Sunday, 6 October 2013

Thinking Out of the Box

Thinking out of the box (also thinking out side of the box, thinking beyond the box or thinking the unthinkable) is a metaphor that means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. The above cliché, has become widely used and refers to novel or creative thinking. Thinking out of the box, is forcing yourself to give considerations to options that you might discount in the first place. To think outside the box is to look farther and to try not thinking of the obvious things, but to try thinking beyond them.

I have taken up the challenge of Richard Parry to write something positive. What I am going to touch upon is the issue of visitor moorings. In a way it outlines a radical concept that requires some thinking outside of the box. I love the phrase outside of the box, in other words, to also consider the the issues you regards as being being unthinkable. 

My old boss had a great way of dealing with problematic issues. He did not allow a reason for not doing 'X' as something to be discussed.  His take was always, tell me what I have to do to make 'X' work. This requires a willingness to look at the issue from a wanted perspective rather than a dismissive perspective.  He would then implement a cost benefit analysis and that would be the driver for change. He went on to have a successful career as the head of research at Rank Xerox. He always thought out of the box!

I have two issues in mind. 

  • The first is to suggest a more radical solution to overstaying on visitor moorings and at the same time avoid impinging upon CaRT's directly managed moorings income stream.
  • The second is that it would also go some way to relieving the requirement of enforcement at the honey pot mooring sites so it could also prove to be a cost saving idea.

There has been quite a bit of disquiet and a certain amount of sabre rattling about boaters overstaying on visitor moorings. It has been acknowledged that most of the complaints occur around the peak holiday season. A time when boats leave moorings to cruise the system for a few weeks at a time. This creates a greater pressure on the available visitor moorings. If there is a problem of people overstaying on visitor moorings, I don't accept that it is as bad as it is portrayed. Last year in eight months we travelled over 1500 miles round the canal system. From Oxford in the South. Liverpool in the West, Boston in the East and Ripon in the North. We never experienced a single instance of being unable to find a space on a visitor mooring.

However contrary to popular belief, overstaying is a problem that can be managed. One of the possible solutions requires an unselfish attitude between boaters and a willingness by CaRT to look for fresh solutions to issues. My own management science concept is the first step is to scope, consult and then manage out the issue. If that can't be achieved the second step is to manage by mitigation. If that fails the third step is to manage by compulsion. On the overstaying issue CaRT seem to have jumped to the third step!

First we need to understand in what ways we can manage the mooring issue. The figures I am using are not going to be exact but are intended to provide some understanding. There are some 33,500 plus boats that are open to use the visitor mooring provision. If all of those 33,500 boats were out cruising the system at the same time. Chaos would descend on the waterways. Simply because the number of available visitor moorings is insufficient. There are nowhere near the visitor mooring spaces needed to accommodate such cruising numbers. Provision of suitable visitor moorings in the past has been low priority by all concerned.

So its a plain and simple fact there are not enough visitor moorings. A significant increase the number of visitor moorings is one possible scenario. However provision of moorings in such numbers is not a proportionate or cost effective option to take. Or is it? Well that depends if you look at it as a problem or a management issue.

There's a surfeit of mooring space available that seemingly goes unused. It's the huge invisible elephant in the room and one that always seems to be ignored. Of the 33,500 some 4000 of those boats CaRT recognise as being 'Constant Cruisers'. (Boats without a home mooring) So there must be many thousands of spaces available if only to accommodate those boats with a home mooring all the year round. A good number of those boats will be moored on CaRT's directly managed moorings. The boats are easily recognisable as they should have a current mooring certificate.

Each year you can often see winter moorings advertised so there is even more capacity available. Sometimes winter moorings are offered on visitor moorings. However, looking at the moorings auction site there are always vacancies advertised. So there must be some over capacity of moorings available.

A second point are moorings that go unadvertised for long periods. In my marina that are about six berths that have not been advertised for over six months and in some cases longer. Now that’s a big hole in the income streams that someone needs to look at. The number of moorings without a bid has grown. I feel its because some boaters are now being priced out of directly managed moorings and certainly out of some private marinas. Now, they are trying to live on the cut in a restricted area as constant cruisers. But that's another issue and I digress.

Marinas continue to be built and marina capacity is growing. Yet at the same time the number of licensed boats are falling. The only reason that this marina construction can continue to take place is because other linear moorings are being taken away. I understand that there is an agreement that whenever a new marina is made, a number of existing long term on-line moorings in the vicinity are removed and the occupants encouraged to use the new facility.

If you missed the huge elephant in the room the first time. Let me give a hint. Simple straight forward out of the box thinking. Every time a boat leaves a CaRT directly managed mooring to go cruising for the season. A mooring space is left vacant. So why can't CaRT permit holders who are cruising the system use such available empty CaRT moorings. When the boat returns to its 'home mooring' if anyone is utilising the space they move to another empty mooring or move away.

At the start, I said one possible solution would require an unselfish attitude between boaters. Because there would be those who would object. Typically they are the self appointed 'cut cops' who greet other cruising CaRT mooring permit holders with that time worn phrase 'you can't moor there'. Exactly the opposite to what we try to do at Tinsley. All it needs is the CaRT moorings terms and conditions to be updated to reflect such use.I have in the past made it known to the moorings manager that when we are out cruising my mooring is available for other CaRT mooring permit holders to use.

There are other benefits that could be instigated. Say a moorings swap for a period of 28 days. Say someone wants to come and stay in my part of Yorkshire. To visit all the wonderful attractions that Yorkshire has to offer. We could arrange a mutual exchange of our moorings. Think of how much of an attractive proposition this would be. There would be no pressure to keep on moving. Local short term visitor moorings would have less pressure on them. Now, there is the opportunity to make a real significant change.

There are similar systems in place, such as the AWCC the waterways cruising club association. I am a member and I have enjoyed the hospitality of staying in other locations on someone’s mooring who is out cruising. The boaters in the marina take care of the nitty gritty. I show them my AWCC card (It could be the CaRT mooring permit displayed on my boat) they point me to a mooring that they know will be empty and available for use. All down to local knowledge and a willingness to share.

BWML has a broadly similar sort of facility where mooring locations can be swapped for berth holders. All it needs is the CaRT moorings terms and conditions to be updated to reflect such use.

When we were looking for a mooring. We visited various mooring locations. We tried to assess the facilities which is fairly straightforward to do. What you can't do however, is assess the other boat owners. Do you want to commit to a mooring for three years only to find there are personalities moored next door that you would never rub along with. There are tangible benefits to both CaRT and its customers. A reduction in conflict would be one of them. It's what I call 'try before you buy'.

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