Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Narrowboat Breakdown Guide

Towergate Insurance, has, with the help of River Canal Rescue, listed the five most common narrowboat breakdowns and how to avoid them on their website. It's worth having a look as they could save you time and money.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Breakdown Guide from Towergate Insurance Marine and River Canal Rescue.

Canal boat insurance provider, Towergate Insurance Marine, has joined forces with breakdown and recovery specialist, River Canal Rescue, to produce a Guide listing the five most common causes of emergency call-outs and how to avoid them.
Available online at www.towergateinsurance.co.uk (click on boat, then boat tips) and www.rivercanalrescue.co.uk (click on tips and advice), the Guide has been written in a bid to reduce the increasing number of people requiring rescue support. 
From January to September this year, River Canal Rescue responded to 3000 call-outs, yet for the whole of 2010 it made 1900 rescue visits.
Last year, the top five call-outs were; fuel issues and contamination 25%, batteries and electrical malfunctions 23%, breaking cables 12%, over-heating/cooling system breakdown 10% and gearbox/drive plate failures 7%.  These were closely followed by; problems with alternators 6%, fan belts 5%, propellers 4%, starters 4% and couplings 4%*.
As well as breakdown advice, the Guide offers general preventative maintenance and tool box contents tips, discusses how to solve problems before calling out a third-party and gives a word of warning about bio-diesel.
Towergate Insurance Marine Managing Director, Nigel Mills, comments: “Over a nine month period, it appears call-outs have shot up by 57%, so in line with our ethos to provide more than just insurance, we thought canal boat owners would find this Guide to be a useful reference tool.”
River Canal Rescue Managing Director, Stephanie Horton agrees: “Many callouts can be avoided by regular servicing/maintenance and learning about your engine.  This Guide will act as a prompt; encouraging owners to develop routines that will really help to keep unnecessary costs to a minimum and ensure a holiday or break is not spoiled by an ill-timed breakdown."
Canal boat owners taking out a Fresh Waters policy with Towergate Insurance Marine can either purchase River Canal Rescue support at a discounted rate or opt for a higher level of policy cover and receive it automatically.
For further breakdown information visit either of the websites and for insurance advice call 0800 515629 or 01743 284664.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Winter lay up advice from Navigators & General.

As we enter October owners may be turning their attention to where to winter their boats this year. With available hard standing reducing due to development over the years and costs rising, it is often sensible to make arrangements early. Navigators & General (N&G) offers the following advice to avoid the common claims.

Longer nights and tougher times financially always raise the risk of crime, theft of gear and equipment is N&G’s second most common claim. The UK has already seen a steady rise in the number of outboard motor thefts since 2009, and more recently well documented metal thefts. Sub zero temperatures can also cause thousands of pounds worth damage.  

For all those reasons N&G advises owners to allow time to prepare their boats, seriously consider security, and be vigilant to minimise exposure to crime and damage.

It is very important not to let cover lapse over the winter period, as there are no days of grace in marine insurance so if you do not renew your policy in good time your cover lapses. Claims resulting from incidents such as theft, fire, vandalism, damage by vehicles, storm damage, frost damage, and much more besides are arguably more likely to occur during the longer nights and harsher weather.

If a trip by road is required, it is important to check that your policy provides this cover, If not, you will need to request an extension. N&G’s yacht & motorboat policy automatically includes transit for craft up to 30 feet, but not all policies will be the same. If the trailer has been left standing it should be thoroughly checked and serviced if necessary, there may be a policy condition that the trailer is kept in a roadworthy condition.

Removing sails, dodgers and canopies not only dramatically reduces windage, (one of the main reason boats blow over) but will significantly extend their life. Winter gales make short work of any fabric left on deck (especially furled headsails), and UV exposure with mould/mildew speeds their deterioration further. Why not use the opportunity to have them laundered and serviced, it will extend their lifespan considerably, and insurance policies do not generally cover sails, canopies or covers split by the wind
Once ashore removing all valuable equipment and leaving drawers or cupboards open should reduce the temptation to thieves. Any soft furnishings will fair far better in a warm dry environment and also further add to the impression that the boat has been stripped for the Winter.

Metal theft has made the headlines quite a bit this year, so owners may be more at risk this winter. Easily accessible brass or bronze propellers will make an attractive target, as will copper sheeting. If easily removable owners should do just that and store securely. It is not only the cost but the difficulty in matching the stolen part. If you cannot remove the vulnerable metal try to cover or disguise it and ensure you have the best possible security.

Outboard motor thefts have been steadily rising since 2009, so this is an area where owners really need to take action. If an engine can easily be removed do just that, and consider a service at the same time. If the engine is so large and so well secured as to be very hard to remove  N&G suggests that you remove the engine cover (taking care to fit alternative weather protection) to deter thieves. Distributors and yards are suspicious about selling covers only for that very reason and it may be enough to prevent you being a target. Otherwise mark all separate engine components, fit the best possible anti theft devices and think very carefully about the security your boat has over the winter. Outboard thieves are not put off by the size of an engine and will cut them out of boats if the opportunity is there.

