best european destinations for water holidays

best european destinations for water holidays

man with yacht

Boating holidays have been seeing a remarkable surge in popularity across the UK. ABC Leisure Group reports a 40% increase in sales from the previous year, reflecting a growing trend of individuals seeking unique experiences on the country's extensive canal network.

As first-timer Adrian Ellis navigated the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, he discovered the nerve-wracking yet enchanting aspects of trying to navigate canal locks. But while adventuring through rivers and canals is a one-of-a-kind experience, some travellers may be more suited to certain experiences than others. Fortunately, the UK and Europe have a range of destinations that can be enjoyed through a variety of watercraft. In exploring European destinations, three distinct choices stand out, each offering a unique mode of water travel.

Narrowboats in France

France is renowned for its navigable rivers and canals, offering a delightful experience for narrowboat enthusiasts. You can look at the French offerings of major hire companies like LeBoat. This is a specialist with vast hire fleets that allow travellers to explore the picturesque French countryside at their own pace, from deep south to the borders with Germany and Holland

Besides its variety of waterways and breadth of the waterways, France stands out for its user-friendly network, particularly its electrically operated locks. This feature eliminates the challenges faced by first-timers, providing a smooth and enjoyable journey through the French waterways.

Chartered yachts in Italy

The Mediterranean is an incredibly popular destination for all travellers who enjoy the small luxuries of warm weather and turquoise waters. While the region has much to offer visitors on land, exploring the coasts of Italy by sea can be a particularly unique experience. Travellers can up the ante by chartering yachts such as the Heavenly Daze, available through charter company and exploring the Italian Riviera by sea.

Chartered yachts allow passengers to enjoy all the luxuries of sea travel while having exclusive use of the vessels for a period of time. While yachting used to be the exclusive domain of the super-rich, there are a range of options now available for travellers who don't mind paying a little extra for luxury. Popular yachting destinations in Italy include the Amalfi Coast, Capri, the Aeolian Islands, and more.

Ocean cruises in Greece

Greece boasts a myriad of islands, each with its unique charm and cultural significance. An ocean cruise allows travellers to effortlessly explore multiple islands in a single journey, making the most of the limited travel time. On A Journey to the Cinematic Aegean Sea by Explora Cruises, you can simply embark at Athens on an eight-day journey towards mythical Mykonos, Skopelos’ sacred slopes, and even Thessaloniki. This provides a comprehensive tour of Greece's incredible sights, with no need for extra bookings for accommodation or transport.

It helps that luxury cruise lines provide various amenities to ensure a relaxing experience while at sea. In fact, Explora is well-known not only for its itineraries but also for its oceanfront suites and generous outdoor decks, which allow travellers to embrace the allure of Greece's islands while enjoying the comforts of a well-appointed cruise ship.

Choosing your water holiday

Each water holiday offers a distinct experience, so consider personal travel preferences when making your choice of adventure. Narrowboats can offer a leisurely and intimate experience for small, close-knit groups or couples, whereas chartered yachts can provide versatility for larger groups desiring a mix of adventure and relaxation. Meanwhile, ocean cruises, with their structured itineraries, cater to individuals looking for a hassle-free journey in a diverse and social setting.

Of course, your choice is also highly dependent on your destination. Luxury travel consultancy Vgari Lifestyle suggests exploring Europe’s lesser-known gems to steer clear of the summertime crowds. However, these places can have more limited choices of water travel. For instance, the waters of the Côte d'Azur in France are dominated by yachts, whereas charter boats leave every morning at Senja in Norway. Opting for these water holidays can provide a unique European experience you never knew was possible.

