Canaltime quits Sawley Marina

Published: Wednesday, 25 October 2017

YESTERDAY, Tuesday, there was just one solitary Canaltime boat left at Sawley Marina, for after 16 years the company has removed its boats from Sawley Marina.

canaltime jan 2009It was way back in 2001 when the then manager of British Waterways Marinas Ltd, Derek Newton, persuaded Canaltime to have a base at Sawley Marina, building a jetty solely for its use with all facilities, including diesel tank, storage an office and even pump-out facilities to every berth. The latter however never worked as the numerous connections caused a lack of suction, so was discarded.

Around 40 boats

It eventually built up to there being around 40 boats operating from the marina, but all too often many of them were still at their berths, with our never seeing anywhere near the full complement of boats out on hire. The photograph was taken in 2006.

modelLockBeing moored at the marina during the entire time Canaltime was there, we met many of the hirers, and heard many complaints, mostly at their first lock at Derwent Mouth, all too often having to teach them how to work it, especially in the early days when it was first timers. The problem was they were not shown how to work a lock but demonstrated on a small waterless model sat on a table, that gave no idea of the actual working, as the photograph shows.

Can share them

Then there was the occasion at Shardlow Lock when one boater was waiting for his accompanying boater to come through the lock, not having been told that being broad locks, two can share them side by side! And of course they had done the same at the previous Derwent Mouth Lock.

Aston Lock, that rates with being amongst the most difficult on the system was a problem for many, though most of the other six broad locks shared the same problem of the bottom gates failing to remain closed after the boat/s entered the lock, the hirer not knowing how to keep it closed until he/she managed to get to the top gate paddles. Then for many there was the need for two people to close the gates that are so unbalanced.

aston both 355Managed to get the gate to move

Moored above Aston one Sunday evening on the start of a cruise, one irate Canaltime hirer came and asked us how to to 'make the lock work' as he obviously was not strong enough to shift the bottom gate from its open position, taking over from his lady crew. We assisted him, managing to get the gate to move, and suggested he get up early the following morning and accompany us, telling him he would soon have narrow locks that are much easier to work. He did, and it was he who told us that they had to suffer a long video about the boat and shown a 'silly' (his description) model of a lock, that they just did not understand, before being allowed out.

Added to very stiff paddles on most of the 'six', we were told of some hirers who just gave up. Then one hirer lost his life at Alrewas being by the side of the tiller when reversing into the side, the rudder striking the stonework, swinging the tiller over, the hirer into the water, were he was caught in the revving propeller.  The panic at Canaltime resulted in yellow lines drawn on the stern deck to show to stand forward of the tiller, but these soon wore off, and were not replaced.

Cruise the Soar

There is little doubt that all this must have resulted in a loss of trade from Sawley, though it was compensated by then allowing hirers to cruise the Soar, that previously had been forbidden, for though also broad locks, they are somewhat better balanced and easier to work.

Or perhaps it is the 'additions' that put off hirers.  For instance before you are allowed to cruise there is a £500 deposit—by credit card only—only returned if the boat and its contents are returned intact and at the correct time. Then there is a utility fee of £150—that is not returnable—for 'diesel, gas and electricity'.  And yes, should you be late arriving you will be charged a £20 'tuition fee'.

sawley boatyardUpping mooring fees

It is obvious that all this must have had an effect on bookings, but knowing that British Waterways Marinas are not adverse to upping its mooring fees, perhaps this too has had an effect.

But whatever, the Canaltime boats have gone.  The question now is what happens to the boatyard that was party to Canaltime and serviced its boats.  Will the moorers at Sawley once again have facilities for DIY blacking and the like, that is offered at most marinas, as we did before the advent of Canaltime?