Welcome to the latest edition which includes a trio of regular features; Mike Grimes', head of boating, monthly column, your frequently asked questions and an overview of the unexpected things we had to deal with in September to keep the waterways open for boating. We’re also letting boaters know about changes to boat licence fees...
Welcome to the latest edition which includes a trio of regular features. Mike Grimes, head of boating, talks about how you can see what we’re doing this winter, at a series of Open Days, to maintain the waterways. Following on from last month there’s a round-up of the most frequent questions, and their answers, you’ve been asking our customer service team.
The final returning feature is an overview of the unexpected things we had to deal with in September to keep the waterways open for boating.
We’re also letting boaters know about changes to boat licence fees in 2017-2018 and I’ve explained the changes, and why we’re making them, below.
The usual latest boating news and upcoming events are also below along with other bits and bobs. But, as always, if there’s a particular topic you’d like to see in a future edition, or a regular feature you think will be useful, then please get in touch. In the meantime, click on the links below to jump to the article of your choice:
Since the last edition you may have heard, or seen, that:
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.
“Of course, we’ve got better things to devote it to - this winter it’s the amount we’ll be spending on our winter repair and restoration programme. You may remember that in my last column I highlighted the major things we’ll be doing in each region.
“During this mammoth schedule of projects we’d love to show you some of the ‘hidden history’ you regularly cruise over, through and under. Over 12 Open Days we’ll be showcasing some of the finest examples of working industrial heritage in the world.
“Depending on which one you go to, you might be climbing down into the iconic Marple Lock Flight on the Peak Forest Canal, walking along an 800-metre drained stretch of Wales’s picturesque Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal or discovering the history of St. Pancras Lock in the bustling centre of London.
“I’m fortunate that, as part of my job, I’m able to regularly admire the expert workmanship that went into making the canals over 200 years ago and quiz my engineering colleagues who are keeping them working today.
“The Open Days are great chance for you to do the same – at each one our heritage experts will be on hand to share the history and heritage of the area. Some of the ‘heritage’ we discover during the course of these big projects isn’t, to put it politely, what we’d like to find though.
“Last year the construction team unearthed some weird items when it drained the canals in preparation for the essential works. The list included a bag of bullets, a WW2 hand grenade, a 16ft dead python and a Volkswagen Camper Van. Don’t worry, you did read those last two correctly!
“I really do hope lots of you come along to at least one of the Open Days. I haven’t decided how many I’ll visit yet but if you do go to one then there’s a reasonable chance I’ll be there too – if you do see me, come and say hi. And, oh, if we do bump into each other you’ll have to bear with me while I gawp with childlike wonder at our magnificent industrial heritage.”
For more information and the full list please visit the Open Days section of the website.
As a boater you’ll know that most of the waterway network is 200 or so years old so, and from time to time, things will unexpectedly go wrong.
While we do our best with planned preventative maintenance – see Mike’s article above about the £43 million we’re spending this winter – we can’t, for example, foresee every single instance of a tree falling and blocking the navigation.
To give you a better idea of what we’ve been dealing with I’ve summarised the reasons we had to close navigations in September – it was a good month being the lowest for unplanned closures since April. 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 handy guide to what we classify as a repair, maintenance, inspection and so on.
As I did a month ago, I asked our lovely customer service team what you’ve been most frequently asking about. So, in case any other readers were wondering the same, I’ve provided the answers to the three common themes:
Some of you have been asking which winter moorings are available and the way to see which ones are still on offer (we’ve already sold more this year than we did in the entire 2015/16 winter) is to log in to the website. If you haven’t registered you’ll need to do this but it only takes a couple of minutes.
Others have been asking if they’re eligible for a winter mooring. In general terms, any boater can buy a winter mooring unless they are in the enforcement process – more detail can be found in the FAQ’s.
And the final common question asked about winter moorings is regarding the pricing. This year our local waterway teams have looked at each site and rated them based on the quality of the moorings, and how close the site is to services, local facilities. Using this information each winter mooring site was given one of four price bands – see here for details.
Plank Lane Bridge stoppage
A few boaters have rang to ask about the unplanned stoppage on the Leeds & Liverpool at Plank Lane Bridge. We’re very pleased to report that the bridge is now fully operational!
Those of you with one eye on the coming months have called to ask if any winter stoppages will affect your cruising. In Mike Grimes’s September column he listed, by region, the major things happening. For a full list of every single winter repair or restoration project, please visit the dedicated webpages.
At the end of September’s version of this article I invited any other questions that you felt might be worthwhile sharing (along with their answers!). Two particular ones were highlighted:
Cruising patterns for boaters with a home mooring
“If I have a home mooring where I mainly stay, do the same rules apply as for continuous cruisers as to how long I can stay in one place when I am out cruising (no more than 14 days in one spot without moving, and always making continuous navigational progress?) If so, can I expect to receive a warning message if I move only a short distance and do not return promptly to my home mooring?”
In brief, yes. If you have a home mooring and are out on a cruise away from it you’ll need to follow the same guidance for boaters without a home mooring until you return to your mooring. However the range will be considered against how long you’re away from your home mooring. The longer you’re away the further we'd expect you to travel. If you return to your mooring fairly often the range would be shorter.
If you don't move after 14 days we’ll give you a gentle nudge via an automated message.
Slowing to tickover passing moored boats
“My question is, whilst travelling at normal cruising speed which in my case is 3.5mph, approximately how many boat lengths do I have to allow to enable me to slow down so that I pass a moored boat on tickover?”
I thought it’d be interesting to see what feedback this question got on our Facebook Boating page. There were two strands of thought. Firstly, and perhaps more prominently, lots of people said that the biggest onus is on the owner of the moored boat to tie up properly. Secondly, two to three boat lengths was considered about right to slow to tickover before passing moored boats.
As ever, please do drop me a line if you have a question you’d like to see answered here.
We’ve just announced the changes we’ll be making to licence fees in 2017-18. Private and business boat licence fees will rise by 2.5% from 1 April 2017. Having capped licence fees to inflation for the past three years, the 2017 increase anticipates next year’s prevailing inflation rate which is widely forecast to rise between now and next summer.
The rise in licence fees 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).
Mike Grimes said: “Boaters are the backbone of our waterways and we know what a vital role they play. We also know that as a community they are as passionate about the future of our canals and support the rising volume of work that we’re able to fund.
“Although the cost of a licence will be increasing slightly, I’m pleased to say that overall proportion of the Trust’s income coming directly from boaters is decreasing as we generate more income from other sources.”
Over the past three years we’ve spent considerably more on caring for the waterways, with the amount spent on maintenance and repair in 2015/16 rising to £128 million, over 15% higher than was expended in 2013/14. In the same period the proportion of income from boaters has reduced from 19.9% to 18.3% of total income.
While we work hard to protect the 200+ year old network of canals and rivers and keep them in tip-top condition, it’s not always possible. A great example is the devastating Boxing Day floods that, ever since I started including this section, had severely damaged and kept closed the Rochdale Canal – not any more though!
The list below is what we already know will affect cruising over the coming weekend. This list highlights those instances where, for one reason or another, cruising won’t be possible.
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.