31 October 2018

Pat Testing

Well, we've had Pat's Progress, during the renovation and upgrade stage.
Then, Pat's Progressed, following launch and during the commissioning stage.
Now, Pat Testing.  Which takes us through the sea trials and safe operating procedure development.

Yesterday, the CCt's fleet of craft were under the keen eye of the boat safety examiner who was on site around Ebley/Ryeford for most of the day.

Various issues were spotted, but suffice to say that Patricia scored as one of the best.  We are required to add some more insulation to the exhaust pipe circuit.  A pity, since the flexible coupling makes quite a good hand warmer!!   However, this we will do.

Before testing today, we had noticed a small spark, on Monday, from around the fuse panel that is bolted to the engine.  We've mentioned alternator problems in the past, so further investigations revealed a slightly slack stud supporting a large fuse.

This was then dismantled and cleaned, together with checks on all the other components.  Following the rebuild, the engine was started and behold, the battery voltage meter hit the green for the first time and the intermittent warning lights went out.  This is a very pleasing result as it has been niggling us for a while now.
Back to Pat Testing.  It is important that we fully understand the use of the spud legs.  As the JCB boom is swung from side to side and the load shifts with it, the feet tend to settle further into the canal bed/silt.  Nothing too dramatic happens, it is a gradual process.  Our plan is to evaluate this characteristic with the feet both in the straight position and at right angles, protruding outside the boat.

Time today was short and did not permit a full evaluation, so will probably continue next time.  It is interesting the odd things that you stumble across which can contribute to safe operation.  Although we've known before that the spud legs can be lowered when the hydraulic drive is not selected (used when loaded onto lorry at Western Depot) It is a handy way to establish where the canal bed is without forcing them down.  Just letting the legs naturally rest at the bottom is a very gentle way of preparing them for taking load and at the same time ensuring that you have actually made it to the bed.  So this will make its way into the manual.

The sun shone today.  The rest of the dredger team were busy just a bit further east.

29 October 2018

Pat's Progressed

Just to remind you... It was the 14th December, last year, that Patricia landed in the car park at Western Depot in a rather neglected and tired condition.  So, today, was a significant milestone in the restoration process.  If you have been following this Blog, you'll be only too aware of all the eventful trials and tribulations we have enjoyed/endured along the way.

Moving swiftly onto today.  It all started in a spookily familiar way with the installation of some coat hooks and a shelf under the sink/hob unit, together with some electrical tests on the alternator, but then shortly afterwards, the team were sat in the facilities cabin, firstly checking the tea brewing capability along with some fine home made cake (thanks Leonie) and then reviewing the test plan, operating procedure and risk assessments - all this with the firm ambition to set sail now that the safety case for stability has been satisfied and closed.  Ah! The joys of running hot water and a warm towel on the rad' to clean sticky fingers cannot be underestimated.
So we cast off. and headed due west towards the Dredging Team at Ryeford.  

With the engine room running on impulse power, we slowly acclimatised with the unfamiliar practice of steering from the front with the rudder at the back.    Turning the boat about at Ebley proved quite tricky, especially trying to locate a spot that was sufficiently wide enough to spin her around.  With a push and shove at the third attempt, she eventually yielded.

Steadily we closed in on the Dredger boys, all who seemed to be standing on various decks taking photo's for some reason!

After a late lunch, we drifted pass by their work site and downed anchor (well, put the legs down) along side Weft.  There then commenced a period of dredging whilst at the same time learning about the dynamics of how the boom functioned together with changes in the leg stability as the bottom of the canal, or the silt, supported the loads.  Checks around the engine room at close of play produced nothing of concern.  The hydraulic oil circuits were cool and the engine had not developed any rattles.  Early days, but we were all extremely pleased with the days events and outcome.  
Patricia will remain on site ready for further tests and evaluation prior to formally entering service.

