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News article created on 19 May 2017

Boaters' Update 19 May 2017

Welcome to the last edition for this month. With only a week to go until Crick Boat Show you'll read why we think you'll benefit from coming. Aside from that you can find out how the water resources are holding up after a dry spring and lots more besides.

Flowers on a boat Crick 2016 Flowers on a boat Crick 2016

Welcome to the latest edition and the last one before Crick Boat Show. It’s too early to know whether the weather will be kind. Regardless, we have a lovely big marquee that you can not only stay dry in but there’s also plenty to see and do, more on this below.

Aside from talking about the fun to be had at Britain’s biggest inland waterway festival, there’s a wide range of topics in this edition – from the questions (and answers!) you’ve been most frequently asking customer services through to the things that we had to unexpectedly fix last month.

All of the above nestles with the usual mix of news and this weekend’s stoppages as well as ways in which you can get involved. If there is something else you’d like to see in a future edition, then do get in touch.

Oh, and in case you’ve been on the moon, there’s an election in under three weeks. If you’re yet to do it, you’ve just about got time to register to vote – here’s some information on how to do it if you permanently live on your boat.

In this edition:

Happy boating,

Damian

News round-up and the fortnight ahead

Over the last couple of weeks you may have heard, or seen, that:

  • 27 Apr – Hundreds of the nation’s top anglers are set to descend on the Shropshire Union Canal this August for the Angling Trust Division One National Championship. There’ll be a longer article about what to expect, as a boater, in the mid-June edition of Boaters’ Update.
  • 2 May – As mentioned in the last edition, TV personality and outdoor champion Julia Bradbury joined us to encourage local communities across England and Wales to play a bigger part in looking after the waterways on their doorstep.
  • 9 May – Injured servicemen and women are being given the opportunity to re-build their lives, gain qualifications and learn new skills by transforming and restoring historic canals.
  • 18 May – Massive lock gates were installed this week in £1.8million waterway restoration in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

It continues to be busy on and around the waterways. You’ll find some highlights below but 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.

  • 20 & 21 May – 120 historic and other boats will be moored between Batchworth & Stockers Lock as part of the Rickmansworth Festival which also includes live music, a Battle of Britain flypast and a funfair!
  • 27 to 29 May – Hopefully I’ll get to have a chat with you at Britain’s biggest inland waterway festival – Crick Boat Show. Read more below.
  • 27 to 29 May – Just a short hop to the south down the Grand Union (or M1) you’ll find the Stoke Bruerne Floating Market with a very wide range of hand crafted goods on sale.
  • 2 to 4 Jun – If you don't manage to make it to Crick Boat Show (or do and get inspired!) then you might want to head along to Beale Park Boat & Outdoor Show in Berkshire.

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Boating community buzz makes Crick Boat Show special

We’ve all been there. There’ll be that one (or more if you’re lucky) event or party which sticks in your memory for the right reasons. More often than not it’s a combination of qualities all falling in to the right place at the right time – great company, great setting and plenty to engage with.

Crick Boat ShowCrick Boat Show is exactly that. It’s a gathering of nearly 30,000 like-minded people coming together at a wonderfully picturesque location with food, drink, the biggest selection boating paraphernalia in one place and day-long entertainment. And, of course, boats galore to drool over.

Music is an important part of the atmosphere and this year will be no different. The Fleetwood Bac Tribute Show returns to perform on Sunday evening (they first appeared at the show four years ago), not only because their perfected look, sound and on-stage chemistry went down a storm, but because the lead singer has fallen in love with waterways and now owns a boat based at Yelvertoft Marina.

Fleetwood Bac aren’t the only band with boating connections.  British folk duo (and husband and wife), Nancy Kerr and James Fagan, who performed at Crick in 2011, lived for a time on a narrowboat on the Kennet & Avon near Bath and their song ‘Queen of the Waters’ is dedicated to their time spent together afloat.

