Evidence please

Editor Peter Fellows starts surveys of lost facilities and shallow visitor moorings.

The warming weather means that many of the estimated 50% of boaters who are leisure cruisers start to gear up for their first outing of the year and the other 50% who live aboard come out of hibernation to enjoy the spring sunshine. As usual, Fly reports on a lively meeting of NABO Council in March and much else is going on behind the scenes. I have included a report by Mike Rodd on the last meeting of the National Inland Navigation Forum and I’ve had a read through CRT’s Boater Report 2018, which sets out how boaters support the Trust through licence and mooring fees, and how the Trust spends its income on maintaining its navigations. On a less happy note, I’ve included a summary of a recent BSS report on boat fires. There is also a summary of CRT’s annual lockage report, which shows how the long spell of dry weather last summer affected boat movements, which were down by 11%. Mark Tizard reviews recent mooring developments and there is an article by Anthony Riley, setting out the EA funding issues that are affecting the Thames. With Brexit paralysing the Government, there seems to be little progress in discussions to transfer EA waters to CRT, or developing new ideas to allow the EA to obtain a more appropriate level of funding for the Thames. Howard Anguish looks back at what was happening in NABO 15 years ago. There’s also a short article by Joe Parkin on some of the problems caused for volunteer ‘lockies’ by boaters, and Brian Jarrett has some advice on selecting a composting toilet in Techie’s Corner. Finally, evidence, please! We need hard evidence of boaters’ facilities that have been removed and of designated visitor moorings where lack of depth is an issue. Please send me your observations (with photographs if possible) and the precise location.

Spreading the word

Editor, Peter Fellows, explains NABO’s focus on promotion and recruitment

Part of NABO’s raison d'être is to influence navigation authorities and other organisations for the benefit of boaters. Last month, we clocked up our latest influencing success when the changes we sought to the Middle Level Bill were written into the Act, guaranteeing provision of boater services on the Nene-Ouse Link. The issue at hand is how to communicate what NABO does, and seeks to do, targeting boat owners who are not members. Many boaters, especially younger ones, now get the majority of their waterway-related news and views from social media and other on-line sources. So NABO needs to further adapt the way it communicates in order to reach these boaters. If we can get our messages across effectively, we can hopefully convince many of these boaters that NABO membership will benefit both them and the waterways as a whole. To this end, the Council has made a number of changes. Ken Hylins joined the Council to take a lead on promotion and recruitment, in addition to assisting boaters who are having problems staying on the water. Alison Tuck will develop NABO’s social media presence as Media Officer and Mark Tizard has become the General Secretary, while continuing his roles as Communications Officer and moderating NABO’s Facebook page. We are also updating NABO’s publicity material with a new flyer to hand out to boaters. Boater-to-boater recommendation is one of the most effective recruitment tools. If you can help in letting others know about NABO and the benefits of membership, please get in touch.

Consultations, breaches and closures

but Editor, Peter Fellows, also notes some wonderful weather and meaningful meetings

There’s been a lot happening on the waterways since the last NABO News in July. The summer’s weather has allowed marvellous cruising, but the high temperatures and prolonged drought have also caused problems for CRT’s water management. An article by Adam Comerford, CRT’s National Hydrology Manager, explains how the Trust has responded to maintain navigation on the majority of canals in the face of falling reservoir levels.


The three Rs

- Rebranding, reorganisation and reactions

Editor, Peter Fellows, takes the collective pulse of boaters after the latest changes by CRT.

CRT rebranding continues to provoke reactions, with many questioning why signs that are only read by boaters were changed within days of the relaunch ‒ most boaters know what CRT is. Why not focus the marketing effort on the claimed 90% of people who apparently don’t know that CRT is the authority that manages their nearby waterway? (And also work towards changing the attitudes of some of these people so that they see canals as a resource, rather than a convenient dump for the detritus they no longer want). It would seem that someone in Government must have given CRT the nod that ‘health and wellbeing’ is where the money lies in future. If this is not the case, the change in focus is a huge gamble. Peter Underwood from ‘The Floater’ believes there is another way to fund the Trust and I have included a recent editorial explaining his view. I have also included a letter to boaters from Richard Parry on the rebranding, together with a response from Stella Ridgway and a selection of comments from boaters on social media. There is also a justification for the new logo from its designer. Elsewhere, David Fletcher explains what we need members to do in the light of the new General Data Protection Regulation, together with an update on changes to the way that NABO communicates with its membership.


From the Middle Level to the high seas

Editor, Peter Fellows has a diverse edition for Spring.

I was pleased to see that CRT has suspended the sale of the freehold to Blowers Green Pumphouse (see January’s NABO News), but wish that the relevant advisory groups could review such proposals before they go ahead. CRT has published the results of its licensing consultation, reviewed by Mark Tizard. Most narrowboaters will have to pay about 5% more for their licences year-on-year, so the exercise was not exactly ‘revenue-neutral’ – at least not for boaters. Widebeam owners will have to pay more, but not as much as many feared. During the review, many boaters didn’t see the need for any changes, so with no majority agreement to change anything much, CRT can claim to have listened to its ‘customers’. However, it is difficult to see how the outcome will reduce CRT’s licensing costs, as the system now seems to be more complicated, rather than the intended simplification.