Boaters' Update 14 Aug 2020

This latest edition covers important carbon monoxide safety reminders, what your cruising speed should be, news of a consultation about a stretch of the Grand Union and waterway anniversaries. The regular news roundup and this weekend's stoppages can also be found.

Regent's Canal 200

Welcome to the latest edition. Hopefully you’ve been able to get out on, or by, the water over this most recent spell of glorious weather? While cooler, the weekend is forecast to be pretty good for boating – not so hot that you melt at the tiller but still warm enough, if damp at times, to enjoy plenty of time on our wonderful waterways.

Before you head off for your boat or, if you’re already on it, your cruise, please take a few moments to read this edition. It starts with an important reminder about the dangers of carbon monoxide on boats and is followed by an eclectic mix of topics; a consultation about improvements to the Grand Union in London, an article discussing what the correct cruising speed is, anniversaries galore and, as you’d expect, the latest news and stoppages affecting cruising this weekend.

And finally, you may have seen that Preston has now entered a local lockdown period – you’ll find out how this affects boating, along with other parts of the country also under a local lockdown, on our website.

If there’s something you’d like to see featured in a future edition, please get in touch.

Happy boating,


In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 31 July – We welcomed the Government’s announcement and launch of ‘Gear Change, the cycling and walking plan for England’, which sets out its plans to promote walking and cycling and the creation of Active Travel England.
  • 11 Aug – After welcoming the Government announcement above, we approached it with 30 towpath improvement schemes for inner city and urban areas, as the Government signalled its plan for a walking and cycling 'revolution'.
  • 27 July – A historic Grade II* Listed canal warehouse at the head of the Peak Forest Canal in Whaley Bridge has been given a new lease of life with the help of a dedicated band of volunteers.


Be carbon monoxide smart

Did you know that if your boat has an accommodation space then you need a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm to comply with the Boat Safety Scheme? Without a valid Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) certificate you cannot licence your boat.

Over 90% of boats have alarms and are compliant with BSS requirements and the majority of boaters are aware of the CO risks. But, in the experience of the experts at the BSS, some boaters behaviours and understanding of the critical detail of CO is still something that leaves too many boat owners and their crews at risk from the ‘silent killer’.

So, to help boaters better understand the nature of the CO risk and the simple steps that can help them stay safe, the BSS has created some simple tips and practical advice to follow:

Having watched the videos above you might want to ask the following questions:

  • Is my boat like one of the 200 boats the BSS found with an alarm that doesn’t work?
  • Does my boat have similar problems to the 95 that were found, since April, that had cracks or gaps that could be leaking CO into the cabin space?
  • Is my boat like one of the 66 boats found in the past few weeks with leaking flues or exhausts?
  • Does my boat have sufficient ventilation (1 in 20 don’t)?

A good way to find out your CO risk level is by taking a quiz, designed by the BSS, that’ll quickly identify if you need to take action to keep safe from CO.

Don’t think it’s just solid fuel burners causing the problems though. Anecdotal reports of some using a gas oven as a space heater should ring alarm bells but it goes to show that even if the structure and systems of a boat are sound, user fallibility can be equally dangerous.

The same can be said about BBQs. Charcoal produces huge amounts of CO that can kill in minutes so never take any lit BBQ, even one that is cooling down, into a covered space on the boat, it could be absolutely deadly.

One of the main causes of deaths from CO on boats is when a generator or engine is being run to provide heat or power and thought isn’t given to where the fumes are being blown – a potentially fatal mistake if they’re blowing back in to the boat.

Spending just a few minutes reminding yourself of the hazards, and solutions, could make all the difference. There’s a whole section devoted to the subject on the BSS website.


Cruising speed

Recently I was reminded of an article featured a good few years ago about cruising past moored boats. I was prompted to remember it as over the last few weeks we’ve had quite a few reports of boats ‘speeding’ around the network.

Moored boatsThe overwhelming majority of boaters go out of their way to be considerate to others on the water but, even if most don’t need a reminder, our advice is to avoid making a breaking wash, cruise past moored boats at a safe speed that causes them to move least and, coupled with the last one, use spring lines when mooring.