To get started planning your holiday, check out our other articles on CanalsOnline Magazine. As the popularity of boating holidays continues to soar, exploring Europe's waterways promises an unforgettable and personalised adventure for every traveller.

old billy

old billy

the world's oldest horse

A recent foray into the wilds of the city took us into the Manchester Museum where, hidden slightly at the back of room full of other deceased creatures in various states of undress, is a horse skull. There is a neon sign high above the glass case that says “Old Billy” but with the exhibit being just a few feet from the wall, the lights are often missed and people walk by, not connecting the skull with the painting or the slightly monosyllabic information board on the opposite wall.

skull of Old Billy

Old Billy horse skull

There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the skull unless you are a horsey person, in which case you may well notice the remaining teeth are more than a little geriatric. This is because the owner of those teeth was 62 years old when he died in 1822, an age that has never been matched even with today's advances in veterinary science.

What’s this got to do with waterways, I hear you ask. Well Billy belonged to the Mersey and Irwell Navigation Company.

Our story begins in 1762, at Wilgrave Farm in Warrington. The farm sat in a loop of the River Mersey and the horses grazed in fields that overlooked the boats manfully trying to navigate up the river. The Mersey and Irwell Navigation at that time was undergoing a bit of a crisis, having been happily running something of a transport monopoly until Francis Egerton popped up with his brass-balls and started building the Bridgewater canal, spooking the company into finally addressing some of the serious navigational issues.

The navigation was populated by broad-beamed, flat bottomed barges that could carry about 35 tonnes if there was enough water, but in the summer especially, there was a distinct lack of water and their masters would be forced to reduce the cargo to about 15. Even then, boats could find themselves getting stuck on the shallows and having to be flushed off by dint of the closest lock being opened and everyone crossing their fingers.

Mersey & Irwell Navigation - flat bottomed boat

Wilgrave Farm 1849

These boats were broad, bluff vessels with a single mast and sail that allowed them to deal with the estuary, and when they couldn’t use their sail they were initially pulled by gangs of men. There was a shift in this, however, and when Billy was foaled in 1760 it was mentioned in the Act of Parliament for the Bridgewater canal that horses were a motive power.

There is some room for debate as to whether Billy was born at Wilgrave farm or whether he’d been bought as a youngster with the intention of breaking him in, but it is most probable that Billy was foaled at Wilgrave farm itself. He may well have been intended as a carriage horse; the contemporary accounts noted he had a look about him of the Arabian horse and as his ears were cropped - a revolting fashion for the time and an act you’d typically carry out on a horse before it was big enough to, quite rightly, kick your face in when you took a knife to his ears.

Billy was a powerful, stocky youngster standing at around 14.2 hands high. He was about 2 years old in 1762 when he was handed to teenage horseman Henry Harrison, who began the process of training him “for the plough.”

Perhaps because of the training methods of the time (or perhaps as a response to having his ears cropped, his tail docked and quite probably also getting his gonads done for good measure in an age with no anaesthetic) Billy grew up with a vicious streak and a tendency to bite and kick. This is not an ideal trait for a plough horse and quite possibly why he was quickly sold on, probably straight to the Mersey & Irwell Company.

Despite what a quick Google search might tell you, a contemporary account written in the horse’s old age tells us that Billy spent the next 30 years as a gin horse before going on to pull boats. This isn’t surprising - a gin horse would be hitched to a draw bar that rotated round a vertical axle, creating motive power for machines, and smaller, compact horses were preferable simply because they would fit to the gin better. The Mersey & Irwell company themselves would have had gins everywhere for anything from powering winches to pumps. There were gin powered corn mills and saw mills, and portable gins that could be loaded into a cart and dragged off to where it was needed, perhaps meaning that Billy might have been coming out with a team to help free off loaded boats caught on shallows.

According to the account, Billy began pulling boats quite late in his career. We can speculate that this could have been something to do with his temper, which didn’t mellow until he reached advanced old age, and pulling a boat would have kept the driver at a fairly safe distance from lashing feet, nor would anyone have looked twice at a boathorse being thrashed.

At some point, someone in the company realised exactly how long Billy had been on their books for and it dawned on them that they might actually have something a bit special on their hands. In 1819 Billy was pensioned off with none other than Henry Harrison once more assigned to his care, and he moved the Latchford stables of William Earle, one of the directors of the company, finally allowed to mooch about on his own terms.

