Boaters' Update 24 August 2018

This latest edition focuses on air quality - both in general and specifically about proposals to make carbon monoxide alarms mandatory for all boats. There's also some great news about the Leeds & Liverpool and an update on the repairs at the Middlewich Branch breach (among others!)

The New Horizons leaving Melbourne Arm moorings The New Horizons leaving Melbourne Arm moorings

Welcome to the latest edition. There’s a pretty broad range of topics to get through – everything from a photo competition through to updates on the broken bits in the north (at Middlewich and on the Leeds & Liverpool) – what you may notice though is a bit of an airy theme.

Two articles below focus on air quality – one about making it better and the other about keeping the air in your boat safe. It would be great if you could take five minutes to share your opinion via the BSS consultation.

The regular roundup of other boating news, stoppages and events is, as ever, also below. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see in a future edition then please drop me a line.

Happy boating over the long weekend,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and the fortnight ahead              

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

  • 13 Aug – The Trent & Mersey Canal offers a great vantage point for viewing the iconic poppy sculpture ‘Weeping Window’ by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, which is now on display at Middleport Pottery until 16 September
  • 15 Aug – What’s white, see-through, and has just moved in to the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal? Jellyfish. We’re not joking!
  • 17 Aug – Work has started on the next phase to repair the breach at Middlewich on the Shropshire Union Canal after a giant 12m deep hole was left in the canal bank in March. More on this below.
  • 20 Aug – Brentford’s first ever book exchange has been launched, on the towpath next to Brentford Gauging lock, thanks to a group of volunteers.

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.

  • 24 to 28 Aug – Children across the country are increasingly grumpy as the end of the summer break nears. If you’re near Devizes in Wiltshire you can distract them with a day as a junior lock keeper at the iconic Caen Hill Flight on the Kennet & Avon Canal.
  • 25 to 27 Aug – Further north, the kids can be entertained at Folk On The Dock in Albert Dock, Liverpool, which celebrates the role that its waterways have played in exporting and importing music around the world.
  • 25 to 27 Aug – In the east the annual Festival of Water comes to St Neots, Cambridgeshire, over the Bank Holiday weekend. It’s set to be a weekend of fun for boaters, campers, and all who love spending time by the water. There will be attractions for all the family and boats lining the mile of River Great Ouse that flows past Regatta Meadow.
  • 2 Sep – And finally, in the Big Smoke, the Angel Canal Festival is back again (it’s been going for more than 30 years!). By the Regent's Canal you’ll find stalls, children's rides and bouncy castles, boat trips, live music and street theatre to name just a few!

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Proposal for carbon monoxide alarms to be mandatory on boats

As a boater you’re likely to be more aware than others of the deadly effects of carbon monoxide (CO).  The Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) is proposing to make CO detectors a mandatory part of the BSS testing.

But, before we get to that, read this boater’s tale of having the right detectors fitted and working underlines what a literal life-saver they are:

“In 2014 we bought a narrowboat for my wife and I to enjoy touring the UK on our great canal system. After a BSS inspection and hull survey we became the proud owners of a 1995 built, 62ft. narrowboat.

“On it was an Electrolux RM4361 gas/12 V/240V refrigerator installed by the previous owner. It had apparently functioned perfectly well previously and continued to for the past four years of our ownership.

“In April this year the Boat Safety Certificate (BSC) was due for renewal and I engaged the BSS surveyor Martyn Ross to undertake the task on a wet April day - my boat was already out of the water for hull maintenance and blacking.

“I had installed a smoke detector and a B&Q CO monitor to standard BS EN 50291-1.  During the safety survey Martyn advised me that the B&Q CO monitor was a domestic monitor suitable for ambient temperature houses, but was not really suitable for the more radical temperature range one experiences on boats. We were told that the recommended CO monitors for boats by the BSS should be the BS EN 50291-2 model.

