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.


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