One of our existing lead volunteers tells us more about his role.
"If you want to volunteer, it's easy. Just ask... and we'll find you something to do."Barry Green, lead volunteer at National Waterways Museum Ellesmere Port
Brian Bayston, lead volunteer for the West Midlands Boat Moving Team describes his role.
I have a team of 16 volunteers. I find a limited number gives sufficient coverage and gives everyone a reasonable opportunity to get out on the cut.
Everyone starts off as a trainee deckhand to see if they can cope with the early morning starts, long days and the physical challenges. Once established they are assessed as a deckhand and if they are passed and are so inclined can prepare to become a qualified helmsman.
Where feasible the helmsman will supervise a trainee at the tiller or wheel on a trip to give them some experience. There are different assessment elements for tiller boats and tugs with steering wheels which push hoppers and pontoons. A new volunteer does not turn up and start helming a boat on day one, there is a apprenticeship to serve although boating experience is helpful. I doubt if many boaters have driven a tug before which takes a bit of practice to perfect. It is more difficult without a hopper in front.
There is perception amongst some potential volunteers that boat moving is a cushy number. Admittedly it is a great way to see the local canals. I personally have seen a lot more of the Birmingham Canal Navigations than I did as a private boater. However the reality is that much of my team's work is done in the stoppage season when the weather can be cold and wet. Once a crew has committed to moving a boat it is important the job goes ahead whatever the conditions, apart from thick ice which has curtailed moves recently.
As suggested above much of the Volunteer Boat Moving teams work is for Direct Services, moving their boats, tugs, hoppers and pontoons from one job to the next. This is often across the region and can involve several craft and a number of days. Any delay can have a serious impact on the next stoppage. It does however free up the skilled staff to concentrate on their day job rather than spending a lot of Mandays moving boats and equipment.
The other regular customer is the local volunteer coordinator who needs crew to operate a boat for his events. This is becoming more frequent now there is a boat dedicated to volunteering in Birmingham. This involves moving the boat into position for clean ups, litter picks, and veg clearance and manning it while other volunteers carry out the work.
The key to success is communication!
Last date edited: 5 April 2018