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Volockies at Grindley Brook


AndrewIC

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When I went through they were helpful, the main "instructions" were for getting boats to follow the "five up five down" (IIRC) rule which is there for a good reason (to get as many boats as possible through at busy times), and helping boats through the staircase -- which many novice boaters need. If you're going up and don't check in you're out of sight below the staircase and they don't know you're there until they walk down. When I went through the staircase they didn't do anything I wouldn't have done anyway, and seemed to know what they were doing.

 

So based on my experience I see nothing wrong with that sign -- what's the objection?

Edited by IanD
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21 minutes ago, IanD said:

When I went through they were helpful, the main "instructions" were for getting boats to follow the "five up five down" (IIRC) rule which is there for a good reason (to get as many boats as possible through at busy times), and helping boats through the staircase -- which many novice boaters need. If you're going up and don't check in you're out of sight below the staircase and they don't know you're there until they walk down. When I went through the staircase they didn't do anything I wouldn't have done anyway, and seemed to know what they were doing.

 

So based on my experience I see nothing wrong with that sign -- what's the objection?

The objection is that the quality control of volockies is abysmal. As you say, some are fine. Some are not. You don’t know which until after they have done something really dangerous, stupid, pointless or irritating. I can accept (somewhat grudgingly) that at places like GB, Foxton, Watford etc there has to be some control over the up down flow and IMO those are the only ”instructions” it is reasonable to follow, and I think what the sign meant to say. But give a little Hitler a notice like that and no doubt they are going to make the most of it.

Edited by nicknorman
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Just now, ditchcrawler said:

One of them lives on a boat and at least one other is a boat owner, they are the only two I have chatted to. I would suggest one of them definitely isnt a boater

Lots of people own and live on boats but never take them through locks.

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26 minutes ago, nicknorman said:

The objection is that the quality control of volockies is abysmal. As you say, some are fine. Some are not. You don’t know which until after they have done something really dangerous, stupid, pointless or irritating. I can accept (somewhat grudgingly) that at places like GB, Foxton, Watford etc there has to be some control over the up down flow and IMO those are the only ”instructions” it is reasonable to follow, and I think what the sign meant to say. But give a little Hitler a notice like that and no doubt they are going to make the most of it.

 

True, but the ones I met at Grindley Brook definitely knew what they were doing (as Ditchcrawler said) -- and that's where the posted sign was from.

 

Yes the problem is that some are useless or even dangerous, and some should be wearing peaked caps with "Jobsworth" on the front. But many are helpful, and shouldn't be tarred with the same brush.

 

You could of course say exactly the same about boaters (or drivers...) -- many are useless and/or even dangerous, and some of them wear peaked caps... 😉

 

 

Edited by IanD
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20 minutes ago, IanD said:

 

True, but the ones I met at Grindley Brook definitely knew what they were doing (as Ditchcrawler said) -- and that's where the posted sign was from.

 

Yes the problem is that some are useless or even dangerous, and some should be wearing peaked caps with "Jobsworth" on the front. But many are helpful, and shouldn't be tarred with the same brush.

 

You could of course say exactly the same about boaters (or drivers...) -- many are useless and/or even dangerous, and some of them wear peaked caps... 😉

 


The thing is, different volockies are on, on different days of the week. So you can have a good experience one day and a bad one the next. It is pot luck. Of course I agree that all volockies, or drivers, or boaters, shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush but the bottom line is that CRT are forcing boaters to interact and “take instruction” from a bunch of minimally trained people with a variety of different personal agendas. And there is no follow up refresher training nor post-training checking that their volunteers are actually complying with their training.

 

Just yesterday at Junction Lock, Fradley, we were reversing Telemachus up the lock. On arrival at the lock Jeff said to the volockie, as is now our standard practice “thanks but we like to work the lock ourselves” along with some friendly chit chat about how working locks is all part of the fun etc etc. Although the chap seemed to accept this verbally, nevertheless as soon as we were in the lock he went up to the paddle. Jeff had partially opened the other paddle - normally we just whack the paddles up but going up backwards means that Telemachus’s large and minimally balanced rudder takes the full force of the water flow, so I brace it and we open the paddles slowly. At least the chap had the sense to ask if I wanted that paddle opened, I said no.


But really, what part of “we want to work the lock ourselves” is so hard to understand? Their training makes it quite clear that they are there to assist IF required, but most seem oblivious to this point. He then offered to lower paddles and close the gate but, sticking to our guns, Jeff did that. Some of them just can’t help helping even after their help has been declined. And best case is that they stand there watching closely looking to see if you’ve done something wrong so they can give us the wisdom of their vast “experience”.

