Winter’s on its way

Editor Peter Fellows hangs up his tiller pin for the year.

After the boat spent the summer on the River Great Ouse, my last cruise this year was back up the River Nene to Northampton, which coincided with the Indian summer at the beginning of October - wonderful to be in shirt-sleeves instead of waterproofs! The aim was to get the boat back onto the canals before winter storms made the Nene impassable, but we needn’t have worried: I travelled with a narrowboat having a draught of 30 inches, and they were told by the EA that, due to lack of rainfall in the catchment area, the river was too shallow for them to proceed and they should hole up in White Mills Marina until it rained again! Generally, the locks and river are well-maintained, so CRT will not have to incur vast expenditure if, or when, they take over the navigation, but there were a few places where tree growth restricted the river to a single boat width. This is not due to lack of cutting back over the last few years - some of these trees must be 20 years old.

Lock failures, too much vegetation or too little water?

Editor Peter Fellows offers some choices for NABO to focus on



Trust the Trust?

Editor Peter Fellows worries about CRT governance


It may seem odd to focus on elections to NABO Council and CRT Council in this issue as neither will be taking place for another four to five months. But NABO Councillors are taking a well-earned break until September and that wouldn’t give members much time to put in their nominations to stand for election - so I’ve included the nomination form in this issue. Mike Rodd uses his Chairman’s column to air his views on NABO Council (doing a good job) and CRT Council (plenty of room for improvement). Ivor Caplin, one of the boaters’ representatives, gives his views on the first three years of the work of CRT Council, and Allan Richards has unearthed some very poor attendance figures at Council meetings by both members and trustees, which makes me wonder if we should trust the oversight of the Trust. Allan has also spent a lot of time digging into the workings of the Waterways Ombudsman Committee, which oversees the work of the Waterways’ Ombudsman - an aspect of waterway administration that is little-known to most boaters. His findings should give us all cause for concern. Overall, these articles point to the need for some radical rethinking on the governance of the Trust.

But it’s not all bad news for CRT: I’m pleased to include an article by Sean Williams, CRT’s Welfare Officer, on his first eight months in the job. He is making some good progress in building support networks that can help boaters in trouble. With a caseload of 70 boaters in this time, there is clearly a need for his work. He has already successfully helped 35 boaters, avoiding court action and so saving CRT the huge legal fees that otherwise might have been incurred - hopefully savings that can now go to waterway improvements. I’m also pleased to introduce a regular column featuring people who earn a living by trading on the canals and rivers; this time, it’s Helen and Andy Tidy on their ‘Jam Butty’.

Finally in this issue, Mark Tizard brings us up to date with CRT’s new terms and conditions and enforcement of the continuous cruising rules - and what the next steps might be. So, a packed issue to keep you busy over the summer. Please think about standing for election to NABO Council and give me a wave if you see me around the Midlands canals over the next few months.



Our annual April Fool’s article usually catches out a couple of members, but not this year as I didn’t receive any comments. Instead, there was a sense of humour failure at CRT, which posted (for a while) a note in ‘Boaters’ Update’ saying that they’d like the article removed from the NABO website article as ‘It’s nothing to do with us or, as we’ve been informed, IWA. There’s a reasonable chance it’s a scam!’

Our first foray out on the waterways since winter was not our most enjoyable of experiences: in the week before the sunny weather arrived, howling winds and horizontal sleet made progress along the southern Shroppie difficult as we crabbed up the canal. Then the calorifier packed up, flooding the engine compartment with the contents of the water tank. RCR couldn’t help as it was a ‘domestic incident’ and we were still able to move the boat, but they booked us into the nearest boatyard at Oxley Marine in Wolverhampton. We duly arrived the next day and I would like to give credit where it’s due, and acknowledge the service, professionalism and general good humour provided by engineers David and Phil, not to mention co-owner, Orpheus, who also writes the occasional article for Narrowboatworld (

Towpaths are in the news this month, following the publication of CRT’s policy on sharing them, and David Fletcher and Simon Robbins both share their views on the document, making very different points. Elsewhere, Louis Jankel continues his series on ‘frequently asked questions’ about boating, this time focusing on ‘boat mechineers’, and Stephen Peters has a look at the early legislation that led to the establishment of BWB. David also writes about solid fuel stove failures that could lead to a fire on board; please follow his advice. And also note Mike Rodd’s concerns over 240V electricity and carbon monoxide - both potential killers on boats. Helen Hutt attended a meeting, organised by CRT and the Worcs, B’Ham and Droitwich Canals Society, on how organisations like NABO can increase support from the younger generation; something frequently discussed at NABO Council nowadays. Finally, with news of rare and endangered crayfish found on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, I have included an article on invasive species of plants and animals that are threatening the native waterways wildlife. Here’s hoping for some more good boating weather over the next few months.




It’s nice to end the year on several positive notes: I’m pleased that £2 million has been earmarked to restore the historic Mile Wharf on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in Burnley. We cruised past it in the summer and commented then on the disgraceful state it’s in. Although there are some big improvements taking place in Burnley, there is plenty more to do so this is welcome news. There was other positive news at the AGM last month, with Mike Rodd giving a summary of the year’s achievements, reported in this issue. Dean Davies gave us his views on how CRT can improve its customer service in an engaging and refreshingly candid way. Also at the AGM, River Canal Rescue’s Charlotte Perry and Jay Forman gave a very good presentation on their work and answered some very technical questions from the members who were present - it’s a pity there weren’t more attending. I was familiar with RCR’s breakdown service, but not with its technical courses and online chandlery. NABO has negotiated a reduced RCR membership fee for our members and this discount applies to parts bought in the chandlery too (details in the next issue).

Further positive news in this issue: the HS2 diversion away from Fradley; new facilities for visiting boaters in Aylesbury; and a round-up of developments at CRT. Louis Jankel has written the first of an occasional series of articles on frequently-asked questions about narrowboats, and there are updates on the K&A mooring trial from Geoffrey Rogerson. The debate over towpath winter mooring permits is summarised by Mark Tizard.  So altogether, plenty to get your teeth into during the coming cold winter evenings.

NABO News was favourably commented on by members at the AGM and, in this last issue of the year, I would like to thank the team of proof-readers who correct my wayward grammar, Chris Pink for working his design magic, and of course all the members who send me photos, letters and articles - without these contributions it would be a much poorer newsletter. Until the next issue in February, have an enjoyable Christmas and best wishes from all the Council members for 2015.