Sprats and mackerels

Published: Friday, 29 September 2017

IF WHEN seizing Pearl, Geoff Meyers boat, Canal & River Trust was using this as a ‘sprat to catch a mackerel’ i.e. to fire a warning shot across the bows of any who would dare to flout its own ‘guidance’, then it has I think proved to be a very expensive ‘sprat’ indeed, writes Pam Picket.

Following an expensive court action against Geoff Meyers, his boat was seized by CaRT in April 2014, now more than three years ago. Geoff’s ‘sin’ was that he refused to remain on his mooring preferring to moor on a none too salubrious section of the canal by the Lion Salt works near Northwich.

Geoff’s reason for preferring this mooring was that it was easier for him to visit his sick elderly mother from this position than it would have been from his official mooring. The court judgment however allowed CaRT to remove Geoff’s boat ‘from its waters‘.

Why so far?

Having filled in the background to this long running saga and commented on the judgment, we could now ask what the necessity was for Pearl, an old wooden boat, to be transported by lorry as far as R.W. Davies boatyard on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal when much closer suitable mooring was available at the CaRT maintenance yard at Northwich? One way perhaps to appear to comply with the judgment that did not allow Geoff to be permanently deprived of his boat, whilst at the same time making sure the expense of ever reclaiming the boat, even had it remained useable following its journey by lorry, would be too high?

Incidentally, and somewhat strangely, regardless of the venue chosen for Pearl’s final days, neither can relate to the removal from CaRT waters contained in the judgment. Waters on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal and on the Trent & Mersey at Northwich both being in CaRT waters! However, whilst the exercise has been costly for Geoff Meyers, a boater with only his sick mother and his cat, it certainly appears to have been rather more so for CaRT, with costs continuing to rack up..

Withdrawn from sale

At the time of writing, using CaRT's own mooring figures, known costs inclusive of the court action to remove Pearl from its waters already total well over £125,000 whilst additional amounts have no doubt become due following the necessary lift of Pearl from the water as a result of a power cut knocking out pumps keeping her afloat, together with the cost of ‘cling wrapping’ to avoid the boat now out of the water from drying out.

In addition, costs would I assume have also been incurred in unsuccessfully advertising Pearl for sale on the Commercial Boats website, though Commercial Boat Services now advise that, acting on instruction from CaRT, Pearl is no longer on sale.

To be or not to be broken up?

Pearl it appears now awaits her fate. To be or not to be broken up appears to be the question. Not a cheap option given that contaminated woodwork from her carrying days requires specialist disposal. CaRT it seems in finally putting Pearl to bed looks as if it will again have to put its hand deep into its pocket, and cough up yet more boaters and taxpayers cash.

A successful result for CaRT enforcement? In the case of this particular ‘sprat’, the jury is definitely out!