 

Honestly I think CRT’s policy of pitting badly trained volunteers against members of the boating public is going to end it tears. It won’t be us, but there are plenty of more physically-minded boaters out there. I am amazed that there haven’t been more physical altercations, but it is only a matter of time.

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11 minutes ago, nicknorman said:


The thing is, different volockies are on, on different days of the week. So you can have a good experience one day and a bad one the next. It is pot luck. Of course I agree that all volockies, or drivers, or boaters, shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush but the bottom line is that CRT are forcing boaters to interact and “take instruction” from a bunch of minimally trained people with a variety of different personal agendas. And there is no follow up refresher training nor post-training checking that their volunteers are actually complying with their training.

 

Just yesterday at Junction Lock, Fradley, we were reversing Telemachus up the lock. On arrival at the lock Jeff said to the volockie, as is now our standard practice “thanks but we like to work the lock ourselves” along with some friendly chit chat about how working locks is all part of the fun etc etc. Although the chap seemed to accept this verbally, nevertheless as soon as we were in the lock he went up to the paddle. Jeff had partially opened the other paddle - normally we just whack the paddles up but going up backwards means that Telemachus’s large and minimally balanced rudder takes the full force of the water flow, so I brace it and we open the paddles slowly. At least the chap had the sense to ask if I wanted that paddle opened, I said no.


But really, what part of “we want to work the lock ourselves” is so hard to understand? Their training makes it quite clear that they are there to assist IF required, but most seem oblivious to this point. He then offered to lower paddles and close the gate but, sticking to our guns, Jeff did that. Some of them just can’t help helping even after their help has been declined. And best case is that they stand there watching closely looking to see if you’ve done something wrong so they can give us the wisdom of their vast “experience”.

 

Honestly I think CRT’s policy of pitting badly trained volunteers against members of the boating public is going to end it tears. It won’t be us, but there are plenty of more physically-minded boaters out there. I am amazed that there haven’t been more physical altercations, but it is only a matter of time.

 

The problem is that they're damned if they do help and they're damned if they don't...

 

An experienced boater like you may very well not want or need any assistance.

 

But for my observations of other boats I'd say you're greatly outnumbered by either novices who really *don't* know what they're doing -- especially at places like Grindley Brook -- or even worse people who *think* they know what they're doing (and look like you) but don't -- and in both cases it makes sense for (hopefully experienced) volockies to help them. If you look at how volockies work with boaters as a whole -- not just you -- then I'd suggest they are overall useful and helpful, not the evil bunch you (and some others) seem to think they are.

 

If you think that CART have the people or resources to properly train and vet and regularly examine volockies -- which would be fantastic! -- when they can't even maintain the canals properly then you're living in cloud cuckoo land... 😞

Edited by IanD
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One of the volockies we encountered at Grindley Brook last year wasn't great as he opened the paddles to fill our lock before the boat in front had exited the lock.  He wasn't too impressed when I then shouted from our stern that he may want to drop the paddle to let the boat in front make it out of the lock.

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4 minutes ago, Rob-M said:

One of the volockies we encountered at Grindley Brook last year wasn't great as he opened the paddles to fill our lock before the boat in front had exited the lock.  He wasn't too impressed when I then shouted from our stern that he may want to drop the paddle to let the boat in front make it out of the lock.

Almost every walk of life has people who are not so good at their job, or sometimes just plain incompetent, in spite of attempts to screen such people out. The current UK government certainly has... 😞

 

How do you suggest CART can succeed at doing this with volockies when pretty much everyone else has tried and failed?

 

Yes there are undoubtedly some volockies who are incompetent, overbearing, or both -- but there are many who aren't, and are especially helpful to less experienced boaters.

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I came down there yesterday afternoon and didnt get any sort of instruction.

Im single hander and open paddles and gates with the vollies and pull the boat through on the centreline with neither objection or comment. Get to have a good chat that way and one at least is a boater as had a conversation about the joys of winter boating.

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28 minutes ago, Jerra said:

All I want from a Volockie are the words "would you like any help" among the rest of the greeting.   Sadly it has only happened once or twice.

Exactly. I fully appreciate that some people welcome, or need, assistance from the volockies. My complaint is that it is often forced on us. And virtually never is the “would you like assistance?” phrase uttered  despite it being made very clear in their training that they are there to provide assistance IF it is requested. It also says that volockies are not insured if carrying out locking activities unless having first checked with the boater that assistance or the action is wanted. But of course they (some) only heed the bits of the training that suit them.

