Boaters' Update 29 Nov 2019

The latest edition gives you advice on how to prepare your boat for the winter ahead, tunnel and water safety and news of the 34 boaters who want to represent you on our Council. Of course, there's the regular roundup of other boating news, events and stoppages.

Shropshire Union, winter 2017, courtesy of Imogen Nailor Shropshire Union, winter 2017, courtesy of Imogen Nailor

Welcome to the latest edition. Winter officially starts in a couple of days, on 1 December, but if you’ve been out on your boat recently you may feel like it has started already! With another three months or more of cold weather ahead, the first article gives some hints and tips on readying your boat for the cold.

Elsewhere, there’s an update on the work at Toddbrook Reservoir and a couple of safety related articles – one about tunnels and the other ahead of ‘Don’t Drink and Drown’ week.

The regular roundup of other news, stoppages, events and ways to get involved are also included, and if there’s an article you’d like to read in a future edition then please drop me a line.

Happy boating,

Damian

In this edition:

News round-up and upcoming events

Over the last few weeks you may have seen that:

  • 18 Nov – Thousands of fish were rehomed from the Lancaster Canal as we started work to repair Lune Embankment, investing nearly £1.5 million refurbishing the 200-year old stretch of canal.
  • 18 Nov – Standedge Tunnel & Visitor Centre announced that it’s hosting a Volunteer Open Day on December 6 to encourage more people to get involved in improving and showcasing the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in the UK.
  • 21 Nov – Mark Evans, current head of Waterside Moorings, has been appointed as new regional director for Wales & South West.

Below I’ve picked out some events that you might be interested in over the next month. There are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities if none of the below take your fancy. Just visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.

  • Until 17 Dec – The 2019 Montgomery Canal photo exhibition is on tour and brings together shots taken by members of the local community and beyond, and offers a wide selection of great photos – head along to Welshpool Library.
  • Until 24 Dec – You can choose to cruise with Santa Claus in any one of five locations on the Chesterfield Canal. Every child will receive a present from the big man in red and every adult can have a mince pie and a drink!
  • All Dec – Would you like to meet new people, enjoy the refreshing air on a winter towpath and make a difference to your local canal? Our volunteer Towpath Taskforce teams could be just the thing you're looking for.

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Winterise your boat

In the last edition we featured advice on how to cope with rising water levels. While a quick search online will turn up a few of the media outlets snowmongering, long established weather forecasters are predicting a wet, but sometimes colder than normal, winter.

While short-term accuracy has improved since Michael Fish’s 1987 ‘no hurricane’ gaff, long-term forecasts are less reliable so don’t rule out a white Christmas just yet but do count on the need for preparing for lengthy cold spells!

Different preparations apply depending on whether you live on your boat. If you do, here are some of the main things to think about:

  • If you live aboard and continuously cruise your first decision might be whether to continue journeying around the network or take up a winter mooring.
  • If you decide to continue cruising, planning becomes vital. As you’ll know, during winter, when it’s quieter out on the cut, we carry out an extensive programme of maintenance projects – you can use our interactive map to ensure you don’t get stuck. This is important because if you find yourself stuck because of a pre-planned stoppage you will still need to move to meet the cruising requirement.
  • You won’t be able to cruise, however, if you’re iced in. This comes with a whole new set of challenges. Make sure you have a stock of food, and prescription medicines, to last until you’re able to get more. Also, if it’s cold enough to freeze a canal then there’s every chance that water points, pump outs and elsans will also suffer. Always carry a spare cassette for your loo or, if you have a pump out, have an emergency cassette loo.
  • Whenever you see a fuel boatstock up! Better still, make sure you find out who they are, and either follow them on social media, or make sure you’re on their mailing list.
  • Whatever way you heat your boat you must keep it safe. Make sure you have smoke and carbon monoxide alarmsfitted and that you regularly test them.
  • Double glazing your windows can make a big difference. Some people use polycarbonate sheets with clips and/or magnetic tape. You can also use bubble wrap or cling film. The key thing is to make sure you don’t block up any ventilation grilles.

