It is a great insight into the lives of those of us that not only live on-board, but live on the canal system and have to keep on the move (different to those with permanent moorings and a very different life to those who live in marinas with readily accessible facilities).
The challenges of adhering to movement rules are touched on too, which in my experience, often make little sense unless applied to busy areas and are remarkably unclear (I have heard so many different responses from both officials and boaters when I pose the simple question, how far have you got to move then? , it becomes quite comical and with so much at stake, must be made transparent, clear and accessible)
The penalties as we can see can be the worst imaginable and in my experience there are major issues with consistency i.e it could be a breeding ground for discrimination if said boater doesn't fit the model of a certain class of boater.
There is certainly a feeling amongst many 'continuous cruisers' as we are often called or 'itinerant boaters' that the movement is toward a canal system that is exclusively or at least primarily, for the leisure industry, or wealthy hobbyist. I would like to say that I hope these fears will diminish with the relatively new body (Canal River Trust) at the helm. But the DNA of the CRT is a profit making organization that can be less accountable than the nationalized British waterways that it replaced.
I'm afraid the story of Maggie covered by a current 38 degrees campaign is not a good precursor:
Maggie* won't have had much of a Christmas. She has been living rough since she was brutally evicted and her boat and all her possessions seized by the Canal & River Trust in late November 2013. Her home was towed away by a team of 20 bailiffs, Canal & River Trust officials and police. She was left standing on the towpath with only the clothes she stood up in. Maggie suffers from schizophrenia. She hasn't been seen for weeks; friends, family and even the Police are concerned for her safety. They fear that the frightening nature of the eviction has affected her already fragile mental state.
But as we will see boating life can be full of wonder too, attracting many 'creatives' musicians, artists, writers and those that are 'done' with the city or simply can't afford it, but especially full of wonder too, for those children that are raised on the waterways, immersed in nature and close witness to the changing seasons. The documentary has some great pop up soundbites e.g. the average boater uses 75% less energy than the average house dweller, and it also challenges a few common myths about who the itinerant boaters are, not that that really matters. I kind of accept the label 'river pikey' in conversation, but my understanding of the term is less derogatory than the way I understand it can be used, it doesn't really reflect who boaters are, as with my family that lived and worked on the boats, if it has any connotations about ones work ethic, it is misplaced.
A nice quote from a blacksmith who runs a business on the canal summarises things nicely:
" Liveaboard boaters are an asset, this community is an example to all really, of what a community can be, it can be sustainable, environmentally friendly, and very supportive of each other"