Boaters' Update 25 Feb 2022

Welcome to the latest edition. In it you'll find a rough guide to planning your next cruise, ten reasons to visit Crick Boat Show, a glimpse of the work we've been doing for you, guidance on renting a boat to live on and a request for your views.

Boats moored on towpath Boats in Leicester

Welcome to the latest edition. So, for the first time since storms started to be named (seven years ago), we’ve had three in a week. One of these has been declared the strongest in three decades – Eunice.

The severe storms brought down over 300 trees, blocking navigation, the length of the country from the Calder & Hebble Navigation down to the Kennet & Avon Canal. We’ve now cleared about 260 of them and hope to get to the rest over the next couple of days. If you’re out on the water this weekend and come to fallen tree please don’t assume that we know about it. Call 0800 47 999 47 out of hours or 0303 040 4040 to report it and we’ll deal with it as soon as we can.

Amongst the damage to structures were bridge barriers on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, the roof torn off a lock hut on the River Severn and structural damage to the impounding station which houses the heavy-duty pumps which provide the water supply for the London (West India) Docks. I hope you and your boat came through the storms unscathed.  Trust colleagues around the country have been beavering away to get the network back to normal, getting to grips with the many fallen trees, but, as ever, please check out the stoppages section below to see what might affect any cruises you’ve got planned for the weekend.

With winter reluctant to let us move peacefully into spring, the first two articles cast our collective minds towards finer weather, when we’re more able to get out for a pleasantly serene cruise or otherwise enjoy the pleasures of the cut. It starts with a rough guide to the tools available for you to plan a cruise and follows with ten reasons why that cruise might be in the direction of Crick Boat Show.

After that, as the debate around cost-of-living heats up, you can read on to learn more about the rules, and get advice, on renting a boat to live on. Finally, and especially as we’re heading into a spring and summer that isn’t predicted to be disrupted by COVID, there are some questions for you about what you’d find most useful in Boaters’ Update as you prepare for time afloat.

As always, we start with a round-up of news and finish with the bits and bobs section which has news of an information event being held about towpath improvements in Leighton Buzzard and a request for your opinion on displaying boat licences.

Happy boating,

Damian

PS While the last few weeks may have made us all think otherwise, spring is actually just round the corner. This means that your local water fowl will start getting frisky and, in turn, start nesting. If this happens to be on your boat then you could well get stuck with a duck as it’s illegal to move boats which host occupied nests. Read more here on how to stop your cruising plans being thwarted.

In this edition:

News round-up

Recently you may have seen that:

  • 11 Feb – During National Apprenticeship Week, some of our 35 apprentices met up with chief executive Richard Parry to show off how they’re building for the future (this year’s theme!).
  • 14 Feb – We published our programme of Disabled Boater Forums for 2022 and, as mentioned in the last edition, to improve accessibility we’ve arranged a British Sign Language interpreter to be present .
  • 18 Feb – We announced plans to create the world’s longest orchard which will provide free fruit for boaters, local people and wildlife.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Planning your cruise

For the first time since 2019 you should be able to plan your spring and summer of cruising without the worry of impending lockdowns. At least that’s the prediction from many commentators and experts.

Anderton Boat LiftWith over 2,000 miles of canals and rivers to explore though, you might be wondering where to start! These prompts might help narrow down your choices:

  • Hustle bustle – as a boater there’s a reasonable chance you’ve moored in one, or more, of our major towns and cities . It’s actually a long list – London, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Gloucester, Reading and Sheffield to name a few. In every one you’ll find short term visitor mooring spots close to main attractions. In London some mooring spots are bookable ahead of time via our licensing portal. While most urban areas, with lots to see and do, are usually popular, Birmingham is likely to be considerably busier this year due to the Commonwealth Games and we’ll be planning events to coincide with the Games as well as offering lots of volunteering opportunities – regularly check our website for updates.
  • Peace and quiet – not much has to be said about finding a calmly soothing location on the cut. No matter where you’re moored, even in the capital, you’re never more than a day’s cruise from finding a spot where your only neighbours are likely to have fins, feathers or four legs.
  • Need to start and finish in the same location? A cruising ring might be in order! DJoin one of the 12 rings listed on our website – they go from a weekender 21-mile jaunt around Worcestershire to the 245-mile Thames Ring that’ll take the seriously committed a good five weeks to complete.