Snow viewed from the bow of a narrowboatIf you don’t live aboard your boat, and don’t plan on frequent visits, then ask someone else to, at least, visually check your mooring and boat on a regular basis. But, along with some of the above, you’ll also need to think about:

  • Moving any soft furnishings to a warm and dry environment – they are likely to get damp and mouldy if left aboard, unattended, all winter.
  • If you don’t intend to run your engine over winter then consider getting it serviced. If you have a sealed water system check the strength of the antifreeze, otherwise drain all water from the system, block the air inlet and exhaust outlet, close the seacock (if you have one) and mark up your engine controls so you don’t inadvertently operate the engine when you return in the spring.
  • Disconnect and run any water pumps dry, as well as water tanks, calorifiers and pipe work. It’s also a good idea to ensure the shower is drained and shower head removed, with the valves left open. Do the same with any taps.
  • Batteries should be fully charged and ideally left on a float charge from a purpose built marine battery charger. If this isn't possible then check their charge, or ask someone to do it for you, every month
  • Consider fitting an automatic bilge pump float switch.*
  • If you're moored on the main line where there is a greater chance of craft passing by when the cut is frozen, you can drop planks of wood from ropes into the water to run alongside your hull. The planks will absorb some of the impact of the sheets of ice created when people start ice breaking to get to the water points.

For more information on boating in winter check out this series of blogs for those sepnding their first winter afloat and this comprehensive guide to mooring up for the winter.

*A fellow boater suggests that “if your boat has an automatic bilge pump and your boat batteries are not regularly charged by running the engine then it is well worth the small capital outlay to install a small solar panel to keep the battery topped up. Even a small amount of winter daylight will put some charge in. I had one about 30x60cm which kept all my batteries topped up, and the electricity is free! I now use it when I go off on a cruise for a few months to keep my car battery topped up!”

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Toddbrook Reservoir update

Much activity has been taking place behind the scenes at Toddbrook Reservoir over the last few months. We have commissioned our own independent expert inquiry into what happened from one of the 32 Government-appointed dam inspectors, Dr Andy Hughes, and we will be sharing the findings when completed. 

Toddbrook Reservoir autumn 2019Running parallel, DEFRA has launched an independent Government Review, headed up by Professor David Balmforth, former president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. This is due to be delivered to the Secretary of State around the end of the year.

Earlier this month the Navigation Advisory Group, made up of boaters with over 350 years of boating experience between them, visited the reservoir. The group helps scrutinise and advise on a wide range of issues from stoppages and dredging, moorings and lock furniture through to boating policies and processes. Mike Carter, chair of the group, said it was helpful to get a first hand look: “The NAG dredging group has looked at reservoir supply and feeder dredging issues over recent years but this is the first time we have considered reservoir infrastructure. The Todbrook visit helped us better understand the issues and implications so that we can advise The Trust in ways that could help to minimise disruption to boaters whilst the reservoir is out of commission, as well as understanding possible funding issues.

“The Trust team at Todbrook have clearly got some challenges ahead and we look forward to assisting them in some of the decision making challenges that they face.”

In the coming months we will be working with our contractor Kier to carry out temporary works to the Toddbrook inlet channel and the auxiliary spillway as we prepare for its long-term repair. This will ensure the reservoir presents no risk to the local community, regardless of the winter weather we may experience. The full design and repair process is likely to take at least two years before the reservoir is fully and safely restored.

We appreciate that this will be frustrating for many people, particularly those who use the reservoir on a regular basis but it’s not a process that can be rushed.

Unfortunately, we are can’t predict exactly how this will impact on next year’s boating, we are looking at options to maximise the water supply to the Peak Forest and Macclesfield Canals to maintain navigation whilst Toddbrook supply is unavailable. This will be influenced by the weather through the winter months and into next years main boating season, as well as the maintenance works being carried out at the nearby Combs Reservoir. We will communicate any decisions that may affect boating next season as soon as we can, to allow boaters to make decisions on their cruising patterns for 2020.

More details will be posted on our website.

Nature watchers out there might be interested in something very rare as ecologist, Tom King, explains in the video below.

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Tunnel safety

Regular readers may remember that a few months ago I included a video on tunnel safety. Since then a few of you have been in touch to say that it’s a subject that needs more coverage. So, before watching the video below, three particular tunnel safety points have been mentioned.

The first two come from your fellow boaters: Forward pointing lamps should be positioned so as to aid safe navigation but be mindful that they are not blinding oncoming boats. One boater, who says it can be similar to an oncoming car having its headlights on full beam, suggests that “a tunnel lamp is approximately 45 degrees elevated and approximately 30 degrees to starboard, thus reflecting an arc of light round the fore end of the boat giving ample illumination to navigate.”

