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johnmck

Frustration at Watford and Foxton.

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Due to circumstances, we can only cruise for limited periods this year. Being Crick based and with a two week window, we decided to do the Leicestershire ring anticlockwise. 

Arriving at Foxton mid monday morning, we were in a queue of four boats waiting to descend. We were told that several boats were waiting to come up and they would be given priority. Not a problem.

But...

Progress was slow. When we finally began the descent, there was some sort of bottle neck, meaning we had to wait and wait in each lock. It eventually became apparent that the Velocky controlling the central pound was either very slow, or distracted by gongoozlers. Once passed him, we flew down the rest of the flight.

We had a wonderful trip theiron,  sat out the odd bad day and arrived at the bottom of the Watford flight at 1230 last Sunday. The weather was awful. We were fourth in the queue.  Ali walked up to book in. The first velocky did not have "The Book", but stated to all that he doubted we would ascend that day! People were frustrated. Several boats were waiting to come down and they were being given precedence. 

Ali set too. She organised the crews of the waiting boats and set about assisting the boats coming down, then going up. Two single handers ahead of us slowed it, but the extensive crew of a Napton narrowboat, were true stars.

Eventually, everybody descended, all eight of us ascended. We were all soaked and chilled.

Just wondered if the velockys are deliberately slowing things down to conserve water and if this is a CRT policy.

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It always depends who is on duty at the locks.

I suspect that the weather may have dampened enthusiasm somewhat.

I went up Watford flight on Monday, it was busy, but the lockies had it under control and were extremely helpful.

(I shouldn't of worn that mid blue polo shirt though!)

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As I’ve said before the vlockies at both locations are very variable this year....and the water management or lack of it is bizarre....we moor at Debdale and most boaters in the marina are of similar opinion. 

 

Say what you will about the full time lockies that used to be there like Mick & Crystal...they might not now have been the shiny face of CRT but they rarely had queues and boats were always moving. 

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Unfortunately the whole concept of giving volockies power at these sorts of places, is disastrous. Well it can be, depends on the individuals. Make a complaint to CRT. If you don’t, how will they know?

Edited by nicknorman

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Friends arrived at the top of Foxton on Monday. It was nearly 4pm, but they were second in the queue and the sun was shining.

Next morning started with boats ascending, but when by 1245 they still had not moved, words were exchanged and eventually they began down. In torrential rain.

Something is going wrong at Foxton.

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We arrived at the bottom of Watford early on the morning of Friday 2 weeks ago, and the vollies organised things brilliantly. The two boats at the top were allowed to start descending while the first 2 of the 6 boats waiting at the bottom started up the single locks. All crossed neatly below the staircase and we flew up to the top, with their help as Pingu had fallen over a couple of days before and so struggled to wind the paddles. Well done to the Watford vollies on that day.

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2 minutes ago, Keeping Up said:

We arrived at the bottom of Watford early on the morning of Friday 2 weeks ago, and the vollies organised things brilliantly. The two boats at the top were allowed to start descending while the first 2 of the 6 boats waiting at the bottom started up the single locks. All crossed neatly below the staircase and we flew up to the top, with their help as Pingu had fallen over a couple of days before and so struggled to wind the paddles. Well done to the Watford vollies on that day.

Conversely when we last tried to go up Watford, the volunterrs wee insistent that uphill boats be kept waiting below the bottom lock whilst boats coming down were worked right through to the bottom.

They said that allowing boats up to wait in the middle pounds adversely affected things, ad it was easier, (for them, presumably?) to do it their way.

So clearly it depends which volunteers you get on the day.

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4 minutes ago, Keeping Up said:

We arrived at the bottom of Watford early on the morning of Friday 2 weeks ago, and the vollies organised things brilliantly. The two boats at the top were allowed to start descending while the first 2 of the 6 boats waiting at the bottom started up the single locks. All crossed neatly below the staircase and we flew up to the top, with their help as Pingu had fallen over a couple of days before and so struggled to wind the paddles. Well done to the Watford vollies on that day.

