Boating holiday a disaster

Published: Tuesday, 29 October 2019

I TRUST you will allow me use of your columns to tell of my experience with Excellence Afloat that has gone out of business, asks Jessica Walker.

My partner and I took a boat from the company for a two weeks holiday (we have hired elsewhere previously and have experience) and I must say the boat lived up to its name it was indeed excellent with all the mod cons, so no complaints.

Canal in a 'rough state'

But the holiday was a disaster.  Living in Oxford we first intended a trip there to give our family members a trip on the water, but could not make it as the first locks at a junction were closed, and going into the nearby marina we met boat owners who told it had been broken and had to be repaired, then told some hair raising experiences of how they had become stuck time after time, so if we eventually made it to Oxford we should not have a time table to keep to as the canal was in a 'rough state' as one said.  The outcome was we decided on going around what they called the Leicester Ring, pointing it out on our guide.

Seeing there were tunnels I admitted that I had not gone through one before and asked about them and told they were broad tunnels so could pass boats coming the opposite way but advised to slow right down and 'slide' the boat along the rubber strip that was there for the purpose, but on no account stop or reverse or else the boat would swing out.

Crashed into us

We got into the first tunnel and practised going along the rubber strip and found it worked going at a slow pace, but met another boat and did that, yet the boat crashed into us with force as it was going fast and nowhere near its side, with no apology just a mumble.  Looking at the notices at the tunnel entrances there is lots of information about safety but nothing of how to pass others, as obviously that would be handy, especially if that other boat had been informed and taken notice.

We carried on the Foxton Locks and met our first problem, as they would not let us through as there was some sort of a display, so stuck there all day and as there was obviously a queue they let the boats come up before letting us down so what with one thing and another it was the afternoon before we reached the bottom, and then after another crash in the next tunnel, though again we were right in the side, we decided to go through those after early morning and be safer, which worked.  But information ought to be given by the authorities as I should think it would be easy for someone to be thrown off a boat when crashing.

Stopped again

Then we were stopped again, but sorry I did not get the name of the lock, but there were men there but not doing anything, but told us it would be open the next day, though it was not as it had a padlock on and nobody turned up, so by then we were getting very worried, but eventually after ringing a number in the information pack, we had someone come out late afternoon and take the padlock off, and eventually arrived at Leicester where we had been told there were safe moorings and shopping, but the moorings were all full so we kept going hoping for somewhere, but by then were well out of the shopping area, but managed to stop and then got a taxi to the shops as we had run out of provisions with all the forced stops.

Getting back to the boat we carried on to get a pleasant stay by a kind of park and then we were really in trouble, as it rained all night and the water below the lock was rushing past and we dare not risk it, with someone on the boat next to us saying he used the river often and provided there was no more rain it would go down quickly and be okay.  There was some rain, but not heavy and the following morning the river was not going so fast and the man said it would be okay and to follow him, which we did, but have to admit we went quite fast and it was scary, but at least we were travelling, but only for a day and a half.

Padlocked lock

The next hold-up was again a river, I noticed was the Trent, with no passage as again we were met by a padlocked lock gate, so had to wait, but alas our time was up and we had to get back to Oxford to our hospital work so had no alternative that to inform the company and get a taxi back to Coventry and our vehicle, to be told ours was by no means the first time they had had to rescue their boats.

But talking to the person at Excellence Afloat he told that it wasn't so much floods that prevented boats getting back, as most hirers just use the canals, but the endless breakages of the infrastructure that is causing loss of revenue as booked boat are not available, having to be rescued from various locations, taking many days to get back and paying compensation for ruined holidays, all of which he told is having an effect on many hire boat companies, that I can well understand, as that was the last time we shall ever take a boat out again, which was something we previously well enjoyed, but can well see why the company went bust as they were struggling against unsurmountable odds.