Remember to properly winterise engines and machinery and drain down water systems. An unexpected sharp drop in temperatures can catch boat owners unawares and result in engine blocks cracking, pipes or heating systems splitting or causing a problem that manifests itself for years after. Not all policies cover this type of claim and they can be particularly expensive. Yards or engineers should know how to winterise machinery on your boat, but don’t leave it too late.

Particular care should be taken if leaving battery chargers or de humidifiers running over the winter period. There have been a number of devastating fires on boats as a result of electrical faults on shore powered devices. Keeping your boat dry through the winter is the right thing to do, but you need to be sure that any de humidifier being used is well secured, has clean filters and adequate drainage facilities.

If you plan to have a heater running as well, be sure that you are not overloading the circuits and that you have the right sort of heater as this could significantly increase the risk of fire. Check with your local yard or boat surveyor to make sure. Concerned owners could consider temporarily mounting an automatic fire extinguisher next to such equipment

Remember that you should still check on the boat periodically or pay someone to do this for you. Winter maintenance is an essential part of boat ownership and necessary for enjoyable trouble free boating over throughout the season. It also prolongs the life of the boat and helps reduce depreciation. But following a few basic tips can help prevent a worthwhile exercise becoming a potential disaster.

  • Remove all expensive equipment such as radios, GPS, navigation and electronic equipment, TV’s, CD players etc and store them in a safe place.
  • Remove the outboard, tender and life-raft.
  • leave empty lockers and drawers ajar to ventilate and deter thieves
  • Drain down water and heating systems.
  • Have engines professionally winterised or ensure that you carefully follow all of the manufacturer’s recommendations to avoid frost damage.
  • Remove berth cushions to a dry environment.
  • Remove furled headsails, mainsails, covers, dodgers and spray hoods.
  • Take out halyards leaving a mouse line and thoroughly wash and check for wear.  
  • Check all backstays for wear at top batten point.
  • Check all standing rigging for broken strands and rigging screws for wear.
  • Ensure the yard use cross bracing if using wooden shores, for extra safety.
  • Ensure that whilst ashore the trim of the craft is correct, to allow cockpit drains to be effective, and avoid rainwater building up on decks or within the craft.
  • Do not tie covers or tarpaulins to wooden shores or cross bracing.
  • Preferably use only close fitting covers, to avoid additional windage.
  • Place tie-on labels on the wheel and engine controls to remind you to check all skin fittings, impellers, seacocks and transducers prior to launching/starting the engine.
  • Disconnect batteries and leave them fully charged.
  • Do check the craft periodically during the winter months, unless you have made a specific arrangement for this to be done on your behalf. Do not assume that the rental of space will include this service.
  • avoid running fuel tanks too low due to risk of sucking dirt into filters or condensation in the tank space

Diesel bug and bio fuel.

