Tuesday 31 May 2011

Mother's Little Helper

I’m breaking it off with Mick, a bit at a time. I’ve gone down to a half. I’m not taking the Jagger little pills to the new boat because I want a new start. I used to grind my teeth when I started taking them. Now I grind my teeth when I forget to take them. My short term memory is terrible lately and I’m blaming Mother’s Little Helper. I kept forgetting to look at the leaflet to see if memory loss is a side effect of Citalopram. Eventually I remembered to check: It is. It is what? My short term memory is terrible.

For me the withdrawal effects were nausea, teeth grinding and strange vivid dreams, but it varies for each individual. Some people have none.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

The New Boat

It’s our first weekend of new owner-ship. We’re  on board The New Boat, for a visit, although we still live on The Old Boat. Big Sister wants to be helpful so I ask her to put the soap powder back near the washing machine.
“Mummy, where is the washing machine?”
“The utility room is between your bedroom and my bedroom!” I reply with glee.

It feels like we’ve gone on holiday to a lovely holiday home where everything is tasteful, lovely and stylish, but tomorrow and the next day we can come back again and again. The new boat is so big that one can take a stroll down along inside it. We wake up and know that we don’t have to fold our futon bed away. There is instant hot water when I do the dishes. After doing the dishes the sink empties with gravity! There’s no need to hold in the button to pump out the dishwater (that was a very silly arrangement on The Old Boat.) In the bathroom I tell Big Sister,
“Check this out – electric flushing toilet!” Whirr!
The girls’ room is the boatman’s cabin.
“Do you know that round window with the swan painted on the glass?” I ask my little one. “Do you know what a round window on a boat is called? A port hole!”
A curious mix of excitement and astonishment crosses her face. She pauses to think.
“And when I wake up I can look out my swan hole and see that it is morning time!”
Photo by Phil Bassett www.boatshed.com

A new imaginary friend has rocked up: Loudon Wainwright III; American comedy folk songwriter. He’s more cheerful than some of my other imaginary friends and he’s strumming away; a half remembered tune about how he can tell by the look on my face, that I just love this new bad ass place.  Then I remember that I don’t believe in imaginary friends anymore, and hope to make shiny new Real Friends, in The Countryside.  He obligingly disappears in a puff of smoke. I left the old boat, haunted with imaginary friends.  William Blake, Ye Olde Boat Wife, Tiny Tim Cratchett, Charles Lamb, Mick Jagger, RonnieWood,  John, Paul, Ringo and George, do not have permission to stow away on board The New Boat.

When I’m with Big Sister in her bedroom we cannot even hear Baby Sister and The Doctor in the living room! Our bedroom is the biggest bedroom I’ve ever seen on a narrowboat. There is a wardrobe, and room for a desk or writing bureaux and a chest of drawers. There is a real free standing bed, not a fitted cabin bed. It’s the first time in ten years that I’ve had a Real Bed, with a headboard and a footboard. I could poke my feet over the end of the bed if I wanted to – without hitting the bulkhead! 

Baby Sister enjoyed toddling from one end of the boat to the other. Until now she has got around with a mix of crawling and tentative toddling. But this weekend she just walked the whole time, arms slightly bent, hands excitedly held in the air. From that weekend onwards she hardly ever crawled again. Space, on this boat, was one small step for baby, and one giant leap for babykind.  

I strolled the lengthy stroll down to the utility room (also the engine room), with a manual in my hand. I read out the instructions. I loaded in the laundry and noticed a stray squatter had been caught up in the laundry bundle. He scuttled across the pillow cases.
“Quick!” I alerted The Doctor. “There’s a massive spider! I don’t want him to get - what a horrible way to drown...”
“...in an incy-wincident!” finished The Doctor.
The Doctor gently removed Incy and put him out of the kitchen window. Then we trekked back to the other end of the boat.
The Doctor pressed the buttons. Green lights came on and we heard the sound of running water and whirring electric. We’ve got a washing machine! I squealed. We hugged. Out came the sunshine. And Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the spout again.

(Written on 12thMarch - my blog lags behind my Real Life.)

