News article created on 30 November 2018

Boaters' Update 30 Nov 2018

Welcome to the 24th and penultimate edition of 2018! With just three and a half weeks to go you'll find inspiration for boaty Christmas gifts (if you need it), an important safety reminder and about the work we're doing in the Midlands this winter along with the usual roundup of news, events and stoppages.

South Oxford Canal courtesy of Jonathan Eccles South Oxford Canal courtesy of Jonathan Eccles

Welcome to the latest edition. The inevitable march of time means we’re at that point of the year when many of us are planning our Christmas festivities. In this penultimate edition of 2018 you’ll find two articles in that vein – one giving a boaty slant to the time-worn 12 Days of Christmas while the other is a reminder of water safety ahead of the Royal Life Saving Society’s ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ campaign, including one boater’s cautionary tale of what nearly turned into a Christmas nightmare.

Elsewhere you’ll find a more detailed look at what work we’re doing in the Midlands and Wales as part of our massive winter repair and restoration programme as well as what our direct services team have been fixing over the last month. The regular roundup of other boating news, stoppages and events are, as ever, there for you too. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see in a future edition then please drop me a line.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and the fortnight ahead       

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

  • 19 Nov – Restoration of the Burslem Branch Canal in Stoke took a leap forwards this month with the construction of a new branch canal footpath and publication of a new strategic action plan.
  • 22 Nov – Fish living in the Leeds & Liverpool Canal have been temporarily rehomed ahead of major repair work at Finsley Gate.
  • 26 Nov – Montgomery Canal’s special people and places have been celebrated in a new 20-minute film ‘Life on the Monty’.
  • 26 Nov – We announced that part of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal will be available for use by boaters one day a week after unseasonably dry weather slowed reservoir refill.

Below I’ve picked out some festive highlights to see and do over the next fortnight. Of course there are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities, many not Christmas related, if you’re feeling a little bah humbug. Just visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.

  • 1 Dec – Ever wondered what Santa would look like in a canoe? Believe it or not you’ll be able to find out on the Leeds & Liverpool in Bootle and, the following weekend, in Leeds!
  • 30 Nov to 2 Dec – What would Christmas shopping be like if you weren’t shoulder-barged every few minutes in your favourite department store? Actually, you may find it rather less stressful (because not only is life better by water but, we’d contest, so is shopping!). Find out for yourself at one of the floating markets in Birmingham, Devizes or, the following weekend, in Apsley.
  • 8 Dec – Our second winter open day showcases our second deepest lock, at 19ft 5ins deep, in the country – Bath Deep Lock. An impressive spectacle not to be missed as well as the chance to make some bat and bird boxes for homemade Christmas gifts and learn about important water safety work taking place in Bath.  There will also be actors from Natural Theatre Company bringing the characters of the canal's past to life.
  • Dec – Santa has a busy time on the water over the next three or so weeks. To name just a couple, he’ll be dashing from cruises at the Anderton Boat Lift to others at Ellesmere Port. Visit the events section to find out if he’s making a visit to your local waterway.

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A boater’s Christmas wish list

While most of us wouldn’t turn our noses up at five golden rings I can’t imagine, even on the widest of wide beams, where your average boater would put three French hens and two turtle doves, let alone the eight maids, nine ladies, ten lords, eleven pipers or twelve drummers.

So, unless your boat is a cross channel ferry, it’s apparent that using the 12 Days of Christmas song as a shopping list for your boating beau is a non-starter. Helpfully, and with the help of breakdown assistance and recovery firm River Canal Rescue (RCR), we’ve come up with a much more appropriate 12 Days of Christmas gift list…

  • Day one – a getaway on a hotel boat – life is better by water and perhaps even better when you’re getting to enjoy all the pleasures of boating while being pampered and not lifting a finger!
  • Day two - How about helping support the huge job of maintaining the waterway network by gifting a Friends membership to your beau? Simply fill in this form and select the gifting option if you want the welcome pack sent directly to them.
  • Day three - a place on a RCR boat & engine maintenance or electrics weekend course.
  • Day four - an annual pass to our waterway museums: north or south you’ll have something to do!
  • Day five - an engine service kit. A basic service kit has oil and fuel filters, the correct oil, fuel treatment and essential mop-up mats.
  • Day six - WaterNav software and e-canal apps (that aren’t dependent on a permanent internet connection) enabling you to plan/track routes and using GPS, pinpoint your exact location and distance from over 60,000 points of interest.
  • Day seven – a free SOS Waterways app. Once downloaded (via Google Play or the App Store) you can report issues such as a canal breach, an incident or mechanical breakdown, and help will be on its way.
  • Day eight - RCR membership which gives 24/7 breakdown and emergency cover.
  • Day nine – a place on a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) course. RYA approved courses are run across the UK at all levels for the helmsman and crew covering personal safety, on-board communication, boat handling basics, throwing a mooring line, locks and tunnels, lock operations, collision avoidance, how to be a look-out, what to do in an emergency, looking after the environment and introductory engine maintenance.
  • Day ten – if day five’s gift idea seems too much effort perhaps consider a professional engine service. On offer from mid September to mid March, RCR engineers (others are available) will change your engine oil (up to 5 litres), replace the fuel and air filters, check your battery, fan belt and anti-freeze and top up your gear box oil.
  • Day eleven – a new carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer, so it’s vital you’re able to detect these noxious and often fatal, gases.
  • Day twelve - a fuel locking cap. From around £20 you can prevent the theft of fuel from your boat with this ingenious device.