We've recently undertaken quiet a lot of research into the effects of diesel bug and bio fuels. The result has been published in Waterways World, as can be seen below.
Already three marinas have identified (independently) that there is an issue with the bio fuel and fuel set. All three report having several cases of emulsification following fuel set treatment where bio fuel had been added. The marinas have been given advice as to how to sort this problem out but it goes to prove that the problem exists.
Diesel Bug, Water Contamination and Bio Diesel
With the recent introduction of Bio Diesel the confusion surrounding what is best practise and how to deal with situations which are affecting more boaters has lead to RCR provide the following guidance.
Fuel Tank construction in boats
Fuel tanks in boats are usually constructed so that the outlet pipe for the fuel system is located approximately 1-2 inches above the bottom of the tank. The reason for this construction is two fold. 
1) Most tanks are metal and therefore over time fuel /water/ air results in corrosion and rust build up, this debris drops to the bottom of the tank and remains there.  
2) The water which is present due to condensation and water ingress in the fuel tank naturally separates out and drops to the bottom of the tank when left to stand. 
In both these cases the outlet pipe position ensures that neither water nor debris is passed though the fuel system providing protection from these types of issues.
The easiest method to identify how much fuel/water is in your tank is to use a clear plastic hose, drop this in to the tank being careful not to disturb the fuel , and when you feel the bottom place your thumb over the end to seal it and withdraw the hose. This should provide you with a sample of the tank and will show the amount of water present, along with an indication of any diesel bug contamination.
We recommend that you :-
  1. Dip your tank regularly and where water is present remove it, this can be done simply and cheaply using an oil extractor or electric pump, by pushing the pipe down to the layer of water and extracting water until the diesel comes though. Alternatively visit one of the Marina’s who offer a fuel polishing service. 
  2. Regularly check your filler cap seal and replace if worn, cracked or damaged. Also if it has been raining the cap sits lower than the deck so wipe over to remove excess water before opening the cap.
  3. If you have a water trap filter, check and empty regularly, so that it is effective.
  4. Either leave the tank empty during winterisation and remove any water on your return, or leave the tank full and treated.
The advice above will combat both diesel bug and Bio diesel issues and water contamination removing almost all risks without the need to treat the fuel.
Water in Diesel
All diesels contains some element of water. Water content in diesel makes the diesel murky or cloudy and can be the first indication of an issue.
However when diesel is standing this water separates naturally (around 800ppm 0.08%) and as it is heavier than diesel it eventually drops to the bottom tank. This is why many commercial storage tanks have taps at the bottom to drain off the water.  
Water in fuel is acceptable in small amounts and has been known to improve performance when in quantities of up to 1200ppm (0.12% volume), however there is a risk that too much water (greater than 1500ppm (0.15%) will result in the water lying un-burnt in the combustion chamber and affecting the operation of the pistons, valves, liners,  ect by destroying the lubrication properties of fuel
In addition, too much water in the fuel can cause issues even before this point, as the injectors pressurise the diesel to turn it in to a fine spray, if there is too much water present in diesel then emulsification occurs and the white creamy solution that results will stop you in your tracks.
What is Diesel Bug
Diesel bug is the term given to the enzymes, bacteria etc that live of the water in diesel and affect the diesel properties, and there are over 148 different types identified so far. The first signs of fuel degradation are a fine black dust that is regularly described as soot, a very strong smell of varnish coming from the fuel tank and the fuel turning darker.  
Visible sludge and other lesser known variations of diesel bug that can show as yellow/orange or pale debris floating in the diesel is an indicator of severe or high risk contamination and should be treated as soon as possible.  
Extreme cases see this develop in to a thick black sludge that quickly clogs up the fuel system and stops the engine operating.
Bio Diesel & Low Sulphur Fuels NEW EU Directive
The introduction of the new rules relating to supply of diesel for recreational boats has stipulated that from 2011 it is an offence to sell diesel that contains more than 10mg of sulphur per kilogram of diesel, this effectively makes the fuel virtually ‘sulphur free’.  
Diesel which is low in sulphur can cause issues with rubber and plastic components in the fuel system because is contains less lubricants, and eventually this lack of lubrication can result in faster degradation of these components, resulting in fuel pump and seal failures.
To accomplish the low sulphur content many suppliers have opted to incorporate Bio Diesel, (when biodiesel is blended, fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) are added to the mineral diesel) the recommended maximum is 7% although this will rise to 12% in 2012. The previous level was 5% and the new increase has resulted agricultural users seeing a fast rise in both diesel bug contamination and fuel blockage issues. This has been attributed to the fact that Bio diesel absorbs ‘free’ water, and this is what diesel bug requires to live on, but it can also result in emulsification of the diesel if too much water is absorbed.
Bio diesel only has a shelf life of approx 6months, put it in a marine environment and this half’s and if microbes like diesel bug are present it half’s again, potentially you may only get a few months shelf life!
*100% true bio fuel ie biodiesel produced strictly according to EN14214 standards does not tend to suffer the issues identified above and is a true green alternative which has many other benefits not seen with bio diesel mixtures.
The treatments on the market at present have concentrated on two issues, removing water from the diesel and killing diesel bug. There are many different products on the market but these can be split into Biocides and Enzyme based products. Each tackles the issue in different ways. 
With any treatment; it is important to ensure that the product is mixed with the fuel evenly, and therefore treat before filling up, or alternatively give the tank a stir to ensure that the product is effective. If using enzymes it is important not to overdose as this can result in excessive water retention in the diesel.
These are chemically produced products designed to deal with specific issues. They can be used as a one off to treat diesel contamination (diesel bug killer), or dosed to prevent contamination occurring. These include products like M16 Diesel Bug, Grotamar, Yachtcon, Kathon, In general they contain biocide to kill micro bacterial contamination and inhibit further growth of micro bacteria. In some products they include demulsifies to separate out the water from the diesel , and lock in the dead bug ‘bodies’ in the fuel so that they are burnt in the combustions cycle, effectively removing the ‘sludge’. 
Biocides are toxic and therefore should be treated with care and applied strictly according to the supplied instructions. When treating for fuel contamination then it is always advisable to change your filter and remove any water form the tank and water separator. However please ensure that the water is disposed of in accordance to the EU Biocide Directive.
There are many worries relating to bugs building an ‘immunity’ to these biocides, however in reality as all bugs are destroyed rather than treated, the analogy with antibiotics is not applicable.
Enzyme and Natural Emulsifier Products
These products are generally environmentally safe and are based on a combination of manmade enzymes and plant extracts, they tackle the issue by distributing and locking the water in to the fuel so that it can be burnt during the combustion cycle, by removing the water they remove the food for the diesel bug.  If dosed correctly then the maximum water absorption should be in the region of 900ppm (0.09%) for the natural emulsifier products, which is safe; however if overdose this can raise to 2500ppm resulting in diesel turning milky. These include products like FuelSet, Fortron, Soltron and Starbrite. The other group of enzyme based products use Kerosene as a carrier and while this restrict the ability to absorb water kerosene has a much higher wax content. Overdosing with these types of products can lead to change in fuels ability to combust quick enough and cause injector damage.
Some enzyme based products are temperature and UV sensitive and this can cause them deteriorated or stop working effectively if subject to extreme temperature variations and if they are not stored properly.  They are not suitable for treating severe diesel bug contamination and are only effective as a preventative maintenance solution. Overdosing is the biggest risk with these products.
Emulsification of Diesel 
Too much water in the diesel can cause emulsification, this is seen at the filters or more commonly at the injectors as the fuel is put under pressure. Emulsification of diesel at the injectors due to water content has only recently become an issue and RCR in the past 2 months have attended nine boats where 20-40ltrs of bio diesel has been added to the fuel tank, in some cases these vessels have been using regular treatments of enzyme based products.  Initially we were unable to resolve and the first three boats had to have the whole system cleaned and flushed, although in one case the diesel destroyed the seals in the fuel polisher, and resulted in over 200ltrs of fuel being lost!  
To combat this issue we have had to develop a new strategy and after a number of test cases we now use biocide treatments to separate out the water from the diesel whilst in the tank, although because of the complex nature of the mixture this can take up to 48hrs to accomplish. Following this the fuel system is cleaned right though to the return pipes, and the water drained off from the fuel tank to remove the risk of the water being absorbed in the future.
So what treatment should you use:
RCR attends hundreds of contamination issues each year and therefore we have had to ensure that the product we use provides instant results and stops these problems from reoccurring, and for this reason we favour the Biocide treatments.  Enzyme based products are effective and useful when there is only a small amount of water content but too much and you run the risk of not removing it  or overdosing and locking to much water in to the diesel. 
Another reason for favouring the biocide treatment is with the new introduction of Bio diesel and rise in cases of emulsification at the injectors, we believe enzyme products can compound the problem of water absorption.  
RCR use Marine 16 products and recommend the use of Diesel Fuel complete as a regular treatment.  However the most important message to get across is to regularly check your tank for water and if found remove it, doing this will reduce the risk of water contamination and diesel bug irrelevant of which product you choose to use.
Written by 
Stephanie Horton BEng Hons CEng MIET 
 MD of River Canal Rescue
Acknowledgment:- David White of M16, Ian Roos of FuelQC, and background support from David Fletcher NABO chairman, EU Directive, Tony Brooks training notes

