Friday 30 April 2010

Speed reduction past moored boats

Obviously, speed control of boats is not a new problem on the canals. Foresight (which preeceded the work of Donald Appleyard by two hundred years) by many canal builders such as Brindley and others has already given us built in, canal ready, traffic calming measures.

In the form of pre-planned chicanes carefully placed under bridges. Turning the previous towpath  into part of the canal side cycle way.

Professor of Urban Design Donald Appleyard In his book Livable Streets, showed that streets have many social and recreational functions which are severely impaired by fast traffic. For example, residents of streets with light traffic had, on average, three more friends and twice as many acquaintances as the people on streets with heavy traffic.

His work provides a quantitative rationale for traffic calming. So in theory, by slowing down boat traffic - we should all increase our number of friends and aquaintances on the cut three fold. Incidentally, in a bizzare hapenstance. Appleyard was killed in 1982 by a speeding automobile.

For much of the twentieth century, streets were designed by engineers who were charged only with ensuring traffic flow. In an about face, local councils now spend a fortune building Speed Bumps on our major roads seemingly to damage vehicles and give uncomfortable rides for passengers on local public transport.

My idea for traffic calming on the cut, came from something I saw at my local swimming pool and the wave machine that they employ. I think we could have automatically generated speed bumps for the canals. Along with speed camera technology it would be easy to make a deterrent and at the same time raise some cash in the form of revenue raising speeding fines to the benefit of British Waterways.

BW could also introduce a congestion charge as another traffic management strategy. With the prospect of another revenue raising element as a by-product.

Speed bumps for the canal. Each British waterways 14 day mooring should be fitted with wave generating machines at each end that will detect and force inconsiderate boaters to slow down.

Yes, it is written tongue in cheek!


I do like to read other blogs

I do like to read other blogs from time to time. Some are visited infrequently because they are not updated on a regular basis. Mostly I vist whenever something reminds me to have a quick check. Others I look at weekly and catch up with their news. I am for the most part a passive reader and don't do much in the way of giving feedback or comment. I do tend to read the Granny Buttons blog a couple of times a week. Generally I find it a worthwhile read.

Well I had not been round to Granny Button's place for a week or more. Today, my attention was caught by a posting entitled "Comedy writer on Granny Buttons" Basically, its two gentle protagonists who are metaphorically circling each other in words. I don't know why it is, but I have the feeling that issues like this bring out the best in people. In the guise of a gentle exchange of flippant, throwaway, point scoring comments that are very very funny.

The gist is "comedy writer" Geoff Tristram, was not best pleased, with a posting on Andrew Denny's Granny Buttons blog.

Andrew wrote " The trouble is that when you say someone's a comedy writer, you are saying 'funny, ha-ha'. But the point of good comedy writing in newspapers isn't that it's funny, but that it's true - at least in a greater sense - only with a happy ending. You can't be a comedy Gestapo and tell someone 'Vee haff vays of making you laff'. The humour is what we find inside ourselves as we read it."

Geoff wrote "The reason I am a little miffed is that you seem to have enjoyed having a little snipe at me, even though we have never met, for no reason whatsoever. Or was it because I guessed correctly that your wife has a bushy beard and an accordion?"

By way of a riposte Andrew commented "Geoff is embarrassingly perceptive about my wife - how did he know? Is there a secret camera somewhere? I haven't let her outside my bedroom since I married her and blew her up."

Perceptively Andrew said "The humour is what we find inside ourselves as we read it." That’s very true. Gentlemen, please continue the banter - I for one find it to be very very funny.

By the way Geoff, looking at your writings you pass comment on many groups of people all of which you could not have met. Lighten up, as a "writer of comedy rather than a comedy writer" don't give out what your not prepared to accept. Glass houses and stones come to mind.


Saturday 24 April 2010

Narrow Dog

Whilst I am wittering on about books and authors. On a popular Canal Forum there has been some banter about Terry Darlington the Author of Narrow Dog to Carcassonne and Narrow Dog to Indian River.

As Terry would say, Jim is the one in the middle.

Each book chronicles the adventures of Jim the Whippet and his erstwhile owners Terry and Monica Darlington aboard their narrowboat Phylis May.

There are some authors who can spellbind with there penmanship. There are others who have a certain style and can in time become quite predictable. There are some best described as one-book wonders. Terry Darlington falls into neither group. You either like him or loath him.

I am a Terry Darlington fan, because of the humour in the text. Some of which is lost, until you read the book for a second or third time. Narrow Dog to Carcassonne was published in 2005.

The text is quite unpredictable and often bordering on surreal. Terry can take an every-day experience and describe it in humorous terms that did not exist in the actual experience. Actions and words can be paraphrased in a humorous style, which Terry does with Monica's alleged comments.

Until you understand Terry's ways with words - you almost have to read the book paragraph by paragraph until the style starts to scan. Narrow Dog to Indian River was published in April 2008.

