Monthly Archives: November 2021

new waterwatch initiative

new waterwatch safety and surveillance initiative

the initiative

  1. The WaterWatch Safety and Surveillance Initiative is committed to promoting the aims of the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign to reduce the number of fatalities resulting from drowning on the coastal and inland waterways of the UK by utilising the experience of members of the Merchant Navy Association (MNA) Boat Club and other organisations with whom we have a partnership, such as the Norfolk & Suffolk Boating Association (NSBA) who promote WaterWatch on The Broads.
  2. Members of the MNA Boat Club and partner associations who volunteer to participate in WaterWatch, known as WaterWatch Crew Members, have an interest in, and a concern for, the safety of the increasing number of recreational boaters and other waterways users on and around our rivers, canals, lakes, Broads, coastal waters, harbours and marinas.
  3. WaterWatch Crew Members are experienced boaters and skilled observers who can be relied upon to spot potential incidents and hazards and respond  with detailed information about the nature of  the incident when reporting  to HM Coastguard, to the appropriate inland waterways authority or other emergency services.
  4. WaterWatch Crew Members will inevitably come across incidents where immediate assistance is required before reporting the incident. In such circumstances members should always ensure that any action they take does not put themselves or any member of their crew in jeopardy.
  5. In most circumstances, having reported an incident to the appropriate authority, WaterWatch Crew Members will need to stand-by ready to assist the co-ordinating authority according to need. For example by maintaining a visual watch over the site of the incident, providing on-going  situation reports, liaising between the co-ordinating authority and the rescue services, relaying messages and, where appropriate, by taking photographs..
  6. By participating in WaterWatch members will not only help to promote the RNLI’s Respect the Water campaign but also have the opportunity to develop and maintain good relationships with local stakeholders such as boatyards, marinas, the local navigational authority and local emergency services.
  7. WaterWatch volunteers will be part of a motivated and enthusiastic team having the opportunity and satisfaction of putting their boating experience and expertise to good use by helping to enhance  safety on and around their local waters (perhaps even to the extent of helping to save a life), whilst protecting the boating environment and promoting responsible boating behaviour.

The MNA Boat Club is a member of the National Water Safety Forum.

members' checklist

Spot significant sightings of:

  • People or craft in difficulty likely to require urgent assistance
  • Unexpected hazards
  • Dangerous or suspicious behaviour
  • Behaviour threatening the boating environment (e.g. speeding & making a large wash)


If the incident appears to be life threatening requiring immediate action (such as pulling someone out of the water)  WaterWatch Crew Members should of course render such assistance as they can manage without putting their own safety or that of their crew in jeopardy at any stage.


  • If the incident appears to be life threatening, requiring the assistance of the emergency services, WaterWatch Crew Members should contact the appropriate  emergency service, such as HM Coastguard, by calling 999
  • If the incident appears to be a criminal act in progress call 999 for the police
  • For other significant Incidents contact the appropriate authority such as HM Coastguard or Local Navigational Authority direct
  • In all cases Indicate:
    • type of incident
    • time of Incident
    • precise location (GPS co-ordinate if possible)
    • number of persons involved, including children and animals
    • other pertinent information (e.g. persons wearing lifejackets)
    • type of assistance required

Stand-By to further Respond if required

WaterWatch team members should:

  • provide their name and contact details and advise the authorities of their activity as a member of the WaterWatch scheme before offering to assist by standing by at the scene (or elsewhere as directed)
  • be prepared to provide a visual and/or listening watch and to monitor the situation and assist with liaison, relaying messages, providing up-dated situation reports (SITREPS) or other assistance as required.
  • At no time should WaterWatch members put at risk their own lives or the lives of their crew


WaterWatch team members should use the digital Incident Report form to submit a brief summary of the incident as quickly as possible after the incident has been terminated by the relevant authority, with a view to possibly being asked for a more detailed report at a later stage.

typical types of incidents responded to by members of the waterwatch crew

People (none wearing lifejackets) pulled from the water after falling off vessels on the Broads; in one case the vessel concerned had steamed away oblivious to the fact that they had a crew member missing!

Use of ladder fixed to the transom of our WaterWatch crew member's boat to recover another vulnerable person from the water before calling an ambulance

Standing by to assist broken-down craft,  and escorting hire craft holed in a collision to the appropriate boat hire operator's base.

