Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Extreme Sport! Down the Severn Estuary

Tuesday 23rd June 2015

Sharpness to Portishead
23 Miles, 2 locks

Following on from the last blog and my early walk with Monty it was time to go on our second big adventure – the first being across the Wash last year. Across the Wash 31 July 2014. The weather was perfect and all the necessary preparation had been done:  Navigational lights were up, the helmsmen had VHF licences and radios, the fuel tank was full and the fuel had been polished, the water tank was not too full, we all had life jackets, the pilot was booked, the cratch covers at the bow of both boats had been sealed down with tape and firmly shut, the charts had been printed, laminated and were at hand, the low bridge at Sharpness had been booked to swing and Portishead were aware we were on our way and needed to berth overnight.  Definitely good to go!


The photos have now been edited and named and whittled down from 295 to 114, but fear not I will not be posting them all on here!  Well not quite all!

We were off at 10:25 and despite the clouds you see here, the weather was set to be fair.

Under High Bridge and you can just see Low Bridge (such original names, but that really is what they are called!) in the background

Low Bridge was swung at 11:03 and through we went

Into the basin beyond where we were warned to keep out of the way of this craft - our pilot had arrived on her from Barry having nursed her along with no reverse gear.  If they went into neutral the engine cut out, making reverse almost impossible.

Past this dredger busy at work

And past The Mariaburg who was supposed to be sharing the lock with us - she was one very large ship!  We would have been dwarfed.

We breasted up in the lock

And 'White Lady' joined us.

But they were still busy getting their safety equipment ready for their trip, We were then informed that Mariaburg was not ready, so she would follow us shortly.

11:33, the gates were opened and we were on our way.  I mentioned in an earlier post that we were going to have to wait on the floating dock for our pilot, but he had joined us in the lock.  It was White Lady who stopped there to finish off their preparations.

Out into the estuary - you have to follow closely along this jetty or you risk running aground

There are some eddies at the end, but we were lucky it was relatively benign for us

As he did last year crossing the Wash, Monty instinctively knew who was in charge and curled up on Rick's feet!

There is a vast expanse of water, but fortunately it was very calm

There was not a lot of wildlife to be seen - just this solitary cormorant surveying his world from on high

 From the far distance Berkeley Nuclear Power Station looked like a castle, but not once you got close.  It has been decommissioned, but it will be 2123 before it is declared 'clean'.

The Mariaburg made it out from Sharpness and overtook us, thankfully from a good distance away.  I think we were all pleased she was not ready in time to share a lock with us.

White Lady also overtook us with her dinghy now safely stowed in the stern

It was beginning to get choppy, so we tied Monty on in case he wobbled off the side.  Rick did suggest there was a boat behind (nb Cleddau) who could pick him up!  We decided not to put that to the test!

This gives an idea of how choppy it was - well it was not that bad, but narrow boats are used to flat calm, non tidal canals!  The tides in this estuary are the second highest in the world (after The Bay of Fundy in Canada) - rising and falling some 50 feet at times.

If you want to see some action - follow this link of nb Cleddau after the M4 bridge

We were in safe hands with Rick at the helm and nb Cleddau followed us all the way.  Rick's coat is a life jacket combined with a coat.

The first Severn Bridge carrying the M48 hove into view.  It was opened on 8th September 1966 by Queen Elizabeth II.  When it was opened the toll for a car was 2s 6d (0.125 pence in today's currency).  It is now £6.50.  It is only payable one way - as you enter Wales.  In 1966 the toll was payable both ways, but that is still a pretty hefty increase.  There is a lot more information HERE if you are interested.

I am sure this is the only time we will ever get to see it from this perspective and it really is an amazing structure.


With traffic appearing to be suspended in mid air

nb Cleddau right underneath the bridge

Next came Chapel Rock which has the remains of a chapel traditionally said to have been founded in the 4th century by Tecla, a princess of Gwynedd who retired there as a hermit before being murdered by raiders from the sea. A chapel dedicated to St Twrog, perhaps containing a navigation light, was later built on the rock, but was ruined before the 18th century.

The second Severn Bridge carrying the M4 across the Estuary looks like two volcano like structures from the far distance.

This bridge is a far more substantial structure that the elegant suspension bridge built in 1966.  It took four years to build and was opened by The Prince of Wales on 5th June 1996.  It cost £380 million to construct, so perhaps one can understand the toll charges.  They are the same on this bridge as the M48 bridge - payable on the Welsh side, but once again as you enter Wales.  Again if you are interested there is a lot more information to be found HERE.


 The state of our flag gives an indication of the wind.

The Pepperpots - this is what Rick told us we had to look for when we do the crossing tomorrow from Portishead to Bristol.  We will see the big one as we leave, but need to aim for the small one when it comes into view and hug the wall with the pepperpot on our left.

First view of Portishead

With Wales in the far distance

Aim for this jetty and once again hug it all the way or risk running aground

Nearly there

nb Cleddau has made it safely

Boatwif has opened up the cratch covers over bow ready for lock operations

As ever Monty was keeping an eye on things and ensuring Rick went the right way!

And here we were safely in yet another very big lock.  The gauge at the far end on the right is in metres - we were to go up around 8 metres.

We had to wait for these 'gongoozlers' (people who watch lock operations) to move before the water could be let in.

'Abandoned', but keeping an eye on things whilst we made ourselves secure before

The gates shut

 And the water came in - great torrents of the stuff which created a lot of foam.  We said 'farewell' to Rick who had guided us safely.  He was good company, very professional, full of interesting information and a pleasure to have on board.  Thank you Rick from all of us.

16:02 the gates were opened and we had arrived in the marina

We felt a little out of place amongst all the sailing boats (some were impressively large)

Down to the end, wind (turn round)

And back to pontoon G where there was space for us to breast up for the night

The day ended with a really good meal at La Marina by the lock - well it was the end of a momentous day -  a Wedding Anniversary we will not forget in a hurry.

Thanks also have to go to the crew of nb Chouette, Angela and Patrick, who sent us a copy of the DVD they made when they did the crossing in 2008.  If anyone is ever thinking of taking this trip, then please keep this LINK from nb Balmaha.  It is full of very useful information.

So where do the 'extreme sports' feature you may well ask?  When we reported in to our daughter that we had arrived she commented that she was pleased our 'extreme sports' were over for another year! Well they were nearly over - just the short hop back along the estuary from Portishead to the mouth of the Bristol Avon to do the next day.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Jennie, great blog! Can I put a link onto our website?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Rick, Yes you can. Thank you again for your invaluable help and advice, Jennie and Chris

    ReplyDelete