Boaters' Update 26 July 2019

With a relatively fine weekend expected I’m sure you’ll be looking to get out on or by the water so I’ll get straight to it. You’ll find a whole range of topics below, including an introduction to Well-B, the Trust’s new friend, news of a consultation about red diesel, more of your feedback on cruising speed, and a request for you to tell us which lesser-known waterways other boaters should be visiting.

Walk around City Road Basin Walk around City Road Basin

Welcome to the latest edition. You’ll find a whole range of topics below, including an introduction to Well-B, the Trust’s new friend, news of a consultation about red diesel, more of your feedback on cruising speed, and a request for you to tell us which lesser-known waterways other boaters should be visiting.

Of course, you’ll also find the regular news roundup and a look ahead at some upcoming events that you might be interested in.

If there’s an article you’d like to read in a future edition then please drop me a line.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and upcoming events    

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

  • 11 July – A half-mile stretch of towpath along the River Lee in Clapton has been given a makeover to provide a better surface for boaters and the thousands of people who use it each year.
  • 16 July – The Erewash Canal, Grand Union Canal at Hanwell, River Lee Navigation at Stonebridge Lock in Tottenham, and 41 miles of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Yorkshire have, for the first time, joined the likes of the Kennet & Avon, Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals in being awarded Greeen Flag status.
  • 19 July – Boaters mooring up, along with people living and working in the Black Country, are now able to enjoy a green, traffic-free route after we completed a two-year project to improve 11 miles of towpath along the Birmingham Main Line Canal.

Below I’ve picked out some events that you might be interested in over the next month. There are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities if none of the below take your fancy. Just visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.

  • 26 to 31 July – Why not kick off the school holidays with some time at the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port where you can join in with a range of self-led activities from Wildlife Foraging to Craft Making.
  • 29 July – Most parents will agree that the summer holiday season can be, let’s say, hard work. But plenty of evidence suggests that being near to water makes people happier, healthier and more relaxed, so what better place to exercise than your local canal? Join a one-hour nature walk from the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port to give your wellbeing a boost and help the little ones burn off some energy!
  • 1 to 29 Aug – Alternatively, keep the kids entertained during the school holidays with fantastic free sessions at Anderton Boat Lift in Northwich, Cheshire. Enjoy magic, puppet shows, donkey rides, craft activities, and favourite childhood characters brought to life. Every Tuesday & Thursday this August.
  • 8 Aug – Come along and try a free paddle boarding session in Leicester with our East Midlands team. Working with Leicester Outdoor Pursuits Centre, with support from Leicester Rowing Club, you can have a go and try this exciting activity on the River Soar.

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Give a warm welcome to Well-B

As a charity, it’s vital we spend a small portion of our income on awareness campaigns. They help us tell more people about our work and, in turn, encourage more people to donate to us, so we can continue to have enough money to keep the canals open for all to enjoy. That’s where Well-B comes in…

Well-B is our extraordinary little friend, who has recently discovered our canals and rivers are a great place to spend time to recharge. We don’t know how, but Well-B gets energy from people and places. Look carefully at the wellbeing monitor (in the video below) on Well-B’s chest and you’ll know just how Well-B feels when he’s by water, spotting boats, wildlife and people recharging, just like him. 

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Who are you talking to?

As you probably know, we’ve put a lot of effort into making the boring (but necessary) task of administering boat licences as easy as possible for boaters. From scratch we developed a self-service licensing platform that has enabled boaters to take care of their boat licence, and mooring details, in a few easy steps.

That said, there are times when you just need that little bit of help. If it’s a boat licence related query then it’s likely you’ll end up in touch with one of our licence support advisors. So, in the first of a series of articles, we’re putting faces to the people who are here to help you.

Kelly Shields

Kelly ShieldsI have been working part time at the Trust for five years. I started off covering West London and within the last two years moved over to a national team within the licensing support side of the organisation. It's an interesting team to work alongside and good to be on hand to help out boaters as much as we can.  A typical day in the office mostly includes lots of contact with boaters, which is great, usually in response to our customer service reminders and, where possible, helping to keep things moving out on the water for the benefit of everyone.

I have a young family and we love to walk along the towpath and watch the ducks, fish and boats. They are especially in awe of the boats going through the locks and we like to wave as people are cruising along; it’s a special treat to finish off our walk at one of the many canal side pubs!

