The latest edition of Boaters' Update answers your questions about the changes we announced to licence proposals earlier in the week. You'll also be able to read the first in a series of in-depth maintenance articles along with the latest news, events and this weekend's stoppages.
Welcome to the latest edition. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced two weeks that have been in such stark contrast to one another, with winter turning into spring! Thankfully the weather cleared enough for me to get out and make the video, about boat licence changes, below.
Thanks to those who’ve been in touch since we announced the changes earlier this week – I start this edition with an article summarising the changes and answering the most commonly asked questions.
It’s not all about boat licensing though; you’ll also find the first in a series of in-depth boat maintenance articles along with a round-up of the latest waterway news, stoppages and events.
In this edition:
Over the last couple of weeks you may have heard, or seen, that:
Below I’ve picked out some highlights to see and do over the next fortnight. Of course, there are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities around the network: visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you. Or you may just want to escape out on your boat, in which case these cruising ring guides might be handy!
As you may have seen earlier this week, we’re changing some elements of the boat licensing system. The system has remained largely unchanged for more than two decades and there have been many changes to the waterways, and to boating, in that time. We wanted to make sure that the system was as fair as possible.
So, after nearly a year of consulting with boaters and boating organisations – huge thanks to the 11,000 or so who got in touch – we’ve set out our plans to introduce some changes, phased in over five years from April 2019, that we believe spreads the financial contribution made by boaters fairly across the boating community.
Since we announced the changes some of you have been in touch with questions. And, as promised in the video at the start of this article, you’ll find the most commonly asked ones below along with our answers.
Why are you charging wide beamed boats more when they can’t use most of the network?
We think it’s fair that if a boat takes up more space there’s some reflection of this in the licence fee. This change will be phased in gradually up to 2023 so boaters will have a chance to adjust and prepare. Ultimately, it’s down to individual choice – boaters who want to explore the entire network will choose boats that are narrow (and short!) enough to cruise every waterway.
Some also asked why we weren’t pricing licences by total boat footprint, as some other navigation authorities do. If we were looking at space alone then width and length would be the natural measure: however adding two width bands will be easier to understand and administrate than moving to a precise area-based charge.
Why are you reducing the prompt payment discount?
At the moment, only boaters who are fortunate enough to be able to pay the entire licence fee up front can benefit from the prompt payment discount. The current level of the discount – 10% – is not in line with the benefit the Trust receives by boaters paying up front. We are restructuring the discount so that boaters who manage their payments online, including paying by monthly direct debit, will be able to receive a discount too. We think that this is the fairest way of managing things for the benefit of more boaters.
Why aren’t you charging extra for those without a home mooring as they use more of the system and facilities than those with a home mooring?
A majority of those who gave us their views indicated they would support a change to take mooring status into account as part of the licensing system. However, there were heavily polarised views with a significant number arguing strongly against this, stating that any such distinction would be highly divisive. This issue was also linked by respondents to the growing congestion on our busiest waterways in London and around Bath where the growing numbers of liveaboard boaters without a home mooring reflects the availability and economics of housing in such costly cities.
Notwithstanding the majority in favour of a change, we don’t propose to introduce a different licence fee for boats without a home mooring. Our intention is to take forward a further stage of work to look at options that would address the growing use of canals in London and other areas by boats without a home mooring and how to develop a fair means of reflecting the significant benefit gained by such use.
A couple of editions ago I asked what boat maintenance topics you’d like to read about. Thanks to everyone who got in touch: most of you have requested a piece on prop-shaft coupling maintenance. I’d love to say that I just rattled this off with my high-level mechanical skills but I’d be lying! Thanks have to go to the experts at River Canal Rescue:
“Prop-shaft couplings require regular maintenance to ensure they stay secure. When the bolts on the coupling become loose or disconnect all together, this can cause extensive damage. The worst-case scenario is the engine being thrown off its mountings potentially damaging the stern gland, prop-shaft, coupling, gearbox and engine mounts, plus any external components that may become trapped when the engine shifts. The cost to rectify can go into the thousands.
“Unfortunately, this kind of occurrence is still relatively common due to boaters overlooking maintenance in this area. Everyone knows filters and fluids need maintaining, however ensuring bolts are tight tends to be less recognised. The worst part is, this is one of the simpler maintenance tasks and easier to identify than a loose engine mount or slack fan belt.
So, what should be done?
“Simply undertake a weekly visual check. When you get into the engine room to check oil levels etc., just take a peek at the prop-shaft components and ask yourself the following questions:
“If you answer yes to any of these, it’s a sign your prop-shaft coupling may be coming loose or is already loose and causing damage. By spotting a potential problem now, you’ll avoid further expensive damage later.
How to fix it
“You will need access to a set off spanners (or a spanner wielding friend).
Ensure the engine is turned off and that the engine room is safe to enter before commencing any work.
“If this becomes a regular occurrence it’s time to question ‘why’? Ask an engineer in to check the engine over as the engine maybe out of alignment, have damaged engine mounts or a faulty coupling. Awareness is the key to maintenance in this case.”
If that’s stirred the mechanic in you then look out for the next topic, keel tank maintenance, in the 6 April edition.
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:
We’ve almost finished our £38million winter restoration programme – where we get out our big toys and restore things while you’re less likely to be out on the cut. Of course, there are other times when we need to fix things that unexpectedly break. So below you’ll find a list, by region, of anything that’s happening that may affect you if you’re planning on an early spring winter cruise.
Just click on the one where you’ll be and a webpage will open listing any stoppages for that region (if your region isn’t listed then, yay, there aren’t any navigation closures there!). If you’re not quite sure which region your planned cruise falls in to please take a look at this map.
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.