Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Meeting With CRT About Our Hillmorton Locks Incident

We were invited by CRT on the 26th October to meet with them to discuss the incident at Hillmorton.

We, and our son David, met with Vicky Martin (Manager of South East Waterways) and Tony Stammers (Head of Health & Safety) at CRT Offices in Milton Keynes on the 12th November.

CRT have investigated the incident at Hillmorton on the 25th August 2015, where our full length (71’ 8”) boat was hung on the bottom gate of a lock, and was close to sinking.

They have specifically come up with a list of actions to take regarding the locks at Hillmorton:
  1. Consult the navigation advisory group “should waterway sections which have shorter than standard locks be signed to state this dimension at the first lock of that section?”
  2. Review VLK Lock keeping risk assessment to ensure the risk of boat hang ups, and also what to do in an emergency, is covered
  3. Reiterate to all lock keepers that “The boater has the overall responsibility/control. The lock keepers are there to advise, guide and assist”
  4. Replace the top bolts on the rubbing plates, with dome headed bolts similar to Hillmorton middle lock.  Also review all the other bolts on the three sets of locks at Hillmorton to see if any other bolts need replacing with dome headed ones (if they are in the rubbing zone)
  5. Review to be carried out regarding historic boat lock operating techniques, to see if VLKs need specific training relating to assisting historic boats
We have asked that they add to this list:

6. The VLK should always ask the boater before offering assistance

which they have agreed to do.

We have been assured by CRT that whenever a CRT volunteer or employee deviates from standard procedure, then that is treated very seriously, and they will be held to account, and appropriate action is taken.  CRT has reiterated to all VLKs that the boater is in charge and has overall responsibility at all times, and that they should ask the boater before offering assistance.

CRT additionally explained that prime focus of the VLK Risk Assessment documents has been on the safety of the VLKs while performing their role, and the actual hazards relating to the boats themselves, such as cilling or hanging in the lock are already addressed in other materials, and included in VLK training.  These materials are now being reviewed.

We were also told of new training initiatives for VLKs which will help them to understand the particular needs of historic boats. CRT has also apologised to us for the amount of time that it has taken to investigate this matter fully.

Tony Stammers reiterated that he hopes that boaters will report incidents and ‘near misses’ because that allows CRT to deal with the problem and prevent further incidents.


We have been unhappy about the degree of speculation that our incident has provoked, and having made this statement, we do not intend to discuss this matter further.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

A Working Boat Yard For Historic Boats

(Boats  Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Very, retrospective post for 19th to 25th October 2015

Brinklow Boat Services just has to be one of the most interesting plaes to visit if you are in to historic boats.  We were privileged to spend a week living on board right in the heart of it for just over a week last October.  You are unlikely to find as many historic boats all together in one place unless you visit one of the organised shows that occur from time to time.

I'll largely let the pictures tell the story.

Enterprise and Greenock

Planet, one of the boats we considered, now with new back cabin

Sickle grounded on the cill to the floating/sinking dock

With Sickle inside the dock is slowly sinking

Because water is pumped in at this end it sinks first

View out from Sickle in dock - a lot of washing down was required once out!

Sinking the dock to get Sickle out - David assisted with bucket on rope!

The tide is coming in around Sickle

Despite moving a lot of ballast Sickle also gets stuck on the way out.

Planet, Flamingo & Aurora (on the side)

Planet, Flamingo & Aurora

Denebola, undergoing steelwork and replanking of wooden bottoms

Not a lot of room - Severn Dolphin to the right of Flamingo

Star & Laurel

The end of the arm with Reginald and Bordesley

Capricorn has recently had 8' of its former length added back using original sides.

Sickle In The Dry Dock

(Boat  Sickle - posted by Alan)

Although we are delving back several months, I will endeavour to add a few posts about the time we spent with both boats a Brinklow Boat Services in late October.

The principle reason for our trip was to get "Sickle" docked for a survey.

Perhaps not unsurprisingly for an 80 year old boat that British Waterways was once intent was only for for scrapping, the survey has revealed that some replating work is now required, although fortunately not in huge amounts, and much of "Sickle" was declared to be in otherwise excellent condition.

Brinklow Boats did not have the capacity to do the remedial work at this time, so some quick repairs were done on the areas identified, including a couple of small temporary patches on a couple of localised areas that were thin.  We are assured she will be fine until we can get her out somewhere to have all necessary work done fully, so she was given a coat of blacking, and eventually refloated.

Strangely although "Sickle" has already been docked twice previously in our ownership, o both occasions we have not actually been able to be present.  This has been our first opportunity to see her out of water, and to do things like examine the propeller, and check its sizing.  (On which point we have been advised it is "industrial strength", and very much more solid than even the best modern produced props - although visibly an odd shape on at least one of the blade tips, presumably just through hard use, we have been advised there is very little point in doing anything to it at all).

These pictures really fail to capture just how shaped this boat is underwater compared to most, and in particular don't really show just how significant the round chimes are. (For the uninitiated the chines are the transition from sides to bottom - in "Sickle's" case formed curved plates of maybe 9 inches radius, whereas most boats effectively just have a more or less right angled join).

