is widely forecast to rise between now and the summer.
Although the cost of a licence will be increasing slightly, the overall proportion of our income coming directly from boaters is decreasing as we generate more income from other sources. This rise will raise income to ensure that we can continue to sustain the increased spend on waterway maintenance over recent years. This has seen an improvement in the structural condition of the waterways and a significant reduction in the amount of disruption experienced by boaters (with almost 300 days fewer of unplanned navigation closures compared with 2014/15).
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.
If you’ve been out and about around the network then you’ll have seen us working on some big projects (such as lock gate replacement) to keep canals and rivers open for you to enjoy. However, from time to time, things will unexpectedly go wrong – most of the bridges, locks and navigations are over 200-years-old.
So, to give you a better idea of what we dealt with in December I’ve summarised the reasons we had to close navigation.
There were 52 days of ‘lost’ cruising during December due to unplanned stoppages. Over half of these were at Abbey Lift Bridge on the Montgomery Canal which, for safety reasons, can’t be raised. We’re continuing to investigate an appropriate ‘fix’ so that it can be back in action ASAP.
Another one out in the west was near Gilwern Bridge on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal which was closed for 16 days so we could plug some leaks. The final big one was at Glasson Docks where an eye bolt snapped on the tailgate of the Sea Lock which required the skills of some hardy divers to mend.
As a slight aside, we keep track of how the number of un-planned closures compares to previous years. In line with our increasing spend on maintenance, we’re pleased to report a 30% decrease compared to the same point in the 2015/16 financial year.
For the curious among you, we classify a closure as anything which stops navigation for more than four hours. If you’ve signed up to receive stoppages you’ll notice that we categorise them in to general reasons, such as repair, inspection or vegetation.
Of course, when we’re dealing with such old structures it’s not always as straightforward as ‘repair’ so we offer more detail in the body of the stoppage notice. But, in case you were wondering, here’s a useful guide to what we classify as a repair, maintenance, inspection and so on.
Now that we’re deep into this winter’s major restoration and repair programme the list of works that may affect your cruising is quite long if you actually planned to traverse the whole of the network!
So as your cruising may be confined to a particular region of the network I’ve provided links below to the respective stoppages. Just click on the one where you’ll be and a webpage will open listing the stoppages for that region. 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.