Yearly Archives: 2023

the benefits of an engineering apprenticeship

the benefits of an engineering apprenticeship

with the rothen group

Seventeen-year-old Apprentice Engineer, Lewis Douglas, has explained how he has progressed within his role at The Rothen Group during the first year of his career on the waterways. With boats, college, and growing as part of a team, Lewis has discussed just how the business is helping him achieve success.

Lewis Douglas, Rothen Group

In 2022, I was in a similar position to many students leaving high school after completing my GCSEs.

I had secured my Maths, English and Dual Science qualifications and needed to figure out what to do next.

During this time, I was presented with multiple options for my future: attend sixth form to complete A-levels, join a college and receive a BTEC, or enter an apprenticeship and earn while I study.

practical learning

I knew sixth form wouldn’t work for me as I didn’t thrive in the classroom. In my mind, I wanted a course that allowed me to learn through action instead of behind a desk. It was during this period that I heard about the engineering apprenticeship with Rothen Group working on the canal network. The concept of it intrigued me, so I decided to apply.

Now in my second year at college, it’s safe to say I definitely made the right decision. My education is split into three-week blocks where I’m either attending classes at Rease Heath College or working with Rothen Group team putting the theory I’ve studied into practice.

In the past year I’ve taken engineering theory into the field with my colleagues, who have in turn shown me how to apply it to our work. It has been amazing to learn about river/canal management in the classroom and then do it alongside an industry professional the following week.

working with canals

One aspect of the job that I’ve come to love is just how different every day is. When I’m out on site with my colleagues, I could be fixing a canal lock gate, dredging a river, or working on heavy machinery such as workboats and diggers. Two days are simply never the same. When I joined the team, I was surprised to learn how exactly the canals work, and how much time and effort goes into waterway maintenance.

Rothen Group

Rothen Group

Few people know that canals require preservation work, such as relaying the base to prevent leaks. Many that we see today were built in the 1700s and 1800s and you simply can’t expect them to remain perfect over such a long period of time. We work in an incredibly niche industry with very few businesses conducting our kind of work, meaning there are only a small number of trained individuals who can ensure preservation work is correctly carried out. It’s amazing to think that in two years’ time, once I’ve completed my apprenticeship, that I’ll be one of them.

future prospects

As it stands, I don’t believe my education will stop once I’ve finished college. I’m already in discussions with the senior team at Rothen Group to undertake further qualifications at a university level in engineering, with a role ready for me once I graduate. This is something that I never even considered applying for ahead of working with the team. I may only be a year into my career but the support I’ve received to help me achieve a bright future has been astounding.

By applying for the engineering apprenticeship, I have been able to learn about such an exciting and versatile industry while being able to wake up each morning looking forward to work. That’s all anyone can ask for when they’re starting their career. If you know that a desk job isn’t for you and you want to work in an everchanging, enriching environment, I recommend applying for an apprenticeship with Rothen Group.

For more information about The Rothen Group, please visit their website

living a new life 2

living a new life 2

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change1

autumn colours Rochdale Canal

Over the Autumn we made our way along the Rochdale Canal from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge. At various places along the canal, we were warned away from stopping, primarily by other boaters, but also by CRT volunteers and once a local security person.

I have read of real attacks on boats and boaters and do not doubt that they happen, but now I wonder how much my personal perception of possible danger was based on reality, or how much it was fed and encouraged by rumour and anxiety. All the negative warnings we were given early on our journey certainly coloured my experience of the south end of the Rochdale but we didn’t actually experience any real trouble. Although the Manchester end of the canal comes across as unloved at times, there are many people who volunteer to keep this canal beautiful.

When we moor, we always try to find a place with other boaters, where the towpath is well used by dog-walkers, runners and others, or is so remote that no one is likely to bother us. The only real nuisance we have ever experienced was on the Macclesfield canal when we had our ropes partially untied by a youth, probably as part of a dare. Ironically, at that time we were moored with others on visitor moorings. It would seem that you can’t plan for everything!

Once on the Rochdale, when waiting for a lock to fill, I stood talking to a passerby. He was bemoaning the state of the canal so I asked him what he would do to change it. How would he engage locals to care for and enjoy their local stretch of canal? Sadly, we didn’t come up with any instant answers during our chat.

In August 2022, the results of a study into the benefits gained from visiting canals and rivers were published. It found ‘positive associations between visits to canals and rivers and mental wellbeing, as well as a positive experience for feelings of safety and social inclusion relative to all other types of environments.’2

It is easy to see this when you experience the most beautiful areas of the canal network, but is it possible to create the same positive association when stretches of the canal have become no-go areas?