When the first article was published back in 2016, asking the question ‘how many boat lengths do I have to allow to enable me to slow down so that I pass a moored boats safely?’, I recounted some of the feedback you’d sent in. I thought you might be interested to read your fellow boaters’ thoughts:

“I’m moved to comment on the quoted attitudes of some boaters regarding the speed that it is acceptable to pass moored boats. It is a reflection of society in general that people adopt a selfish attitude when considering their impact (sometimes literal) on others. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect boaters to pass moored boats at a speed that disturbs stability as little as possible, but apparently it is. A significant number don’t take any notice of speed limits at all, whether passing moored boats or not, and get quite abusive when requested to slow down. As to the onus being on the moored boat crew to tie up properly, this is a popular, yet totally fatuous, opinion. If ropes were steel hawsers they may stop movement of a moored boat, but ropes are elastic and even when fairly taut allow the boat to move significantly when passed at speed. The movement is not just a matter of comfort of those on board, it can result in pulled pins or chafed and snapped mooring ropes. More importantly, on a canalised river such as the Kennet & Avon the water level may vary massively depending on weather conditions, so mooring firmly can be suicidal. Interestingly, I have noticed that contrary to popular opinion hire boaters are not the worst offenders, if anything they are mostly the best-behaved ones.”

Moored boats Leicester Line Grand Union“Can I please take issue with the passing mooring boats comments. Firstly, the answer is, disturbance caused both when passing and approaching moored craft varies every time. It depends upon the width and depth of the canal, on how far away you are able to move past the moored boat and it depends upon how your particular hull displaces water. And a combination of all these come into play and will differ except for the hull of course. So generally, the best option is to observe boats as you approach and move past, and ask yourself if that would be acceptable if it was yours. If not, slower next time. Secondly, although the point about it being the moorers responsibility to be secured properly is well made, it rather misses the point that this is also an issue for boats on rings. Speeding boats cause considerable disturbance which when the line goes taught, arrests the boat, which then bangs back against the mooring afterward. And no, not everyone can, or should have their mooring lines as tight as guitar strings in this situation.”

“Can I turn the question the other way around, “Why wouldn’t you slow right down for boats that are moored?” How do you know that the boat you are passing is securely moored? Maybe they are ‘novices’, maybe the boat is moored with mooring pins in soft, wet ground and the pins will pull out easily. Why are you in such a hurry that you won’t slow down, to tickover, a good boat length before a moored boat or boats?”

As you can read, there’s plenty of passion, advice and opinion in the three responses I’ve highlighted. It’s been a while since we’ve talked about this subject in any depth in Boaters’ Update and some readers will be new to boating so I’d like to continue the discussion – please send in your thoughts, advice (or general rant) and I’ll provide a synopsis in the next edition.


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:

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.


Celebrating anniversaries as waterways continue to evolve

This month sees the Regent’s Canal celebrate its 200th birthday. In a more ordinary year there’d be a range of events to enjoy while recollecting bygone days cruising its route through central London. Despite the lack of headline grabbing events, the Daily Telegraph online did report on how it’s transformed from a once dirty, stagnant corridor to a prime piece of London's real estate.

Why not pass round the virtual vol au vents as we take a quick jaunt through its history? Receiving its Act of Parliament in 1812, Regent's Canal Company was formed to cut a new canal from the Grand Junction Canal's Paddington Arm to Limehouse, where a dock was planned at the junction with the Thames. The architect John Nash played a part in its construction, using his idea of 'barges moving through an urban landscape'.

Completed in 1820, it was built too close to the start of the railway age to be financially successful and at one stage the Regent’s only narrowly escaped being turned into a railway. But the canal went on to become a vital part in southern England's transport system.

Together with the Grand Junction Canal and the associated routes to the Midlands and north, the Regent’s Canal carried huge quantities of timber, coal, building materials and foodstuffs into and out of London. In fact long-distance traffic continued to use the canal into the 1960s.

However, by the time the canal was nationalised in 1948, commercial traffic had started to dwindle.

Like all canals, the Regent’s lost commercial traffic to the railways and by the 1960s lorries were taking much of the rest. The Regent’s Canal Dock, at the junction with the Thames, closed to shipping in 1969 and Cumberland Basin, Regent's Canalthis was the final nail in the coffin for this once bustling waterway. Unused and unloved, its future looked bleak.

However, showing the versatility that’s seen the Regent’s thrive, in 1979 the British Waterways Board allowed underground electricity cables to be laid in a trough below the towpath between St John’s Wood and City Road. Pumped canal water is used to cool these high voltage cables, which now form part of the National Grid.

If you’ve not cruised it yet maybe one for the bucket list?

