Sunday, 1 March 2015

Not in MY bin!



There are boaters’ bins in London but what do you do if there isn’t one near your boat?

Before I moved from a flat to a boat, I had my own bin. I used to be someone.

This story doesn’t paint me in a particularly good light. I look worse when you consider that I was moored very near a boaters’ bin. I could have taken my little Sainsbury’s bag of rubbish there but....  I wasn’t going that way ... and it was raining. Not for the first time, my empty milk carton, banana skin and Galaxy caramel wrappers got dropped into a park bin.

100 feet ahead of me was a council cleaner. 

As I walked towards him, I was aware that he was watching me.

“What was in that bag?” he asked, as I passed him.

“Erm, what bag?” 

“You know what bag! What was in it? The orange bag you put in that bin over there!”

Like The Terminator, at the speed of lightening, a huge list of  responses rolled through my brain. The first one to make the shortlist was, “Your mum’s pants.” I repressed it, instead opting for sarcasm.

“GOLD,” I exclaimed!

“Where do you live?” he said.

I lost my temper, a bit. Fear & defense.

“I’m not telling you where I live! Where do YOU live?” 

He squinted his eyes. “Are you one of those boaters?”

“You could get in a lot of trouble for asking things like that,” I said.

“What are you talking about?”

“You’re a boatist?” I said, “This is boatism.”

I took  my phone out and took his photo.

“Well, I can do that too, “ he said.

He took his phone out and tried to figure out how to operate the camera. After 30 seconds, he gave up and put his device back into his orange boiler suit.

“Btw, congratulations,” I said.

“What for?”

“Escaping from Syria.”

“What was in that bag?” he said, again.

“If you really want to know, it was rubbish I picked up along the towpath. I’m actually one of those rare people who goes out of his way to make your job a little easier!”

I sounded so earnest that I almost believed my own lie.

If you want to know how this panned out - and hear many more stories of boating madness - come along to my live show - ‘Angry Boater Live.’  It’s on for the next 3 Tuesday nights  (March 3, 10 & 17) at The Bargehouse near Haggerston Overground. Runs from 8 pm to 9.40 pm. Advanced tickets £7 or £10 cash on the door.

Review of the Feb 24th performance here:

Joel - March 1st, 2015

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Turn that racket down or one of us will have to go!

Last week, the boater moored next to me was playing music, loudly. Over a 24 hour period, it happened on 3 occasions. It pushed my buttons every time.

Even it had been quiet, it would have annoyed the hell out of me. 

If I can hear it, it’s too loud. 

On this occasion, many other boaters would also have heard it. There was tons of bass too. By the looks of the vessel and the volume coming out of it, the stereo had cost more than the engine.

On the first 2 occasions, I put my generator on to mask the noise. 

The 3rd time was after 9 pm and I was already in bed.

I lost my temper.

I had no idea who my neighbours were but 2 minutes later I was dressed and banging on their boat.

A woman came out.

“You just woke me up,” I lied, “What are you doing?”

I was told that all I needed to do was ask her politely and she would have turned it down but instead I was being very aggressive.

She was right. 

I could have asked nicely.

I was being aggressive. 

However, I felt violated and I wanted her to know it and I wanted to make a point. Asking nicely wasn’t going to get that any of that across.

I told her that when she took the decision to blast out her neighbours, that was also an act of aggression. If she felt violated, it was her own disrespectful actions that had brought it about.

That’s my take on it. 

Why did she think she had the right to impose her music on anyone else? I’d never do that. Most people would never do that. Especially other boaters! Boaters all want peace and quiet, right? We all want exactly what I want, surely!

My rage subsided a bit and I considered that here I was - a bulky, slightly out of control guy in a tracksuit - being aggressive to a much smaller woman. Maybe this didn’t look too good.  

Would I have acted differently if another guy had come out of the boat? 


Unless he looked like a wimp. 

I took a breath and calmed down.

She said something about “live and let live.” I immediately felt angry again and had a flashback to 1994. 


I was in my flat and the neighbours below had their TV on so loudly that my floor was vibrating.

I knocked on their door but they couldn’t hear me.

I went back to my flat , found a hammer and used that to knock on their door. 

Eventually they heard and opened the door to find me standing there with a hammer and eyes of madness.

Angry as I was, I was aware the tool in my hand might be open to misinterpretation. I put the hammer on the floor.

