Cornwall Life meets Bude's Harbour Master

PUBLISHED: 09:53 25 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:15 20 February 2013

Cornwall Life meets Bude's Harbour Master

Cornwall Life meets Bude's Harbour Master

Cornwall Life meets Kevin Benson Bude Harbour Master who works with Gareth Cann, Countryside Ranger .<br/><br/><br/><br/>Kevin takes care of the harbour and canal in Bude and works alongside Gareth Cann, the Countryside Ranger.

Cornwall Life meets Kevin Benson Bude Harbour Master who works with Gareth Cann, Countryside Ranger

Kevin Benson, Bude Harbour Master, resides in a small hut at the end of Breakwater Road. The hut is beside the harbour lock, the gateway to the Bude Canal, and overlooks a beautiful sandy beach and the Atlantic coast. Kevin takes care of the harbour and canal in Bude and works alongside Gareth Cann, the Countryside Ranger.

Kevin has lived in Cornwall all his life and his parents were from Bude. He became the harbour master in 2004 after his predecessor, Mike Vanstone, retired. In 1998 Kevin was working in a factory when he saw a job advertised for labouring work at the harbour and he thought that working outdoors with boats would suit him more than factory work. He got the job and has never looked back. Traditionally a naval career would be a pre-requisite for becoming a harbour master but Kevin explains that Bude Harbour is relatively small and is actually called a Port of Safe Haven, which technically sidesteps the need for a naval career.

Kevin and Gareths roles often overlap. Bude is rather different than most harbours as there is not only a duty to care for the boats that come to the harbour but theres also two miles of canals and local marsh reserves to look after. Gareth explains that the marshes formed from water leaking out of the canals. There is a lot of wildlife on the marshes including otters that are regularly seen, and The Tamar Otter Sanctuary is close by.

I asked if the role of harbour master was different in the winter than in the summer. Oh yes! Laughing, Gareth and Kevin both agree. It is very difficult for boats to navigate into the harbour when the sea is rough. Its OK when the weather is good but not in the winter. Apparently there are a lot of wrecks along the coast at Bude. Kevin explains that the boats cant get insurance to dock at the harbour until March/April time; thats how rough it gets here. During the winter Kevins main role is to look after the local nature reserves and dealing with floods along the canals. During the summer he is responsible for the visiting boats and helps them operate the gates in and out of the harbour.

Lock gates allow boats to be raised or lowered along a stretch of water thats at different levels and are used to make a canal more easily navigable. Budes lock gates are extremely heavy. It takes between ten and fifteen people to open the gates manually. We used to have paid employees operating the lock gates but local groups lobbied Cornwall Council to have volunteers who help when needed and who are properly trained in health and safety. Now the boats that moor up at the harbour dont have to pay and it works very well.

I asked Kevin what he specifically brought to the role of harbour master. Local knowledge, Gareth answers without hesitation. Kevin agrees: I have lived in Bude my whole life and have been fishing from the harbour since I was seven years old, so I know these waters very well. Kevin readily admits this is not a nine-to-five job. You have to love what you do and Kevins enthusiasm for his position is evident.

Kevin usually visits the harbour on his days off. He explains: I like to go fishing so I have to come to the harbour to take a boat out to fish. We also bring our kids here to the beach. Kevin loves living in Cornwall and couldnt imagine living anywhere else: I love the fresh air and open spaces in Cornwall; its an ideal place for family holidays. Bude is extremely busy in the summer so I find it more pleasant in the winter, but at any time of year its a great place to live.

Kevins favourite place in Bude is the Kings Arms Pub in Stratton, and what about his favourite place in Cornwall? Kevin shrugs and says apologetically that his favourite place in Cornwall is Bude. But Gareth immediately says that he feels the same. Taking a stroll along Bude Canal and beach it is easy to see why. Kevin is surrounded by fresh air, open spaces, an amazing job that offers him a life outdoors working on boats, gorgeous scenery and the inspirational Atlantic Ocean.

By Amanda Gough

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