I have just read another book. Voices From The Waterways by Jean Stone. Jean has pulled together a number of canal life stories, anecdotes and observations. A typical section is "Old Uncle Billy the Wherryman" by Nigel Royall, of Royalls Boatyard. This describes in detail some of the life of his great-great uncle Billy Royall. Billy was a rogue of the times. Pilfering some of the cargo in what he described as "truckin and tradin". The bottom line was that great-great uncle Billy was in reality a thief, and a rogue, but you just can't help but love him for it. The book has several photographs of Billy and his wherry dog Prince.

There is a bit of the history of Royalls Boatyard here.

Going back to the forum comments, we are all critics of one kind or another. To demonstrate the worth of a critic, here is the story of an art exhibition held at a National Art Gallery and the critical review by a curator of a painting.

At the National Art Gallery, a husband and wife were staring at a portrait that had them completely confused. The painting depicted three black men totally naked sitting on a what looked like a riverside bench. Two of the figures had black willies, but the one in the middle had a pink willie.

The curator of the National Art Gallery observing the couple realized that they were having trouble in interpreting the painting. He then went to speak to the couple and offered his assessment. He spoke to them for over half an hour. Explaining how the painting depicted the "Sexual emasculation of black men in a predominately white, patriarchal society" and in fact he went on to point out, that some serious art critics believe that "The pink willie also reflects the cultural and sociological oppression experienced by gay men in contemporary society"
After the curator left, a Scotsman who had observed what happened, approached the couple and said, "Would you like to know what the painting is really about?" The couple were somewhat taken aback and said "Now why would you claim to be more of an art expert than the curator of the National Art Gallery?" The Scotsman replied. "Because I'm the artist who painted the picture. What's more, there are no black men actually depicted in the picture at all. They're just three 1950's barge crew who are finishing their lunch. They are not black at all, it is coal dust from off loading 50 tons of coal by hand. However, the number one in the middle had actually been in the back cabin for his lunch."

Wednesday 21 April 2010

Lionel Thomas Caswall Rolt.

It's a hundred years since the birth of Tom Rolt and so I decided it was time to read again his classic "Narrow Boat". I  picked up my first copy a few years ago whilst boating on the Shroppie on a Chas Hardern hire boat. I loaned it to someone and it never came back. So recently I purchased a second copy from Amazon.

The book, Narrow Boat, is an account of Rolt and his first wife Angela's honeymoon journey around the canal system of the English Midlands. However, it was not their first time on the canals as Tom and Angela first had  a trial cruise on a hire a boat named "Miranda" just to whet their appetites.

Tom Rolt was the first person to draw attention to the continuing value of our canals for transport and latterly boating for pleasure. The canals, which had been so important to fuelling the industrial revolution in  the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, had almost been neglected and forgotten by the twentieth. The canals were eventually nationalised in 1947, but they were exhausted from years of neglect. Canals helped to fuel the embryo Industrial Revolution which began in mid 18th century. There was a significant demanded for a way to transport goods and commodities in large quantities. Some canals proved to be both economic and reliable. However, some canals only made a loss. The later canals were designed on the basis of where goods needed to go, not where a river happened to be.

With each reading of narrow boat, I find more insight and thought provoking passages. The book tells the tale of a voyage around the declining canals of the Midlands. The canal folk that he met. The book tells something of their way of life. All done aboard "Cressy" which was a 70ft long wooden narrow boat. Rolt later spent a further 12 years living afloat.

In his book, Rolt puts on display his obvious dismay at the changes taking place on the cut. Their fall into dereliction and decay. Canals being abandoned was rife at this time. Rolt writes at length about the canals  long slow decline. He also rails against the changes in working practices on farms - in the canal side industry and what he sees (with some insight) as the spectre of the modern roads system.

Narrow Boat is a book that highlights a snapshot in time (1939) and it is also a book of mixed messages.

I had first come across LTC Rolt as a writer some time in the late 1960 when I was given a book to read called "Red for Danger". It covered the history of railway accidents. The book told of how accidents happened and the tiny mistakes that have caused disaster or skin-of-your-teeth escapes. In my younger days it was often given to railway footplate staff as a reminder of the danger implicit in their job.

Rolt was obviously a very complex, well read and knowledgeable man.  Strangely, he was an engineer who seemingly abhorred change (modernisation) in working methods and practices. He sees the railways for the threat they had become to the canals. Yet he was general manager of the Talyllyn Railway. He writes of his dislike for the roads system, yet he was a founder member of the Vintage Sports-Car Club.