Laundry day

Sunday 22 May 2011

Charlie's Story

One day I returned to our mooring to find that ‘Charlie’s Chugger’ was moored nearby. ‘Charlie’s Chugger, and Alfie’s Also’ is a  42ft blue narrowboat that used to belong to my mate The Marine Engineer: It was his workshop.
“I know Charlie!” exclaimed Big Sister.
A ripple of sadness crossed the surface of the glittering sunny water.
“I don’t think you do darling,” I said. “You've never met him. You must know a different Charlie.”

I am deeply honoured that The Marine Engineer and The Original Boat-Wife wished to share Charlie’s story on my blog.

Charlie's Story
A guest post by Nigel Rickards.

May 22nd 2004   
A lovely warm sunny spring day, it was Saturday and the Rickmansworth festival was on, it was also Cup Final day.   
We were moored just above Denham Deep Lock and had been for a week as we had broken down (the coupling on the prop shaft had broken and we were awaiting a new one). We had been making our way up to Ricky to get a good spot for the festival weekend, as the boys, Charlie in particular, had enjoyed it so much the previous year. This was the first time we had taken the boat up for a few years, the first since the arrival of both Charlie and Alfie. 
On Friday afternoon Rob on ‘Cornwall’ had breasted up and taken us up to the Horse and Barge at Harefield  so that we could get water and do the loo etc.
Charlie sat up top with Janet and Rob as we made our way up there; Charlie was never one to be stuck inside when the boat was moving. The following morning Rob brought us back to Denham Deep as it was a lovely spot and there is a great woods for the boys to play in and trees to climb. I had been off work the previous few days as Janet had been working and had spent some fantastic days with my two boys Charlie, four years old, and Alfie two years old. We spent our time rampaging through the woods having boys adventures and walking across buttercup filled meadows on the other side of the lock, discovering abandoned little bridges that have been lost to the modern world but obviously had a purpose and use once upon a time. We spent ages throwing sticks in the River Colne for our dog Jess to go in and retrieve.
The weather had been great and I had been telling Janet what fun we were having. She was very jealous and quite rightly wanted some of the same for herself on her next few days off work, so that is why we decided to get Rob to take us back to Denham Deep. I had passed up the opportunity of getting a tow back to our mooring earlier in the week; I had declined politely and told Vince if we have to be broken down, then I can’t think of a lovelier spot to be stuck.  So many small decisions made and if any of them had been made differently, I wouldn’t be sitting here painfully remembering the events that were to change not only that weekend but the rest of our lives.

When we got back to Denham Charlie and I went over the old white bridge and helped to push the front of Rob’s boat round as he slowly turned ‘Cornwall’ around. While we were over there Stan who was also moored at Denham came out on deck and took a picture of Charlie and me. After Rob had said farewell, we readied ourselves for the day ahead. Janet was going to take the boys over to Denham Country Park taking the path through the woods and over the wooden bridge which crosses the Colne, then up past the golf course and the fields where the horses live. I had to go to work for a couple of hours and then I would be back and we could all head off to the festival in the afternoon. Before I left I had promised Alan and Trish of Candlebridge Carrying Co: that I would pull their boats up to the bollards once they were free. They had taken a few days off for themselves after a busy winter delivering coal, gas and diesel to all the boats.  It wouldn’t take me long so I went while Janet finished getting the boys stuff ready. Charlie asked me to get his bike off the roof as he wanted to take it with him on the walk with mum. I don’t know why Charlie didn’t come with me to help move the boats that day as he always wanted to be involved, and I would always ask him if he wanted to come, maybe it was because I was rushing or maybe it was because I thought he needed to be helping mum get his stuff ready. Just after I left though he asked Janet if he could go with me and she said yes, she watched him from the hatch as he rode down the towpath to the bend where Stan was moored  I had only just left a few seconds before so he would be on top of me now, no need to worry.  I didn’t look and I didn’t hear a thing, and when I got back 15 minutes later panic broke out. I cannot go into anymore details of what happened that day, except to say that it was all of our friends from along the canal that came and gave us support and helped us through the ordeal that long Saturday. They came from south of the lock in Uxbridge and Cowley. They came from the north at Harefield, Springwell and from the festival at Rickmansworth. We all stayed at Fran’s Tea Rooms by the lock at Denham and Fran kept everybody in tea, coffee and food all day long. The phone seemed to ring continuously as word spread on the towpath telegraph. The lock at Denham and Harefield had the paddles padlocked so that the Pound was closed and no water was moving while the divers did their job. Lines of boats waited below the lock, they had been making their way to the festival as well, but nobody complained about waiting. It was about 5pm when the Police Officer who had been liaising with us finally broke the news which we knew was coming all day. We were finally allowed back on to the towpath and we walked in the dread of what we knew we were both going to have to confront. Our beautiful boy was gone, he just vanished, in a split second of being out of direct contact with either of us he disappeared and yet now here I was carrying my wonderful son in my arms for the last time in my life, back to the ambulance that had been waiting all day. We couldn’t come to terms with it and still 7 years later we still haven’t and probably never will. All of his short life people who didn’t live on boats always asked,
 “Aren’t you worried about living on the water with kids?” Of course we were and we knew the dangers as well as anyone, and so did Charlie, we had made sure of that. It goes hand in hand with all of the other very important things you teach your kids to do from a very early age like, crossing the road safely, potty training, careful the fire is very hot, saying please and thank you, etcetera.  I would always reply to that question along the lines of,
“Don’t you worry about your kids getting out of the garden and into the road?” Wherever you live there are dangers for children everywhere. I failed as a dad that day because I wasn’t there for Charlie when he needed me most, and for that I will carry the guilt and pain in my heart forever, until one day I hope to hold him again in a better place than this and tell him how sorry I truly am. I am not religious but I now have a wish that there is something more. 