Secondly, another boater has reported that “some less experienced boaters don't seem to appreciate that if they stop moving to let others pass they lose steerage and because of this often swing out and hit the other boat.”

The third and final safety point comes from our East Midlands regional team and specifically relates to wide beam boats and Blisworth Tunnel - the third-longest navigable canal tunnel in the UK, after Standedge and Dudley tunnels.

Over recent months you’ll have seen a few articles relating to wide beam boats and the need for extra considerations when navigating. Particular problems arise when wide beams are on canals designed for narrowboats.

Blisworth Tunnel itself can accommodate a wide beam boat but it’s absolutely essential to book passage at least 48 hours in advance because there’s no room for any other craft once a wide beam starts its passage. Worringly, there have been anecdotal reports of some entering the tunnel without prior booking. If any other boat met a wide beam at the midway point, over three quarters of a mile into the tunnel, the results don’t bear thinking about. At the very least it’s a very long way for one boat to reverse…

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Don’t Drink and Drown

At this time of year many of us choose to unwind with a drink or two and celebrate the festivies at one of the many canalside bars and restaurants or even afloat on our boats. But, as part of the national Don’t Drink and Drown campaign (2-8 December), run by the UK’s drowning prevention charity the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), we’re raising awareness of the potential risks of wandering down a dark towpath after a night on the sauce.

Over the last five years there have been 1,481 accidental deaths in water in the UK and more than 30% of the victims were found to have alcohol and/or drugs in their bloodstream.

RLSS UK says that “People tragically die each year because they’ve entered the water with alcohol in their bloodstream, either deliberately or completely by accident. Alcohol can seriously impede your ability to survive in water. If you’ve had a drink, stay away from the water.

“Most people who drown when under the influence have done so by falling in whilst walking alone near water. We’re urging people to always stay together on a night out and look out for your friends.”

More information and advice can be found on the RLSS website.

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Trust Council nominations are in – the vote is on!

As mentioned in previous editions we’ve been looking for four new private boater representatives to join our Council. We’ve had a fantastic response – thank you – and received 34, yes 34, nominations.

As the number of candidates exceeds the number of available posts, voting will begin on 20 January 2020 and run until 14 February 2020. Eligible voters will receive an email from the Trust’s election partner, Civica Election Services (CES) on 20 January 2020 with instructions on how to cast a vote. 

You can read about the candidates and review their election statements on our website and also find out more about the elections.

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Get Involved

Many boaters go the extra mile in helping to keep canals and rivers in good condition by volunteering,  donating, or just picking up the odd piece of discarded litter. In whatever form your volunteering takes place, and ahead of the UN’s International Volunteer Day next week (5 Dec), 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:

  • As you may have seen, the UK Government has announced plans for the UK to be "zero emission" by 2050, and this includes inland waterways. Achieving a zero-emissions waterway sector will take some time and has many challenges. The Government is currently consulting to obtain background information to help decide what actions, if any, they need to take to assist in meeting that target. To help us prepare our response we would be grateful if you could spare a few minutes to complete this short survey. We would like to reassure you that all responses are anonymous and will be used only to inform our consultation response.
  • Did you know that next Tuesday (3 Dec), is the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities? If you’re boating with a disability, or care for someone who does, then there are a couple of ways to ask us questions – you can join us at our Gloucester office on 12 Dec or on 16 Dec for a Facebook Q&A session between 4pm and 6pm. This will be held on the Inland Waterways Accessibility Forum page, which you’ll have to join if you want to take part.

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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. It’s a long list due to the winter stoppage programme, where we carry out major projects when it’s quieter out on the cut:

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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Bits and bobs

  • In October 2015 we published our Water Resources Strategy, ‘Putting the water into waterways’. It set out our aspirations for the period 2015-2020 as well as looking as far ahead as 2050 to understand the longer-term pressures and challenges on water supply and use. We have just published our latest annual update which details our progress over the past year against the strategic actions outlined in the strategy. Please follow this LINK to view the document. Our original 2015 Water Resources Strategy and previous Annual Updates can be found HERE.

Happy boating,

Damian

Last date edited: 29 November 2019

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