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.

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.

Editor, Peter Fellows, reflects on the effects of the lockdown.

As this issue of NABO News was being prepared, CRT and the EA announced the resumption of boating on July 4th in England and July 6th in Wales. No-one believes that everything will go back to ‘normal’, but it is too early to tell what lasting damage has been done to waterways businesses and the services that they offer boaters. David Fletcher has recorded the timeline of events as the pandemic developed from February to June and some of the effects it has had on the waterways. Despite the end of the lockdown, it is clear that coronavirus hasn’t gone away and there are currently around 1,000 new infections every day. I’ve not seen any figures on the number of boat owners who have been infected, but a sensible assumption is that some infected but asymptomatic boaters will take to the water again in July. Although boating is relatively safe, everyone needs to be careful to wash their hands and disinfect surfaces after using service facilities, locks etc. This is likely to continue until an effective vaccine becomes available.

Editor, Peter Fellows, has news of other developments, even though little is happening on the waterways.

The ramifications of the Coronavirus lockdown have dominated the waterway news for nearly eight weeks at the time of writing and these are widely reflected in this issue. CRT’s decision not to close towpaths to visitors initially caused an intensely negative response on social media by some liveaboard boaters. NABO’s support for CRT’s decision is explained by Mike Rodd in his Chair’s column. NABO also welcomes CRT’s support: for high-risk liveaboard boaters who are self-isolating; for the extra month’s licence offered to all leisure boaters; and its support for trade and hire-boat businesses, each reported upon in this issue. In his regional rep’s report, Ken Hylins, who is self-isolating on his boat, describes the assistance he is being offered by CRT volunteers and local residents. However, many small waterway businesses do not qualify for the Government assistance on offer and there is a request for members to contact their MPs to rectify this with additional financial support measures. If nothing is done, there is a real risk that many boatyards, marinas, chandleries and hire companies will go out of business.

Editor, Peter Fellows, has a wide range of news in these uncertain times.

Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 is foremost in most people’s minds and this is reflected in this issue. Mike Rodd has been attending EA and Thames User Group meetings on behalf of NABO. This is in addition to his many other jobs as Chair (such as responding to the Bridgewater tidal barrier consultation) and reporting as the Regional Rep for Wales and the South-West, both included in this issue. If one or more members in the general Thames catchment area would be willing to share the workload, it would greatly help Mike.

Treasurer, Helen Hutt was elected to CRT’s Council and another boating rep, Dave Mendes de Costa has sent NABO News a report on their first meeting with CRT’s National Boating Manager. Elsewhere, David Fletcher considers what might happen to red diesel, following an announcement in last month’s budget. He also reviews the recently published reports on the Toddbrook Reservoir near-disaster. Ken Hylins reflects on his first couple of years on NABO Council, with a plea for more involvement in council work by members. Mark Tizard gives CRT a pat on the back for dealing with all the damage and fallen trees, caused by this winter’s storms and floods. And finally, Tony Brooks casts a balanced eye over the suitability of lithium batteries in Techie’s Corner.

With the uncertainty around the effects of Coronavirus, boating could reasonably be said to be one of the safer places to be, so enjoy the better weather and keep well.