A time of change - from navigation authorities to electric boating, Mike Rodd sees a busy year ahead for NABO.

Well, at least we did have some time, pre-Christmas, to get out on our boats before the next full lockdown took over. Ours being down in South Wales means that we are continually caught by the infuriating Cardiff Assembly trying to prove its manhood by doing something slightly different from Westminster – with really silly results for us who live in one area but boat in the other! Of course, we all know how serious all this is, so we just hope that the vaccine will mean that we will soon see a sensible way ahead for all of us.

I would like to start by saying how wonderful it is to see the many new faces on your Council – not just the people who are new to NABO’s Council, but also those who have already been very active within the organisation. This allows us to do even more by way of acting as a prime representative for all boaters. And that is so important right at this moment – with CRT currently undertaking two important ‘so-called’ consultations. (‘So-called’ because so often they seem to be mere formalities, with CRT having pretty well decided the way ahead, but needing to be seen to take user suggestions on board.) In this issue, you will see details regarding the extensive work we have undertaken in preparing our submissions, outlining our major concerns about many aspects of recent consultations. They will have impacts on all of us, so please do read our submissions, as well as our comments on the T&C’s readability.

Chairman’s Report to the AGM 2020

Mike Rodd reflects on his last twelve months in the Chair.

Having resumed as Chair once again when Stella had to stand down, I am delighted that she has made such excellent progress health-wise. She has, however, had to move back on land and give up her boat, so I guess I am ‘it’ for a while. But my task is made so much easier by having such active and fully engaged colleagues, both on the Council and also as our Regional Representatives. And what a year this has proved to be – not just through the Covid lockdowns, but with both CRT and the EA clearly getting themselves geared up for a future in which they will have to bid for Government funding, by making extensive internal changes and very significant operational modifications.

Chair, Mike Rodd is enjoying cruising again, despite the lack of maintenance and e-scooters.

Boating at last! For many of us, it was a great joy to be able to get back boating again and for me also to resume being a Boatmaster for the K&A Canal Trust’s trip-boat, the ‘Rose of Hungerford’. Given that the income generated by the trip boats (with all the boats being operated totally by volunteers) is its major source of funding, the impact on the Trust of the long period of non-operation has been horrendous. This has been especially critical as we get to the end of the (partially) HLF-funded restoration work at the Crofton Pumping Station, as the boat trips are contributing the bulk of the required matching funding. Making the trip-boats ‘socially distanced’ has meant a serious drop in the maximum number of passengers we can carry (about half), but with significant demand for places, at least a reasonable income is now being generated.

Chair, Mike Rodd is concerned by what he sees in his crystal ball.

In these strange times that we’re living in, our thoughts and prayers are with those tragically affected by Covid-19 and we feel for those who have lost a family member, friend or colleague, or whose livelihood or mental health has been seriously affected.

Nevertheless, even on a smaller scale, I am sure that you are all, like me, totally frustrated by the unfortunate delays in being able to get back on our boats – made worse for those of us who boat in Wales, where the Assembly seems to be continually slightly out of phase with the situation in England. I am looking forward to be able to go and check that our boat is still floating!

Mike Rodd considers some effects of the pandemic.

Like many of our members in self-isolation at home and unable to travel to our boats, it has really come home to us how much the canals and rivers are an essential part of our lives. It also reminds us how precious these waterways are, and how urgently we need to ensure that they are protected. 

This will be especially important in the days ahead, when our economy will look very different from the immediate past, with governments facing many horrendous difficulties in recovering from the financial wrecking balls caused by the pandemic. And – of vital interest to all of us – at the same time as the Government will be trying to sort out this mess, CRT and EA will be bidding for at least some essential government funding.  As I have said before, I just cannot see how either body will be able to continue without some level of government support, at least similar to that which has been received in the past. However, I really can’t see such bids being high on any government's priorities. It is vital, therefore, that boater representative bodies, such as NABO and RBOA, get behind CRT’s and EA’s bids – even though we must also continue to be critical friends when needed.