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News article created on 13 January 2017

Boaters' Update 13 January 2017

Welcome to the inaugural edition of 2017. There's lots to read and, if you have the time, give your feedback on.

Trent & Mersey Canal Trent & Mersey Canal

Welcome to the first edition of 2017 – Happy New Year! Hopefully the fog of festive over-indulgence didn’t linger for too long and you’ve been able to get out on, or by, the water.

A year ago I was sat penning the first edition of 2016 in a far more sombre mood. Parts of the north west had been deluged, and damaged, by the wettest month on record, culminating in the Boxing Day Floods.

Thankfully, in boating terms, 2017 has started without an appearance of Mother Nature’s really wild side (I hope I’m not tempting fate!). But while it might still be cold and gloomy outside, it’s not so long until the green shoots of spring appear.

Like me, I’m sure many of you are counting down the days to its arrival and especially those with green fingers and an interest in growing things on their boats. If you like to garden aboard (however small a space you have), we’d love to hear from you about tales or tips for gardening afloat and what your horticultural plans are for this year.

Once you’ve done that you’ll find that this edition is packed with the usual eclectic range of news, information and, if you have the time, a more few requests for feedback:

Although the first article does cover the subject, if there’s a particular topic you’d like to see, or a regular feature you think will be useful, then please get in touch.

Happy boating,

Damian

News round-up and the fortnight ahead

Since the last edition you may have heard, or seen, that:

  • 23 Dec – Boaters who want a guaranteed visitor mooring in central London are now able to pre-book a spot in Rembrandt Gardens, Little Venice, through our licensing web portal – the summer months are already filling up fast!
  • 23 Dec – We are upgrading and improving three sets of locks on the picturesque Llangollen Canal in Shropshire with a £100,000 winter works package.
  • 3 Jan – A simple patch of grass next to Stonebridge Lock on the River Lee is set to be transformed into an edible garden, after a public vote triggered a £12,000 donation to the Trust.  
  • 5 Jan – A £500,000 project to repair Brick Lock, a two centuries old lock on the River Stort near Roydon, started last week.

And if you’re wondering what you can enjoy on or by a canal in the next couple of weeks then you might be interested in these events:

  • 14 Jan to 19 Mar – The Puppet Theatre Barge perform the Red Ballon at Little Venice - This String Theatre production tells the story of a small's boy's friendship with a balloon and explores the poignancy of a child's imagination.    
  • 15 Jan – It’s not too late to make good on your ‘get healthier’ resolution – you can start by joining the IWA on one of its towpath walks. This one is beside the Regents Canal from Kings Cross to Granary Square.
  • 21 Jan – Head along to Audlem to see first-hand the works taking place to restore and repair Lock 13. Take a look inside the drained lock, talk to our experts, and walk along the bottom of the lock chamber up to the temporary dam next to the by-wash weir.
  • 21 Jan – Further north, you can make the most of a rare opportunity to walk along the original 200-year-old brickwork of the Peak Forest Canal, near Marple. As well as this, you’ll be able to watch the Promenade Performers re-enacting the construction of the canal (which was opened in 1805) and members of the cast will be in character as Thomas Brown and Benjamin Outram.

Of course there are plenty of other activities and volunteering opportunities around the network so please visit the events section of the website to find the perfect one for you.

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Articles you want in 2017

If you’re a regular reader you’d have seen the discussion about cruising Standedge Boats Crane Liftpast moored boats that was featured in Boaters’ Update late last year. Many of you took the time to share your thoughts and this is something I’d really like to continue with in 2017.

We’ll return to the discussion of cruising past moored boats in the coming months but what I’d like to know is what other topics you would like to see covered.

Below I’ve roughly grouped the subjects that have been suggested. However, before I rush head long in to contacting the experts on each subject, I want to know what you think.

Boat maintenance and upkeep

There’s a huge range of jobs that need doing – from blacking the hull to changing the oil in your engine – to keep a boat in tip top condition. The most commonly suggested maintenance and upkeep topics are:

  • What to do and when
  • How can I make my boat more energy efficient?
  • Water-saving tips
  • How can I reduce condensation in my boat?

The list isn’t that long and there’s likely to be others you want to see so do please tell me your top three maintenance or upkeep topics that you want to see in Boaters’ Update.

Boating etiquette

As demonstrated by the number of you who got in touch about cruising past moored boats, a shared understanding of how to behave on the cut is important to you. Other subjects suggested have been:

  • Overtaking other moving boats
  • Breasting up (double mooring) – colleague and boater Debbi Figueiredo has kicked off the discussion in a great blog.
  • Running generators
  • Locking etiquette (when to share, how to leave them etc.)
  • Maximising space at visitor moorings (memorably titled ‘Shuffle up & share’ by one boater!)

As with the maintenance and upkeep list, this one isn’t particularly long so do drop me a line with any other etiquette topics you’d like to see discussed.

