Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Mooring gazetteer needed

It amazes me how little up-to-date information there is on moorings around the canal network.

You would think that with the Pearsons, the Nicholsons, so many blogs, so many tweets, Canalplanner and now Web 2.0-enabled GPS mashups that something would have been developed.

However, on our recent trip down to Birmingham from Nottingham, we just didn't know ahead of time, what the situation would be like when we arrived at places. We couldn't see from maps and guides whether moorings were permitted for 48 hours, 24 hours or 14 days. Sometimes it just wasn't clear how secure they were, whether there was a cost (as there are at most private moorings). I felt we spent an inordinate amount of time reading and checking, and some days we cut our cruising short to be sure of getting a decent mooring.

Since then, I have seen so many posts in forums about safe moorings, especially in urban areas where choosing the right mooring can mean the difference between a good night's sleep and waking (or returning) to find your boat repainted by the local yoof.

When I first arrived in the city centre of Birmingham, I learnt that some visitor moorings were a lot safer than others, but also that some moorings have certain features or attributes that could be important.

At Hockley Port,for example, there are some 14 day visitor moorings but they are close to a house where the occupants have been known to get drunk and chuck rubbish and water-filled balloons at the boats. Also, these visitor moorings are so secure that you rely on residential moorers to get on and off the site because the access key is not a standard BW key.

Then at Walsall I saw visitor moorings on a map. These turn out to be great for overnight visitor moorings because they are on the offside with no land access. However, it would have been a shock if yo had been relying on these moorings to then go away overnight and return. It's a similar situation at the Star City moorings on the Saltley branch. Cuckoo Wharf, on the Aston flight, meanwhile has both CCTV cameras and residential boats so is fairly safe and secure. Merry Hill over at Brierly Hill has fenced pontoon 14 day visitor moorings, but you need to pick up a key during working hours from the Tourist Information Centre.

It got me thinking that there should be some form of XML for canal and river moorings which could be blogged, tweeted (therefore less than 140 characters needed) or otherwise stored and updated by waterways users.

You'd need a specific canal code. That sounds easy, but on some canals, such as the BCN, there are many branches, arms and lines which would need to be used as you can't for example, just identify a location as by "Lock 4" or "Bridge 23" of the BCN.

Lots of ideas spinning theough my head but I have this vision of some kind of code that would be unintelligible to the uninitiated but would be content-rich (I do hate that phrase) for boaters. Like #engmoor woc ryd e031a ov14 565r 25x 03756 45678 wt0 ns1 sh3 res0 tv0.
This would translate as being a mooring on the Wednesbury Old Canal, on the Ryders Green section, less than 500m east of Bridge 31, on the towpath side, an official 14 day visitor mooring, no security, unfenced, isolated, space for more than 25 boats, less than 250m from a pub and laundrette and indian takeaway (closed Mondays) but no supermarket, no water, quite quiet, shady but with no residential boaters and no CCTV coverage of the moorings; real ale within 500m. (The hashtag could be used to note English moorings)

Just random, rambling thoughts. It's the nerd in me. Shoot me.

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