Boaters' Update 18 June 2021

Welcome to the latest edition where we continue to talk about the things you've been getting in touch about, water safety, your feedback about good boating etiquette, disabled boating and your boat licence Terms & Conditions (as well as the routine roundup of news and stoppages).

Boats on the Chesterfield Canal, courtesy Richard Croft Boats on the Chesterfield Canal, courtesy Richard Croft

Welcome to the latest edition. The next step on the path out of lockdown may have been postponed until 19 July, and we’ve updated our coronavirus FAQs, but you can still continue to enjoy boating life as I hope you have been over the last couple of months.  

This Boaters’ Update starts by continuing a theme from the last edition, by looking at your boating priorities and answering the questions that you’ve been getting in touch about as well as sharing the work we’ve done to improve your boating experience – this time with a focus on our Yorkshire & North East waterways. After that, ahead of Drowning Prevention Week, you can read a touching account from a boater who went overboard and knows just how seriously water safety needs to be taken.

Also included is your feedback on the things that boaters can do to maximise the enjoyment of all who are on or by the cut. Finally, there’s news of an upcoming Disabled Boater Forum along with how you can support a charity that gives more disabled people the opportunity to experience the wellbeing benefits of being on, or near to, water.

As always, a round-up of news, stoppages and ways to get involved can also be found below.

Stay safe, happy boating,

Damian

PS The latest episode of our podcast ‘CanalCast’ will be available next week (24 June) and demystifies the complex world of water management and hydrology.

In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 7 June – Stunning waterway images by Jonathan Goldberg, our first photographer-in-residence, are now being showcased in a special summer exhibition at our National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port.
  • 9 June – We've welcomed 47 young people to our regional, construction and digital marketing teams as part of the government's Kickstart initiative.
  • 15 June – At a presentation to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Waterways, we set out our role in meeting the needs of liveaboard boaters and highlighted areas where more support from Government and other public bodies would be beneficial.

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Yorkshire & North East – your priorities, our answers

We’ve been looking at the reasons you were getting in touch last month with the team in our Yorkshire & North East region. This gives us an indication of what’s important to you when boating in the area.

Around half were directly related to boating and navigation with the remainder a mix of vegetation reports, questions about our maintenance work and more general enquiries. Delving a little deeper into the data, two thirds of boating enquiries related to either booking facilities/passage or requests for help after running into difficulties at a lock, bridge or other structure on the water.

Making boating better – what we’ve been doing

Over the last winter stoppage programme we worked on multiple locks in Yorkshire and the North East. Every imaginable job was done from replacing gates entirely through to upgrades such as new paddles, beam and cill maintenance and stonework repairs. Of course, we continued to work on (and complete) a massive lock rebuild on the Calder & Hebble after Storm Ciara hit and severely damaged the Figure of Three Locks: 

Void under Oxclose LockIt’s a year-round task to keep navigations open for boating and work continues in the region. In the last edition I talked about the complex repair going on at Oxclose Lock on the Ripon Canal. After finding a 65 cubic metre void (photo right) beneath the failed wooden floor of the lock the team are now filling it with 100 tonnes of gravel which will then be grouted around to make it into a solid mass which will then be able to support the lock structure and floor above it. 

The biggest challenge we have in the region, though, is the closure of the Aire & Calder Navigation following the breach last December. Works are progressing well and we are on track to reopen the navigation in August following a £3m repair project.

Another snag in the region is on the Selby Canal which is restricted to Boat passing by swing bridge, Dewison Road on Selby Canalvessels up to a height of 7’ at Tankards Bridge following an impact by a road vehicle. North Yorkshire County Council have not yet approved a road closure, to allow us to carry out repairs, as they are using this route as a diversion for their works on the A19, but we continue to press our case.

On the same canal, the swing bridge at Selby has been damaged by oversized vehicles and is unable to be swung, closing the canal. We are planning the repairs and working with North Yorkshire County Council Sykehouse Selby Canalfor a road closure and hope to update on the programme soon.

We appreciate that it’s not just working locks that make for a good cruise and during summer we try to get the jobs done that don’t close the navigation completely. While the New Junction Canal is a youngster in canal terms (dating from 1905) it still needs the same level of care and attention as its older counterparts. Just last month we repaired a Sykehouse Selby Canal aftergap under piles by fitting trench sheets, repairing cracked and sunken concrete and lifting, and refixing, the bull rail. See the before and after photos above and right. 

Similar repairs were carried out at Misterton Wharf on the Chesterfield Canal – protecting the wash wall from further erosion and preserving the width of the Misterton Wharf Chesterfield Canaltowpath, see below right.

So, back to your recent enquiries and, to start with, let’s look at bookings.