How can those areas be reclaimed as places for everyone to enjoy and benefit from? CRT, who supported the above study, believe that it is possible. Their website provides information on the possible economic, environmental and social well-being benefits of waterways.3  Is it something we, as boaters, can play a part in, along with other local stakeholders? Can we see canals and canal communities as part of a real and sustainable answer to wider social issues? It’s an interesting conversation to have.

1. Wayne Dyer, author and speaker.

2. Bergou N et al (2022) The mental health benefits of visiting canals and rivers: An ecological momentary assessment study. PLOS ONE. Available at:

3. Canal & River Trust (2020) The values and benefits of waterways. Available at:

cooking on the cut – winter 23

cooking on the cut

with Lisa Munday


What a wintery start to December we have had, with very seasonal frosts, snow flurries, beautiful skies and those wet and murky mornings when we patiently wait for daylight!

Our winter solstice isn’t far away, marking the shortest day which is apparently almost nine hours shorter than the longest day of the year.

Yule is the 12-day festival centred around the solstice giving us our familiar traditions such as the Christmas tree, the Yule log and Christmas wreath.

holly wreath


Holly was a part of early English folklore.

The sharp pointed leaves were thought to symbolise the crown of thorns and the red berries symbolising the drops of Christ’s blood.

A holly wreath on the door at Christmas began during the seventeenth century and signified a home that celebrated the birth of Christ.

I have a hand tied swag of holly and ivy as a simple decoration to hang in the front of the boat, although I have made wreaths for other people using twisted willow branches as the frame.

I just love those festive ingredient combinations. Pears, oranges, cranberries and pomegranates along with the soft cheeses like brie and stilton with walnuts and hazelnuts. Rosemary, sage and bay really come into their own at this time of year too with tray roasted veggies, homemade stuffing and roasts. Then there are all those chutneys and pickles made in the Autumn to enjoy with an array of cheeses and meats.

Grazing boards and nibbles are one of our favourite ways to pass a winter evening on in front of a warm fire. I have shared some of my favourites.

Pear, blue cheese and walnut are a perfect combination. Or Brie, black grape and celery on cocktail sticks.

Dried apricots individually topped with soft blue cheese spread and chopped almond pieces, fiddly to make but are tasty little mouthfuls.

Warm savoury little sausages served with a dip made from 4 tbsp crème fraiche or natural yogurt, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and 1 tsp sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Whip up some cream cheese with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper, spread over toasted bread strips and top with pieces of smoked salmon.

A pack of shop bought puff pastry can go a long way when making little savouries. The easiest way is to roll out the pastry onto a baking sheet, score an inch in round the edges to form a crust and brush the edges with beaten egg, spread a thin layer of cranberry sauce from a jar and dot with pieces of brie and broken pieces of walnut, season with salt and pepper and bake for 20 minutes, then cut into bite sized pieces. Alternatively cut the pasty into squares and place into a tart tin before filling. Or brush the entire base with beaten egg, dot with finely sliced fried mushrooms or leeks and small pieces of stilton before baking. You can make cheese straws using a sheet of puff pastry cut into strips, very lightly brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with cheddar, or parmesan and a fine scattering of paprika, twist each strip and transfer to a lined tray, top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds if you have them and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until crispy and golden.

salmon en croute


  • 1 pack of puff pastry
  • 2 large salmon fillets
  • 1 pack Boursin soft herbed cheese
  • 1 beaten egg to glaze

Line a large baking tray with baking paper and unroll half a packet of puff pastry over the paper. Peel the skin off the salmon if possible then lay the first fillet skin side down over the middle of the pastry, spread a generous amount of Boursin (or similar) herbed soft cheese over the fish. Place the second fillet on top and gently lay the other piece of puff pastry over the top. Trim round the edges to leave a 1” border and press down the edges.

salmon en croute

Lightly mark a diamond pattern over the top of the pastry taking care not to cut through and make a slit in middle to let the steam out. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until the pastry is risen and golden.


We are having goose this year and after trawling various recipes I think I have come up with my take on a festive roast goose, less is more in terms of extra ingredients. Make sure any extra pieces of fat are taken out of the cavity and place half of an onion and half a small orange along with some herbs inside the bird before cooking. The trick is to sit it on a rack, breast side down over the roasting tin and prick the skin all over to allow those fats to drip out, if you don’t have a roasting rack use a cooling wire or the grill rack over the roasting tray. Add Malden salt flakes and fresh ground black pepper over the skin and cover with foil. Remove the foil for the last half hour of cooking, gently flip the goose over to breast side up to allow the skin to crisp up and brown.

