Friday, June 25, 2021

Terms and conditions fun

 CRT's recent revision of terms and conditions for boat licences makes a fun read.  There's an awful lot of loophole filling regarding the shenanigans of 'continuous cruisers' who don't continuously cruise and overstayers on 14 day moorings.

So now we know what a 'place' or a 'neighbourhood' is.  They even quote the Oxford English dictionary definitions of a place and of navigation so as to clearly state what they mean by navigating from place to place.  Of course they've had to go to these rather ridiculous lengths to deal with the Smarty Alec barrack room lawyers who try to get around the obvious intent of the terms and conditions.   

And it's no good saying you can't move because you need to be near work etc.

Unacceptable  reasons  for  staying  longer than  14  days  in  a  neighbourhood  or  locality  include  a  need  to stay  within  commuting  distance  of  a  place  of  work  or of  study  (e.g.  a  school  or college).   

Here are a couple more titbits

Importantly,  short trips  within  the  same  neighbourhood,  and  shuttling  backwards  and  forwards  along  a small  part  of  the  network  do NOT  meet the  legal  requirement  for  navigation  throughout the  period  of the licence.

What the  law  requires  is  that,  if  14  days  ago the  boat was  in  neighbourhood  A,  by  day  15 it must  be in  neighbourhood  B  or  further afield.   Thereafter,  the  next movement  must  be  at  least to neighbourhood  C,  and  not  back  to  neighbourhood  A.

And there's an interesting bit about boats trying to avoid detection by not displaying it's name or licence number.

If,  at  any  time,  the  Boat  name,  index  number or  Licence  are  not  visible  as  per  condition  10.1  We may  place  a  sticker on  the  Boat or on  any  cover on  the  Boat showing  the  number,  which  must not be  removed  unless  the  number is  displayed  in  another way. 

There are also bits about CRT's legal entitlement to cross one boat to get to another moored alongside or to cross private land to access a boat.

Widebeams, now proliferating as floating homes, although not specifically identified are warned that they must not use parts of the system unsuitable for their navigation, or must not moor where they constitute an obstruction.

Interestingly CRT is obliged to admit in the text that

This  Guidance  does  not  have  the  force  of  law  but seeks  to interpret the  law as  set out in  s.17  of the  British  Waterways  Act 1995 .  

 However it quotes legal precedent showing what a court is likely to think 

The  Guidelines  issued  in  2008  were  considered  by  the  court  in  the case of  British Waterways  v  Davies  in  the  County  Court  at Bristol.   The  Judge  expressly  found  that Mr Davies’ movement of  his  vessel  every  14  days  (whilst remaining  on  the  same  approximate  10  mile stretch  of  canal  between  Bath  and  Bradford  on  Avon)  was  not  bona fide  use of  the vessel  for navigation.   These Guidelines  have been  updated  and  refined  in  the light  of  that  Judgment.    

Of course all this comes a bit late.  I can't really see CRT breaking up the hundreds (or is it thousands?) of continuous moorers in London and other cities in the short or even medium term.  Having these rules is all very well but it would take a tremendous amount of effort and pain to enforce them rigorously in places like London.  The boaters there are well organised and vociferous in defence of their right to a floating home.  Of course my reply would be yes, you have a right to your home (boat), but not to any particular bit of public canal bank which other people may need to use.

I well recall an employee of CRT in London who had daily problems dealing with what he called 'the triangle of pain' around east London saying to me "well we can't be too hard on these people because we're a charity."  All I said was that the National Trust is a charity but can you ever imagine people being allowed to live in their car parks?

It's a really tough one because accommodation in London is so expensive.  Many  (not all) of these boaters would prefer a proper home rather than a leaky crumbling old boat.  If anyone has the answer to the problems.  I'd like to hear it.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Ebikes on the towpath?


