Thursday, 11 March 2010

Still Looking.

After our recent winter cruise, this weekend has been very slow in arriving. It's like walking through treacle. However, after our visit to ABNB last week, we have arranged on Saturday to have a look at a narrow boat on the Foss Dyke canal near Lincoln. More on this later....

I am still pursuing early retirement through voluntary redundancy from my employers. Phase two seems to be a bit more promising. I hope to be one of the early retirement "born again boater" by early May. With a bit of luck Mag's will also be "in the same boat" so to speak, by September at the latest. I have fingers and other appendages crossed...

Security on the canal. 
After our problem last week with people spitting and throwing stones at us from a bridge over the Coventry canal. It came as something of a non-surprise to hear today on the BBC radio and Television. That most Police forces stand accused of failures over dealing with and recording anti-social behaviour. The chief inspector of constabulary (Denis O'Connor) has been critical of the way the police in England and Wales deal with complaints of anti-social behaviour. O'Connor said "The failure to properly record and tackle incidents undermined confidence in the police" He also called for urgent improvements. His comments came as the inspectorate published "report cards" on the performance of all 43 of the UK forces. The inspectorate found the way police databases logged information about reports of harassment, vandalism and verbal abuse was "inadequate". Most police computer systems were unable to identify people who had been victims before or had previously been categorised as "vulnerable". Mr O'Connor said: "It is like going back to the doctors' surgery but you see a different doctor every time. The more times they suffer the less confidence people have. There are some heart-rending stories."

Prophetic words as it turned out. Later, news stories on radio and TV highlighted the fate of a disabled man who was found dead in his garden. This after suffering a decade of abuse at the hands of thuggish children. This has resolved me to report to the police, every instance of anti-social behaviour I become aware of. Enough is enough!

As boaters we are at more of a disadvantage when it comes to supplying the detail that the emergency services would need to record. More importantly, for them to be able to respond to "anti-social behaviour issues" on the canals.

I like the Police - they are an easy target whenever they get it wrong. It's easy to lay blame at their feet, but at the same time we are all very happy to see them in our moments of need.  Don't get me wrong, if there are failings in the way the Police conduct business. (it would seem that their attitude to anti-social behaviour could be called into question)  Then these matters should be highlighted and put right. However, I think that some of the responsibility for getting it righ,t should be shouldered by the members of the public. Typically of the blase joe public,  I did not report what happened. However, I have now resolved that any similar issues in the future will be reported.

What can we do when we want to report any anti-social behaviour that is aimed at us. The Police, Fire and Ambulance are in the main a reactive service. And what can we as boaters do that is proactive? 

We are happy to exchange our locations with each other by bridge numbers or distance from a recognisable point such as a winding hole, lock, marina, or junction.  (Have a few moments to think about how would you describe your boats location to the police, by telephone and in a way that they would understand) Experienced patrol officers have an intimate knowledge of their patch, but when it comes to canal towpaths - access points to the towpath and other such fine detail their knowledge might well be limited.

If I had reported last weeks incident to the police, giving my location as near "Stoke Heath Basin between bridge 4 and 5A". I can imagine many of the officers scratching their heads. It would be no good asking if they had a copy of the Nicholson Waterways Guide number 3 to hand either.

However, if on the other hand, I had said "my location is Stoke Heath Basin on Swan Lane, between Priestley's bridge at Stony Stanton road  and Red Lane bridge on Swancroft road. Located physically closer to Red Lane bridge". The emergency services would have a much better idea of my location.

It would help if we knew which bridge or entry point to the canal would give them best access to come to our aid. Some of the things we might be able to help with include:- Are there nearby access points you know of? Which direction should they go to get to you from such an access point? Is there a towpath? Are you moored on the towpath side? Could a vehicle use the towpath to get to you? How far will they need to travel? Can you move to meet them? If you don't know the answers how can you expect them to know.

So as boaters, we could easily be more proactive. I do hope that no one on the canal ever needs to call out the emergency services. But if and when we need to, we should not start trying to look up our position on Google Earth or in a copy of a well thumbed canal guide. We should establish that information in advance.

So what do you need, to look after yourself and your loved ones?

Mobile Phone. If you happen to have one each, why not chose different service providers. Coverage from providers can vary so you improve your chances of being able to contact the emergency services through different providers.

Police contact numbers. At this Narrowboat World link, you can find telephone numbers of the various county police forces, and should be used in cases where a 999 call would seem inappropriate. Download and print off the list in readiness.

Sat Nav, GPS. I use one in the car, so I often take it with me on the boat. I can also use it to identify road names in my locality. It's also good for locating nearby petrol stations and supermarkets if the right POI files are loaded..

Canal Guide. A good tool to help you find your way along new routes and to get an overview of exactly where you are on the canal.

Mooring Points. It is always a good idea to moor in the vicinity of other boats where possible. There is an element of watching out for each other. In times of need a fellow boater might be able to render some assistance.

Check List. Some years ago I lived on a busy road junction. There were frequent accidents at this point. So I created a little note which I kept by the phone. I had the details of my location, including both road names, A road and B road numbers written down. You could create a simple check-list for your locationwhenever you moor up.

Digital Camera. Have a camera to hand at all times. More so if you suspect that any anti-social behaviour is likely to occur. Use your mobile phone camera as an alternative. Being seen to take photographs before anything kicks off is one line of defence.


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