The general cooking rule is 15 minutes per 450g/1lb at about 180 fan, plus an extra 15 minutes. Check during cooking as plenty of fat will drip out and it may need draining off. Save it for those roasties!

Stick a skewer into the meatiest part of the leg, when the juices are clear you’ll know the bird is cooked.

No basting required as it’s quite fatty, however do keep checking up during cooking and drain the excess fat off for the roasties. Remember to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving and bring to room temperature before placing in the oven.

SHALLOT, SAGE, HAZELNUT AND ORANGE STUFFING. Roll into balls or stuff inside the bird.

  • 350g shallots
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 85g roughly chopped, roasted hazelnuts (without skins preferable)
  • 150g white breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Salt and pepper

Fry the shallots in the butter until golden brown, add the sugar and orange juice. Simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated. Pour some boiling water over the sage and leave for 1 minute, then drain and squeeze dry. Add to the shallot pan with all the other ingredients.

Stuff inside the bird or roll into balls to cook in the oven,


Cook the cauliflower and broccoli in salted water until just tender, strain and reserve.

Meanwhile make the sauce by melting 30g butter in a saucepan, stir in 30g plain flour and cook for one minute continuing to stir well, then take off the heat and beat in 600ml (1 pint) milk, a little at a time, returning to the heat to simmer to thicken, add a pinch of ground nutmeg and salt and pepper, add a dash of white wine or cider vinegar if you have it.

Once the sauce has thickened add a little grated cheddar. Place the cooked and strained cauliflower and broccoli in a buttered ovenproof dish and pour the sauce over to cover. Sprinkle the top with torn pieces of wholemeal bread and crumbled stilton. Up to this stage can be prepared ahead. Reheat in the oven until the topping is crunchy and the cheese sauce is bubbling underneath.



  • Fry small pieces of chopped bacon in a little butter and add to the mash.
  • Add a little apple sauce to the mash if serving with pork.
  • Crispy topped mash. Boil the potatoes in their skins. Once cooked remove the skins and spread onto a buttered baking tray, crisp up in the oven or over the stove while you mash the potatoes. Chop the crispy skins and spread over the top of the mash.
  • Roast a whole garlic wrapped in foil and butter in the oven for about 15 minutes until soft and caramelised. Squeeze the bulbs out of the skin when cooked and combine with the mash and butter.
  • Add celeriac to the potato pan and mash with a pinch of nutmeg and dash of milk and butter.
  • Fry sage leaves and chop finely before adding to the mash, rosemary works well the same way.
  • Add finely chopped fried shallots and a little cream.

MULLED WINE Is one way to warm up and is perfect simmered over the log burner (or next to it if the fire is roaring). My homemade mulled wine uses a bottle of dry red wine, a generous dash (about ¼ cup) of brandy and a few aromatic extras such as a cinnamon stick, 4 whole cloves, 2 star anise and a peeled sliced orange, sweeten to taste with 2 to 4 tbsp sugar or honey. It will fill your boat with those Christmassy aromas!
If there’s any left, pour it over your chopped red cabbage and let it simmer away over the stove.

SPICED MULLED CIDER uses 1 litre of good vintage cider gently simmered with 2 cloves, 1 stick cinnamon, small 2cm piece sliced ginger, 2 mini oranges thinly sliced, 1 tbsp sugar, 100ml rum (golden or spiced) and 100 ml rum.

HOME MADE HOT CHOCOLATE If it’s too early for alcohol can be as indulgent as you like, my version uses one third cream to milk and whole chunks of melted chocolate. Don’t count the calories for this one!
Whisk together in a pan over low heat 1 ½ cups milk with ½ cup double cream, few drops vanilla essence and 2 tsp icing sugar, keep on low heat and don’t allow to boil, remove from heat and add 230g dark chocolate bar (at least 70% coco solids) broken into small pieces, stir until melted. Top with extra whipped or squirty cream and marshmallows (optional) if you have them.

Staying with the boozy theme, another festive favourite is poached pears in port. They can be done in advance and make a lovely desert after meal or a cheese board. These are made using cinnamon, but you can swap this for cardamon or star anise. It uses a lot of port, but the leftover syrup can be re used over dried fruit or thinned down with water for a second batch.


