Volunteering is not so happy-go-lucky

Published: Thursday, 07 March 2019

AS A boater of long years standing, when I sold it I wanted to still be involved with the canals and so volunteered as a lock keeper, writes Joe Parkin.

Living near Braunston I spent most of my time helping boaters at Braunston Locks, and doing so I can well understand why Canal & River Trust is desperate for more volunteers, as it is far from the happy-go-lucky experience with fellow boaters that I imagined.

All with be done for them

The main problem is that when many people see a 'locky', volunteer or real, they then think all will be done for them, with many, and I will add regular boaters as well as hirers, deciding to stay on their boats and wait for the locky to do the work.

As you mentioned, there are times when your 'partner' fails to turn up, and it is then it gets too much with a boat in the  bottom of one lock blowing his horn waiting for the gates to be opened yet here I am being shouted at at another lock not to open the paddles too much, but to stay and open them slowly, their being somewhat on the nervous side. Such occurs all too often.

It can get nasty

With six locks in the flight, well, it can get nasty with some boaters who certainly do not 'go with the flow' but expect full attention. Telling them you are only an unpaid volunteer just helping out doesn't seem to wash with some I often being told then if I can't do it then I should not volunteer.

I am told to ring up when I am left on my own, as does happen when a fellow volunteer who has had enough packs it in and walks off, or just does not turn up, but it is very rarely that there is anyone spare, so told 'do what you can'.

Does nothing

There is one particular volunteer who maintains he is there just to give advice, and doesn't get his backside off the lock beam, only when someone, not he(!) moves it. Then there are the others who dash about doing everything, usually without thinking and getting in a mess, both being a pain.

Having got that lot off my chest, luckily there are those boaters who are pleased to see you, appreciate what you are doing, so make it worthwhile. So if you want to try it, then do so, but be prepared. Me? I've had enough, and occasionally walk up the flight to see the activity, but certainly do not volunteer.