Boaters' Update 9 April 2021

This latest edition features handy reminders on water saving and boating etiquette as many of you prepare for your first 'proper' cruise next week. You'll also find a thank you to all of you who donated to the Waterways Chaplaincy Hardship Fund and a request for pictures of your return to boating along with the usual roundup of news and this weekend's stoppages.

Boats moored on towpath Boats in Leicester

Welcome to the latest edition. Hopefully you’ve now had a chance to visit your boat and prepare your cruising plans for the coming months.

Earlier this week the Prime Minister confirmed that step two of the roadmap out of lockdown can go ahead on 12 April. The great news is that this means, from next Monday, you’ll be able to stay overnight on your boat. This is also when the ban is lifted on non-essential travel in and out of Wales.

Even if you have been living permanently aboard, this month will be the first time you’ve been able to go for an extended pleasure cruise. This is why, over the last few editions, we’ve been sharing advice, information and tips to help you prepare. This edition is no different. You’ll find news about the importance, even at the start of the summer boating season, of helping to conserve water, and a run through of what you’ve told us constitutes good boating etiquette (including an important safety reminder).

Finally, you can read about the wonderful work, partly funded by your donations, of the Waterways Chaplaincy and a request for your ‘return to boating’ pictures and thoughts.

As always, the routine round-up of news, stoppages and ways to get involved can also be found below.

Stay safe, happy boating,


PS In case you missed it, you can still listen to chief exec, Richard Parry’s, informative and wide-ranging interview that took place on Crick Radio as part of the virtual Crick Boat Show.

In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 30 Mar – We are urging people to stay safe by the water this spring as people return to waterside pubs, bars and restaurants following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
  • 1 Apr – Canals and rivers have been havens for mental and physical health during the pandemic, but in the last 12 months there’s been a 68% rise in littering. As a result we’re asking people across England & Wales to take the Plastics Challenge.


Protecting water resources for boating

In a few days, from 12 April, you’ll be able to stay overnight on your boat and leisure boaters can set off on your first ‘proper’ cruise. We’re looking forward to seeing those that have been unable to go boating back out enjoying the waterways.

As you do start what will hopefully be a glorious year of boating, most of the network has a healthy supply of water. But we’d like one thought to ever-present – how can I help conserve it? 

DroughtThe increasing effects of climate change mean we are often managing too much or too little water with the latter often being the case in summer in many parts of our network. The result is that we have to plan for the worst – an extremely dry winter followed by a dry spring and summer - and hope for the best – a beautifully benign period of warm weather with the odd bit of rain sufficiently regular to keep things topped up.

As a boater you can help us battle water shortages and protect supplies for later in the summer by following the THRIFT principles right from the off:

  • Two in a lock? Share locks where possible
  • Help keep it in. Make sure gates and paddles are shut
  • Report any leaks to us
  • Invite oncoming boats through. Don’t empty or fill locks if someone else can make use of the water
  • Find another favourite. Explore less busy parts of our network
  • Think ahead. Plan cruises to minimise use of locks

While we can only hope for the best in terms of the weather, this year we are investing large sums of money in works at a number of reservoirs to ensure they can continue safely to provide their future supply of water to the network. Depending on rainfall, this may affect the volume of water available to feed some canals. We’ll be closely monitoring water resources and introducing restrictions in order to maintain navigation for boaters for as much of the year as we can.

Boats on the Macclesfield canalGiven this situation we are starting the season with some limited restrictions in place. The Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals will see initial restrictions given the temporary loss of Toddbrook Reservoir. These will consist of reduced opening hours on the Marple and Bosley lock flights. We currently have a stoppage due to a culvert failure between bridges 38 and 39 on the Macclesfield Canal which will prevent boating through this section of the Canal for the next few weeks.

Elsewhere in the north, on the Leeds & Liverpool, from Holme Bridge Lock (30) to Wigan Bottom Lock (Lock 85), use of lock flights will be limited once the key reservoirs are no longer full and have started to feed the canals.

Once they come into effect, the details of the opening hours of locks will be kept up to date on the stoppage section of our website.

Leicester Line, Grand Union Canal May 2019Further south, water resources for the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal also need careful monitoring. To keep any disruption, due to a lack of water, to a minimum, there will be more work done to improve the efficiency of its feeders. We’re also assessing whether improvements to pumping stations would bring adequate benefit. In the meantime, some locks (Foxton and Watford) will be locked-up overnight to allow backpumps to supply the areas that need water the most. As above, these measures will not start until reservoirs are no longer full and have started to feed the canals.

Aside from the canals mentioned above, we are working around the network to improve the resilience of the water supply and while, at this stage, we’re not implementing any restrictions – beyond asking every boater to follow THRIFT principles – it’s a good idea to sign up for stoppage notices for the canals you plan to cruise on so that, should any restrictions be needed, we can send them directly to your inbox.

To find out more about how we manage our water and the status of our reservoirs, visit our dedicated water management pages.


Good boating etiquette

We’re hoping for a bumper season of boating on the network this summer.  There will potentially be lots of new boaters out on the cut, whilst for some, it’s unfortunately been far too long away from the helm. 

