I GET really angry with people who drive their cars on the road without paying the annual road fund licence. They are the kind of people who obviously think they’re more important than the rest of us and that the law doesn’t apply to them.
And I feel the same way about people who buy boats and use them on the river with clearly no intention of paying the annual licence fee to the Environment Agency. Frankly, it’s just stealing from the rest of us who struggle along, trying to make ends meet so that we can have the chance to use a boat on the Thames and its tributaries.
So I was delighted this week to read that three skippers had been successfully prosecuted and fined after they were caught using their boats without a licence last summer.
At Kingston’s Magistrates Court the three men, John Reid, Andrew Morrison and Nicholas Coulson, were fined a total of £350 although when costs, compensation and other charges were taken into account they ended up forking out a total of nearly £2,500 between them.
One guy actually told the court that he did not have enough money to pay for a licence when his boat was spotted at Charter Quays in July last year.
To which my response is simply: then don’t put it on the river until you can afford it – why should honest boat owners have to subsidise you?
Waterways operations manager for the Environment Agency, Andrew Graham, said: “The income we raise from boat registration is very important for the community and the environment.
“It contributes directly to improving and maintaining waterway structures such as locks and lay-bys, as well as providing facilities like visitor moorings, water points, rubbish and sewage disposal and electric boat charging hook-ups.
It is vital that we continue to invest in our waterways to create and maintain a good quality environment that people can enjoy for years to come.”
Okay, I admit that on top of all the other costs of owning and running a boat, the Environment Agency licence fee can be a difficult pill to swallow – for my boat it’s more than £320 for the year. But I knew that when I bought the boat – it’s no different than buying a car and then realising you can’t afford the road fund licence.
I’m pleased that the EA is cracking down on boat owners trying to pull a fast one in this way and I hope the news might encourage some who may have been thinking they could get away without paying to do the decent thing and accept their responsibilities.
I’M trying to discover the whereabouts of a boat I used to own and I’m wondering whether Herald & News readers can help me. She is an ex-RNLI lifeboat, which was named ‘Merry Widow’ when I had custody of her in the late 1980s and early 1990s. She was 35-feet in length, painted dark blue and built of double diagonal teak planks on oak frames. I loved her dearly – she was the first proper boat I’d owned, and I did a lot of research on her history and on those who had owned her before me.
I sold her in 1992 to buy a sailing boat on the south coast and the last time I saw her, she was heading upstream towards Windsor.
I’d like to know whether she’s still afloat and, if so, where she’s based now. Can anyone help?