  • 4 large or 6 small pears
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 280g sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 600 ml (1 Pint) port

Peel, half and core the pears, squeeze the lemon juice over and rub into the flesh. Put the other ingredients into a saucepan, gently place the pears into the pan and very slowly bring to a simmer. Add a little hot water to ensure the pears are covered or slice them if the are too big. Cover with grease proof paper and the pan lid and very slowly poach for 30 to 40 minutes, carefully turning in the liquid a couple of times during poaching. They will become slightly translucent and take on the colour of the port. Carefully lift out and place in a dish. Boil the remaining liquid to reduce down to a syrup and pour over the pears. Serve with a dollop of clotted cream, crème fraiche or ice cream.

Sweet things at Christmas can be as convenient and ready bought or homemade as you like. Homemade truffles and peppermint creams remind me of my childhood when we used to make these at home.

CHRISTMAS SHORTBREAD Makes a lovely alternative to mince pies and is quick and easy to make.

  • 325g plain flour
  • 225g butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 jar (340g) mincemeat, warmed next to the fire to loosen up
  • Icing sugar to finish

Line a small roasting tin, cake tin or similar. Measurements aren’t too important as the thickness of the shortbread can vary.

Mix the flour, sugar, salt and butter with the end of your fingertips until resembles sand, the finer the better. Don’t bring the mixture together. Tip half into the tin and press down firmly with your hand or the bottom of a glass. Spread the warm mincemeat over the mixture and then tip the rest of the shortbread mixture over the top, spread well and press down to flatten. Cook in a moderate oven for 25 mins until golden. Allow to cool completely before turning out cutting into squares. Dust with a little icing sugar to finish.


christmas shortbread


  • 3 eggs
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 100g dessicateds coconut
  • 2 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100 ml light olive oil
  • 200g grated carrots
  • 50g chopped pumpkin seeds
  • Icing sugar to finish

Preheat the oven to 160 fan and line a round or square cake tin with greaseproof round the sides and on the bottom.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence together until light and fluffy, add the ground almonds, coconut and cinnamon and stir well. Then add the olive oil, carrot and pumpkin seeds and stir well to combine. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for about an hour, check after 40 minutes. Turn round in the oven if need to bake evenly. Remove when cooked and allow to cool then finish with a dusting of icing sugar.

Hopefully we will all have a warm, safe and cheerful festive season and a happy and healthy new year with many memorable boating adventures ahead.

mysteries of the world

mysteries of the world

part one - spiritual / supernatural

There are many mysteries that occur throughout the world, which are mostly unresolved, some are too terrifying to contemplate, others are hard to believe, and the rest, well make up your own minds after reading the stories below.

Depending on how you view a mystery is how you react to a story, whether you believe in ghosts or sprits, alien existence, creatures from other dimensions or spontaneous combustion, each story has one thing in common, they are incredible to read and hard to believe if true.

Reading through the details of these stories, questions what we know or indeed think we know and understand, if at all, sceptics among you will no doubt refuse to believe or disregard the details that they hold, but what if they are true, what if it happened to you, or someone you were close to?

The following stories have been thoroughly researched by some of the Worlds top scientists who have failed to come up with any plausible answers or explanations as to why they happened.

We as human beings like to know about our surroundings and what happens that affect`s our day to day existence, one thing that we are not good at, is the not knowing or failing to find an answer that makes us feel uncomfortable.

Because we at Bearingtech are in a problem solving industry, where mysteries happen on a daily basis, we thought that we would try something different.

The following stories are all true, or are they, you decide?

Spiritual / Paranormal

Soul Extraction:


Most people when asked about the human soul, would either not comment or believe that the soul leaves the body at the point of death and either soars to the heavens or drops down to the depths of hell, all a bit angels and demons, but for years scientists have argued the case for this occurrence to actually happen. But in 1901 Dr Duncan MacDougall tried to prove that the human soul does exist.

He set about experimenting with terminally ill patients, who had given him their permission to carry out the procedure once they had died, he tested 6 patients who all experienced weight loss at the time of their deaths, with the average weight loss being 21 grams per person.
When researching details for one of his novels, the Lost Symbol, American author Dan Brown discovered the latest experiments involving state of the art technology, discovered some outstanding facts and results, according to one of the researchers, a scientist had arranged like Dr MacDougall, to run a test on an elderly terminally ill patient, they both agreed that when the time was right and the man was close to death, he would be placed in a sealed glass cabinet, that was fitted with the latest technical weighing scales that were capable of detecting the weight of a human hair.