In the summer warmth, Billy trotted and galloped stiffly with youngsters more than 60 years his junior and in the winter he stayed in his stable, rugged and fed soft linseed mash. His attitude, although mellowed by the years, did not improve all that much and legend says that he was supposed to come out for the coronation parade in Manchester in 1821, but refused point blank to leave the comfort of his stable.

Perhaps realising that time was running out for the curmudgeonly old horse, William Earle commissioned the famous sporting artist Charles Towne to come out for him. Towne, in the company of a vet named Lucas and a man named Johnson who appears to have been a reporter of some kind, met the horse on the 11th July 1822 and everyone was suitably impressed by the old stalwart.

Towne painting of Old Billy the horse

The painting shows a gaunt animal with a thoughtful face. The lack of ears makes him look worried, and although his hips jut through his skin, you can still see the powerful build that made him such a success in his career.

1823 notice of Old Billy's death

Billy died that winter, either on the 27th November or the 11th December, quite possibly finally succumbing to malnutrition as his worn teeth would have made it difficult for him to take much good from hay and it was long before the veteran feeds of today.

Old Billy's head taxidermy (Wikipedia)Not unexpectedly perhaps for the time, he was taxidermied, although for some reason it took 2 years before someone decided to do something with the remains and gave them to the new Manchester Society of Natural History in 1824.

For some reason, Billy was displayed in the nude, with his skeleton out on display while his skin was “under the stairs” in a box.

Billy’s remains were moved into the newly built Manchester Museum around 1888, but exactly what of the remains made the move is questionable. Certainly his skull made it, and became an exhibit, but the rest of his skeleton appears to have gone missing, along with most of his skin. I say “most” because bizarrely the skin of his head was restuffed and ended up travelling 160 miles south to Bedford, where it apparently still remains today.

Despite his mortal remains having a slightly ignominious fate, he is still an important part of Warrington’s heritage life, with the local museum holding a special event on the 200th anniversary of his death and his story being immortalised in a charming illustrated children’s book last year.

december 2023

december 2023

liveaboard boaters in winter

Looking at the weather forecast has become far more pertinent now that we spend a lot of the year on our narrow boat and for those of you who live aboard permanently, the fluctuation in our weather must be a source of concern, especially in these winter months.

A prudent boater will be well prepared with stocks of wood, coal, food and other essentials. Not everyone is in this fortunate position of adequate provision so it is good for us to look out for one another and show kindness and practical help where we are able.

For some, the winter months on the canal are a welcome change from the more frenetic summer season. Hankering down, with a warm stove glowing can be a comfortable retreat from the world around. Infrequent boat moving leads to an opportunity to get to know other boaters moored nearby, showing hospitality to one another.

However not everyone appreciates the winter months. Loneliness can be more pronounced and for some, the lack of sunlight can result in seasonal affective disorder.

frozen canal boats

In these turbulent times with the world so fractured and many full of fear, perhaps we can help one another in small ways, shining light into one another's lives to relieve darkness and fear.

How important it is to care for our neighbour, reminding me that God's first commandment in the Bible is for us to to love him, followed by his second commandment that we love one another. With a New Year ahead of us perhaps a resolution could be to extend the hand of friendship to all those who come into our path.

Wishing you a peaceful 2024, Mary

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.

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'

storms sink boats

storms sink boats

​As storms continue to batter the UK, River Canal Rescue (RCR) is reporting an increase in the number of call-outs to recover submerged vessels. In October, Storm Babet alone, was responsible for 13 boats succumbing to rapidly rising water levels on the Caldon, Chesterfield, Leeds & Liverpool and Leicester Canals, the Rivers Great Ouse, Soar, Trent and Weaver, and in Leicester Marina.

RCR expects persistent heavy rainfall and storms to increase the number of vessels experiencing issues and says continually rising water levels will result in more divers needed to recover them.

