Only darkness at the end of the tunnel

Published: Monday, 20 July 2020

I CAN only apologise for the doom-ridden title but I am afraid this is how I see things canal related at this moment, writes Orph Mable.

I do not intend to point any fingers (much) at any particular institution or company, but I will try to give an insight as to why I feel this way.

Some good things

Firstly some good things.  Yes, we finally have boats moving again on our canals, despite continuous reports of stoppages and system failures.  After the disastrous pandemic, Oxley Marine is still in business—just.  We have managed to keep going mainly by providing service (diesel, gas, water, coal, pump-out and emergency repairs) to the ‘stranded’ live-aboard continuous cruisers that became locked-down in our immediate area plus those stranded as live-aboards on permanent moorings.

Our bar has been closed for 12 weeks, and business users of our diesel fuel have been closed.  I have seen many small businesses go to the wall or just decide to ‘retire’.  (I’m also thinking on those lines unfortunately!)  You would expect me to be more upbeat having come through the hardships we’ve all gone through but I’m not.  Why? you may well ask.

Chandlers close shop facilities

Whilst in ‘lockdown’ our two nearest chandlers had decided to close their shop facilities.  No problem they both tout as ‘we guarantee’ 24 hour delivery for in-stock items, if ordered on-line before 16.00 hours. (Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy are alive and well!)

Being a small family run boatyard, we cannot afford, or have the space, to hold a large expensive stock range.  When we had a shop within 30 minutes (by motorbike) this was not a problem.  Now, for repairs requiring an item or two that we do not hold, it may take up to a week instead of a couple of hours. (Example—a PRM gear box—in stock and ordered for next-day delivery on the 15th July has not arrived on the 18th, but a drive plate ordered after, has arrived.)

Lost nearly a week of holiday

Meanwhile a holidaymaker has lost nearly a week of his much needed holiday and can expect an increased cost due to additional shipping charge (plus VAT).  If the shop had still been there, the holidaymaker would have been on his way the same day!

The various stoppages being reported are requiring me to try and cheer-up passing holiday boaters and regular visitors who have seen much desired and needed holiday plans ruined.

So back to the title.  Do I see any ‘Light at the end of the tunnel’?  Definitely NOT!  It will only get worse.