NABO are probably a bit late in publishing this article but perhaps some of our live aboard members might just glean some comfort in the advice! Its designed for BW's own mooring customers but applies to everyone we imagine!
From British Waterways
WHAT TO EXPECT IF SERVICES AT BW’S LONG TERM MOORING SITES FAIL IN FREEZING WEATHER
We are currently experiencing what experts are predicting to be the coldest December in more than 100 years. Many live-aboard boaters are finding life afloat in the ice exceptionally challenging. Maintaining a fresh water supply and emptying sewage tanks are the most pressing needs and BW’s capacity to keep facilities blocks functioning is being tested to the limit with temperatures falling as low as –10o in many places and not rising above zero for many days on end.
The freeze of January 2010 exposed the need for better contingency planning, and maintenance programmes over the summer included pipe lagging work in some areas. This has not proven to be sufficient however to prevent frozen pipes and disruption to service everywhere.
As the freeze continues, BW anticipates further problems in maintaining running water and sewage disposal services etc. and is sharing with customers the emergency callout arrangements it has put in place with its contractors.
For the faults listed below, our contractor undertakes to attend the site either same day or next day depending on the time of the fault being reported to the duty supervisor. We aim for shorter response times for facilities at designated residential long term mooring sites and those which have exclusive use of a facilities block. Wherever possible, the contractor will fix the problem on the first visit, but we can’t guarantee this. The contractors will themselves be affected by the weather and will only be able to attend if it is safe to do so. They will try their best but we cannot guarantee response times in bad weather. Also some works may be too risky to undertake until the weather has improved.
Plumbing problems other than frozen pipes (e.g. water leaks resulting from thawed pipes), malfunctioning pump out machines and blocked elsan units. Do not use the Elsan if the outlet drain is blocked. If the outlet is not blocked but there is no water supply to it, only use with great care and try to rinse it with a bucket of water sourced from elsewhere. Remember that raw sewage is a serious health hazard to animals and humans.
Electrical faults with the exception of Rolec-combi electricity and water bollards for which we have no outsourced contract. These will be attended to by the waterway as quickly as possible.
Frozen/seized padlocks etc. on access gates (we may not treat this as an emergency if there is alternative suitable access to the site)
Missed refuse collection
Salt/grit supplies – where a bin for this is provided at a mooring site, the supply will be replenished. Salt/grit is not spread on paths but boaters may to do this at their own risk.
Frozen pipes: no emergency response – wait until the thaw
These service levels reflect the relevant terms within long term mooring agreements:
We will keep the services and facilities that we provide under this Agreement clean and repaired. We will replace any equipment that has become unusable and is beyond economic repair. We will not be liable if the services and facilities fail temporarily and we replace or repair them within a reasonable time.
We shall not be liable for any other loss or damage caused by any events or circumstances beyond our reasonable control (such as extreme weather conditions, unforeseeable failure of historic structures or the actions of third parties not employed by us). This includes loss or damage to boats, gear, equipment or other goods left with us for repair or storage. You may wish to take out your own insurance to cover such risks.
We appreciate that these responses may not be sufficient to avoid some degree of hardship, but they represent the best that BW can commit to. Previously, on an ad hoc basis, we have occasionally organised Water Bowser trucks to service mooring sites, but the scale of the current freeze means that this is prohibitively expensive, apart from which, this water supply itself would be subject to freezing.
BW shares the view of the Residential Boat Owners’ Association (RBOA) that live-aboard boating is not for the faint-hearted – a message that they consistently promote at waterway events and on their website. Resourceful boaters will take cold weather challenges in their stride. We’d urge others to seek home comforts in more conventional types of accommodation during harsh weather.
BW offices will be closed from 2pm on 24th December until 8.00 am on 4th January. If you need to report a fault during this period, please call Freephone Canals on 0800 47 999 47. The call handler will take your details and you can expect a call from the local duty supervisor within an hour. The duty supervisor will ask you for information to help him or her diagnose the problem before they contact the relevant contractor.
BW Moorings Team, December 2010
A few tips for hardy boaters
Have a food-safe drinking water container and a trolley on board to carry water from a working water point to the boat.
Store bottled drinking water in the cabin
Locate the nearest shower and toilet facilities, such as a BW provided service block, a pay-per-day gym, pub or a service station.
Keep a long hose inside the cabin so residual water does not freeze and you can possibly reach a point nearer the water main that is not frozen.
Water at room temperature can defrost a pipe nice and slowly. If you use water straight from the stove or a kettle the sudden raise in temperature might damage the pipe.
Do not use the Elsan if the outlet drain is blocked. If the outlet is not blocked but there is no water supply to it, only use with great care and try to rinse it with a bucket of water sourced from elsewhere. Remember that raw sewage is a serious health hazard to animals and humans.
Top up your water at every opportunity during winter.
Keep a tin of de-icer on your boat and use it to free frozen locks