“Boats either couldn’t cope with the deluge of rain, were unable to rise in line with increasing water levels due to too tight ropes, or in the case of one call-out, sunk after trying to turn in strong currents, ended up listing and catching a tree stump where water overwhelmed the vents,” comments managing director, Stephanie Horton.

“A number were swept down river when flood waters and flow increased, depositing them, semi-submerged and miles from their home location.”

RCR says in a seven-week period, starting the beginning of October, 35 vessels fell victim to storms Babet, Ciaran and Debi. “With our winters predicted to become even wetter, it’s important to prepare for stormy weather and check your insurance is adequate,” Stephanie continues.

Over 40% of the rescues RCR has attended have had claims denied for differing reasons, including some where salvage is not included in the cover.

half submerged boat

"Be prepared," Stephanie adds: “While not all situations can be avoided, owners should check their mooring ropes are loose enough to cope with sudden changes in water levels, and if a mooring is at risk of flooding, run a rope to locations that can still be accessed even in a flood situation.

“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/canal side edge and fix it into position. This acts as a mooring post, preventing flood waters from floating the boat onto land.”

Alongside weather-related emergencies, RCR reports badly-worn deck boards and leaking stern
glands are key contributors to water ingress.

Stephanie explains: “Engine bays covered by marine-ply deck boards are supported by a C-shaped steel channel with drain holes to collect any seeping rainwater. If the drain holes block with debris, leaves and dirt etc, water flows over the channel sides into the engine bay. Over time, the wooden deck boards decay, creating a wider gap between them, and so the downward spiral continues; more debris falls into the channel holes and more water flows into the engine bay. Prevent this by replacing worn deck boards and clearing drainage holes.

“If a stern gland leaks when the vessel is stationary, it can potentially flood the engine area. As this collar of rubber or brass forms a barrier where the propeller shaft exits the hull, it must be well-greased with tight packing. The grease should act as a seal while not in use and you can tighten it by adjusting the nut on the stern tube.

“If greasing and tightening the adjust bolts fails to slow the leak, the packing may need replacing. Address this fast; a quick build-up of water will cause the vessel to sink - even if you have a bilge pump, it will soon be overwhelmed.

“When the propeller shaft is turning, a stern gland should only leak a few drops a minute - it’s
difficult to be precise, as the amount is dependent on the gland’s age and type. However, water must circulate through the stern gland to keep it cool as the shaft turns. If you’re unsure what adjustment to make, check the stern gland temperature; if it’s too hot, the packing’s too tight.

Water spilling into the engine bay will cause the vessel to sit lower in the water, which in turn puts shower, sink or air outlets nearer to the water level, often with devastating results.”

Stephanie concludes: “Water ingress should not be a problem if you have a bilge pump. If possible, invest in an automatic one as it’s more reliable than a manual. Once left on the ‘automatic’ setting, its float switch dictates when it should pump, ensuring an immediate response to water ingress. And should a leak develop from elsewhere, such as the cooling system or hull, it will keep your vessel safe. However, if you’re leaving your boat for long periods you do need to regularly check on the battery.

“And if you have a bilge pump, install a bilge filter, such as Bilgeaway - this stops your boat pumping pollutants into the waterways.”

RCR’s filter, Bilgeaway, is the world’s first truly environmentally-friendly bilge discharge filter. It
extracts contaminants from bilge water, renders them non-reactive and leaves the contents in a
cartridge which can be disposed of and the housing re-used.

nbta protest birmingham

nbta protest birmingham

angry boaters march on crt office

Picking Sides

A bright, blue-sky day in November, I happened upon a clutch of banner wielding, trumpet tooting crowds. On a whim I had decided to see for myself the protest march on the CRT’s head office in Birmingham. Initially my feelings were mixed; true the rise in licence fee was annoying; for the first time ever I’d had to pay my boat licence in two parts, paying the full annual in one go had become impossible for me; yet at the same time, I wondered if marching on the CRT was the right course of action as, the price hike was, in my view, down to central government cutting all funding to what, was an important, if not vital part of national infrastructure.