I would love to have a conversation with Rolt. I would talk for hours about the horse drawn barges he saw being displaced by motorised vessels. The skills and the craftsmanship of the canals being eroded away. Skills and knowledge - dying with the old men of the boatyard. Rolt was able to witness and chronicle some of the changes on the cut, changes in our environment, our ethos, our history. If Rolt were alive today (he died in 1974) I wonder what he would think of the changes that have taken place since then. Especially the increase in the number of motorways and the number and size of the heavy goods vehicles on our roads. The increase in leisure boating and the restoration successes of many canal groups.

The Narrow Boat book also lead to a first meeting in 1945 between Tom Rolt and Robert Fordyce Aickman and the eventual formation of the embryo Inland Waterways Association. The subsequent history and machinations after this meeting would put any TV soap opera to shame. Rolt was a co-founder and the first honorary secretary of the IWA. However, Rolt was later to be expelled from the IWA as a direct result of internal disputes with Aickman.

Tom Rolt is buried in the churchyard of the tiny medieval church at Stanley Pontlarge. There are no headstones in the churchyard, but a plan inside the church identifies Rolt's grave.


Monday 19 April 2010

Are narrow boats middle class twee!

Are traditional styled modern narrow boats middle class twee, aping history that belongs to a bygone age. Or are modern boats truly carrying on a real tradition?

I ask the question because many modern boats are luxurious internally and very spacious when compared to a working boats cramped cabin of yester-year. The new canal folk are in the main retired and are possibly a legion of the middle of the middle class. However, we all know that the narrow boat culture is historically rooted in the real working class of the 19th and 20th century.

There is no resemblance to the working clothes of the canal family of old. In fact you might be correct in thinking that the new canal folk all wear a uniform consisting of jeans, Breton hat, plaid shirt, cheap pumps and a bum-fluff beard - which is however encouragingly unisex.

These new canal people are the ones that you might also expect to uphold the green credentials. Narrow boating is portrayed as being all about old fashioned tradition based around frugality and pleasant experiences. In reality the narrow boat is about as green as napalm. The carbon footprint of a narrowboat must be very very big!

I wonder if at some time in the future, there will be a whole new group of people out on the canals, aping the pleasure seekers of today. Are narrow boat people of this millenium the lotus eaters of the next era?

I hope so!

Saturday 17 April 2010

Found on the web

I came across this site whilst wondering around the web. it's been around since 2008 and is dedicated to Considerate Boating on UK inland waterways.

There is a 21 page Considerate Boater manual in PDF format available for download as well as a Considerate Boater quiz to enjoy. Now for old hands on the cut, the Considerate boater website might seem to be a little bit "tame" But for those coming aboard on a canal holiday for the first time it gives some useful insight.

I found another interesting site, whilst wandering aimlessly around the web.

Some years ago a sunday newspaper - The News of the World - ran a regular series of stories about men and women who helped other motorists in time of need. The only thing I know about the News of the World was its fondness for sex scandals. Which gained it the nicknames "News of the Screws" and "Screws of the World". Here is the canals and rivers version of the same award.

It has nothing to do with screws or propellers.


Monday 12 April 2010

A passport for anyone hiring a boat.

I have long thought that some sort of "Canal and River Passport" is needed for people hiring a canal boat for the first time. I have a similar one which is a "PADI certificate" for scuba diving. It doesent make me a highly qualified diver - but it acknowledges that I have undergone some formal awareness and safety training.

Looking through the media - some narrow boat holidays are advertised as "no or little boating experience needed". I know that the RYA inland  helmsman course is available. However, that's an optional one for the hirer to take.

What I would like to see is a Canal and River Passport issued as part of a hire contract. To obtain the initial Passport the hirer will have to undergo around a two hours of training on basic boat handling, mooring and locking tasks. There would be no test - just a practical introduction. This could be done for a small fee (say £25) and included in the first time hire charge. The passport to last for a period of three years. Each time a boat is hired the passport is stamped. If a passport has not been stamped for three years then the hirer has to undergo the basic training again.

This would have two distinct benefits.
1. The level of tuition offered would help to provide a common level of understanding of the practicalities of basic boat handling.

2. It would help to inspire some confidence into the first time boater. I am sure their enjoyment will be enhanced for the whole experience.

This tuition should be based around the British Waterways/Environment Agency "Boaters Handbook" which can be downloaded or a paper copy sent out with the hire paperwork to all first time boaters.

Items such as steering, mooring, locks, and safety issues as well as simple boat upkeep tasks like stern glands and fresh water filling could all be addressed. There is so much written about the trials and tribulations of "real boat owners" coming into conflict with holiday boaters. in the main due to real owners expectation of what a holiday boater should know.

There are additional benefits for the hire company - better customer service and a reduction in accident and canal incidents involving their boats. People could be encouraged to keep their passport up-to-date with further holiday bookings on their boats.


Sunday 11 April 2010

One Day Closer.

