Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Preparing for a flood; tips from River Canal Rescue

Flooding was once termed a ‘weather event’, but as it continues to occur with increasing regularity, River Canal Rescue is advising how to safeguard boats and minimise the impact and subsequent damage caused by a deluge.

Managing director, Stephanie Horton, comments: “Check ropes and build in some slack to accommodate changes in water levels. Tight ropes can be a real hazard; if water levels rise or fall they will cause the vessel to list, potentially putting the outlets under water, resulting in water ingress.

“Some mooring locations can place a vessel in danger, particularly where water levels fluctuate. Although it can be impossible to choose where to moor when a river is in flood, it’s worth taking time to check the bank and identify what the underwater bed is like. If there’s a steep fall or shallow bank, when the water recedes, the boat will list. In addition, consider the flow of the water and how it will affect the mooring – will it push or pull the boat and could it cause problems with other mooring points? Several boats sunk in the recent floods because they were subject to water level changes which left them at an angle with outlets allowing water in.

“Keep drain holes clear by regularly cleaning them out; over time they can become blocked with debris and corroded. If this happens, water may leak into the engine compartment and the alternators and starter motors, affecting charging and starting. If the bilge pump is manual, or the automatic pump fails due to a low running battery (which happens when worked continuously), the engine room could fill with water.

“Ensure bilge pumps are working and install an automatic float switch. All bilge pumps provide some protection from water ingress but only ones with an automatic switch will protect the vessel if you’re not around. Bilge pumps without an automatic switch are reliant on the owner manually turning them on. Unfortunately, most of the boat sinkings we attend are for vessels with manual pumps; had a switch been present, I suspect in many cases, they would still be afloat.

“Top up your battery. If you’re leaving your vessel for any period of time, it’s vital the battery is in a good condition with a good level of charge. If you have an automatic bilge pump, its operation is reliant on the battery; most batteries with a good charge can operate a pump for a week to 10 days. To charge the battery, frequently run the engine for a minimum of one to two hours. It’s also worth finding out how long your battery will last on continuous use so if there is heavy rain, you can gauge how often to visit the boat.”

River Canal Rescue runs a series of boat & engine maintenance and electrics courses at Alvechurch Marina, near Birmingham, throughout the year, or its team can run courses anywhere in the country,. To find out more visit


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Too much water sinks boats and closes canals

Flooding doesn’t usually wash out canals, locks and bridges or sink & strand canal boats. Over flow weirs and lock by washes can normally manage to get even heavy downpours away.
But December rainfall in parts of Northern England was two to three times the monthly average and falling on saturated ground over short periods the water rapidly flooded rivers across Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire. Towns and villages were inundated, and where those rivers were navigable there has been some severe damage to them and their structures. Closures may be for several months where significant engineering repair works are needed.
Also many canal boats have Stranded boat at Elland Wharfbeen sunk, stranded ashore or damaged. River Canal Rescue River reports (8th January) that it’s been inundated with calls to help raise and refloat sunken craft and remove vessels that have been swept onto land or each other by unprecedented water levels and are now trapped. The breakdown and assistance firm is currently dealing with 20 cases and notifications are coming in on a daily basis from agencies and boat owners across the UK. The widespread damage to the canal and river networks in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Greater Manchester, particularly the Aire, Calder, Hebble and Rochdale canals, has resulted in a concentrated area of devastation spanning 20-30 miles.
RCR managing director Stephanie Horton and her rapid response  teams have been on the road since 27 December looking out for stricken craft, where possible making them safe and if they can, notifying owners who may be unaware of their vessel’s fate. With speed the utmost priority, some craft have already been raised, pumped out, refloated using air bags and divers and taken to safety, others have more complex logistical needs, such as cranes and winches and approval for remedial works from the Highways Agency. For craft trapped in the woods, as below at Park Nook, there a requirement to liaise with tree surgeons.
Boat in woods
Broken locks bring with them water level issues and damaged bridges and roads present access issues. However, in the face of adversity, Steph and her team remain focused in endeavouring to clear the navigation channels as quickly as possible and help boat owners minimise their claims costs.
The following reports and photos provided by River Canal Rescue.
Sunken boats on the River Calder
Two boats on the River Calder (above) had been carried over locks, collided with bridges and sunk. Due to be refloated using divers and air bags Friday 8 Jan. One refloated, second boat had to be left after broken glass lead to an injury.
Beached boats on the River Calder
More stricken craft on the Calder & Hebble above,  caught on camera while out assessing the damage. Vessels now on books but weight restriction on bridge hampering recovery.
Capsized boat near Bingley Arms
Capsized boat at the Bingley Arms on the Calder & Hebble near Wakefield. Righted and refloated on 6 Jan.
Stranded boat near Todmorden
‘Juno’ was lifted from its winter mooring near Todmorden lock onto the towpath. Cranes are being arranged to lift it back into the water, liaison with Highways Agency. The lift was booked for 9 Jan, but road into town has collapsed so recovery on hold.
Capsized boat at Elland Wharf
Numerous vessels are jammed in at Elland Wharf  – these will have to be craned as there are weight restrictions on the bridges in the area (due to their flood damage). RCR is working with the Highways Agency and crane firms to resolve.
Thanks to River Canal Rescue for this report and images.