The good and bad of boating

Canal Boat - - Letters - GRAHAM & SU­SAN DEAN (AND FRIEND ADRIAN), via email

WE’VE JUST RE­TURNED from our latest canal ad­ven­ture, the eighth ac­com­plished in as many years. This time it was two weeks ex­plor­ing the de­lights of the Four Coun­ties Ring out and back from An­der­ton Ma­rina.

In those eight years we (that’s me, my wife and friend) have en­gaged with the Ox­ford, Grand Union, War­wick­shire Ring, Cheshire Ring, Stour­port Ring, the Llan­gollen in­clud­ing a won­der­ful trip down the Mont­gomery, down the Stratford to Woot­ton Wawen; out and back from An­der­ton to Ch­ester; and one mis­guided year on the Cale­do­nian.

This year the weather was blighted by per­sis­tent wind which fre­quently tried to ex­er­cise au­thor­ity over our 66-footer. Nev­er­the­less we were not de­nied the charm of the coun­try­side with so many vil­lages and towns to ex­plore and re­lieve of lo­cal del­i­ca­cies and, of course, not for­get­ting the friend­li­ness of tow­path and lock-side en­coun­ters.

Over the past eight years we have no­ticed ob­vi­ous changes. Clearly there is an in­crease in traf­fic; there are more boaters moored and more on the move. Also, un­der the stew­ard­ship of the Canal & River Trust, the in­fra­struc­ture of the canals seems to be mov­ing for­ward with both op­ti­mism and pur­pose.

How­ever, we do have three gripes. We don’t own a boat – we are hir­ers, that oft de­spised or­der of boaters by the fra­ter­nity of boat own­ers, par­tic­u­larly the live­aboards.

Yes, we ac­knowl­edge that we did wit­ness some hairy nav­i­gat­ing by hol­i­day hir­ers but, once again, we met some in­dif­fer­ent and ar­ro­gant ac­tions by boat own­ers.

Top of our gripes are those who don’t slow down suf­fi­ciently when pass­ing moored craft or when ne­go­ti­at­ing haz­ards. The sec­ond, those who moor in­con­sid­er­ately, par­tic­u­larly next to bridges on tight corners, but worse, moor­ing next to locks. Fi­nally, moor­ing at wa­ter points, com­pletely im­ped­ing ac­cess (see photo).

Canal life re­flects all as­pects of so­ci­ety, the good and the bad.

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