The deposit on our new boat has been sent to the brokerage. It has been a long hard search to find the narrow boat that meets with our aspirations.  At long last we have found the ideal boat, the previous owners had exactly the same remit for layout. She was built in 2004 by Price Fallows and fitted-out by Richards Narrowboats to a very high standard.

we have just obtained the services of a engineer to survey the boat. we were going to have a pre-purchase in the water survey - but we have been convinced by the engineer that we should get an out of water survey done instead. I suppose at £52k it does make sense - better than being ruled by our hearts which we have set on the boat.

Now, May can't arrive soon enough, so that we can both get on with leaving our current employment. Then me Mag's and Pop's are going to enjoy every moment of our retirement years - mainly spent pottering around on the rivers and canals.

We have already made some tentative plans for our first sojourn on our new boat. Travelling from her current moorings at Torksey on the Fossdyke. Along the Fossdyke and then joining the River Witham and travelling down as far as Boston. This should give us a chance to get used to the boats handling characteristics on both canals and rivers. We hope to have a look at some of the Navigable drains around Boston before returning back along the Witham and the Fossdyke to Torksey. We have already pencilled in our boating diary a six week time slot for this venture.

We are still trying to make up our minds about how much time we are likely to spend on board the boat each year. We feel it would be good to really experience a full winter on board as well as the hopefully warm idylic spring, summer and autumn months. However, relaxation will be the principal idea.

We expect to spend most of the first year touring around the northern canals. So we may in the first instance get a constant cruising licence. For the second winter we will be looking at a possible winter mooring for the Nov - Feb period whilst we go to our favourite destination, India for an extended period.

Friday 9 April 2010

My childhood patch of canal and river

As a child the canal was my playground in the summer months when school was out. There were still some materials being carried along my section of the cut at that time. Steel and grain were the main cargoes.

My experience on the canal has in the main come from the exposure I had as a child to the working boats that passed the front door of my childhood home. I lived in Yorkshire near to where the River Rother joins the River Don at Bow Bridge.

In the picture the River Rother is in the bottom right, the river Don sweeps through the centre. The South Yorkshire Navigation canal sweeps through in parallel just above the River Don at this point. (Google maps 53.425428,-1.362165)

Bow Bridge was built on the site of a ford where the Ricknield Way crossed the River Don near its confluence with the Rother. This is the main route to Sheffield. In 1764 the architect John Platt was employed to rebuild Bow Bridge. The current bridge was built in 1924.

Robinson's flour mill where the grain was off loaded was at the bottom right of the picture on the banks of the River Rother. The large white roofed building at the centre top of the picture was a new 60's wharf and warehouse.

Here is a view of the River Don. The River Rother joins the Don at this point, entering from the right, just behind the foreground trees. However in my day there were far fewer trees and the river and canal was crossed by a very dilapidated dual span suspension bridge. Some years later when the bridge was being demolished, there was an accident when a complete section collapsed and one of the demolition workers drowned as a result.

Here is a view of the River Rother from Bow Bridge. As children we would dare each other to walk across the parapet of the bridge. I was always up for a dare! This is where I quickly learned to swim, by falling in from the bridge! The building behind the trees on the left was the old Robinson's flour mill where the corn was off loaded. There were regular visits to the wharf from heavily laden barges. It was not unusual to see one unloading and another waiting to unload.

I think the Rother will still be navigable up to this point and I hope to take the narrow boat under Bow Bridge at some point in the future. (After I have first plumbed the depth from the bridge) I think it will be the first boat for about 30 years to actually go under the bridge and onto the Rother! I can remember as a child that there are shallows just after the Robinsons Wharf. The Rother was never dredged beyond the wharf.

Here is a view of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation looking back towards Rotherham town centre. This is where the canal heads towards Sheffield, splitting from the River Don but running in parallel for a short distance. New canal side buildings (on the left) were still going up in the early 60's and even a new wharf was built. But it turned out to be something of a white elephant and soon afterwards closed for any water born operations. The building was in use until recently as a warehouse. Now it stands empty and the part of the roof which was previously overhanging the canal wharf has now been removed.

The only commercial activity that continues anywhere near this section that I know of,  is the Humber Princess which sometimes delivers oil in bulk to the Greenline Oil depot in Rotherham.

As the river and canal pollution level has fallen, (due to the closing down of many of Sheffield industrial plants) So in turn the water quality and bank side habitat has improved. Anglers can be seen fishing along this section now.


Thursday 8 April 2010

Bad news day.

There is this popular notion of a "Silly Season" for newspapers, which comes about when real news is in short supply. You might suppose that with a General Election bun fight about to break out. Plus the Football World Cup about to kick-off in more ways than one. You would think that the Newspapers, TV and Radio would have enough to keep them happy.

But it seems that the silly season is about to start anyway. On radio this morning - the top item was "The outcome of the election could be decided by the battle of the ties" The lothsome Cameron being seen as a snooty slime ball because he wears a tie.

