castles and roses

castles and roses

phil speight introduces his dvds and tells us how he came to make them

Canals Online asked me to write a piece about my motivation in producing a series of tuitional DVDs on traditional narrow boat decoration: I thought it would be easily done. However, having thought about the subject for three or four days now, it seems it was harder than I expected it to be!

To do so I must go back forty years, to the beginning of my career on the canal. The first roses and castles I painted were much admired by friends and family. This, and my own satisfaction with them, was – I now realise – misplaced. In short, they were attractive in their own way, but WRONG. Not perhaps wrong in their actual appearance, but wrong in the description I knew them by. I described them as ‘traditional canal art’ and certainly, the word art in itself begs the question – was it in fact art, or was it craft? The distinction has not gone away with the passing of the years. It’s still a valid question. My bigger error was in describing them as ‘traditional’. I did so because at that time, I had not made the in-depth study of canal art and culture which I am still pursuing to this day. It seems to me that, innocently enough, my mistake is one that many modern painters still make.

Phil Speight Canal ArtTimes have changed on the canal. The ‘old days’ are fading and a whole new community of canal dwellers and leisure boaters has arrived. This cannot be a bad thing, because it ensures that we still have canals to enjoy. With it has come a whole new generation of painters, many of whom have taken up painting roses and castles. A substantial number of these are producing attractive work, which is much admired but has drifted away, over the years, from the original.

Roses and castles were, in the days of the working boats long before the leisure boom, part of the culturally important decoration applied to the boats. Working canal families, a completely separate subculture, had many cultural, social and working practices that were entirely their own. The decoration on the boats was of great importance to them. It appeared not only on the boats themselves, but also on some items of boating equipment: water cans, nose tins, hand bowls, cabin stools, seat boards and so on. The flowers were bold, as big as the space would sensibly allow, and painted with great verve and vigour.

Phil Speight canal artNowadays the painting has, quite understandably, spread to all manner of items which can be acquired, painted and sold more easily than the original boating equipment. As a result of this, when some of this painting is applied to boats and associated items, it does not have the power and panache of the original. It has been developed for much smaller articles, and a much different market. None of this implies any criticism of the excellent painters who are producing this work. It is simply that the traditional motifs which we all love have, of necessity, been greatly modified and adjusted to suit a completely new range of artefacts. Consequently, they can’t rightly be described as ‘traditional’ good as they are.

Now, to my DVDs. They were produced for a number of reasons. One has to be money! But be assured that the amount earned this way should be seen as beer money, not a significant proportion of my income. Secondly, they are self-published and I suppose there must be a degree of ego or vanity involved.

The main reason, though, is that I wanted to record, for the benefit of newcomers to the art (or craft), the things I have learned about the real tradition and its practice over forty years of continuous learning. I hope that although I myself still have much to learn, my pursuit of this important area of English cultural heritage will be of use to those who really wish to learn it.

This is my contribution (though others of great scholarship have done so much more) to preserving our canal heritage. Hopefully future painters will be able to look at my DVDs and add my research to their own, to produce something even more authentic.

Phil Speight Canal Art
Phil Speight signwriter

No1:  Roses

  • Around I.5 hours long.
  • Filmed over the shoulder and with close ups of the various brushes as they work.
  • All materials in use in any given process are listed on screen as well as described in the commentary along with verbal descriptions throughout.
  • Two swags of roses painted. They are the same layout but the first is relatively basic and the second is much more developed.

No2: Castles

  • Around I.5 hours long.
  • Filmed over the shoulder and with close ups of the various brushes as they work.
  • All materials in use in any given process are listed on screen as well as described in the commentary along with verbal descriptions throughout.
  • One castle is painted.


No3: Signwriting

  • Set of 5 DVDs, running time about 6.5 hours
  • Starts with how to paint the simplest of block capital letters and goes through the alphabet as far as necessary
  • It covers both sans-serif and serif letters
  • Then how to lay out writing on a cabin side
  • The whole finishing up on screen as a fully written panel with serif, sans and script lettering

Phil Speight SignwriterHow to Paint Roses and How to Paint Castles are available for £13.50 each, or £25 for the two.

The 5 disc box set To the point - Signwriting is available for £25.

Email or ring Phil 07368 244866 for details and to order.

a fresh water warning

a fresh water warning

by Elliott Berry

Elliott Berry MIIMSAs some of you may know I contracted Leptospirosis in May 2014 and although I didn’t really want to write this article and elicit sympathy from anyone and have avoided writing it for a few years, I felt that now was the time especially with the increase in vessels being converted into houseboats.

I was called to a vessel that was apparently sinking in the River Medway.

Upon arrival at the vessel it was clear that the vessel was in fact afloat still but had a large volume of water in the after cabins. My first response was to ascertain whether the water was  indeed from an external source i.e river water or from an internal source i.e. a fresh water leak.

