From the Tiller

by Alan Wildman

A major part of RBOA’s remit is to liaise with Navigation Authorities to promote the cause of responsible residential living afloat. With this very much in mind, Beryl and I recently met with Jon Horsfall, Canal & River Trust’s Interim Head of Boating so that we could further our ongoing dialogue with the Trust. Our relationship with CRT is generally cordial and workmanlike but RBOA is not in CRT’s pocket, nor is CRT in ours. Both sides are free to go our own ways as may be appropriate if or when we disagree. Jon is clearly well versed in how CRT is legally obliged to operate and he has a real understanding of the challenges presented to all parties by the recent surge in popularity of residential boating, not least that of continuous cruising craft. His open, honest and no-nonsense approach is positive and very much welcome. I, for one, hope his appointment to post might be made permanent.

Stage 3 of CRT’s Boat Licensing Consultation is imminent and could well be under way by the time this issue of Soundings is published. The third part of the consultation was always designed to allow all boaters to have individual input into the exercise. Do, please, grasp the opportunity to have your say when invited to do so and please let any RBOA Officer know if you experience any difficulty when submitting your personal response.

The possibility of Environment Agency navigations being transferred to governance under Canal & River Trust still appears as yet very much unsettled. Indeed, with Central Government’s necessary focus on Brexit, it could be a good while before we hear much more about the EA/CRT issue. That said, Rex Walden, a past Chair of RBOA and now our Area Representative on the non-tidal Thames, reports that the continued increase in numbers of boats without home moorings on CRT London waterways is now similarly occurring on the non-tidal Thames. Not all those craft are used as sole residences but the Environment Agency and some Local Authorities are taking a very firm stance on any unauthorised mooring and on stay time limits at authorised sites. At many locations, casual mooring for more than a few days at a time is becoming more difficult and potentially more costly. Equally worrying is the fact that, just as on CRT waters, there seems to be a gradual increase in ill feeling from other waterway users towards continuously cruising live-aboards. Many appear to assume that because a boat is continuously cruising, it is abusing the system. RBOA knows that a large proportion of Continuous Cruisers do what their “name” implies – make genuine progressive journeys within the waterway network, often travelling very considerable distances during the course of a year. Unfairly, those boaters become tarred with the same brush as the group who constantly flaunt the system.

As August comes to a close, now is a good time for those of us who live afloat to turn our thoughts to preparing for winter. I have no wish to preach to the converted, many of whom are more experienced than I, but please humour me as I pass on a few gentle and well intentioned reminders:

  • Ensure your stoves are in safe working order. Sweep flues and chimneys. Ensure diesel and gas heaters are working properly and safely.
  • Check that smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are in good order; fire extinguishers, too.
  • Ensure all means of passive ventilation are clear and not blocked.
  • Check that your batteries are up to the additional demand they may be subjected to.
  • Check your first aid kit(s).
  • Check that your water tanks and pipes are sound and protected from freezing.
  • Make sure you have access to propulsion and heating fuels and water supplies regardless of the weather.
  • Know where you plan to cruise and/or moor during the bad months. Plan your toilet duties.
  • Ensure your ropes and mooring kit is all in good order. Keep your anchor handy – just in case.
  • Check your stern gland if you have one, and make sure you have a fully functioning bilge pump.
  • If your craft has a weed hatch, ensure it is properly sealed and tightened down.
  • If you use a stand-alone generator, always fill the fuel tank away from the boat and when running the machine always make certain that no fuel or exhaust fumes can enter the boat’s accommodation area.
  • Prepare contingency plans/communications in case of problems – mechanical or personal.

If you think of anything I may have missed, please drop a note to Beryl, our Soundings editor, so that we can share your knowledge with other RBOA members before winter sets in.

As ever, my sincere and very best wishes go out to every one of you.

The RBOA Newsletter, Soundings, is sent free to members six times a year.
It is also available to non-members for £2 (+ £1.20 P&P).