However, bitter experience, and being a liveaboard, skewed my impartiality, it was impossible not to be biased. The last time I was in Birmingham, was February, I was moored there aboard my own boat, Ella, and, was to be one of the last people there to take advantage of the full fortnight in the city centre. Even while moored there, notices were going up about ‘limiting the inner city moorings to 48 hours. I’d also seen gentrification; Lichfield Basin in Stourport, excellent moorings but closed off to all boats since the early 21st century; penthouse developers feeling that while ‘life was better by water’ such water should not be encumbered by boats - heaven forbid! And along the towpath, new signs announcing, ‘Attention Dog Owners, Please pick up after your dog’ followed by the irritatingly twee, ‘Attention Dogs; Grr, Bark, Woof.’ Surely responsible owners know to pick up after their furry chums and irresponsible owners would hardly be swayed by this whimsy.

Any boater who uses the system will have their own horror stories; interminable stoppages, locked Bin yards and Elsan points and now we were faced with a 25% rise in all licences with an extra surcharge for continuous cruisers.

As we waited for more arrivals to swell our dwindling band, I met an old friend of mine whom I’d not seen in nearly a year. Over a pint of Pale Ale, he told me he was moored on my old stomping ground on the Worcester and Birmingham, telling horror stories of landslides at Shortwood Tunnel and yet another stoppage at Tardebigge.

It did not take much convincing for me to seize a banner, helpfully distributed by the Bargee and Travellers Association. So much of impartiality.

angry boaters march

boaters' march crosses canal bridge in Birmingham

Compelling Arguments

I’ve a confession to make; I’m a continuous moorer. In my four and a half years on the boat I’ve spent 15 months in boatyards and marinas, and only 15 months outside of Worcestershire. No matter, I was still a liveaboard and while, by virtue of having a home mooring, I would not be subject to the surcharge of 25% increase over five years, I was still acutely aware of the increase to my own licence.

The Narrowboaters, Bargees and Travellers association argued that the surcharge would only generate 0.6% of CRT profits, whilst disproportionately affecting a minority of boat owners. CRT’s own figures bear this out. In their March 2022 survey of 9530 boaters, 79% had a home mooring, while under a third of licence holders, 21%, did not.

From my own experience too, I’ve observed that much of the strain on the system comes from people with less vested interest. Not that I wish to make generalizations, because I’ve seen many a responsible skipper of a hire or ‘shiny’ boat but I have seen irresponsible weekend skippers too, dropping paddles, leaving litter, speeding to complete a circuit. I’ve also experienced exploitation personally from one, very well-known hire company, which took me on as casual labour, boat-blacking. I worked 13 hours over 3 days and was not paid, despite repeated attempts at asking for payment. Businesses, like hire firms, I would venture are far more responsible for wear and tear on the system and one wonders whether a surcharge would be better deployed there.

Another solution; posited by none other than David Suchet at the IWA’s annual general meeting, (which I gate-crashed) was passing on the costs to towpath users; such as licencing cyclists, or installing secure donation boxes at various points on the system. The view of the IWA however was that with 4,700 miles it would be almost impossible to police such a task of licencing cyclists, without being prohibitively expensive, and that to rely on goodwill of towpath users alone would be inadequate, especially during a ‘cost-of-living crisis.’

My own view is that the waterways should never have been made into a Charitable case, though this may be covered by hearing tales from the old timers about how much better things were in the days of British Waterways. It’s no surprise that the CRT came into being during David Cameron’s first term as P.M. seeing as Tory party policy is based on Wildean principles of cynicism; ‘Knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.’ Besides, had they not have abdicated responsibility for the waterways, they wouldn’t be able to reap the fortunes of all those wonderful profits made by private water companies for pouring effluence into our waters. Ultimately it’s a political problem requiring a political solution but the CRT picking on the poorest, often most vulnerable group on the waters is a far cry from what anyone expects of a ‘charity.’

boaters on boat as part of demonstration

angry boaters in Birmingham

On the March

It had been twenty years since I’d protested; that had been in Birmingham too. In 2003 I marched against the Iraq war along some of the same streets I was marching now. We numbered over a thousand but I recall that protest as being a column of quiet, dignified silence, placards declaring ‘Not in our name’ doing the talking. This time we were a tenth of that number; just over a hundred, but by God, we made up for it with noise.