Many many years ago, when I was a young engineering student, my housemates and I used to consume large amounts of unsweetened grapefruit juice from litre cans sold in Safeways.  Then when these cans seemed to disappear from the shelves we decided to enquire upon the reason.  It was odd that the sweetened version was still available.  On the shop manager's office door was a notice inviting customers to pop in if they had a problem.  Strangely after all these years I can still remember his name -Bill Fennessey (I may have spelt it wrong, but I have my doubts as to whether he reads this blog).  Anyhow we decided to take up the matter with Bill and knocked on his door.  Bill was very welcoming and asked us how he could help. We told him of our concern about the juice's disappearance.  "Ah well boys" said Bill, "Right now there's a world shortage of unsweetened grapefruit juice, we can only get the sweetened stuff."  We declined to offer the obvious solution.

You may well remember those days in the early 70s when we had all sorts of 'world shortages'.  Sugar was one I can remember - perhaps they'd used it all up sweetening grapefruit juice.  Anyhow I digress.


You may have read recently that there is a world shortage of e-bikes.  The people in the far east can't make them fast enough to meet the demand.  It's all these lockdowns wots done it. The people at Halfords are tearing their hair out at lost sales opportunities apparently.  Lots of people are turning instead to converting their existing push bikes using e-bike conversion kits, and now there is a world shortage of kits.  I know this because we recently decided to electrocute (that may not be the correct word) our rather nice old Dawes road bikes. Living half way up a hill in a surprisingly up and down town, we were getting out of puff in our old age. Lots of little companies advertise kits on the web, but not many have any in stock and a number of customer reviews complained about late delivery and unanswered calls to the suppliers. I was getting wary of going ahead.  In the end we found a supplier which makes the stuff here in the UK and that does answer emails and phone calls and can supply at short notice.  So now our bikes have shiny little motors pushing the back wheel round while we pedal.  Bliss.

The law on these things is interesting.  To be legal in the UK, the motor has to use no more than 250 watts (that's a third of a horsepower by my reckoning), it may only assist you while you pedal, and it may not assist you at all once you exceed 15.5 mph (25 kph).

Having used ours for a few weeks, I thought I might pass on our riding experience to anyone thinking about electrifying their boat bikes.  In short, I'm not sure it's a good idea.  Not because the motors aren't any good - they are a huge help, but  . . .

On nice smooth towpaths like the ones CRT have been laying in urban areas in recent years, you will a) almost certainly find yourself going too fast and b) hardly need it anyway as towpaths by and large don't have hills except on longer lock flights.

On lumpy rural towpaths I fancy the pedal assist mechanism might be a problem.  The bike motor responds to a sensor on the pedal crank and responds to the rate of pedalling.If you are not pedalling with a reasonably smooth regular action the motor will respond a bit erratically.  You might get a choppy ride. On roads and cycle paths it's absolutely fine but I have my doubts about rough ground. (although I admit I haven't tried it).

So if like many people you are thinking of going the e-bike route, make sure you do your homework and if you get a chance to try one on lumpy ground first, do that.

Conversion kits start at about £500.  If you already have a decent conventional bike it will get you a better job than a cheap ready built e-bike. Ready made e-bikes start from about £650 (not good quality) and on up into four figures.

There are basically four types of kit. 

a) a new front wheel with a hub motor - quite easy to fit as long as your wheels and front forks are in the range of standard sizes

b) a new back wheel with a hub motor - more complicated to fit because of the gears

c) a centre motor which drives the pedal crank directly (they look quite bulky, but I'm told they are powerful).  Probably not so easy to fit.

d) A friction motor which sits against the rear wheel tyre and pushes the tyre round. A bit like a caravan mover if you ever seen those. Very small and neat and fits almost any bike.   Easy to fit.

Virtually all the kits use the same pedal sensor which is easy to fit, and they all come with a rechargeable lithium battery and some sort of control circuitry usually built in to the battery holder.  According to the size of battery, expect to get something between 12 and 25 miles range depending on hills etc.

