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Canal boat crew needed

Published: Monday, 23 July, 2018

Volunteers who bring a historic section of restored canal to life for thousands of visitors and local residents alike are appealing for more people to help sail their ship.

Or rather ply their canal boat up and down the Stroudwater Canal between Stonehouse and Stroud, helping showcase the area and the huge progress made in restoring 4.5 miles of it so far.

Cotswold Canals Trust has two boats – Perseverance on the stretch between Stroud and Stonehouse, and Endeavour at Saul Junction which takes passengers up and down the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, run by an enthusiastic and passionate crew.

Rob Burgon, trip boat operations manager for the trust, said the popularity of the trips means that demand is outstripping supply.

"We will need more crew for what we do now with our boats and we want to be in a position to take on new crew,” he said. “We have 29 volunteers now and we are looking for more."

The development of the canal is at a key stage – Stroud District Council has successfully bid for £842,000 of Heritage Lottery Fund development money to prepare to bid for £9million more from HLF. If successful, it would mean a £23.4million restoration of the canal from Stonehouse to Saul Junction could go ahead, linking Stroud and Stonehouse to 2,500 miles of the nation’s inland waterway network.

Scheduled trips and charters run from April to September, and private hire is available all year round.

Perseverance plies the first fully restored section of the canal between Capels Mill near the Dr Newton’s Way and London Road junction in Stroud, to behind St Cyr’s church, Stonehouse.

Trips on the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal all start and finish at Saul Junction, and take two-and-a-half hours to reach either Gloucester or Sharpness.

Volunteers need Royal Yachting Association certification and an Inland Waterways Association certificate of boat management –  these are paid for by the canal trust. IWA certification includes first aid, fire, man overboard and general safety, and RYA certification deals with boat handling.

"All we ask is that our volunteers repay us in terms of their time,"

said Mr Burgon.

Perseverance takes 12 passengers and after safety, the most important thing for the volunteers is for the passengers to enjoy themselves.

“The trips help people ‘take ownership’ of the canal, and bring them closer to it,” added Mr Burgon.

Current crew said the role is very rewarding. “Our role is to educate and inform,” said volunteer crew member Jules Peacey. “But also have a bit of fun too.”

Volunteer Mike Smith added:

“You meet a real cross section of people and they can all learn something new about the canal and the area around it, and enjoy their trip.”

To find out more about the role, call Rob Burgon on 07860 329477.

“The canal project doesn’t just need boat crew,” he added. “We have hundreds of tasks for unskilled and skilled volunteers.”

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