Monday, 19 October 2015

A very, very gentle day.

(Boats  Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

For those who have been asking, no, we haven't completely abandoned this blog, but once again life seems to have got in the way!
Anyway, I will try and provide some very belated infoprmation on our stay at Brinklow Boat Services for work on both boats.

All we needed to do this morning was to move the boats the very short distance from our overnight mooring, and take them the short way down the arm at Stretton to Brinklow Boat Services.

There are no pictures, but it was actually a very fraught short journey, as possibly the slowest moving hire boat in the world passed us, just before we set off.  This in itself would have been survivable, except they decided they wanted to turn around in the end of the arm, and with space heavily constricted by the Rose Narrow Boats hire fleet, I had no choice to go beyond the intended turn, more or less into the former stock lock, to get out of their way, whilst they tried to sort themselves out, (We had wrongly assumed they were stopping to work the simple swing bridge at this location, having given no indication they were planning to change direction!)

Fortunately Cath and David were able to get into the arm with "Sickle", and deliver it to the guys at Brinklow for the intended docking, so that was not delayed.

I, however, was left alone with "Flamingo", and with restricted space and a cross wind, had a fight to finally point it down the arm, fortunately avoiding all the other boats littering the area.

It was to believe such a short move could be such hard work, but I will freely admit I don't have the experience to extract myself from difficult spaces on a windy day, with no other crew available!

All Oaks Wood to  Brinklow Boat Services
Miles: 2.8, Locks: 0
Total Miles
54.1, Locks:19

Sunday, 18 October 2015

A gentle day.

(Boats  Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

A gentle day today, with an early tie up.  We were well on schedule, and agreed with Brinklow Boats that we would stop a bit over a mile short of their yard, then bring both boats forward to the the following morning.

On the embankment at Rugby, whilst we stop for a supermarket shop.

Ditto, but the other boat.
I had the camera, so most photos are of Cath on "Sickle" - Leaving Rugby.

Newbold Tunnel - a short one.

Retail fuel boat "Auriga"

Clifton Arm Junction to All Oaks Wood
Miles: 11.2, Locks: 0
Total Miles
51.3, Locks:19

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Continuing to get familiar with working two historic boats together - Downhill locks today.

(Boats  Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Braunston top lock - we had spent last night just above it.
Mostly pictures today, as it was a fairly normal boating day, with nothing particularly to report.  That said, it is good to be able to say that, because it is the first time we have had both boats together in a downhill wide lock, so passing our first 6 in a relaxed manner with everything going well has to be a result.

Again Cath steered "Sickle" - I was ahead on "Flamingo" at this point.
We made a number of stops during the day, first to visit chandlers, and then for a big supermarket shop.  At Clifton we accepted an invite from a friend for coffee and cakes at the cafe at the local hire base, but somehow that got translated to beer and cider and cakes.  It was quite an odd experience as the place stayed oprn to service just ourselves and friend, plus one other customer.

Iconic location -the Admiral Nelson.

Braunston Bottom Lock - Our last broad one we are able to share.

Another iconic canal location - Braunston Turn.

Taking advantage of Hillmorton's paired double locks

I'm being followed!

Braunston Top Lock to Clifton Arm Junction
Miles: 20.3, Locks: 12
Total Miles
40,0, Locks:19

Friday, 16 October 2015

A Lock Flight With Both Boats For The First Time

(Boats  Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

Buckby Bottom Lock - First of the trip
Although both boats have visited some places together since we acquired "Flamingo" at the end of last year, on the whole they have travelled separately, largely because of (until now) different home moorings.  They have shared one broad lock together before, but that is all.

Once the locks were filling we generally sent David on to prepare the next.

Currently moving both boats together through broad locks is labour intensive.  The massive difference in length between the two, ("Flamingo is 31 feet 6 inches longer than "Sickle"), makes it impossible to tie both boats together in a manner that one can drag the other along.  This means each boat needs its own steerer, and each boat has to move independently between the locks.  Cath and I are not experienced enough, (and I, at least not agile enough), to take this on alone, so at least one extra crew member is required to  do the actual lock work.  Today son David, (who is both young and agile), would largely work the locks, whilst his less agile parents largely worked the boats.

We tended to work with me going into each lock first with the bigger boat.
Both boats were on their way to Brinklow Boat Services on the Stretton Arm of the North Oxford Canal.  "Sickle" needs a survey, and (amongst other things), we wanted to get some bits welded onto "Flamingo" that address the issue above, and may allow us to successfully use one boat to drag the other about.

Cath could then slot "Sickle" in beside "Flamingo".
We are still trying hard to come up with ways of addressing the fact that Odin the dog has become scared of tunnel passages.  Generally he loves boating, but currently tunnels can freak him.  We have sometimes been walking him over the top, where it is feasible, but today  we decided he would stay on "Flamingo" with Cath whilst I took it through Braunston Tunnel.  We sent son David on ahead with "Sickle", as it is the faster boat of the two.