If none of the above fit your ideal gift then perhaps what RCR describes as ‘the world’s first truly environmentally-friendly bilge discharge filter’ might?

Boating through MiddlewichNamed ‘Bilgeaway’, it uses a non-toxic solution to extract hydrocarbon contaminants (petrol, diesel, engine oil etc.) from water and render them non-reactive, leaving environmentally-friendly contents in a cartridge which can be disposed of and the housing re-used.

It’s apparently simple to install and for use with a conventional bilge pump so if the recipient of your gift is keen on environmentally-minded presents then it just might do the trick.

PS What is a calling bird anyway and what would you do with four of them? Answers on a postcard…

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Festive spirits

As a boater you’re likely to be more aware than others of the risks of being three sheets to the wind and on or around water but if there’s only one article you read in this edition then I’d say it has to be this one…

The Kings Lock Pub MiddlewichWe’re supporting the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s Don’t Drink and Drown campaign which urges people not to walk home near water after they have been drinking. This is obviously much harder to do if you are a boater, even more reason to take extra care and look out for fellow boaters. Tragically there have been 1,581 accidental deaths over the last five years in the UK and almost 30% of the victims had alcohol in their bloodstream*. 

Debbie Lumb, national advisor for health and safety at the Trust, said: “Having a few drinks in one of the great waterside bars and pubs in is a great way to enjoy the festive season.  But when you’re on your way home, particularly in the dark, please take extra care. If you and your friends have had a few drinks, walk back to your boats together and be extra careful when getting onto your boat.

“We're all really enjoying the build-up to Christmas and we’ll all have a Christmas party or two to attend in the next few weeks. On your way home after a fun night out, you and your friends and colleagues need to be much more careful. We’re really pleased to support RLSS UK with its Don’t Drink and Drown campaign and its important message – find a #BeerBuddy and get home safely."

Di Steer, RLSS UK CEO, said: “People tragically die each year because they’ve entered the water with alcohol in their bloodstream, either deliberately or completely by accident. Drinking near or in water can be a dangerous and deadly cocktail. Alcohol can seriously impede your ability to survive in water.

“When walking home from a night out always stay with and look out for your friends.”

Stay Safe this Christmas:

  • Look out for your friends, make sure they get home safely
  • Don’t enter the water if you have been drinking
  • Alcohol seriously affects your ability to get yourself out of trouble

Don’t Drink and Drown was launched in 2014 following a string of tragic drownings of young people. Research indicated that around a quarter of all adult drowning victims have alcohol in their bloodstream and RLSS UK were keen to prevent more tragedies by promoting the dangers in hot spot areas.

You can read more information about the Don’t Drink and Drown campaign and liveaboard boater, and licence support advisor at the Trust, Debbi Figueiredo, has blogged about her own festive near-miss – it’s a cautionary tale that’s well worth a read…

*National Water Safety Forum Water Incident Database (WAID) of which RLSS UK and Canal & River Trust are members. Data is used from 2012-2017, including accidental and natural cause records only. Adults aged 18 years+. Alcohol records are suspected or confirmed cased, based upon Coroners and emergency service records, court records.

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Over £1.1 million being spent on the Shropshire Union and Welsh canals this winter

Work starts this week on a five-month, £612,000, project to repair or replace 11 worn-out lock gates, missing brickwork, masonry, culverts, lock ladders and other vital tasks at various sections along the 66-mile canal through Cheshire and Shropshire.

Before each separate lock or section is drained, fish will be rescued and transported to another part of the canal which remains in water. All the new lock gates are hand-crafted in oak at our special workshop using traditional skills. The old gates will generally be craned out and the new gates craned in as part of a spectacular lift movement.

Beeston LockA free open day at Northgate Locks in Chester in February will give people a chance to get up close to the repairs, enjoy a rare opportunity to walk through a drained lock chamber and talk to canal engineers.

