News article created on 5 April 2019

Boaters' Update 5 April 2019

Dredging, canal maintenance and safety - all close to a boater's heart - are featured in this latest edition. Of course, you'll also find the usual roundup of the latest news, events and stoppages.

Leicester towpath, St Margaret's Way Leicester towpath, St Margaret's Way

Welcome to the latest edition in which you’ll find articles covering topics close to most boaters’ hearts. Namely dredging, canal maintenance and safety.

Of course, that’s not all, it’s a bumper edition: you can read a review of Crick Boat Shows 2012 & 13 (and news of this year’s, the 20th, show) as well as news of a new survey we’d like boaters to take part in, along with the latest news, stoppages and events.

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

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and the fortnight ahead        

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

Below I’ve picked out some events you might be interested in over the next few weeks. Of course, 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.

  • 5 & 6 Apr – Do something very different this weekend at the National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port by joining the LEGO Master, Steve Guinness, who will be at the museum with his business, The Brick Guys, building an impressive scale model of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which will be over three metres long.
  • 7 Apr – Alternately have a free fun day out for the whole family at Coventry Canal Basin with activites ranging from narrowboat experience trips and canoe taster sessions through to classic Riley Motorcars and a model railway exhibition!
  • 7 Apr – It’s not just in the midlands you can get out on the water. Drifters Waterway Holidays and the Trust are offering the chance to try canal boating for free at 17 locations across England and Wales.
  • 19 to 22 Apr – Places are still available at the 42nd Easter Boat Gathering Ellesmere Port. It’s a weekend of catching up with old friends, making new ones and sharing the passion for boating. Enjoy performances from some of the North West’s finest folk musicians, sample tasty food in the Waterside Cafe and relax in the unique setting of the National Waterways Museum. 

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The whys and wherefores of dredging

As a boater you’ll appreciate that keeping the bottom of the canal away from the bottom of your boat is one of the most important jobs we do. Have you wondered, though, why we have to do it at all?

Left to themselves navigations would, over time, fill in – leaf-litter, bank erosion and runoff from adjoining land, not to mention flytipped debris, would fill them up. It doesn’t happen overnight though so, with some exceptions, for example river navigations that need more frequent attention, dredging any particular stretch of canal is generally a once-in-a-generation event (every 25 years or so).

So, when it is done, we aim to dredge so there’s enough width for two boats to pass with reasonable depth beneath the hull. This obviously varies based on the boats and the standards to which canal structures were built or have been altered over the years. For a “typical” narrow canal we might be aiming for a channel through which we can pass an imaginary box 5.3m wide by 1.1m deep (wide enough for two narrow boats to pass with a metre between them and deep enough for most craft registered on our waterways to pass easily).

Photo of Purton HulksOf course, some navigations need deeper or wider channels and this is taken into account. In addition, depths need to be adequate at the bank for mooring at defined mooring points, facilities, lock approaches etc. Note that there is no guarantee of getting right up to the bank along the entire length of a canal – many were constructed as shallow dishes with deep walls only at these defined points, such as wharves and lock landings.

We have two key ways of knowing when dredging may be required – even if it would help our maintenance planning, it’s not as though we’ll dredge somewhere this year and then stick a note on a calendar to come back in 2044 to do that bit again!

No, instead, we carry out survey inspections of the network and, appreciatively, get information from you when you are boating.

Reports from boaters are checked and graded for seriousness of scale and scope of impact (how major a problem – is it width of channel, trouble getting into a facility or mooring, general shallowing of the bed or a shoal in the central channel) and how many boats may be affected) and prioritised accordingly using a scale agreed with our Navigation Advisory Group.

We have a specialist hydrographic survey team based in Leeds who carry out a roiling survey inspection programme covering the whole network roughly every seven years. This is in addition to more regular surveying of river navigations, checking on reported issues and a range of other underwater survey tasks.

Surveys are checked against the target “channel boxes”, mentioned earlier, using a computer model to see how often a cross section would fail the standard and by how much. This, combined with boater reports, tells us which sections need attention most urgently.