Eventually the time came and the patient as agreed was placed in the cabinet and weighed for the first time to prove that the scales were as accurate as described, the weight of the patient was logged, they then removed a single hair from the patient, and sure enough the scales changed.

Once this had been logged and verified, the lid of the cabinet was closed for the last time.
A few hours later, the time had come and the patient was close to death, with every scientist looking on at the scales the man finally passed away, again the weight was logged, 20 seconds later the scales changed again to a lower weight, which was considerably more than a human hair.

On inspection, everyone agreed that this second reading was indeed the extraction of the human soul leaving the body.

Smurls Family Hauntings:

How many people look to buy a property that needs repairing and fixing up as their first property to start climbing the property ladder, probably most? Many do this on a regular basis without any fuss, apart from the normal run of the mill building repairs like decorating, plumbing, gardening and general maintenance work.

When Janet and Jack Smurl thought that they had found such a house, they were excited at the prospect of making a family home for years to come, somewhere to raise their family in safety.
The house they found was situated in Chase Street, West Pittson in Pennsylvania, and came in the category of being a “fixer upper”, the property needed lots of work to make it a family home as some of the décor had not ben touched in years, little did they know at the time the reason why, but they were about to find out the horror that this house was going to put them through.

At the beginning of 1974, the strange noises started to happen, disturbing the peace and tranquility that the house had so far offered, especially in the evenings and during the early hours of the morning, when things started to heat up. Odd things started to happen on a regular basis, televisions would turn themselves on in the middle of the night and start blaring out, taps would start to flow without any reason and water pipes began banging and vibrating.
The renovated work that had been carried out was continually destroyed as if to point out that the work should not be done in the first place. The final straw came when the family were sitting together in the lounge watching the television, when their dog was picked up as if floating in the air and was slammed against a wall.

Something had to be done, was the house haunted? Eventually after some serious soul searching, the Smurls called for professional help and called in Parapsychologists Ed and Lorraine Warren who were experts in this particular field and renowned in hauntings.

After their extensive investigation the Warrens came to the conclusion that the house was one of the worst cases of hauntings that they had ever witnessed, they discovered that there were many evil spirits connected to the property, one an old woman, another a violent girl and a man who had died in the house with one demon in total control of the others.

But the most frightening aspect of the haunting was the discovery of a passageway between two dimensions that sat smack bang in the middle of the house, which could be the reason for the evil that exists within the walls of the house.

On hearing this, the terrified couple tried everything that they could to rid the house of the spirits that were beginning to control the property, everything from exorcisms to antagonising whoever was carrying out these horrific deeds, but nothing worked. \

Over the next 13 years, the Smurls were tormented beyond belief by the spirits, that seemed hell bent on either ruining or ending their lives, on one occasion Janet was molested in her sleep and Jack was sexually assaulted whilst watching television.

The family was now being subjected to random attacks, which began to get more violent and frightening with each incident, all the members of the family had been attacked, with a near fatal accident happening to one of their daughters, who was narrowly missed by a large ceiling fan that fell just inches from her, causing the family great distress.

Everybody who stayed in the house was attacked, by either being punched, slapped or bitten, with some instances included being thrown out of bed or pushed down the stairs.

After countless incidents, the final terrifying event persuaded the Smurls to finally leave the property, when an apparition appeared and confronted two of the family members, which absolutely terrified them beyond belief.

The house was now under full possession with incidents and accounts occurring on a daily if hourly basis, the Warrens advised the Smurls to leave as soon as possible for the safety of their children.

In 1987, the Smurl family had had enough of the attacks and for the sake of their physical and mental health, decided to leave the house for good never to return.

Can you imagine your own home or house becoming unlivable and frightening in this way?
Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary, a place where you can relax and raise your family and live in harmony without the horrendous events that the Smurls endured for years.
Nobody knows if the house at Chase Street was ever occupied again, and if so did the new owners undertake the same treatment as the previous occupants, lets hope not.

smurl family

pilots Repo and Loft

Tristar Flight 401

Like Naval stories from the past, aviation has also unexplained mysteries that have fascinated people over the years. One case though that stands out as really strange, is the story of Flight 401, which was owned by the American airline company called Eastern Airlines.

On December 29th 1972,  Eastern airlines flight 401 was in a descent flight mode heading towards Miami. On board were 163 passengers and 13 crew members, that were all in good spirits and looking forward to spending the New Year in sunny Florida.

