Mark Tizard celebrates their essential service to boaters.

As a boater with some 35 years’ experience, I have never known a situation where coal boats have been so essential. Whilst all around them movements ground to a halt and marinas closed as the pandemic tightened its grip, it’s the coal boats that kept the system going. These boats have always been the eyes and ears of the waterways, reporting infrastructure faults and dredging issues to CRT. In the pandemic, with the absence of CRT’s furloughed spotters, they were also able to identify vulnerable boaters.

Several of them continued to supply fuel, even though some of their customers suddenly found themselves unable to pay. Boaters remained a community and it’s pleasing to see that several customers contacted their local coal boat and prepaid for a bag of coal or a bottle of gas to be delivered to a boater in need.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of liveaboard boats; the majority without a home mooring. Most of these boaters have been reliant on the coal boats because the vast majority of marinas closed. I sincerely hope that they will remember these traders once the emergency passes. Here are their numbers (not an exhaustive list) or see www.lock13.co.uk:

Ambush – Leeds & Liverpool. 07837 428588

Aquilon – Kennet & Avon.  07790 017418

Ash – London area. 07778 828565

Baron – London area. 07534 674128

Callisto – Leicester and Coventry. 07702 031718

Chamberlain Carrying Co – Llangollen & Shropshire Union.  07754 003834

Dusty – Oxford. 07986 189074

Indus and Pictor – London area. 07380 399996

Jules Fuels – Grand Union. 07596 420220

Renaissance Canal Carrying – Peak Forest, Macclesfield and the NW. 07791 345004