“During the survey Martyn talked to me about the number of CO incidents that he had had some technical involvement with - out of 36 CO incidents occurring in the UK, 28 involved boats! It should also be noted that a recent WHICH report has highlighted that many of the cheaper CO alarms will not actually detect CO gas

“When I got home I bought two new CO monitors – BS EN 50291-2 models – and have them at bed height forward and aft. If it wasn’t for these alarms my wife and I might have become another part of the statistics…

“In mid-June we were on the boat and had switched the fridge off 240V and onto the LPG gas supply as normal and sailed out of our moorings on the Saturday. Later, we moored up on the towpath and after a pleasant evening retired to bed.

Fossdyke Navigation courtesy of Marcus Hill-Jones“At around 2.30am two out of three CO alarms went off! In my previous career in oil refining I had become familiar with the acrid, acid taste of unburnt gas from furnaces and, on being propelled out of bed by the sound of the CO alarms, I smelt that same familiar, acrid smell.

“The fridge immediately came off the gas and I flung the forward and aft doors wide open to ventilate the boat. Which, thankfully, aired the boat quickly and we were safe. Once the alarms had quietened I switched the fridge onto 12V and retired to bed with all the alarms reset.

“During the next day the fridge ran on 12V and killed the batteries so we returned to our moorings and are now the owners of a brand new 12V Shoreline fridge pulling about ½ amp, which shouldn’t kill the batteries!

“Subsequently, I contacted Martyn and profoundly thanked him for his advice and in discussion with him it is evident that there should be the mandatory fitting of CO monitors on all boats - newly built boats coming under the RCD rules - privately owned boats over four years old coming under the BSS regulations. They really do save lives. 

“I hope that all our fellow boaters read this article and take heed - if you don’t have appropriate CO monitors on board you are at risk from CO poisoning from your own equipment or from CO being drawn in from a boat moored up next to you. Please take the time to support the proposals put forward by the BSS.

“Take care and enjoy safe boating.”

A consultation on proposed BSS requirements for carbon monoxide alarms on boats opens

That cautionary tale really does bring home the importance of CO alarms. And, as mentioned by the boater above, a public consultation proposing to introduce mandatory new Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) Requirements for carbon monoxide (CO) alarms on boats is now underway and runs until Friday 9 November 2018.

The suggested change sees a fundamental shift recognising that CO poisoning, a silent unseen killer, could affect boat owners and crews from sources of CO generated outside of the boat by others e.g. the use of engines and appliances on adjacent boats.

The BSS stakeholder and management committees took account of evidence from the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) findings published in May 2017 following the ‘Love For Lydia’ double-fatal tragedy, starkly describing the potential risk posed to other boat users by carbon monoxide-rich engine emissions.

The BSS says it has launched the consultation to keep people in and around boats safe when the results of further recent testing it had sponsored reinforced findings of the MAIB.

The proposed mandatory new BSS Requirements will see checks introduced for suitable CO alarms in good condition and in suitable locations on all classes of boat with accommodation spaces.

The additional recognised benefit is the anticipated effectiveness of CO alarms in preventing death or injury to boat owners placed at risk in their own boats from running the boat’s engines or appliances. 

Alarms can also serve to alert craft occupants to moderate levels of CO which can be a long-term threat to health if left undetected.

Comments can be made in the next twelve weeks using the consultation form on the BSS website, the deadline is 16.30 on Friday 9 November 2018.

Graham Watts, BSS manager urges all who may be affected to consider the Scheme’s proposals and comment: “It’s encouraging that so many boat owners already enjoy the protection of CO alarms, however if you haven’t yet got one please take a look at a list of CO alarms recommended as suitable for boats by the manufacturers’ body. .

“Follow fitting instructions supplied with the alarm, but if these are difficult to meet fully on a boat, then best practice placement guidance can be found in the CO Safety on Boats leaflet.

“The BSS will produce a summary of the views expressed in the consultation and the BSS responses, by Friday 21 December 2018 and we’ll publish this on our website.

“It is intended that a communications campaign will promote the final agreed changes in very early 2019. The mandatory new BSS Requirements are intended to come into effect from January 2019 and implemented as BSS Checks on 1 April 2019.”