As the pilots began to go through their descent and landing procedure, first officer Albert Stockstill was instructed to lower the landing gear. Before the order was carried out, Captain Bob Loft noticed that not all the wheel indicator bulbs had turned green, indicating that there could be a fault in the landing gear. Believing that the bulb was faulty, Loft told Stockstill to remove it, whilst telling flight engineer Donald Repo to check the mechanism in the avionics bay, which was always referred to as the “hell hole” of the plane.

Whilst the Pilots were attending to the landing gear problem, they failed to notice that the autopilot had disengaged and they were now heading towards the Florida Everglades. Moments later, travelling at over 230 miles an hour, the aircraft smashed into the alligator filled swamps.

Many of the passengers were killed outright, first officer Stockstill died upon impact, but both Loft and Repo survived the initial crash, only for Repo to die later in hospital. Loft died at the scene after rescue workers took too long to find the stricken aircraft wreckage.

Because the expense of building aircraft was substantial, Eastern Airlines decided to use some of the salvaged undamaged parts of the aircraft for future plane construction. After a few months had passed by, the parts were distributed to other aircraft across the airline; one such plane was destined to fly from New York to Miami in 1973.

Travelling that morning was one of the airline's Vice Presidents, who as a VIP guest was allowed to board the flight before paying passengers took their seats. As he made his way towards the first class seating area, he noticed an airline Captain in full uniform, standing outside the cockpit door, and decided to go over and talk to him.

After several minutes of conversation, the Captain disappeared in front of his face. Terrified, the Vice President rushed off the plane, saying that it was a bad omen and insisted that the plane be thoroughly searched before taking off; nothing was found.

Later that year, the same plane was sitting on the runway at JFK Airport. When the boarding crew were on board the flight making last minute checks, they saw the Captain already on board. When they approached him, nothing was out of the ordinary; in fact they spoke to him for several minutes before, like previously, he vanished right in front of them. Visibly shaken, the crew were in no state to fly, and the flight was cancelled.

Another incident happened a few months later, when flight engineers who would normally carry out routine checks before flights, noticed that an officer was sitting in the pilot's seat. They recognised straight away that the pilot was no other than Don Repo. On approaching him they heard him say quite clearly, “ You don’t need to worry about the pre flight, I`ve already done it” , before disappearing in full view of them.

Some weeks after, another Captain was checking the instrument panels before a flight from Miami to Atlanta. He looked up and found the face of Repo staring back at him. The Captain claimed that the face spoke to him and said, “There will never be another crash on these planes, we will not let it happen again”.

Again another incident occurred during a flight from Atlanta to Miami. The flight deck crew heard a loud knocking from the “hell hole”. By now rumours had spread throughout the airline company, telling of ghostly stories and incidents, which no member of staff wanted to encounter. But the knocking became louder, so two members of the staff were ordered to investigate the noise. They made their way to the landing gear bay. Once there, they opened the hatch and were horrified to be confronted by Don Repo staring back at them.

Other incidents continued to plague the airline with other members of the flight engineers, flight crews and passengers all witnessing events that could not be explained. One passenger took her seat, while next to her, so she thought, was a member of the flying crew who was sitting in the window seat in full uniform. She noticed that he looked quite ill and had a very drained look on his face, so she asked if he felt okay, but received no reply. On this, she summoned the stewardess over. The stewardess who leant across and tried to place her hand on the man's arm and asked if everything was okay. But at that very moment the man disappeared in front of them both, turning them both hysterical and running for the plane's exit as it started to descend. Once the pair had calmed down, they were both asked to explain what had happen, both told exactly the same story word for word. They were also shown pictures of Don Repo and Bob Loft. Both identified the man in the seat as Repo.

So far the rumours had been kept secret, just being discussed amongst the airline staff. Nobody wanted the passengers thinking that dead pilots and flying crews were haunting the airline. The airline actually threatened all members of staff with dismissals if they were caught spreading horror stories of ghosts appearing on board flights.

