31 May 2018

A new tug!

by Dave Irving

We had another good day today with our new tug Margaret.

The new rudder bearing arrived (thank you Ken & WD) and was installed. After a little struggle, the rudder settled nicely into its new home and will hopefully be happy there for some time.
The new battery arrived and was installed. The isolators were switched, the instrument panel turned on, the starter switch pushed, and ... the engine started first time! Here's a picture of part of the engine, although it's difficult to tell if it's running (Ed - can we do movies on the blog? - Yes, there are some posted already, but not too long please.)
The engine itself runs well, but there was vibration at low revs.  This was traced to a broken bracket which is part of the hydraulic pump mountings.  We'll need to address this before she goes properly into service - we have a few ideas already.

With the engine warm, pumping out the old oil was quickly done, the filter removed and a new one fitted, and she was filled with new oil. We'll be fitting a new air and fuel filters in the near future, too – our thanks to Rollo Power Solutions of Bristol for their support with these items.

30 May 2018

Pat's Progress

With a week between working parties and a considerable dosage of rain in the meantime, it was not surprising that there was a significant volume of water in the bilges.  So, it made perfect sense to check out the function of one of the new bilge pumps. - Impressive it was too.
With a predictable urge by the team to find inside jobs, we progressed the inside of the facilities cabin with the preparation for and the application of white paint around the walls and ceiling.  In the engine room work continued on the wiring of the solar cell control box and the conduit feed up onto the roof.

We had intended to apply paint to the outside of Pat, but it was either raining or just too damp and soggy to apply paint outside.  Fortunately, there remained plenty of work to continue with.  The floor decking required descaling and derusting but, most importantly, with the arrival of JCB paint, at last, the first application of yellow to the spud leg metalwork.
Each section was presented in a complete state with its new bushes pressed in place.  Each of those was first checked for fit with the pins, a few required reaming just to ease the fit.
The rudder assembly was also assembled in place to check alignments and to see just how much slack there was in the bottom bearing.  The degree of wobble is a bit too much and we will have to attend to the bushes otherwise the packed bearing up above might suffer vibration damage.

Finally, at the end of the day, work had to be halted to go and attend to an urgent traffic management requirement.  It is pleasing to report that there were no casualties or minor bumps!  I expect the family make this journey at least twice a day.
SDC Tuesday Volunteers

by: Ian Moody

Yesterday we were back at Bowbridge continuing the ramp.
More edge boards went in, the gate latch was fitted and yet more earth was moved.  If anyone is in need of hardcore, random lumps of concrete and/or general building rubble we seem to have a infinite supply.
And finally you’ll be pleased to hear that last week’s unfortunate case of the watery screwdriver has now been closed thanks to the magic of magnetism and a bit of string.

26 May 2018

Subject: Goughs Orchard with a hint of Ham Mill

by: Andy P.

Monday at Goughs was to fit a partially underwater man hole chamber and lid for the main shut off valve which feeds from the mill pond to the canal.  Much fine cutting and testing up to Bobs armpits and we had a working system.  Good to see the flag pole is still intact.

A quick look at Ham Mill to see lots of weeds but not much other progress. However we did have a rescue on our hands.  Sparing no time myself and Bob climbed down into the top part of the lock, where the above ankle water made quick progress into the below ankle safety boots.

7 very small ducks had fallen over the stop planks and mother was not happy. The keystone cops chased the little uns around and around and up and down and in and out of the overflows and under and out of the gates. For a few days old they can move.  One by one we caught 5 of the 7 and gave them their first flying lesson into the lock below where mother greeted then and swam off. 

Pulling all the weeds up located no. 6 and off it went paddling like mad to catch up. No.7 appeared under the gates and after a good run around was soon in hand to be taken the rest, which by now were near the bridge.

No.6, now on its own, was helped along by another female who flew in to the rescue and led the ducking towards the rest.  After a while this female flew off and landed where the others were gathered.  Slowly over the next 15 mins, they all swam back and eventually found No.6 sulking in the reeds. Much hugging and cheering ensued from the gathered crowd.  Ahhhh.
On Wednesday we moved lots of stones with the digger, made the shuttering for the 5t concrete and cut back all the shrubbery from the side of the road to help with car parking.  Concrete arrived and started to fill the hole, until the shuttering became a curve then several sided as it slowly split.  Oh dear. Dumped the other half on the road and hand shovelled it into place carefully. Nice job in the end.

Samson makes way for day-trippers

by: David M

The Landing Stages team has moved Samson up through Chestnut Lane swing bridge (a good part by man-hauling) and is now cutting back the bank by the towpath west of Lodgemore Bridge ready for the next landing stage.  We were able to avoid using a mini-digger which would have meant closing the towpath, using only spades and the clamshell grab on our hiab crane to take away the soil.  It is surprising what a clean flat cut can be made with a blunt instrument, thanks to the skills of crane drivers Chris and Maurice.

