19 May 2019

The Boat Team

by: Dave I.

The Boat Team has now blanked off the water pipe that has for some time been leaking into the cut at Ebley. ‘Aquila’ was taken across the cut as the work platform. After clearing nettles and digging out the bank the fun really started: investigation having failed to locate where the pipe came from, and with no sign of a hoped-for stop-tap, the pipe had to be cut with water still coming through under pressure so a tap could be fitted. Paul got extremely wet but achieved his objective, and we now have a potential cut-side water point for future use. Thank you Paul and the rest of the support crew!

 Evidence of unhelpful canal enthusiasts was unearthed (should I say unwatered?) when a training crew drained Ryeford top lock while removing debris from Goliath’s prop. Tyres were found in the bottom, with suspicious bits of rope attached. It was eventually decided they came from the tyre-based support cushion made some time ago to dock Warp for welding. They had been stored as a really-difficult-to-move (but obviously not difficult enough) assembly on the offside of the lock. As well as the tyres, there was a lot of accumulated silt and rubbish, presumably dislodged by dredging just above. Presumably there will be even more in the lower chamber, which will need to be cleared in due course.

For those who’ve been near Ryeford Locks recently, you may have seen an excavation on the north side, and the start of clearing a path on the south side. This is to install a large water main that goes between the reservoir on Minchinhampton Common and Whaddon and Westrip. The cut will be closed while the pipe is installed: it’s supposed to be open again by the start of June, but we will wait and see if this is achieved.

Goliath arrived at the closure site to find a crane driver trying to measure the depth by dunking a bag of gravel across the cut. The team helped out by doing a snap profile survey, which seemed to be appreciated by the local site manager.

The day’s training ended with a quiet trip to The Ocean, seeing much wildlife including wagtails, swimming grass snake and Swan cygnets. Golith has been left at Ryeford Wharf rather than Ebley, so we have 1 tug either side of the blockage.

The team have been practicing towing ‘breasted up’. This is a well established alternative to pushing, which provides much the same level of control but results in a shorter overall configuration. One major advantage of it on our wide canal is that the tug and hopper can navigate through the lock while remaining attached – something not possible when pushing, where the combined configuration is over 90 ft long. The tightest challenge seems to be the swing bridge at Ryeford, but the tug and hopper still fit!

With thanks to Chris for the photos.