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Escape from Sharpness (1)

Posted by indigodream on 16 September, 2008

Getting Ready…..

Tranquil Sharpness

Tranquil Sharpness

As Sue mentioned in the last, we’ve decided to go down the tidal Severn in order to make it back to our winter moorings before the lock closures.

Although Sue has accused me of using the weather as an excuse for a grand adventure, the tidal Severn really is a good option. Honest. Would I lie to you……

Of course, it would be a big adventure (shhh, don’t tell her I said that) but only if Indigo Dream arrived in one piece so I did a lot of research before finalising the plan.

To start off with, Gloucester Harbour Trustees do a really excellent information pack

This had loads of practical guidance as well as useful phone numbers. The pack’s great but sometimes you just need to talk to a human being to get a feel for the thing. Here’s the order I did it in:

  1. Sharpness pilots – tel. 07774 226143 They offered advice on the feasibility of the trip, offered reassurances about our safety (which I could pass on to Sue) and advice on local conditions over the weekend (which were expected to be perfect). For a narrowboat on the estuary you’re looking for flat calm water – usually achieved by a light wind blowing in the same direction as the tide (downstream in our case). They also told us the time of the tides so we could plan our days (and set the alarm clock) appropriately. The cost of a pilot is £160.
  2. Sharpness Pier Head – 01453 511968. You need to book your passage through Shrpness low bridge (swing) and through the lock in advance. 24 hours in advance in the case of the bridge. They tell you when they want you to come through the swing bridges – normally 2 hours before high tide but took pity on us and allowed us come through 1 hour before high tide at 7am.
  3. Sharpness Dock office – 01453 811862. We got through to these guys when the pier head was closed – very helpful.
  4. Portishead Marina – 01275 84194. That was our first destination. You can get to Sharpness to Portishead in one tide but not as far as Bristol. You have a choice of sitting out the low tide in a smart marina or on the manky mud outside. We chose the marina! You do need to book your lock into the marina and arrange a berth with them. Costs £16.50 for lock fees and mooring between tides.
  5. Bristol City Docks Dockmaster – 0117 927 3633. We booked our lock passage and got lots of advice on how to time our journey from Portishead. We wouldn’t have a pilot for this bit (though you can book one if you want) so their hints and reassurance were great.

STOP PRESS: There are also guidance notes published on the Bristol site here. They look a bit scary so don’t tell Sue.

I have to say that through every stage of this trip the pilots, lock-keeprs and dock-masters were exceptionally knowledgeable, competent and helpful. They were also pleasant and amiable. What a good combination.

With this team behind us even Sue finally agreed that the tidal Severn was the best route for us. I’ve been taking lessons from Blue – work it so that it’s her idea then she can take the blame if it all goes pear-shaped. I’ve learnt a lot from that dog!

I spent the evening before the adventure doing my pre-flight checks –

engine – check

purge tank and filters – check

secure all moveable and breakable items – check

seal up front vents – check

personalised life-ring – check

splice on extra rope lengths – check

bilge pump working- oh b*^^%r! The bilge pump was knackered, size 12 boot knackered. We never noticed before because the Vetus Stern Gland simply keeps our engine compartment so dry. I managed to pick up a new bilge pump from the helpful Matt (in Stroud) at 10pm but by the time I got back it was time for bed – it had been a busy day. Fitting the new pump would have to wait for the morning – if the bilge pump wasn’t fitted then we always had a bucket for bailing……

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