Keeping leisure users safe
Let’s get this out the way right from the off, shall we? Brian Macfarlane is one of the fun police. Yes, that’s right, the fun police. If you’re jet-skiing where you shouldn’t, bombing upriver at 30 knots on your way back from the pub or veering dangerously close to a fast moving ferry, it is quite likely Brian will want to have a little word.
In fairness to Brian, this is because you are breaking one of the bye-laws that are in place to maintain safety on a busy waterway.
However, you are just as likely to meet Brian should your engine fail mid channel, your prop get fouled in a lobster line or if there’s something big lurking just under the surface of the river causing a danger to passing boats.
“At the end of the day the river is for everyone’s enjoyment, and there are plenty of places you can have fun,” says Brian. “But at the same time it’s a hardworking, busy port. So we need rules. And just occasionally, not very often to be fair, people break those rules and when they do, they can put others in danger.”
Brian’s official title is Water Ranger. This might conjure an image of a smartly dressed, stern officer, badge on his jacket and big hat placed firmly on his head. This would be wrong, however. Brian is far from untidy but he’s extremely relaxed, nearly always cheerful and wearing a big hat would be daft because in the boating season he spends much of his time in a boat on the river.
“I have two offices. One has a desk. The other one is the most wonderful tract of waterway. I might be patrolling the waterway, networking with commercial operators such as the marinas, giving safety advice to boat owners, or even escorting the ferry in and out of the haven on busy days.”
As commanding as some might think he is, this Scottish bear of a man has a gentle side. A divorced dad, raising his daughter in their home in Spittal, Brian is definitely the kind of man who’s quicker to a smile than a frown.
“My family is from the Highlands and that’s my spiritual home. I started my working life in the Royal Navy like my father before me but settled in Pembrokeshire 25 years ago.”
As an outdoors kind of a guy (he was an activity centre instructor for several years) Brian has thrown himself into every exciting activity Pembrokeshire has to offer from coasteering to cliff jumping. He’s also a 4x4 fanatic and will often be found under his Land Rover bonnet at weekends.
“I fell in love with Pembrokeshire immediately. The variety is key: you can get up into the hills or down onto the beach, both easily on the same day. The scenery is stunning and the wild weather only adds another dimension. It’s a fantastic place to bring kids up, my daughter is sitting her GCSE’s this year and has definitely benefited from being brought up in a rural environment.”
When asked how he feels about his authoritarian role on the water, he smiles. “I try and avoid it, to keep it easy going. Ultimately though, some situations demand authority, especially when safety is an issue. However, it’s much better to do it with a quiet chat.” He raises his eyebrows. “Bit like being a dad really.”
As featured in the Port's newsletter, OnBoard, Spring 2016. Please click to find out what it takes to become a Water Ranger.