Time for a change at RBOA?

April 2017 - Allan Richards has been looking at the dysfunctional recent past of the Residential Boat Owners Association following its decision to abandon continuously cruising liveaboards with a range of less than 200 miles a year.

It was just over two years ago that I documented the resignation of Residential Boat Owners Association (RBOA) Chairman, Jim Owen. Mr Owen's 'crime' appeared to be asking RBOA members what they wanted from the organisation. This led to a falling out with long standing RBOA officials.

In early 2015, Bandsman Jim, as he is known on Facebook, communicated the following: “I would like to start the new year on a positive piece of action. I would like all of you to email me at my address at the back of Soundings (the RBOA magazine) with your opinion as to what are the most important things that are relevant to YOU!

“If you could place them in order of importance numbered (1) (2) (3), I will then collate your answers and be therefore be in a much better position to truly represent YOU in the year ahead. I am conscious of other organisations that do not truly represent their members. The RBOA (with your participation) will not be one of them”.

His request was rapidly followed by his resignation and accusations made against two RBOA officials via Facebook.

Beryl McDowall, RBOA General Secretary, was accused by the now ex-chairman of 'refusing to abide by the constitution'. Ms McDowell, a well known boater, was a member of the now defunct Central Shires Waterways Partnership and also owns moorings on the Soar.

Of David Milne, RBOA's Treasurer, Jim Owen stated that he 'refuses to respond to committee questions regarding his reports'.

He further added - 'I cannot continue any longer trying to convince these people that the RBOA is not there for their benefit. It is for the members!'

One must now ask if members were consulted before RBOA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with C&RT five years ago.

The MoU claims that RBOA exclusively represents all residential boaters including those without a home mooring.

This is, of course, blatantly untrue as NBTA also represents those without a home mooring. Worse still, having made the claim that it exclusively represents boaters without a home mooring, the MoU fails to mention them in its 'Working Together' or' Collaboration Projects' sections.

Bandsman Jim's rapid departure allowed the RBOA old guard to close ranks again. He was replaced by Alan Wildman (the previous chair) and Julia Jacs (the previous vice chair) as joint acting chairman. Perhaps, the only positive arising from this sorry saga was that it did allow a headline of 'Bandsman Jim falls out!'

Suggesting, as RBOA does, that those without a home mooring should travel two or three hundred miles a year is an argument that it has already lost. Back in 2015, C&RT invited boating organisations, excluding NBTA, to suggest a figure for distance travelled.

IWA and AWCC came up with figures of up to 500 miles. Neither organisation appears to have consulted its membership or considered the legal implications of these recommendations.

To its credit, NABO refused to give a figure. After all, there is no requirement in law to travel any particular distance and the navigation authority should not be looking to boating organisations to help it interpret the law.

Later, under pressure from boaters, C&RT gave some convoluted guidance which suggests that a much lower figure of 15-20 miles. As NABO has subsequently pointed out, by issuing restricted licences to boaters (not exceeding its 20-mile requirement) and then subsequently reinstating full licences it has effectively defined its own interpretation of the legal requirements.

With RBOA now openly repeating criticism of those it purports to represent, rather than defending and promoting them, one must see Jim Owen's very rapid departure as a missed opportunity for reform.

See also: RBOA abandons CC liveaboards doing less than 200 miles a year.

Photos: (1st) Bandsman Jim Owen - attempts to consult the members led to his departure, (2nd) RBOA chair Alan Wildman signing the Memorandum of Understanding with C&RT's Alan Evans.

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