Just to prove we do occasionally do some work when we’re swanning about aboard the barge, here’s quite a nice picture of us moving the barge from one side of Gravesend pontoon to the other. Last Sunday strong winds and bad weather had meant that the barge, returning from charter under Skipper Ian Ruffles had had to be brought in to the outside of the pontoon rather than attempting the more difficult manouvre of either the ‘S-bend’ onto the inside, or the gentle kiss against the unforgiving concrete wall of St Andrew’s Wharf. The outside of the pontoon though, is not as nicely visible to the passing public and might, anyway, shortly be needed by the Gravesend to Tilbury Ferry or the visiting paddle steamer Waverley who was due in at 16:00 Friday. We needed to move Cambria in once we had sensible weather and the back end of an ebb tide, but Mr Insurance Man (quite rightly) says we can not move the barge about without a qualified Skipper on board. These days that is either Tim G, Richard T or Ian Ruffles and Ian was available first, so the manouvre was booked for 16:00 Thursday.
The short version of this task’s description is that you let the barge drift backwards off the pontoon while controlling the drift with the thick mooring warps (ropes) and then, when the bow is clear, put the helm over so that she slides sideways in the current till she’s line up with the other side of the pontoon, and then winch her back up against the tide using the dolly line. Needless to say it’s not as simple as that and there’s a lot of preparing by, for example, hauling the barge-boat inboard, then nipping about letting go one rope and making fast another, setting ropes up so they do not tangle on bits of pontoon, fending the barge off the sharp corners of the pontoon and, of course, heckling Ops Manager Rob Bassi (red overalls) on the pontoon. Also hauling up the anchor, taking the outboard back off the boat and squaring away ropes etc at the end.
In this, another pic from new contributor Jason Arthur, on deck (l to r) are Denis Johnson (admiring the view while dangling a fender ‘bladder’), Skipper Ian Ruffles keeping an eye on things and issuing instructions, my good self taking up some slack on the big yellow and black warp and Dave Brooks giving it some on the dolly line, a surprisingly strong but thin cord. Looking at it, you’d not think it could start a 90+ ton barge into forward progress against a 3-4 knot tide flow, but it did with Dave leaning on the windlass. All good clean fun!