This month, I’ve mostly been wrestling with my conscience. Don’t laugh... some journalists do have consciences.

This month, I?ve mostly been wrestling with my conscience. Don?t laugh… some journalists do have consciences. It?s to do with two things that will be occupying our minds over the next year or so ? mandatory registration and training for leisure-boat users and the abolition of cheap diesel.

At the end of last year the three General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) published their Marine Navigation Plan. Most of it was to do with the level of service (visual, radar, and radio aids to navigation) the GLAs expect to supply for the next decade. But they also called for mandatory registration for leisure craft and compulsory training for skippers.

We hear this kind of thing from time to time, but on this occasion it comes from an august and highly esteemed body. The GLAs are not a bunch of know-nothing reactionaries, they?re the people who look after the lights and nav-aids around our coast. So when they call for the licensing of craft and skippers, the law-makers might actually sit up and take notice.

The second thing is red diesel derogation, which is due to expire at the end of 2006. The RYA is already beginning to lobby for another extension so that we can continue to enjoy cheap fuel for our boats, and we?re all hoping they?re successful (see Wavelength p10).

But this is where my conscience begins to get in the way. It whispers to me things such as ?why should the wealthiest members of society get the cheapest fuel?? I answer with things like ?because they?re burning 45 gallons an hour at a fairly gentle cruising speed. Imagine how expensive that would be if they were paying forecourt prices for their fuel?.

Then there?s the training and registration issue. ?Why not?? asks my conscience. ?What can you possibly have against ensuring greater safety at sea?? I respond with the usual platitudes about deaths on the road and how licensing doesn?t stop idiots from being idiots. The fact is that expensive fuel and compulsory registration and licensing could have a disastrous effect on our boatbuilding industry. And while it?s hard to condone cheap fuel for millionaires, it?s also hard to justify putting thousands of people out of work just so the Treasury can make a few more quid (cue conscience: ?if they want more money they should put up more speed cameras?).

As I said, I?ve been wrestling with my conscience. As yet there is no clear winner. Which is just as well, because if my conscience had its way I?d probably be working on a sailing magazine, hugging trees, and wearing a crocheted muesli cardigan.