We did not have the strength of numbers for quiet dignity but with the loss of self-consciousness that comes with living for long period in isolation we made a loud, and colourful mob. One lady, whose Father and Grandfather had been coal-carriers on the cut, told me she’d attended protests throughout her life and throughout Europe; “I’ve been arrested for protesting in three countries,” she told me with pride.

This was an extraordinary demonstration, boaters had come from all over the country; I spoke with people who had come from the K&A, Lincolnshire, and London. Many the very image of the Continuous Cruiser, tough, weather beaten, dreadlocked, dressed for comfort, not style, every inch of them exuding the rugged pioneer spirit that comes with frontier living; enough to put the fear of God or the disdain of squires looking to empty their wallets in the boutiques and bistros of a Black Friday weekend.

Call: “From the Med to the Lea!”
Response: “One licence, one fee!”
Call “Boats are homes!”
Response: “Scrap the Surcharge.”
Call “1,2,3,4-
Response “Where are we supposed to moor?”
Call “5,6,7,8”
Response “We just want to navigate!”

Not everyone was indifferent or disdainful. Along the way many bank dwellers smiled on us, a couple of times onlookers stopped and offered us fist bumps in solidarity and on the flanks of our column, leaflets were distributed.

Reaching the foot of Richard Parry’s office, one red-headed lady really vented; “Come down here, Parry you b*****d, I’ll stick this placard where the sun shines!”

Even I, with previous form for penning satirical snatches and ditties couldn’t resist making up my own; “Parry is a Dick, Parry is Dick, Richard Parry, Richard Parry, Parry is a Dick, oi!”

We were a column of merry-pranksters, come to freak-out the norms, come to show that we were still here and would be heard. What little police presence there was, seemed more bemused than threatened by this confederation of angry hippies, new agers, travellers and bohemians. Compared to most protests (and there’ve been a lot lately) the tone here was more mischief than violence, angry but still at heart, good-natured, as most boaters are.

angry boaters with placards

boaters' march in Birmingham

The Flotilla and Continuing the Fight

At the water’s edge, beneath Parry’s office, boats made doughnut wakes at Ozell’s street loop, displaying their banners. I especially recall a beautiful old tug; at its bow a man with a Methuselah beard and a roll up. ‘One licence one price.’

The March concluded at Cambrian Wharf where we were addressed by the bigwigs of the Narrowboaters, Bargee and Travellers association. As I was straining to listen, some-one in the crowd approached me; “You a boater? Where did you come from?”
I told him. “Great, you’re the first person I’ve met from that port - here” - he handed me a wad of flyers; “Distribute ‘em around your town will you?” Gleefully, I agreed.
Then, gradually, we dispersed, handed in our placards and went to the pub.

News Blackout?

The community of Continuous Cruisers is probably the smallest single community in the country. True there had been plenty of photographers there, yet, when I started scanning the News there was little to no-reportage on the march. A brief article on the BBC Midlands website, but very little else, though what could one-expect in an age of conflict Israel versus Palestine grabbing the headlines. “Never mind,” I reassured my companion “Still early days yet, I’ll bet the Birmingham Mail ‘ll cover it.”

A day later an article did appear in the Birmingham Mail; “We sold our three bedroomed home to live on a narrowboat.” I rolled my eyes; how many times have I read articles about middle-class people selling up and taking to the water. Scanning it I found very little different from this type of story. “…sold their three bedroomed house in Sussex…” The couple in question were notable only by their absence on the march, but then having just sold a three bedroomed house, down south, I doubted they would be much affected by the price rises. Perhaps this is the shape of things to come, these of the new boaters being the kind that the CRT appeal to; genteel, with kids, moneyed, don’t-make-a-fuss, gentrified types. Not that swarm of passionate, raggle-taggled water gypies. Who knows, when the next issue of Waterways World, or some-such publication may run a paragraph on it.

