Archive | January, 2016

Elsan-ity restored..?

31 Jan

I’m hoping it will be.

My last blog post, a bit of a mild rant about (the lack of) facilities available to London Boaters, pleasingly produced quite a bit of comment and creative thought. If you haven’t already put yourself through this  read through this thread, you can pick it up on the LB facebook page entitled Shit Happens.

And, if after you’ve trawled through all the comments and ideas, you also feel you have something constructive to contribute to the debate, please do read on.

A few of us have decided to get together to brainstorm this, with a view to forming a ‘working party’ to collate ideas and form firm, well-researched proposals that will be presented to C&RT. Kate Saffin, Alex H. Richards,  Colin Ives, myself and John will be at the department of coffee at Spitalfields Market next Wednesday (3rd February) at 2.30pm.

http://departmentofcoffee.com/locations/spitalfields-market/

Helen Brice and Mikaela Ldn Mooring Ranger have also been included in conversations so far – for information purposes – though they are more than welcome to attend. Neil Boat, another keen contributor to the conversation, is unfortunately unable to be there.

So if you too feel you have something concrete to contribute, why not come along on Wednesday..?

 

 

Shit Happens..

5 Jan

It’s a fact.

Put two or more boaters together and, in a flush (remember that whoosh of water that came with the pull of a chain as the flush fairy disappeared your bodily waste like magic?) they’ll be talking toilets/bantering about bogs. So put them all together in a facebook group…

For my land-based readers who believe that life on the water is all roses and castles: idyllic, blissful, one long holiday, a delicious escape from reality and one way to keep under the radar – I confirm this. It is.

But..

It does come with some less than desirable little jobs, so to speak, not least the emptying of the loo. A small price to pay, in my book, for the privileges this lifestyle affords but not one I look forward to – I’d have to be one seriously sad sicko if I did.

For those of us with a cassette type or porta-potti arrangement, the best one can expect is that a disposal point – or tip out as I call it – is within easy reach, clean and at the very least not full, overflowing or blocked. And for those with a pump-out system, I imagine they’d want similar – plenty of and in working order.

Sadly, this clearly isn’t the case.

Shite is the plight of the London boater it seems, as voiced by LB Jacqui..

“My lifestyle, that of a liveaboard boater, means that I have accepted certain challenges and inconveniences like emptying my own “heads” and limitations on weekly water consumption in accordance to the size of my fresh water tank. This I am ok with.

What strikes me as not “ok” is the fact that although my community is growing – 300% in London – over the five years I’ve been on the water, the powers in charge of maintaining the waterways for this country have, in that time, been allowed to close facilities in London. This means going further for water and elsan points and much greater strain on those facilities that are still in use. In real terms, over the past 4 -5 weeks it has meant three of the five elsan points (where one can safely dispose of toilet content) and get fresh water along the 20+kms of the Lea River have been “out of service”.

I live in Britain, the fifth wealthiest country in the world, yet must travel, sometimes hours, to obtain water and dispose of my loo.

Yesterday I was at fields weir elsan. I was there going through the lock. In the time it took me to moor, set the lock and enter it, four other boaters, two by car had been and used the elsan. The folks in the car, from two boats had three cassettes and had come from Broxbourne to empty them.”

And Jess, also a LB said..

“In ten years, this is the first time we’ve really been up shit creek (literally). We’ve now got three full cassettes. Send help.”

I’ve singled out just a couple  from many comments aired on the LB facebook page, often more graphic and occasionally accompanied by pictures but I’ll spare you that..

This is nothing short of criminal and, as a liveaboard boater myself for ten years, a subject very dear to my heart. Whilst I’m not a continuous cruiser (though will be when I can secure an income without having to commute) I do live on the London waterways, albeit a bit in the sticks and with a home mooring (and a reasonably acceptable ‘tip out’).

That said, I have cruised through the city a few times now and have also chugged around a fair bit of the rest of the network so am all too familiar with the problem. There was one rather epic journey when I moved my 47ft of loveliness from Cambridgeshire to Hertfordshire in 2010 – epic because of the time it took as we were jumping a van along with the aid of a bicycle in order for John to travel to work. I made many homes along the riverbank along the way, as work got in the way of boating, as it does.

This trip took in the River Ouse, Middle Levels, River Nene, GU, the London Canals and the Lea and Stort navigations. It was brilliant, with notable highlights – one being the tidal crossing from Denver to Salter’s Lode in order to access the Fen ditches from the Ouse – but that’s another story.

To keep on topic, it was the facilities at Denver Sluice I wanted to mention here. I’d been led to believe they were superior  as well as having plenty of mooring and a good pub. Perfect. Not..

Around 90% of the mooring space was cordoned off with that orange plastic stuff, presumably in readiness for some improvement or other, with no sign of actual work being carried out or offer of alternative tying up space. Eventually we located the Elsan point, first priority as ever, but struggled to find a suitable place to park while we (I) did the deed. We ended up having to tie to railings around the slipway, thereby blocking it, but needs must – we wouldn’t be long..

A tortuous and treacherous trek led to a building (locked and chained as if a nuclear facility) in a field. My EA key did, surprisingly, open the padlock and with John’s help I managed to unleash the fortifications and open the door. All this time we stood in a lake of liquid that looked and smelled disgusting and on entering the Stygian gloom – no lights thankfully – a leaking and decidedly unsanitary tip out was revealed. I’ve never seen anything as horrid – before or since – and I have seen some grim sights.

Needs must so the deed was done. I walked just around the corner, by way of taking in some fresh air, to discover the Environment Agency offices – state of the art building surrounded by a huge and very smart car park full of extremely swish motor cars, which no doubt belonged to the fat cats of the EA quango. Did they even know what was less than 100 yards from their plush suite of offices? Did they even care? I doubt it. Obvious where their priorities lie.

To the pub then, where we hoped we could moor, but no rings or other means of tying up. On asking a member of staff, handily clearing glasses outside, were told that mooring had been stopped for health and safety reasons. My fuse, already considerably shortened, had nearly burned out. But what can you do? We spun her round and trawled along the opposite bank, which looked decidedly private/club-like, until we found a Hobo-sized gap, where we smacked in the pins regardless, secured her and wandered off in search of the bridge that would take us to the pub.

All along the way there was a vast amount of new fencing adorned with EA health and safety notices. Not shy of spending money on that then.. of course not!

The London waterways come under the care of The Canal & River Trust but, other than in name, I see little difference between them and the Environment Agency when it comes to upkeep, maintenance and attitude towards the need of the boater. And given that a licence that allows navigation on these waterways, depending on the length of boat/waters navigated, can easily be in excess of £1000 per annum, I for one think it’s shocking that such low levels of maintenance and, in certain cases, total deterioration, are allowed and so little is forthcoming in return for our money.

I don’t rant without good reason or criticize without offering a possible solution. So how about this..?

What if those big old rusty barges we see about, some used for rubbish dumping, were converted to swallow our human waste? They could be moored on the offside, to discourage potential vandalism, boats could tie alongside and tip out… simple! And with a little ingenuity, some sort of hose and pump arrangement to facilitate the use of canal/river water for rinsing. Or even some simple structure – like a low lever water tower maybe – it doesn’t need to be high tech.

Then the (in my opinion) under-used C&RT/EA barges and workers could be adapted to empty these. Regularly.sunrise