1. The Psychology of British Waterway’s Attacks on the Boating Community
Initially, I would like to briefly address how BW’s now almost annual attacks on the boating community can affect us and our mindset.
We are all aware of BW attempts, year on year, to:
(a) illegally redefine our cruising patterns or
(b) charge cruising boats unreasonably higher license fees and
(c) now limit mooring in the Bath area to unfeasibly short periods.
Thankfully, these ‘attacks’ on our way of life have all been foiled in the past and will be foiled in the future if we stick up for ourselves and our community.
We know that BW harassment has made us fear for boater’s livelihoods, schooling for their children and the future of the boating way of life.
BUT these issues are based in the practical problems raised by BW’s past and present policies and however real, they are not the whole story.
Where the law does not give BW a clear license to create conditions that make the life of the liveaboard boater untenable, BW rely on the incremental psychological effects of their efforts to eat away at the heart and soul of the boating community. They wish to engender angst and fear amongst us, to isolate us from the wider community by making us feel that:
(i) we are doing something wrong, that our way of life is in someway breaking the rules
(ii) we are insecure in our way of life as the guidelines we live by can be changed by BW
and that we have no control over this
(iii) the many positive aspects of our way of life are not recognized and are not relevant.
BW’s aim is break our resolve to live within the rules laid down by law and either be ‘bullied’ into paying for unwanted moorings or to simply disappear (?) .
2. What We Can Do – Boater’s Psychological Self-Defence
Firstly, we can recognize that:
(a) Our way of life is sanctioned in the 1995 British Waterways Act and as such is protected by law.
As license holders who move an unspecified distance every 2 weeks or what is reasonable in the circumstances, we are conforming to the very wording of the law set down by parliament and each attempt by BW to tinker with this has failed.
(b) BW cannot legally re-write the conditions of our license to suit themselves or other interest groups. They must refer to the law and any interpretation of it must be subject to adequate consultation with boaters AND even then, must comply with a law that has defined our way of life for the last 15 years and before.
These facts make us strong! If we stick together, remain mutually supportive and well informed we can resist and maintain. We must feel confident in our position and respond to BW’s misdirected and historically ineffective attacks.
Secondly, we must recognize and promote the positive aspects of our way of life, a kind of Boater’s Pride, not arrogance or self-satisfaction but a pride in our community.
I have listed a few of the positives of the boating way of life that should make our community proud but I am sure you can think of more:
(i) Our license fees make up a significant contribution to the maintenance of this great canal network.
(ii) We are a vibrant community supporting workers and artisans in a truly broad range of trades and professions.
(iii) We provide a safe, secure and stimulating environment for our children to grow up in.
(iv) Every day of the year we welcome members of our surrounding communities to the towpath to enjoy our community, to interact with it and share our way of life.
(v) There is a virtually non-existent crime rate on the canal compared to the wider community.
(vi) In a time when the nation struggles with adapting to environmentally sound/ low carbon lifestyles, we are a showcase community for alternative technologies and the low carbon future.
(vii) Where community structures in the broader nation are progressively fragmenting, we still know our neighbours and look out for them even though we move location every 2 weeks.
(viii) Our community is aesthetically interesting and attractive. Boaters seek to actively maintain and improve their boats and keep the towpaths clean.
(ix) Visitors to the canal say they feel more secure because of the boaters presence on the towpath.
The list could go on and on.
3. Boater’s Pride
So if you get stressed or down when BW suggest another set of negative proposals aimed at disrupting our way of life, don’t!
We are here by right and the way we live is good.
The pay-off for now is that we must protect this way of life from those who, through their ignorance, seek to harm it.
This means talking to eachother but not succumbing to paranoia. Getting informed through mediums such as the www.kanda.boatingcommunity.org.uk website; attending meetings; writing letters to BW and responding to consultations.