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Busy summer for RCR.

Summer 2011 may not have been the sunniest on record but for River Canal Rescue it’s certainly been the busiest.

Over the period from March to the end of August 2011 RCR received 40% more calls than over the same period last year. This increase in demand underlined RCR’s recent recruitment drive which saw two more engineers out on the road. Despite this the company are still looking for another engineer to cover London and the K&A, and with boat traffic expected to increase in the area on the run up to the 2012 Olympics, the new member of the team could be busy .

During the 2011 summer season over 200 calls were made for cable problems, 180 battery related and 125 were fuel problems (including running out of fuel all together). It’s felt that one of the reasons for boater experiencing problems this year is the economic situation. With money being in short supply it’s thought that an increasing number of boaters are skipping their boats regular service. In addition with many people opting to take a boat holiday rather than go abroad, if the vessel has not been used regularly the essential repairs may have been overlooked with the result that more boats are experiencing breaking down. With boatyards reporting an increase in “repair rather than replace” jobs it could well be the case that boaters are cutting back.

In these harsh economic times it’s easy to see why this happens but as RCR’s MD, Stephanie Horton commented recently, “it really is false economy to cut back on servicing and repairs, and as has happened in a number of cases, can result in a serious accident or damage when something fails at a critical time” Stephanie added, “we are always looking for ways to help our member deal with some of the simpler issues and we have produced a Breakdown Advice sheet which can help owners identify and sort our many simple problems, so if anyone would like a copy please drop us a line at enquiries@rivercanalrescue.co.uk and we’ll happily send you a copy.”

With prevention always being better than a cure it’s worth dropping RCR a line to pick up a copy of the advice sheet or for more information on RCR’s range of services visit their website at www.rivercanalrescue.co.uk

Monday, 22 August 2011

RCR lends a hand with the Stafford Riverway Link.