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45 minutes ago, IanD said:

 

 

How do you suggest CART can succeed at doing this with volockies when pretty much everyone else has tried and failed?

 

 Well, how about at key locations sich as Grindley Brook where you can get it very badly wrong they don't use volunteers but paid staff? Grindley Brook has had a lock keeper as long as I can remember, it's just he used to be an employee. Most volockies are at locations where there has been no paid lock keeper operating the locks for decades

More locally to me, Caen Hill, the locks used to be set for the night by a CRT employee (empty, paddle open at the bottom) - he himself commented that this was safety critical* so they didn't leave it to volunteers - I assume it's a liability issue, or at least it was. This may still be the arrangement, I haven't had an evening walk there for a while. But the point is - above average liability, have an employee do it.

 

*at Caen Hill, part of the safety critical bit is that the process must be started from the bottom 

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8 minutes ago, magpie patrick said:

 Well, how about at key locations sich as Grindley Brook where you can get it very badly wrong they don't use volunteers but paid staff? Grindley Brook has had a lock keeper as long as I can remember, it's just he used to be an employee. Most volockies are at locations where there has been no paid lock keeper operating the locks for decades

More locally to me, Caen Hill, the locks used to be set for the night by a CRT employee (empty, paddle open at the bottom) - he himself commented that this was safety critical* so they didn't leave it to volunteers - I assume it's a liability issue, or at least it was. This may still be the arrangement, I haven't had an evening walk there for a while. But the point is - above average liability, have an employee do it.

 

*at Caen Hill, part of the safety critical bit is that the process must be started from the bottom 

The last time we did GB, which was a few years ago, there was a female employed lock keeper who was great. It was pretty obvious she found the volunteer rather irritating especially when he did something daft - can’t remember exactly what it was but along the lines of opening a paddle before closing a gate. However I suspect that as part of the cuts needed to channel available funds to executive pay, she was sacked or at best redeployed somewhere else. Nobody seems that fussed these days that a large number of “proper jobs” have been replaced by volunteers. I suppose it doesn’t matter unless it happens to you.

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15 minutes ago, magpie patrick said:

 Well, how about at key locations sich as Grindley Brook where you can get it very badly wrong they don't use volunteers but paid staff? Grindley Brook has had a lock keeper as long as I can remember, it's just he used to be an employee. Most volockies are at locations where there has been no paid lock keeper operating the locks for decades

More locally to me, Caen Hill, the locks used to be set for the night by a CRT employee (empty, paddle open at the bottom) - he himself commented that this was safety critical* so they didn't leave it to volunteers - I assume it's a liability issue, or at least it was. This may still be the arrangement, I haven't had an evening walk there for a while. But the point is - above average liability, have an employee do it.

 

*at Caen Hill, part of the safety critical bit is that the process must be started from the bottom 

 

I agree that properly trained paid staff everywhere would be great, but where do you suggest the money comes from -- by taking it from CARTs already insufficient maintenance budget?

 

The reason CART got rid of the paid staff (and replaced them with volockies) was to save money, because their income was not enough to keep them on.

 

If you have a brilliant idea on how this can be fixed, I'm sure everyone would love to hear it... 😉

 

And I see Nick's made his usual comment about executive pay, ignoring the realities of where almost all CART expenditure actually goes, and that -- however annoying -- executive pay is a 0.1% drop in the 100% bucket... 😞

Edited by IanD
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Every time I met a vlockie this year I have been asked if I wanted them to help work the lock. They have also always waited for my signal to play with a paddle, and (going up) only raised it half way before checking again.

Grindley Brook is a problem place - they get a fair bit of abuse from some boaters and are probably a bit on edge. They also occasionally have to throw their weight about to stop the entitled or ignorant ones jumping the queue. There certainly have been fights there in past years when no lockies were on duty.

I generally try to solve the whole problem, and avoid queueing, by going through at 6am when I can bumble through at my own pace without affecting anyone.

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2 minutes ago, IanD said:

The reason CART got rid of the paid staff (and replaced them with volockies) was to save money, because their income was not enough to keep them on.

 

No it wasn't - volockies are primarily an extra resource where there was no regular lock keeper fulfilling the role

 

There are no more than a dozen groups of locks (excluding tidal access) where supervision is wise or essential - basically popular staircases with three or more locks. 