At Charlie’s funeral there weren’t enough seats in the church, so people stood at the back, the majority of those people were boaters, and afterwards we had a celebration of Charlie’s life. He had filled us with joy from his first day, he was a boys boy, living life at full speed, he was never scared to try anything and always made friends wherever he went. Apart from the last 6 or so months when we got a long term mooring in Cowley for school, we cruised continuously between West London and the Tring summit, we moved every couple of weeks or so and Charlie would generally be up top with me.  As he got older he helped with things like opening the lock gates and winding up and down the paddles (with a little help from his dad of course). He would help me empty the rubbish and fill the water tank. Living on the water he watched me fish and he was a keen angler, he would sit there quietly with his rod and just wait patiently. One of the funniest things that he was prone to do was to lean out of the side hatch and yell at passing boats to slow down when they were rushing by too fast. Obviously the sight of a two year old doing that was too much to handle because most of those boats did slow down, and Janet and I would just fall about laughing.

Some weeks later Paul from the Lock cottage at Uxbridge approached his boss at British Waterways and they organised for a lovely bench to be placed at Denham where Charlie had his accident, there’s a small brass plaque engraved with his full name and a few words fitted on the bench and if you ever venture that way, take a seat and enjoy the surroundings, for this was part of Charlie's back garden, and he loved it. There is also a rose tree planted there in his favourite colour and some friends on boats helped to clear the vegetation, trees and shrubs surrounding it so it all stood out a bit more and got the sun. He has his picture hanging in his old school surrounded by drawings from all of his little friends. At his first school where he went to prep in the mornings they planted a tree in his memory with a plaque beneath. 

Of course Janet and I have regrets, but I don’t regret the life he did have. It was full of boys adventure and fun. He may have been with us only a short while but he lived a hundred childhoods in that time and left such warm memories for any who knew him.  I am glad that he was born to a boating life and I am proud of my boy for the life he lived in that boating world and the mark he left on all of the wonderful boaters he met. When I think of all my years living aboard, those 4 years 15 weeks and 6 days when I had the honour to share my experience with Charlie, was the best time of it all.
I could go on and on with wonderful stories of Charlie, but I will stop. Thank you “Boat Wife” for the opportunity to write this. It has taken me a while and I have cried so much that I just wanted to stop, but I am glad that I didn’t and glad that I have now finished and got back to all my happy memories. People lose children every day across the world in so many different ways, we never think it will happen to us and I wish it never has to happen to anyone again, but unfortunately it will. Charlie could have lived on the 15th floor of a council block in South London and been hit by a car. Nobody much would have noticed just another car accident and not much of a life before that. But he didn’t he lived on a boat, in the south of England in some of the most beautiful places and had a ball every day of his life, and when he had his accident everyone noticed as it was such a rare accident, because kids on the cut know, they're all brought up to know, all boaters know. When all is said and done, I think it is a wonderful way of life for kids to grow up nowadays. Such a rare opportunity to experience life and people and to get to know and experience the world you live in, at an age when all the materialistic things in life don’t matter.
Thank you again Boat Wife and to all of the boaters I have mentioned by name or not, you know who you are and so do I.  We have now moved from the canal and live in Australia, we have Alfie, now almost 9, and little Jake who was a bit of a surprise, and he’s 2 in August.

