13 miles, 10 locks
We woke to this
The first priority of the day was to 'empty' the dog! Fortunately the rain stopped, so apart from our first quick trip 'down the garden' the other two walks were dry. I walked back across Town Bridge and along the banks of the River Douglas - the very river we were about to sail along once out of Tarleton Lock.
The trip is timed as the tide is coming in, hence low water levels at present.
The briefing on Thursday night was to be at the lock at 09:30 which meant pulling pins at 09:25. One boat, as Ken commented, decided to 'warm the bell' - an old Naval expression for someone who arrives early for an appointment or for doing anything earlier than the time that had been agreed. The result was that that boat was in the lock when we got there and Cleddau was waved in - so much for our plan of travelling together!
As we entered the lock this was our last good sighting of Cleddau and their travelling companions
We were joined by Nigel and Diane on nb Escapology.
The instructions are to use full power as you leave the lock as there is a strong current to fight against.
Chris set the engine to 2000 rpm, but withing 10 minutes we had caught up with the boat that had gone out with Cleddau. We were not quite as close as it looks in the picture!
Cleddau in the meantime was way off in the distance
Having been warned to keep to the middle of the River Douglas and not knowing the etiquette as to whether we should overtake or not, we just had to pull back and potter along behind the slower boat.
In the meantime, nb Escapology was still behind us and the last two boats to pen down the lock had also caught up.
Eventually the river widened and we went for it and all four boats passed and at one point we were five abreast!
With the other boat on our port side
We were all looking for Astland Lamp
Turn right here into the River Ribble, but whatever you do keep to the left of the lamp and do not cut the corner.
We all made it safely
The other three boats overtook us and we tried to keep an eye on the last boat to ensure they were still making steady, but slow progress.
I am sure this sailing boat was not expecting four narrow boats almost line abreast when he set sail that day
The next thing to look for is the black C&RT sign denoting where to turn left into Savick Brook which is the Milennium Ribble Link. This can only be done if there is a green light - we were good go and there was a C&RT employee there counting us all in.
The three ahead of us made it safely, as we did hot on the heels of nb Escapology
After all that open water you suddenly find yourself in a very narrow and very windy channel
We were checked off as we neared the bridge before the sea lock and instructions were given that there were four boats left from yesterday (they had had to go up to Preston Docks for the night), so that would be 10 in all and we would have to breast up as best we could.
To say it was chaotic was something of an understatement! There is really only room for a couple of boats on the pontoon with four others moored up three deep (and that was far from tidy!), so the last four of us had to tie up wherever we could.
We ended up with our bow tied to someone's stern, our starboard to Escapoly and the last boat tied to our port side.
Somewhere up ahead I spotted Sue and Ken
and then someone trying to climb across boats with a suitcase
and they then scrambled up the grassy slope to escape through a gate - we gather they were visiting one of the boats that ended up in Preston and they had a train to catch
After an hour we were given the go ahead to start going through the low bridge (they have to drop the water to let boats travel under it) and we would then ascend the sea lock two at a time. Naturally the Preston four wanted to go first, but they were on the inside, so it all became even more chaotic. The green boat ahead of us started to move off before he had handed back our rope tied to his stern! It all worked out and
we made it under the low bridge with ease - compared to the M5 culvert we had loads of room to spare.
It is a narrow windy passage to the lock
and when you get there there is only mooring for one boat, so with 8 ahead of us it was a pretty chaotic wait again.
Another hours wait and we did eventually make it into the lock
There is a golf course to the port side and you are warned that one fairway is parallel to the canal and the balls do not always go where they are supposed to go!
At the next lock there was a really helpful and chatty voluntary lock keeper. As we were the last two boats he cycled up the flight with us and helped us all the way - there was some advantage at being at the back.
His main job was to secure all the locks behind us - the bottom gates have large rods that fit into the hole in the black box
and it is secured and locked at the other side. The locks are not BW ones and can only be operated by C&RT personnel.
There are 5 single locks which of course took some time to complete and then you come to a staircase of three. The turn to enter is too tight to go forwards, so it is a case of turning and entering in reverse
Each lock is very deep
Reverse back, turn left, wave goodbye and thanks to the C&RT crew
and admire the artwork behind them
So what was the crossing like?
We had made all the necessary preparations - the water tank was full (advisory if your engine might overheat and you need to run off hot water - ours was fine), Chris had sealed the water tank overflow having ended up with sea water in there when we crossed the Wash last year. The herbs were taken off the roof and all the roof furniture (gang planks, poles etc) were tied down with bungees. Cupboards and drawers were secured
and it was pretty flat - well compared to last year's Wash crossing it was as flat as a pancake! The VLK did tell me that sometime ago a boat arrived having had white horses on the Ribble. He said the lady had spent the time lying flat on the floor of the salon and when they arrived she got off the boat and said 'that is that, we are selling the boat' and I gather withing a month it had gone! The day before had been worse due to wind, so we chose the right day. Here's hoping it all goes as well when we return in June.
Yes it took a long time and yes it was a little chaotic, but in all honesty I don't think there was anything that could have been done to make things better. It is just a fact of life - you all have to go through the bridge at the same time, so waiting is inevitable.
We travelled on a few miles through more brown sludge and had to ease our way gently round this drifting cruiser
It was attached to the bank by one small piece of orange string
Hopefully she will have little ones when we come back
Sue and Ken were moored just past bridge 23, so we slotted in ahead of them
We probably should be hung drawn and quartered as our bow did protrude into a winding hole which, in normal circumstances, is a hanging offence and something we would never do, however it was late, no one was behind us, there was another two winding holes withing a few hundred yards and we would have moved if need be. In the event, no one came past before we left the next morning and we enjoyed the view from the side hatch.
From pulling pins to mooring up was around 8 hours so what better way to end a long, but interesting, day than with a celebratory Pimms and some lovely nibbles provided by Ken.