Boating on the Coventry CanalAs you’ll know, the waterways can sometimes offer alternative routes to reach the same destination. When this happens you’ll probably use a variety of tools to help you decide which one to take:

  • Stoppage notifications – whenever we have to carry out work on or by a waterway we’ll post a stoppage notification to our website. If you’ve signed up to receive email notifications about that particular waterway we’ll send you the email at the same time. We’ll post the notification as soon as we’re able – for some of our big pieces of planned work this might be months in advance, for others, such as when trees are blown in to a canal, the notification will be reactive. For this reason it’s always good to check when you’re both planning your cruise and as you set off.
  • Web-based gadgetry – if you’re cruising solely on our navigations then our interactive map is great a place to find out about the services alongside such as waste facilities, water and mooring points, and their stay times, as well as displaying towpath routes and stoppages. Other online platforms, such as CanalPlanAC, are also used by boaters. WaterNav, from River Canal Rescue, takes it a step further by being available as a smartphone app, as well as PC based, which, when downloaded, requires no internet connection to use. Others are available, just enter ‘canal journey planner’ into your search engine.
  • Boat travelling through ManchesterNo batteries required – sometimes, though, you might opt for the tried and tested printed cruising guide. There are a range of providers of maps and books for every part of our network so, again, it’s worth looking online for exactly what you want. We also offer boaters’ guides for download on our website. They contain a graphical representation along with cruising and boater facility information. Other important details such as dimensions and bridge/lock-specific instructions are also included. Once you’ve selected the ones you want, we’ll email you a link and you’ll be all set to download them when it suits you.

Do you have any other tips for planning a cruise? If so, send them in! Thanks.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Finish line in sight for winter stoppage programme

It’s been a bumpy run of weeks with storms relentlessly rolling in and wreaking havoc. As mentioned in the introduction, this has meant having to deal with a multitude of extra repairs but, in broad terms, the massive multi-million-pound programme is nearing completion with almost all plans set to be completed.

Over the winter 48 waterways have benefited from nearly 170 large-scale works, to repair masonry and brickwork, fix leaks, update and install hydraulics and electrics at mechanised structures, as well as replacing seals, stop plank grooves, lock ladders and lock gates. Our specialist workshops have handcrafted over 120 lock leaves for the works, being installed at 67 locks across the network.

Watford Flight Grand Union CanalAs an example, new gates have been fitted on many of the locks on the Watford flight of the Grand Union Canal. Whilst undertaking these works many voids under the lock quadrants were discovered and all of these were filled with grouting – works are carried out with safety and efficiency in mind so, if we come across another issue while on site, we’ll always try to resolve it to save a return visit. 

The winter works programme is due to finish on 18 March and, as we get to within touching distance of the finish line, we’ll include a review of all the things we’ve done to make your spring and summer of boating as rewarding as it can be.

Of course, if you want to get up close to the work we’ve been doing you can always take advantage of the relatively calm weekend forecast and come to see us at one of our Open Days to find out more about the work we’ve been doing to protect and preserve navigations!

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Ten reasons to visit Crick Boat Show

With the whole country taking a bit of a battering over the course of this month you might have been inspired, as I have, to daydream about the other end of the spectrum – long, warm and lazy days on, or next to, a canal or river.

Crick Boat Show 2018One of the most popular dates on many boaters’ calendar is the Crick Boat Show. And, seeing as though it will have been a whole three years since the last, I thought I’d share why I’m wishing away the days, and weather, until the Jubilee Bank Holiday at the start of June.

Starting on Thursday 2 and running to Sunday 5 June, the biggest inland waterways festival is organised by Waterways World in partnership with us and Crick Marina.

Given the big number of exhibitors you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just a massive chandlery but it’s not – there’s a huge range of things to do and see. The list below shows just ten of the many reasons we hope to see you there:

  • Let someone else take the tiller and take a free boat trip along the Grand Union Canal aboard boats run by volunteers from the London Narrowboat Project. The half-hour trips run every ten minutes from 10.10am each day of the show.
  • Climb aboard one of the display boats. If you’re looking to buy a new narrowboat or widebeam to cruise or live aboard you’ll be spoilt for choice. With Britain’s finest inland boat builders all represented it gives you the chance to inspect more boats in one place than anywhere else.
  • Being so popular, the show does get busy so if you want to guarantee quality time with a particular exhibitor (to get advice etc.) along with access to the VIP marquee, a gift bag and free hot drink then the Trade & Preview Day offers the perfect solution!
  • Listen to live music - live bands will be performing throughout the Show in the Wheatsheaf Bar Marquee. As mentioned in the last two editions, there’s a competition running to guess the names of the star performers, so you’ll have to read future editions of Boaters’ Update to find out who’ll be on stage!
  • Try artisan food – the Food & Craft marquee offers a wide selection of independent food specialists, offering tasty samples, great gift ideas (including a canal-based board game!) and live demonstrations of culinary delights.   
  • Enjoy some waterway-themed children’s activities - children aged 16 and under can visit the show for free (Friday to Sunday) where they’ll find a variety of special activities.
  • Vote for your favourite boat - the Favourite Boat of Show competition is a long-standing Crick tradition. You get to vote for your favourite and the result is announced mid-afternoon on 5 June. Everyone who votes is entered into a prize draw!
  • Step back in time on a historic boat – as well as dozens of new boats to look around a number of historic boats will also be on show. You’ll be able to find out how working boat families lived in such a tiny cabin and the journeys they made to make their living.
  • Find out about volunteering on the canals – some of our volunteers will be in the Canal & River Trust marquee throughout the Show to talk about their experiences of all sorts of waterway volunteering.
  • Reconnect with your boating buddies – as the biggest inland boating show of the year (around 26,000 visit each year) it’s to be expected that the vibrant and warm nature of the boating community shines through. With food, drink and entertainment on hand, there’s no better place to (re)connect with like-minded souls.

