In the Chair

It’s May and the UK’s weather has taken a turn for the better. The day boats from the local boatyard have crew that are slightly less well wrapped up as they motor past. Hire boat businesses seem to be doing a better trade too, with boats from at least ten different bases regularly passing us now.

Regularly returning too, as the next set of locks are closed for repair for the week, with one hirer not amused that they hadn’t been forewarned. Many boaters are of course signed up to CRT’s stoppage alerts. The format of these is currently being re-designed to enable the addition of photos so look out for this change, due sometime in the summer.

The warm temperature has inspired the vegetation here to put in a luxuriant appearance. Visible towpath has shrunk to a few inches, nettles and cow parsley are already waist high. I’m hoping that CRT’s new vegetation contractors are at least keeping lock sides and approaches clear, a repeat of last year’s problems is not what boaters should be finding.

The narrowboats who had made such an effort through unplanned stoppages and flooding to get to the Fund Britain’s Waterways Westminster flotilla were rewarded with a lovely day on the Thames. Let’s hope that their efforts outside Parliament will not be unremembered by whoever is elected next.

Unplanned stoppages all over the canal system continue in regularity as is the norm now. What a sentence to have to write! What does appear to be different to the norm though is CRT’s response and repair rate. There’s a noticeable turn of speed, with navigations opened again in many instances with commendable swiftness. Even the massive landslide at Easenhall is now open for boats, albeit at certain times only. Well done CRT.

Finally, my brain did a cartwheel seeing what it thought was the usual media story of sold house, bought boat, cheaper living costs. I was about to scroll past but no, this was the reverse, a Thames’ liveaboard had realised that with rising mooring costs, it was cheaper for her to sell the boat and go back to a house!

For many years now, government funding support has been repeatedly cut to all the major navigation authorities that rely on government support for effective maintenance of their waterways. Not only CRT but also the EA and Scottish Canals are more than feeling the pinch, evidenced in deteriorating structures and boat licence fee hikes. Boaters are beginning to give up boating, finding it less enjoyable as well as more and more expensive. It is evident that a tipping point will be reached on the affordability of boat ownership; there will also surely be a canal and river maintenance tipping point if nothing changes.