The question that needs to be asked about all of these incidents is nothing sinister happened, nobody was hurt or worse still killed. Yes there were people petrified and scared half to death, but remained safe. So did the pilots keep their promise as to not letting another crash happen? In fact they kept their word and looked after the passengers on board, unlike the apparitions in the Smurl's haunting.

crt and boat licence fees

The Canal & River Trust is today confirming an increase of 6% in boat licence fees from 1 April 2024 for both private boat owners and boating businesses. The surcharges for boats without a home mooring and wide beam boats, and changes to the prompt and online payment discounts, announced on 4 October, will be applied in addition to this rise.
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boat licence fees for 2024-25

boat licence fees for 2024 to 2025

The Canal & River Trust is today confirming an increase of 6% in Boat Licence Fees from 1 April 2024 for both private boat owners and boating businesses. The rise is based on the latest Bank of England forecasts that inflation will remain at around 4.5% through until April 2024.

The surcharges for boats without a home mooring and wide beam boats, and changes to the prompt and online payment discounts, announced on 4 October, will be applied in addition to this rise.

Boaters can use a new online calculator on the Trust’s website to calculate what the licence fee will be for their boats:

Richard Parry, chief executive at Canal & River Trust, said: “The recent years have been a challenge for organisations and individuals alike. We know that the cost-of-living crisis will have affected many boaters and we have thought long and hard about the licence fee rises we are introducing. There is support available for boaters, and we urge people who are struggling to get in touch with our team.

“The Trust has been heavily impacted by the adverse economic environment. Over the past few years, we’ve faced significant increases in a range of our costs, notably the prices of energy, fuel, materials, and other construction demands. Meanwhile our government grant is reducing in real terms and is due to be cut sharply after 2027, unless our Keep Canals Alive campaign and the multi-organisation Fund Britain’s Waterways campaign persuade Government to revisit its decision. We must act now to plug the funding gap, or we risk seeing canals decline and, ultimately, the risk of closures.

“We’ll continue to secure as much income as we can through our commercial and charitable activities and focus our resources on those priority works which are required to support navigation, and on controlling our costs where possible. The 2,000 miles of waterways that we care for comprise 10,000 assets and structures, many of which are up to 250-years-old, and they are vulnerable to the extreme weather events that are becoming more common. We are continuing to invest in an extensive ongoing programme of works that will safeguard the future of boating on the inland waterways.”

The cost of the licence, which accounts for around 11% of the Trust’s income, has largely kept pace with inflation since the charity was formed. Whilst this is a valuable component of the Trust’s income stream, boaters will not be expected to bear the full brunt of the funding shortfall but will have to make some contribution. The Trust is also working to generate more income from its property and non-property endowment, and from other commercial sources such as hosting utilities and water transfer. A step-change in income generation from towpath users and other supporters is targeted, with fundraising income projected to grow by 10% each year – whilst other commercial waterways income, including from anglers, paddle sports and moorings, is also set to increase.

The Gold Licence charges, agreed with the Environment Agency, will increase by 10% from 1 January 2024. This reflects the higher increases applied to fees in 2023. The surcharge for boats without a home mooring will be applied to Gold Licences from 1 January 2025. The additional wide beam surcharge is not applied to the Gold Licence as it already factors in a charge for wider boats.

The Trust will continue to support boaters who may be struggling to pay their licence fees on a case-by-case basis. This may include arranging flexible payment plans and signposting to relevant services, for example the Waterways Chaplaincy, local authorities and Citizens Advice. For more information visit:

More information on boat licences is available here:

Gill Shaw

Gill ShawIn this book, award - winning photographer Gill Shaw celebrates the variety of people living on canals today. Through photographs and their own words, this fascinating window into a different way of life will appeal to all those who would like to know more about Britain’s canal - side inhabitants.

Gill Shaw does a great deal of work for charities, especially in Africa, and her photographic exhibition in conjunction with Canal Boat Lives was shown in London this year.
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gill shaw

featured author of the season - winter 2023

gill shaw

Gill Shaw has been a professional and highly successful photographer of people for more than 25 years. She is an Associate of the Master Photographers Association and Royal Photographic Association, and she has photographed people from all walks of life from the royal family to islanders on a remote island in Africa.

Now Gill has outstepped her comfort zone, and published a book which looks into the lives of some of the people who live or work on a canal boat. 'Canal Boat Lives' is primarily a book of photographs, and is presented in  conjunction with a National Touring Exhibition. The book follows on from the success of another book of photographs and individual comments entitled 'The hero inside'.

canal boat lives

the hero inside

gill shaw - slightly offstage

Canal Boat Lives

Gill's book, Canal Boat Lives, is in landscape format - in keeping with the Pearson Canal Guides, and with a cover in keeping with the traditional green and red of canal boats.