Advance ticket sales, giving a 15% discount over on the gate prices, are on sale now!

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Renting a boat to live on

Many media outlets have branded the current financial climate as a ‘cost of living crisis’. Household finances are being squeezed as the cost of everything from fuel to furniture increases.

Moored boats on London's waterwaysWith budgets being watched by an ever-eager eye, some will undoubtedly look to cut costs by downsizing. This could mean that more people look to the waterways to set up a new life.

Of course, a proportion of the record numbers who took a holiday afloat last year might also want to permanently be on the cut for reasons more associated with the lifestyle. All-in-all, we might see more people wanting to live afloat this year and that could mean that some will want to ‘try before they buy’ and rent for a period first.

London eco-mooring zone trialIf this sounds like you and you go to inspect a possible boat, make sure it’s displaying a valid navigation authority licence – for boats on our waterways, a square licence should be in the window facing outwards. This will have the letters ‘SL’ clearly marked in the centre if the boat is licensed for static letting and the letters ‘SDHH’ if it is licensed for holiday hire. Please don't rent a boat without the correct type of licence – it will not have been checked that it meets the standards for letting and could be potentially unsafe.

Just under five years ago we introduced a new static letting licence for static boats that covers all types of boat rental, including long-term renting, Airbnb-style short breaks, and overnight stays. The boat needs to have a permanent mooring and should, if you’re an owner considering this, you should talk to your local planning authority to see if planning permission is needed. For clarity, this means that continuously cruising boats cannot be rented out.

Grand Union Canal in London, courtesy of Go JauntlyThe static letting licence has more rigorous requirements to make sure that both the boat is safe and that potential renters are fully briefed before spending a night on board. Boat owners will need to have: proof of adequate insurance; a non-private Boat Safety Scheme certificate conforming to hire boat safety standards; a detailed handover document including emergency procedures and contact numbers; a landlord Gas Safety Certificate; and written permission from their mooring provider. You can apply for the licence via our licensing portal.

If you want to read more on the subject then there’s a great rundown of the ins and outs, from a boater’s perspective, in this article.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

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 what may affect you if you’re planning to get out on your boat this weekend. Please note that we are well into our winter works programme where you’ll see us doing some of the bigger jobs to protect and preserve the network:

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. You can set up your smartphone to automatically alert you if a notice is issued for a canal or river that you’re interested in. 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 get in touch.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Your opinion please!

If you’ve been boating for a while you’ll know that familiar faces on the cut come and go. As some hang up their windlass, new boaters are joining this wonderful community all the time.

Two people riding a boat along a canalThis means, at least I hope(!), that Boaters’ Update is being read by those new to the water as well as the old hands among you. With this in mind, and considering that new boating tech is forever coming to market, I’d like you (old hands and new) to tell me what would be useful to read here in the coming months. Please have a read of the questions and then click on the link below to give me your thoughts.

  • More video (if so what should the videos be of)?
  • A podcast version?
  • Longer or shorter articles?
  • Regional versions?
  • What should the focus of the content be - purely things that affect your  boating (stoppages etc.) or broader – should there, for example, be more ‘opinion’ pieces from boaters, waterside businesses, volunteers etc?
  • More ‘behind-the-scenes’ coverage?
  • Frequency - is fortnightly about right?

The above isn’t exhaustive and, at this stage, nothing is ruled out so please send in your ideas and opinions however wild they might seem! Please also ask your boating friends. Your help and input is really appreciated.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Bits & bobs

  • A new £500,000 project, with the support of Sustrans, is being planned to improve a further 2.9km of towpath in Leighton Buzzard. Boaters will benefit from having a high-quality towpath to moor against and local residents and visitors, be they wheel or foot bound, will have better access to the health and wellbeing benefits of being by water. Ahead of the improvements, we are holding a community information eventat the Linslade Memorial Pavilion on Saturday 23 April from 1.30pm to 6.30pm. Members of the project team will be on hand to answer your questions.
  • What do you think about non-display of boat licences? If you’re quick and have got five minutes, a group of final year business management students from the University of York would like your views on the reasons behind boater’s non-display of licenses and what might incentivise more people to display their licence. Please complete their short survey by Tuesday 1 March Display of Boat Licence Discs Survey (snapsurveys.com).

……………………………………………………...........................................................................

Stay safe, happy boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 4 March 2022

About this blog

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.

Sign up to receive the Boaters' update by email

See more blogs from this author