The equally loathsome jack-the-lad Brown has now decided to throw off the mantle of sham conservatism and campaigns as one of the boys - sans tie.

The greedy but needy members of Parliament have now left their Westminster trough and have gone out kicking and squealing on the hustings. Surely there is no better time to be on the canal.

Second item on the news, "World Cup fiasco of the Wives and Girlfriends." 

It all kicks off when the players are told that their wife's or girlfriends cannot go with them to the world cup event. Yes, the WaG's are told to stay at home by Cappello. I do enjoy a good game of football, I do want to see England do well.  However, the Players who are paid unbelievable amounts of money to train two afternoons a week and hoof the ball around for an hour and a half at the weekend. Are now bleating that they are dismayed by the thought of not having their (or someone else's) latest squeeze in Africa giving them sycophantic encouragement. It's a hard life for some.

I am sure that there is no better time to be on the canal.

But is it also silly season on the cut?

There are a large number of canal blogs and forum's to choose from on the interwebby thingy. The more worthwhile blogs have a certain character of their own to share. Humour, wildlife, travel log and dear diary seem to be the main thrusts. However, when you go to the forums, there is a different ethos altogether. There are the usual day-to-day contributors, each offering their own personal view on a plethora of different topics. Then there are the non-contributors, in the sense that they only want to pick spots of others. Adding little if any sensible content to the main thrust of the thread.

Then there are the "Tub Thumpers" those fat, red faced guys and gal's with weird beards. Seemingly to be seen shouting "rubbish - rubbish" all the time.  These individuals are the WaG's of the canal.  Yes, its the "Wild Ass Guess" brigade. Whose whole remit in life is to stick it to BW. I can see them in my minds eye. Sat up at night pouring their venom and spleen over every letter of every word. Looking for all flavours of conspiracy theory's. Fuelled by their ongoing Freedom of Information snow storms.

Rather than give their interpretation of the facts as they see them, just the once. It seems that their claims are to be repeated again and again ad nauseum. What does this create, only a barrier with heavily entrenched sides. What good does it achieve - err.. nothing actually.

I can only think that what they get from it must be better than sex. Alternatively, perhaps it is a replacement for something quite fundamental that's missing from their lives. Maybe, it gets hard for them late at night, leaving them as frustrated, self flagellating individuals, relief only coming from taking a swipe at BW. I just wish someone would tell them to "only do it a little bit - then you will only need glasses".


Wednesday 7 April 2010

Handling or dealing with trouble or troublemakers on the canal.

We are all increasingly aware of the breakdown in general behaviour in our society. It's not just the preserve of our streets. It is coming to a canal near you.

Here are a few recent items on anti-social behaviour.
Attackers Jailed
Under Fire

Anti-social behaviour problems along the canal are something everyone wants to avoid. But sooner or later you will experience these issues. You might experience anti-social behaviour in many different ways. Not only from groups of young people on the towpath but also from other boaters. Ranging from threats and insults, un-mooring of boats and setting them adrift, loud music and parties into the early hours, spitting and stone throwing, even shooting, there is a whole range of possible scenarios.
  • Do you it feel intimidated by the prospect of this sort of thing?
  • What are you going to do about it, if it should happen to you?

Can you afford to ignore what goes on around you.
The authorities are perceived as being reluctant to take action about anti-social behaviour because of a lack of any real pressure from anyone to do anything. The temptation for boaters is to wait until they get bored and go away. The evidence points to the problems with anti-social behaviour being created by cheap alcohol by supermarkets. However, you should still report it to your local BW office. BW need to be made aware of the anti-social hot-spots and their locations.

Not everyone wearing a hooded top is what's described in the newspapers as a “hoodie” Remember everyone, is welcome to use the towpaths. Treat them as possible hostiles if you must.  However, don't make any assumptions based on the way someone is dressed. Young people in general have been given an undeservedly bad reputation. It is a very small minority of almost feral children that deserve that reputation.

You could try to interact with the young people who hang around bridges and locks. Start by trying to strike up a conversation, they may respond reasonably well. Even a simple “hello and how are you” might be enough to break the ice. The vast majority of young people are quite friendly. It just that we are not in their peer group and they don't know how to react to us. For most youngsters, the “oldies” are the ones who always complain about them playing football or congregating in the street or corners. Young people are more boisterous, lively and energetic, yes, they smoke, yes they drink, yes they like to enjoy themselves. Yes, we all have short memories – after all we were never like that in our younger days. Were we?

You need an anti-social behaviour tool kit. Including a mobile phone, air horn, camera and a high power flash light, notepad, pen and a strong pair of lungs. Beware of reaction overkill and never ever pre-empt an escalation in hostilities.

  • Mobile phone, with the local police number pre-programmed in to call for help.
  • Camera, to take photographs.
  • Flash light, to illuminate, startle and dazzle people at night.
  • Notepad, to make notes of the time and to record descriptions.
  • Lungs, shouts and screams will help to disorientate.
  • Air horn, nothing better for waking up other boaters or people living close by.