As I had done many times previously I conducted simple taste test and quickly ascertained that it was in fact “fresh” water. I then examined the vessel’s water system and found that all piping was still well installed and properly connected and that the water tank was in good order with no sign of leaks, a mystery indeed.

I advised the owner to pump out the water and to keep the area under observation and to call  me if any further water were to appear. After six or seven days I had heard nothing.

During the next couple of days, I had been doing some work in the garden at home and started  to feel unwell but initially I put that down to having overdone it. Over the next few hours I started to feel weak and developed a serious headache, at this point I rang the doctor and made an appointment. Initially the doctor intimated that it may be meningitis but that as I had no rash or sensitivity to light was quickly dismissed. The advice was to go home, drink lots of water and take paracetamol and to return in a few days if the symptom persisted.

Unusually for me I followed the doctor’s orders but the weakness and headache became  progressively worse and I developed uncontrollable shivering and so a visit to the Accident and Emergency department ensued upon which it was decided that I had contracted hepatitis A and should go home, drink lots of water and take paracetamol.

That night my wife became increasingly concerned as I had developed a fever so a further visit to hospital was undertaken. Upon arrival, it was clear to the doctors that something was  seriously wrong and I was admitted immediately and placed on a saline drip.

The next few hours are a bit of a blur but a huge number of blood tests, CT scans and ultrasounds were carried out and initially nothing was diagnosed although the blood tests showed that my liver had extremely elevated readings.

I was given numerous antibiotics and liquid paracetamol over a 24 hour period but the 41 degree fever would not subside, to the point that it was clear that my life was at risk.

A series of different medications were administered to me and, after eight days in hospital, I  had recovered sufficiently to return home although at that point nothing had been officially  diagnosed and the only possible suggestion to fit the symptoms was leptospirosis despite not  showing up in blood tests.

After a further three weeks convalescing, I was able to return to work and some investigation into what may have caused the illness was undertaken.

As it turned out, the vessel in question had been converted to a houseboat some twenty years previously and the bilges were cleaned out but, instead of disposing of the contents properly, the liquid and debris were placed into one of her ballast tanks. The tank had subsequently corroded from the inside and had deposited its contents into the aft cabin ready for an unsuspecting surveyor to taste it. Obviously, the true contents of the water are unknown but I can assure you that I no longer undertake taste tests on water and advise that no one else does the same.

In order to prevent anyone suffering the same as I did, I thought it prudent to highlight the  dangers faced when working in or around water.

Introduction to Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by certain members of the genus leptospira.

LeptospirosisMost people who develop a leptospirosis infection only get mild symptoms but a bit more serious influenza- like symptoms are also quite common. In a minority of infected persons, leptospirosis develops into the dreaded Weill’s disease. Weill’s disease is a serious condition that can involve liver failure, kidney failure, meningitis and sepsis. Weill’s disease can be fatal.

Weill’s disease is caused by leptospira interrogans belonging to the serogroup Icterohaemorrhagiae or Pomona. A person who develops Weill’s disease will usually have gone through influenza like symptoms of leptospirosis for a week or so and seemingly be well on their way to recovery. After a short period of no symptoms or only mild symptoms, the person gets very ill with symptoms of poor liver function, poor kidney functions, meningitis and/or sepsis. The lethality for Weill’s disease is 5% – 10%.


Urine and blood from a leptospirosis infected person or animal can contain a sufficient amount of bacteria to spread the disease. A common transmission route for humans is getting urine or blood from an infected animal on damaged skin. Even a tiny skin abrasion can be enough for the bacteria to get into the body. Leptospira bacteria can also enter the body through mucous membranes, e.g. those found in the eyes, nose, mouth and genitals.

dog retrieving stick from waterWhen infected blood or urine gets into water or soil, the bacteria can survive there for several months.

Many different animals can carry and transmit leptospirosis, including dogs, rodents, cattle, horses and pigs. An infected animal is often symptom free and can continue to excrete bacteria into the environment year after year.

The incubation time for leptospirosis in humans is usually one to two weeks but anywhere from 48 hours to more than a month has been reported.


Examples of symptoms from the eyes
  • Eye inflammation can occur, with reddening of the eyes and increased sensitivity to light.
  • If leptospirosis bacteria causes liver inflammation with poor liver function as a result, one noticeable symptom can be the yellowing of the sclera. The sclera is the white part of the eye; the part that surrounds the iris. When the liver isn’t working properly, the sclera becomes yellow due to increased levels of bilirubin in the body. In some cases, the sclera can even look greenish. Always check your eyes before you put in your contact lenses if you wear colored lenses. If you do not you risk not seeing the symptoms of leptospirosis, liver damage and a long row of different diseases.
Examples of symptoms from the skin
  • Skin rash
  • If leptospirosis bacteria causes liver inflammation with poor liver function as a result, symptoms can include the yellowing of the skin due to increased levels of bilirubin. In such situations, itchy skin is also common. In severe cases, the skin can look greenish rather than yellowish.
Examples of symptoms from the digestive system
  • Stomach ache
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • If leptospirosis bacteria causes liver inflammation with poor liver function as a result, symptoms can include pale faeces and dark urine.
Examples of symptoms from the respiratory system
  • Coughing up blood (caused by lung bleeding)
Examples of other symptoms
  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache

Edema Treatment

Leptospira bacteria are sensitive to several different antibiotics, including well-known ones such as Penicillin and Doxycycline.