In Memory of Charlie.
Missed so much by all who knew his smile.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Meet The Boaters: Nigel and Janet

Nigel and Janet

This is the last in my series of interviews about families living on narrowboats. Why do some families stay living aboard, and others decide that as their children grow older, it’s time to leave the waterways and live ashore? I came very close to living in a house this year, and it was partly my friends Nigel and Janet that changed my mind about leaving the water. Although I have referred to their interview in my article about jumping ship I wanted to publish their whole interview because I found it all so inspiring and interesting! 

Janet (46) is presently working as a disability support worker, but when I first met her she was a paramedic. She started looking at boats in about 1989. She was working for a bank, which used to be in Wembley and then relocated to Uxbridge, on the outskirts of West London. She was the kind of person who hated the office and at lunchtime would go to the park or off for a walk. That’s how she found the canal, by the ‘Swan and Bottle’ pub, and saw the boats and the people living aboard.
The Swan and Bottle pub, Uxbridge

“I  got out the local map and went a-wandering. I think it was the freedom that appealed to me, taking off in your own home to wander the countryside like a gypsy with never a worry..ha ha - sounds so romantic doesn’t it? Also I was getting too old to live at home and didn’t want a mortgage, house, and bills etcetera. I met Nigel while I was going to the boat yards and it was a brilliant idea for a shag pad!

 I bought ‘Amelia Rose’ for 15 grand and for the first few days lived out of water bottles, battery powered radio and candlelight as I did not have a clue how it all worked...don’t laugh!  I loved the lifestyle, the friends, chatting to strangers, moving around ...everything. I hated...er....er....er...um...the restricted space but only after having children and...er...running the engine to charge to batteries, (too noisy) and I think that’s it. 

It all changed in 2004, I just didn’t want to be there anymore, but to be honest I was hinting to Nigel to move before, for all the reasons you mentioned when we were emailing recently; laundry, cramped space - especially when it was raining, dragging shopping and kids from the car to the boat; and I was always paranoid about the water.

I do miss it terribly but would not go back for the reason mentioned above. What do I miss? The shock on people’s faces when you say you live on a boat, the friends, the pubs and social life, talking to complete strangers on the towpath and not being treated or treating anyone like a psycho murderer, the peace and quiet, no traffic, crowds, noisy neighbours and of course the beautiful English countryside like nowhere else on earth.

It was the best time of my life and I wouldn’t swap it for the world, a house is great...bigger though more expensive, more mod cons, and cleaning! Believe me cleaning a boat was fun compared to a big house. If we didn’t emigrate we would be still on the boat unless we moved completely away to the countryside, somewhere quiet, remote and beautiful, and I doubt that would have happened.”

Nigel - 'The Marine Engineer'
 Nigel (48) was a marine engineer, when I knew him on the Cut: A good one. He serviced my boat and everyone else’s that I knew.  He lived aboard from 1996 until 2008. Charlie was born on the 1st February 2000 and Alfie was born on the 9th April 2002.
“I moved onto Janet’s first boat as a very short term stop gap as I had nowhere else to go and needed a roof. It was only going to be for two weeks and I did not want it to be any longer. On my first morning I awoke to a frozen canal covered in snow and found that the fire had gone out...bloody freezing, but after one week at the end of a very cold January I had got the bug and Janet couldn't get rid of me. Prior to meeting Janet it would be fair to say that I knew nothing of the canals or the wonderful life that could be had on it. Janet had always wanted a boat though from her early twenties I believe.
We bought our first boat together in 1998 (Rebecca) and I was probably the catalyst for that as I didn't want to be a lodger and shagging my landlady for the rest of my days, (although it did fulfil some landlady fantasies!)