Crick Boat ShowAlex Blood of ‘Alex Blood & The Diggers’ who was at Crick last year, lived on a boat at Mercia Marina for several years, and Phil Underwood of The Lock Keepers, is a boater and a playwright currently presenting shows set on the canals, including the historical drama ‘Roses and Castles’.

So, you see, the boating connections run deep at Crick – as a reader of Boaters’ Update I’m sure you’ll find it not only a useful way to spend a Bank Holiday weekend but a very fulfilling one too.

If you’re yet to buy your tickets you might want to do it very soon as the early-bird discount runs out in 48 hours time (midnight Sunday 21 May)!

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What went wrong in April

This regular column looks back at the previous month to see what things the Canal & River Trust had to unexpectedly fix to keep canals and rivers open for you to enjoy. Following on from March, April was another good month!

In total there were only 6 instances of a canal or river being closed to navigation for more than four hours – only one of these extended to more than 48 hours (at Lock 62 on the Leeds & Liverpool).

photo of Caen Hill Lock Flight, DevizesThe biggest culprits were locks – on five occasions we had to unexpectedly repair a lock due to faulty lock ladders, liners and the like. The only other unplanned event to cause more than one closure was a faulty bridge on the Leeds & Liverpool.

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 handy guide to what we classify as a repair, maintenance, inspection and so on.

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Have we had enough rain to sustain a summer of boating?

I should have predicted it but, as I sit here writing this introduction, it’s heaving down outside. The avid weather-watching boaters among you may have seen some articles in the media about the threat of drought. With this in mind we’ve spoken to our national hydrology manager, Adam Comerford, to find out what the dry spell might mean for boating this year. Here’s what he had to say:

Sunny Anderton Boat Lift“April was exceptionally dry - most of the UK only saw half the usual rainfall for the month. Some parts of the south east only registered one-fifth of average rainfall. Whilst a single dry month does not cause major problems for maintaining water supplies to the canal network, the period from last summer has also been fairly dry (in southern England, it has been the driest July-April period on record, in a time series going back to 1910).

“It is this continued dryer than average period that has got meteorologists, farmers and water companies talking about the prospect of a drought.  And a few days of showery weather don’t make up for a much longer period of below average rainfall.

“For the inland waterway network, reservoirs account for about half of our water supplies, with the rest made up of inflows from streams and rivers, and a few groundwater sources.  The reduced rainfall has meant that the surface water flows have decreased considerably over the spring, which of course coincides with the traditional increase in boating and lock use across the network.

“With reduced inflows, the stored water from our reservoirs has been use more heavily than normal. Whilst the reservoir supplies are still holding up fairly well, the Water Management team is keeping a very close eye on the levels and making sure we use the water as sparingly as possible and maximising the use of backpumps which can recirculate water used by locks.  Some parts of the network are more susceptible to dry periods than others, and so our focus is concentrated on these canals.

“Whilst we haven’t planned any restrictions to boating at present, this may need to be considered to ensure the best chance of having enough water to last the whole boating season. If restrictions are needed, the Trust has detailed plans in place to manage during periods of low rainfall and ensure good, timely communication with affected customers and businesses. These have been improved and tested during the droughts of 2010 and 2011-12, so we are well prepared if the situation worsens and the dry spell continues.

Photo of Brent Reservoir“Saying that, boaters can do their bit, by ensuring all the good water saving tips are followed: sharing locks where possible, ensuring lock paddles are closed after use, reporting low pounds and any major leaks to Trust operational teams to investigate. Finally, we publish a monthly Reservoir Watch on our website, so you can check here for the latest information on the reservoir groups that supply your local canal.”

Thanks Adam! There’s more information on how you, as a boater, can help save water on our website.