The book is primarily a collection of photographs, and the text inside consists very largely of the words of the boaters who are photographed. Most of these boaters seem to be based in the South East, more specifically in and around London. But in fairness to the author, there was never any intention to spread the coverage nationwide.

In the volume, there are gathered several musicians, a graphic designer, a writer, a psychotherapist, a foreign correspondent, a pair of DJs, an archaeologist, boat builders, a theatre company and a delightful young boy with autism. The boats photographed include a variety of steel narrowboats including one which has been turned into Del Boy's Robin Reliant. There are also a couple of widebeams - unashamably being described (and indeed shown) as floating luxury apartments.

The photographs are, of course, quite stunning, and those photographs which reveal the inside of boats show that each boat has its own individual style and personality, reflecting the boaters who dwell in them. It is good to see those who not only live aboard, but work aboard to keep themselves afloat.

It would have been easy for Gill Shaw to present a rather romanticised view of life on canal boats, but she does not shirk away from those who mention toilets, the cold and the mud, although these seem to be rather incidental to this wonderful way of life. She doesn't dwell on boaters who struggle to keep going; who cannot afford moorings, and cannot maintain their boats satisfactorily. But she does give us some insight into the lives of people who work hard to keep themselves afloat - such as the young man who repairs, and apparently lives and breathes bicycles which he has rescued from the canal.

The aim of the book is to give us a glimpse of the variety of life on our inland waterways, and the author does a stunning job in presenting the lives behind the colourful boats in Little Venice, Regent's Park and other collection points in and around London. The impact of the book would not be so great if the viewpoint looked at the less colourful boats on the system.

What Gill Shaw does show is that, contrary to the beliefs of many, all boaters are not wasters on benefits or little more than water gypsies. In fact there is as much of a cross section of people as you would find on land. But on boats, well it seems, people do have something a bit special.

This book is a must for anyone interested in boating life. You can view it from many different angles. From the coal merchant who lives in a tiny cabin, to the floating palacial rooms of the wide beam. From those who live in a house, but holiday on their boat, to those who have no home mooring but drift around the countryside from one place to the next. Then those that move sweetly from one marina to the next, living nowhere in particular, but always having the benefits of water and electric - and showers.

Life on a boat is the same as life on land. You live within your means, and in keeping with your dreams. And the ultimate success of Gill's book must lie in the fact that the nature of humans is to be ever curious, and to enjoy glimpses, however brief, into the lives of others. You cannot help browse through the pages, read little snippets, put the book down, and pick it up immediately to read a little more...

You can buy a copy of Gill Shaw's book 'Canal Boat Lives' from Amberley Publishing,
The Hill, Merrywalks, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL5 4EP.

Copies of Gill Shaw's books are also available on Amazon.

permission to come aboard part two

the boating bard

permission to come aboard, part II

If you come to visit me
Make sure you've had a wee
And bring some semi skimmed milk
If you want a cup of tea

I usually have some sugar
And drinking vessels for one each
Though they may be tannin stained
Because I don't use any bleach

I prefer if you take your boots off
And leave your hound at the door
I don't want muddy pawprints
All over my laminate floor

You will take me as you find me
It's a little busy in here
But I'll clear a walkway through
And I'm sure we'll uncover a chair


wet and muddy boots

Please don't outstay your welcome
I find conversation trying
It's hard to wax lyrical
Where my underwear is drying

permission to come aboard part one

the boating bard

permission to come aboard, part I

There's a fly inside my boat
It's driving me to distraction
I've turned into a woman possessed
Hell bent on its extraction

I've politely asked it to go
Teased it up the window frame
But when it reaches the top
It just flies back in again

I've shown it a rolled magazine
I eshew the daily news papers
I've threatened it with Raid
But I don't really like the vapours

I've gone at it with a carving knife
Shown my best karate chops
Hovered above with the tissue box,
Slammed slippers and flip flops

I've enticed it towards a web
But the spider is asleep
I'll have to evict him as well
Not deserving of his upkeep

I'm not sure what the attraction is
Why it's decided to come indoors ?
I hear flies like carbon dioxide
And human salty pores

They are also attracted to bins
And surfaces with crumbs










And the sweet smell of ripe fruit
And rotting vegetables

I keep my boat clear of these
And have all the home remedies
With herbs hung in my openings
Spraying all bare extremities

I've tried zappers, candles and screens
And still it won't clear off
Goodness now it's got a friend
A giant hawkwinged moth!

With a spider that's gone into hiding
A buzzing drone in my ear
Now a flappy lepidoptera
Just 'Get me out of here'