Charlie and 'Rebecca' (The boat)
‘Rebecca’ was a 70ft Bantock coal butty c1928 that had been converted around 1980 to a liveaboard. We did major work on her over the years but she was a trad style with an engine room cabin at the back for the boys, and then pretty open plan up to the front where our bedroom was.

The things I liked were that there was plenty of room inside for a boat, diesel fire, super big water tank: and moving every couple of weeks to do the toilet, water and bins etcetera usually involved a beer along the way somewhere.  My only dislike was the lack of headroom.

“If you never had a friend in the world then the Cut is the place to find them.” 

The lifestyle was brilliant, if you never had a friend in the world then the Cut is the place to find them. Summers are wonderful for socialising and getting together, moving around all the time was for me the greatest part of it all. A different view every couple of weeks and even when you were somewhere that was not great you knew that very soon you would be moving on again. Generally we always tried to find somewhere really remote and out of the way so there was no one around for miles, or we would be very close to the pub which was equally as nice but for completely different reasons. last but not least the pleasure of just picking up my rod and fishing whilst carrying on with the rest of my life, at times I fished from the moment I got up until I left the boat and started again as soon as I got home, wonderful . 

I didn’t like changing the gas bottle when you’re in the middle of a shower in the freezing cold. When we had a pump out (got rid of that pretty quickly) and it was full you had no toilet until you got it emptied. Another thing is having to be mindful of how much water and power we were using all the time.
Charlie and Alfie
Once we had Charlie and then Alfie, I think my feelings pretty much stayed the same. To be honest we had a better social life on the Cut with kids than we ever would have had in a house. You can be outside with friends and the kids inside asleep or outside playing with you, and when we moored out side or near a pub a really good quality baby monitor meant we could sit in the pub have a few drinks and the boys would be asleep inside a locked boat and very safe.  

We lived aboard for four years before Charlie arrived, and lived aboard as parents for 8 1/2 years in all. 
The advantages for kids are the outside lifestyle, growing up knowing and understanding a non orthodox way of life, great education of life and nature. Healthy living - having to walk to many places sometimes a long way to get to the shops or even just the car. Living in some of the most beautiful places in England. Oh yeah, and did I mention getting to have the pub garden (swings, slides and the rest) as your own little garden when you were moored up outside?

The disadvantage for kids are the dangers of water; you know what I am saying Boat-Wife.

As a parent the greatest thing for me was teaching and watching my boys learn how to swing a lock gate and lift and lower paddles properly etcetera, at an age where most other kids would not have a clue what they were even for.

The worst things I guess would be the lack of room for all, you certainly learn how to get along with each other but if you need a bit of space and be away from the kids for a bit of chill time then you are very limited, especially when it’s cold or wet outside.

Common questions would be,
Do you have a toilet or shower? Can you stand up? Oh it looks so small, how do you all live in that?

We left only to emigrate, and I think if we had not then we may still be afloat. Living in England I had no urge whatsoever to move to a house. Having since left and now living in a house I appreciate all the luxuries in life which people take for granted: such as a never ending supply of water from taps that never run out; toilets that never have to be emptied - let alone carried in hand, a big bath and a never ending source of electricity and room soooo much room. We have a front veranda with more floor space than the whole of our boat.

It was sad to leave the canal and all of our friends but everything comes to an end eventually and if you stay anywhere for too long it will eventually change, and no one likes change so you end up hating it and fighting it rather than just enjoying what you used to unconditionally enjoy.
 What I am trying to say is that of all the chapters in my life, the canal would be the longest, and holds truly some of the greatest, loveliest memories I could ever wish for. It also holds the most painful as well, so for us it was a good time to go. Never look back, just forwards but always remember what has passed, it makes you a better person at the end of the day and appreciate what you had and what you now have.
Learn from it all and then a house can be as enjoyable (for all the opposite reasons) as the canal ever was.

Uxbridge Lock

All drawings and paintings on this post are my own. (c) Boat-Wife.

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Saturday 14 May 2011

When Freedom is Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Be Free!

