Campaign Cruise to Parliament
On Tuesday 16 January 31 small boats set off from the West India Docks to cruise to the Houses of Parliament and to do a symbolic U-turn before return to Limehouse. The cruise was one of many events to publicise the cut in the DEFRA grant to British Waterways and the Environment Agency for the up-keep and maintenance of the inland waterways of the UK.
The cruise was very well organised by Andrew Phasey, Vice Commodore of the St Pancras Cruising Club, on behalf of the coalition of waterways user groups seeking to ‘Save Our Waterways’ from the cuts. These include AWCC, BCU, BMF, DBA, HNBOC, HBS, IWA, NABO, RBOA, RYA, SOW and many more.
David Pearce, National Chairman of AWCC and Commodore of St Pancras Cruising Club in his narrowboat Gnashers II led the cruise. There were many club boats, who had also attended the London Boat Show in the days before at the Royal Docks, and some from much wider afield that braved the sometimes choppy conditions on the Thames. St Pancras are recognised as promoting safe cruises on the tidal Thames and all boats returned safely. Andrew Phasey skippered the last boat in the convoy, Doris Katia, with Roger Squires, Deputy National Chairman of the IWA and Vice President of St Pancras Cruising Club, as part of the crew.
The convoy consisted mainly of leisure narrowboats, but with some former working boats such as Fulborn with Martin Ludgate at the helm. There were also two Dutch barges and two other broadbeam barges. The police were in attendance and boarded all boats for a routine check. They were most helpful and complimentary about the skill of the SPCC organisation. They escorted the boats together with the PLA Harbour Master to the Palace of Westminster. Comments on VHF radio showed that commercial skippers were most sympathetic to the cause. The return locking into Limehouse Basin took about two hours. It was the largest number of boats they had ever had to lock-in on one tide and was accomplished with great efficiency by British Waterways staff.
The flotilla was observed and filmed from the ex Dunkirk veteran boat ‘Kingswood’, hired for the occasion by the IWA. John Fletcher, their National Chairman hosted 10 supportive Members of Parliament, plus GLA Assembly Member, Murad Qureshi, Chairman of the London Waterway Commission, and members of the media. Representatives from all the boating organisations were present, together with British Marine Federation and IWA Vice Presidents David Suchet and Chris Coburn.
David Pearce said that the cruise had been a successful and good-humoured event, helping to emphasise the waterways funding problem to members of the government. He had met both the Irish and UK environment Ministers at the London Boat Show the previous week and had been able to draw the attention of Barry Gardiner, the Minister responsible for UK waterways, to the success and certainty of funding being experienced with Ireland’s waterways.
Note for editors.
The Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs (AWCC) exists primarily to foster the interests of cruising on the inland waterways. We have a direct interest in the continuing regeneration and development of an integrated system of waterways in the UK and its organisation through the major Navigation Authorities (NAs). We are an Association of over one hundred cruising clubs with more than 20,000 affiliated members.
We represent the interests of self-help people within the boating fraternity and promote our cruising aims through a policy of mutual assistance exercised through our clubs. We enter consultations and negotiations with British Waterways (BW) and the Environment Agency (EA), and other bodies at national, regional and local levels. We join with other national waterways user associations as an Associate Member of the Parliamentary Waterways Group (PWG).
For the full press release, click here