Thursday, 9 May 2013

An Unexpected Journey

Wednesday 8th May 2013

After mooring up the previous day, Diane wanted to go down to the River Lock and watch the boats go out on the tide this morning – no problems – just a lazy 4½ mile stroll there and the same coming back, plus they were due to go out just before 9am.

Yes dear we can get up early and walk there, but not sure that you will make it back – not sure I will either, but your wish is my command.

Early riser that she is I reminded her about 6:30am of her desire, to wit there was a sudden springing out and we were away – err, with the boat – we would just go down to the water point moor up and see the boats, come back and we could leisurely go down to the town later after we watered up.

Sounds all OK to me.

We walked into town and down to the River Lock – spoke to some of those going – oh we were called by CaRT about going today instead of tomorrow – they are expecting high winds; there are only 5 here at the moment to go.

A bit further on we spoke to the lockie, Bert – in his inimitable Lancastrian accent (some of which I understood) he explained that the new weather reports showed strong winds and rain for Thursday and Friday and there would not be any possibility of passage on those days.

He explained that we could go today – problem was that we had walked in and we needed to be at the lock (with the boat as well) in just an hour.

Confirmation with his boss – I think it’s a seniority thing (in years) – the boss was too old to have an “on-the-road” drivers licence, so Bert very kindly drove us back to where the boat was moored – countdown now at 45 minutes.

Hurriedly we got to the boat readied her to unmoor and let loose – 2½ miles in 40 minutes – no problems (eeek!!) – including moored boats and two swing bridges.

Diane had the controls on the boat and went nicely past the moored boats (the first lot) after that it was flat out (for a canal).

This left me having to run to get ahead to get the swing bridges opened in timed for her to get through without slowing down and the run to catch up and get on – all at speed.

As well there was the anchor to get out and ready; clear the roof of items likely to get tossed overboard; get the lifebuoy connected to a rope – all achieved – full steam ahead still – aye aye captain!

I think the CaRT people at the lock may have been taking odds about us making it, but we did with seconds to spare. Instructions had previously been given so we were set on that score.

We could see the last boat about 10 minutes ahead of the lock – we were still locking down; gates opened; engine engaged at full warp speed and we were off – keeping to the left to avoid being dragged up river by the in-rushing tide.

We made pretty good speed; around the first few bends and we had settled down.

Diane was a bit upset – seems she had missed on the chance to get all nervous about going.

What started off as a casual walk to see what was ahead for us tomorrow became reality today.

The bends didn’t give us a chance to see where the boat directly in front of us was; we knew that we needed to get a hurry on to avoid missing the sea lock and ending up in Preston for the night.

Passing the marina at Hesketh Bank, I spotted the boat – not that far ahead but it is always difficult to gauge distances.

Then the long almost straight run up to Asland Lamp (the rounding mark) – we were gaining on the boat – this really was our marker – catch them and we felt sure of making the lock.

just on the left there are some buildings - red brick and white -
we had to aim for these to make sure that we rounded Asland
Lamp and not run-aground on the sand banks on the right at the junction

Asland Lamp
By the time we had reached Asland Lamp we rounded it just behind them but the techniques (from John Bertrand) and natural “skills” allowed us to slip past them – there will be a certain call up to one of the America’s Cup teams I am sure.

This was awaited if we turned left instead of right -
The Irish Sea

The wind was whipping up the water

some of the flotsam remaining after a high tide -
that would be the rubbish not the sheep

We had left the boat on about 1900 revs (max 2300, but usually only 1100) and she performed magnificently. We made the turn from the estuary into the sea lock entrance channel close to the boat in front and well inside the time that we needed to get there.

Savick Brook entrance- pretty glad to see this

the Sea Lock and green light to go through
It took about 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete and we were a bit interested to learn that one of the other guys on another boat who had completed this before thought it was a bit harder than usual – we thought it just fine.

The only problem that we had was that the wind that was initially behind us on the journey to the Lamp, was now broadside to us when we rounded it, so we had the boat lurching to port; the waves were hitting on the starboard occasionally splashing up higher, but to me it was quite enjoyable; Diane was not too worried, just concerned a little but glad it was over; Banjo was fine outside but didn’t like the noise (from the engine) inside – so he was out as well – all of us with our life jackets on.

A short wait after the tide was on its way out before the sea lock closed – they needed to allow water to come out so that there was clearance under the first bridge – after that it really was just another flight of lock – CaRT helping us through the next lock and the last 3 lock (a three-rise staircase).
The canal between the Sea Lock and the staircase was a tight winding event and needed to be negotiated with care to avoid the shallow sides and just get around the tight bends.

we needed to wait just past the Sea Lock until the water level
fell enough to allow us under this road bridge

If the tight turns, muddy banks and shallow sides weren't
enough we had these to watch out for as well

Just beyond this bridge was the staircase lock...

... into which we needed to reverse - there was not enough room in
the pound below to wind
The staircase was recommended to be done in reverse – i.e. reverse the 2 boats into the first chamber and then together into each of the subsequent chambers and wind at the top – which we did with some ease.

We bid thanks and farewell to the last lock-keeper and we were away, turning left at the Lancaster Canal junction and journeyed up past bridge 23 to moor up in a reasonably quiet and rural setting – we couldn’t get right in but just a ½ metre out was fine.

What a day we have had – a casual walk turned into a full blown rush to get to the lock and then suddenly we were in the midst of what we had been concerned about.

The alternative would have been a wait until the 23rd May – not something that I think we would have bothered staying around for.

It really was An Unexpected Journey

17 miles, 11 locks  and 2 swing bridges

Totals: 1658 Miles, 1294 Locks, 56 Tunnels, 28 Lift Bridges, 129 Swing Bridges


  1. Looks like an amazing experience - and now you've got the hang of it you can do it all over again on the way back. Double fun!

  2. Wow that looked and read pretty exciting stuff,YE OLD Sea Dogs,and Banjo.After the Ribble are you sure you didn't turn up the Tongoio Stream.That was pretty tight going. Well Done,......

  3. Bravo ! Wot an adventure ! Makes our trip look awfully dull :) El x

  4. Thanks for the comments - it was a wonderful experience; we didn't have any time to really be too concerned about it all - the quick trip to make the lock and before we knew it we were out there on the river.
    Looking forward to the return trip but want to enjoy this canal first