Baldricks Cunning Plan.
You need to have a plan of action at the ready. You may need to respond with quick decisive steps to protect yourself and your family. A plan that everyone on board is aware of, that you have discussed and that each one knows exactly what to do. Your plan should have different levels of response, from ignoring the issue until morning, to being proactive and immediate in dealing with the situation before it gets out of hand. Your plan goes some way to putting you in charge of the situation.

Get the Police involved at the first sign of anti-social behaviour.
It's generally thought by law abiding people that the police are useless at dealing with anti-social behaviour. That nothing will happen unless you actually retaliate and do something to those behaving irresponsibly. Then at that point you will have the full weight of the law upon your head. This being perceived by the public as the police protecting those anti-social individuals.

There is some merit in making that assumption. A word of caution though, knives and guns are being carried now by thugs so don't put yourself at risk by getting involved in a full on confrontation. I don't know anyone who has been able to reason with a thug, drunk or drug addict. They have nothing to loose and you have a great deal. The police do not have officers patrolling the towpath. They do not have a crystal ball. They try to be proactive but the vast majority of their work is reactive. You need to bring such issues to their attention and to ensure that they are recorded. Report all incidents to the police. Some forces now practice zero tolerance to binge drinking and anti-social behaviour.

Defending yourself or self survival.
You are entitled to use reasonable force to protect yourself, other people or your property. But the action of defending yourself changes to one of retaliation, if the anti-social behaviour has already happened. There is no room for uncontrolled rage or vigilantes.

This means dialling 999 in an emergency or dialling their “local” number if it is not a real emergency.

BW and their role.
BW lengthsman should have the appropriate form for you to fill out, regarding any incident, accidents, anti-social behaviour or vandalism. However, when was the last time you saw a lengthsman! Maybe next time you see one you should ask for a couple of spare copys just for recording instances upon. You could then send it in to the area BW office. Alternatively you could just write to the area office, giving whatever details you have and ask for an acknowledgement.

Do you have a 2 way radio, mobile phone, or anything that resembles such an item. - even if they don't look like phones or radios. It can create some doubt in the typical miscreants mind and lead to them going away.

Still and Video Cameras.
Use a camera to identify those individuals already causing problems. Remember that if you start pre-emptively videoing or taking photographs of minors, some police officers will fail to see the bigger picture and go into “Knacker of the Yard” mode. You may well end up on a Gary Glitter type of charge. However, there is nothing wrong with videoing a section of the canal and if the video or camera should also contain images of people who cause problems as well. Then that's is a different matter.

If you have photographs or video's of people you thought were going to cause a problem but subsequently they did not, then I would delete them rather than have a collection of images of children and others from along the canal which might be misconstrued by the police at a later date.

Monday 5 April 2010

Would you be a Knight of the Canal?

Do you ever help other boaters at locks, are you a knight of the canals?

I ask this question because, I have always been something of a proactive volunteer in the sense of giving up my leisure time in the interests of the greater good. Such as being a RSPB volunteer for instance. On the boat, if I come to a lock and there are other boats locking in the area, I will always muck in and try to help. I have even stopped for the odd lady motorists in distress and changed a tyre. However, times have changed, being a Knight of the Road, Knight of the Canal or just plain volunteering has become something of a high risk occupation.

This has all come to be since the advent of the American inspired system of  "no win no fee" litigation. Which actually means if its an open and shut case, the law practice will "accept the risk" of not being paid. However, if there is a 1% chance that the claim will fail you are on your own, or pay them up-front to act for you. The business of the much despised, vulture like, ambulance chasers has now turned our society into an "if there is a blame - there is a claim" culture. To the point where we all have to seriously look at things we do everyday and the risk this has for us and for others.

I am a trained "First Aider" I volunteered for a week long course in administering first aid. I thought it would be good for me and to the benefit of my family to have some knowledge of dealing with everyday accidents and occurrences in the home or workplace. Surprise, surprise, one full day of the course was actually spent on addressing what might happen in a number of different scenarios or situations. In particular where someone whose life you might have saved decides that you are to blame for their long term disability. Yes, you have guessed it. If in this crazy world  - I administer life saving first aid - and I am successful, I am also accepting liability for my actions. I owe them, a duty of care and therefore I am liable for my actions.

How bad is it? When we bought our current house I asked the previous owner why they were moving from such a desirable spot. They said it was because their child had no one else to to play with on the street. It seemed quite plausible at the time, though we did see a few other children of the same sort of age on the street - maybe they were just visiting! After we moved in, our new neighbour told us the real story behind their move. It seemed that there was a large amount of stone in his garden which had been used in the past to make a large fish-pond. He decided to get rid of the pond as he was looking to sell his very large 6 bedroom house and wanted the property to appeal to someone with a family. Ponds and children don't go together he was told by the estate agent. One day the previous occupants of our house asked if they could have some of the stone out of his garden to build a rockery in their garden. He said yes, help yourself without even giving it a second thought.