There’s a whole raft of information about staying safe from CO on boats on the BSS website – please take the time to read as it could save your life.

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Clean Air Strategy consultation

While the article above focuses on the safety of the air in and around your boat, the Government has been looking at ways to improve it on city-wide scales. In our response to the government’s draft Clean Air Strategy we have urged government to consider the needs of boaters and put financial support into the development of new, cleaner technology for the waterway sector

We are supportive of the government’s proposed measures to improve air quality and believe the waterways have a role to play in combatting pollution and providing clean air spaces, as well as helping reduce transport pollution by moving journeys off road.

However, in recognising that the inland waterways make a very small but sometimes locally significant contribution to air pollution – namely through boat dependence on solid fuel burning stoves and diesel engines – we are arguing for a coherent government-supported approach, including investment in alternative technologies, to help address these issues and incentivise change.

We want to work with government and local authorities on a sector-wide plan to develop solutions for reducing the impact from power and heating on boats while encouraging the uptake of reduced-emissions technology. This would need to consider the current difficulties boat owners face in making changes to engines and heating methods, particularly when the boat is someone’s home.

Peter Birch, national environment policy advisor at the Trust said: "Our waterways offer a respite for many people, especially when they run through urban areas that lack other green and blue spaces. We believe they have a vital role to play in improving wellbeing and can contribute London and South East, room to breatheto the reduction of air pollution. We’re committed to working with others to create opportunities for improvement by diverting journeys off road and changing public behaviour.

"Boats on our canals and rivers only make a small contribution to emissions nationally but there can be localised problems. We are working in partnership with local authorities and boaters to address these specific areas but would welcome additional investment in innovation and implementation for alternative technologies to help address these issues. Many boaters are already very environmentally conscious but are hampered by a lack of ‘green’ alternatives to diesel engines and wood-burning stoves.  

"While we agree that vessels cannot remain exempt and must play their part in the battle to improve air quality, it is essential that the needs of boaters are accounted for when drafting any new legislation."

More information can be found online about the Government’s Clean Air Strategy.  

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Major repairs update

Work has started on the next phase to repair the breach at Middlewich on the Shropshire Union Canal after a giant 12m deep hole was left in the canal bank back in March.

Middlewich breach from the airPaddle gates on the locks, which allow water into the canal, had been left open by a member of the public which caused the canal to overflow. This resulted in a section of the 200-year-old embankment being washed away into the river Wheelock below.

Our current estimate is that the repair bill will be around £3 million. The work is being funded by the Trust as well as generous donations from players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the local community, which has already given more than £25,000 to an emergency appeal.

Diggers at Middlewich breachContractors, on our behalf, have been working over the last few months installing dams either side of the breach, removing dangerous trees and rescuing stranded boats. Since then a temporary access road and construction site compound have been established next to the breach and an access route along the canal bed has now been constructed to allow the physical repair work to begin.

Around 4,000 tonnes of material was lost that will need to be replaced to repair the embankment. The canal repairs will include a flexible PVC membrane and a fibre reinforced lining. We are working hard to re-open the canal as quickly as possible with a target to re-open at Christmas.

Andy Johnson, senior project manager at the Trust said: “A great deal of work has been completed to get to the point where we can actually start to repair this huge hole. Behind the scenes, specialists have been ensuring the ecology, heritage and environment around the breach is safe-guarded and engineers have been working on the complex design plan required to repair the canal.

“I’d like to thank everyone over the last few months for their support and kind donations to help us with the repairs.  This has really demonstrated the love that people have for the canal which plays an important part in people’s everyday life.”

You can support the work being done to repair the breach online or alternatively text LEAK515 to 70070 to donate £5*. Donations will go directly to repairing the canal.

Leeds & Liverpool Canal culvert collapse

It hasn’t just been the Middlewich Branch of the Shroppie that’s suffered over the last few months. Back in mid-June you might recall that a culvert collapsed on the Leeds & Liverpool. Well, we’ve got some good news!

