The canal network in the UK is a very important part of British history and heritage. If you are spending time aboard a canal boat, then it is important that you take steps to help to protect the canals for other users. Making environmentally-friendly choices will also help to maintain the beauty of the canals and the surrounding areas, as well as helping to protect the flora and fauna which can be found along the banks.
It is an offense to dispose of “black water” (raw sewage or human waste) into the canal. If you have a toilet on board your vessel, you must make sure that it is totally self-contained or that the waste is stored in a strong holding tank. This waste can then be disposed of at a waste disposal site or a sanitation station, which should be clearly marked on any route maps.
It is worth noting that boat owners may still be held responsible for accidental “black water” leaks. Regular waste tank maintenance checks can help to reduce the risk of accidental leaks. A composting toilet is another choice for those who want to live sustainably on their canal boat.
Eco-friendly Cleaning Products
In Britain, most canal boats expel their “grey water” directly into the canal. Grey water is normally classified as water from the sink, shower or wash basin, and must not include any sewage products. Although a small amount of grey water should not cause a negative environmental footprint, it can start to cause problems if the water is full of chemical cleaning products. Cleaning products which contain phosphates can encourage the growth of thick layers of algae. The algae can deplete the oxygen levels in the canal and may also reduce light levels below the surface. The water may become uninhabitable for many species of water dwelling creature. It may also affect the plant life in the canal. It is now possible to buy cleaning products which are free from phosphates. Although these products do tend to be more expensive than standard cleaning products, they will help to ensure that your canal remains a pleasant place to visit and live.
Home-made soap and other natural cleaning products are another environmentally friendly option. For example, a mixture of cider vinegar and a small amount of bicarbonate of soda is great for shifting stubborn marks.
It is possible to buy clothes airers which are specifically designed to be used on a canal boat roof. These airers help to make the most of the space that is available and are a great way to dry clothes on a warm or windy day. Drying clothes within the boat can raise internal humidity levels which may encourage damp, mould and condensation.
Solar Power Options
Consider investing in solar power cells for the roof of your boat. If you are moored somewhere that gets a lot of sun on it during the day, then solar cells can help to reduce your reliance on shore power.
Having an alternative power generation method such as solar also means that you will have more options about where you are able to moor at the end of your journey. Good solar cells will store energy up so that it can be used even when the sun is not shining. This means that you will be able to moor in an area where shore power is not available.
Watch Your Speed
You should always obey the speed limit when you are cruising in your canal boat. Speeding can scare wildlife and will create a larger bow wave coming off of your boat. A large bow wave can cause damage to the banks of the canal and it is likely to disturb nesting water birds. An adult bird can lose a whole nest of eggs to an unexpected wave from a passing boat. Boats which are travelling too quickly are also likely to create more noise. Noise pollution from boats can frighten the wildlife that lives on or near to the canal.
Where to Moor
In general, it is best to moor up at a designated mooring point using the mooring bollards which are provided. In some circumstances, this may not be possible; however you must ensure that you choose your mooring site carefully. Do not moor up in any areas where mooring is strictly forbidden. Avoid private moorings unless you have the permission of the landowner.
If you need to moor using mooring pegs, be sure to test the ground carefully before hammering the pegs in. Check to make sure that there are no nests or burrows close to the area that you are inserting the pegs. Do not hammer in the pegs too close to the edge of the riverbank, because this could cause sections of the bank to collapse into the water.
Feeding the Ducks
You should not throw food into the canal to feed the ducks or other water birds. Human food, including white bread, can be very bad for birds, because their digestive systems have not evolved to eat the same foods as people. Bread and fatty foods can cause premature death in water birds, as well as causing a range of other health complications. These birds have also started to become reliant on humans. If you must feed the water birds, you should only give them special birdseed mixture and exercise portion control.