London Canal Museum chairman Martin Sach praises the boating community
1 What first attracted you to the waterways?
It is hard to say for sure, but I do remember at school taking part in sponsored walks to help raise funds for the restoration of the Kennet & Avon. Being a transport enthusiast has always been hard-wired for some reason.
2 Which is your favourite waterway?
I don’t really have one favourite but the Grand Junction is near home and the Regent’s Canal close to the museum so I’d nominate those two as joint favourites
3 What do the waterways have to offer the country?
So many things! History and heritage, green space, peace and quiet, the countryside, urban beauty, wildlife, and the chance to go boating!
4 How long have you been at the London Canal Museum
I first joined the team in 1996, when I painted the kitchen. I became a trustee a few years later and it has to a large extent taken over my life without really being asked!
5 What do you like most about your job?
There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing the museum develop and prosper through a string of projects big and small over the last 20 years that have improved it dramatically and given it a more secure future.
6 And is there anything you don´t like?
Dealings with officialdom can be a frustrating and dispiriting experience that’s not unique to us. It took a year to get planning consent for our new eco-friendly heating system, for example.
7 What do visitors like about the museum?
They seem to like most of the various exhibitions but what stands out is that they enjoy visiting the cabin of our reconstructed butty Coronis and seeing the fabulous archive film that we show in the museum.
8 What is the connection with ice?
The building was built around 1863 as an ice warehouse and we have two huge commercial ice wells beneath the floor. Ice was carried by sea and canal from Norway to King’s Cross. This is a story that is little-known and people find fascinating.
9 Tell us about your boating experience...
I don’t get enough time for boating nowadays, but I once owned a 17ft cruiser in Bristol and I occasionally get to drive the museum’s Bantam tug!
10 What is your proudest achievement?
I think this has to be the financial transformation of the museum from a large debt to the bank and inability to pay the bills, to having enough to invest in museum improvements and maintain this historic building well. 11 Have you ever fallen in? Once – but only to just above the knee! Like most fallings-in, it happened whilst manoeuvring a boat, in that case our Bantam tug.
12 What are you reading?
I don’t read books very often – and much of my news reading is online.
13 Who would be your ideal cruising companion?
Can I pick a historic character? If so, I’d love to travel along The Regent’s with James Morgan, the engineer of the canal who is too little known and respected by history.
14 What´s the best time of day to be on the waterways?
Probably the fading daylight of a summer’s evening, with a canalside pub not too far away.
15 What did you want to be aged 12?
A railway manager. And I was one once, for some 20 years.
16 What other interests do you have?
I like seeing other museums of course but I’m also fond of opera and in particular Gilbert and Sullivan.
17 What do you think of people on the waterways?
We sometimes coin the phrase “canal community” and to a large extent there is a community on the canal, in which people are mostly friendly and helpful, that’s a nice aspect of being involved in canals.
18 What do you hope to be doing when you´re 70?
Well that’s not quite so far in the future now, I hope I am still fit enough to make a good contribution to the museum and the canals, if not in all the ways I currently do.
19 Where would your dream cruise be to?
That’s a hard question as I am not given to dreaming, but it would have to be somewhere with plenty of historic interest.
20 What superpower would you most like to have?
This really is dreaming but if possible, I would like to be able to amend some of the laws that govern the canals and businesses such as ours to make life a bit easier!
‘There is a community on the canal, in which people are mostly friendly and helpful’ MARTIN SACH