Alerting police and coastguards to incident involving theft of an expensive electric launch, subsequently recovered undamaged and miscreant arrested.

Use of boarding ladder to recover an elderly yachtsman who fell of the deck of his yacht into the river whilst hoisting sail.

Reporting to waterway authority several incidents of hire vessels speeding and/or helming without due care and attention, causing a danger to other craft.

Towing grounded craft into deeper water to re-float.

Standing by to assist Broads Authority Ranger’s launch to recover grounded hire cruiser .

help transform canals into your concrete doorstep

help transform canals into your concrete doorstep

a festive appeal from the banal and dither trust

Banal and Dither Trust

‘Making life better by South Shields’

Dear Reader,

Canals have always been magical places to me, and I hope they are somewhere you find peace and relaxation too, only disturbed by the noise of canal boats tearing past at three miles an hour: smoke (now outlawed) spewing from their chimneys and diesel exhaust (shortly to be illegal).  Yet with many miles of our waterways still in urgent need of revival, your festive gift today can help bring them back to life (who killed them you ask).  Let me add this urgent need is not caused by lack of sustained maintenance but by their constant use by boaters.  By-washes causing bank breaches, weight of boats causing culverts to collapse and heavy use of locks resulting in them deteriorating.

Where canals look run down and uncared for, it’s my job to help convince you that this is the fault of boat owners who insist on using the waterways.  We can transform them into special places filled with concrete which will help create new walking or cycling routes, bringing green space and nature back into our towns and cities, along with creating concrete jobs.  I can assure you that none of the money you donate will go to the upkeep of the canals and navigable waterways, not one penny will be wasted on making it easier to cruise the waterways.

From Bristol to Birmingham, Kendal to Little Venice, together we can make canals concrete, shimmering and better (no boats).

We believe no other UK charity (Banal and Dither Trust) brings so much blue and green strife to the people whose lifestyle it is meant to preserve for future generations. We’re here not to improve canals, but to destroy the quality of life of people who live on the water and bring relief to those who live beside them.

Over 4 miles of canals already have a ‘Devid Scowcrovich Concrete Flag’ award, recognising the healthy, nature-friendly space they provide by means of getting rid of the water and replacing it with concrete. With your support, we could create even more.

£25 could help buy a bag of concrete

paddle boarders on canal

£35 could make our towpaths bloom with wildflowers and buzz with bees undisturbed by mooring boats.

canal basin at night

£50 could help upgrade urban towpaths for walkers, fast runners and speeding cyclists, plus motorbikes and electric scooters #Hurrah for Speed.

working canal boat

Devid Scowcrovich

Chief Mickey Taking Officer

devid scowcrovich

chilligibbon’s stringed things

featured roving canal trader

Chris Hicks - chilligibbon's stringed things

We have been trading from the canal now for 5 years, albeit the last couple of years have  been very quiet on the festival front! Karen, Ozzy dog and myself have been living aboard now for about 7 years, quickly progressing from our first small leisure boat to a 57ft liveaboard within about 18 months, having fallen in love with the lifestyle, surroundings and characters on the cut.

I am a keen amateur musician and have played bass guitar in a few local bands during my younger years but now am firmly set on the ukulele and enjoy playing with a ukulele group. Also we have many an impromptu jam session on the towpath or in the canalside pubs!

I had a 3 string guitar a few years ago that someone had made from an old whiskey tin, after a while I took it apart to make a few changes to it. This progressed to me doing some investigating into the history of cigar box guitars and then moving on to making myself a guitar from scratch from an old wooden cigar box. This turned out well, so I made another one, and another one!

Chris Hicks Chilligibbon

At this point I had a couple of friends on the canal asking if I would make them a guitar, so I did and one thing led to another and we ended up becoming roving traders so we could sell as and when we got the chance to travel and attend small Canal based festivals.

Initially I was making the instruments on the towpath with a few tools when the weather allowed, now I have an 8 x 6 shed on our mooring so have a little more comfort and room for a few more tools!

Every instrument looks and sounds different depending on the box or tin that you use, I started by searching eBay and junk shops and experimenting with anything that looked like it might work, now I get people giving me tins and boxes so have a good selection at the moment.