It has to be said that the sight of two dredgers in action certainly impressed us and our Chairman of Trust who was visibly excited by it all!  Well done and thanks to all the team that has helped us achieve this major milestone. 

27 October 2018

The Great & The Good gather in Lechlade

….Describing our members & volunteers, of course.  Today was the CCT's 43rd a.g.m, which this year headed to the eastern end of our canals.  A great opportunity to mingle and meet members of Trust Council.

The usual format was followed, presentations by David Marshall on the 'Stroudwater Navigation Connected' partnership activities, then technical construction aspects of Phase 1B by Ken Burgin.  An interesting and informative event.

Oh! And thanks must also go to the member from down Bristol way that noted his appreciation of this Blog!  
Workboat Flea, coming along nicely.

 by: Ian Moody 

(Sporting new enclosure for the outboard  ed.)

25 October 2018

Fancy a Curry?

by: Ron K.

Posted on the Western Depot Notice Board - A charity event.

What a week!

by: Myron

Part 1. Prologue

The main task for the week was to get Samson up to Bowbridge.

A few chaps often take a tug out on a Sunday, good training and keeps the channel open.  This week I said it would be great to take Samson to Dudbridge Bridge, so we could get a good start on getting it through the locks on Monday. Just as and Austin Paul and as arrived they picked up a large object on Margaret’s prop, which turned out to be very big fishermen’s keep net.  They had to bow haul Margaret all the way back to base.  When I heard I decided to forget about it for the time being, Margaret had its job. The problem I had is that there were only three of for Monday, not enough.  A plaintive cry by email produced another three.  Six, enough just.

Part 2. An Amazing Crew

So, not major injury, serious illness, nor even a bereavement in the family deterred this crew from turning up on Monday morning.  I was humbled. I explained how we were to fill and empty Lower Dudbridge lock, and with a final shove from Goliath, we set about getting Samson into the lock.  That bit of dredging the Dredgers managed to do under the bridge seems to have brought results.  It was a very tight squeeze but after jiggling it in a very special way that was revealed to me by one of the Piling Gang, Samson slid into the lock without great effort.  Phew!  In fact without drama but with some effort, we got through both locks before we got stuck on the gas main. We gave it a go in the vain hope that some seismic shift had magically removed the obstruction.  No such luck.  There we wrapped up for the day, please that we had got further than we thought we would.  Great work Team, I was very proud.

Part 3. The Throng

Was it a rock concert, football match maybe.  No, it was the hoard of people that turned up to bow haul Samson on Tuesday morning.  I counted a total of 14 people.  Problem one was when we could not get the crane started.  Well I can tell you we didn’t need it.  With a lock or so of water from Wallbridge, Samson positively glided over the gas main.  It has never done that before, again a bit of dredging that was managed here seems to have made that job just a little easier.

Chestnut Lane Bridge did what it was supposed to do for the first time in my life, another hurdle.  Then the huff and puff at Lodgemore Bridge. It seemed no time before we were into new territory for Samson, the SEWER MAIN.  This was much more challenging than the piffling gas main, as the angles are all wrong to get a straight pull.  Half way over it got stuck.  Start the crane the cry went up. No! it will go over says Alan, and with one last mighty heave it did.  Well I’ll be...

The rest of the journey was not without excitement.  The crew had their eye in now.  The turns around Capel’s Mill were taken like a formula 1 car, well maybe not quite, but certainly with style.  And then we were there.  Eldorado, the source of the Nile, maybe, well Bowbridge anyway.  A glance at my watch showed it be just 12 o'clock. Is that some sort of bow hauling record.  As the Boat Team members left the Piling Gang, they were already getting stuck in digging the foundations out for the landing stage.  They will probably have it finished this week.  So long as they don’t ask me to drag it back down again for a good long while.

Part 4. Me time

We had 10 crew turn up on Wednesday and the first job was to get that obstruction off of Margaret’s prop', which meant a trip to Ryeford locks. Goliath towing Margaret is actually a very pleasant combination, with both boats seeming to steady each other, making for a very smooth transit.  I think they like each other. Weedie was out as well, for the first time in earnest since its repairs. 3 complete crews again, this is so becoming a habit.