Nnenna Ikwuegbu

Nnenna IkwuegbuI joined the Trust in October 2018, having had previous experience in customer service and administration. My role as a licence support advisor involves sending out customer service reminders, such as renewals, monitoring boats to make sure they are licensed and cruising according to the terms and conditions of their licence. I work with a lovely team and really enjoy the variety of my role.

I love running around in parks with my kids, watching movies and listening to music. I recently relocated to the United Kingdom with my family and we love the experience so far.

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Your views on cruising speed

Firstly, thank you to the many of you who got in touch in response the article in the last edition. This follow up article would have been much easier to write if all the correspondence had been in agreement though!

Without making this edition into a small novel, there’s far too much feedback to include it all verbatim. If you have the time then you can find all 13 pages of it here. What you’ll find below is a rough overview of the opinions sent in. After which, there’re some questions that I’d love your help in answering.

Overview of feedback

  • Around 44% felt that when you’re passing moored boats your engine should be at, or near, idle speed.
  • Around 23% feel that it’s unnecessary to stay at a slow speed when not passing moored boats.
  • About 13% of correspondents pointed out that, if you insist on going slowly, then you must keep checking behind you in order to notice when another boat wants to overtake. The same proportion, although not necessarily the same people, said that 3mph was a good speed to maintain.
  • Going slow enough so as not to create a breaking wash was highlighted by around 21% of those who wrote in.
  • Around 15% said that going at the fastest possible speed was contrary to the spirit of the waterways – it should be a slow, relaxing and enjoyable experience.
  • The width and depth of a waterway need to be taken into account when setting an appropriate speed according to 13% of correpsondents. In a similar vein, just over 20% said that speed is irrelevant – it’s the effect of your speed that counts. For example, going at 4mph on a wide and deep river is unlikely to create a breaking wash or disturb moored boats but doing the same on a shallow and narrow canal would.
  • Nearly a quarter said that tickover, as a concept of speed, doesn’t exist – see the question below regarding this.
  • 15% of correspondents said that those moored up have an equal responsibility in ensuring that their boat doesn’t move when others pass – proper tying up can prevent most movement.

Questions

  • Given that an engine on tickover will result in different speeds for different boats can you think of a concise term that conveys the need to slow your boat in advance of passing moored boats so that it doesn’t cause undue movement to those properly moored up? This comes with the caveat that this should only be done if safe to do so i.e. in strong winds more power will be needed to maintain steerage.
  • Are there three, or maybe four, golden rules that you’d like every new boater to learn before they go on their first cruise (with regards to cruising speed)?
  • Should hire boats, or even all boats, be fitted with a speedometer that’s clearly labelled with two speeds – one for cruising an empty stretch of waterway and one for cruising on a stretch with moored boats?
  • What is an acceptable way of indicating to the boat in front that you’d like to overtake (given that they may not have noticed you yet)?

In the next edition I’ll compile and share your answers so please do get in touch. Thanks!

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Does my boat look big in this?

Have you noticed that wide beam boats are becoming more common? It’s easy to understand why - if the boat is a permanent home then all that extra space comes in very handy. But have you thought through all the pros and cons?

With house prices, particularly in major cities, pricing many people out of bricks and mortar and onto the water, houseboats and wide beams might seem like they offer an affordable answer.

Big on the inside - big on the outside

Boating near Sutton CheneyUnfortunately, wide beam boats don't have the same qualities as the Tardis – big on the inside still means big on the outside. Increasingly, we’ve been hearing concerns that, as with any boat on a canal or river it wasn’t designed for, some wide beams have inadvertently caused issues.

If all canals and rivers had broad canal dimensions there wouldn’t be any issues but, as you know, they don’t. Some were originally built for short and wide boats and others quite the opposite! While width is probably the main limiting factor (especially at bridge holes and locks), longer narrowboats can come unstuck in places like Yorkshire where some locks can only accommodate up to 57ft.

So, if you’ve got a big ‘un (anything wider than 7ft) or are thinking of upgrading or buying one, what sort of things should you consider?