A Boat-Wife’s Response to the BW Consultation

Re: The Proposals for the Management of Moorings on the Rivers Lea and Stort, Hertford Union and Regent’s Canals.

What are your views on current levels of boating and mooring in the plan area?

I am happy with the current levels of boating and mooring in the area. Residential boaters are growing in number and are an important part of this consultation process. The increase of boats used as homes throughout London make the towpath a safer place to enjoy for all. A few years ago I would not have moored in East London, but in recent years I was pleased to see a welcoming community of boats there with several ‘safe’ moorings. I believe these moored boats make the place a safer and more attractive place for walkers, cyclists, anglers and other towpath users.

What effect (e.g. good, bad, none) does the current level of boating and mooring have on your enjoyment of the waterways and park?

I cruised down these rivers and canals (from the River Stort to Islington) last Autumn and found plenty of places to moor. The moorings that I chose were near other boats because of the ‘safety in numbers’ factor. While I agree that moorings in London in general are popular, the only place I have ever actually been unable to secure a visitor mooring is Camden. This is since double mooring was prohibited there. (I wrote to BW at the time to complain that this most popular visitor mooring has had it’s availability halved, apparently at the request of the local trip boats.) I would say the current level of boating in the plan area has a good effect on my enjoyment of the waterways.

In general, what are your views on the proposals for managing moorings?

I do find the legal side of this very complicated. I am not sure if the 1995 British Waterways Act allows BW to redefine 'neighbourhoods' and dictate how far a continuous cruiser must move after 14 days. I’ve had a look at Section 17 (3) and understand that a boater must satisfy the board that the vessel will be used bona fide for navigation.

However, the proposed new mooring charges seem to be more like ‘parking fines’. The definition of "bona fide for navigation" in the BW Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers is misleading. If a boat continues its journey after mooring in one place for 14 days then I believe that is cruising ‘in good faith’. But it seems that the phrase in the law; “bona fide for navigation” is open to different interpretations.

My view is that the new guidelines would require residential boaters and pleasure boaters to travel much larger distances, making leisurely cruising and visiting attractive sites much more difficult. They seem particularly biased towards making living aboard without a mooring very difficult.

I have lived on a boat for eleven years. In recent years I have married and had two children. Our family continuously cruises in the summer and pays for a mooring during the winter. I was offended to read statements in the media recently that suggest choosing a continuously cruising lifestyle is inappropriate for a family.

Clive Henderson, chairman of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), was quoted in The Guardian on Wednesday 27 April 2011 as saying,

"If a family chooses to take up boating and make it their place of residence, then it's clear what the obligations are. I can't believe continuous cruising is suitable for anyone with a job or with children at school."

It is likely that the British Waterways Guidelines for Continuous Cruisers have encouraged this kind of viewpoint.

"We're refining our mooring guidance," a BW spokesman said in The Guardian article. "Boaters will still be required to engage in a genuine and ongoing cruise or journey of some length.

"Some [people] who knowingly signed up for a continuous cruiser lifestyle may have to accept this is not a suitable option for them. Where this is the case … we will welcome the help of other agencies … to provide housing."

A house is not my preferred option, or an affordable option and BW should respect my wish to choose my own home and lifestyle.

The guidelines suggest that a boat should move a significant distance around the system but this is the BW interpretation of the 1995 British Waterways Act.  I do not advocate “bridge hopping” or staying longer than 14 days but I have not seen any evidence to suggest that the length of the journeys that I currently undertake, inconvenience other waterways users. The upper Lea and Stort are definitely not congested, there are long stretches without any moored boats at all. There is no difficulty in finding a mooring. While levels of boating have increased on the lower Lea I would still not describe it as congested.

“A "cruise" is a journey or series of journeys "making for no particular place or calling at a series of places". (Shorter Oxford Dictionary.)

“Such journey or cruise must take place "throughout the period of [the licence]" and therefore requires progression around the network, or at least a significant part of it.” (BW Guidelines.)

Why does a series of journeys require significant progression around the network? During the summers that I have cruised on my boat I believe I have made journeys of significant length, (for example Islington to Bishops Stortford and back). I don’t know if this would satisfy the board that I was using my boat bona fide for navigation, but if I move every 14 days I do not think I contribute to congestion.