“My floor is vibrating. Could you turn that down .... way down!”

“The thing is it’s not actually that loud,” he said.

“I have been knocking for 10 minutes with a hammer.”

“The thing is the volume control doesn’t work properly,” he said, “This is the quietest it will go.”

“I’d be happy to come in and try,” I suggested.

He turned it down.

The next day I went back to make the peace and to thank him for his understanding. 

“Well our philosophy is ‘Live and Let Live’,” his wife said.

“Good,” I replied, “Let me live then.”

They moved out a few weeks later.


10 minutes after I’d returned to my boat, my new “live and let live” neighbour moved away too.

My first thought was ‘good - she’s gone. I have done everyone here a favour.’

My second thought was that her music must be so important to her that she was moving away so that she could listen to it loudly somewhere else.

My 3rd thought was that I had upset or intimidated her so much that she was not comfortable keeping me as her neighbour. Perhaps I should have had some guilt or shame about that but I didn’t. I was still angry. 

My final thought was ‘good - she’s gone. I have done everyone here a favour.’


There have been similar moments from time to time. Usually I repress or move away but I can’t always help myself.

3 years ago, I was sitting on a train in Scotland, heading the short distance  from Edinburgh to Musselburgh. Just before we left Waverley station,  a small group of teenage girls - 14  or 15 years old perhaps - got onto my carriage and took up the rest of my seating area. The girl directly opposite started to play music on the speaker of her phone. 

“If I wanted to listen to that, “I said, ”It would be on my phone and I’d be listening to it with headphones. Turn it off please.”

She turned it off and started crying.

Her friends were silent.

Had I overreacted? I don’t believe I had but I felt some compassion all the same. A moment later I leaned forward and said, “Thank you for turning it off. I appreciate it.”

She nodded through her tears but was still shaken. 


I have no tolerance for other people’s noises.  It’s a control thing. I like my space and I like the quiet. When they are threatened, either outwards or inwards, I flip out. It happens every time.

I also wrote about this issue in January. Someone read that blog and sent me a message suggesting that I have ‘Low Frustration Tolerance.’ I have been reading up on it and I agree. 

Living freely on the waterways has definitely helped but the old adage holds true: “we don’t escape our problems - they travel with us wherever we go.”

Joel - April 29th, 2014

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Paranoia, Delusion & Boris Johnson Encounter

Sometimes, I just don’t know. 

I feel powerless when I don’t know.

I like to know.

This morning, CRT called at 11.32.... and again at 11.33. It was from an unavailable number and I missed both calls. There was a voicemail though - one of those maddening recorded messages we usually get when calling a company - “Press 1 for this; 2 for that.” An odd message to leave for me though as ‘1’  caused my phone to repeat the message and 2 forwarded to the next message.

I called CRT back on their main number but - being a Sunday - they were closed.

What did they want with me? I’d been good, hadn’t I?

I had a few ideas, all of which made me slightly paranoid. In my mind,  I churned through  some of the possibilities and rehearsed my answers. 

My first fear was that someone had broken into my boat. However, I soon dismissed this as - at the time they called - I was onboard.

My 2nd, 3rd & 4th ideas surrounded the circumstances of my current mooring - Noel Rd in Islington. 

For a while now, this area has been the centre of some conflict between boaters and local residents. As a consequence, CRT have declared this a ‘Quiet Zone’, tweaked the rules and arranged a rota of trusted caretaker boats to stay there and help keep the peace. When I arrived, the current caretaker explained the rules (1) No log burning. (2) Engines to be run once a day, for a maximum of one hour.

I am moored in the exact section of Noel Rd where the complaints had been made so wondered if I had done anything to attract unwanted attention.....

Potential Idea 2: Maybe the kindling I had used to start last night’s fire had been mistaken for log burning? 

Potential Idea 3: I put my generator on at 9.30am this morning and didn’t turn it off until 10.50 am. Could that extra 20 minutes have been noted? 

Potential Idea 4: Last night, I needed to get some water. There’s a tap on the other side of the bridge. The distance - as I found out last night - was exactly one metre too far to reach my tank by joining all my hoses together. Consequently, at around 8 pm, I used my trolley to lug water containers between the tap and my boat - an act I repeated 4 times. Was that the problem? Why was that a problem?


The only other thing I can think of is that Boris Johnson might have called CRT and complained about me. He lives on Noel Rd too.

I’ll explain.

I wrote to him on Friday night. 

