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The journeys of the Narrowboat Indigo Dream

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Archive for September 15th, 2008

The Odyssey Summer 2008 Day 34

Posted by indigodream on 15 September, 2008

View from the footbridge

View from the footbridge by Gloucester Lock

Our original plan for this weekend was to go down to Sharpness, see if the boat was ok, spend a couple of days enjoying the view then head back for Surrey. But with Gloucester Lock predicted to be closed for another week we had little hope of cruising.

As the weekend drew nearer our plans changed somewhat, but I’ll come back to that later.

We got back to the boat on Saturday afternoon. Sharpness docks looked as abandoned and derelict as when we left it but the view across the Severn was lovely as ever. I could imagine spending the rest of my days here just watching the river’s changing moods. I wish we’d come down earlier and spent a few days doing just that. Today the tide was out when we arrived and there were a load of one-man hovercrafts whizzing around the estuary. Much as I hate craft that can capsize I thought it looked like great fun, I’d have loved to have joined them!

View downstream - this leads to the weir

View downstream - this leads to the weir

We were a bit perplexed when we got back to the boat – she was pointing the wrong way. It was bit of a mystery as there weren’t many boats around and no-one had seen anything. When we got aboard we found that one of our mooring chains had snapped – she must have drifted out and someone must have pulled her back in and re-tied her. It was a bit of a shock – we used mooring chains round the sheet piling because we thought it would be more secure. We’ll never know for certain what happened. Our guess is that it snapped when someone went past at speed (it’s such a deep canal that people tend not to creep past moored boats). However, a local boater told us that the trip boat, Oliver Cromwell, has been know to drag the odd pin out – not necessarily through bad driving – just by sheer size and displacement. Of course, it could just have been stormy weather from the wide river.

The mooring chains are all but submerged!

The mooring chains are all but submerged!

Anyway, our advice to boaters mooring in Sharpness for a while is to use springs fore and aft to ‘double secure’ your boat – don’t rely on mooring chains, definitely don’t use mooring hooks and don’t just use one pin to each rope. If you can, try to get onto the giant mooring rings near to the marina (without obscuring the water point, of course).

I loved Sharpness but it does have one significant downside – its remoteness by road. The local lock-keeper had told us that you could bring your car to the waterside near the services pontoon at the other side of Sharpness High Bridge to load up. With this in mind I headed off up the A38 in search of a superstore (we were planning to stay onboard for a week) and I ended up back in Gloucester! It’s a long way – there must be supermarkets closer to Sharpness – if you know of any then let me know! It all seemed to take hours and while I started the drive in good spirits, by

This towpath was above our heads when we came through on Indigo Dream a few weeks ago.

This towpath was above our heads when we came through on Indigo Dream a few weeks ago.

the time I got back to the boat (via some quite eccentric directions from the satnav) I was very fed up indeed.

Note: You can park your car in the lane by the service pontoon (turn left immediately after the swing bridge) for very convenient on and off loading BUT there’s no barriers between the lane and the water so mind how you drive.

Note: There is no convenient on/offloading for big dogs at the service pontoon. It’s well below the level of the lane and access is by short ladder.

There was one good thing about ending up in Gloucester though. It gave me the opportunity to finally make my mind up about the place. The last time I blogged about the city I wasn’t sure about it. But my final verdict is that I like Gloucester very much – it felt very welcoming when I came back to it – like coming home.

While I was there I couldn’t resist having a look at the Severn and talking to the Gloucester lock-keeper. I could see why the lock wouldn’t be open for a while. The mooring chains that you catch on your way down to the lock were almost completely submerged! When we came through in August, the river wall leading to the lock was above our heads – if we’d moored there today we could have stepped comfortably from the boat down onto the wall. I’ll put some photos on later – unfortunately I don’t have the right lead with me to transfer them from phone to computer. I’m glad I went to see – it’s not been a bad week for weather in Surrey (be recent standards!) and it was a lovely day on Saturday – hard to believe that the river could still be so high.

While I was off hunting for provisions, Richard was getting the boat ready for Sunday’s BIG trip. Having looked at our schedule we’d decided it was too tight to wait on Gloucester lock – we were looking at another week’s stoppage at least and it would only take a rainy day to scupper that schedule and delay us even further. It wouldn’t have been a problem earlier in the year, but we’re up against the winter maintenance lock closure timetable which could keep us from our winter mooring for the whole season. So, Richard did his research and decided that it was feasible to down the tidal Severn then up the tidal Avon to Bristol. We’d then thread our way home via the Kennett and Avon. It was a drastic solution and I can’t say I was thrilled at the prospect of yet another foray down the K & A. It’s my least favourite waterway yet we’ve cruised it FOUR times in two years. Never mind, Richard was so looking forward to cruising the Severn – another of his boating ambitions achieved!

Having seen the tide racing out of the estuary at Sharpness and the sheer size of the river I wasn’t the least bit interested in joining him. I was also totally petrified that if we took the dogs onto the river and we got into trouble then we might face being rescued ourselves but having to leave the dogs to their fate. Only fellow dog owners will understand! So the plan was for me to drive down to Portishead with the dogs while Richard and one of the Sharpness pilots brought the boat down.

We’ll tell you that story in the next blog but I must report that we had a stunningly quiet night in Sharpness. The evening skies were crystalline blue and lit by the silvery glow of a near-full moon. We seemed to be long way from the sodium glow of the cities so we got a great view of the stars. The only sound that disturbed the night was the cry of a hunting owl and the gentle slosh of the river against the soft banks.

I was sad to leave Sharpness – I’d have liked a few more days there and I regret not having gone down to the boat sooner. I can highly recommend it as a destination – just make sure that you’ve packed your boat with food before you get there!

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