If the infection is diagnosed early and symptoms are mild, oral antibiotics are often sufficient. In more severe cases, intravenous treatment with antibiotics may be necessary. Each individual symptom can also require specific treatment. If kidney function is impaired, dialysis can be carried out.

When an MD has good reason to suspect leptospirosis in a patient, antibiotic treatment is typically started right away, without waiting for test results.

How quickly can an illness develop?

Human leptospirosis takes a while to incubate, and the normal range between exposure and illness is 3 to 14 days, although it can take up to 21 days. It’s considered extremely unlikely that the illness would show earlier than 24 hours after exposure, even if the patient was otherwise unwell. In rare cases the incubation time can be very long (several weeks) but we normally assume that if there is no illness after 30 days then infection is either not present, or was subclinical.

Illness that develops within 12 hours of the exposure event would not be leptospiral in origin. Often infections that involve contaminated water can show illness very rapidly, caused by the effects of other unrelated bacteria and viruses in the water (such as E.coli or cryptosporidium) or from some chemicals, and while these would not in themselves normally be life-threatening, they can mask the later symptoms of leptospirosis.

The incubation time depends on the strain of bacteria involved, as some strains reproduce faster in human blood than others, but the main factor is the size of the ‘inoculum’ – the dose of bacteria that entered the patient during their exposure. Although it’s perfectly possible to be infected from a single bacterium, in reality the illness develops because the rate that the bacteria are reproducing is faster than the patient’s immune system can control. Bacteria grow by splitting in half, so one becomes two, two become four, and so on. If the patient received a large number of bacteria from the initial contact then the numbers in their bloodstream will be larger, and increase faster – hence the illness develops sooner.

It’s very difficult to predict the incubation time in a patient, but in very general terms the concentration of bacteria in the inoculum will be important (water from a large clean river will have many times less bacteria per litre than urine direct from a rat) and the volume that enters the body (infection via small cuts to the skin usually involve very small volumes of liquid, but swallowing water after a fall into a lake will of course involve far more. The balance of course is that the situations where patients suffer a high-volume intake are usually those where the liquid has a low concentration (you are unlikely to fall into a tank of rat urine).

Precautions against infection

To minimise the chances of infection, the only truly effective way is to avoid contact with contaminated water and animals, thus avoiding exposure to the bacterium. If you are in a high risk area, you should always attempt to minimise contact, as there are many hundreds of other organisms that can lurk in the water apart from Leptospira. Unless you are required to enter the water, you should stay away from it. Animals themselves present a risk while infected, as their body fluids can contain the bacteria.


The vast majority of human cases are from contaminated water, and of those the majority are  occupational cases from areas of the world where agriculture and rodents mix – rice-farming, cane-growing and so forth. Recreational exposure is next, with cases amongst swimmers being the obvious top grouping. Lowest of the risk groups is occupational exposure in the developed world – water and sewer engineers, construction, pest control and so on.

Clearly there are problems in preventing exposure in the highest risk activities (rice-farming and such) and in those areas the only option is to be aware of symptoms and seek early treatment. At this time there is no universally-agreed human vaccine, and the preventative use of antibiotics can only be considered for short periods.

Swimming is the greatest risk, and several cases are reported each year from swimming in  contaminated water (both in the developed world and in activities such as adventure racing). There is no practical way to prevent exposure as some water will always enter the mouth. For one-off activities such as expeditions there is an argument for using a preventative antibiotic (doxycycline) which can offer increased resistance to illness for a few weeks. It should never be used long-term.

Anglers and bankside/sewer workers should wear splashproof clothing and expecially gloves. Anglers are at higher risk as it is reasonably common to cause minor cuts with hooks, knives and the like, and this greatly increases the ease by which the bacteria can enter the body. Fish caught from suspect areas should of course never be eaten. Whilst cooking does in theory kill any bacteria within a fish, very often the level of cooking is insufficient to guarantee safety.

Recreational exposure (swimming, skiing, sailing, caving, etc) is clearly done at the person’s own risk and they must weigh up their own balance of risk vs. desire. The same preventative measures apply – minimise the risk of water entering the body by any and all means, consider antibiotics if the risks are very high, and be aware of the symptoms and seek treatment immediately. There are no ‘quick fixes’ to prevent infection. Some swimmers wash their mouths with antibacterial rinse, though this has not been proved to offer any significant benefit other than keeping their teeth clean.