I am about to start an ‘Angry Boater’ podcast and I asked if I could interview him. 

Earlier that afternoon, I’d walked past his house, just as he was opening his door to let a visitor in. He looked just like him.  He was him.

An hour later I was in a cafe on Upper Street, writing my letter. The sighting had inspired me. At 8.30 pm, I dropped it through his letter box. 

I am aware that this flies in the face of convention and is - arguably - an act of delusion on my part. Sometimes I can be prone to self aggrandizing and - when that happens - the idea that I might appear ridiculous or experience rejection does not enter my mind. I become possessed, full of confidence and am driven to act by the power of my emotions. 

When I look back on my life, more often than not, I have not received the payoff I was seeking.... but sometimes I have. The best way I can explain it is that those very infrequent rewards were a great enough positive reinforcement and validation to wipe out all the shame associated with the many more experiences of rejection. Having ‘won’ big a few times now, like any gambling addict, I’m therefore always seeking the next big hit. If I’m in that zone, rational thinking does not come into it. The idea that I could  lose, probably will lose, in fact   - even though I nearly always do just that - seems utterly absurd. 

Here, unedited, is my letter to Boris:
Dear Mr Johnson,

I live on a narrowboat and am currently moored in Angel, alongside Noel Road.

Before I get into my reason for writing to you, I hope you do not mind that I have dropped this letter off in such a direct fashion.  I had heard that you lived around here and your exact location was confirmed to me - by chance - earlier this afternoon (I was walking past when you opened your door to let someone in). 

I thought twice about approaching your letterbox directly but then, as you can see,  went ahead all the same. It was a similar spontaneous moment that led me to move onto a boat in the first place. I did not regret my impulsive actions back then and, hopefully, will have no cause to now. If this is taken as an intrusion, however, please accept my apologies and be assured that I won’t write again. If I do not hear back - or do notice men in dark suits following me in a dinghy - I’ll take the hint that I have overstepped the mark.

Anyhow, my reason for writing.....

I recently started an online project I call ‘The Angry Boater.’ 

Many boaters seem to like it. A lot of others hate it. I’m just grateful that many people are finding it interesting enough to have an opinion (

My aim is to explore issues of interest to boaters but through a more humanistic / bigger picture filter.   I decided on the ‘angry boater’ name as it contrasts with the stereotype that so many people have about boating and the waterways. Many seem to mistakenly believe that a boating life is all about passivity, connecting with nature & slowing down. That is certainly the opinion held by plenty of non boaters and none of these things are necessarily untrue. Furthermore, many boaters reinforce this image by naming their vessels after concepts from the semantic field of  serenity, dreams, escaping etc. (FYI, I nearly renamed mine ‘Al Qaeda’ when I had it repainted last year. On that occasion, however, after I had  thought twice, I managed to repress the urge..... and, again, it is not a decision I have regretted).

The truth, as I see it, is that boating has its stresses, challenges and negative aspects - just like all other areas of life. It is my opinion - philosophy, perhaps -  that anyone who chooses to live their life with one sided perceptions is destined to find the world a struggle. If I find a situation challenging, I  try to empathize and understand what the needs driving those with opposing beliefs might be. I can’t say that I always get it right but I’ve found - the attempt, at least - makes my life flow much more smoothly.

I am about to start an ‘Angry Boater’ podcast - the next phase of my project. There does not seem to be any kind of regular boating broadcast atm and it’s a concept which, if I get it right, will be of interest to many boaters as well as the wider community. 

My idea is to top or tail each episode with my own  (boater perspective) thoughts about issues that have grabbed my attention. The main focus, however, will be an interview with a special guest. Ideally, I’d like to interview my guest on board,  although that is not essential. As with my writing, there will some kind of boating discussion but it’s the bigger picture /human interest stuff that really interests me.

Would you consider being the subject of my first episode, Mr Johnson? It would be very informal and of un-paralleled benefit in assisting me to build this project. If there any topics that you wish to be off limits, I would of course respect that. 

Even though I have no conscious political agenda here, if you wish to do this on board and feel that there is a potential media opportunity to consolidate / reinforce The Mayor’s support of Londoners with alternative lifestyles, I would be fully supportive of that too. 

Kind Regards

Joel Sanders

After I had dropped the letter through Boris’s letterbox, I went to Waitrose, hunting for yellow stickers.  

