It’s time to cater for the week­enders

Canal Boat - - Me & My Boats - STEVE HAYWOOD Award-win­ning cur­rent af­fairs TV pro­ducer, jour­nal­ist and au­thor who has been a boat owner for nearly 40 years Fol­low me on Twit­ter@ Cut­dreamer

It’s that time of the year when we start think­ing about plans for the sum­mer. It may be cold, dark and mis­er­able out­side, but when the sun oc­ca­sion­ally bursts through the clouds as it’s been do­ing re­cently, it re­minds us that spring isn’t far off.

Sadly though, for most peo­ple still work­ing and tied to of­fices and fac­to­ries, their op­tions for hol­i­day cruises are lim­ited. They have cou­ple of weeks for a main break and pos­si­bly an­other later in the year. There just isn’t enough time to ven­ture far afield so they fin­ish up on the same lo­cal canals they did last year and the year be­fore that. The lim­it­ing fac­tor, of course, is the need to get back to home moor­ings.

But it doesn’t have to be like this and there are those in­trepid souls who quit their base in the spring and only come back to it in the au­tumn, trav­el­ling the coun­try by ‘week­end­ing’ — that is, by leav­ing their boats when and where they can get tem­po­rary moor­ings, and mov­ing on a week or two later.

But it’s not easy mov­ing about like this. The As­so­ci­a­tion of Wa­ter­ways Cruis­ing Clubs (AWCC) makes some berths avail­able to mem­bers of af­fil­i­ated clubs by prior ap­point­ment, but space is lim­ited. Some­times, in the ab­sence of any­thing better, week­end­ing in­volves tak­ing a risk — leav­ing your boat in where it may not be en­tirely safe. Em and I trav­elled the sys­tem widely in the 1970s and 80s this way, but in those days it was less chal­leng­ing than to­day.

Boats weren’t kit­ted out to the same so­phis­ti­cated spec as they are now. They barely had lights, let along the range of TVs, videos, com­put­ers and the rest which is al­most stan­dard on con­tem­po­rary boats now. Thieves didn’t tar­get boats in those days be­cause there was noth­ing on board worth steal­ing. To­day, re­gret­tably, they’ve wised up.

It was safer any­how then be­cause you could al­ways leave your boat in lo­ca­tions which were rel­a­tively se­cure: ad­ja­cent to houses, or on tow­paths close to vil­lages where there was a reg­u­lar, re­as­sur­ing pas­sage of lo­cal dog walk­ers who’d keep an eye on things for you.

To­day, th­ese moor­ings will in­vari­ably be lim­ited to 48 hours, and if you’re look­ing for some­thing longer you’ll be forced to the pe­riph­eries, to the dark edges of the coun­try­side, be­yond moor­ing re­stric­tions. To just the sort of places where the thieves thrive, in fact.

Back in the day, if all else failed you could slip into a ma­rina where, if they charged you at all, they’d find a place for you some­where for a few quid a week. To­day mari­nas are so full, and the rules gov­ern­ing who can stay there so strict, that it’s hardly worth try­ing.

Be­sides, if you do man­age to get a tem­po­rary moor­ing in one, it’ll be ex­pen­sive — eye­wa­ter­ingly so in some of th­ese posh, new places which seem to be more about sta­tus than boat­ing.

It’s dif­fi­cult to know what the Canal & River Trust can do to en­cour­age week­end­ing, even though it would be in its in­ter­ests to do so. En­cour­ag­ing boats to un­der­take longer, more ad­ven­tur­ous cruises would en­cour­age the use of lesser used wa­ter­ways, and at the same time re­lieve the pres­sure on some of the Mid­lands’ hot spots.

But any scheme to limit moor­ings to a par­tic­u­lar type of boater would be un­fea­si­ble. And un­pop­u­lar. And it would bound to be abused by this new breed of boater that believes rules ap­ply to ev­ery­one else ex­cept them.

The an­swer has to lie with a change in the cul­ture of mari­nas. Surely it can’t be be­yond the wit of those op­er­at­ing them to or­gan­ise some ba­sic na­tional moor­ings ex­change sys­tem for boats on the move? Wouldn’t it be an in­cen­tive to their cus­tomers to be part of a scheme which al­lowed them to stay tem­po­rar­ily at other mari­nas when they were on longer cruises?

Ad­di­tion­ally, why can’t mari­nas recog­nise the com­mer­cial pos­si­bil­i­ties of pro­vid­ing in­ex­pen­sive tem­po­rary moor­ings for trav­el­ling boats, re­gard­less of whether they moor in mari­nas or not?

Why can’t they of­fer the ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties which week­enders are look­ing for? This ISN’T cafés, BBQ, chan­d­leries and on-site wash­ing machines which are the sort of ser­vices that at­tract long-term moor­ers. All week­enders are look­ing for is a safe place to leave their boat, and surely there are com­mer­cial pos­si­bil­i­ties for mari­nas to pro­vide this fa­cil­ity. They could cram boats to­gether like sar­dines in the least at­trac­tive parts of the ma­rina be­hind the toi­let block or the paint shop. The fact is, week­enders won’t com­plain. They aren’t go­ing to spend a lot of time in th­ese berths and the frip­peries won’t bother them.

‘The an­swer has to lie with a change in the cul­ture of mari­nas. Surely it can’t be be­yond the wit of those op­er­at­ing them to or­gan­ise some ba­sic na­tional moor­ings ex­change sys­tem for boats on the move?’

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