BEAST HITS THE CANALS
The ‘Beast from the East’ may seem a distant memory, but some boaters are stiff suffering its effects, as RCR report
Remember the Beast from the East? Although it’s only a couple of months ago as we send this issue to press, for most waterway users the extreme weather that hit the UK in February and March is hopefully little more than a distant memory, as they enjoy some decent late spring boating weather. But for those whose vessels which sank as a result, its impact continues to be felt.
From 2 February to 9 March, inland waterways breakdown specialists River Canal Rescue attended 79 weather related call-outs - ranging from failed bilge pumps and flat batteries to split pipes and boats taking on water - in an area covering 350 miles. During this five-week period, specialist teams also raised ten submerged boats.
Here, some of the owners of those sunken vessels share their experiences of falling victim to the ‘Beast from the East’, and what they’re doing to stop it happening again.
Boatlife on the Ashby Canal
On 2 February, 23ft cruiser Boatlife was moored on the Ashby Canal. Due to heavy rain however, three quarters of the craft became submerged. For owner Jonathan Woodward, this was the second time this happened: “Unfortunately the canopy wasn’t sealed properly and following heavy snow and rainfall, water was able to get into the boat causing it to partially submerge. This also caused the first sinking. RCR managed to successfully raise the vessel, checks were carried out as a preventative measure and it was then moved to a secure location where it could be lifted out.”
Tupelo Honey on the River Ouse
Three days later, Richard Vaughn reported his 33ft cruiser Tupelo Honey had sunk while moored on the River Ouse: “Due to the weather, the river was in flood and unfortunately the ropes securing the boat to its moorings were too tight and as the river began to rise, it took on water. The boat was at a very precarious angle with one side wedged in some mud (this was a heavy wooden boat). The team had to correct the angle first and then they were able to pump out the water and successfully refloat.”
Emily on the Leeds & Liverpool
On 7 February, RCR was called to refloat Thomas Strange’s 27ft cruiser Emily, moored on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. As managing director Stephanie Horton explains: “We believe this partially sank due to heavy rainfall as there was no breach in the hull. We attended and first used straps to level the boat out so the gunwales were out of the water. A tarpaulin sheet was then used to seal up the outboard hole to prevent any further leaks. The boat was then pumped out and re-floated. Once the boat was dry, a battery and float switch bilge were fitted to prevent the boat from sinking again.”
Silver Darling on the Grand Union
Six days later, John Rainnie found his 32ft cruiser Silver Darling had sunk while moored on the Grand Union Main Line. “We’re not sure what caused it,” said RCR, “but we believe it was due to snow blocking the drainage holes. We pumped out all the water and got the vessel refloated.” As is typically the case with sunken vessels,
Silver Darling needed two new starter batteries, engine ‘first aid’ (to prevent internal rusting and corrosion of any other components that may have been submerged), a starter motor, two alternators and fuel cleaning / replacement.
Saxon Princess on the Grand Union
On 6 March, Darren Rushby, owner of 57ft narrowboat Saxon Princess, moored on the Grand Union Main Line, reported water had reached his boat’s gunwales. Stephanie Horton reports: “The boat showed no visible signs of leaks or damage and the bilge pump was connected and operational. The battery however, may have failed and this coupled with heavy snow and rainfall, we believe, was the reason for the sinking.”
Eric the Rat on the Nene
Two days later, heavy rainfall caused 33ft cruiser Eric the Rat to sink while moored at Billing Aquadrome, Northampton. Owner Richard Dennehy explains: “The boat sank due to heavy rainfall. Because of the boat’s size and location, this was not a simple re-float and five of RCR’s team were deployed for this one. The boat was refloated and a battery and bilge pump were fitted.”
Angilika on the Regent’s
On 9 March, Michal Dufek reported his 28ft narrowboat Angilika, moored at St Pancras on the Regent’s Canal, had sunk. He advises: “I’m sure it was to do with the plumbing, I believe one of the pipes froze and then snapped. My bilge pump wasn’t working. When it thawed, water started pouring in.” Stephanie Horton concludes: “Incidents occur because people underestimate the weight they are carrying and they fail to appreciate there’s only a couple of inches between the outlet and the water surface. It’s really important to regularly check your boat and that the bilge pump is working, and clear away any snow.”
River Canal Rescue head out in wintry conditions earlier this year
The result of a combination of a failed battery, heavy snow and rainfall
Narrowboat Saxon Princess is successfully refloated on the Grand Union Canal
RCR engineers working to raise the cruiser Eric the Rat on the River Nene
RCR’s pumps get to work on re-floating Angilika