Within 10 minutes, I was at the deli counter, snapping up the last of the chorizo tortillas. 

My phone rang.

That was quick, I thought.  

The Mayor of London was also calling from an unavailable number. This, of course, was to be expected. 

I took a deep breath and pressed the green button.

“Hello Boris!” I said, with all the charm & confidence that I could force into my handset.

It wasn’t him.

It was a machine again. PPI. 

48 hours has passed now and he still hasn’t called. 

But maybe one of his people has called CRT and  - in their capacity as oversee-ers of all things on the Regents Canal - CRT are passing on the message that under no circumstances is this boater permitted to post things directly through The Mayor of London’s letterbox. The British Waterways Act of 1995 forbids it and it is a contravention of my license.


Now I know.

My power is restored.

I like knowing.

Last month, I completed an online CRT survey and I said it was OK for them to contact me to seek my opinion on other boating matters.

Sometimes, it’s better not to know.

Joel  - March 23rd, 2014

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Tantrum in a lock.

I haven’t been feeling particularly angry for the past week and had been thinking that my next blogging effort might feel contrived. 

Yesterday, however, I left Camden for Kings Cross and .... well, I had a little moment.

If you don’t know it, heading east, Hampstead Rd lock is the first of three in Camden. Unless your boat is less than 50 ft long, it’s very difficult to moor up there. A proficient set of circus & rodeo skills is essential - specifically, tightrope walking (along the gunwhales)and lasso-ing (centre rope over the towpath bollard - whilst balancing on the aforementioned gunwhales). 

I can’t even juggle.

As a single boater with a 62 ft vessel - unless the gates are open when I arrive - I have a problem. On more than one occasion, rather than deal with the complications of Hampstead Rd Lock, I’ve turned my boat around and fled back to Little Venice.

Yesterday, again, the lock was against me (there are two parallel locks but one was chained up). 

Naturally, I had one of my tourette’s moments.

After the expletives had organically worked their way through my system, I swung my boat around in the wide basin. I’ll find a spot near Edgware Rd instead, I thought. I’ll be fine there. Anyway, I love shwarma & falafel.

Suddenly, I had a Jesus moment.  

I floated in neutral for a moment and looked behind me.

Now that I had turned around, I could actually reverse towards the closed gates and safely moor up in order to work the lock. Once the gate was open, I would be able to turn around again and drive in. 

Why had this never occurred to me before?  

It was so obvious. 

Thanks, Jesus!

A few minutes later, the lock was set and I was trying to pull the gate open... but I couldn’t ... and I had no idea why.

Pushing was even less effective. 

The paddles on the opposite gates were down and the water levels had fully settled. As the hordes of curious Camden people watched over me, judging my abilities with their mixed sets of trendy, touristy & druggery eyes, I pulled and pushed at the blasted gate until my back nearly snapped. 

Just as I was, again, about to give up and head West, a Prophet carrying a windlass appeared out of nowhere. 

“I can’t get this open,” I said, “I don’t know why. I am weak.”

“It might help if you lowered that paddle first,” he replied sarcastically and un-prophet-like, pointing towards the bottom gates. 

I did not like the Prophet’s tone.

I looked again at the other gates and, after a few seconds of  squinting, saw that one of the paddles - whilst not raised - was not completely lowered either. It was off by a couple of inches.

Before you judge me as he had done, I am perfectly aware that this is important. With my slightly diminishing eyesight, however, I hadn’t spotted it. 

“I don’t like the way you are speaking,” I snapped, “There is no grace in your tone. You have a cocky & superior sneer. Why is that?”

I also used two words that I have never used anywhere before - “supercilious” & “imperious.” I am clueless as to where they came from and, later that evening, I did look them up to see if I had  used them correctly. 

My language does become very precise when my shackles are raised. It’s a stark contrast with my younger self, who could only react to conflict with incoherent Whinge and Babble. Some might suggest, these days, that I deal with conflict in a rather supercilious and imperious manner.

Once I had confronted his manner, the tone changed. He told me that I had misunderstood him and that he was simply pointing out that the paddle was not fully down. I am confident I had not misunderstood him though but, if the roles had been reversed, I would have come up with a similar excuse. Either way, he was apologetic and humble. I then calmed down - and also became apologetic and humble. 

In his head, he had probably thought I was yet another new, inexperienced boater who didn’t know the basics of how to work a lock. 

