Boaters' Update 9 August 2019

Welcome to the latest edition which includes an update on the situation at Toddbrook Reservoir, more of your feedback on cruising past moored boats and news of the important consultation on the use of red diesel by private boaters along with the stoppages for the forthcoming weekend.

Marple welcome station view of the Peak Forest Canal

Welcome to the latest edition. As most will have seen, damage to Toddbrook Reservoir spillway wall has been dominating the news over the last week. Below you can read about what happened along with an update of the current situation and what it means for boaters.

Elsewhere we continue the discussion on cruising speed, especially when passing moored boats, and you’ll also be able to read more about the Government’s consultation on proposed changes to the rules for red diesel used in private pleasure craft.

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

Damian

In this edition:

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Toddbrook Reservoir

What happened?

After a period of very heavy rainfall on Wednesday 31 July - which caused widespread problems across the North West - the spillway at Toddbrook reservoir was damaged and was at risk of collapse. As a result around 1,500 residents were evacuated from the town of Whaley Bridge. Following a week of round-the-clock work by the Trust, the emergency services and many others, the police announced permission for residents to return home on Wednesday 7 August.

Why did it happen?

It’s still too early to say. The intense rainfall experienced in the area on the afternoon of Wednesday 31 July is thought to be a significant contributory factor. Our engineers were on site around the clock during the emergency phase and, as we move into the investigation, will use every means possible to find out what caused the damage.

What actions have we taken?

Toddbrook Reservoir: Helicopter over the slipwayThe scale and complexity of the issue required a multi-agency response. The Environment Agency, Derbyshire Police, Derbyshire County Council, Mountain Rescue, the RAF, the Fire & Rescue Service and many volunteers, among others, worked with us to mitigate the risk to public safety.

High capacity pumps were removing 7,000 litres a minute while the RAF used a chinook helicopter to place hundreds of tonnes of stone, sand and aggregate to shore up the spillway wall. The aim was to lower the water level of the reservoir as quickly, and safely, as possible. By the morning of 7 August, the level had dropped by over ten metres and the reservoir was below 20% of its holding capacity. As of this morning, 9 August, the reservoir is near empty and being kept at below 10% of its usual capacity.

What effect has this had on boaters?

Working in tandem with the emergency services we were able to help boaters navigate safely away from the area deemed to be at risk before nightfall on 1 August, the first day of the emergency.

Initially we closed the Marple flight on the Peak Forest Canal and the Bosley flight on the Macclesfield Canal to prevent boaters inadvertently navigating towards the area at risk. Both have since reopened, and staff and volunteers were on both lock flights to help those navigating away from the area.

A thank you goes out to the staff and volunteers who, during the emergency phase of the operation, manned the phones for extended, out-of-hours periods, were on the towpath providing advice and support to boaters, including hand delivering updates and FAQs to those without the internet. They also serviced the Marple flight facilities in preparation for increased usage.

An equally big thank you goes out to the boaters affected who adhered to the advice from the Trust and the police.

When will it be fixed?

While we are still investigating the cause of the damage it’s too early to say when the reservoir will be fully operational.

I was thinking of boating on the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals. Can I still do that?

Yes. Both canals are open.

Are there any knock-on effects for the canals in the region?

Apart from Toddbrook there are three other reservoirs that supply water to the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals. After recent heavy rainfall their current holdings are all well above the long-term average. With this in mind, we believe there is sufficient water available to support navigation during this busier summer boating period.

This operation is still in its early stages and, with this in mind, more information will continue to be added to our website as it becomes available so do please check back regularly.

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More of your views on cruising speed

Image of narrowboat cruising past other boats on the canalThe developments at Toddbrook reservoir have, rightly so, been front page headlines. While there’s still a very long way to go before things are back to normal in the area, you’ve been getting in touch, thanks, with what you consider to be a normal cruising speed.

To recap, in the last edition I summarised the broad range of feedback you gave on cruising speed and, in particular, what speed should you be going when cruising past moored boats.

To draw all this feedback together, I posed four questions and you subsequently sent in 14 pages of answers! To refresh your memory, the questions were:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)?
  3. Should 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?
  4. 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)?

