Nav-Watch on the Grand, Royal and Barrow – Aug

2020 is a year we will all remember for a long time to come; the year that ‘normal’ was broken!   We are seeing huge changes to every aspect of our lives, but while there are difficult decisions to be made there are also opportunities.  If anything, COVID-19 should teach us all to look more inward and consider what’s best for ourselves and those around us.

Since lockdown measures eased, it has been great to see many boats making journeys on the canals. Some of them have encountered terrible weedy conditions, as Waterways Ireland crews worked to make up for lost time with the weed cutting.

We are thrilled to see the Nav-Watch survey has been used by some boaters in 2020 and it’s great to have such positive support from everybody we talk to.  So please continue to spread the word to anyone travelling the canals and Barrow, we can never have too many reports and what gets reported has a higher chance of getting fixed for everyone’s benefit.

So, what has the team been up to since many of you last saw us at the 2019 autumn IWAI council meeting?  Well, we have been working tirelessly and endlessly – unfortunately not completely – on Nav-Watch.  However, we have been continuing to sift through the incredible 248 issues reported to the Nav-Watch online survey tool in 2019.  We had an ambitious target to have a ‘findings report’ ready for publishing at the end of April but COVID-19 stopped us in our tracks.  But we will have a finished document at the end of August. 

The report is highly technical in nature and outlines findings of the project, presenting circumstances where efficient progress of vessels is inhibited pictorially and explains the differences between optimal conditions and those which cause difficulty.

What use is this report?  We hear you ask…

Well, the report helps to bridge the knowledge gap between Waterways Ireland maintenance operations and boating users of the canals.  It’s no secret people have encountered terrible conditions on the canals but we are presenting it in a factual manner as a snag list.  As a starting point we can move forward with Waterways Ireland to guide their maintenance activities in our best interest, “Making the navigation a priority”.

The Nav-Watch report also outlines how Waterways Ireland funding suffered badly from austerity measures from 2011 and has not even recovered to 2002 levels yet.  With less money and less operations staff, we believe there is a cause and effect situation between the deterioration of the canals and significantly reduced funding of Waterways Ireland.  From their latest financial statement Waterways Ireland outlined that the navigational aspect of the canals are included in future plans and there is a commitment to continue to improve the infrastructure.

A commitment to improve is very promising and our report will go a long way towards the improvement of the navigation.  But we need to use the canals to prove the value of the navigation as a boating asset and bring indigenous tourist revenue to the communities along the canal routes.

We all have extra time to consider the canal Big Cruise 2021, this is a perfect opportunity to dip your prop in the canals and travel with the support of the BC team.  Let’s start planning to make next year a big one and support the sustainability of the canals.

While you are on the canals make sure you keep our survey handy and report any issues.

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