Booking facilities or passage

As mentioned in the last edition, for most structures that need booking you can do it via our online boat licensing portal. Most readers will already have an online account already set up, but, if not, you can easily register for an account.

Standedge Tunnel 

Online booking – All available slots will show up as green on the booking system. Demand has been high so, if you plan to journey through this summer, you’re advised to book as soon as you know the date. 

Huddersfield Narrow Canal (HNC)

Standedge Tunnel and Watersedge CafeOnline booking 48 hours before passage is needed through Lock 1E. It’s also worth noting that we now have a voluntary ranger system on the eastern side of the HNC which is available to assist single handed boaters and novice boaters who may require some support with the uniqueness of this canal. This service can be pre-booked online at the same time as you book passage.

Rochdale Canal 
Tuel Lane Lock – Online booking 24 hours before required on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Monday, Friday and Saturday colleagues are present from 8am to 4pm. On Sundays it’s 10am to 3pm.  

Aire & Calder  
Pollington to Sykehouse passage can be booked by calling customer services on 0303 040 4040. 48 hours notice is required and bookings can be made for Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Passage is 10am daily and boats are penned out the other side at 12noon. Mooring and overnight stays are not permitted between the locks. 

Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation

Keadby Lock – 24 hours’ notice to be given by calling lock keepers on 07733 124611.

West Stockwith Lock – 24 hours’ notice to be given by calling lock keepers on 01427 890204

Tinsley Locks, with bridge in backgroundTinsley Lock - Passage needs to be booked with 24 hours notice by calling customer services on 0303 040 4040, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. The Tinsley Flight passage starts at Holmes Lock. Customers who have not booked passage will not be able to progress past Holmes Lock. We advise customers to moor at Eastwood or Iccles Lock.

Navigating safely

As you’ll know, most canals are 200+ years old and built long before the advent of standardisation. All across the network you’ll find different dimensions and mechanisms.

Wherever possible we will have colleagues (staff or volunteers) on hand to help with some of the quirks you might come across. Of course, this isn’t a replacement for some good old-fashioned planning before you head off on your cruise. There are some region-specific considerations in Yorkshire & the North East but in general here are some handy reminders:

Conserve water where possible

Our water supplies are limited, so a combination of dry weather and increased traffic on the navigation can present quite a challenge. Low water levels may take a while to recover, so wherever possible join another boat going through a lock and allow an oncoming boat to use the lock if the water is set for them.

Finally, and most importantly, please ensure that all the paddles and gates are closed after use. If left open, and we don’t find out quickly enough, the pound between two locks can drain which temporarily closes the navigation for all.

Low water levels

When you’re at the tiller you’ll be keeping an eye on the canal ahead and if you think that the water level looks too low for navigation, don’t attempt to get through. Please give us a call (0303 040 4040) and we will come out to investigate and seek to resolve the issue.

Passing oncoming boats on the right (your port side will pass their port side) and slowing down past moored boats are rules of the road that you’ll be familiar with too.

Preparing for the Rochdale

A sunny day on Rochdale Canal, ManchesterThe locks on this canal all have their own character and, as above, you’ll need to book to get through the deepest lock in the country, Tuel Lane Lock (Lock 3/4), as it has to be undertaken with the assistance of the lock keeper.

Locks 5 and 7 need to be used by one boat at a time, while locks 8, 12 and 29 may take a little extra effort. You’ll need to use both head paddles to fill locks 9, 10 and 24.

Lock 19 is a guillotine lock which has an automated tail gate. Make sure that the water level has equalised with the pound below before attempting to operate the lifting gate, otherwise the safety systems will prevent the operation of the lifting gear.

In coming editions we’ll continue to answer the questions you’re getting in touch about and will focus on each region as we progress through summer. In the meantime, if there’s a particular canal or river you think would be useful to cover then do please let me know.

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Drowning Prevention Week

Next week, from 19 to 26 June, the Royal Life Saving Society has its annual Drowning Prevention Week. While, for the overwhelming majority of the time, canals and rivers are benign havens for boaters, it doesn’t mean safety should be taken for granted as Part Time Boater Marianne’s story shows:

Marianne and Peter on board their boat“You go through the scenario in your head. What would I do if I fell into the canal? I’ve gone through it lots of times. Neither myself, or my partner Peter, fully realised the actual danger of the situation I was in, until I didn’t surface for a while.

“On 8 April 2021, we were cruising from Berkhamsted and we were aiming to get beyond the Tring summit on our journey towards Banbury. We’d had three days of cruising; this was day four. We’d just come through Cowroast Lock at the Tring summit. I was on my way back to open the paddles as that lock had to be left empty. On my way back, there was a boater on the water point who asked me to leave it full, because he was going through. So, I went back to open the lock gates for him. As I was trying to get back onto the boat, I slipped and fell into the canal.