Living aboard is already a very challenging but rewarding lifestyle. Commuting to childcare and work is sometimes difficult but currently possible. I am concerned how the proposal will affect residential boaters currently cruising in the planned area. I am very concerned that if these proposals are accepted on the Lea and Stort then they may eventually become the rules for the whole canal system, making life for my family very difficult.

The proposals will also adversely affect leisure boaters, holiday boaters and hire boaters on the Lea and Stort. Decreasing the use of these rivers will simply increase usage on other parts of the system. The apparently increasing number of people choosing boats as their homes, particularly in London, surely means that there is an increasing number of licence fees to spend on sanitary, rubbish disposal and water facilities in popular areas?

I am not aware of any evidence to back up the problems described on these waterways, that the proposal plans to address. Continuous cruisers are not the main culprits in overstaying on visitor moorings. I feel as if the proposed ‘charges’ or fines are a discriminatory way of increasing revenue by targeting one particular type of boater.

Possessions spilling on to the towpath are not something I have encountered as a common problem and I have travelled Hertfordshire, Essex and London extensively over the last eleven years. (Is that a significant progression around the network?) This should be dealt with by approaching the individuals concerned and not legislating against a particular group of people.

Historically, I believe parliament has not allowed BW to introduce restrictions like those described in this proposal, (e.g. the 1990 Private Bill that eventually became the 1995 British Waterways Act.)

In general, my view is that the proposals are discriminatory and unnecessary. 

How will you be affected by the proposals?

My family have spent two summers cruising the rivers Lea and Stort, (2008 and 2010) and commuting to childcare and work in London. There are plenty of towpath moorings and visitor moorings on these rivers and many beautiful places to visit. If the mooring guidance for these areas is changed I cannot see that it would be practical for my family to ever visit this area again. A family on board (whether on holiday or residential) has a limited amount of time per day that they can actually spend cruising and working locks, because there are meals to prepare and children to care for.

Do you have any practical suggestions to make implementation easier / improve it?

  1. Enforce the existing 14 day rule, remaining flexible about circumstances where it is reasonable to stay in one neighbourhood for longer. Residential boaters can be given cheap moorings at popular sites in exchange for acting as local wardens. (This is something BW already do.) A permanent residential boater at each popular site can act as a ‘Welcome Boat’ supplying BW information and providing security in inner city areas. They could also report local maintenance problems.
  2. Welcome the fact that residential boating is growing. Create more residential moorings as a way of increasing revenue.
  3. Research ways to increase revenue without targeting one particular group of boaters.
  4. Stop portraying liveaboard boaters without a mooring as a problem. We should not all be portrayed as “bridge hoppers” when so many of us are engaged in a genuine progressive journey.
  5. Stop mis-interpreting the 1995 British Waterways Act. I think the current guidelines should be rewritten. As BW promotes the waterways as a leisure resource, let us enjoy them at a leisurely pace. Individuals have the right to choose the length, speed and direction of their own personal journey. A nice metaphor for life, don’t you think?!  

Send your own response by email to Damian Kemp (Project Officer) at Damian.kemp@britishwaterways.co.uk

You don’t have to waffle on like I did. Just a brief note with your thoughts will do.

You have until Tuesday 31st May!

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Wednesday 11 May 2011

Extraordinary Events

Amy Pond Pirate Image Credit
From: British Waterways

Date: Thu, 5 May 2011

Subject: Extension to River Lee Mooring Management Plan consultation


As you know the River Lee Mooring Management consultation is due to end on the 9th of May. However, we’ve taken the decision to extend the consultation period until Tuesday 31st May. We’ve had an excellent response to date but in light of extraordinary events – notably the recent spate of public holidays and local elections – we want to ensure that all interested parties have ample opportunity to respond. 

Please circulate this information as widely as possible. 

Thanks and regards,

Project Officer
British Waterways

From: Caroline (Residential Boater)

Date: 7 May 2011

To: British Waterways

Dear Project Officer

I write in response to your decision to extend the consultation for a further 3 weeks.

Initially British Waterways proposed for the consultation period to end on April 4th 2011. Following two public meetings held, this was then extended to the minimum of 12 weeks, finishing on May 9th 2011.

