Wednesday, 19 May 2010

An Easter 'Break'

A report from Dale Marshall from BW

I was the Duty Supervisor for the Easter week, covering the K&A and B&T canals.
Starting on Good Friday Morning, it was a reasonably quiet start, with just a few calls, which were from people requiring information.
By mid morning I had reports of flooding in the Crofton area, where it appears some boaters had inadvertently left a paddle raised. I contacted Simon Kirby, our duty water controller, who attended the site. He spent an hour or so running water to get the levels back to normal.
At approx 7.30pm, I had a call from a boater moored at Semington, reporting a badly damaged lock gate, and boat stuck in lock 16.
I sent the on call crew out to site, who reported back the problem was quite serious, and a quick repair was not possible.

I attended the site, where I organised the securing of the site, with the erection of fencing to keep the public out, and the closing of locks 15 & 16 to prevent boat traffic entering the area. We then removed the craft from the lock by carefully opening the offside gate. By this time it was pretty dark, and I suspended work until the morning.
I then spent two hours on the phone contacting hire boat companies, to alert them to the problem, and the subsequent closure of the lock.
Returning to site on the Saturday morning, measurements were taken of the broken anchor plate, and calls were made to the Caen Hill lock keepers, with a request to search our small stock of spares in the yard, in the hope of finding a suitable replacement. We were extremely fortunate to find one that would fit. This leaves us with just one spare original web style anchor plate for the whole of the K&A.
Due to the damage to the anchor plate, and the position of the gate, this was clearly not going to be a straight forward repair.
I began making plans for the repair. We would need permission of the land owner for access across his field, freshly planted with crops !
A crane, steel trackway, and potentially a dive team to assess damage to the pin, cup and cill.
Trying to contact people on an Easter weekend was problematic to say the least, and proved to be impossible in the land owner's case. I therefore decided to postpone the works until the following Tuesday.
This was communicated to the hire boat fleets and Freephone canal. Arrangements were made to help the fleets turn round at other locations, such as Seend, where we provided access down our trackway opposite the Barge Inn.
Next up was a call regarding the B&T canal, where a fence that surrounds a culvert, and siphon was stolen overnight, leaving us with a very unsafe exposed excavation. The B&T on call team were on the spot within the hour, and erected a temporary fence to secure the area.
On Easter Sunday the first call of the day, was for a loose craft floating down stream in the Greenham area, the East end crew were dispatched to moor the craft back to the bank.
The second call of the day was back to the B&T where a craft had rammed the floating landing stage in the docks, snapping the bolts that secure one of the finger platforms to main walkway. This meant the two craft moored to this section were almost set adrift, and listing with the platform. The B&T lads moved the effected craft to another part of the dock, and safely tied them up. The broken finger platform was temporarily secured, and plans made for a permanent repair later in the week.
Easter Monday brought about a quieter day, with the only call requiring our attendance was to broken paddle gearing at Hungerford Lock, which was preventing the lock from filling enough to allow the gates to open. The team repaired the gearing, and the craft were soon moving again.
Back to the day job on Tuesday and Wednesday, organising the repairs to Lock 16.

On Thursday night, I had a call from Wiltshire Fire Brigade. A Narrowboat was reported as on fire at Newtown swingbridge. I attended site to find the craft almost gutted, and the fire brigade still pouring on water. Luckily there were no persons on board. I asked if they could pump out some of the water at the same time as pouring it on, if it was safe for them to do so. The last thing I needed was a sunken craft to deal with !
I organised for the lads to fit some anti pollution booms across the canal, to stop the debris floating upstream towards Seend. Then had Semington Back pump turned off, as this would push the debris upstream. We then had a reasonably small containment area. The fire was largely out by 10.30pm, and we could leave the fire brigade to the damping down process. I endeavoured to contact the owners of the craft without success, and passed on the craft details to the enforcement team to follow up the following morning.
8am Friday morning the end of my 7 day duty period. Handed over the pager and began looking forward to a quieter weekend.
Dale Marshall

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