The wife came round into his garden and started passing some of the stone over the fence to her husband. However, whilst clambering over the pile of stone, she slipped and broke her ankle. She was in hospital for a while and off work for some time recuperating. Out of the blue, some time later our new neighbour gets a letter from a solicitor working on behalf of his neighbour! It seems that they were pursuing a claim against him. Cutting a long story short, it cost him £20,000 or rather cost his house insurance company the money for the payout. However, it cost him money in increased insurance premiums. It seems that if you agree to someone coming on your property, you have a duty of care to them and so are liable for their safety. The ill will this claim created made them both persona non grata, literally meaning "an unwelcome person" with the rest of the neighbours and they were sent to Coventry so to speak.

So what are the impacts now of this litigation free-for-all? If I want to continue to volunteer my services, It seems that I must be risk assessed then sign a liability disclaimer as well as sign a consent form. That's what we call progress. So next time you open a lock paddle for another boat, think about the possible consequences of your actions. Especially if someone should accidentally get hurt because the boat moved unexpectedly. It's your duty of care to them.

Don't even get me going on "political correctness" either.....


Saturday 3 April 2010

Does swearing help?

I am in a prolific mood today and seem to be in a good seam.  However, have you ever had one of those days where everything you do, creates a further job or mega levels of frustration. I think that every inanimate object in the world has a built in critical detector. Just so that it can destructively test your stress levels. However, I now have a new strategy, whenever it happens to me, I tend to act a bit nonchalant so that the job in had does not get any indication of my angst or stress levels.

To be honest, I am not convinced that my nonchalance is convincing enough to convince the job in hand, that I don't actually give a damn. So now I am about to begin issuing expletive laden verbal reminders as well. I will also instigate 'Basil Fawlty' style beatings to any inanimate object that might have the gall or temerity to refuse to work. Furthermore, I also believe that there is some true merit in doing so. I admit I only have a limited command of the Anglo Saxon expletives and I'm not totally convinced about the voracity and depth of my knowledge.

However, help is close at hand. I'll explain.... Picture the scene.....

It's February 2010, a thin film of ice is just forming on the canal surface. We have just arrived at Hillmorton locks and we are about to moor up for the night. The Memsahib says, "I don't like the look of the towpath just here, lets move the boat a little further along." As she begins to pole the bow away from the edge, the pole slips, I hear her shout. When I look, her hands are on the towpath edge, her feet are still on the gunwale, she looks a bit like a small arched canal bridge. However, the front is slowly drifting out. I scoot along the gunwale and arrive in time to see her hands slip on the towpath edge. She performs a perfect faceplant into the mud, followed a second later by a belly flop into the cut.

From time to time, the Memsahib AKA 'Attila the Hen' has due cause to draw attention to my lack of interest in everyday - run of the mill - domestic issues. She usually does this first by trying to cajole me along. Then when she sees that I am having difficulty in containing my complete indifference. She switches to full confrontation mode, a bit like a bad tempered cat, with the low growl interspersed by hissing and spitting.

This onslaught is always prefixed by the word “Michael” at which point I prepare (flinch) ready to receive her full frontal, attitude adjusting advice. I must admit to sometimes standing open mouthed, in both shock, awe and admiration. Trembling at the knee of a grand master of the expletive vernacular. I am always amazed at how quick and creative she is at contriving new word mixtures. Always done in an ever challenging, ingenious and resourceful manner.

But stood there in the freezing water of the North Oxford canal, hair and face covered in mud. The Memsahib's world standard of swearing reached the level of an art form.


Friday 2 April 2010

Another Interesting Web Site.

If like me you can't seem to get enough, due to a bad infection of the "lack-of-boating-malaise". You might find that this site helps to ease the itching.  As it says on the tin website "The Website Site for Dredgers - Coasters - Barges and much, much more." so have a look at

My home town is Rotherham, one of the districts is called Masbrough. On the 7th of July, 1841 there occured a  boat disaster on the canal. With a huge loss of life. One of the victims "Samuel Heathcote" was one of my ancestors.

"The vessel was built by Mr. Chambers, for Henry and Edwin Cadman. Robert Marsh is to be the captain. I was present when the vessel was launched. I saw the launch; and as the vessel was leaving the stays, about half over on the balance, the parties on board (men and boys) rushed to the leeward side of the vessel to see the effect of its dashing into the water. By that means the weight of the men and boys to the leeward side caused her to overbalance and to overturn before she reached the water, which was about three feet from the stays. I was standing on a fly boat in the cut at the head of the vessel which was launched, and I had a good view of it. I had examined the vessel, the ways, and the packings, and I thought it altogether perfectly safe, having seen vessels launched befoore from the same yard. I thought it so safe that I was inclined to go on board, but from an impression among the boatmen that it is unlucky for an owner to be on board when a vessel is launched, I was persuaded not to go on board. The men were perfectly sober and quite steady, and conducted the business in the usual manner and to my satisfaction. "

Read the full story here.