Not so fast. The way forward is now strewn with dredgers, hoppers, Wookie Hole and chopped off limbs of trees.  Well it must have been a good half an hour or so, before the dancing stopped and we could progress.  But what a great problem to have.  Once again, 8 boats in the same piece of water, all with a job to do.

To cut a long story short, we took our time taking the 8 foot long keep net off the prop, cleared Goliath’s while we were there.  We made this a training exercise, putting people other than myself in charge of operations.  Both boats settled perfectly in position first time.  Whilst this was happening Weedie was patrolling up and down, removing the floating weed created by the dredging process, which was becoming a hazard to navigation.

Weedie and Goliath then went home, while Margaret made a real meal of moving as hopper 100 metres up the cut.  Our operations are made difficult by the shallow water that we currently have to operate in.  How so, when they have just dredged that bit, I hear you say, but I won’t go into the technical details as to why this is necessary. But we will get much more slick at this game by the time this job is finished.

24 October 2018

Pat's Progressed

Whilst we await the green light for Patricia (we're currently on double yellow [a railway term]) our time was spent addressing areas needing attention.

Firstly, the rudder control had not been fully debugged.  We spent a while bleeding the system which involved cracking open the valves at the rudder end whilst pumping fluid through the system at the same time as keeping it topped up.  There was trapped air plus some old oil which required removal.

For the rudder system to work correctly, it is about 3.5 turns of the wheel from end to end.

Secondly, all the grease nipple points were visited.  These are to be found on the spud legs, the clam shell bucket and the JCB jib.  Loads of 'em.   It took quite some time to ensure all had been visited.
During this time we had the engine running, which provided us with hot radiators and water to wash with at the end of the visit.  We also checked the 'fan' [alternator] belt as we suspect that the battery charging is not all it should be from the engine.  The alternator will probably be removed for an external check away from the boat. 

In a Nutshell - The Light Fantastic!

Not bad for the commute to volunteering.

22 October 2018

And on and on and on......

by: Bob Hallam

Once in many awhile, you think you've cracked a problem.  Fixed it. Banished the not working feature to history. Well we've thought this for a loooong time about the Gough's Orchard water feed syphon. 

Let me take you back a while. (Actually quite a long one). 
We have permission to take water from a nearby millpond to the canal whose level is far enough below the millpond to use a water syphon.  Brilliant idea, no energy applied for long periods of time, quiet and very eco-friendly. 

The installation however was far from easy, since the large (300mm diameter) pipe has to snake around buildings, rise a couple or three metres before descending to the canal. 

It sort of works, but creating and maintaining a vacuum in the pipe is proving shall we say, troublesome. 

Today, the Patricia team "Gang of Four," after measuring her timing of tilt and roll again, journeyed to the outer reaches of Thrupp. 
There, in bright sunshine, they sought shelter beneath the bridge and valiantly battled again to reduce the air leaks.  Numerous attempts have been made before in very trying circumstances, to achieve a leak free pipe.  Today was no exception. 

The pipe was dismantled, cleaned of old sealant by the witches straight from Macbeth, chanting "Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble."
As soon as this phase was completed and the spells cast, lunch was declared. A necessity to prevent the fainting of the witches and one other.
"Now back to work you coven!"  Cried the other, and back below the bridge they all went. 
Now to use the previously prepared potion.  Looking mysteriously like icing, the sticky gloopy substance was spread around the clean pipe interior:
by Mr A, masquerading as Hecate (read your Shakespeare child!!) 
Clearly today's spell hasn't worked, 'cos. when reassembled and vacuum applied we could no longer hear bubbling, but still trouble abounds, so yet more toil will need to be applied. 

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

18 October 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?

17 October 2018

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. 
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)

15 October 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.

12 October 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.

11 October 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.