  • Budget – as with buying pretty much anything, if it’s bigger it’s going to cost more. There are changes to our boat licencing fees coming in and this may also be a consideration
  • Cruising – a couple of the considerations are mentioned above (locks and bridge holes) but it’s worth pointing out that even if none of the visible structures will impede you, the navigable channel might – narrow canals are not dredged for passing wide beams - you could find yourself running aground on a narrow canal every time an oncoming boat needs to pass you, potentially damaging your boat and the canal. Check out our waterways dimensions if you’re unsure and remember that the waterways are used by many boats and size restrictions on boats are there to ensure that safe navigation is maintained for everyone.
  • Mooring – ok, so this is stating the obvious but, wide beam boats take up more of the channel even when moored up. This means you need to be extra vigilant that you’re not causing a navigation hazard by obscuring views or mooring opposite a boat on the other bank, so think about the space you take up.
  • Location – because of the way canals were built it’s likely that you’ll be confined to roughly the area you buy your boat in (unless you’re prepared to pay for a contractor to move your boat by road). If you don’t have a home mooring in that area then you need to be able to meets the rules around continuous cruising.

Regardless of how wide your boat is, we know that the overwhelming majority of boaters are considerate and conscientious. Most have a blissfully fulfilling time because they know life is better by water. That said, we do appreciate that the bigger the boat, the bigger the list of considerations so if you are considering going big have a chat with us first for some more advice and information.

Share your wide beam wisdom

If you’re already the proud owner of a wide beam boat and would like to share helpful tips or advice for others in the same, erm, boat then drop me a line and I’ll share in future edition.

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Get Involved

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

  • Don’t forget that our draft winter stoppage programme is now online! Thank you for all your comments from the first consultation which have been put to our delivery teams and changes have been made. We now want more of your comments on the new programme so do please give us your opinion. This second phase of consultation will run for another week (until 2 August) and the final winter stoppage programme will be added to the website later in August.
  • The Inland Waterways Association is appealing to boaters and boatyard operators to respond to an HMRC consultation following the announcement that private pleasure craft in the UK will be prohibited from using red diesel. The consultation, about the likely timescales required for implementing the change, follows the statement in the Spring Budget that HMRC would seek evidence on the impact of the government’s proposal to comply with the judgment made last year by the European Court of Justice. The consultation runs until 9 September and can be found on the Government website.
  • As you may have seen, we announced that boat numbers have reached a new record high in London – increasing by 84% since 2012, from 2,326 to 4,274 in 2019. With this in mind we want to run a series of articles over the coming months that champion lesser known, and lesser used, waterways. If you’re a boater outside of The Big Smoke who cruises around then there’s a chance that you’ve discovered a little piece of paradise somewhere on the network that isn’t well known. If you have then I’d love to hear about what makes it special and why you think other boaters should experience it. Please just drop me a line when get the chance. Thanks!

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising 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 on a cruise this weekend.

Below you’ll find, by canal or river, those that may affect your plans 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 for a cruise. The tech savvy among you may already know that you can set up your smartphone to notify you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. For those that didn’t know, check out this guide to setting it up.

If you have any questions about a specific closure then just get in touch.

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Bits & bobs

  • If you’re keen angler, this is a gentle reminder to stow your tackle away when not in use. This comes after a duck had to rescued on the Oxford Canal after getting caught up while while leaping to take the bait from the deck of an unattended boat. And, for ease, here’s a link to buy your rod licence (or pop in to any post office)!
  • Did you see the foraging article a couple of editions ago? Your advice keeps on coming: “Couple of canalside fruits not on your list are wild plums, generally small but edible, grown after someone has dropped a stone into the hedge row, and sloes. Sloes will be on the bushes about September but are best left until after the first frost. Ideal for adding to gin but can be cooked into pies/crumbles. Wild garlic is also often on the towpath generally where the contractors have not cut the grass right back to the hedgerow.”
  • As a boater you’ll likely be familiar with our facilities key that you can buy from our online shop. Please beware though, there are some unscrupulous people out there selling knock-offs! Don’t be deceived by the cost – it’s a false economy. The key is likely to be inferior quality and may not work. Also, there’s no course of redress via the Trust if it doesn’t work unless you have purchased the key directly from us. Finally, and significantly, if they are of inferior quality then they can damage our locks and break in them resulting in a large repair bill when we’d rather be spending that money maintaining the navigation for you!

………………………………………………...............................................................................................................................................................

Happy Boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 26 July 2019

About this blog

The boaters' update

Think of this blog as your one-stop shop for up-to-date boating news. It's packed full of useful information about boating on canals and rivers, as well as important safety announcements and upcoming events.

Sign up to receive the Boaters' update by email

See more blogs from this author