For 10 years River Canal Rescue have been based in Stafford, a short distance from the Staffs and Worcester canal so it’s not surprising that the company have got involved in the project to restore The Stafford Riverway Link. The SRL is the new name for the former Stafford Branch Canal or River Sow Navigation which formerly linked the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal at Baswich with the town centre of Stafford.  The restoration project aims to rebuild this link for community benefit.

This link consisted of a short section of canal branching off the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal near St Thomas Bridge 101 leading via a basin and an aqueduct over a drainage channel into a lock down into the River Sow.  From here the river course was straightened and made navigable for 1½ miles to its terminus at a basin near Green Bridge in Stafford.

The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal opened in 1772 passing within I½ miles of Stafford but on the other side of the river. Despite this the first fixed link with the town was not made until 1805 when a horse tramroad was opened running from a basin and warehouses at Radford Bank. Coal was carried from the canal together with other goods but its limited capacity meant it was not a great success and it closed in about 1814.  This was replaced in 1816 by the River Sow Navigation which was constructed privately.

To this day the route can still be walked on riverside footpaths and doing so you can see the potential value of its restoration to boaters and for trade and tourism in Stafford is. This was part of the reason why RCR decided to help to promote the project by supporting the project though the production of posters to promote the charities aims, and also the construction of a post at the proposed junction to highlight to boaters and walkers where the new canals route. This, it is hoped, will improve visibility of the charity and its aims.

For more information see the Stafford Riverway Link website: www.stafford-riverway-link.co.uk and for more information on River Canal Rescue visit www.rivercanalrescue.co.uk

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Two new engineers join the RCR team.

Two new engineers have been recruited to the RCR field engineers team help meet the increasing demands for canal side assistance.

Steve Hill, has been a mechanical fitter and brings over 20yrs of experience to his role with RCR. His knowledge on petrol and diesel engines and his ability to use true engineering skills to deal with problems, rather than just 'fit new parts', makes him ideal for the job. His happy and cheerful outgoing personality has already made him one of the new favourites for members in Fens and Midlands which are his main areas.

Tom Walker has already completed a college course in mechanicals and has been using his skills in a number of related environments. He's shown an aptitude for the marine environment and has the right attitude when dealing with people. Tom was selected form a number of candidates as our new apprentice and although he will be going thought the same training and college courses during his apprenticeship, there will be an opportunity for him to complete early because of his past experience. To date he is already showing that he has the skills and attitude to make a first class RCR engineer.

Title: 10 years on, and they said it would never last!

The following editorial was published in Canals, Rivers + Boats magazine Sept' 2011.

2011 is a particularly special anniversary for River Canal Rescue as it sees the company reach a significant milestone - their 10th year in business. It was back in 2001 that Trevor Forman (CEO) and Stephanie Horton (MD) began the business, the name of which came to Trevor during a dream. It was this reoccurring dream, of a business that provided a breakdown service for boaters, that provided the inspiration for the couple, who both have engineering backgrounds, to start the business with Christopher Barnett.

From the outset the business the couple always aimed for was to provide nationwide coverage so being based in Stafford - where the company are still based - seemed logical given it’s central location and easy access both north and south. Despite this it was a big ask as to begin with the company consisted of just the three of them to cover all the calls. After the first year more engineers joined the business and since that time the network of people on the road has grown at a rate of 500 members per new engineer.

It would seem that, as with all new ventures (especially ones that do something very different) that the trade were “skeptical”. Stephanie particularly remembers their first shows where they were seen as outsiders and at which they were regularly met with comments like “it will never work'' and “its been tried before”. She remembers that “not many people would have anything to do with us” but it was the Marine Engine Services guys who, in her words “were the first to hold out the hands of friendship.”

Ten years on, and with 15 engineers now on the road, many of those first customers are still with RCR. As a special celebration 10 of the earliest members were given a free membership as a thank you for being loyal members. Some of the glowing comments RCR receive  from members show that the service is well respected and a much needed part of boating life.

“We, as members for quite a few years, would like to say that you give the best possible service to boaters. Over the years you have given us excellent service and the increase in price is not a problem. You are well worth every penny, it is a small price to pay for your great service and the peace of mind it brings. We use every possible opportunity to recommend you to anyone without your service. My wife and I wish you continued success in your venture for many years to come.” Mr Suter Gold

We were delighted with the speed and the attention to our welfare that RCR gave including the follow-up call to ensure everything was working satisfactorily.” Mr Ballard Bronze

“It was most reassuring to have someone that knew what he was doing to come and get us going and to give us advice for the future care of our engine/electrics.” Narrowboat Anne Rose

“The young engineer who responded was superb! He was polite, friendly, knowledgeable and efficient. He made a temporary fix and arranged the wiring so that the fault could not occur again accidentally. I was delighted with the service from all of you and would appreciate my comments being passed on to the relevant staff. Thank you again.” Mr Geistiger Bronze

These 15 engineers are kept busy covering their own areas, some of which can have a radius of up to 100 miles. Naturally they are located in areas with the highest population of boats so the Midlands is home to a number of engineers but RCR say they have people located all over the UK. These 15 people attended approximately 300 calls each with only 400 calls being passed to contractors to cover jobs the RCR team just couldn’t get to.