Scuba divers, who are particularly at risk, should opt for drysuits and try as much as possible to avoid swallowing any water when purging or changing regs. Commercial divers are required by their employment regulations and insurance to comply with strict rules when working in contaminated water, these include the use of hard-hat systems, wash-down stations and regular medical testing.

Remember that this advice applies to FRESH water – the risks in saltwater are virtually zero.

Elliott Berry is the owner of Marsurv, Independent Marine Surveyors and Consultants, and is himself an independent Marine Surveyor/Naval Architect & Consultant.

This article was first produced for and published by The Report in June 2017

Call: 0844 567 7709 / 07500 881731; Visit website or write

overwater marina celebrates 10th anniversary

overwater marina celebrates 10th anniversary

Overwater Marina

This year one of the networks best known new-build marinas celebrates its 10th birthday.

Overwater, on the Shropshire Union, near the vibrant canalside village of Audlem reaches its milestone in the spring and to celebrate its first decade the owners, Janet & Angus Maughan are planning a big giveaway of gifts to moorers.

The marina has come a long way since 2009 when it began life as a diversification project for the Maughan family farm. Richard, Angus’s father had farmed the land for over 50 years and was keen to see his son and daughter-in-law diversify into such a picturesque project. The Overwater name itself was chosen as the farm in the late 1800’s was originally called ‘Over the Water’. When Richard came to the farm in 1960, he set up a pedigree dairy herd under the name Overwater.

Overwater Marina with irises

Overwater Marina in tune with environs

Overwater was carefully designed to embrace its natural surroundings, with every mooring having a view over its lakeland design. The construction by Land and Water Services was carefully managed to allow the marina to concentrate on conservation and wildlife, and this,  coupled with its location in the middle of the rural Cheshire countryside result in it being a haven of peace and tranquillity.

The marina has become one of the most award winning in the country with a string of small business, corporate responsibility and Marina of the Year accolades to its name. Manager David Johnson believes “one of the reasons behind our success is the team that has been put in place to run the marina. Each and every member of staff complements the feeling of a family run business, one that puts the customer at the heart of everything”.

Over time the marina has matured and developed to embrace many aspects of the leisure industry. The addition of a workshop has meant that moorers can have their boats maintained without the need to travel. Also available are a small number of Caravan and Motorhome Club pitches and a small caravan touring park with fully serviced hard standing pitches. In addition, there are now only 2 pitches remaining on a small and bespoke development of holiday lodges which are available to buy with a 100-year site licence.

One popular attraction also remains Café at Bridge 80 which serves home cooked food, hot and cold drinks and delicious homemade scones and cakes 7 days a week.

Overwater Marine, the Café

Always keen to support the local community and its adopted charity, the RNLI, the marina provides a base for the Audlem Lass Boat Service, a volunteer run water taxi which ferries passengers from the marina to the bottom of the Audlem flight and back every weekend and bank holiday between Easter and the end of October. For the less able bodied the marina is home to Overwater Wheelyboat Services, which provides wheelchair friendly transport on road and via the Overwater Wheelyboat.

Audlem Lass @ OVerwater Marina

Wheelybus at Overwater Marina

On the 12/13th September this year will also see the 10th anniversary of the popular RNLI festival which encompasses all things fun about being near the water, including a raft race, dog show and marquee craft market.

RNLI raft race at Overwater Marina

RNLI raft race at Overwater Marina 2019

Janet Maughan, one of Overwater’s owners says “family is at the heart of our business and our local community is very special to us. These are the gifts which we have which we can share with our customers. We’ve had a fabulous first 10 years developing Overwater and now look forward to many years to come.”

Overwater Marina LogoOverwater Marina is an award winning marina set in the Cheshire countryside at Audlem and offers moorings on the Shropshire Union Canal.

Tel: 01270 812 677 Write: Visit:

your post - sorted

with a virtual address from canalpost

the solution a virtual mailbox with a real UK street address,  five user names on each account,  free mail forwarding and letter scanning.

A simple choice of Private or Business accounts means that, whether you need a postal address for your own personal and family correspondence  (including parcels and on-line shopping)  or for commercial use,  canalpost have the answer.

Thousands of narrow boats, barges, cruisers and houseboats populate our rivers and canals... without a letterbox between them!

Whether you live on a 40 foot working ex-colliery barge,  or have retired to your sleek new build;  are constantly cruising or permanently moored, spend any time on the cut and you'll learn that life is a pain without a postal address for your bank, credit card issuer, HMRC or DWP.

Even on-line retailers won't deliver to a PO box or a third party location, such as the marina office.

You now have an address at one of our six regional Mail Centres, where your letters and parcels are stored securely, ready to be forwarded.

But the questions still remains, how do we get them to you? Simple, have your mail sent to a Post Office of your choice  for collection!

Already cheaper than a numbered PO box from the royal mail,  our straightforward charges are frozen for as long as you hold a continuous account with us.   We absolutely guarantee never to charge you more to renew your account,  handle your mail or scan your letters.


