There’s been an astounding amount of publicity around the new Canal and River Trust (CRT) logo, announced and widely placed on the Inland Waterways of UK this year. We’re certainly not engaging in this debate – we rather like it!
The new tag line is ‘Making Life Better By Water‘. Even that seems to have upset some people, as it’s not specifically mentioning boats. The challenge is that CRT must survive, with less and less money from central government, and the aim is to increase footfall, and cycling, along and around the system.
A nightmare experience
We frequently hear traumatic tales of skirmishes with novice hire boaters, who sadly have little regard for making life better by water, but merely having a jolly good time without worrying about the consequences. Over the past days I’ve been appalled to read comments on a friend’s Facebook thread about the devastating consequences of two hire boats with a group of stuck-up, selfish idiots on board. On the Kennet and Avon Canal.
I’ve got permission to share the contents of her extremely eloquent posts (copied and pasted word-for-word), in order to widen the reach of people’s understanding of the immediate and aftermath of such nightmares for the live-aboard narrowboating community.
“Saturday 22nd September disaster happens
Win some, lose some, and today has been vile. I was a bit stirred up and upset by the drunken morons on Snowy Owl and Whistling Swan, two hire boats from ABC at Hilperton who went past us yesterday evening, so I didn’t sleep well, and I woke up to disaster.
For those who haven’t seen this on other posts, it’s yet another damned stag party, this time a bunch of toffs with entitlement issues. I hurried back to the boat with Brandy and Murphy because I heard them coming, raucous yells of “Full steam ahead!” and other nonsensical nautical orders, and, sure enough, far too fast, out of control, ran into the bank, poled off by somebody on the bow who could hardly stand up, nearly ran into me, side-swiped Jim and Debs’ boat, and on they went, bawling back at George that he didn’t pay council tax, and how much dope had he smoked, and other remarks typical of this type of Intelligentsia.
So I shall buff up some pithy comments about offshore trust funds to have ready for next time. As is always the case, I think of the perfect rejoinder half an hour too late.
Wine with Dru and Jim and George as we all tried to calm down, but this sort of incident is really upsetting, as my boater friends will know.
And this morning George’s boat had sunk.
He’s all right, he got out, but nearly everything he owns is under two feet of canal water. Dru went up to the wharf to borrow the pump, there are generators running, there are friends trying to help, but it’s an old boat, and the hull may not be able to take this. The morons went past far too fast, bow wave nearly a foot high, and it seems to have sucked the staples out of a tarp that was covering a leaky patch. I don’t know the details.
Now I’m back here, feeling miserable and helpless. Coffee and bacon rolls don’t do a lot, and the bacon’s tough as old boots, too.
Nearly all of us are heartily sick of this. Every damned Friday evening we brace ourselves for the stag parties, for drunken slobs crashing around on boats they couldn’t handle sober, and certainly can’t manage drunk. It upsets and worries us, they cause damage to the canals and to our boats, to the locks and the bridges, and it doesn’t matter how often, or how vociferously, we complain, nothing is done. Next week it will happen again, and the week after that. This is another one that’s been reported to the police. Will they have the time or the manpower to take action? I doubt it.
No, some of us don’t pay council tax, but we do pay our licence fees, which entitles us to be on these waterways. Does that also suggest that we should be able to use them in safety? That we should not be endangered and harassed and insulted and abused because a commercial concern needs to make money?
Well, does it?
This isn’t some Act of God, violent weather, unlucky accident. This is an entirely foreseeable event, and it is driven by the profit motive.
Canal and River Trust, Environment Agency, you licence these hire boats. Since the companies that run them will not take action to safeguard other waterways users, it’s down to you. My licence terms and conditions make it clear that I may not allow anybody who is not safe and competent to handle my boat unsupervised; enforce it, please.
And do it before somebody else’s home sinks. Before somebody is injured.
Sunday 23rd September – turfed off and attempt to refloat
This is a postscript to yesterday’s rant.
Whistling Swan and Snowy Owl have just come back past us, slowly, and with marina staff at the helms. Both men were profuse in their apologies for what had happened.
The stag party was turfed off the boats, with all their luggage, and left on the towpath in the pouring rain.
I have dash cam footage of those boats as they came past King Henry (Jim and Debs) and alongside The Black Cat. It’s pretty damning. I’ve downloaded it onto the pooter, so it is safe, but I don’t want to put it up on Facebook, or anywhere else public for the moment, because it could be evidence in legal proceedings, and I’d rather not compromise it.
(I forgot I had this dash cam in my front window, so quite a lot of the footage is of my back, as I stood on the deck watching. I know there are a great many people who would be enthralled by this view of my wide arse on screen, but their names escape me for the moment.)
There was also George’s camera, which was a lot more entertaining, as it has sound! Dru and I listened to some of it that evening when we were all swigging red wine and trying to calm down. I only heard the sound track. I hate hearing my own voice on tape, and I did rather cringe at this one, my Five Acre Paddock tones bawling “Fark Orfe!” down the towpath, and George’s even more colourful comments, and the morons damning themselves with their remarks about drugs and council tax.
Sadly, George’s camera is now Full Fathoms Five, or at least under two feet of canal water, but we will try to retrieve it, and maybe leaving it in a box of rice will revive it. Failing that, there are some very good laboratories where the technicians should be able to save the memory.
A lot of good people will be turning up this afternoon with winches and chains and other stuff for a serious refloating effort.
Decisions about stag parties are made at ABC’s head office in Worcester. No matter what the marina staff may feel about morons and yobs of all and any social class turning up to take out the boats for stag and hen parties, their hands are tied.
I believe we have to tackle it through C&RT, but that is just my opinion.
More later, after this afternoon’s ‘party’.
Monday 24th September – facing the loss of home
This is just a brief one for now, to keep you up to date.
We didn’t manage to raise the boat.
She’s old, she’s wooden, and it seems the hull has now twisted. This will probably have sprung some planks, and the gunwale halfway down the starboard side has split. Honestly, I think she’s had it.
It has to be George’s decision. He is disappointed, angry and distressed, which is hardly surprising.
With the lovely generosity of the people who have contributed to the fund raiser, there should be enough money to turn his old steel-hulled work boat into a home. But in the meantime he is still screwing sheets of plywood onto the hull to hold tarps in place with the idea of refloating his old boat.
She wasn’t in wonderful condition, but she was afloat, and she was his home.”
Turning this around …
As Jenny says, those of us who own a narrowboat are restricted by our insurance from allowing anyone else to drive or use our floating home, unless we’re satisfied they’re competent.
We appreciate that Hire Boat companies can be invaluable to encourage and enable everyday people to experience life on the Inland Waterways.
And this is a humongous BUT, it seems that certain members of the public can’t be trusted to show the least respect to the canals and rivers, or the communities that voluntarily reside on them. Not everyone wishes to live life in the fast lane, earning extortionate amounts of money so they can accumulate more and more stuff. We’ve stepped off the hamster wheel thank you very much – or chose never to get stuck on it.
CRT – what will you be doing about this? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
In the meantime, this remarkable group of people, who live in the parallel universe of the historic and envied-around-the-world system, have pulled together to support George, whose boat was sunk by these insufferable people. If you want to help too, go to this link – https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/georgekanda?utm_source=facebook and give what you can.
Let’s all come together and turn this around – and stop this type of horrific occurrence from ever being repeated 🙁
* Please note that the image featured on this post is NOT the waterway or Hire Boat company involved in this post.