When talking to a company like this you have to ask the question, “what is the most unusual job you’ve had to deal with? And in this case the reply was that “the list is endless, and sometimes gruesome if we include what has been found on props!” It would seem that anything from human parts to bouncy castles, cars, matresses have all caused problems and ended up around propellers. Stephanie went on to add, “we once found the reason for an overheating engine was due to a fish in the cooling system, we have attended engines that have been installed by a DIY'er and don't have any method of changing fan belts and one which had a fan belt 2 mtrs long - not something we carry as standard! A ford Anglia engine with the gearbox and clutch still attached...yes you put it in gear just alike a car! A call-out for lost drive only to discover that the gearbox had been stolen, as well as some additional chosen items.”

Despite all this the reasons for the calls hasn’t changed much over the years.  Stephaine told us that, “we always see a peak in blocked filters, and fuel contamination and pipes leaking as the season starts, (or people begin their cruise) there are cables, alternator failures, gearbox seals, coupling failures, split pipes, battery & electrical issues that pop up all the time.”

So what of the future for this family business that is proud of it’s ethos of going that extra mile for it’s customers? Well more recently the company have set up Canal Contracting to cover the areas that normal RCR membership doesn’t. The idea being to provide boaters with that bit more peace of mind. As membership numbers increase the team will also need to expand and much of this comes from it’s own apprenticeship program (one they are proud to say is the only one in the marine industry that isn’t based on the coast). The bottom line would seem to be that they aim to take the worry out of boating.

To this end RCR has now developed their membership to include the costs of major components though there Replacement Parts Cover. This means that should a major component like a gearbox, coupling, starter motor, alternator etc fail then the cost of the part and any additional labour is now all covered by the annual membership fee. “We truly believe that this innovative development will really assist boaters in taking away the worry and stress that unexpected costs from a breakdown can cause. We know how many of these types of breakdowns occur each year and therefore we know that it adds real value for our members to have the piece of mind this new cover provides”

Stephanie's own words “take being the 4th emergency service as part of our remit.” She added that “they are proud of our Investors in people award and ISO 9000 status as only a hand few of companies on the inland waterways have achieved this.” Here’s to the next 10 years!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

ABC and RCR team up for training.

Two market leaders have teamed up to provide staff with 12v electrical systems training. ABC Leisure Group, the UK market leader in narrowboat hire and inland marina and waterways services, along with River Canal Rescue (RCR) who provide marine breakdown cover, trained over 30 of their engineers during March.

The training took place at Alvechurch Marina’s new dedicated training facility using 3 engine test rigs provided by RCR and their trainer, Tony Brookes. Tony is a well known technical advisor for the waterways press.

“On this occasion the training was for our staff and feedback has been extremely positive”, commented ABC’s Managing Director, Edward Helps.

“It’s our intention to open the courses up to private boaters shortly. So that they can also benefit from this training.”

ABC's staff undergoing training from RCR's Tony Brookes.

Friday, 20 May 2011

A pipe may do something for a man, but nothing for a boat!

On the 13 May (Friday the 13th May!!) RCR engineer Pete Baker (our Midlands engineer) was called to Headwind, owned by Peter Daleman. Peter's boat had lost power and something was wrapped around the prop. The boat was on the Stratford canal and as a result of the engineers investigations it was found that approx 50 mtrs of rubber piping had got tangled around the prop.

It took Pete a number hours to remove it as there was no easy access via the weed hatch. As a result he had to climb under the boards to get access to weed hatch cover and, laying horizontally, reach into the weed hatch retrieve the rubber and feed it though the hatch, past himself and into the boat.

The boats owner had already managed to clear half of the pipe but the rest was down to Pete. The only question remaining is, how did it get there? Oh! and who's Pete's little helper?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Canal Contracting.

Canal Contracting is a company that was set up by River Canal Rescue to provide all the services that RCR don’t - it’s a simple a concept as that. The thinking behind it being that by using the team behind RCR a customer can be assured of a first class service and the right person carrying out the work needed and using the correct spares etc. 

Having work carried out on your boat can provide it’s own headaches - who is best qualified to carry out the work safely, where do I get the right spares and, importantly, will the work be guaranteed? Even if these questions are answered there is always the issue of the time it takes to organise all this and to ensure it all happens at the right place at the right time. However now that Canal Contracting is in place all of these questions can be answered by making one phone call. By giving CC a call and providing them with all the details of what work you want carried out they can provide you with a no obligation quotation to supply and organise and arrange all the work needed, be that an engine replacement, a new battery management system or plumbing. The work is done at a time to suit you and it’s all guaranteed.

