Rescue figures ‘unprecedented’ says River Canal Rescue

RIVER Canal Rescue (RCR) reports the number of rescues it has undertaken this year have reached unprecedented levels. In the 12 months up to November 1, RCR attended 119 major and 31 minor incidents – nearly double the previous year’s figures.

Major is defined as submerged, partially sunken or grounded craft, plus salvage work; minor as situations which on attendance, can be resolved without the need for a full rescue team.

During the first week in November teams raised four cruisers that caught fire in Barton Turns Marina, Burton-upon-Trent, and while on the way to the job, recovered a house boat at Northwich on the River Weaver.

They also raised a sunken narrowboat in Weston Lock, near Bath, moved a grounded narrowboat from a non-navigable section near the River Trent’s Beeston Cut and refloated a partially sunk cruiser from the Kennet & Avon at Bradford-upon-Avon.

River Canal Rescue staff pump out a boat in Cadley Lock on the Kennet & Avon Canal earlier this year. PHOTO: BOB NAYLOR, WATERMARX MEDIA

Two of their highest risk and most challenging rescues were raising totally submerged narrowboats from Fobney and Stonebridge Locks in August. A weed hatch fault caused a narrowboat in Fobney (Kennet & Avon) to sink within minutes and at Stonebridge the boat bow got wedged on the lock gates.

Having devised risk management plans to overcome the accessibility, health & safety and underwater visibility issues, teams used high-pressure submersible pumps to remove water at record speed from the stricken craft. A key challenge was sealing the windows, exits and outlets as unless this is done, they will implode due to water pressure when the vessel is being pumped out.

The main reasons for rescues are; navigator error, boats getting caught on the lock cill, a failure to keep weed hatches secure/drain holes clear and not clearing the engine room of water. Other causes – which are manageable and so classed as minor- include; stern gland packing and weed hatch seal failure, domestic water systems emptying into the boat, shower pumps leaking and a hull breach.

Such is the demand for this service, RCR has taken on additional staff and uses a comprehensive list of contractors to ensure it can undertake rescues while having engineers free to help members requiring breakdown.  From November 1, 2015 to November 1, 2016, RCR attended 4331 callouts.

Managing director, Stephanie Horton, comments: “Increased television coverage of the UK’s inland waterway system coupled with the mild weather extending the boating season has resulted in more and more people taking to the water this year.

“This is fantastic for our community, but as we can see from the surge in figures – up from 65 major and 16 minor rescues in 2014/2015 – it puts additional pressure on us to keep the waterways clear. This we continue to achieve and I’m delighted to report that our record of never having lost a boat yet remains intact.”

Find out more about River Canal Rescue at or call  01785 785680.



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