In my head, I had probably taken offence at being confused with a new, inexperienced boater who didn’t know the basics of how to work a lock. 

Before I opened the gate, we made some small talk. He wasn’t another boater, as I had presumed. He was there to control the water levels.

I hear that superior tone a lot in boating though. There are too many know-it-alls and - even though I can sometimes be one too - an arrogant, preachy, superior, shit-talking, supercilious, imperious  tosser - I do not like these types. In other words, when I judge those qualities in others, it is always myself with whom I am really in conflict.

It’s not just boaters, of course. Only last week, I went to see ‘War Horse’ on Drury Lane and encountered another mirror to my arrogant side at the Box Office. I asked him about the view from our seats and, with a pompous, unsympathetic sneer, was told, “You have restricted view tickets, sir. You’ll be lucky to see 50% of the stage.”

“And why did it give you such pleasure to relay that news?” I responded.

“I’m just relaying the facts, sir.”

I walked away at that point and now regret not having pushed the point further. As it turned out, we could see at least 70% of the stage - although, admittedly, much of that was through a metal griddle.

So many people in boating think they know best and can’t wait to impose their wisdom on others. Egomania covering up insecurity is what it usually is. Listen to me! I’m  worthy! I’m better than you. 

Thinking about it now, I’m reminded me of a character Harry Enfield used to play - a pompous self-aggrandizing older man who used to tell everyone, “You don’t want to do it like that! You want to do it like this.” Maybe you remember? 

“You don’t want to do that! You should have a pump out system that doubles as a carpet freshener.”

“You don’t want to put them there. Your gas bottles should be stored in the weed hatch.”

“You don’t want to go to a swimming pool. You should use the canal!”

“You don’t want an inverter charger! You should be generating your own electricity with an exercise bike.”

“You should tighten your stern gland at least twice a day.”

“You don’t want to use that ! The only coal worth buying is Tay Brite.”

Should” is one of my least favourite words. It is nearly always used to express ideas that are unhelpful, critical, preachy or unrealistic. You should definitely avoid using it.

When we are bonafide experts in a field, we do not feel the need to show off or shout about it. Then we are comfortable and, from that perspective, are more likely to communicate with calmness and humility. There are no ‘shoulds’ when we are centred. There is just what is and what is not. 

The moment has passed. I have no resentment. I was in a foul mood before the windlass guy came along and I possibly carried an energy that put him on edge from the offset. On the other hand, he might also have been having a bad day, long before I appeared to make it worse.  Perhaps, working through that tiny explosion together, helped to centre us both for the rest of the day. 

So endeth the blog.

Joel - March 11th, 2014

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Space Invaders

At 3 pm today, I was having my hair cut in Camden. 

The lady with the scissors had cut my hair several times before and, as usual, the conversation turned to boating.

“What do you do when tourists stand on your boat?” she asked.

“I’m not sure,” I said, “That’s never happened to me.”

Less than an hour later, I was lazing around on my little ship when I felt the boat wobble. It was not the kind of wobble caused by another boat passing or the kind caused by a strong gust of wind.

Someone was standing on my boat. 

My mind sped up. Over the next 3 seconds, these are the thoughts that came and went.
  1. I am not double moored. That is not another boater.
  2. I have not overstayed. That is not CRT tying a patrol notice to my rear door.
  3. It therefore must be a stranger. A stranger is standing on the stern of MY boat!
By the 4th second, I had become infected with a sense of territorial self righteousness. I exploded  off my beanbag, removed the glass from the nearest porthole and stuck my head through the hole. A young girl, early 20‘s perhaps, was pointing a camera in the direction of my rear deck. 

“What’s going on?” I shouted.

“We’re just taking a photo,” replied the photographer, nervously.

“Get the fuck off my boat!” I yelled in the direction of my stern. 

“I’m so sorry!” came the invisible cry - the voice of another girl - as she stumbled back to the towpath, the place from where she should have never dared stray. She sounded mortified.

Then they were gone. 

How would she like it if she found a stranger posing for a photo on the front step of her house? 

What she’d done had been even worse! 

She had been standing ON my boat! 

That’s practically inside! 


I closed up my porthole and sat back down. 

Then I started to feel guilty.

In just those 3 words - “I’m so sorry!” - I had heard fear, sincerity, regret and anguish. I do not want to be responsible for causing another person - one who intended me no harm - to feel those things.