But it’s one thing to put this service in place, it’s quite another for it all to work and for customers to be happy with the service they’ve had, so we’ve asked a few of the customers who’ve already used the service for their feedback. 

Once such customer was Mr Stuart of Scotland who’s 18 year old 33ft boat normally moored in Edinburgh, needed some upgrading. A new battery management system and a new fridge-freezer were needed but finding a contractor and supplier in Scotland isn’t easy. Canal craft of this type are fewer in number on the lowland canals and as a result so too are the engineers. However as Mr Stuart said a call to Canal Contracting “took all the pressure off me”. He went on to describe the service as “absolutely fantastic” and very much took Paul at his word when he said “leave it with me” as up until that point the job of finding a contractor had been far from easy. Having had all the work completed he can only describe himself as “delighted”.

Another satisfied customer is Barry Lewis who describes himself as “very pleased with the service” He goes on to say that using CC “has made my life easier, and when work has been required it has taken the hassle out of finding someone.” To underline his satisfaction with the service he’s had Barry has recommended Canal Contracting and River Canal Rescue to a number of boaters” to which all either company can say is ‘thanks very much!’

So it would seem that the concept of Canal Contracting is not only proving to be of interest to a growing number of boaters but (and more importantly) it’s proving to be of great value too.

For more information on Canal Contracting visit the River Canal Rescue website and click on the Canal Contracting link at www.rivercanalrescue.co.uk

Boat Shed teams up with RCR.

If you’ve ever looked for a boat on the internet you can’t fail to have noticed Boat Shed, the highly successful online brokerage and sales site. So when it came to deciding who to work along side Boat Shed was an obvious choice. RCR recognised that customers, who wanted to sell their boat, wanted a service that was quick and easy and didn’t involve moving their boat to a new location. And above all, in these difficult financial times, they need a service that is good value for money.

The result is a new boat sales service that offers a full-brokerage service with a No Sale, No Fee policy and one that allows you to list your boat elsewhere as well! Some of the key features of the new service include a specialisation in Inland waterways second hand boats. Up to 80 detailed photos to go with a comprehensive write up with full information about your boat. Placement on our the new RCR Boat Sales Web Site and listing on over 60 other boat sales web sites. 
As part of this new service River Canal Rescue will supply a free two months of cover on all boats sold (terms & conditions apply). It’s also worth noting that if you are already a RCR member you can transfer your RCR membership to the new owner, providing them with a little more security when they buy, alternatively you can move it to your new vessel when you find the right boat. 

So now you can buy and sell a boat using RCR and Boat Shed’s new service and provide both you and your customer with the security of an RCR membership. In today’s tough market place this has to be a major advantage.
To visit the new website go to the RCR website at www.rivercanalrescue.co.uk and click on Boat Sales.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

More dramatic rescues for RCR.

River Canal Rescue have been involved in yet more dramatic rescues recently. To start with the owner of a 43ft boat called for help after getting caught by the current whilst turning. As a result he ended up wedged sideways on to a bridge on the Avon at Eckington Br. West Midlands Fire and Rescue rescued the crew but by the time they got the crew off the boat the water was lapping at the gunwale.

RCR scrambled the rescue team who arrived on site approx 3.30 together with a contractor who had a Land Rover which was attached to the boat. However, unfortunately every time they tried to pull the boat against the current it started to drag the Land Rover back. So back up was called in from York which arrived at 6pm together with other team members.

The boat stern was grounded on the far bank, with it’s bow wedged against the bridge by the force of the river water (which was in flood) resulting in the boat being at a 30 degree angle. The decision was taken to attempt the rescue in two stages so, with a safely line to the bridge and two engineers on-board, the first stage began. This was to pull the boat by the stern towards the opposite bank using a line which was rigged to the Land Rover. After a number of attempts the boat was beached bow first on to the opposite shore with it’s stern wedged against the bridge.

The second stage was to reposition the Land Rover and with a shorter rope swing the stern away for the centre of the river towards the shore and use the engine power to reverse the boat to the small jetty. During a number of attempts the rope snapped, not helped by operating in the dark, the engineers knew that time was now of the essence as the boat was in serious danger of capsizing. Due to the angle it had been sitting at for several hours the outlets had been under water and as a result water had been pouring in and filing up the boat. Finally using the engine power and the Land Rover the boat was finally dragged around and secured to the jetty.

Onboard the bilges were working overtime and loosing the battle to keep the boat afloat, more bridge pumps were installed but the water was still rising. A quick decision was taken and in order to right the listing boat all personnel had to get onboard on the opposite side and use there combined weight to even the boat and lift the submerged outlets clear of the river. A small winch was rigged up to the shore to try and keep the boat level, and after two hours of pumping the boat was finally level, free of water and safe.