As you can imagine, not everyone agrees on the answers:

  1. Some felt that an alternative to the word ‘tickover’ wasn’t needed. Those that said this generally felt that the concept of tickover was the important bit. A few people said that something along the lines of ‘slowest safe speed’ was more appropriate.
  2. The answers to this question are a bit easier to group. In general, the following four ‘rules’ were mentioned frequently:
    1. Reduce your engine to tickover around two boat lengths before you reach moored boats. Don’t start slowing to your slowest safe speed as you reach them.
    2. Never create a breaking wash. On narrow and shallow canals it takes a lot less speed to create one so keep checking – or, to help remember, ‘Watch Your Wash’.
    3. While checking your wash always keep an eye out for boats behind you – they may signal that they want to overtake. In which case, move over to the side of the channel (see point four below).
    4. When mooring always use spring lines – ropes set diagonally from the bow and stern – as well as your usual bow and aft lines.
  3. Although not unanimous, the clear majority don’t believe that speedometers would help. A common reason for giving this answer was that the same speed on one canal or river could well be inappropriate on another due to the depth and width of the navigation.
  4. Most people said that horns should be used to signal your intention to overtake the boat in front. A few people quoted COLREGs Rule 34 which says that if you intend to overtake the vessel in front you give two prolonged blasts on your horn followed by, depending on if you’re passing the boat in front on its starboard side, one short blast, or port, two short blasts.

So, there you have it. Around 27 pages of your views have been condensed down in to 300 words! Some of you won’t agree with all the points – your feedback shows that – but I think it reflects much of the feedback I’ve had.

Please do let me know if you’ve anything further to add to the four points otherwise I’ll condense further, for the next edition. Also, if there’s a willing volunteer out there, I think it’d be great to do a short, informal, video that demonstrates the points above – please drop me a line if you’re able to help!

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Red diesel consultation

Before explaining how we’re responding, and why we think you should too, it might be best to quickly summarise what the consultation is about and why it’s important for boaters.

Red diesel is different from the diesel you use to power your car in two ways. Firstly, it is actually dyed red. Secondly, and more significantly, it’s taxed at a lower rate than ‘white’ diesel – the stuff you put in your car.

HMRC had enabled the use of red diesel for heating and in a range of industries from agriculture and construction (but not if the vehicle is driven on public roads) through to, importantly for boaters, the marine industry.

But, as far back as 2011 the European Commission (EC) said that it would challenge the use of red diesel in the marine industry because some of the diesel is used for the propulsion of private pleasure craft. The Government challenged this stance as it felt it had devised a pragmatic scheme of allowing private pleasure craft to continue to use red diesel for propulsion but required their fuel supplier to collect from the craft operator the difference in duty between the red and white diesel rates and pay the additional duty to HM Revenue and Customs.

The EC’s challenge, which ended up in the Court of Justice of the European Union in October 2018, was ultimately successful on the basis that the UK’s position makes it impossible for regulators to know if red diesel is being used legally or not (this is especially a problem for craft moving to / from other EU countries where the rules are different). This consultation outlines how the Government intends to implement the judgment by requiring private pleasure craft to use white diesel for propulsion and seeks evidence regarding the impact this will have on users of diesel propelled craft operating in UK inland waterways (and along the coast).

Leicester Line, Grand Union Canal May 2019From discussions with the Department for Transport it is important to note that this is only an early stage in the process – they have no choice at present on whether to implement or not, but the means of implementation is not yet fixed – which is why they want information on the impacts of the proposals and would also welcome thoughts on how these impacts could be reduced. This is why we encourage you to respond to the consultation.

From the Trust’s perspective, while it is for Government to set tax and duty rates, we would want to see changes implemented in a way which does not disadvantage boaters when compared to other similar groups (why should you have to pay more than a householder for using fuel oil for domestic power and heating?). We would also want to see measures implemented in a way that is practical and affordable.

To help with our response, we’ve come up with some supplementary questions we’d like to hear from you on, if you could take the time to answer our survey on this link.

We’ll use what you tell us in our own response but, to give the Government the best possible evidence base, we strongly encourage boaters to write in to DfT and set out what impact this will have.

The full consultation document, along with how to respond, is online. Responses need to be sent in before 9 September.

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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.

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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Last date edited: 9 August 2019

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