By the time this issue hits the shelves there is a strong chance that the future of Red Diesel for leisure boat owners will have already been decided....

By the time this issue hits the shelves there is a strong chance that the future of Red Diesel for leisure boat owners will have already been decided. As I write this Customs & Excise officials are busy briefing the minister in charge, John Healey, on the issues at stake. Once they have had their say, the British Marine Federation and the RYA will get one more chance to make the case on our behalf. Only then will John Healey make his fateful decision. The first we are likely to hear of it will be in the pre-budget statement due at the beginning of December.

Rumours of which way it is likely to go are as rife as bird shit on boat covers. Predictably it is the doom-mongers who are making the most noise. One reader rang me to say that he’d heard from a friend of a friend in the Customs department that the paperwork had already been drawn up allowing charter operators to claim back the duty on the heavily taxed black diesel. Others reckon that the rapid increase of red diesel prices over the past six months is a deliberate ploy to reduce the impact of a sudden leap in prices come January 1, 2007.

The BMF’s executive director, Howard Pridding, is adamant that neither of these is true and that the decision has not yet been made. If that’s the case then it is the ideal chance for both the BMF and the RYA to prove that they really can make a difference. All too often we hear from readers how divorced these institutions seem from the day-to-day issues that affect the lives of ordinary motor boat owners. If they can help prevent the price of diesel more than doubling overnight, we doubt anyone will ever have a bad word to say about them again. It could just be the best present we’ll get this Christmas. However, on the off-chance that things don’t go our way we like to think this month’s batch of stories might alleviate some of the pain. From practical advice on how to keep your boat in commission over the winter to cruising the West Country, the Top 10 navigation horrors, and a Christmas gift guide to wave in front of your relatives. Oh yes, and I got to drive a Class 1 powerboat. Guess I don’t deserve any more presents after that.