Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Good Days Work

by: Myron

Wednesday, the Boat Team was out in force again.  The day started well with a fly past by four swans, parents teaching their young to fly I think. So, the five of us got the two tugs ready and motored up to the confluence weir, where we readied Samson for a day of dredging. Once we had her in position being held by Goliath, we started up the crane, and as we pulled up the first bucket, a serious oil leak was apparent. Fortunately it turned out to be only a loose union and all was well once we had tightened it. Work then commenced in earnest.

Then a couple of us took Margaret down to Ryeford to shift some hoppers. Collectively, the Boat Team is still quite inexperienced when it comes to moving hoppers for real, but we get there in the end, and I’m sure we will get much better at it after several months of action. One thing there is always a lot of help when we go down to Ryeford.

Once we had the mud hoppers where they were needed we went back to Ebley.  I could hear the engine for the hydraulic pump engine clattering away so all seemed well there. The next job was to do the final adjustments and checks on Weedie. I dropped a couple of crew there and took Margaret up to Samson to join in the fun there. Incidentally, the guys and gals working on the ballast for Patricia seemed pretty positive with the way things were going. Weedie went out for a trial run and all was found to be satisfactory.

About another couple of hours dredging saw us finish the section around the confluence weir, and with that we finished our months loan of Samson We could have done more, could have done less. It was a great exercise, strengthened some friendships, weakened others unfortunately; learned a lot. A massive thanks to all the Boat Team who rallied to the cause, I hope you had fun. Also massive thanks to Alan and his team for letting us use Samson and to Peter for seeing the benefits of the exercise and giving us the go ahead. It has been well worth it. We no longer have to climb the Himalayas at the confluence weir, under Hilly Orchard bridge and around Oil Mills bridge as well. We have made a good stretch of our canal much more navigable and significantly safer.

What now for Samson. We are due to start moving it up to Bowbridge for the Piling Gang to use on their next landing stage, but you’ll probably have heard that Dudbridge Lower lock is in a sorry state and passage through is currently uncertain. Anybody got an ideas what we might do with a great big barge with a crane on it?

Pat's Progressed

Heavy metal day had arrived - in a large lorry which reversed into the yard for a manual unloading process.  Hand balling the lumps of metal direct from the load deck into our CCT vehicles saved double handling. We had some 2.5Tonnes to shift.
With Patricia, our first job was to lift the deck plates and commence the removal of our existing ballast metal. The old material was taken away to the transport and was swapped for the new metal which was in 13.46kg rectangular lumps which could be densely packed in the bilges, so keeping the centre of gravity as low as possible.
It took all morning to complete the procedure.  Soon it was time to check the trim before too much load was added.  This was a case of fine adjustment of the trim.  Pat's legs were lifted so that she floated.  We aimed for a level trim port-starboard and a slightly heavy stern.  
In all we added 1.4Tonnes of metal, replacing a bit over 700kg of less densely packed rail and iron lumps.

The transformation of the buoyancy behaviour was quite remarkable.  Particularly noticeable when stepping onto the boat.  The displacement of the trim was far less than before, suggesting a much lower centre of gravity due both to the effectively lower load and the increased weight.
Our next job is to repeat the stability measurements that Jim conducted before so that the actual improvement can be quantified and recorded.  We're pretty confident that she'll get the all-go to start dredging trials very soon.   A great day for the team. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Dredging Tuesday at Ryeford

by: Andrew Rendell

Found hidden from view but always heard a trickle of water above Ryeford Lock.

Today as fog lifted off the commons around Stroud the Dredging team started a training day for a new Dredging trainee. 
First a Trainee Safety briefing, then daily routines before any dredging. Full greasing of 26 grease nipples, then clean the decks.
First main task was to pump out water from both hoppers.  Team of four working well together to ensure efficient and safe pumping.  Cup of tea and discussion about rest of dredging tasks for the day. 

After the last few dredging sessions by different teams the Ryeford pound at the locks was full width and opposite the landing stages was clear of reeds and some brambles.
The new trainee was put straight to work with the basic task of hauling a hopper, he fully understood the method of using low energy to haul a hopper.

Bob as lead for the day, trainee Peter watching with enthusiasm as new trainee by his side wearing the safety lanyard and Tim at the stern of Annette2 controlling direction and positions with outboard.  We started to hunt offside for a water outlet from the land drainage pipe.  Firstly removing more read base around the area with coordinated guidance from me on radio spotted the appearance of concrete and a rickety fence Bob gradually removed some major brambles using many bucket operations to reveal !!

The next photo shows there is a concrete shelf over a metre from the outlet edge where bucket is sitting, note 6 inches below surface which will cause damage to passing vessels.
We continued east along edge of canal 3 metres and discovering another concrete outlet but worse still jutting out another metre into the canals width with a shallow, long cobbled shelf jutting into the canal.  This is a more major obstruction of the canal.

We have left soil for present around this but should canal edge behind this outlet.  There will be a need in short term some signage and markers to ensure vessels don't damage their hulls and propellers.

More healing of hoppers to reposition and leave one ready for Dry Dredging team tomorrow. 

