Monday, 23 July 2012

The Continuous Cruising Controversy


“The code is more what you'd call "guidelines"than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.”
Captain Barbossa,Pirate of the Caribbean

Like a pirate I have always roamed the water in summer time, and like a good BW customer I pay for a winter mooring in winter time. A winter mooring allows us to settle down conveniently, somewhere near childcare.Cruising in summer allows us to explore, see new places and use the boat for what it was meant for. But when you’re off on a summer cruise you may find yourself up at 6 am to catch two buses and a long walk to the town where nursery is.Then you do the same journey backwards and manage to get home to start work by 10am. I’m tired and it’s not fun anymore.

A residential mooring became available near our nursery; my eldest is starting school in September, it would be so nice to settle down in a community. But the mooring is too expensive for us, we struggle to make ends meet as it is. And we do love the variety of travelling. Would we really want to settle down?

But then we got a stern letter from British Waterways saying that this year we have not covered enough distance and would we like to either get a mooring or continue our journey? We do move every 14 days but according to the Guidelines for Continuous Cruisers we do not move far enough. We always used to move far enough, going off on great voyages over the summer. But my big girl is starting school in September and I feel myself gravitating towards a community.

We could continue travelling. When I pass my driving test I could commute back to nursery and school from wherever we are. After all, The Doctor commutes quite a distance into London every day for work. Some boating families home educate. Some register their children as travellers and attend different schools along the way.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place we decided we’d haveto bid whatever it takes to get that mooring. The bidding went pretty high; almost double what some marina moorings cost. Probably because all the continuous cruisers in our area have received a similar letter and 70ft residential moorings are pretty rare. I console myself with the fact that it is cheaper than a London mooring.

The guidelines are not law. The law is the 1995 Waterways Act, but complying with the guidelines is a requirement of the continuous cruising licence. The Act requires you to move to a different place every two weeks but ‘place’ isn't defined by law. I’m not the sort to go for civil disobedience and I don’t want to be an inconsiderate boater, but all over the country there are communities (like the London Boaters) who travel within a short stretch of waterway.

My question is this: If "continuous moorers" moved on and covered the distances described in the guidelines then would the towpath in my local area simply be occupied by different boats that had been forced to move here from their preferred ‘home’ area? There are not enough residential moorings available out there to accommodate all the people that currently live on their boats. The towpath is not over-crowded*; there is plenty of space to moor for all. In 12 years of cruising the River Lee, Stort and southern Grand Union the only place I've been unable to find a mooring space was Camden. What happened to the idea of a ‘roving permit’?

There are three kinds of residential boater; those with moorings, those who are continuously cruising the network and those who travel short distances to be near a place of work or study.

We won the bidding, and will be joining those residential boaters with moorings.


*London Boaters BW Consultation Response 2011, Appendix D. contested claims of 'congested' London canals when their survey concluded 1`boat  every 137 metres in London. 
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