Listening to boat owners, Speaking out for boat owners, Representing boat owners.


Time for a rethink?

Editor, Peter Fellows, considers an alternative to the present CRT structure.

This issue reflects two concerns that have been raised recently regarding the poor state of the canal infrastructure and the loss of waterway heritage. There are currently a record number of unplanned canal closures and lock or culvert failures, especially in the North. Given that the waterways have largely been out of use for months due to the Covid lockdown, these failures have to be due to inadequate inspection and/or lack of maintenance, rather than the usual excuse of blaming boaters. On the second point, CRT does not seem to understand that not all of its building assets are available to be sold off to generate income. There has to be due attention paid to the heritage of the waterways, which is embedded in CRT’s objects as a charity. These topics are longstanding criticisms that have featured in NABO News for many years, and appear again in articles and reports in this issue by Mark Tizard. But CRT seems to consistently ignore them. Mark also reviews the results of the latest boaters’ perception survey which, unsurprisingly, does not make happy reading for CRT.
I suspect that every boater would agree that a renewal of the Government grant to CRT is essential for the upkeep of the waterways. We are where we are with CRT’s senior management, and they are probably the best people to lead the negotiations with DEFRA. However, as part of these negotiations, I believe that there should be thought given to planning for a new structure for CRT. This should clearly separate the Trust’s responsibilities as a navigation authority from its wellbeing agenda that promotes the waterways to the wider public. Currently, these seem to be completely intertwined, but the Trust’s responsibilities for maintaining and improving the waterway infrastructure seem to take a decidedly backseat position. As Mike Rodd notes in the Chair’s column, boats and navigation are rarely mentioned, let alone discussed, at CRT forums and regional meetings. A separate wellbeing division would allow the Trust to continue to generate income from a wide range of sources as it currently does. So the bulk of the new Government grant could be made available to the navigation division, to maintain what are unique national assets (with of course the income from boat licence fees). The division could then employ senior staff with the expertise and experience to properly manage the waterways.

“There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Editor, Peter Fellows, is hoping to be back on board this month.

After what seems to have been an eternal winter, it’s good to see spring arriving again. Some members have used the latest lockdown to reflect on boating as it used to be: Stephen Peters looks back over 50 years to, among other boat facilities, instantaneous Ascot water heaters, and John Devonald recalls a simpler, electricity-free life afloat. 

NABO has been busy throughout the lockdown and this issue has our response to CRT’s London strategy consultation, together with a perspective on progress to date from London liveaboard, Simon Robbins. There is also a BSS report on serious incidents in 2020, especially injuries caused by propellers, fires and explosions – although fewer incidents of CO poisoning, possibly because of the requirement last year to fit CO alarms.

Lockdown blues

Editor, Peter Fellows, has spotted inconsistencies in the way that boaters are being treated.

Despite it being midwinter with a national lockdown in place – or on reflection, perhaps because of this – I’ve received a bountiful crop of contributions for this issue. Clearly, people are thinking about boating even though they are unable to do so. Which raises the question of why has boating been suspended, when being on a moving boat is one of the safest places to be in a pandemic? And if navigation authorities consider fishing to be a legitimate form of exercise, why do they think that boating isn’t? If any of the senior managers who make such decisions had tried to ascend flights of locks on the Rochdale or Huddersfield Narrow – or, for that matter, battled stiff paddles and unyielding gates across the system – they would know that boating certainly is exercise. Instead, liveaboards are forced to moor up, alongside crowded towpaths in some areas, as visitors respond to CRT’s exhortations to exercise by the waterways.

Editorial December 2020

Editor, Peter Fellows, looks at what might be in store for a rejuvenated NABO Council next year.

Following appeals for more members to help with NABO, the Council is delighted to welcome three new members: Anne Husar, who will take on the role of Publicity and Communications Officer; Peter Braybrook, who will also be the West Midlands Rep.; and John Devonald, who will also be the South East Rep. Additionally, we welcome Matt Thompson as the new North West Rep. and Peter Braley who will cover the East Midlands and the River Trent. I would also like to welcome Jim and Jackie Buckley who, together with Anne, will join the team of NABO News proof-readers.

New blood to replace old friends

Editor, Peter Fellows, says that, with meetings held by phone or Zoom, it has never been easier to support NABO.

This is the first issue since lockdown ended and it features the widespread dismay by boaters at the state of the infrastructure that they encountered when they restarted cruising. Lack of maintenance and vegetation management were already features of the Boater Survey responses, summarised in this issue, which were given before Covid-19 struck. But Mark Tizard brings the problems up to date, comparing CRT’s PR spin with the reality on the ground. Mike Rodd’s regional report includes his first experience of e-scooters on the towpath and I’ve included a letter on this, written by NABO to CRT’s Chief Operating Officer. Helen Hutt has written her first regional report from the Avon and also reports on a recent elected reps. meeting with CRT’s Head of Boating. Howard Anguish, NABO’s shared ownership rep., has written the first part of an article on shared boating, together with his look back at NABO News 15 years ago. David Fletcher has also been busy while unable to cruise, describing new regulations on fuels for solid-fuel stoves, an update on proposed changes to regulations on the sale of red diesel, and delving into the mysteries of gas testing on boats for BSS certification. I spent part of my lockdown considering what owners might be really saying when they select a name for their boat, to be followed by a second part in December.