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3 minutes ago, magpie patrick said:

No it wasn't - volockies are primarily an extra resource where there was no regular lock keeper fulfilling the role

 

There are no more than a dozen groups of locks (excluding tidal access) where supervision is wise or essential - basically popular staircases with three or more locks. 

 

I meant on flights which did use to have regular paid lock keepers, as I'm sure you're well aware. You're the one who said:

 

"Well, how about at key locations sich as Grindley Brook where you can get it very badly wrong they don't use volunteers but paid staff? Grindley Brook has had a lock keeper as long as I can remember, it's just he used to be an employee. Most volockies are at locations where there has been no paid lock keeper operating the locks for decades"

 

Let me repeat the question -- if you want to bring back skilled paid lockies (which was what your post says), where do you think the money should come from?

Edited by IanD
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8 minutes ago, IanD said:

 

I meant on flights which did use to have regular paid lock keepers, as I'm sure you're well aware. You're the one who said:

 

"Well, how about at key locations sich as Grindley Brook where you can get it very badly wrong they don't use volunteers but paid staff? Grindley Brook has had a lock keeper as long as I can remember, it's just he used to be an employee. Most volockies are at locations where there has been no paid lock keeper operating the locks for decades"

 

Let me repeat the question -- if you want to bring back skilled paid lockies (which was what your post says), where do you think the money should come from?

How about stopping spending money on vanity projects like rebranding and blue sign pollution? And bring back at least a core of own workers. Subcontracting everything out (outsourcing, as the buzz word used to be) has long been known to increase costs because the subcontractor makes a profit and the workforce is less enthused about doing a good job. Which is why it fell out of favour in the 1990s. Yes one can use a small contingent of contractor to smooth over the peaks and troughs,  but not devolve nearly everything to subcontractors, many of whom have minimal idea what the canals are all about and certainly lack the experience and skill.

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12 minutes ago, nicknorman said:

How about stopping spending money on vanity projects like rebranding and blue sign pollution? And bring back at least a core of own workers. Subcontracting everything out (outsourcing, as the buzz word used to be) has long been known to increase costs because the subcontractor makes a profit and the workforce is less enthused about doing a good job. Which is why it fell out of favour in the 1990s. Yes one can use a small contingent of contractor to smooth over the peaks and troughs,  but not devolve nearly everything to subcontractors, many of whom have minimal idea what the canals are all about and certainly lack the experience and skill.

I knew you were going to bring up blue signs and rebranding again, in spite of the reasons for this having being explained many times -- yes you hate them, but the canals are not just for 35000 boaters no matter how much we'd like that to be the case, and again -- like executive pay -- the cost is probably something like 0.1% of the CRT budget so it makes no significant difference to things like maintenance standards.

 

I do agree that subcontracting is often a false economy especially in transport infrastructure like rail and canals, it moves expense "off the books" and into possible lower-paid subcontractors who don't have the requisite skills and knowledge.

 

 

Edited by IanD
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Just now, IanD said:

I knew you were going to bring up blue signs and rebranding again, in spite of the reasons for this having being explained many times -- yes you hate them, but the canals are not just for 35000 boaters no matter how much we'd like that to be the case, and again the cost is probably something like 0.1% of the CRT budget so it makes no significant difference to things like maintenance standards.

 

I do agree that subcontracting is often a false economy especially in transport infrastructure like rail and canals, it moves expense "off the books" and into possible lower-paid subcontractors who don't have the requisite skills and knowledge.

 

One suspects that the rebranding justification related to the “friends of crt” thing. Unfortunately as we know, CRT have spent more money on chuggers than they have taken in in donations.

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2 minutes ago, nicknorman said:

One suspects that the rebranding justification related to the “friends of crt” thing. Unfortunately as we know, CRT have spent more money on chuggers than they have taken in in donations.

 

Yes, that whole "friends" thing was a pile of improbable made-up numbers to make the books balance when CART was created -- it was obvious that they were never going to bring in anything like the amounts made up, CART is not the NT...

Edited by IanD
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1 hour ago, magpie patrick said:

More locally to me, Caen Hill, the locks used to be set for the night by a CRT employee (empty, paddle open at the bottom) - he himself commented that this was safety critical* so they didn't leave it to volunteers

Why is it safer to leave the locks empty overnight? Presumably the gates are still closed. So anybody who falls in (probably in the dark) can't now get out anywhere along either side, but has to be able to find and swim to one of the ladders and then ascend the ladder several feet. 

And if it is 'safety critical' to leave these locks empty, why doesn't the same apply across the rest of the system?

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