And there be the frustration. We have previously always admired the vollies at Watford. But something has changed.

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I think this thread is showing that there is no consistency which in itself is concerning as it means there isn’t any overall operating plan in place....more a make it up as you go along...which never ends well 

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We have always had a positive experience at Watford but not at Foxton. Earlier this month we arrived at 12 (2 hours after the flight opened) were seventh in the queue. We did not go down although the 6 in front did. When I asked one VLK why were not letdown to the crossover point mid at I was told it as nothing to do with him and the guy at the bottom letting the boats up was in charge.

 

fortunately we were only going to Debdale but what irked  as soon as the flight was locked a paddle as lifted to run water down to the leaky bottom pound. So no water conservation and no reason for the restriction on movement.

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All this shouts lack of proper supervision to me by the CaRT management.  If you are going to have volunteers at places like Foxton, Watford and a few other similar places they need regular unannounced supervision to ensure they are following CaRT procedures (assuming CaRT have any!).  As I said elsewhere CaRT luminaries are out of meaningful control so don't control the volunteers.

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I think part of the problem was the atrocious weather. This, combined with some boaters expecting the vollies to work them up or down.

How often now do you see boats well crewed, sitting in a queue moaning, but never thinking of grabbing a windless and helping. That was part of the problem at Watford, until Ali mobilised everyone.

And this help was appreciated by the vollies. 

Edited by johnmck
  • Greenie 1

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I went up Watford last week and was a bit frustrated that 6 boats were let down before anyone was allowed up. We were the second uphill boat,arrived at 09:30 and came out of the top soon after 12:00. I think I worked the second from bottom lock eight times.

My memory is that the norm used to be 3 boats in each direction. The VLK said that they are doing 6 as this saves turning the flight and it adds 30 minutes which they don't want to lose with the restricted hours.  I wasn't convinced.

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I got annoyed going up Foxton, no boats coming down & only 2 going up including us. The boat in front had 6 people in their late 20s or early 30s & was being helped by 4 volockies, basically all having a good old natter. Yet we (just 2 of us in our 40s) didn't get any help at all. The icing on the cake was when they told us to wait at the crossover bit until another boat came down even though there were no boats waiting to come down.

Well we didn't wait & the rest of that day no more boats came past in the opposite direction even after we moored for the night.

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Could someone explain the logic of running several boats down in one direction before "turning" the set and running a few up in the other....my simple mind doesn't understand

Edited by sirweste

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16 minutes ago, sirweste said:

Could someone explain the logic of running several boats down in one direction before "turning" the set and running a few up in the other....my simple mind doesn't understand

At staircase locks it is one way traffic.  Simplistically, assuming a passage is 20 minutes through the staircase if you did 1 up 1 down 1 up it would take 60 minutes.  3 boats down would take 20 minutes +10 +10 ( 10 minutes for each additional boat in same direction) = 40 minutes thus saving 20 minutes. Multiply that throughout a day and it adds up.

Edited by Hotspur

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1 hour ago, Ssscrudddy said:

I got annoyed going up Foxton, no boats coming down & only 2 going up including us. The boat in front had 6 people in their late 20s or early 30s & was being helped by 4 volockies, basically all having a good old natter. Yet we (just 2 of us in our 40s) didn't get any help at all.

Had similar at Hatton hire boat 4 up all 20-30's, very experienced we learned later in the pub they had all spent several years as teenagers on canal holidays. We are a pair of 60 somethings and wife is 5 foot nothing so not a good gate pusher she just has't got the weight and height.  The hire boat got 2 voliockies we got none for the 21 locks, I have heard that they are supposed to assist hire boats first in case they don't know what to do.  Me preference would be, disabled in any way, singlehanders, oldies/infirm, hire boats if required then the rest.

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48 minutes ago, Detling said:

Me preference would be, disabled in any way, singlehanders, oldies/infirm, hire boats if required then the rest.

I was told once by a vlockie that CRTs policy is don't help single handers as they know what they are doing, all help goes to hireboats.