By comparison, at its Festival of Water 2021, in Worcester next year, the sprightly Inland Waterway Association’s (IWA) will be celebrating its 75th birthday. Let’s hope we can join them to blow out all those candles!

While almost all canals are in triple digits, their ability to evolve has boosted their longevity. Readers of The Times would have seen its’ news report and leading article on our plans to improve over 100 miles of towpath in inner city and urban areas as part of the Government’s £2 billion being spent over the next five years to encourage more cycling and walking.

Richard Parry, our chief executive, told The Times that: “Improvements in towpaths to make them more accessible and attractive places to use will add a lot of value in terms of everyday exercise, as well as travel opportunities for those communities where it will potentially have the Volunteers planting wildflowers at Regent's Canalgreatest benefit.”

The leading article, titled ‘Arteries of Beauty’, championed the work of those who spearheaded the canal renaissance after the Second World War – many of whom were founding members of the IWA and went on to encourage a new generation to ‘…continue the work pioneered by a previous generation.’.


Have your say on plans to improve a stretch of the Grand Union in London

We’re delighted to be working in partnership with the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) along with the London Borough of Brent to develop proposals for exciting improvements to the Grand Union Canal between Acton Lane and Steele Road.

Photo of Acton LaneThe project, led by OPDC, will work in close collaboration with local residents and will include outdoor ‘pop-up’ recreational, work and leisure facilities, as well as new public space to bring life to the canal and support for a wide range of business and community activities.

Ideas for future use include a workshop and facilities for boaters, a canoe club base, a community hub and outdoor café or market space.

OPDC has appointed specialist community and commercial space operator, 3Space, architects, We Made That, to work with local people to scope and design the project.

Photo of Steele RoadThe project is part of a £1.2m community investment, funded by the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund to bring forward a range of improvements to public spaces on the canal.

The Trust and OPDC are determined that boaters are able contribute to the consultation and we would love to hear from you if you would like to take part. Due to Covid-19, OPDC has paused face-to-face engagement events and will be consulting on this project remotely until it’s safe to do otherwise. More information about the remote engagement will be available soon and representatives from 3Space will be reaching out to groups and individuals in due course to begin consultation. In the meantime, if you would like to be involved, please contact OPDC by emailing


Get involved

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 place 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, and life better by water, I thought you’d like to know about other ways you can get involved:

  • Almost a year to the day ago, we told you about a government consultation on the implementation of new red diesel regulations. This follow-up article explained our position. A year on and we’re talking red diesel consultations again. At Budget 2020, the Government announced that it will remove the entitlement to use red diesel from April 2022, except in agriculture (as well as forestry, horticulture and pisciculture), rail and for non-commercial heating (including domestic heating). This new consultation seeks views on whether the Government has overlooked any exceptional reasons why other sectors should be allowed to continue to use red diesel beyond April 2022. Sections 5.30 to 5.45 of this document set out the context for private pleasure craft and lists the associated questions being asked. The direction given is that the best way to respond to this consultation is to download and complete the consultation response form and email it to:
  • In this latest spell of hot weather I expect, like me, running long distances has been far from your mind. Hats off then to David Smith, life member of the Chesterfield Canal Trust (CCT). In a couple of weeks’ time David will be running the full length of the Chesterfield Canal, and back, in 24 hours. The total distance covered will be a massive 92 miles (3 and a half marathons!) and supports the CCT’s 2027 Appeal Fund which supports the aim of completing the restoration of the canal by 2027 which will be the 250th Anniversary of its opening. Visit the website to find out more and support David.


Bits and bobs

  • We’ve published a new resource to help boaters plan their trips, including route planning, length of trip, and boat size amongst others.
  • One of the best things, among many, about boating is that it gives a unique vantage from which to serenely explore the country. However, in the age of coronavirus, we all need to be aware of who we’ve been in contact with in the case the worst happens and we develop symptoms. This is where the NHS Test and Trace service comes in:
    • It provides testing for anyone who has coronavirus symptoms, enabling them to find out if they have the virus;
    • gets in touch with anyone who has had a positive test result to help them share information about any ‘close contacts’ they have had (defined as any time within one metre, 15 minutes within two metres or any time in the same vehicle); and
    • alerts those contacts, where necessary, notifying them of the need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Additionally, as a boater you can help this process by noting down your cruising locations and who you come in to contact with. Any other details such as the name or, preferably, index number of boats you moored next to or shared a lock with might also prove to be useful.’

Last date edited: 14 August 2020

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The boaters' update

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