As you’ll know, not every dredging task is the same. Sometimes it’s just a few small locations on a particular stretch while other times an entire length needs doing. To deal with these different types of work, we set up different types of project -

  • Recurring “short cycle” dredging (river navigations and other points that are known to silt up quickly) – visits are in the programme years in advance but details of work to be done are planned “in year” as river conditions can change every winter;
  • Mainline dredging projects (1km or more where the whole length needs doing);
  • Spot dredging projects (groups of issues in a general area, maybe 10km, but not the full main dredge – although this is more expensive per cubic metre removed, it is a better way to restore channel dimensions without a mainline dredge);
  • Arising works – single issues that cannot be linked into a larger project.

We allocate budget to these different work areas based on the volume of work building up in the plan and which projects will deliver the greatest improvement for the investment.

In the next edition we’ll look at the dredging that’s been done over recent years, including an update on what’s been done over the last year and what we plan to do in the immediate future – we’ve got £8 million of dredging planned for 2019-20. We’ll also explain how, after we’ve dug it off the bottom of the navigation, we get rid of the huge amount of dredgings!

In the meantime, if you have any questions on the subject then do get in touch and we’ll do our best to include the answer in the next edition.

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What we’ve been fixing

You’ll notice more than most that we have a big planned programme of repair and restoration jobs that we carry out over winter while the canals are less busy – we’re almost at the end of this one. 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 respond to emergencies as well.

Piccadilly Basin, ManchesterMore often than not our direct services team, with the help of some wonderful volunteers (who gave 1,462 hours in February), steps 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 is a brief summary of what the team did in February:

  • 43 planned construction projects were completed along with a further seven emergency jobs
  • 12 lock gates have been manufactured in our workshops
  • Rubbish clearance at locks on the Rochdale Canal in Manchester
  • Soulbury Pumphouse – roof now completed
  • Kilnhurst Lock gates replaced on the Sheffield & South Yorkshire Navigation
  • Gate repair and replacement at Locks 1 & 2 on Farmers Bridge, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal (including a great open day)
  • Gate replacement at Chester Lock and another great open day!

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Carbon monoxide alarms become mandatory for boats

From 1 April at least one carbon monoxide (CO) alarm became a requirement on nearly all private and non-private boats in scope of the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) Requirements. BSS Certifications will not be issued to boats without alarms.

Carbon Monoxide Kills signThe new BSS Requirements apply to boats with accommodation spaces i.e. areas within a boat surrounded by permanent boat structure and where carbon monoxide gas may accumulate.

Although the need for CO alarms is being introduced to help protect boat owners from sources of the toxic gas from neighbouring boats, the alarms are also expected to prevent death or injury to crew members from their own boat engines or appliances.

There are four new BSS Check items in the BSS examination:

Check 6.4.1 covers the provision of alarms in suitable numbers – this check ensures everyone on board can hear the alarm if it activates.

Check 6.4.2 is an Advice check for private boats, promoting a CO alarm in the same space as a solid fuel stove – stoves can present a specific risk if flue gases enter the cabin.

Check 6.4.3 requires CO alarms to be placed in open view, be of a certified quality and have a test function button – this check provides an assurance about the quality of alarm manufacture and performance.

Check 6.4.4 requires CO alarms to be in good and working condition, showing no signs of damage, being within any visible expiry dates and passing the function test using the test button – this check ensures the alarm will work effectively if called upon.

The BSS has just published a new leaflet as an essential guide to all the new requirements and background information. It covers what is required and how the checks will be carried out by BSS Examiners and how the alarms will help keep crew members safe, including:

  • CO alarm makers guidance about where to place a CO alarm to achieve best protection,
  • What type of CO alarm to buy,
  • What to do if a CO alarm goes off,
  • What to do if carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected.

The new requirements came into effect on 1 April but the BSS strongly urges those without alarms to not wait until your boat’s next examination before getting one. More information and advice can be found in the leaflet.

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Crick Boat Shows 2012 & 2013

The countdown is really on now with only 50 days to go until the 20th Crick Boat Show. To celebrate the anniversary we’ve been looking back on past Crick Boat Shows. We’re now up to the 2012 & 2013 shows…

2012

It was a massive year for both the country as a whole and the waterways themselves. It began with lots of snow in Febraury and became the second wettest year on record in the UK.