For what it’s worth then, here is my account. From one who was there. From one who cares.


funeral for a friend

dawncraft chronicles

funeral for a friend

When I was young I wanted a Thames barge. We lived near Maldon and some of my early memories were walking along the sea front with loads of old boats in various states of either rebuild or decay. West Mersea at that time was a true grave yard with many old hulls pulled up to the highest of spring tide marks and converted into house boats, getting wet probably only two or three times a year. It always seemed to me to be such as sad end to a boat. As for my Thames barge, well, I could probably afford one, but I certainly couldn’t ever afford to maintain or renovate one.

This got me thinking the other day about Dawn Treader and what would become of her if ever I was incapacitated. Sutton Hoo aside – the idea of being buried in it with all my worldly goods and my desire to go to Valhalla where probably for the first time in years I could stay up late and have a drink with a few friends - wouldn’t go down well from an ecology point of view as although the resin burns well the glass fibre remains. Sadly, the only option would be to break her up and put it all in a 6 cubic yard skip for land fill (may as well be buried in it then).

decaying boat on canal

I did some research on this and came up blank – there are one or two companies that specialise in the destruction and salvage of old sail boats, but no one seems to be dealing with end of life boats on canals and waterways. This is going to be a major problem in say five or ten years. Ok Dawntreader is glass fibre, 1 pot of resin, some matt and gel coat and you can just about fix anything at a reasonable cost – even her brand new transom wasn’t overly expensive in comparison to say a wooden or steel boat. But as I make my way down the canal, you cannot help noticing that many of the barges are coming to the end of their life with what would be astronomical repair costs.

From an engineering point of view, steel and water are a nightmare for corrosion and require really good coatings (paint to you and I ) to prevent the rust. However, there are other problems. The moment we mix in electricity and especially direct current which most of us use from batteries, we set up a form of electrolysis that starts to eat the hull. Ok we all know that we should use sacrificial anodes but what we don’t realise is after a while these become inaffective. I have seen boats with almost a spider’s web look to the hull as the electrolysis eats away at the metal.

I noticed this on Dawntreader's outboard. What appeared to be a half-worn anode simply wasn’t working as it furred up, for want of a better term. Suddenly the edge of her prop or cavitation plate is acting as the anode and the outboard is being eaten alive!!

Add increased licence fees, price rises in both gas and fuel, the lack of places that a boat can be pulled out at a reasonable cost before you even start blacking, hull survey or paying a welder to fit new anodes. I once welded the floors into a Morris 1000, the welding took half a day, removing the interior and years of bitumen under-seal took two weekends and I am sure it's the same for a narrow boat.

This problem seems to be affecting many harbours and inlets around the Cornish coast where boats have been abandoned, leaving it to the harbour authority or local council to dispose of. It would seem dis-owning a boat is just as easy as buying one! From what I have read you inform CRT that you sold it to a bloke down the pub and cancel your licence and seeing as for many this is their home address it would be difficult for any agency to find the real owner should someone walk away.

abandoned and rotting boat

So, what is the answer? I am lucky being at Foxhangers. I have a decent slip right next door and there is one in the marina at Devizes and a dry dock at Semington. However, head towards Bristol and there is nothing much at all. Considering the number of boats on the canal, that is rather worrying. What we need is yards like I grew up with on the East Coast where boats were pulled out at a nominal fee and there were enough skilled people around to either do the work for you or instruct you for a morning on how to caulk a hull, apply antifouling, change a prop, anode etc., all of which their marina shop had in stock!!! Of course, the tide went out twice a day so as long as you could park off the mud you had 8 hours of dry work time.

Maybe that is where it has gone wrong; may be CRT need to own and rent more dry docks and alleviate a potential problem. However, anyone can own a boat but not all have the practical skills or money to keep them maintained.

I would still love a Thames barge though, but I think we would slowly decay together.