HISTORY OF THE AWCC
While mooring at an attractive, remote spot on any waterway is one of the pleasures of cruising; breaking down miles from anywhere can be a daunting prospect. Forty years ago the late Dennis Cole, then commodore of St Pancras Cruising Club, faced this problem when his outboard engine packed up at Marsworth while on a cruise from St. Pancras Cruising Club up the Grand Union Canal. Boatyards were few and far between in those days but Dennis knew the Dunstable and District Boat Club at Cook’s Wharf, Pitstone, nearby. He called the Club’s Commodore who alerted an engineer and Dennis was soon under way again.
The recovery prompted him to arrange a meeting between St. Pancras, Dunstable, Uxbridge and Lee & Stort boat clubs to discuss a scheme for a formal inter-club arrangement to provide an emergency service for boaters. As a result the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs (AWCC) was formed in 1964. Its function was not only to give practical help to boaters of member clubs but also to offer safe, overnight moorings if a berth were available.
Its growth was rapid: by 1966 membership had increased from 4 to 18 clubs flying the AWCC’s blue and yellow burgee and the first handbook was published giving club locations and emergency telephone numbers. A summer dance was held aboard one of the Thames river boats and the first rally was held at Gayton Junction on the Grand Union. In the mid 70s, when the number of clubs passed the half-century mark, it was decided to form the regional structure that remains to this day. By 1979 the number had risen to 80 member clubs and AWCC had become a recognised consulting authority on boating affairs. Although the membership curve then flattened out, due to the demise of some clubs and the amalgamation of others, AWCC continued to take more clubs on board and now totals over 100 members representing some 20,000 members covering the whole of the inland waterways network from Lancaster to London, Boston to Bristol and Ripon to Reading.
The AWCC has also grown in stature. In addition to providing breakdown assistance and temporary moorings, it has become an influential boaters’ lobby, consulted by British Waterways, the Environment Agency and independent navigation authorities as well as IWAAC, district and local councils and the DETR. The Association also works closely with navigation user groups including the IWA, RYA, NABO, BMIF and APCO.
Mindful that local issues concern boaters as much as national developments, the AWCC lends its support to individual clubs through six regional committees covering London, the Midlands, North East, North West, South East and South and West. Each member club has a vote at national level and is represented on the local area committee. Apart from regular meetings, the AWCC distributes its regular newsletter ‘ALERT’ reporting on news, expressing views and actions taken. ‘ALERT’ is also accessible on theAWCC’s own web page. An annual handbook lists all member clubs, giving locations, club contacts and the facilities available in case of need.
The Association has always supported comprehensive insurance for boats and offers its own scheme through one of the major underwriters. AWCC also offers professional advice to member clubs on a range of topics to do with boat clubs and boating.
Now that more boaters are able to enjoy extended cruising and are ‘weekending’ their boats around the waterways network, members of affiliated clubs have an immediate entry to clubs en route. Clubs with premises welcome visiting boaters to use their facilities, have a drink at the bar and, like all boaters do, swap stories about their adventures afloat. Due to the unique facility a number of new and long lasting friendships are being made all around the system.