I DREAMED of having my own boat for years before I could finally afford one. And, as my family will attest, after becoming a skipper, I have spent considerable amounts of time and money on pampering the succession of boats I’ve owned over the past 15 years or so. It’s part of the fun of having a boat – tinkering about adding new fitments here and there, repairing and repainting, improving the specifications and generally making the boat something you can be proud to be seen in. And I think that’s true for the majority of boat skippers on the Thames.
So it puzzles me to see the growing numbers of boats that have been left to rot and – in many cases – to sink beneath the water along our stretch of the river.
I wonder what goes wrong for the folk who proudly take delivery of their boats and then, over time, let them deteriorate to the point where the seams open and their charges gradually submerge beneath the surface.
What is it that causes the dream to die? Maybe it’s a lack of money. Certainly owning a boat is no cheap exercise. Apart from the obvious cost of purchasing the thing in the first place, there are the ever-increasing raft of costs that you incur each year. There’s the Environment Agency boat licence – which can run to quite a few hundred pounds depending on the size of your boat. Add in the spiralling price of fuel, insurance, surveys and maintenance and it really can become a financial burden rather than a source of pleasure and relaxation – and maybe that leads to these boats being left to sink.
Maybe for some people the dream of having your own boat proves very different from the reality. Several times, I’ve been out on my boat and come across people in distress for one reason or another. Broken down engines, fires, leaking stern glands or propellors fouled by discarded bits of rope or plastic bags have all caused problems and I guess, that might prejudice your view on boating as a pleasure pursuit. Maybe, in some cases, advancing years and infirmity simply mean it’s no longer practical to maintain your boat.
It does seem so sad to see boats in the condition like those pictured here. Why don’t people put them up for sale before they get into this state?
I think there’s a call for setting up the NSPCB – the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Boats – to put people in touch with old boats needing a good home…
I’VE had a missive in from Adam Young who has been jogging along the towpath from Staines to Windsor over the past few weeks and is concerned about the amount of rubbish being left along the banks. He said: “I believe the fishing season has recently started and I’ve discovered everything from beer cans to barbecues and used fishing line littering the place. For people who enjoy the river, it’s a disgrace.” I absolutely agree – come on guys, take your rubbish home with you when you go so that everyone can enjoy the river at its pristine best.