I did not want to drown that day

“I really didn’t envisage falling somewhere that was too deep to stand up, but I had. My first thought was ‘I don’t want to drown’. I was flapping my arms around and I did manage to break surface. I opened my eyes, saw where the boat was and saw the chain for the back button. And then I went under again. This time I opened my eyes, probably for the first time in my life. I saw where the light was and went towards it. I reached out to grab the back button, but that was probably my first mistake.

“Once I’d done that I thought I was safe. I wasn’t going to drown. And no, I didn’t drown thankfully, but then my legs swung underneath the rear of the boat. The engine was still going because Peter was still trying to manoeuvre the boat into the bank for me to step on. He didn’t realise how deep the water was, he was just expecting me to be able to stand up and pull myself out. His main focus at that time was preventing me from the visible danger of being crushed between the side of the canal and the boat. But all the while, below the boat, my leg was trapped. As the propeller was turning, it was taking my clothing into it, which started wrapping more and more tightly around the propellor. I couldn’t get my leg free.

“Peter put the boat in neutral and then had the foresight to go into the weed hatch, get some sheers from the engine room and start to cut my winter tights and leggings off to disentangle me. When he’d managed that, he then tried turning the propeller slowly by hand to disengage my leg, but it didn't work. Eventually, I was able to release my leg, and Peter helped me get it out fully by manipulating it through the weed hatch. I was in the water for about 20 minutes, and my leg was in the propeller for a good five, ten minutes.

You can never be complacent

“My advice is: don’t assume anything. Don’t make assumptions about your safety but do an assessment of the situation that you’re in and try and get yourself to safety as soon as possible. Never get complacent when you’re on the water. Enjoy it by all means, but never, ever get complacent. If you fall overboard and become unconscious, you could drown. You could even be unconscious before you fall into the water. Danger is ever present, wherever you get water.

Knowing what to do in an emergency

“If anyone or anything ever falls into canal, please put the boat into neutral. I think that action is so important. I think it should be something that’s hammered home to a boater, and something hire companies should actively promote. The reason I say neutral is it takes only a short moment to put the boat into neutral and that will stop the propellor. It takes a few seconds longer to press the button and turn the engine off, so it’s a bit slower. Put the boat into neutral first and then stop the engine at your earliest convenient moment. That will hopefully give the person or pet that’s fallen into the water a greater chance of survival without injury. To me, drowning was the first concern, the second was the propellor.

“I think wearing a life jacket is a very good idea and children should definitely wear life jackets on boats. Pets too. Dogs swim, cats swim as well, but when you’re near moving propellers it will keep them afloat and away from danger, hopefully.

Returning to boating

“I was very lucky. I suffered a range of injuries and hope to return to boating soon.” You can read Marianne’s story in full and it’s a stark reminder that, even if you don’t expect it to ever happen to you, there’s always the chance it could. Below you’ll find some general water safety advice that could make all the difference.

Depth perception

  • Canals are often shallow, which you can't tell from the surface. If you jump in you are likely to injure yourself, possibly seriously
  • However, don't be fooled by thinking that all canals are shallow. If you can't put your feet on the ground, it'll be much harder to get out as the report above shows. Rivers, reservoirs and docks are generally much deeper, and colder

Hidden dangers under the water

  • Canals are havens for wildlife and maintaining water habitats are an important part of our work. If you're in the water, reeds and other plant life could get tangled around your limbs and trap you in the water making it very difficult to climb out
  • Sadly, rubbish like shopping trolleys can be lurking below the surface of canals and rivers. If you're in the water you could injure yourself by cutting yourself on a rusty old bicycle or broken glass, or get trapped on a larger piece of rubbish, like a trolley or even a motorbike

Disease

Waterborne diseases, including Weil’s Disease (leptospirosis), are extremely rare, but if you are in the water you're most exposed to them. If you are likely to come into contact with water it’s sensible to take a few precautions:

  • If you’ve got any cuts or scratches, keep them covered
  • If you fall in, take a shower and treat cuts with antiseptic and a sterile dressing
  • Wash wet clothing before you wear it again
  • If you develop flu-like symptoms within two weeks, see a doctor and mention that you fell in the water. Not all doctors will know to look for signs of Weil’s Disease, so do suggest it as a possibility

Cold temperatures

Even on a hot day inland waterways will be colder than you think, particularly reservoirs and docks as they're deeper. Low temperatures can cause your blood to rush away from your muscles to protect your organs and limbs and muscles may become fatigued quickly - this can lead to drowning

See more information from the RLSS about what cold water can do to your body 

The moral of the story?