Work includes:

  • replacement lock gate at Chester’s Northgate Middle Lock.
  • replacement lock gate at Wharton’s Lock (Lock 10) near Beeston.
  • new gates and repairs at locks 8,9,10 and 15 in Audlem.
  • replacement of two lock gates at Tyrley Lock 2, south of Market Drayton

Ged King, construction manager with the Trust, said: "This canal repair project is really important. We’ll be emptying millions of litres of water from the canal, moving thousands of fish and lifting multi-tonne lock gates through the air into place.

Audlem Locks and Bridge"Although the Shropshire Union Canal is nearly 200 years old, it’s thriving just as much as in its freight carrying heyday, when it was constructed to move goods between the West Midlands and the port of Liverpool on the River Mersey.

"This beautifully rural canal is one of the most popular waterways in the country with boaters. Its wooden lock gates typically last around 25 years and allow thousands of boats to travel from place to place each year. Each new gate is made to measure, weighs several tonnes, and is handcrafted from seasoned oak so that it fits perfectly in the lock chamber.  Once in place, the new lock gates will help us conserve water and keep boats moving along the waterway."

Meanwhile, over the border…

Teams from Glandŵr Cymru will be carrying out works at seven locations to help keep the canal watertight; replacing and repairing lock gates at four locations; and improving towpaths at key spots along the waterway. Many of the projects will require water to be drained from stretches of the canal with further thousands of fish carefully rehomed before the engineering work is carried out.

The Llangollen Canal in north Wales is home to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and its UNESCO World Heritage site. Works here will include railing improvements on the aqueduct and upgrades to the 175-metre long Whitehouses Tunnel.  

Llangollen CanalRichard Thomas, Glandŵr Cymru director, Wales and South West, says: "The canals in Wales are among the most beautiful anywhere in the world. The massive, five-month, project we’re carrying out costs over £540,000 and is vital. There’s a huge variety of things to do such as rehoming thousands of fish before we can drain sections of the canal and then manoeuvre huge, brand new, lock gates into place. It is a great example of the type of work we do to improve the canals, which are so important for the economy, as well as supporting everyone who lives on, cruises, works on or visits the waterways.

"The canals are two centuries old but arguably as relevant as ever for today’s society. As boaters know, they offer an amazing, tranquil space, where everything slows down. So they’re great places to escape the pressures of modern life.

"We know from research that people are happier and more relaxed when they are by water, and the activities the canals support means they can help contribute to improving people’s mental and physical well-being. While we’ll be working on some key sections, the remainder of the canals are still open so I’d encourage everyone to come and discover all they have to offer."

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What we’ve been up to

As the above article explains, we have a big winter programme of repair and restoration jobs that we do while the canals are less busy. Of course, if you’re out cruising on a regular basis then you’ll know that not everything goes to plan – we sometimes have to fix things urgently.

More often than not our direct services team step in to save the day. If nothing unexpectedly breaks, leaks, ruptures or collapses (wouldn’t that be nice?!) then there’s always something else that they have to get on with. Below, in what will become a regular feature, is a brief summary of what the team did in October:

  • 82 planned construction projects were completed, with a further 15 emergency jobs also completed
  • 1,879 volunteer hours recorded (thanks!)
  • Five lock gates have been manufactured in our workshops
  • Work highlights:
    • Stoppage works at Bosley Flight on the Macclesfield Canal – brought forward because of drought.
    • March Haig Reservoir Works – materials and equipment flown in via helicopter.
    • Soulbury Pumping Station HLF Project repairing roof trusses and walls
    • Widmeand Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal
    • Wordsley Aqueduct works on the Stourbridge Canal
    • Stoppage mobilisation in the West Midlands using Commercial Boat Operators Association historic boat (thanks!)

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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:

  • Did you know that in 2019 Crick Boat Show will be celebrating it’s 20th Anniversary? To join in the celebration we’d like to hear about your Crick memories so we can create a digital compilation of all the best bits from the last 20 years. Perhaps it was where, across a crowded showground, you first caught sight of your now partner? Or maybe it was where another burning passion – boating – was ignited? Either way, do please drop me a line with your memories. Thanks.

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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 seriously affect you if you’re planning on a cruise this weekend. Of course, now we’re into our winter stoppage programme (see above!) there’s a hive of activity repairing and restoring a variety of things. 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. 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

  • Don’t forget that Barge Fiodra, a floating venue travelling the UK waterways, hosting arts and wellbeing events, is in the capital and, next week, moves from Little Venice to King’s Cross where she will host work from talented young illustrators from 7 to 22 December.

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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 important safety announcements and upcoming events.

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