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2 hours ago, Hotspur said:

Hi all, I’m one of the Monday VLK team at Watford and we share your frustration of waiting and queues however 2 hours + isn’t unusual at this time of year. Part of the current problem is that boats are ‘locked out’ of the flight from the previous day which means a queue from the start which has to be cleared first.  There’s no policy on the number of boats up/down which is generally based on the time of arriving at the top/bottom.  For example, on Monday we started the day with 4 going down and then 7 going up (using the pounds between locks 1 and 3 to ‘stack’ two boats). Luckily few boats were going down that day.  Wouldn’t it be great if 3 boats arrived at 1 hour intervals alternating between top and bottom ?

 

One of our key roles is to manage the queue and be as fair as possible to all with the aim of getting everyone through by the end of our shift.  Currently though it isn’t unusual for boats arriving at say 1.30pm to not get through. This is regrettable and none of us want to refuse entry but it happens.

 

As was mentioned by johnmck there does seem to be a reluctance on the part of some boaters to help others in emptying/filling locks to smooth/speed the passage of others (perhaps that is a reflection of the society of today) but for those that do assist it it most welcome.

 

As luck would have it we cleared all boats through the flight on Monday with none ‘locked out’. Long may it continue and we hope that rain comes so we can extend the hours again.

 

I’ll put my tin hat on now ?

You do not have to put your tin hat on for us. We have due to circumstances done watford three times in the last 2 months. On the first there were 7 boats , we were up in 2 hrs. The descent was even quicker  with 3 coming up. The last ascent was 4 boats and about 2 hrs. No issue with that.

however foxton third in queue  at 0900 down at 1430. Not impressed but could not work out why so long. Mrs E worked from 0930 til we cleared locks, while i did boat stuff. The lockies couldnt seem to get the hang of the passing point, treating it as a second flight and not filling it till boats were at the bottom of the first flight.

Strangely some private boat owners came up with captain steering never leaving counter and staff lounging in front well on their phones according to Mrs E. They assumed she was part of the unpaid help.

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Not this year, but my experience at Watford is that descending boats get priority.  I arrived at the top, there were two boats waiting and a couple already doing down.  I was told that I could follow the others down.  This was late afternoon and when I got to the bottom, there were 15 boats waiting, and only a few of those were going to get up that day.

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3 hours ago, Hotspur said:

Hi all, I’m one of the Monday VLK team at Watford and we share your frustration of waiting and queues however 2 hours + isn’t unusual at this time of year. Part of the current problem is that boats are ‘locked out’ of the flight from the previous day which means a queue from the start which has to be cleared first.  There’s no policy on the number of boats up/down which is generally based on the time of arriving at the top/bottom.  For example, on Monday we started the day with 4 going down and then 7 going up (using the pounds between locks 1 and 3 to ‘stack’ two boats). Luckily few boats were going down that day.  Wouldn’t it be great if 3 boats arrived at 1 hour intervals alternating between top and bottom ?

 

One of our key roles is to manage the queue and be as fair as possible to all with the aim of getting everyone through by the end of our shift.  Currently though it isn’t unusual for boats arriving at say 1.30pm to not get through. This is regrettable and none of us want to refuse entry but it happens.

 

As was mentioned by johnmck there does seem to be a reluctance on the part of some boaters to help others in emptying/filling locks to smooth/speed the passage of others (perhaps that is a reflection of the society of today) but for those that do assist it it most welcome.

 

As luck would have it we cleared all boats through the flight on Monday with none ‘locked out’. Long may it continue and we hope that rain comes so we can extend the hours again.

 

I’ll put my tin hat on now ?

Perhaps contained within the content of this post is the answer. Any lazy twats sitting in their boats refusing to help, automatically go to the back of the queue.

  • Greenie 2

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46 minutes ago, Phil. said:

Perhaps contained within the content of this post is the answer. Any lazy twats sitting in their boats refusing to help, automatically go to the back of the queue.

They would moor up and say they have permanent mooring rights till assisted to move..

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We actually prefer it when we are left alone at either Foxton or Watford...at least we know what we are doing. 

  • Greenie 4

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