Whilst doing this Perseverance passed by with trainee/s on, practised in the locks and returned later in the day and gratefully thanking the Wet and dry dredging teams for such good work.

I think Wookie could now produce finishing touches in the removal of the rampant bramble and general weed control around this area to stop the outlets disappearing again and make a lovely approach to the locks as well as allow future maintenance.

Trainee Peter had a go at operating the Dredger doing the difficult task of cutting the bank at the correct angle and reed removal and clearly enjoyed the day.  A very good session, could get through training fairly quickly although still lots of skills and knowledge to learn.

As Dredger Manager I was pleased with the approach of all members today and what a way for a trainee to start with lots of technical advice and some practical experience. 

WARNING TO EVERYONE WHO USES A VESSEL JUST EAST OF RYEFORD LOCK. Keep centre or tow path side where these outlets are.

Andrew Rendell (Wet Dredger Manager)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Pat's Progressed

Not a huge amount to report, but we've been active doing various small jobs when time permits.

Shortly, Patricia will receive a boat safety inspection and for that we need to have certain key items in place.  Smoke and CO detectors have been in stock for a while, so now was the time to get them mounted in the facilities cabin and the engine room.
A general tidy-up of 'stuff' has cleared the seating area.  We still need to mount various hooks to support clothing, life jackets and other PPE.  Further work on the bilge pumps has revealed one temperamental unit.  There was a good dose of water in the bilges after the precipitation of the past few days.

The engine cranking and starting has been a tad sluggish in the recent past.  A visit to and inspection of the battery compartment produced connection contact surfaces that were nowhere near as bright as they should have been, so all were cleaned and then protected with grease.  A test start  in the afternoon sounded far more convincing than the morning event.
On Wednesday, we will be receiving the new ballast, all shiny 2.5 Tonnes of it, so a serious heavy metal session beckons.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Beating A Path To The Door

by: Ian Moody

Yesterday saw the Thursday SDC group engaged in a clearance job at Brimscombe Port. The objective was to clear a vehicle path to the mysterious, and possibly haunted, Unit 5.  Between us and the unit lay a whole host of stone, earth, chippings, weeds, wood and random other stuff.  The digger certainly earned its keep and a large fire took care of the wood.
The end result was a neat track through to the unit and a badly focused pic (sorry...)

And finally we have a rare photograph of the Brimscombe Port Correctional Facility for Naughty Volunteers. We’re hoping to rehabilitate them and, ultimately, integrate them back into society.  We start by training them to wave their hands in the air for the camera.  As you can see, one of them shows a small amount of promise but the other three need quite a bit more work.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A step up for the Cotswold Canals

by: Myron

Some time mid afternoon a thought occurred to me.

It was towards the later part of a really great day, we have a lot of those these days on the canal.

First thing we had first refuelled Goliath and Margaret, emptying Western Depots bowser in the process. Then the fleet proceeded down the cut.  Margaret was not well with a prop full of detritus so had to be towed by Goliath.  On the way we picked up Samson to do some spot dredging just East of Oil Mills bridge, a nasty little shallow, narrow that makes the tug feel like it is climbing the Himalayas.  That was a convoy of four boats in a row, Goliath, Margaret, Aquila and Samson, quite a sight.  Wookie was, I believe lurking around as well, no doubt doing some serious damage to the rampant bankside vegetation.  As well as this a crew from WD were fixing some electrical gear onto Samson.  We passed the dry and wet dredger teams and entered Ryeford locks to clear the props on Margaret and Goliath as well, seeing as we were there.  This is a process never to be taken lightly and took some time to do both vessels, but the team were marvellous, getting both boats grounded first time. 

Then the tugs were unleashed on the unsuspecting hoppers, above Ryeford locks, and soon shoved and shunted into place where they could be loaded /unloaded.

It was while returning to base enjoying a belated lunch while Nick drove Margaret that I had my thought. And that was how we have gone through a large step change in the last year or two. Back then we would trawl our single tug up and down the 4km navigable section and never actually meet anybody else except maybe Wookie.  Today there were 9 boats in the same pound and 5 different teams, 7 if you count the fact that the Boat Team was split into 3. It was all pretty harmonious and it was something to behold.

The Kindness of Visitors

by: bob Hallam

Having started work recently on the Ryeford to Oil Mills pound, the wet and dry teams joined forces again to to remove reeds preparatory to dredging silt. 

We regularly have to stop for passers by. 
Today was gloriously sunny, so even more folk were walking along the towpath.
Bob, in his normal cheerful way, chats with almost all who pass during his stint as banks-man. 

Today a lovely couple on holiday in the area (from Suffolk apparently) stopped to ask how the Ryeford staircase lock worked.  After the explanation, Bob's usual jocular comment, "Normally, passers by drop off gifts of cake to us chaps and chappesses when we've provided some information for them," was well received amid much comical reciprocal comment.
It was with great gratitude, humility and profuse thanks about an hour later, the couple reappeared walking to their hotel, they dropped off a gift of cakes!! 
This lovely and generous couple are, as far as we are concerned, now honorary ex-officio members of the dredging team! 

"May your bilges always be dry and your anchor always hold."