At the final hour, British Waterways have decided to extend this to the 31st May 2011.

As you said in your email 05/05/11, you have had excellent response. I therefore ask you, why are you extending this consultation period further? What are the extraordinary events?

We have been in contact with moored boaters who informed us at least a week before your email dated 05/05/11 that you had contacted them to encourage them to provide feedback on the proposal.

We as 'London Boaters' are another stakeholder in the decision making, why have you not been in contact with us until now? Why did you selectively contact other stakeholders to encourage them to complete their proposal response?
This indicates British Waterways are being biased regarding stakeholder communication and preferred responses to this proposal.

I look forward to your response.

Caroline Neller

From: British Waterways

Date: 9 May 2011

Dear Caroline,

Thank you for your email. The extraordinary events were stated in the email. I’m disappointed that you feel we’re being biased as it’s definitely not the case. Contrary to this we simply extended the same courtesy to ‘other’ stakeholders as we had already done to both the LBG and UL&SBA. If you recall, we met with boaters’ groups on the 18th of March and encouraged responses. Indeed, Mark confirmed that you were getting as many people to write in, in their own words, their views of the proposals and possible alternatives and (if memory serves me correctly) I said words along the lines of ‘keep ‘em coming’! This is basically what we did when we met with other stakeholders. As with boaters’ groups, this is the only communication we’ve had with other stakeholders.

I should point out that we are also in the process of meeting with local authorities as well with the aim of developing closer relations in order to try to get residential mooring application viewed more favourably by their planning departments.


Project Officer

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Saturday 7 May 2011

Letter to The Inland Waterways Association

Narrowboats spelled out the word 'HOME' last Saturday at a community canal event in East London

Photo by Katrin Thomas
More about HOME on London Boaters Facebook page.

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) is a charity which advocates the conservation, use, maintenance, restoration and development of England’s inland waterways for public benefit.

Draft response by IWA on BW Lee & Stort mooring consultation

Dr Stephen Haigh has written a fantastic response to IWA and has permitted me to publish it here.

RE: Draft response by IWA on the Lee and Stort consultation.

Dear  IWA, having read your charities responses to BWs new mooring plans I felt I must contact you to comment on some of the opinions and wording in the document.
I have a continuous cruiser (CC) licence and live on my boat with my six-month-old daughter and partner, have lived aboard since 2007 and have cruised most of the canal and river network in England in this period.  I now enjoy cruising around the London waterways network and greatly respect the canal and its heritage.
IWA’s comments I object to or think are ill judged I’ll list in parenthesis and in the order they appear in your document.
1)      You state: ‘permanently moored boats have blighted many parts of the system, as they set up camp’. 
This phrasing is offensive to CCers like myself, is without justification, and should be removed.

2)      You state: ‘There is very little in the proposed plan which would inconvenience bona fide continuous cruisers and most other leisure boaters.’ 

Many long-break cruisers with home moorings would find two weeks, too short a period for leisurely exploration of the Stort. 

3)       You State: ‘leisure boaters race down the lower Lee aiming for a safe London moorings such as Limehouse or Little Venice’. 

Think of the amount of CCers who would be racing around if BWs proposals were implemented.  Moreover, there are a great many safe moorings other than Little Venice and Limehouse in central London thanks to the community of CCers that visit those mooring and whom all know each other, producing a safer environment for all.

4)      You State: ‘kill the problem and act as a discouragement for future abuse’. 

This statement is worded poorly when you are talking about people with families.

5)      You State: ‘those trying to ‘squat’ and commute’. 

No CCer is trying to squat.  They own their own licensed boats and have a legitimate right to moor.  This phrase should be removed.

6)      You State: ‘More action needs to be done to prevent moorers taking over the towpath and declaring ╩╗ownership╩╝ of a particular section of waterspace’.   

No one has declared ownership of anything.  Unless you have written evidence for it, this phrase is redundant without foundation.

Your attention to the above issues and wording would be greatly appreciated, before a final response to BW is submitted.  Many thanks.  I look forward to hearing from you. 

Yours Faithfully 

Dr. S. N. Haigh

Useful links

This picture depicts a Boat-Wife defending her rights

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