Once I had sussed the guitars, I started to make ukuleles as they are very popular at the moment. Both the guitars and ukuleles are fairly compact so make good boat instruments without taking up too much room.

I tune my guitars to an open chord which means you can play with just one finger across all 3 strings on any fret and make a chord so it is easy to get a tune quickly for beginners but is also versatile enough for a more established player to use more complicated chords or play with a slide for a real bluesy feel.

I build instruments for stock and also will take commissions if a customer has a suitable box or tin that they would like converting.

Alongside the instruments, Karen makes crochet blankets, buntings, cushion covers and mushroom vent covers and also always has a good selection of her handmade rag rugs available when we are trading on the towpath or online.

Recently she has made matching blankets and cushions to finish off the décor in an historic back cabin and can make to order if you have something specific in mind.

chilligibbon crochet rug

chilligibbon crocheted blanket

chilligibbon rag rug

Chris Hicks Chilligibbon

How much fun can you have with an old box? Chris Hicks, trading as chilligibbon's stringed things, is the maker of Cigar Box and vintage tin guitars, ukuleles and other musical instruments. 'From First aid to Glenfiddich to Jacobs Crackers, we can make any tin of the right size into a great instrument.'

Visit Chris & Karen's Etsy shop, take a look at their website and follow them on Facebook.

marine safety & training business expands in the midlands

marine safety and training business expands in the midlands

Birmingham & Midland Marine Services Ltd offer a wide portfolio of services to the Civil Engineering, Rail, Utilities, Environmental, and Ecology sectors, working in an open water environment.

  • Occupational Water Safety & Rescue Training
  • Procurement, Project & Safety Management
  • Commercial, Support, Safety & Rescue Vessel Services
  • Boat Coxswain & Crew Training – Workboat, Powerboat & Safety /Rescue boat

Companies and organisations working on, beside or above open water are faced with a multitude of logistical complications; in fact, a ‘minefield’; ranging from obtaining workboats, floating welfare vessels, pontoons, safety boats, licences, permissions, marine risk assessments, obtaining lifejackets and rescue equipment, plus sourcing the appropriate training specific to the environment in which they will be operating.

water safety training

training session on working boat

Further complications can include providing emergency first aid support at these often-inhospitable waterside locations, seldom easily accessible by ambulance

Training requirements can be confusing for Human Resources and Health & Safety Managers: The HSE, DEFRA and the CDM Regulations 2015 all have a requirement for training and the levels of training required also change depending upon the location of the watercourse, the specific environment and the expected level of water contact those personnel are faced with.

Potentially having to contract a specialist safety team to cover the water margins is a further complication; to what level should the rescue teams be trained? with what equipment, licences, and insurances?

Does this sound like a stressful day at the office?

In steps Birmingham & Midland Marine Services Ltd.

water safety training - river

water safety training dinghy

Headed by Rich Gray, Maritime & Coastguard Agency Boat Master, ‘Water’ Rescue Instructor and Rescue Boat Operator with 23 years’ experience in the industry; Birmingham & Midland Marine Services was established in 2013 and expanded as a Limited company in 2020 in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic.

water safety training in action

water safety training with dinghy

As a small yet niche business servicing the civil engineering, rail, utilities, environmental & ecology sectors, supporting & training the ‘Search & Rescue’ sector, clients are assured of a one-stop-shop approach to having the project supported from the initial tendering process to completion.

water safety training - throwing a life line

people on water safety training course

Registered with Achilles on the National Procurement Framework, the Commercial Boat Operators Association, the Inland Waterways Association and British Marine, approved trainers to the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency, the companies’ credentials are assured.

Current contracts include Marine Support of a major National Infrastructure Rail project and training provision is available for National Flood Resilience personnel. Canal & River Trust approved contractors with ties to the pontoon and specialist marine plant sectors.

Procurement and provision of specialist floating equipment, access solutions, and safety management systems and training all in one package.

outreach rescue - water safety training

MCA and RYA approved training centre

Approved Training providers for Outreach Rescue, The Maritime & Coastguard Agency, the Royal Yachting Association, the Royal Life Saving Society and the Canal & River Trust’s ‘in-house’ training scheme,’ CAATS’, a broad portfolio of courses are on offer.

Sector specific training can be advised upon, and accredited courses delivered ‘in-house’ by our specialist training team.  Aquatic PPE and safety / rescue / medical equipment can be procured for clients from our framework of suppliers. Workboat and Rescue boat training a speciality.

