Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Get a mooring or keep moving

It has been an eye opening experience  with Nazi salutes included to read through some posts on various Facebook boating forum. Its the usual CCer -v- MMer (Constant Cruiser -v- Marina Moorer) rhetoric. Portrayed by some as being a simplistic issue. At the same time, trite, crass, insensitive and flippant answers like 'either get a mooring or keep moving' does not begin to answer the real crux of the issue.

There are people who will take advantage of any situation. The inland waterways are no exception. The 1995 Inland waterways act addresses the issue with simplicity. There is one licence and there is no requirement to take a mooring. In this way, depending upon your circumstances you can then choose one of two lifestyles. A sedentary one in a marina or a roaming one, out on the cut.

The 1995 act is an all encompassing, simple, precise and clever bit of legislation. Nowhere in the act is there a distance that you are required to move. Nowhere in the act is there a restriction on retracing your steps. There is however, a temporal requirement to be on a bone fide navigation. In other words you should have a 'reason to move'. The default reason to move is the catch all clause of 14 days being the maximum amount of time that you can stay in one place. 
The Canal and River Trust has however muddied the clarity by introducing their own interpretation. Introducing the notion of a distance to be travelled - while at the same time - not giving a precise, but alluding to a minimal distance.

There is however, a safeguard built into the act which is based around extenuating circumstances. There are occasions when people are taken ill or other unavoidable circumstances overtake them while living on the Inland waterways. The natural empathy and compassion of people is to try and support such individuals. It pains me to say that some of the previous evictions carried out by CaRT have been visited upon the sick, old and vulnerable boaters in our community.

One old and confused lady living alone and obviously suffering from mental health issues. Was evicted onto the towpath with her only possessions. Which happened to be the clothes she was wearing. While her home was towed away. She remained living on the same bit of towpath for weeks. Eventually other boaters were able to get the social services involved and her protection ensured.

The trust washed its hands of the situation with the mantra - 'we are not social workers'. Another one used by the trust is 'we are not landlords'. While at the same time – the trust offers residential moorings. Where was the duty of care we all owe to everyone. I wonder how well the claim 'we are not social workers' would go down if a school teacher ignored a child being bullied. By saying its nothing to do with me, 'I'm not a social worker.'

Yet enshrined in the 1995 waterways act is a provision which allows you to stay in one place if circumstances dictate. When illness sneaks up, be it upon someone old and living alone with dementia or even someone young with a life threatening cancer. Their priorities are going to significantly change. A boater should not need to be looking over their shoulder for the enforcement officer. How can someone with a life threatening illness get access to medical services. If they are being chivvied along to a new place every few days.

Its not always as clear cut an issue as some people might think. As a community we boaters should be showing some compassion by supporting the sick and vulnerable. Trite, crass, insensitive and flippant answers like 'get a mooring or keep moving' can never take into consideration or take into account the individuals particular circumstances.

I would hope that if illness in whatever form was to overtake me. I would if I needed - be, supported by my fellow boaters. Not seen or portrayed to be some sort of free loader. Some people might need to give some serious thought to what they wish for from the Canal and River Trust – Because who knows what fate the future holds in store for them. Albeit next week, next month next year. No one is immune from debilitating health issues.


  1. I don't wish to appear harsh, but I don't think the situation is quite as black or white as you portray it. Consider the following:-
    A CCr visits a doctor and is told they need a course of treatment that requires weekly visits to the surgery for two months. The boater asks C&RT if they can remain on the towpath mooring, near the surgery, for the duration of the treatment. I think we would all expect C&RT to agree this request. However, what if the treatment was required for 12 months? and would your answer be the same if it was 24 months? Consider this scenario; next to the towpath mooring is a marina, with vacancies. Should C&RT allow the CCr to moor on the towpath for the duration of the treatment or would it be reasonable to expect the boater to pay for a mooring in the marina?

    Problems can and do arise which may require a CCr stay longer than 14 days in one location. If these are temporary one would expect C&RT to adapt their policy and be sympathetic to a request to overstay. However if the problem is a long term one then surely it is the responsibility of the CCr to adapt and find somewhere to moor the boat for the duration of the problem.


    1. John. Thanks for your comment.

      The 1995 act specifically places no time limit - It talks about reasonable, and what is reasonable will depend on the circumstances.

      I am not sure that CaRT is in a position to decide on what is 'reasonable' for someone's specific medical condition. Maybe that should be left to a qualified medical expert. Someone who could say - how long the treatment may last.

      This would otherwise drive a coach and hoses through the eye of the 'Duty of Care' that CaRT owes to all boat licences.

      Now, suppose you are living in a house - you are diagnosed with a life threatening situation. Your treatment is under way. Then your local council says - you have to move away - from the source of your essential treatment.

      Because that is what CaRT is doing.




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