Their crime had not contained a hint of malice. It had been nothing more than a naive transgression and, for that, I had turned Pitbull on them.

I wanted to find them, tell them it was OK, that I understood the innocence of their mistake. I wanted to gently educate them, explain that these boats are people’s homes - not tourist attractions. 

The moment has passed though and I can only manage  my guilt with the thought that - perhaps - I taught them an important lesson that will serve them well somewhere down the line.

On the other hand, I’ve got a cute story lined up for my next haircut.

Joel - March 5th, 2014

Saturday, 22 February 2014


This is something of a shocker. It’s not brand new information but, all the same, it’s surprising how few boaters seem to be aware of this.

I don’t plan to get into issues of good, bad, right and wrong. I am starting from the premise that - in the world of the waterways - a very small group of people have some very significant financial privileges. If I had these privileges myself, I would want to make the most of them and I would be inclined to manipulate circumstances in such a way as to allow me to do just that. Such is human nature. Life is a game and, within the rules, each of us is here to play it as best as we can. Sometimes we break the rules though. However, when we do, we should try not to get caught out. 

Some years ago, I heard that British Waterways owned BWML (British Waterways Marinas Ltd). At the time, I was staying in a marina - a BWML one, in fact - and I did not care too much.  It did not affect me.

Since BW morphed into CRT (Canals & Rivers Trust), CRT are applying ever increasing pressure upon continuous cruisers to find a home mooring in marinas. Consequently, as a continuous cruiser, I do care about this. It affects me. At this point in my life, I have no interest in being in a marina and I like moving about.

When I first heard about it, the idea that CRT could own BWML struck me as absurd and I thought it might be an unsubstantiated rumour.

So, this week, I checked. It only took a few seconds.

It is how things are.

BWML is a subsidiary company, wholly owned by CRT. 

If you need convincing, scroll through page 2 of the following link:

In other words, the Trust that governs our waterways and is doing all it can to push continuous cruisers into paying for a home mooring, stands to profit significantly whenever a boater does so. They will profit if a boater takes a towpath mooring or moves into any of the 20 BWML operated marinas (or any of the independent marinas affiliated with CRT, such as Engineer’s Wharf). The problem is that CRT is not open or public about this. The relationship between the charitable charity & trustworthy trust known as CRT and their profit-hungry chain of marinas is, whilst not exactly a secret, somewhat hidden. Neither company is bragging about its relationship with the other. It’s as if there something a bit shameful at the root of it - a bit like a one night stand with your cousin. 

Those boaters who do not take a home mooring are paying CRT a lot less than those boaters who do. In CRT’s eyes, therefore, continuous cruisers are the least profitable members of the boating community. Is there any wonder that many continuous cruisers feel that CRT treats them contemptuously?

So, given the above, is it possible that CRT’s motive for applying pressure to continuous cruisers to take up home moorings is financially driven?

BWML operates 20 marinas, 25 percent of which are in the proximity of London - Cowroast, Apsley, Packet Boat, Limehouse and Poplar Dock. If you have a 60 ft boat,  mooring at one of their central locations will set you back around £10,000 a year - an obscene price for a parking space and a plug socket (which you will pay even more for if you decide to connect to it).

I cannot comment on the entire network but I have noticed that an increase in enforcement appears to be especially strong in areas close to BWML marinas, for example the Grand Union South & Regent’s Canal. This is, presumably, just coincidental as CRT states that the company, “operates under a Fair Trading Code of Practice. The principles of the Fair Trading Code are that BWML will be treated by Canal & River Trust (CRT) in the same manner as any other private mooring or marina operator and that BWML should not receive any special help, information, services or privileges that are not made available on the same terms to other operators on the CRT network of waterways.”

Obviously, if CRT were intentionally making life difficult for continuous cruisers close to their own marinas with the hope that some of them will take up a mooring yet neglecting to patrol those areas where they have less of a presence with equal vigilance, it would be a contravention of the above. 

Even without the relationship between CRT & BWML, I wonder if the sheer volume of BWML sites merits intervention by the Monopolies commission? BWML, I believe, has way too much power in the marina marketplace.

Furthermore, given this relationship, can anything we are told by CRT be taken at face value? Many of us share concerns that the 1995 British Waterways’ Act is applied, interpreted, reinterpreted and misinterpreted by CRT in whichever way suits whatever their agenda happens to be. The actual wording and its intentions do not seem to be of much relevance at all.

