Big rise in canal boat sinkings & rescues

Over one hundred sunk or grounded craft have been salvaged by RCR this year, nearly twice as many as last year.

Boats Fire at Barton Turns Marina

During just the first week in November teams raised four cruisers that caught fire in Barton Turns Marina, Burton-upon-Trent (above) 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.

They state that 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. River and Canal Rescue Managing Director Stephanie Horton thinks the increase is due to ‘more and more people taking to the water this year’.

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.

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 1 November 2015 to 1 November 2016, RCR attended 4331 callouts.

Thanks to River Canal Rescue for this report and images, more about RCR at

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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