Canalpost is part of the Expost group of companies, offering virtual addresses in the South West, South Wales, the South East, Midlands, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with live telephone support available six days a week. Our customers rate Expost as 'Excellent', with 5 Stars in Trustpilot!

Call: 0333 789 0011 Write: Email Visit: Website

battery management systems

battery management systems by adverc

Twenty-seven years of study and development have gone into optimising alternator battery charging which, presently, permits only 60% - 70% state-of-charge using conventional voltage regulation.

The result is the well-proven ADVERC Battery Management System.

Read More

what is a galvanic isolator?

what is a galvanic isolator?

When you connect your boat to a marina electrical supply you also connect your boat to all the other boats in the marina via the earth connection in your shore power mains lead. This creates a pathway for small electrical currents to flow from one boat to another. Unfortunately this pathway leads to increased corrosion of the underwater metals and results in rapid loss of anodes and increased pitting and deterioration of hulls, propellers, shafts, outdrives etc. We can protect against this problem by installing a galvanic isolator.

So how does it work?

A galvanic isolator is inserted into the earth line of the shore power lead. This can be done internally in the boat or by using our plug in waterproof units. You simply unplug the shore power lead from your boat, plug the lead into the isolator and re-insert the isolator flying lead back into the shore power inlet. Job done! The isolator now creates a block for damaging galvanic currents minimising the risk of corrosion. In the event of an electrical fault onboard the isolator senses the fault condition and ensures your trips and rcd protection operate as normal ensuring safety onboard.

If the earth cable causes the problem why not just remove it?

The earth cable is essential for safety. In the event of an electrical fault onboard the earth wire ensures the rcd / fuses/ breakers operate correctly and disconnect the mains electrical supply until the fault is rectified.

How easy is it to fit an isolator?

Internally fitted units are inserted into the incoming earth line between the shore power inlet socket on the boat and the consumer/distribution unit onboard. This is done by locating the incoming shore power lead, cutting the earth cable at a convenient point and inserting the isolator using terminal connectors provided. The live and neutral cables of the shore power lead remain untouched. We supply excellent instructions and diagrams but if you do not feel competent to proceed we would recommend our “Plug and play” units. These units plug into the shore power leads either at the boat or the shore power pedestal of the marina. No electrical knowledge needed… Just 30 seconds to install!

15 amps, 30 amps, 70 amps, 100 amps? What does it mean?

A question we are asked all the time. Basically the amperage rating of the isolator is the amount of current the isolator can handle under severe fault conditions. The isolator must be able to handle more than the available current supplied to the boat. Usually UK marina supplies are either 16 or 32 amps so the isolator must be able safely handle at least 20% more than the maximum current available to comply with legislation. Realistically the higher the rating the more reliable the isolator.

What is the purpose of status monitoring?

Units with status monitoring measure the current flowing through the isolator. If the current flow increases beyond a preset threshold led’s will illuminate to indicate a fault condition. Safeshore models with monitoring also offer increased galvanic protection and easy testing of the installation.

How reliable are your isolators?

Safeshore have now been supplying the marine industry for over 20 years. Our reliability record is superb reflected by our lifetime warranty on all products.

What is the difference between galvanic and stray current corrosion?

Galvanic corrosion is caused by the interaction of differing metals whilst connected together and in contact with the water. Stray current corrosion is caused by poor electrical connections, poor wiring in contact with bilge water and “leaky” power supplies. These currents are often transmitted down the shore power earth wire. A galvanic isolator will help to block both galvanic and stray current corrosion.

Which isolator do you recommend?

If you intend DIY installation model GI 70sm or GI 70smi both offer maximum protection, easy testing and fault monitoring. Model GI 70sm has remote monitoring so if you plan to fit under the floor this allows the monitor to be installed remotely on the dashboard. Model GI 70smi has internal monitoring so if fitting the isolator in an easily viewable position this is the one to use. For “Belt and braces” reliability models GI 100sm or GI 100smi are the upgraded versions.

Plug and play isolators 30 seconds to install!

We supply two plug and play easyfit units:

safeshore galvanic isolatorGI 70 inline is a standard protection isolator for use with blue type shore power plugs utilised by UK/EU marinas.

safeshore marine galvanic isolatorGI 70smi inline offers advanced protection, easy testing and fault monitoring.

Special products: We supply upgraded versions of the inline units specifically designed for use with 32 amp commercial power supplies. These units are fitted with 100 amp internal isolator and heavy duty cables / large blue 32 amp plug and socket. Please phone for details.

