Victor: Cart nobbles us again

Published: Saturday, 19 August 2017

WE ARE very quickly realising how frustrating it is for all you boaters who are held up by the now never ending emergency stoppages these days, for once again our cruise is to be curtailed by yet another 'emergency stoppage'.

A few years ago we were prevented from getting to Bugsworth Basin by stoppages—twice, but made it eventually last year.  This time it is one of the four 'emergency stoppages' on the Leicester Line that puts the kibosh on our proposed cruise up the Soar in September, hoping to pass early on in the week through Whetstone Lane Lock that will be closed for the entire week.

With having someone joining us from Loughborough to Leicester who has booked both train tickets and a hotel, we are not in a position to cruise elsewhere, so we will be stuck in Leicester for three days whilst the emergency stoppage is carried out on Wetstone Lane Lock, that we have learnt has been in a near state of collapse for two years!

And others

Little wonder so many boaters are leaving the waterways when there is now no longer any certainty of anywhere on the system being safe from closures. Two of the many boaters who have told us of being held up by stoppages, Candice Rhodes and Adrian Glover tell us their cruises have been curtailed time and time again by closures and Candice is selling her boat whilst Adrian, on the Kennet & Avon, remarked: 'There is at least one closure a week on the K&A, it is hopeless, and it is Russian Roulette attempting to get through Crofton Locks without them being closed or severely restricted, so I'm selling-up'.

Our own Keith Gudgin has been hit by closures, with one very narrow escape he telling me: I only missed being held up for six weeks last year by luck. I just happened to look at the website and noticed they had brought the stoppage at Colwich lock FORWARD a week. I would have got there two days too late and been stuck in the middle of nowhere for the duration. It's a bloody long way to reverse to the nearest winding point. (They didn't put out a notice telling of the change and only changed the dates on the website.)

What have we now

In the old days when the waterways were run properly the many lock keepers and lengthsmen donned their overalls after the boating season had ended and joined in with the regular maintenance workers to spend the winter months undertaking all the necessary maintenance, and as important, making sure everything was in good condition for the next season.

But what have we now? Nearly all the lock keepers gone and all the lengthsmen sacked, and instead of efficient regular workers who knew what they were doing, second rate contractors that most of the time haven't a clue, which means they have to have a full five days for each of the four locks needing repairs, notwithstanding the amount of work actually required.

Now there is a conglomerate of people at Canal & River Trust to whom the waterways are little more than a plaything for their myriad of expensive activities that have little to do with boating and nothing to do with maintenance, even though I am told is now approaching £100 millions in arrears.

How it will all end is a question bothering many boaters, us included, as the infrastructure is allowed to deteriorate causing more and still more stoppages, with many boaters now telling of their frustration at what was once a carefree activity.

The two 30MayCome and moor on Sawley Cut

Do you have a continuous cruiser licence with no permanent mooring?  No matter, come and moor on Sawley Cut.

It's a very handy free mooring. There is a bus stop just over the bridge that takes you right into Long Eaton with both Asda and Tesco at your service, together with a host of other shops, and no less than four pubs within very easy walking distance of your boat, a couple of them with two meals for a tenner.

The two boats pictured above, both nameless, prefer to moor opposite the water point, and make sure no one comes near as the white plastic hides a very large and noisy generator, whilst Wit's End, pictured below prefers mooring on lock landings, though last Tuesday, whilst the two were still in their favourite place, those on Wit's End had moved down a bit onto another water point.

Wits End CutThese three boats have taken advantage of the non-enforcement on Sawley Cut for most of this year, with the pair with the generator very occasionally poddling a mile down to Trent Lock for a weeks' respite, then back again.

The narrowboat Wits End doesn't bother, but just moves between the 'No Mooring' signs on each side of the flood lock, on the lock landing, moving the few yards every couple of weeks.

Good work if you can get it—and on Sawley Cut you certainly can.

Rowers taking over

Narrowboaters up in Scotland feel a bit hard done to, taking second place to rowers.

For there are notices warning of restricted areas on the waterways for boats allowed only on certain hours so that it can be used solely by rowers, especially on the Forth & Clyde in Edinburgh.

Even outside these restricted hours you can suddenly get a coached racing eight hurtling towards you at speed, having to take very quick avoiding action, making boating a bit of a gamble.  So much for encouraging boating on its waterways...

More very silly awards

The latest in the long list of suspect awards, I reckon you will agree, are well in keeping with the current stupidity from those at Cart:  Here's what the awards are for:

  • Most edible boat [Yes, 'edible'!]
  • most flower-filled boat
  • most inventive use of space
  • best towpath garden or open space
  • best towpath business in bloom
  • best wildlife friendly boat

But please don't ask what the hell they all mean, I just haven't a clue. What I do know is that it will be still more money away chasing another daft scheme.

Certificates for all

We haven't finished yet, for there is still more cash down the drain with a graphic designer employed to design special certificates that are going be given to all and sundry!

Cart's staff will get one as will the few remaining lock keepers and of course all the volunteers, whether they have actually done any volunteering or not.

And if your boat has any flowers, you could be handed one, and even you continuous moorers who have set up a garden by the waterside a certificate could come your way.

It's to promote 'Blooming Britain', but it makes you wonder 'what next?'

Here's 'what next'!

It is of course still more awards from Cart, and still lots more money spent, this time on designing, producing and sending out by post glossy leaflets and posters advertising its new 'East Midlands Waterside Hospitality Awards', Paul Lillie tells me, there is a link to vote, but for some people the link does not work!  Paul reckons Cart should get its act together.  Little chance of that!

These awards are for your favourite waterside pubs and cafés, and so wide open for owners to persuade their customers to vote for them.

One thing for sure, though others will fall for it, there will be no 'results' published in narrowboatworld, and you can see why. And you can see why we always find the title 'award winning' so suspect—it too often means bugger all.

 Others too

Over the past couple of weeks in addition to the above awards we have been told of still more that are being presented, really so undeserving that our Thomas again refuses to give them publicity.

But he rather upset one, Harry Arnold, who wanted us to include awards to the remaining lock keepers on the Thames, but as Thomas is aware how such awards are determined, he refused, prompting the remark from Harry: 'But I suppose that we shouldn’t expect your site to do anything that praises waterway staff'.

He's wrong there, as regular readers will be well aware.  Also, we were one of the very few that stood up for the Thames lock keepers against the Environment Agency when it attempted to sell their lock cottages way back in 2009, our publicity helping to get the Agency around the table in discussions.

Victor Swift