When news of the global pandemic first surfaced, I had no idea how it might impact on the waterways and how we support our clients.
Would extra restrictions mean people prefer to stay at home and wait until things were easier, or would they still try to escape? Would it become harder to live afloat – with new stoppages stranding clients in obscure places, or easier – due to workers having more time at home to tend the fire and sort supplies? How might it affect our maintenance and upgrading plans?
Would people be able to get the healthcare they need? After all, one survey recently found that long term continuous cruisers were an average of 47km away from their local GPs! It’s worth knowing that since 2015 GP practices and the NHS have been freely available to boaters, even without an address.
There have of course been challenges. This has all lasted longer than any of us imagined. The canals are a dynamic and creative space; creative industries have been hit hard.
But, surprisingly, we’ve had one of the busiest years in our 14 years of operation. From clients who’ve joined us slightly earlier than they planned – sneaking in before the borders closed, to those who have chosen to stay aboard even longer than they’d thought. Thankfully, many people still able to enjoy the waterways and fulfil their long harboured ‘liveaboard’ dreams.
We’ve just added another narrowboat, sweet pea – the 4th major development to our fleet in the last 12 months and the 26th boat since we began almost 15 years ago. The team has grown to help meet the growing demand and we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to plan adventures and escapes well into 2023.
If you’re thinking about living afloat or exploring Britain’s huge canal network over a number of months, why not explore our boats or get in touch. The waterways have plenty of unexpected surprises to discover.
We’ve still been allowed to do “essential” boaty things – unlike some of the stricter lockdowns seen elsewhere in the world. The canal and river trust have done a fantastic job of keeping the core essentials open. Pre-planning our maintenance schedules has helped. We’ve been able to not only look after the clients on our boats, but improve our service and our fleet.
I suppose it makes sense. For all the challenges, covid has caused many of us to reflect on what is important: To appreciate nature and a slower pace of life. The waterways provide that. They are a place of peace and tranquility. There’s plenty of scientific research to show that being near to water reduces stress and slows our heart rate.
Why wouldn’t you want to live on a narrow boat?