Quick check: Not sure which supply you have? Simply measure across the diameter of the plug with exposed pins:
32 amps = 56mm......(16 amps = 43mm)

Trade supply : Generous trade discounts available: Tel 01977 513607 or request our trade price list Email

Safeshore Marine Logo

Safeshore Marine LogoOver 24,000 UK boats are now protected by Safeshore galvanic isolators!
20 years of professional service
Tried, trusted, reliable quality with lifetime warranty
Safeshore supply isolators for every vessel... D.I.Y. internal fitting or easy fit plug-in units, offering maximum protection, total reliability and superb customer service.
Guaranteed protection from both galvanic and highly destructive stray current corrosion.
Call: 01977 513 607; Write: email; Visit: website

talking anodes

talking anodes

Talking anodes for most people would consist of a series of questions. Every boat owner knows that anodes are needed, but what are they, exactly, what do they do, and why do we need them? What follows is an attempt to answer all of these questions.

anodes - magnesium anodes for welding on to a narrowboatwhat is an anode?

An anode is basically a plaque of sacrificial metal which is welded or bolted on to the underwater hull of a boat. Sacrificial because the anode corrodes through electrolysis more readily than the steel hull, thereby protecting your boat's hull for longer. With steel hulls, they should be welded on, for other hulls they can be bolted on.

how does it work?

There will be a series of different metals which make up the exterior of your boat – the hull, propellor, propellor shaft are made from various metals and alloys. When different or dissimilar metals are in direct contact, and immersed in water, the water acts as an electrolyte and an electron current is sent from one metal to another. This causes elctrolysis: one of the metals loses material in the form of ions (this metal is known as the anode) and another metal gains material (known as the cathode), and which metal loses the material depends upon how noble or corrosive-resistant it is. The noblest or most corrosive-resistant metal would be gold, while the least corrosive-resistant or the least noble is magnesium. Basically the strongest metals are protected and the weakest loses ions therefore breaks up (corrodes). The less resistant material becomes anodic and the more resistant material becomes cathodic.

sacrificial anodesdo I need anodes?

Of all the metals that exist in your boat, the weakest, least noble and therefore least corrosive-resistant one is your steel hull.

So it should be apparent from the above that if you did not have anodes fitted, and replaced regularly, the steel hull of your boat would become anodic and therefore corrode at a much greater rate.

For a canal boat (narrowboat) it is very advisable to get anodes which can be welded on to the hull, as drilling holes in steel below the waterline isn't the best option. The anode then becomes anodic, and the steel hull cathodic - which means it won't rust so quickly.

what sort of anode do I need for a canal boat?

Anodes are manufactured in zinc, aluminium or magnesium. For narrow boat owners, wide beams and other steel hulled canal boats, magnesium is the preferred material. Zinc is used for sea going boats, and aluminium for brackish water. (Brackish water is water having more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater with fresh water together, as in estuaries and tidal rivers). Of these, aluminium is lighter (therefore cheaper to install) and less costly than zinc.

sacrificial anodes in placechoosing your anodes

Make sure your anodes are fitted correctly and purchased from a reputable supplier. You will need professional advice about size of anodes, placement and quantity. It is not a good idea to overload the hull with anodes as this can have a detrimental effect on paintwork.

Remember, the anodes are added to your boat to sacrifice themselves, in order to protect other metals. If the anodes are not corroding further investigation would be required as the anodes once fitted and stable should start to show some sign of corrosion soon after.

In summary, make sure you buy anodes from a reputable dealer. Get the right sort for your boat. Get professional advice on size and placement. And get somebody to weld them on to your boat. When blacking or painting your boat, make sure you go round the anode, as painting over it would prevent it from doing its job.

Keep an eye on your anodes, and your hull will look after itself.

Anodes Direct logoAnodes Direct provide anodes of various materials to commercial and leisure craft throughout the UK and Europe. We specialise in providing marine anodes sourced only from the best manufacturers including Tecnoseal, MME, MG Duff, UK Anodes, Performance Metals, Piranha, Vetus, Side Power, Gori, Bruntons & Darglow.  Zinc for Sea Water, Aluminium for Brackish Water, Magnesium for Fresh Water. We are always ready to advise and help, so do get in touch!

Tel: 01621 743540 or 07787 566816  Write  Visit

coping with rising and falling water levels

coping with rising and falling water levels

boat safety in extreme weather

As the UK continues to experience severe and unprecedented downfalls, River Canal Rescue (RCR) is reminding boaters how to cope with suddenly rising and falling water levels.

At the end of October, RCR was called to assist six stranded or precariously positioned boats at risk of capsize across the country; one of which was passed onto the emergency services to recover, due to the boat being inaccessible and the owner at risk if he remained on board.

boat with polesRCR managing director, Stephanie Horton, advises: “The key to dealing with our increasingly extreme weather conditions is timing and balancing health and safety. In order to stop a vessel drifting onto land when water levels rise, position a scaffold pole or poles, or a boarding plank, between the boat and the river/canalside edge and fix it into position.  This acts as a mooring post, preventing flood waters from floating the boat onto land.

“Alternatively use the engine to keep the vessel in position, so when the water rises, the power of the boat keeps it in deeper water. However be mindful that as the propeller is at its lowest point, it can easily be damaged if the boat does drift. These options are not advisable other than in emergencies and if you have the opportunity, moor in a lock as it provides some protection from flood waters.