Crick Boat Show 2018In among the consistent dampness, the Shard opened, England made it to the quarter finals of the European Championships and Manchester City won its first league tital since 1968.

All relatively big news but all overshadowed by the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the London Olympics. Boating was positively embraced for the jubilee with a 1,000 boat flotilla making it’s way along the Thames while, after years of regeneration work, the Bow Back Rivers in east London were brought back to life for the Olympics.

Bookended by the jubilee and Olympics, another significant point in history was created as the waterways in England & Wales transferred from a 64-year stint in state ownership to the newly formed Canal & River Trust.

Coincidentally, the Thames flotilla was streamed live at Crick Boat Show which was pushed back a week to coincide with the four-day jubilee weekend (thanks, Your Majesty…). It proved to be a popular decision with more boats than ever exhibiting at the show, which attracted over 24,000 people.

 2013

Big things continued the following year with Andy Murray becoming the first British person to win the Men’s Singles title at Wimbledon since 1936, the biggest library in the UK opened in Birmingham, and the bill enabling same-sex marriages passed through Parliament and the House of Lords.

Richard Parry at Crick Boat Show 2018Meanwhile, big money was being spent on the waterways – a £2million replacement of Cooper Bridge Weir on the Calder & Hebble, a £1.5million stabilisation of Netherton Tunnel and the eight month repair of a major breach at Dutton on the Trent & Mersey to name just a few. It was also the year that a new hand took hold of the Canal & River Trust’s proverbial tiller as Richard Parry was appointed chief exec.

Much like the investment being made in the waterways, over 26,000 people invested in a ticket for a Crick Boat Show that basked in wall-to-wall sunshine. Those attending may have enjoyed Tv presenter Julia Bradbury opening the show or one of the talks she gave throughout the first day. Of course, they just as well may have been one of the 1,147 who took the opportunity of a free boat trip!

Just like 2013, free boat trips will be available at this this year’s show. Of course, you could always get more hands-on with a boat handling taster session…  Either way, book your advance tickets now and save up to 15 per cent on the entry price for the event. It takes place at Crick Marina, near Daventry in Northamptonshire, during 25-27 May, with an extra Trade & Preview Day to be held on Friday 24 May in association with LeeSan.

Thanks go to Waterways World for its help in providing archive material for research.

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Get Involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering (such as those who contributed to the 1,400 or so hours of help that our construction team had in February) or donating. 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:

  • About a third of boaters will soon receive an email inviting them to take part in our annual perception survey asking questions about us and the work we do – if you’re one of the lucky ones to receive it then do please get involved. Another survey also starts shortly. It’s a new monthly waterway experience survey. It’ll be sent to a sample of boaters that we’ve sighted on the waterway each month and we’ll be asking you what you thought of your time out on the water – please keep an eye out for it and let us know your views.
  • Does spending the day cruising the beautiful Mon & Brec Canal appeal to you? If so, why not spend some quality time helping the Mon & Brec Canal Trust run its Community Boats? If you’re interested, just drop the Community Boat Project Manager a line.

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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 affect you if you’re planning on a cruise this weekend.

Of course, we’re still working on our winter stoppage programme and, as you can see by the list below, 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. 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.

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Bits & bobs

  • You may recall that in the last edition I talked about how our winter maintenance work, as well as best boating practice, will help us save water through the busy summer months. Following on from this, we’re keen to know what advice you’d give a new boater to help them save water – the little things, such as turning off taps when brushing your teeth are just as welcome as the big things, such as sharing locks!
  • Finally, if you’re green fingered, you’ll be pleased to hear that we’ll be celebrating your flowering boats with the relaunch of Blooms by the Water in a month or so time. You’ll also be able to enjoy a canal garden at the Chelsea Flower Show and Gardners’ World Live. It’s rather fitting, then, that earlier this week news came out that plants from Talbot Landscapes near Derby will travel via the Trent & Mersey Canal, Coventry Canal and Birmingham & Fazeley Canal, before reaching their destination at Icknield Port Loop on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, where they’ll be used for landscaping!

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The boaters' update

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