Back cruising again this summer

Editor, Peter Fellows, reflects on the effects of the lockdown.

As this issue of NABO News was being prepared, CRT and the EA announced the resumption of boating on July 4th in England and July 6th in Wales. No-one believes that everything will go back to ‘normal’, but it is too early to tell what lasting damage has been done to waterways businesses and the services that they offer boaters. David Fletcher has recorded the timeline of events as the pandemic developed from February to June and some of the effects it has had on the waterways. Despite the end of the lockdown, it is clear that coronavirus hasn’t gone away and there are currently around 1,000 new infections every day. I’ve not seen any figures on the number of boat owners who have been infected, but a sensible assumption is that some infected but asymptomatic boaters will take to the water again in July. Although boating is relatively safe, everyone needs to be careful to wash their hands and disinfect surfaces after using service facilities, locks etc. This is likely to continue until an effective vaccine becomes available.

David has also been delving into the seemingly labyrinthine complexity of CRT’s towpath mowing specifications in an attempt clarify what boaters, with their detailed local knowledge of individual canals, can do to assist CRT to ensure that moorings and lines of sight are kept clear of vegetation. Mark Tizard pays tribute to the coal boats, whose operators have played a vital role in helping liveaboard boaters during the lockdown, and Helen Hutt records her return from the North East waterways via The Wash.

There are reports of meetings that have taken place by NABO council members with the BSS, CTR’s Winter Stoppage Advisory Group, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways, and five organisations representing boaters on the non-tidal Thames – each conducted by videoconference. I have also included the most recent (at the time of writing) reports from CRT on reservoir levels, some of which are considerably lower than average for this time of year. This reflects both the very dry conditions in April and May and maintenance work on dams, following Toddbrook. Boaters returning to some canals, especially in the North West, are likely to experience restricted lock opening times until there is any significant rainfall.

So, it’s great to be able to get afloat again but I fear that boating may be a little more difficult this summer than it has been for some time. Enjoy your cruising and stay safe.