RCR refloated boat“If the boat has drifted, it’s all about timing; when the water levels start to go down, try to push the boat back into the water or off the land before they drop too far. But be cautious as this can be dangerous, particularly if you’re unable to see under the water.

“We usually dispatch two engineers in dry suits to undertake this manoeuvre because although it sounds and looks easy, knowing the best way to re-launch a boat and where to push depends on the severity of the grounding, depth of the water, its flow and accessibility.

“In cases like this timing is everything and too much or too little water can make the difference to the outcome.”

Over the weekend, RCR engineers were able to get to the locations quickly and save a number of vessels before they were left high and dry. Although on site for less than a couple of hours, it averted the need to spend time and money on cranes, transport, and manpower to move them once stranded.

If a vessel is caught in a situation, RCR urges boaters not to attempt a recovery without assistance. Stephanie concludes: “Severe weather conditions increase the risk to boat owners and simple tasks can easily result in accidents and injury.”  

RCR also reminds boat owners to check their insurance policies. As insurance companies try to minimise their exposure, the firm’s finding more third-party only policies exclude salvage and wreck removal - one of the biggest risks to boats.

musings from the boat painter’s workshop

musings from a boat painter's workshop

thoughts of laser cleaning as an alternative to sanding...

It can be a quiet life, the painting of boats. After the hard work of boat surface preparation is done there is time for quiet contemplation and communing with one’s paint brush. Rather like Mr Miyagi’s instruction of “wax on, wax off”, we spend many hours moving a paint brush from the bottom to the top of a 1 metre cabin side. Paint up, paint across, paint down; all very rhythmic and calming. Some workshops play loud music to fill the hours but, after the din of grinders and sanders, peace and quiet is what we prefer.

boat painters workshopSo, what goes through our minds as we literally watch paint dry?

Of late, I have been thinking about laser cleaning. I’d seen a couple of YouTube videos and thought – Wow! That can’t be real surely and, if it is, why aren’t we cleaning boats with lasers?

A good paint job is all about the preparation; if narrowboats could be properly prepared, cleaned and de-rusted with minimal mess, minimal effort but maximal cleaning and rust removal narrowboat painting could be revolutionised.

The current options of grinding or shot-blasting are very messy, very labour intensive and are only as good as the effort that is put in.

Laser cleaning vaporises the paint and rust – cutting down the mess, the laser “gun” is not heavy – cutting down the effort and the finish is clean enough for the nuclear industry.

Want to know more?

I took the time (so that you don’t have to) to make further enquiries, attending a symposium on the applications of laser cleaning.

Laser cleaning equipment is used in many industries. Artworks from the Old Masters benefit from laser cleaning. The depth of the laser penetration can be very finely tuned so centuries of dirt can be removed without any damage to the painting. At the rougher end of the spectrum, laser cleaning was adopted for the cleaning of concrete walls on Dublin’s Harbourside as more standard, but more aggressive, methods of cleaning such as shot-blasting was not permitted.

Laser cleaning has been used in high tech industries for around 30 years. As a boat painter, the most relatable for me was the use of lasers for the pre-cleaning of metal prior to welding. This is done for the welding of car components and nuclear waste containers (where the strength of the welds is super important!). Typically, lasers are used in conjunction with robotic systems. The “laser robot” will clean the metal plate seconds before the “welding robot” does the weld. Cleaning the contaminants seconds before the weld increases weld penetration making the bond stronger.

But, I hear you cry, weld joins only cover a very small area; it would take forever to clean a boat with a laser beam of 0.02 mm width. Fortunately, beam width and laser power have been increasing with developments within the laser industry. Laser heads now exist that are a suitable proportions to work with narrowboat sized objects.

I have seen the technology with my own eyes on my own dirty, rusty, painted piece of steel, you will have to trust this YouTube clip

Can your boat be cleaned by lasers?

Yes! But, as a small business owner, I have to say it will be no time soon. For laser equipment of a suitable size to clean a narrowboat it would cost around £500,000. That’s a lot of boats to be cleaned before it pays for itself.

But who knows what the future holds. Today, we each carry more computing power in our hands than could have been bought with £500,000 forty years ago. Laser technology is constantly developing and being adopted by different industries. Maybe in time it will be affordable enough for every boat yard to have their own laser cleaning equipment.

willow boat painting logoWillow Boat Painting is a great little team operating out of Swanley Bridge Marina in Cheshire. We are headed up by mum and son Sally and Alex with much able assistance from Charlotte Seabrook. We are dedicated to high quality coach painting of narrowboats and take enormous pride in our work. We approach each narrowboat with a firm plan for how to provide a durable paint job and every attention is given to ensure our boats are meticulously well finished.