If you’re a long-time reader of Boaters’ Update you may remember that, a few years ago, you were asked what you consider to be good boating etiquette. Lots of you got in touch and together we came up with the GOODBOATER mnemonic. So ahead of the season, here’s a reminder of what you said:

  • Go slow before, and during, passing moored boats
  • Only run your generator between 8am and 8pm and be neighbourly and considerate
  • On mooring up at busy spots check you haven't left a big gap and don't overstay
  • Don't moor opposite winding holes, on bends, or near to bridges
  • Bag it and bin it (especially your dog's) – never fly tip on the towpath
  • Only stay on a water point or a lock landing when you're filling up or locking through
  • Ask to share locks (and the work) and don't steal those set against you
  • Take time to check all paddles and gates are shut after you've used a lock
  • Enjoy the Waterways
  • Relax!

With ‘staycations’ being touted as the safe way to holiday this summer, hire boat operators have reported an increase in bookings and this will make for busier canals, and the need for good boating etiquette (and patience!), as more people get their first taste of what they’ve been missing!

Feel free to print off your own copy of GOODBOATER as a handy aide-memoire!

Safety is another aspect of boating that you might want to refresh your memory with. The Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s first Safety Digest of 2021 highlights the case (page 50) of a family out on a hire boat who got hung up on a cill. Thankfully no one was hurt but it does serve as a timely reminder that forgetting the basics can have disastrous effects.

With only a few days left before you can set off on a longer cruise, maybe some of that time could be well spent reacquainting yourself with the Boater’s Handbook?


Get involved (digitally)

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering (when coronavirus permits),  donating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded litter. In whatever form your volunteering takes, we’d like to take the opportunity to say thank you. Your support helps make life better by water.

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:


Maintenance, repair and restoration work 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 to get out on your boat this weekend (please note that overnight stays on your boat aren’t permitted until Monday 12 April):

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. 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, or spot an error in our system, please just get in touch.


Vital work of Waterways Chaplaincy supported by boaters and Trust

Late last year you may remember that we told you that we were supporting the Waterways Chaplaincy - the independent charity that supports boaters in difficulty through advocacy, befriending and practical help – by match funding donations to its’ Hardship Fund.

Well, a huge thank you goes to everyone who donated. It made a big difference to some of those in need over the toughest of winters. The case studies below, which only scratch the surface, demonstrate just how vital the work of the Waterways Chaplaincy is and how welcome the support has been:

Boater A lived on a small glass fibre cruiser. It turned out he had no income because of issues with his benefits and his work had dried up. He had used the last of his money on food and that had now run out as well. This left him with no food, diesel, or gas. The chaplaincy was able to get food from the food bank while the Hardship Fund paid for a small amount of diesel and a refill of his gas bottle. Without the chaplaincy’s intervention the boater would have been very cold and hungry without any way to resolve either. 

Boaters B&C had lost their income due to lockdown and had their application for business support turned down and were still waiting for their Universal Credit application to be considered by the DWP.  Their boat was incredibly cold and they had no money to buy coal for the stove. The chaplaincy was able to supply some bags of coal to keep them going and keep the boat warm. They were also given advice on how to get food from the local foodbank nearby. As a slight aside the chaplain giving support asked his friends if they had any gardening work, as this was the boaters’ profession, and was able to get them some short-term work!

The Reverend Mark Chester, National Senior Waterways Chaplain, comments: “Thank you to the many who have given generously to Waterways Chaplaincy Hardship Fund. Not only does it make a real difference in the lives of the people we walk alongside in difficult times but it also encourages our volunteer chaplains to know the support of the wider waterways community. Do feel free to encourage us more in this way.”


Celebrating boating

There are many things we’ve all missed over the last year. The freedom to just pop and see family and friends, getting a hair cut, enjoying a nice meal out and… yes, boating!

Boating and cycling on the Coventry CanalWhile the story of the pandemic still has quite a few pages to write, we’re just days away from life on the cut taking a sizeable step back towards normality. For some, the next few weeks will be about doing all those things that you’d usually do during the first couple of months of the year. For others it’ll be about getting underway for some much-needed cruising time.

Whatever you’ll be doing I’d really like it if you took a couple of minutes to take some pictures, or write a few words, to convey how happy you are to back on your boat and send them in. Also, if you’d like to, maybe you could add in your top tip for those who might be trying boating for the first time this year instead of heading abroad.

Over the next couple of editions I’ll start to compile and share all of your pictures and thoughts to celebrate just how special boaters, and boating, is. Thank you!


Bits and bobs

  • Finally, a cautionary tale for those of you yet to return to your boat: ‘I finally got to my boat after a year away and found that wasps have made their home in part of my ventilation system. Managed to get them out of my flue but a bit more drastic action now required for the vents. A warning for others who may have allergies or worse to wasp stings; or like me has a daft dog that chases them and tries to eat them!’

Last date edited: 9 April 2021

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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 as important safety announcements and upcoming events.

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