We were rudely interrupted by a skiff (aka workboat Jasper) puttering up the canal, and were happy to haul back to a spot just wide enough for narrowboats to get through.

As the bank is so steep at this landing stage site, we have prepared steel plates to be pushed in behind the open box beam piles to support the bank and the towpath.  Piling should start next week, and frames and surface topping are ready at Brimscombe Port to complete the job.

25 May 2018

Tug Team - Thursday

by: Myron

Jasper, one of the new work punts was received by the Tug Team today. It was to have been launched at Bowbridge but the lorry transporting it was too large to get to the place we thought we could launch it, and where it is actually needed. This was a bit disappointing all round, but after considerable deliberation, the landing stage next to Chestnut Lane bridge offered an alternative.

Once in the water, Buffer gave us a thorough briefing on some of its features, particularly the outboard and the very snazzy cover that has been provided with it. With a cheery wave he left us to it.

Then David Pashby set off for Wallbridge, only to come to a halt about a few minutes later, presented with Samson blocking the cut, with the Landing Stage crew working at Lodgemoor bridge. An earnest discussion between the two parties decided that it was nearly lunch time, so they would move Samson to a wider bit of canal for us. Mike Hewett wanted to find a place where the trip boat could pass, and we could be a guide. Two or three attempts were taken before we managed to squeeze through between the bank and the barge.

Going up Lower Wallbridge lock was fun, I must say the gates and the gear all operate very sweetly, at least David said so, he did all the work. Here we met the SDC crew, working on clearing the surrounding site, and took a moment to reflect on how different it all was compared to about a year ago. I remember when it looked like the problems around this lock looked insurmountable. Then it was up through Upper Wallbridge, and put it to bed next to the Lock Keepers Café.

I was pleasantly surprised how the boat handled for a flat bottomed punt, but did swear a lot at the outboard, but that is what they are for isn’t it.  It is a simple craft, but well designed and sturdily built. I reckon that Jasper and its stable mate, Stuart, will prove to be very valuable and versatile craft.

24 May 2018

Dredging this week, 22nd to 24th and what we are digging up!

by: Andrew Rendell

Thanks to the following for working on dredging this week:- John, Alex, Sue, Steve, Les, Andy, (who has been assessed and will be another operator with WRG authorisation for the Dredger), Frank, Paul and Nick.

Never surprised with what we have to deal with.
As many are aware the canals are great collectors of everyone's items. This week though a tree surgeon or enthusiast has been very careful in years gone by and laid all the sawn off Limbs into the offside of the canal. We have spent hours pulling, digging out well rotted timber up to 12 foot long, which means all the silt goes back into the canal as the clam bucket can't close. Also really old railway sleepers.
But annoyingly many large unwanted items!

Dredger deputy now on his long holiday on the canals of England so we were so fortunate that a little helper came to our attention walking over the silt towards the Dredger. It's gnome that he is a good operator so are not short handed, the only difference he doesn't talk much!
We are very close to finishing the dredging at Bowbridge Locks. The will be returning to Griffin Mill bund to remove a massive silt bund in a form of 'conveyer belt' style in early June.-
Weedy keeps on moving and now moored below a lovely buttercup field. Still not working but hopefully will be in a couple of weeks. She apparently is off west again.
One thing the dry dredging team has been grateful for is the dustbin Andrew has drilled with many holes to place in the hopper to act as a secondary filter unit to the 2 inch pump. Although we try to keep water out of the hopper it's a toss between water in or time trying not to. Jim is a hands on volunteer who is very helpful crew member  steadily getting training completed on Dredger no 5 and Annette2. The video shows the pump in use.
Some new and very useful equipment is the strop sleeves in bright yellow that stop wear and tear. Also highlights raised trip points.
We are very grateful to Les, Andy, Frank and Paul working as hard as possible to catch up with the Dry Dredging after equipment failure holding up the hopper unloading to bank.

Next week (29th to 31st May) John S. hopefully Steve C are keeping the Dredger operating with a few crew but as both many Wet and Dry team members are on holiday we hoping some volunteers sign up on "Augustus Gloop 2018" roster to support them as crew and hopper movement volunteers.

Many thanks, Andrew
(Wet Dredger Manager)
BAT Squad rescue Flea

You may remember that the Boat Acquisition Team recently assessed the possible recovery of dredger Penelope.  Well, today, we were off to Stoke on Trent, Etruria basin, on the junction of the Caldon and Trent & Mersey Canals to meet a representative of a crane company which is tasked with removing the sunken work boat Flea onto a trailer, for delivery to Saul Junction.