The overwhelming majority of boat cruises will go without a single incident but there’s always, albeit slim, a chance that something unexpected will happen. Preparing yourself, by doing simple things such as reading this, wearing a life jacket and then practicing a person overboard drill with your crew, could be what makes the difference between an unfortunate incident and a tragic one.

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Share the space and be kind – your feedback

You may recall that I asked you what you thought, if every boater did it, would make the biggest positive impact to harmony on the cut. Before getting into the meat of this article I’d like to thank everyone who got in touch in response to this subject.

Moored boatsThere was, very clearly, one thing that the majority of you suggested – considerate use of generators and engines when moored up. So, you may be asking, what does considerate use mean?

Well, part of one of the Terms & Conditions of a boat licence (10.9) is that:

‘Whilst the Boat is on the Waterway You must not do (or carelessly fail to do) or permit anything which will cause injury, damage or nuisance to Us or any person or their property.’

This is further clarified in a number of ways but, relating to generators (10.9.2) it specifically says you must:

‘not use any electricity generator, including the Boat's engine, at any mooring along the Waterway between 8pm and 8am, unless You are moored in isolation, out of earshot of other people. We do not intend this Condition to stop You moving the Boat from the mooring;’

So adding that to some of the suggestions you sent in, considerate use of a generator or engine could be described as:

  • Follow the 8 to 8 rule – don’t run generators or engines when moored outside of these times)
  • Try to run them when others aren’t around
  • Keep an eye on wind direction to ensure your exhaust fumes aren’t smoking out neighbouring boats
  • Don’t turn up the volume on your TV, radio or music player to drown out the sound of your generator or engine – it just creates more noise!

In a more general sense a post, by a boater, on Facebook captured the perfect mindset for boating:

We are considerate boaters and where possible we always help other boaters out. And I will say, just like hirers, we all make mistakes!

I for one have made mistakes, a few days ago, I didn’t slow down past a moored boat until I was alongside as, admittedly, I was miles away. I slowed down as soon as I realised and shouted sorry. We are all human, give each other a break.

And @WoodyBrewer, on Twitter, shared a useful mantra for boating life:

If you're going too fast you're either on the wrong holiday or living the wrong life.

Talking of too fast, some of you wrote in to express your frustrations that some cyclists were speeding on towpaths – there’ll be a full article on this topic in the next edition.

And finally…

There was one correspondent’s suggestion that I couldn’t have written better:

Please look after the fragile infrastructure as it were your own.  In particular on wide canals

  • do not drop paddles
  • do not open gates by pushing against them with your boat
  • open both gates for any narrowboat thus avoiding damage to the collar and increasingly leaking gates worn away by boats rubbing strips

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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 anything that’s happening that may affect you if you’re planning to get out on your boat 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. You can set up your smartphone to automatically notify you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. Check out this guide to setting it up.

Towpath restrictionMany who go boating also enjoy a leisurely stroll along the towpath – we’ve always had a ‘towpath closure’ stoppage notification to help plan trips but we’ve also just added a ‘towpath restriction’, see image right, type too. So, when planning your next towpath bimble, you can search the stoppages and see if you might be held up on your journey by a restriction (we wouldn’t want you missing that pub lunch!). 

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

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Disabled boating news

Every couple of months we hold an online forum, to hear the views of disabled boaters on the issues they encounter, and to share what we are doing to help improve the boating experience. Please contact us if you want to receive notice of these meetings.

The next forum is only a matter of days away, 21 June at 4pm – you can register for it here.

In the meantime you can show your support for Cotswold Boatmobility by liking or sharing (or even better, donating!) its fundraising campaign which could help it get a slice of Calor’s Rural Community Fund!

Cotswold Boatmobility is busy coming out of mothballs so it can offer more disabled people the opportunity to try for themselves the wellbeing benefits of being near to water and you can’t get much nearer to the water than paddling with five others in one of their KataKanus.

There is also a Wheelyboat available which is an electrically propelled wheelchair accessible boat that can be steered from a wheelchair. Operating on the restored length of the Stroudwater Navigation between Stonehouse and Stroud, the charity was set up in 2015 by Jan Thomas and has grown over the years and can now offer up to 37 people, service users, carers, friends and family and volunteers two hour cruises.

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Boat licence Terms & Conditions

Towards the end of last year we ran a consultation, open to all licence holders, on proposed changes to the Terms & Conditions of a boat licence. After extensive analysis we published the consultation report last month along with the revised Terms & Conditions.

There was, however, a mistake in those published and two conditions were included that should not have been. We apologise for any confusion this caused. You can find the full, corrected, Terms & Conditions here.

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Happy boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 18 June 2021

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