August 5th, 2010

I like Birmingham, for reasons I can’t really explain. I think it’s partly the fact that it’s such a nice place to moor, coupled with the lively and pedestrian-friendly shopping centre and the fact that the accent always makes me smile. This morning I went to the laundrette, a normal chore whenever I have a day in a city. When did you last see a new laundrette? So far, every one I’ve been in has had an early-sixties feel, like the one in Cambridge, and the air is thick with the sweat of assets. Pablo’s Laundrette (5 minutes from the canal, map here), is however new and shiny and open until 8pm. The manageress was friendly too, which is always a bonus.
In my other tasks for today, I went round to Sherborne Wharf, to talk about Manchester Ship Canal certificates. Going on the Ship Canal requires a modicum of preparatory bureaucracy, which I suspect is designed by the Ship Canal Company to deter the casual boater. For the benefit of other boaters, here’s what you need to do:

– call the Ship Canal company. You need to speak to the harbourmaster’s office. Pleasure craft applications are currently dealt with by Colin Chambers ( or 0151 327 1461), who’s very helpful. He will send you a “fact pack” in the post, which consists of: two application forms, a copy of the Navigation Bye-Laws, a list of approved surveyors and the Transit Notes – a diagrammatic map of the canal.
– you fill in the top part of the application form, and enclose a copy of your third-party insurance certificate (you must have £3m cover, mine has this as standard)
– you find a suitable person to complete the bottom part of the form, the “Certificate of Seaworthiness”. This needs to be a marine surveyor who’s approved by the Company, or a boat-builder who’s a member of the British Marine Federation. If you’re outside the north-west, a BMF member is your best bet.
– to qualify as seaworthy, your boat must have: “an adequate anchor and cable”, two warps (ropes) at least 50 feet long, two fire extinguishers (you need these for Boat Safety Certificate anyway), “sufficient life saving apparatus” (in my case a lifejacket per crewmember and a lifebuoy), an Admiralty chart (number 3478 – should cost about £22) and a “current tidal almanac”. This list is defined in law, being the Third Schedule to the Manchester Ship Canal Act 1960. Quite what the point of the tidal almanac is I’m not sure, since the canal itself isn’t tidal, though I suppose it’s reasonable to assume that anyone making the passage into the tidal Mersey estuary would need to know the state of the tide.
– having got your surveyor to make the inspection and sign the form, you send everything off to the Ship Canal Company at least 48 hours in advance, along with the transit fee, which depends on the journey you’re making. For the Weaver-Manchester segment this is about £125.

Anyway, Sherborne Wharf have agreed to do my certificate tomorrow, and my Admiralty chart is on order and should arrive tomorrow morning (fingers crossed!)…

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