Thursday 1 April 2010

Wonderful news for Narrow Boaters.

New developments in the French “Poisson d’Avril” project have been anounced about a new (hybrid) propulsion system intended for boats on the French canal system. The new power generator prototype is about  to be imported onto the UK canals.

It works by filtering out the latent power of starlight and using it to fuel a hybrid system for all kinds of marine engines. The system works by utilising the blue spectral light from starlight. This is then combined at high pressure in the anti-matter Orgasmatron and used to turn iron pyrite, (iron sulphide FeS2) into a new zero footprint, non-bio form of blue coloured diesel.

The researches at the University of Trompe L'oeil in France report that they have now secured all of the specialist parts to develop an upgraded version of The Orgasmatron. Including marine grade servo's, control units, solenoids, transducers, amplifiers, regulators, fans, torque converters and blue starlight condensers. However, further development work still needs to be done on a new and more efficient solar filter so that the hybrid fuelled engine can still be powered even in daylight. Preliminary results from testing done so far, indicate that the project has some significant potential. Connecting the Orgasmatron output gag pin directly to the Barus 43 engine starter shaft has provided enough power to move a 70' wide beam vessel over a 200 kilometre test run on a single fuelling.

Further research work is being done to develop a more efficient way to store the latent energy output from the Orgasmatron. One possible solution is to combine normal matter with antimatter, when you release the matter you get instant energy. Then you store the starlight energy (like charging a battery) by re-creating the depleted antimatter. Another way to store this energy that is being explored is in some form of repeatable mechanical deformation. This is the idea behind a spring used in a wind-up device. You store the energy by bending (deforming) the material and the material releases the energy back as it returns to its original shape. Alternatively you could use the energy to spin up a flywheel and then later extract the energy by using the flywheel to run a generator.

The research paper highlighted that apparently no mass is converted into energy. However, this is not entirely correct. The mass of an atom is more than the sum of the individual masses of its protons and neutrons. Extra mass is a result of the binding energy that holds the protons and neutrons of the nucleus together. Thus, when the Orgasmatron is running, some of the energy that held it together is released as radiation in the form of heat. Because energy and mass are one and the same, the energy released is also mass released. Therefore, the total mass does decrease a tiny bit during the reaction.

In particle physics, antimatter is the extension of the concept of the antiparticle to matter, where antimatter is composed of antiparticles in the same way that normal matter is composed of particles. For example, an antielectron (a positron, an electron with a positive charge) and an antiproton (a proton with a negative charge) could form an antihydrogen atom in the same way that an electron and a proton form a normal matter hydrogen atom. Furthermore, mixing matter and antimatter would lead to the annihilation of both in the same way that mixing antiparticles and particles does, thus giving rise to high-energy starlight photons or other particle or antiparticle pairs.

It was also pointed out that there is a beneficial incidental by-product of the system.  Caused by all the anti-negative anti-matter electrons created as a result of the conversion process in the Orgasmatron. The anti-negative anti-matter electrons will stop all forms of steel hull pitting and would also have the effect of causing hull blacking material held in suspension in much of the canal water to be deposited back on the boats hull. This does not however, work on boats fitted with sacrificial anodes. The Orgasmatron is expected to sell for about £250 each with typical running costs of around 5p per day and should be avaible in early April 2010.

The project is also known by the acronym "SPOOF" or the "Starlight Powered Orgasmatron Output Fuel.

The Orgasmatron boat power source should not be confused with the Orgasmatron 3000 washing machine.

This is probably the kinkiest kitchen appliance I’ve ever seen, the Leather clad Orgasmatron 3000, washing machine. And if a leather clad washing machine wasn’t strange enough, it also comes complete with a built in saddle so “You can ride the machine” so to speak (if it’s anything like my washing machine that might take some holding on to).

The Orgasmatron 3000 is designed by Dominic Wilcox and is currently on show at Room X (Habitat, Regents St, London) which is part of the London design festival, I wonder if it comes with a whip .

OK - yes it was an April 1st jape...

I did leave a few clues along the way....
Poisson d’Avril = April Fish or April Fool the French way.
Orgasmatron = Say no more
iron pyrite, (iron sulphide FeS2) = Fools Gold
Trompe L'oeil = 'trick the eye'
a spring used in a wind-up device = this is a wind-up device
causes hull blacking material to be deposited back on the boats hull = Free Lunch
Starlight Powered Orgasmatron Output Fuel = SPOOF