L&L Culvert collapseThe team have completed the installation of the new culvert and pipework and have also rebuilt the towpath wash wall. Over the last week we’ve been completing the masonry and reinstatement works to the offside embankment. 

We’ve also done some piling works and installation of lining and a new clay bed. After some successful testing we’re delighted to say that we’ve now reopened the canal to navigation. Happy days!

On the subject of navigations that have restrictions, you’ll have read in the last edition that we’re taking measures to conserve water due to a chronic lack of rain. You might like to know that in amongst it all we’ve managed to find a shimmer of a silver lining - we are planning to undertake extra maintenance work on the waterways that have been forced to close because of the drought this summer.

We’ve been reviewing the works planned for the sections that are currently closed, particularly the Rochdale, Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union, and Leeds & Liverpool Canals. 

At present we are aiming to bring forward approximately eight winter stoppages, along with completing arising works in the closed sections.  The work will depend on the continuing dry weather and is subject to change if there is significant rainfall.

That said, our maintenance teams are a hardy bunch and were set to do the work in winter so we’ve all still got everything crossed that we get a decent period of traditional British summer weather (rain!) soon…

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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:

  • Don’t forget that it’s our Annual Public Meeting on Wednesday 26 September at Austin Court, Birmingham. We’d love to see you there! Places are limited, so it’s best to register your attendance
  • Photographers, both amateur and professional, are invited to submit up to four photographs or short films for the inaugural edition of Flow Photo. The national photography competition and exhibition, developed by Future Water Association and supported by us. The competition aims to raise awareness and encourage debate about water and waterways in all aspects as seen through the photographer and film-maker’s lens. Shortlisted works will be exhibited in a national tour throughout 2019 including at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port and Gloucester. A six month residency prize worth £6000 will be awarded to one of the selected artists over the age of 18. The exhibition and awards will be chosen by an expert panel of selectors from the fields of photography, film and the water industry. Get snapping!

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

As someone who’s out, or by, the water more often than most you’ll know that there are times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. Or when it doesn’t rain as much as usual. 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.

But, before checking out this weekend’s stoppages I’d like you to cast your mind a little further ahead to winter. The second and final stage of our consultation on winter closures has now ended. Thank you to everyone who has taken time to post their thoughts on the upcoming stoppage programme. We will be responding to you individually in the next week or so and have tried to take into account your various requests, wherever possible.

This year the planning or our winter programme has been challenging. We have a huge amount of works to undertake during the winter months. The unexpected and, in some cases, on-going emergency closures during this summer and also, of course, the problems resulting from water supply shortages, have added to the complexity. We need to remain flexible to meet these challenges and to identify any opportunities for re-phasing planned winter work during unexpected closures.

This may mean some further changes to our winter programme. We will, of course, aim to minimise these changes so our boating customers can continue planning their winter cruising routes. We will also inform you of any updates as soon as we can, through our website notice system. If you haven’t done so already, we would recommend you sign up for Notice updates (follow the link and scroll to the bottom of the page).

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

  • A gentle reminder that when out on the cut, please remember that side fenders are only for when you're tying up and should be brought inboard when navigating (unless you're a GRP or timber cruiser). It can be especially hazardous if you're entering a narrow lock - your side fenders can snag and, as often happens, get ripped off and ends up fouling another boaters propeller or lock gate (which we have to spend money fixing).
  • In a bid to reduce the number of boaters accidentally asking River Canal Rescue (RCR) for emergency assistance, it has added new functionality to it’s free SOS Waterways app. It now has ‘test connection’ and ‘request advice’ buttons because between October 2017 (when the app launched) and July this year, RCR responded 24/7 to 255 emergency assistance requests, yet only 10% were urgent or for breakdown support. The app is available on Google Play, the App Store or directly from RCR’s website.
  • And finally, if you’re cruising anywhere near (or even on) the Oxford Canal then do make time to visit the historic Tooleys Boatyard. If you need enticing then check out vloggers ‘The Narrowboat Experience’ who recently published a video of their great private tour by owner Matthew Armitage.

Last date edited: 24 August 2018

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The boaters' update

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