Slow steady progress - we were not rushing - we are still learning what works best.
Entering Buckby Top - the only lock they had previously shared .

"Flamingo" is the second boat to leave Braunston Tunnel.
High House Wharf to Braunston Top Lock
Miles: 19.7, Locks: 7
Total Miles
19.7, Locks: 7

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Sickle Takes Up a New Mooring

(Boat Sickle - posted  by Alan)

As explained in the last posting, only a few days ago our assumption would have been that after the Stoke Bruerne Village at War that "Flamingo" would return to it's mooring near Weedon to the North, (already done on the Monday), but that "Sickle" would return later in the week to its then base at Fenny Stratford.

However, despite us literally having just paid for a year's moorings at Fenny, we unexpectedly learned that a mooring at High House Wharf, where we moor "Flamingo" was a possibility for "Sickle".

It would cost a little more, but unlike at "Fenny" which BW have let fall apart, and which CRT have consistently failed to repair, it is a proper mooring with a proper edge - there is even 230 volt power!.The advantages of having "Sickle" based within maybe 100 yards of "Flamingo" are enormous, even though it then means both boats are approaching 50 miles away from our home.

After a bit of heart searching we have decided to go for it, including taking the hit of continue to pay for an empty mooring at Fenny until our notice period is up.  I will not miss having to attempt to self dredge every time we returned there, and having to move the neighbouring boat, which always seens to have been moved about 5 feet into our space, leaving insufficient room, though I shall miss the company of Alan, who was the mooring warden in that area until BW decided to scrap them.  Alan has been a top bloke, always willing to give us a call if he thinks the boat needed some attention.

So today we delived "Sickle" to her new home.

No pictures but I'll post some soon, I hope.

Stoke Bruerne to High House Wharf Weedon

Miles: 10.0, Locks: 0

Monday, 14 September 2015

First of the boats back to base - and an unexpected choice to make

Very retrospective post for Monday 14th September
(Boat Flamingo - posted  by Alan)

After "Village at War" Cath and I stayed on on "Flamingo" overnight before the relatively short lock-free run back to her home mooring.

At the stage we did this our obvious assumption was that later in the week  "Sickle" would be moving in the opposite direction to return to her then base at Fenny Strattford.

However a casual enquiry to the moorings owner where we keep "Flamingo" prompted the unexpected reply that he could offer us a mooring for "Sickle" at the same place.

We have been dissatisfied with "Sickle's" mooring at Fenny Stratford for some time.  Shortly after we took it up a large section of bank fell in a couple of boats along, resulting in the boats that were on the site getting moved about so they could still moor, leaving the collapsed bank as it was.  There was never quite enough space for "Sickle", which actually had to be tied at one end to the entrance gate post. Subsequently parts of the bank alongside "Sickle" have fallen away, making it quite dangerous.  This was further exacerbated by the fact the mooring is nothing like the advertised 1 metre depth, and it is always a nightmare on returning to the mooring to get anywhere near the bank because of the accumulated silt.

BW and the CRT have alternated between saying the mooring is due for repair, or might in fact get closed due to lack of funding, and although it is a good location, and unusually secure for a CRT online mooring, it has become more and more problematic.

We had only just renewed our annual contract there, and any swap of mooring usually involves costs of a period of paying for two moorings, so is not to be taken too lightly.  There were advantages, and disadvantages to making the move, and we went home t contemplate them.

Stoke Bruerne to High House Wharf Weedon

Miles: 10.0, Locks: 0

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Stoke Bruerne Village At War

Very retrospective post for Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th September

(Boats Sickle & Flamingo - posted  by Alan)

This is always a favourite event for us, and the first Village at War where both "Sickle" and "Flamingo" would attend.  We have done other events this year with both boats, including the Family Festival also at Stoke Bruerne, but this time harbourmaster Kathryn had done us proud by putting both boats together.

The level of interest both boths generated surprised us greatly, and we spent inordinate amounts of time talking to people about them.  For once we did not have to leave one boat abandoned whilst we were spending time with the other.

As a result of how busy it got we took few photos of our own, but did get to take each boat for a trip down some of the lock flight to help add to the spectacle for the public.

The cans add a touch of extra colour to "Flamingo's" currently tired paintwork.

One of the rare moments Odin was not having attention lavished on him.

There was not a jot of spare space where we were moored.

Photo included only to give an idea how busy the tow path can get.

"Flamingo" waits to use the lock just vacated by "Perch"

"Flamingo" working its way back up the lock flight.

I am supplementing our few pictures with photos taken by two locals involved in the running of this excellent event.  Our thanks to them for publishing them on Flickr.

(Photo: Kathryn Dodington)

(Photo: Kathryn Dodington)
(Photo: Kathryn Dodington)


(Photo: Kathryn Dodington)

(Photo: Lynda Payton)

(Photo: Lynda Payton)

(Photo: Lynda Payton)

(Photo: Lynda Payton)

Miles: 2.9, Locks: 12
(over 2 days)