Backroom Boating, C&RT elections and all that jazz...
January isn't usually seen as a high profile month for boating. The canals are at a virtual standstill, either closed for repairs or locked solid in winter's icy grip and boaters minds are just starting to turn to cruising routes for the next season. Not so January 2012.
I spent much of January in Istanbul on business catching up on the boating news each time I returned to the UK - and what a lot of news there was to read.
First there were the C&RT Council elections. E-mails from BW confirming receipt of my nomination papers, confirmation that all my sponsors were bona fide boaters (I was a bit worried about the one from Mr M Mouse, but its seems to have gone through OK) and then the inclusion of my name on the 33 boater representatives posted on Waterscape.
But against this there was the "will they, wont they" dance from the Trustees who were petitioning for a more credible funding package from the Government and threatening not to proceed with the transfer from BW to the new C&RT charity. For a while it looked like the election for the Council would be a pointless exercise. In the end there was compromise all round in the classic British way and a mutually unsatisfactory middle ground was found:
1. There is more money on the table for the new trust
2. The review period is reduced so an upward revision can be considered sooner if needs be.
3. The grant period has been extended to 15 years to provide a solid base for planning.
4. The implementation date for the transfer has been delayed by three months to June.
5. The Council Elections will go ahead as planned!
On the watery front its a mixed bag of news.
1.Tring summit is closed and the empty reservoirs don't bode well for southern boating this summer.
2. C&RT, with the support of the bellowing Brian Blessed, have put out an appeal for volunteer lock keepers around the country. Personally, I find the prospect of Brian roaring at me in the cavernous bowels of The Bratch a bit intimidating, but the good news is that Mr Truth has answered the call and you may well see his much more tempered approach at some locks near you.
3. The Bingley Five Rise attracted 7000 visitors whilst they were dewatered for repair. This degree of public interest has to be good news for the Trust.
4. A few brave Council nominees have had their candidacy savagely tested within the Boaters Manifesto Facebook site and the Canal World Discussion Forum. Of course, I am referring to Alan Fincher and Peter Scott who have faced the brickbats of adversity with gentlemanly grace. Hmm, that was poetic enough to stay on the right side of Mr Blessed I think!.
5. Capain Ahab and Dr D have ventured forth not once but twice to the darkest corners of northern Telford in search of the remains of the long lost Tub Boat network. The results will continue to be rolled out over the coming weeks. Bear with me - I will get back to trip reports just as soon as the ice frees Wand'ring Bark from its mooring. These hunts add another dimension to the boating experience.
So there you have it, lots of canal related action.
But it dosn't stop there. Monday will see the C&RT council election papers being issued and Wednesday marks the start of voting. The future of our inland waterway network is at a pivotal moment, the most important in a generation, and its crucial that we don't make any big blunders. I want to do all I can to ensure that the network is maintained and developed in a responsible and sustainable manner, satisfying the needs of all its users but never losing sight of the undeniable fact that canals were built for boats and without boat movements the network would soon lose its life and vibrancy.
I believe that I have much to bring to the National C&RT Council. I have been so encouraged by your words of suport and endorsement but now its time for action. Can I ask you to scroll down the long list of candidates and mark Andy Tidy as your preferred candidate. Oh, and of course - don't forget to post it off or press "submit" if you are voting on line.
If I can take this support one stage further I would be immensely grateful. The internet is a powerful medium and your personal endorsements will carry far more weight than my bloggings! Can you spread the word among your boating contacts please?