Friday, 30 August 2013

Bank Holiday...

 By Adrian Vernon, Head of Ranger Services

Last week Yare team rangers working at Whitlingham Country Park reported they had "survived" the teddies bear’s picnic which was attended by 300 children. The children, with their parents, bring their teddies and a picnic and take part in a treasure hunt plus badge and dragonfly making. There were a number of big events across the Broads in a weekend that ended up being sunny and warm.
Barton Regatta was held over the bank holiday weekend and was very well attended. Other events included the Reedham Duck Race which again, was very well attended with a very large crowd on the quay.
Sunday evening (25th August) on the River Waveney saw some alleged anti-social behaviour and dangerous helming of a speedboat, which unfortunately ended in the vessel turning over. Police and Coastguard attended and luckily for those on board, there were no reported injuries. Rangers have now taken statements and will be interviewing the alleged offenders in the near future.
Bank holiday afternoon was busy with the powerboat racing on Oulton Broad, followed by a firework display. The rangers on duty were supplemented by Broads Beat officers. Apparently a large fight took place on land but all was quiet on the water.
Rangers have also been involved in investigating a number of additional cases, from failing to stop incidents to skiing and speeding offences. Investigation of these cases involves taking statements and interviewing suspects, and at the moment there is an unusually high number of case files being compiled.
Thursday was late night training for the new Broads rangers, who have now completed their course. Other staff who perform standby duties also attended the session, and a rigorous day of incident/towing training was implemented followed by night navigation using the gps, chart plotter and radar plus good old fashioned compass and spotlight. Training was suspended when a small inflatable plastic boat with two young people on board was seen by Bure Mouth.

Words of advice were going to be given but it was quickly established that they were in trouble and were hanging onto an old wooden dolphin surrounded by old wooden stakes. They were quickly recovered onto the Spirit of Breydon launch and landed safely. They had purchased the plastic boat that day, and were totally unaware of the dangers of launching from the area in front of a supermarket car park at Gt Yarmouth. They were not wearing lifejackets and so the incident could have ended very badly.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Drama... and Dinosaurs

 By Adrian Vernon, Head of Ranger Services

It’s not often rangers ask “Can I speak to the dinosaur that was helming the boat earlier please?” But after the crew of a hire boat, who dressed as animals for the weekend, had been seen speeding on the River Ant that was indeed how a conversation started.

All issues were resolved and the “dinosaur” was advised regarding the future helming of the vessel.

There was drama for the Breydon Team recently- they were returning from a site visit on Breydon Water when a crew member from a hire boat fell in along the quay.

Apparently the chap hit the water and then seemed to throw himself straight back out which given the current in that area was surely a good move on his part.

The Yare Team Rangers at Whitlingham Country Park felled an extremely large Sycamore tree in the main car park, which had been inspected and declared unsafe. All the Broads Authority’s full-time rangers have chain saw qualifications, and two are trained as climbers, meaning we can often deal with situations like this. Ranger Jonathan Cook thinned out the upper branches of the tree so it could be felled, and the large trunk and branch pieces will be “recycled” and put to good use -in a forthcoming major emergencies exercise. The tree work had to be undertaken at the busiest time of year but fortunately no problems were encountered.

The Breydon Team had another busy day when the Coastguard received three emergency calls almost at the same time. Two were for the same vessel (but in different locations), the other for Bure Mouth at Great Yarmouth. The first vessel was aground and managed to refloat itself; the second was also aground but had tipped over at an alarming angle. Unfortunately the passengers- a young mother with two children- were alarmed and distressed, and wanted to be taken off the vessel. The Breydon crew and inshore rescue boat both attended but due to very shallow water the family were helped off by a nearby private inflatable safety boat.

Thursday saw another emergency when a hire boat hit (and was briefly stuck under) St Olaves Bridge. It seems luck played a part- the helmsman was trying to turn but got caught by the current. He suffered slight arm injuries, and the vessel a smashed screen, but both were quickly sorted and he was soon underway again.

The Waveney Team were out late on 22nd August, targeting speeding vessels. They stopped two fast inflatable boats for tolls offences and then the best “policeman” in the world stepped in and calmed things down- as the heavens opened and the rain began.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Control update - season hots up

Despite a slow start to the season due to cold weather earlier this year the recent warm days have seen visitor numbers dramatically pick up.

On Thursday the River Bure at Thurne mouth was so busy that one of the rangers needing to turn his launch round had to wait 10 minutes before it was safe and clear.

Rangers sent out a warning about tyres after recovering a total of 15 which had been dumped in the river near Cantley. Aside from the waste issue they are a nuisance to the Authority and a danger to skiers.

Police this week asked for help in looking out for the crew of a boat that may have been involved in a crime but it wasn’t until rangers had stopped the crew to speak to them that they discovered suspicions that a knife may have been used although in the end it was established that these fears were unfounded.

A new tranche of staff underwent training this week at the dockyard in Thorpe involving dealing with various scenarios including boat fires, drifting vessels, sinking vessels, pollution, searching for missing persons, preserving crime scenes and working with the emergency services.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Control update - dramatic rescues and damaging distractions

Spirit of Breydon with rangers John Ragan and Jon Hopes
Photo: Eastern Daily Press/Simon Finlay
By Adrian Vernon, Head of Ranger Services

Hot weather continues to bring out dangerous behaviour as last week several groups of day boat hirers were involved in both navigation byelaw offences and public order incidents.

In two of these incidents rangers were threatened with violence and police officers had to attend. Broads Beat officers are still investigating after some of the suspects decamped while on their way back to the hire yards.

A child's spilt drink resulted in a hire boat striking a moored private barge at Great Yarmouth causing considerable damage to the hire vessel and minor injuries to a passenger.

The hirer said he was distracted by the spilt drink and the collision resulted in his wife suffering minor injuries. But the hire yard quickly provided a replacement boat so the family could carry on with their holiday.

A number of speeding incidents have been recorded throughout the Broads network with rangers busy doing radar checks and in some cases taking statements from witnesses and interviewing suspects.

Environment Agency officers and Broads Beat are continuing to support the Authority on late patrols.

The Broads Authority pollution trailer was deployed to a large oil and diesel spill on the upper Ant. BA staff worked with the Environment Agency to boom the site and deal with the spill. The search for the offending vessel is continuing.

And lastly rangers made the news after a dramatic rescue of a seven-year-old boy and his father at Great Yarmouth on Wednesday.

The boy fell in the water near Vauxhall Road bridge while crabbing and his father went in to rescue him but both got into trouble in the strong tide.

Spirit of Breydon patrol boat was scrambled and helped rescue father and son from the water helped by people aboard a passing hire boat. The drama, which was reported in the Eastern Daily Press (link) came just two days after an EDP journalist went out with Spirit and reported how vital she is for the Authority to ensure the safety of boaters on and around Breydon (link).