For a number of reasons including supplier availability and ease of fitting  to our old standard bikes we opted for d) a product called Revos from  Look 'em up on the web. They make 'em in Bristol and I can vouch for their great customer care.  Friction drives are not optimal in my opinion but they best suited us and well, they work!  Now we zip around the cycle paths around town and face hills without fear. The added weight is minimal, so we can still lift the bikes onto our car roof rack quite easily.

A popular front wheel drive kit that gets good press in Swytch bike.  They accept orders in batches every few weeks then they build the front wheels to order so you can't have one tomorrow.

Other kits are (supposedly) available.  The web is full of 'em.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Busy doing not much

Last day out in this all too short boating break and we celebrated by doing er, not much.  We stayed put at Napton and I sat in the sun and thought about doing jobs.  It was the best day of the cruise.  Well I did do one little DiY task but I won't bore you with that.  Mainly I just thought about the other jobs that need doing, like replacing the wood on the side hatch doors.  Now I have a plan for that, but more of that another time.

After Grace left for home we needed to eat up what food she didn't eat so for a change we had a burger this week, and some sausages.  To assuage our consciences we had plenty of nice veg to add to our trusty Cobb barbecue thingy and ended up with something like this

Onions, peppers,  courgettes, tenderstem broccoli and later some sparrowgrass (asparagus  to you I suppose) all nicely chargrilled. Yum.  I doubt a traditional BBQ would do them without burning, but the Cobb does.  The sausages cook through without burning too.  All on one big handful of charcoal.

As promised I strolled down to take a picture of the new mega pavilion in the Folly garden.

Coo, what a big one!  I expect landlord Mark has done his sums and reckons it will be profitable.  Since taking  over the pub some years back he hasn't put a foot wrong yet.  It should make for a long garden season at any rate.

This cruise has been to short, I'm only just getting the hang of it.  Hopefully we'll be back for more very soon.


Friday, June 04, 2021

May in June

 It's official - Chris Packham says spring is up to a month late this year.  Of course when it arrives all depends on where you live. Down home in the (ahem) Royal County, the may blossom has virtually all been and gone, but up here in what you might call the midlands (well Northants / Warwickshire anyway) it's still well out, although just on the turn I fancy.  

The yellow flags are also out, but that would be for us of course. 

Kath has taken on the role of cruise photographer this trip as her new handmedown iphone from grand daughter Grace takes nice pictures. 

Speaking of Grace, she crewed for us from Wigrams Turn to the bottom of Hillmorton locks and back and did the bulk of the steering.  Still only thirteen she is really competent at the tiller and took us round Braunston turn among heavy traffic from every direction without batting an eyelid.  Those who know that bit know how hairy it can get.  Of course she has had a wonderful teacher (whom modestly forbids me to mention) over the years since she first grabbed the tiller at about three years old.

Also impressive this week has been the accuracy with which the local pigeons aim their deposits.  Last night one hit the target on Kath's dinner plate as we sat round the barbie.  Luckily she only lost a little piece of her lamb steak.

Impressive eh? I was highly amused until the same bird successfully hit my phone ten minutes later. 

I would say we've been lucky with the weather, but the truth is we put off coming boating until the weather got better.  Sunsets have been good too.  Here's another of Kath's pictures, taken close to bridge 100  on the Oxford /GU bit (the one without a parapet if you know the area).

Currently we're moored up near the Folly pub.  I must pop along tomorrow and take a picture of the edifice landlord Mark has had built in the garden.  It's not quite finished, but imagine a large glass fronted timber framed cricked pavilion and you won't be far off.  We lunched there today in their big marquee with Rick and Marilyn who drove out specially to meet us.  As we were walking to the pub (even for pubs I don't run these days) we passed fellow boat bloggers Lisa and David on What a Lark.  Always nice to meet other bloggers and they did not disappoint, especially when they said they enjoyed my books!  Well I can't be responsible for their literary tastes.

One more day then we're back home, then off again to stay with our son Peter in Cambridge.  I fear he has a full itinerary of events for us, so we'll no doubt be knackered when we get home again.  And we'll have missed the fledging of the young Robins nested in the ivy on our garden fence.  You can't have it all I suppose.