Monday 4 March 2013

The code is more what you'd call "guidelines."

Elizabeth Swann contemplates the guidelines
for boats without a home mooring.

Unless you are a regular boater on the southern Grand Union canal you may know nothing about a recent consultation affecting the local boating community in the South East of England.

The recent Canal and River Trust Mooring Consultation proposed reducing the permitted stay times at 22 different visitor mooring locations.

The idea was to “to improve compliance with visitor mooring rules,” and “to improve the chances of boaters finding space to tie up when they arrive.” In practice it meant changing many popular mooring sites from the 14 days usually permitted stay, to only two days.

I returned my feedback form commenting on four sites in my local area. I think the current time limits are reasonable for these four locations. Various boaters’ discussions on Facebook have expressed concern that people who live on their boats without a home mooring may be forced to move greater distances, more often, making it much more difficult to reach jobs, schools, healthcare and other commitments.

I do not think that altering time limits at visitor moorings will stop people overstaying if they are the ‘type’ to overstay. I think the law that stipulates 14 days is a fair one for all canal users.

I have lived and travelled on a boat for 12 years, usually travelling in summer and stopping on a paid temporary winter mooring each winter. I now have a permanent mooring. I have never been unable to moor up in my chosen location upon arrival. I have travelled the Lea, Stort, London canals and Grand Union up to Cheddington.

If a popular visitor mooring is occupied upon arrival I simply choose a nearby towpath mooring instead. I believe this is the ‘luck of the draw’, as when searching for your ideal parking space with a car. These proposals seem to favour hire boats and holiday makers over people who live aboard.

This is my personal opinion. But I also wrote an article in this month’s Towpath Talk summarising the varied responses from different boaters in the area, including a canal artist, a boat broker, The National Association of Boat Owners and live-aboard boaters with and without moorings.

Allan Richards made a Freedom of Information Request to the Canal and River Trust asking how many complaints had been received about difficulties finding mooring space at these 22 locations.

The reply was that throughout the whole of 2011 and 2012 no complaints were received about failure to find space at any of the locations CRT wish to change.

Speculations and theories are now widely debated in online discussion forums as to the ‘real’ reasons for the proposals.  If no one has complained about the difficulty finding mooring space then who or what is driving the need for change? There is an on-going assumption by some people that boats without a home mooring are a problem. While some of them certainly overstay beyond their 14 days the vast majority keep to the guidelines and move on to the next place.

It reminds me of when the Trust tried to introduce mooring “zones” or neighbourhoods in London. When Freedom is Outlawed only Outlaws will be free!

“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


Unknown said...

I bet you're glad that spring is finally on the horizon...don't envy you on a canal boat in the winter!

Narrowboat Wife said...

It's usually warm in the winter, so long as the heating is working ok! :-)

MsXpat said...

Hello I found this post via Hello Its Gemma's Brit Mums blog Carnival. I've always wondered what its like living on a boat. I'm glad I found your blog and this thought provoking piece on how policies affect your living. I'm will now be a follower via email. I truly hope things work out in your favour.

Narrowboat Wife said...

Thanks for following! Yes it's a challenging life, but beautiful too :-)