Another successful AGM at Wolverhampton Boat Club (many thanks for the excellent food and hospitality), with Stella taking over the reins from Mike and farewells to longstanding Council members Geoffrey Rogerson and Stephen Peters and London rep, Simon Robbins. It was good to meet Ken Hylins, who has a special interest in assisting boaters with disabilities. I also had a conversation with a continuous cruising member, who, when she stops at different places, helps ring the bells at the local church. She’d been moored up for a week or so at Brewood when the vicar asked if she could ring the bells at a wedding three weeks later. She replied that she would love to, but didn’t think that CRT would allow it. “I potter slowly around the system, doing no-one any harm and obeying the rules, and I don’t see why CRT should be allowed to dictate how I live or what I choose to do”. I agree with her, and I think a lot of other boaters would also. She could ask the local waterway manager for an exception to the 14-day rule on this occasion, but she would not automatically qualify (no illness, pregnancy or breakdown). But why should she? It is not the role of a navigation authority to give permission for someone to do something. She could also go somewhere else and return to Brewood in a couple of weeks time, but she risks falling foul of the ‘progressive journey’ rule – and again why should she have to do this?
This small incident is an example of a wider malaise: I totally support CRT’s efforts to get continuous moorers to move, but there is a climate of uncertainty, fear even, developing among some boaters without a home mooring: that they will break some rule or other and have their licence restricted, or even taken away. This may not be the reality, and I am sure it is not CRT’s intention, but it is the perception among many continuous cruisers. Hence the appalling level of support for CRT by boaters, as shown in the boaters’ survey results this year.
It is, of course, up to CRT to decide how, on behalf of the nation, it wants to manage the use of its waterways, and most boaters have nothing but kind words about local waterway managers and their staff on the bank. But policy decisions, especially on continuous cruising, need to be much more closely focussed on the (relatively few) boaters who abuse the rules, allowing the rest to pursue their lifestyle in the knowledge that they will be left alone – or even supported by CRT if they need help.
By way of balance, I’ve included an article extracted from CRT Trustee, John Dodwell’s recent speech to a canal society, setting out the Trust’s views. There are also reports on the AGM and the first Council meeting with Stella at the helm, and Mike Rodd looks back over his three years in the chair. John and Debbie Skinner describe the high points (and delays) in starting a new marina from scratch and this issue’s roving trader is Brian Greaves, artist blacksmith. Finally, in the boating section, I have included something a little different from boat dog, Bella.
Enjoy your Xmas and New Year celebrations, whether you’re afloat or dreaming about your next cruise.