The current coronavirus guidelines allow canal boat owners to take trips on their boats. However, they cannot stay on their boats overnight, if it is not their primary residence.
As you can imagine, this has severely restricted the ability of boaters to take trips and properly enjoy the benefits of boat ownership.
At a time when non-essential retail shops, zoos and safari parks are re-opening, it is nonsensical that boat owners are not allowed to stay on their own boats overnight, because:
- Being aboard a boat for a continuous period is integral to allowing navigation on the inland waterways.
- Boaters are typically self-sufficient, spending their time largely in the open air (where the risk of transmitting the virus is known to be much lower) or in their private on-board space with their own facilities.
- Using a boat for navigation presents a very low risk to virus transmission.
- Social distancing requires little additional effort when operating a boat on inland waterways and daily distances travelled are modest.
In addition to the impact that these restrictions are having on recreational boaters, they are also hurting the businesses that depend on inland waterway transit. Many waterway-based hire-boat businesses, who are currently unable to trade, and unable to access Government assistance schemes, face precarious futures if they cannot operate, and generate the income vital for their survival this summer.
I have written to the Prime Minister and asked him to revisit the restrictions on canal boating, especially the rule about staying overnight on boats that are not your primary residence.
Removing this restriction would be a small change, but it would make a big difference to boaters.