Contact: 07791 245134 Write: Email Visit website

gailey wharf training centre

birmingham and midlands marine services – water safety training centre

Gailey Wharf Training Centre 'BMM' is a small business; just myself (with the help of 'Morgan' the dog, my Lurcher), my Wife Francoise assists with the website, Frans, Aubrey, Bob, Carl and Adrian are all part-time, freelance instructors with Bob acting as equipment manager and helping me run the jobs and training we offer.

As a canal based business we are quite unusual; based at 'Gailey Wharf' on the Staffs & Worcester Canal we are predominantly 'commercial' trainers for personnel working within three metres from the water's edge and of course, on boats as part of their job. We also train members of the public who have been told by their insurers to get a qualification in boat handling prior to being able to obtain cover for private canal and river boats.

The 'Leisure' industry on the canals and rivers in the UK is a hugely well catered for sector: the commercial side of things was an untapped market. 'BMM' are filling this gap with a range of services that was otherwise untouched.

A few points that most Folks are unaware of:

  • Anyone steering a boat whether as paid employment or a volunteer requires a licence to do so. A Maritime & CoastGuard Agency 'BoatMaster's Licence (Passenger operations / towing and pushing / workboat endorsement) is the main licence, the RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman Certificate / NCBA Certificate in Community Boat Management / IWA Certificate of Boat Management or the RYA Powerboat Level 2 licence / qualification are the MCA 'recognised alternatives' to the BML.
  • An employer / organisation / trust putting personnel near the water's edge; 'should the risk of accidental immersion have been shown in the risk assessment' are obliged to provide water safety awareness and APPE (Aquatic Personal Protective Equipment) training to their personnel. Particularly relevant should those personnel 'be managing groups'.
  • Anyone working within the wider civil engineering / construction / maintenance / utilities / rail / environmental sectors within three metres of the edge (same point of reference 'R.A' as above) is obliged to have received water safety awareness and APPE training under the 'Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.
  • An employer / organisation / trust issuing 'APPE' to personnel (paid or volunteer) such as drysuit, waders, lifejacket, buoyancy aid, helmet, throwbag should ensure that the recipient has been properly trained in the equipment. Not having an accredited qualification or sufficient in-house training by an appropriately qualified instructor would be seen by a Judge in the case of a fatality at work as negligent, resulting in a 'corporate manslaughter' charge.

Having worked as an MCA BoatMaster commercially  since the 1990's and many years as a safety & rescue boat operator and rescue technician the evidence was seen on regular basis to show that professional commercial training was needed for the canal and river environment. That was why we started 'Gailey Wharf Training Centre'; to try and make a difference.

Clients arriving for training with their own lifejackets, issued to them by 'work' far too regularly have not been shown how to wear them correctly, what to check, and we find many lifejackets wouldn't activate in the case of an immersion because they are not set up correctly. A bit worrying really! Folks issuing lifejackets without a grounded knowledge of how they operate isn't acceptable!

Initially we began running 'commercially orientated' skipper training aboard a commercial vessel. Many folks that have undertaken a boat handling licence did so on a 'holiday hire' type vessel or a standard narrowboat. This is ideal for 'leisure' boating but does not train the candidate in commercial handling, for example all the manoeuvres and control needs to be from the stern rather than crewed from the bows - no access through on commercial vessels when loaded.

We than became RYA trainers; Inland Waterways Helmsman Certificate courses, then MCA BoatMaster training including water safety & personal survival, boat fire safety and small craft first aid.

We then branched out to water safety awareness then rescue training via the Royal Life Saving Society: for employers we provide the 'National Water Safety Management Programme' and Outreach Rescue 'Water Rescue Awareness' and Water Rescue First Responder' training. For those personnel without a statutory duty to respond we also run a short course; the 'Water Rescue Equipment Training' course developed again by the RLSS.

Next we commenced training Powerboat operators intending upon a career in the marine rescue sector - RYA Powerboat Level 2 and Outreach Rescue 'Powered Boat for Rescue Response' - ensuring that safety boat teams working on contracts on the inland waterways have a comprehensive background in ensuring their clients safety. This is something that needs to be acted upon as the accepted industry standard is a very basic qualification and leaves room for accidents, injuries and fatalities.

Further to our training role we provide workboat, safety boat and marine rescue services: with rescue boats 'in-water' swimmers and 'bank-rescue' teams. We provide workboats and procurement services to organisations working waterside, sourcing boats, pontoons, scaffolding, divers, APPE and rescue equipment.

Finally, we move commercial vessels by water to and from 'site' on behalf of commercial contractors and commercial boat hire companies - nice to get some peace and quiet on the way to 'B' from 'A'!  

birmingham & midlands marine servicesRYA, RLSS, Outreach Rescue & MCA Training Centre Principal; Gailey Wharf Training Centre.
Occupational Water Safety & Commercial Helmsman, BoatMaster & Coxswain Training Operations Manager; Birmingham & Midland Marine Services: - Marine Access, Inland Marine & Open Water Safety  / Rescue Specialists

Telephone: 07527 727169 Write; Visit