Here’s a couple of questions and answers you probably won’t here at any of the current  season of CRT Q & A evenings.

Q: Why are there not enough water points in London? 
A: Because it makes life much harder for people who continuously cruise. This is intended to increase the uptake of home moorings and therefore the dividends paid to the BWML directors - ie the same people who could authorize expenditure on additional water points if they did not have a vested financial interest in not doing so.

Q: Why are CRT focussing so strongly on enforcement atm?
A: Because it makes life much harder for people who continuously cruise. This will increase the uptake of home moorings and therefore the dividends paid to  BWML directors -  ie the same people who initiated the programme of increased enforcement as they have a vested financial interest in  doing so.

And so it goes on.

I do not believe that the directors of the body that are responsible for managing the waterways and benefitting from boat license revenue should also have a strong financial motivation for forcing boaters off of those waterways and into marinas. It is a conflict of interests.

Is it ethical? 

In line with my own code of ethics - which is all I have to go on - it is not.

Is it legal? 

I do not know but would be interested in hearing the views of someone who does.

In my first few years of boating, I stayed at 3 BWML marinas on contracts of varying lengths. I was charged according to the length of my boat but - on most of my contracts - only provided with a 40 ft finger pontoon. This troubled me. I could understand paying for a towpath mooring according to my boat’s length but if the marina would only provide me with a 40 ft pontoon, how could it justify charging me for  using 60 ft of their space? I never received a satisfactory answer to this and it was the first time I had cause to feel that BWML’s ethics were out of line with my own. That said, I know other marinas do this too.

I once had a BWML winter mooring where - for 6 months - I used a berth which belonged to another boater who had taken her boat to another part of the country for a year. That boater was still paying for the berth though so - upon my arrival -  the laws of physics were defied whilst BWML was paid twice over for the same space. I did not mind too much, of course, as I wanted to be there and was getting what I wanted but, once again,  the relationship between BWML’s corporate morals and my own personal ones was being questioned in my ever questioning mind. How can they receive the same money TWICE for the same space? Shouldn’t the permanent resident of that berth have their costs reduced on account of me having sublet the space in their absence? 

If you pay for a home mooring (towpath or BWML), then you are worth more money to CRT than I currently am. A boater with a home mooring who goes out cruising is not consistently subject to the same enforcement proceedings as a continuous cruiser. The 14 day rule does not always seem to apply to boaters who pay for a home mooring. I regularly hear of cases where boaters with a home mooring are left alone for months when they remain in the same spot on the towpath. A continuous  cruiser friend of mine has called CRT in more than one occasion to complain about overstaying boats and has been told that they are not on their system as continuous cruisers. They are already paying a premium and for this they are  seemingly granted extra towpath privileges and left to do as they wish. In fact, for as long as they stay away from their home mooring, the opportunity exists for the marina to charge another boat to use their space. Smart business or corporate bandits? Perhaps it’s both. But is it legal?

My own experience is also reflected in the above. Before I became a continuous cruiser, I sometimes overstayed in places and - not once during that period -  did I receive a patrol notice.  Tbh I had begun to think I was immune. Soon after I  registered as a continuous cruiser, I received my first notice on my 16th day at a 14 day VM.  Yes, I understand that I did a terrible thing and I make no excuses. I also accept that it is possible that the timing of my decision to continuously cruise may have coincided with the period when CRT increased its patrol and enforcement activity. However, I’d be interested in hearing from any boaters with home moorings who have overstayed whilst away from their base and experienced received a patrol notice.

I wonder why the relationship between CRT & BWML isn’t on everyone’s radar? For obvious reasons, CRT do not make much noise about the connection but, oddly, neither do boaters.

Here’s my thinking.

If you are in a BWML marina, you do not care about continuous cruisers and enforcement  proceedings. Consequently, other than when your license renewal comes up, CRT is not going to be on your radar.

If you are a continuous cruiser, you do not care about marinas & home moorings. Consequently BWML marinas are not going to be on your radar.

Boaters belong to one camp or the other and it’s hardly surprising that they don’t pay attention to issues that affect the other camp. Again, that is a part of human nature. Either intentionally or circumstantially, however, it is an aspect of the human condition that is currently being manipulated & exploited.

I did not plan to get into issues of good, bad, right and wrong.  I make an effort to empathize, see both sides & not be judgmental. Sometimes, it’s hard though.

Feb 22nd, 2014