Our work

Some of you would have been out to see how we maintain parts of the network at one of our Open Days. This inspired some of you to drop me a line asking for an article that delved deeper into one or another aspect of our work. Others have just got in touch when a wave of curiosity has struck them. The topics suggested so far are:

  • Dredging (when, how and how do we decide which bits to do?)
  • How we drain a canal for repair or restoration
  • Volunteering (and more broadly, how can I get involved?)
  • Managing trees and other vegetation

With such a diverse range of disciplines needed to maintain the network, there’s a good chance that you have an interest in something that’s not listed above. If this sounds like you then drop me a line

With 24 more editions, after this one, planned for 2017 there’s definitely room to fit in all of the above along with a few more suggestions if they’re commonly mentioned. Of course, if there’s something else you’d like to read about but it’s not covered above, just let me know. Thanks!

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Your frequently asked questions

Every month or so those lovely people in our customer service team let me know what questions you’ve been most frequently asking. The following five are those you were calling about in December along with their answers.

When can I get a Gold Licence for next year?

Gold Licences can be purchased at any time. We can process your Gold licences now ready for next year.

Will the prices be increasing for next year’s Gold Licence?

There is no price increase for 2017 Gold Licences.

Can I book passages online or do I have to call to do this?

You can now book passages through Anderton Boat Lift, Standedge Tunnel and other major structures online as well as visitor moorings such as Rembrandt Gardens. To do this, simply log into your online account and select “Book Passage”, alternatively you can call Customer Services and they can process this for you over the phone.

Are the licence fees going up next year?

Yes, licence fees are being increased by 2.5%. Having capped licence fees to inflation for the past three years, the 2017 increase anticipates the prevailing inflation rate which is widely forecast to rise between now and the summer.

Although the cost of a licence will be increasing slightly, the overall proportion of our income coming directly from boaters is decreasing as we generate more income from other sources. This rise will raise income to ensure that we can continue to sustain the increased spend on waterway maintenance over recent years. This has seen an improvement in the structural condition of the waterways and a significant reduction in the amount of disruption experienced by boaters (with almost 300 days fewer of unplanned navigation closures compared with 2014/15).

Is it too late to purchase a Winter Mooring?

Not at all. Winter Moorings are available until March (permits can be purchased up to the end of February). We still have spaces available. You can purchase these by logging into your online account and selecting “Winter Moorings”. Simply search your location and the nearest Winter Mooring will show.

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What went wrong in December

If you’ve been out and about around the network then you’ll have seen us working on some big projects (such as lock gate replacement) to keep canals and rivers open for you to enjoy. However, from time to time, things will unexpectedly go wrong – most of the bridges, locks and navigations are over 200-years-old.

So, to give you a better idea of what we dealt with in December I’ve summarised the reasons we had to close navigation.

There were 52 days of ‘lost’ cruising during December due to unplanned stoppages. Over half of these were at Abbey Lift Bridge on the Montgomery Canal which, for safety reasons, can’t be raised.  We’re continuing to investigate an appropriate ‘fix’ so that it can be back in action ASAP.

Another one out in the west was near Gilwern Bridge on the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal which was closed for 16 days so we could plug some leaks. The final big one was at Glasson Docks where an eye bolt snapped on the tailgate of the Sea Lock which required the skills of some hardy divers to mend.

As a slight aside, we keep track of how the number of un-planned closures compares to previous years. In line with our increasing spend on maintenance, we’re pleased to report a 30% decrease compared to the same point in the 2015/16 financial year.

For the curious among you, we classify a closure as anything which stops navigation for more than four hours. If you’ve signed up to receive stoppages you’ll notice that we categorise them in to general reasons, such as repair, inspection or vegetation.

Of course, when we’re dealing with such old structures it’s not always as straightforward as ‘repair’ so we offer more detail in the body of the stoppage notice. But, in case you were wondering, here’s a useful guide to what we classify as a repair, maintenance, inspection and so on.

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

Now that we’re deep into this winter’s major restoration and repair programme the list of works that may affect your cruising is quite long if you actually planned to traverse the whole of the network!

So as your cruising may be confined to a particular region of the network I’ve provided links below to the respective stoppages. Just click on the one where you’ll be and a webpage will open listing the stoppages for that region. 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.

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Bits and Bobs

  • If one of your New Year resolutions was to go from towpath to tiller or to switch from recreational to residential boating then it’s worth noting Crick Boat Show tickets are now on sale! Make the most of it with a 20% Early Bird discount and get along to the country’s largest inland waterways show.
  • Many of you will have seen that over the last few months I’ve included an invitation in this section to anyone who wanted to help us keep our online maps up to date (which I blogged about). Thanks to those of you that have! Your help is still needed though – just have a read of the blog linked above and there’s a link to the sites that we’d like boaters to cast their eye over.
  • And finally, if you’d like to help out at a lock through the busy boating season then why not consider becoming a volunteer lock keeper? With a raft of opportunities recently published, you could find yourself at your favourite lock helping other boaters and towpath visitors and keeping fit!

Happy boating!

Damian

 

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