The boat has been at rest on the canal bed for too many years, it has a small leak - somewhere.  Our task was to assess what was necessary to firstly, float it and then where to move it to for the crane lift.
The original plan was to drag it around to the Black Prince Depot nearby, to use their slipway.  It is a fair distance with a number of navigational difficulties and risks.  Having visited the location of the boat, it was immediately clear that the large empty car park along side the old folks home, where it adorns their back garden, was the obvious lift point. This belongs to an industrial museum which is only open on certain days and just a short trip round the corner from where it rests.
We believe that the leak is slow, so pumping the water out at a rate faster than the leak should achieve flotation.  A list of items and actions was formulated on the return journey.  The time has yet to be set for the lift.  It will require a cradle as there are no lifting points on the hull.  Detail arrangements can now be made.

23 May 2018

SDC Tuesday Gang

by: Ian Moody

Tuesday, and the Bowbridge ramp project continued with the focus on edge boards and the access from the road.  The kerb stones are out and replaced with a gentle concrete "on ramp" and the first few edge boards are in but not yet fixed. 
Further along the site we started levelling the ground - hard digging due to the amount of building rubble.
As part of this project we are also upgrading the tow path between the ramp and the bridge. Sometimes digging edge boards in is relatively easy and straightforward and sometimes it's a real challenge. This was definitely the latter. The tow path team had to contend with tree roots, stones, concrete, a gas pipe and a narrowing path.
It took considerable effort and some lateral thinking but the end result is excellent. Nice one folks.

Pat's Progress

We completed the cold water system connections today and following the insertion of some water into the new tank, we had water out of the taps and I'm told, the drain.  It was very pleasing that there were no leaks from any of the plumbing joints.

The key activity of stripping off the old cabin paint continued to the point where all surfaces were prepared ready for red oxide.  This is a horrid filthy job and we're only to glad it is over.  This gave us the opportunity to clean out the bilges which still contained some dust from the shot blasting process last week and wash all the other exterior surfaces.
The front cabin bilge received a coat of red oxide.  Access is most uncomfortable and the area underneath the bundles of hydraulic hoses is inaccessible to a roller.  Rain is forecast, so we wanted all bilges to be protected.  Later in the day, all bare metal was treated with red oxide and SVCC purple applied to the roof and the starboard side of the main cabin. Inside the welfare cabin, the new wall panels were given a couple of coats of white paint.
The lads in the machine shop have been busy with the manufacture of pins and bushes which has almost concluded.  The pins are ready, just the bushes remain, they are all a standard size, apart from the non standard ones!  Extraction of one such bush, which is worn, has permitted copies to be made and they are now inserted in the boats spud leg stauntions.  The rudder flange was also welded onto the rudder shaft.
 A very satisfactory days progress, we're getting close to refitting the spud leg mechanisms.
A new tug!

by: Dave Irving

Our new tug Margaret is looking happier 😊. She now has an SVCC purple cabin, and red decks.  Many thanks to the volunteers who laboured over the last couple of weeks to achieve this new look!  Inside the cabin, the woodwork has been rubbed down and is ready for a coat (or two) of Sadolin to protect it and make it look more cared for.
There's still more to do, of course – we want to add an extra coat to both cabin and deck, and to highlight some deck fittings in white before we can say she's finished. There is also still a fair list of other jobs to do including installation of the new rudder bearing, an engine service and getting the hull grit-blasted and 2-pack blacked.

More pictures to follow, as we progress.

22 May 2018

SDC Monday - Network Rail Gang

by: Ian Moody

Yesterday at Bowbridge we welcomed a team from Network Rail in Swindon and they wasted no time in getting stuck into the list of tasks.  The old fence was removed and stacked for disposal.  Whoever installed that fence had a somewhat random approach to concreting in the posts. Some posts had no concrete at all whilst the one at the end had so much that I suspect it was a case of using up the rest of the mix. 

With the old fence out of the way the final section of the new post and rail fence was completed. 

Meanwhile, just along the tow path, the rest of the team were shoring up the sides of the path with hessian bags filled with a dry concrete mix. This is necessary to provide support for the edge boards we will be installing. 

Thank you Network Rail - a good day. If only I had thought to get a team photo. Oh wait... I did!

21 May 2018

Newtown Lock repairs & chair!

by: Frank Laurenson

A busy day at Newtown Lock today, following on from last week's work.
Ray and Will from the chippies shop at WD led the way in completing the refit of the walkways on the  four lock gates. Not the easiest of tasks with life jackets on, working flat on bellies and feeling for nuts and bolts under the boards. but everything went well with the lock maintenance crew helping and plenty of sunshine.  
At the same time Derek joined the work team with his chain saw from the logging team to chainsaw a seat from the stump of a felled willow.  It was in use even before we left site, and should prove popular with walkers for a rest stop.

(Tranquillity at Blunder Lock this morning Ed.)