At 4.30 the following day RCR received another call from a 57ft boat unbelievably in the exact same location but wedged horizontally against the bridge. The only access via boat or a ladder from the bridge. RCR alerted the rescue services to remove the boaters from the vessel for their own safety. When the engineers arrived on site at approximately 6pm they set to work assessing the situation and preparing for the rescue. The boaters were looked after by the St Johns ambulance team who had been contacted by the fire brigade after RCR explined that the rescue could take several hours. The rescue team having undertaken a rescue the previous day were quickly at work and by following the same procedure - pulling the boat backwards and using the engine power to reverse the boat they got it onto the jetty. The boaters from the previous rescue were still moored up on the jetty waiting for the river waters to recede, and this has to be moved up to make space for the second boat!

It’s worth noting that RCR charges for rescues but over the last year they have rescued 12 boats from critical situations which would have resulted in capsizing or loss of the whole boat. Stephanie Horton MD said “It’s also worth noting that from an insurance point of view a boater must undertake as many measures as possible to mitigate loss or potential loss, and that generally charges for recovery, lifting and rescue of a boat from these dangerous situations are covered by your insurance policies, however taking unnecessary risks can invalidate your insurance claim, so always assess if venturing out on to a river in flood is a sensible action; if your jorney can be avoided then don’t risk it”.

A minimum of three engineers would be dispatched for all rescue activities and RCR’s thanks go to engineers, Trevor Forman for both, Kerry Horton for both, Pete Baker for both, Pete Barnett for 1st, Aaron Forman for both, Mike Adams (contractor) for 1st.

Insurer offers advice for re launching boats

Navigators & General (N&G) together with River Canal Rescue (RCR) is reminding boat owners to carry out a number of simple and straightforward checks before they get back on the water to avoid common claims.

“RCR have found over many years of attending breakdown and emergencies that conducting maintenance checks before starting off on a cruise will reduce the risk of damage to the boat and possible injuries. There is a substantial risk that you will breakdown on your first run out, and therefore it is essential that you do your best to prevent this occurring as if something major occurs remember that insurance cannot compensate for lack of maintenance and will not cover damage caused as a result of wear and tear.” Stephanie Horton MD RCR

N&G generally sees an increase in claims notifications over March and April as boats are launched, or when owners return to find their boats have suffered damage or theft during the winter. The increased risk frost damage to pipes, water systems and engines this year are likely to have caused more undetected damage that may go un detected until too late.

Carrying out a number of simple pre-launch checks, and ensuring there is good communication with the yard or launching company can significantly help reduce the risk of potential accidents, breakdowns or worse still, sinking. Wherever possible, it is advisable for the owner to be present when the boat is launched to monitor the vessel for any unusual water ingress for at least a couple of hours after settling

These types of checks are particularly important after a harsh winter where skin fittings, pipes, engines and water/cooling systems may have been damaged or dislodged by ice. Pipes split by ice can slowly leak once submersed below the waterline often leading to sinking if not spotted. N&G have seen a number of sinking claims caused by something as simple as failing to replace a through hull fitting or re-attach an internal hose. 

Even the experienced boat owner is still at risk from complacency. Taking a small amount of time to routinely go through a number of pre season checks can prove very worthwhile.

To avoid problems, Navigators & General and RCR recommend the following:
  • check all water carrying pipes for splits or leaks 
  • have a yearly pre-season machinery maintenance check, by a boat engineer (RCR Engine inspection) 
  • do not start engines until all basic checks have been completed, including opening raw water sea cocks 
  • check fuel or gas lines and cables for wear & tear and deterioration 
  • check bilges and ensure bilge pumps are working – if water found check gearbox for contamination and locate leak. 
  • check all hoses, skin fittings, through hull fittings & hose clips 
  • have your engine serviced prior to use, and treat fuel with a treatment for water contamination and diesel bug with products similar to Marine 16. 
  • check Morse controller and steering controls to ensure free movement 

Common problems include:
  • flooring, steps and handles not being properly re-attached after servicing, which can lead to injury 
  • split pipes that only show themselves hours after a boat is underway 
  • through hull fittings not being replaced or hoses not properly re-connected, 
  • which can lead to sinking 
  • not checking engines are fully re-commissioned, which can let you down at a crucial moment or be damaged when started 
  • blocked filters and contaminated fuel due to lack of servicing and standing for long periods resulting in engine failure at crucial moments. 
  • water in gearboxes, due to being semi submerged or oil cooler leaking, causing potential failure and damage. 
“Whilst it is tempting to get out on the water at the first sign of a good spring day, spending time on these simple pre-season checks will be time well-spent as the rain, damp and storms over the winter can cause wear and tear to a boat and equipment. It’s also key to ensure there is no misunderstanding about who is to complete the maintenance and prepare the boat for launch – be it the boat owner or the boat yard or a third party. ” said James Roberts Head of Navigators & General