Greetings to all from the Nav-Watch Team.

Our last article in winter 2019 edition of IWN was kindly written by our resident ecology expert Alan Booth, we hope you found it interesting and educational. Our special thanks to Alan for sharing his time and expertise.

We bet you are wondering what we have all been up to since then – we would like to say we’ve been too busy boating and continuing to populate our Nav-Watch survey tool but alas the world is a very different place. When writing this, we discussed what we achieved last year, casting our minds back to being on RTE’s Seascapes in April 2019 and later in the year being quite excited with the Dublin branch heading up the 2020 Big Cruise. At the time it would have been unfathomable to believe on the 60th anniversary of the CIE memo closing the canals we would find the whole world shut down!

So, what has the team been up to since many of you last saw us at the autumn 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 recent months have delayed our target a little, but rest assured we will be finalising the report in the near future.

What does the data look like? We are delighted to tell you a little about what has been reported.  Below is a classification of all the issues encountered on the Grand Canal and its branch lines, the Royal Canal and the River Barrow. The survey allowed users to tick multiple issues and report under one entry, we found this complicated when we were separating the issues, so we had to read through each one and standardise the correct category. For example, a report of shallow/silted also included a ‘water level down’ – we used the reason it was shallow to classify the issue i.e. ‘water level down’ – while we spend a lot of time covered in engine oil and grease we need to put on our labcoats and be a little scientific at times!

Many of you have been asking if Waterways Ireland have been receptive to our project. We have had positive support from John McDonagh (acting CEO) and we were invited to meet with the eastern region management at the Waterways Ireland open day in December. It was a very productive meeting where we had the opportunity to align with their maintenance strategies and gain an understanding of the constraints of their operations. We left the meeting encouraged and inspired that our work and your reports will help to establish continuous improvements of the canal and Barrow networks.

Many of the Nav-Watch team brought their vessels east on both canals last autumn, we would like to give kudos to the Waterways Ireland maintenance crews, they put in a massive effort to get on top of the weed and kept the levels brimming for our journeys. In the whole, most of the team didn’t encounter many issues at that time – shallow spots and encroaching reed fringes.  We hope those reed fringes will be a thing of the past soon!

The navigational aspect of the canals are included in future plans and there is a commitment to continue to improve the infrastructure but we need to use them. We all have extra time to consider the next Big Cruise, this is a perfect opportunity to dip your prop in the canals and travel with the support of the BC team, lets start planning to make next year a big one! While you are on the canals make sure you keep our survey handy and report any issues.

If the boating season and our movements continue to be restricted this summer you can still help us with the survey. If you happen to be out walking along the canals or Barrow, cast a critical eye on the stonework of locks and bridges, the banks and mooring posts. Most of the infrastructural reports we received last year related to functional parts like gates and racks – let’s take advantage of this year and try to collate any missing stones in bridges and harbours or even suggestions to how the facilities could be improved for us boaters.

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