River Canal Rescue is calling for boat owners to prepare for winter weather.
Heavy rain, flooding, winds, ice and snow can all cause problems for vessels; they could be swept away, blown off course, take on water, sink or suffer a hull breach. And with nearly one in three of River Canal Rescue’s call-outs due to a lack of general maintenance, the firm fears ‘neglected’ boats will be put at risk.
Some simple precautions, however, can reduce the likelihood of winter damage. Managing director, Stephanie Horton, says: “When a weather event does strike, it’s time to get into a routine of visiting the boat regularly and undertaking the following;
- Check the batteries are fully charged, with a bilge pump in continuous operation even a fully charged battery will only last a few days.
- Check bilge pumps are fully operational and left on ‘automatic’ setting.
- If there’s no bilge pump or only a manual one is fitted, install an automatic bilge pump – and don’t be complacent; just because it automatically operates, it still needs checking (it relies on battery power so unless the boat’s shore powered, there isn’t an unlimited supply).
- Check drain holes and clear debris – keeping these clear will stop water running into the engine room.
- Check ropes and anchoring points, if the mooring’s at risk of flooding, run a rope to locations that can still be accessed even in a flood situation.
- In windy conditions, check ropes for chafing and ensure they are well positioned and adjusted to the conditions.
- Before moving a boat in ice – consider the importance of your journey – it’s easy to believe you’re impregnable when surrounded by steel but even a couple of inches of ice can pierce a hull.
- Check river conditions, and again consider whether the journey is really necessary; river conditions can change quickly and easily catch you unaware. Get updates from the Environment Agency.
- Check the wind direction before manoeuvring. When coupled with difficult river conditions, the windage of a boat can be easily underestimated and your vessel will become uncontrollable.
“If your vessel’s caught in a situation, don’t attempt to recover it without assistance. Severe weather conditions increase the risk to boat owners and simple tasks can easily result in accidents and injury.”