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More ways for you to get involved

Many boaters help keep canals and rivers open for everyone to enjoy by volunteering or donating. As you’re such an integral part of what makes waterways so wonderful, there’re always others ways you can get involved:

  • Boats in Bloom – As mentioned in the last couple editions we’re celebrating the people whose green fingers and gardening efforts help make our waterways such pleasant places to visit. If you haven’t already, now's your chance to join us in saying 'thank you' by volunteering to present Boat in Bloom certificates, sign up to help show your appreciation. And don’t forget that in a fortnight’s time, on 2 June, you’ll have the chance to pose your gardening questions to experts via a Facebook Live session (or by going along to the Growing Afloat event in London). It could set you on the road to your very own blooming boat! There’s still time to send your questions in now to make sure the panel have time to respond to any particularly specific potted problems you may have.
  • Winter stoppages – With a third of 2017 already gone, we’re now asking for your views on the restoration and repair work we’re planning to do this Winter. We’ve published our plans and you have until 16 June to give us your thoughts. We’ll then review these and publish a new set of plans, taking account of your views, on 16 July. At this point you’ll get until 4 August to give us further thoughts which we’ll review before publishing the final plan, a couple of weeks later, on 18 August.
  • Boat Fire Safety Week (29 May to 4 June) – There’s lots of information online from trusted sources such as the Boat Safety Scheme but do also check with your local Fire Brigade to see if there are any activities you can get involved in, such as firefighters visiting marinas to carry out free fire risk checks as Staffordshire Fire and Rescue is. For boaters in London, there will be an event on Sunday 4 June, details of which will be in the next edition of Boaters’ Update.

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Your frequently asked questions

As I do on a, roughly, monthly basis, I asked our customer service team to tell me what boaters have been asking about over the last month or so. If you have a question that you’d like to see answered in the next article, and think the wider boating community would benefit from, then do please let me know.

Where can I buy sanitary station keys from?

You can buy them online, or even from your local office. This answer seamlessly links to the next question…

Do all locks need keys to operate them?

All standard locks need a windlass (aka a ‘lock key’) to operate them. When it comes to actual keys the answer is slightly more complex. There’s a key which some locks need that goes by a few different names – it is known, as above, as the sanitary station key or the BW/CRT key or the watermate key.

The other key that there’s a reasonable chance you’ll need is a handcuff key. They’re especially common from Birmingham up to the north and prevent misuse of the lock (sadly needed).

How do I find the nearest elsan point/pump out station?

We have an interactive waterways map that is really useful for locating services, events, volunteering opportunties and stoppages just to name a few!

How far do I need to cruise?

There’s lots of information on our website about continuous cruising that gives a good overview of what the implications of being a continuous cruiser are. If you want more information specific to your location and personal circumstances then do get in touch with your local boat licence support officer.

Will my licence auto renew in the future?

As mentioned in the last edition, licences which are due to start on or after 1 June 2017 will automatically renew if applicable. All you need to make sure is that your licence details are up-to-date. You can do this via our licensing website and, if you want some guidance, there’s also a video to help.

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Maintenance, repair and restoration work affecting cruising this weekend

Keeping your canals and rivers ready for you to enjoy is a year-round job. From time-to-time this includes some major engineering that we need to temporarily close the navigation for. Below you’ll find a list, by region, of anything that’s happen that may affect your cruising.

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, hoorah, 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.

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Bits and Bobs

  • In the last edition, I reported that there had been a report, on Saturday 22 April, that two males, wearing Canal & River Trust style uniform, including Trust High Vis jackets, boarded a craft moored at Three Mills visitor mooring, and tried to steal several items, along with damaging the craft. I went on to say that all our staff should carry photographic ID – this wasn’t quite right! All our boat licence customer team will carry ID but operational staff, who you see regularly out and about fixing stuff, don’t yet carry ‘official ID’. It is something we’re now considering but, as mentioned before, if you’re unsure of anyone purporting to be from the Trust then do call 0303 040 4040 and check their credentials with customer services.
  • Following feedback from various representative waterway groups, the licensing consultation has moved into the second stage of the process.  From the 988 of you who said you wanted to be involved in stage two (thanks!), 135 have now been randomly selected by the independent agency running the consultation, Involve, to attend various workshops across the country. The first one was last night (18 May) in Leeds and they run until 29 June. For those not selected to attend one of the nine workshops, don’t worry, you’ll get the chance to share your thoughts and suggestions in stage three of the process which should start around the end of July.

Happy boating!

Damian

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