Recent courses developed by Birmingham & Midland Marine Services include a bespoke ‘Small / Inflatable Craft’ course for the Canal & River Trust’s Craft Licencing Department and an ‘Inland Waters – Rescue Boat Operator’ course, certificated by Outreach Rescue.

This new rescue boat course bridges the gap in the safety / rescue boat training sector. Basic Powerboat handling and ‘sailing club’ type ‘Safety Boat’ qualifications were not designed to satisfy commercial or industrial safety / rescue vessel role requirements -the DEFRA Module 4) Rescue Boat qualification which is utilised by Fire & Rescue specialists in ‘swift-water’ and flood environments is ‘over-kill’ for the requirements of a ‘standard’ safety / rescue boat crew working in many land-locked counties, hence the development of a far more suitable and accessible training course.

canal tunnel with workmen

water safety training - rescuers on dinghy

This new RBO course is ideally suited to companies wishing to provide an element of in-house support on the water, derived from the higher-level course yet excluding the fast-flowing water, tidal and coastal considerations. The syllabus includes casualty management, recovery, shallow-water operations, capsize drills and search considerations.

water safety training - capsized dinghy

water safety training - jeep and boat

For those companies looking to provide their personnel with relevant First Aid Marine Environment training, encompassing elements such as the protocol for drowning within CPR, crushing, amputations, use of tourniquets, cold water shock, hydrostatic squeeze and vasoconstriction; elements not found in a ‘standard’ First Aid at Work course, Birmingham & Midland Marine work with our TQUK registered partner to provide bespoke marine environment Level 3 TQUKS regulated (RQF) Emergency First aid at Work, First Aid at Work and First Responder (IPOS) courses. 1, 3 and 5-day courses available. The higher-level award also covers spinal management and oxygen therapy.

Royal Yachting Association VHF radio and First Aid courses also available at Gailey Wharf Training Centre with our partnering trainers.

Occupational Water Safety & Rescue courses are, in the main delivered via the Outreach Rescue DEFRA training programme. Based upon the DEFRA Flood Rescue Concept of Operations documentation, and commercial river-based courses are based around the Annex ‘H’ syllabus, satisfying the Environment Agency as well as DEFRA. Basic DEFRA Module 1), Module 2) Water Rescue First Responder and Module 3) Water Rescue One Technician courses also available in ‘closed course’ format by arrangement.

Commercial Boat courses include workboat oriented RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman Certificate training, Powerboat Level 2, Rescue Boat Operator and Maritime & Coastguard Agency Boat Master training, including ‘Boat Fire Safety’ and ‘Water Safety & Personal Survival’ ancillary courses.

With the company’s primary base being canalside at Gailey Wharf on the Staffs & Worcester Canal, Base-Two at a privately owned stately home with sixty-acre lake and licences and permissions in place for various other venues including National Trust property, our training areas a both diverse and dynamic: the marina, farm shop and cafe at one of our training venues in Great Haywood, Staffordshire is owned by the descendants of the inventor of the lifejacket!

water safety training - rescue of man in water

water safety training team

New courses are being developed and accreditation is underway, examples include the ‘Inland Waters Marine Operator Programme’. The IWMOP is full suite of courses available as a package and aimed at those looking to break into the inland and open water commercial sector is currently being developed for roll-out during the Spring of 2022. The ‘IWMOP’; is a four-week programme developed to take a novice to a sufficient level of competency to begin working in this expanding sector.

Another course under development is our ‘Workboat’ course; specifically designed to provide relevant training and experience to commercial skippers and coxswains, working on category ‘A’ & ‘B’ waters, canals, and non-tidal rivers. Covering craft ranging from small inflatables, landing craft, displacement workboats, pusher tugs and towing operations. Again, breaching a gap between a leisure oriented RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman licence and a full Maritime & Coast Guard Agency Boat Master’s Licence.

A ‘Rescue & Recovery from Lock Chambers’ course and a boat-based HIAB Operator course are also planned for the 2022 season.

Further information can be found on the company website: and the Management team are always happy to invite potential clients to their Gailey Wharf canalside depot or our second training centre and event location at the Chillington Estate in Staffordshire to discuss their requirements.

water safety training - workboat training in lock