A BOATING company carried out a major operation yesterday to move five of its fleet following the closure of a two-kilometre stretch of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal.
Specialist cranes were used to lift the boats from the canal, close to Mamhilad, before they were secured on to a lorry and taken by road to the canal near Gilwern.
Red Line Boats, based at Goytre Wharf, took the decision to move the 47ft and 56ft boats to Gilwern ahead of the boating season, which starts tomorrow to enable them to open for business as usual whilst repairs, which are expected to take until the end of April, are carried out to a 125-metre stretch of the canal embankment at Llanfoist.
The canal embankment between Llanfoist and Govilon slipped down the side of the Blorenge Mountain after becoming saturated with water during recent torrential rain. Glandwr Cymru, the Canal and River Trust in Wales, which cares for the 200-year-old waterway, began repair work, which is expected to cost at least £1million, last week.
This is the second time the company has been affected by a canal closure. In 2008 it lost around £250,000 because of a breach near Gilwern.
Sue Powell, an administrator for Red Line Boats, whose parent company is ABC Leisure Group, said: “It’s been a marathon trying to wade through all the paperwork and organise it logistically but everything we can do has been done.
“We’ve had two weeks to contact our 60 bookings and offer them alternative dates, to sail at the other end of the closure or to choose another canal for their holiday.”
She said: “Of those, we have lost 10 and two relocated, but the others have kept their booking.
“We took the decision to move five boats to public moorings near Gilwern where two operators are kindly allowing us to use their facilities to refuel.
“The season starts on Friday and our first boat leaves Gilwern on Monday.”
The company will use Goytre Wharf as its base and use minibuses to transport holidaymakers to and from their boats at Gilwern.
“Boaters are quite adventurous and are treating it as part of their holiday. They can still go from Goytre Wharf for a long weekend but there isn’t enough on this end of the canal for a longer holiday,” added Ms Powell.
The Trust is working to push back the embankment by using up to 500 pins, each of which is 10 metres long. So far around 50 pins have been put in place.
A Glandwyr Cymru spokesman said it had offered to assist any boat operators with moving their boats to other areas and that it is covering the cost as well as offering advice on suitable locations for boats to be lifted out and back into the canal.
He said: “The canal is really important for the local economy so we are keen to help businesses where we can — some have taken us up on this offer. Only a 2km section is closed, while the remaining 55km is open, so we’re really keen to get this message out and encourage people to continue to use the canal as usual.”
No-one from ABC Leisure Group was available to comment.
Videos showing how the canal at Llanfoist is being repaired: