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PENTARGON SPRINGER

Sharpness to Bristol on the tide

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I think it very advisable to employ the services of a pilot. A number of Boats can share a pilot. I've never done and have no ambition to do so. Others will be along very soon to assist.

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low tide stop at Portishead dock?

difficult approach to Portishead?

proceed to Bristol on rising tide?

 

all I have heard is that a pilot is essential.

  • Greenie 1

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If you can navigate using a chart and have a suitable boat it is only a case of following the leading marks/lights ( shown on the chart) to stay in the deep water.  The route is quite complicated as you need to avoid the (ex) nuclear  power station cooling ponds, run nearly across into Wales, look you and then get through the Shoots under the bridges where the channel is narrow, and fairly shallow and the water is angry about being shoved through a small space after all the room it had  upriver.

Unless you can do really high speeds  and CRT will let you out early, you will not get into Bristol on the same tide as you leave Sharpness on,   so you can either anchor in the Avon (at Pill is OK)  or go into Portishead Marina.   The run up the Avon gorge is much easier navigationally but there are few places to hide if anything biggish is coming out.  The Clifton bridge is impressive from the river.

You will need to set the passage up with CRT at Gloucester, Portishead if you are going there and Bristol.  You will need VHF to check for traffic from Portbury and/or Avonmouth. The car carriers are big!

The local police ( Avon and Somerset IIRC) produced a video of how to do it  way back in the 80's but that was aimed more at the local high-speed gin palace types than narrowboaters.

 

The advantage of a  Pilot is that he/she will be more up to date than a chart and  will know whether the Met conditions are suitable for your boat or not. They will also sort out The VHF, CRT and Portbury/ Avonmouth.   They will expect you to go to Portishead but you have to tee-up there and Bristol yourself.  They are also very interesting to talk to and their presence will reassure a narrowboater's insurance company.  Even if you are a lumpy water boater with stacks of pilotage time, the first time at least, the experience the pilot brings was, to me, worth paying for.

 They say Cardiff bay is quite nice these days, should you miss the turning😊.

N

  • Greenie 2

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This is the purpose in my asking!

I have heard that people who have used pilots have had engines burnt out.

And there is a considerable cost involved.

I believe £200 for a pilot to Portishead.

£100 to overnight and £100 pilot to Bristol.

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5 minutes ago, PENTARGON SPRINGER said:

This is the purpose in my asking!

I have heard that people who have used pilots have had engines burnt out.

And there is a considerable cost involved.

I believe £200 for a pilot to Portishead.

£100 to overnight and £100 pilot to Bristol.

I also believe that to get a pliot you will need to have a certificate that your fuel tanks have been cleaned recently.

 

No need for a pilot Portishead to Cumberland  Basin but talk to Bristol Harbour Master  for traffic deconfliction.  Timings from Pill or Portishead will depend on your boat and the state of the tide.  I would avoid Springs cos it will be really lumpy in The Shoots and fast up the Avon.

 

No idea of current costs but temporary moorings in Brizzle Floating Harbour are not cheap.

 

N

  • Greenie 1

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This will tell you quite a bit: http://www.gloucesterpilots.co.uk/services/leisure/

Plenty of people have done the trip (including me). http://tugharry.blogspot.com/2015/06/our-little-fleet-of-narrowboats-lines.html

There was no need for a pilot up to Bristol - our man down the Severn gave us a couple of tips (basically, don't cut the corner into the Avon) and off we went.

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We did it with pilots about 6 yrs ago nothing about having tanks cleaned (but that seems likely a relatively new phenomenon). I recall we were asked to ensure the tank was full.  When we did it was like a mill pond.  Apart from the approach to Gloucester docks going sideways with the tide which was a bit hairy, I thought a pilot well worth it.  Another boat followed us without one and they looked considerably stressed out about it.  

 

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We did it a few years ago and I would take a pilot. If you are working a couple of hundred quid is not many days work. I would take a 5 gallon can of good diesel and some bits of rubber tube to connect the engine to it if there is any doubt about your fuel, In fact if there is any doubt at all about your fuel I would run the engine from a can and then refill that can from another can. Many canal boats have a couple of inches of crap diesel sloshing around the bottom of the tank. Don't ask me how I know. You will leave Sharpness when they let you out, perhaps with other boats, your pilot will show you where to go. You will feed him biscuits and coffee. You will fly under the bridges when the tide is belting out and you will mutter 'bloody hell' and you will arrive at Portishead a while later at lowish tide. Its best to tie in the marina where the pilot will leave you. Next day as the tide is rising it will carry you up to Bristol. So you need, Pilot, good fuel, biscuits. Enjoy it.

Edited by Bee
missed a bit

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The weather can be changeable. Roger did it with a friend, with a good weather forecast and ended up with gale force winds. It was a bit hairy

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You will also need to check whether your insurers are happy for you to do the trip and if they require you to have a pilot with you.

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8 minutes ago, Naughty Cal said:

You will also need to check whether your insurers are happy for you to do the trip and if they require you to have a pilot with you.

Good point.

 

When I crossed the Wash in 2015, my insurer had a list of   conditions  / advice, which made a lot of sense and which I complied with. The other two boats: their insurer said that the Wash was covered by the standard "tidal interconnecting waterways" clause, ie no different to the Trent between Cromwell and Keadby.  They maintained this line even when asked "are you sure?".  As you will well know, those two waterways are not quite the same !

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11 minutes ago, Scholar Gypsy said:

Good point.

 

When I crossed the Wash in 2015, my insurer had a list of   conditions  / advice, which made a lot of sense and which I complied with. The other two boats: their insurer said that the Wash was covered by the standard "tidal interconnecting waterways" clause, ie no different to the Trent between Cromwell and Keadby.  They maintained this line even when asked "are you sure?".  As you will well know, those two waterways are not quite the same !

I bet the same insurer wouldn't let the boats on the Trent below Keadby :rolleyes:

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I came down with Nicki and John in May, and steered between the bridges - even if a pilot were not required I wouldn't want to try it in a boat as slow and cumbersome as a narrow boat without one. 

 

At one point the pilot had me aiming at the Welsh shore and then turn to face almost to the English Shore, not to avoid shallows per se, but to fight the way the currents were pushing the boat. All the while I did this the boat headed determinedly (albeit crab-wise) for the main span, had I aimed at the main span I guess I would have been knocked off course and may have struggled to get back. 

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Actually what Patrick said is interesting, those currents are really quite something. There is a whacking great yellow buoy between the bridges and it should be impossible to hit the thing but we saw a Dutch barge nearly come to grief on it in spite of the fact that it was visible for miles.  Kept getting drawn to it like a magnet. As Patrick says, a pilot would steer half a mile off and end up going right on target through the main span.

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38 minutes ago, magpie patrick said:

I came down with Nicki and John in May, and steered between the bridges - even if a pilot were not required I wouldn't want to try it in a boat as slow and cumbersome as a narrow boat without one. 

 

At one point the pilot had me aiming at the Welsh shore and then turn to face almost to the English Shore, not to avoid shallows per se, but to fight the way the currents were pushing the boat. All the while I did this the boat headed determinedly (albeit crab-wise) for the main span, had I aimed at the main span I guess I would have been knocked off course and may have struggled to get back.  

That's one of the things you learn on a RYA  'Day Skipper' and in further depth on the 'Coastal Skipper' courses.

Imagine a boat capable of 4mph leaving (say) Southampton and planning to arrive at St Peters Port Guernsey - part of the examination is to calculate the duration of the trip, work out the course headings for each hour of the tide (both on ebb and flood).

Your course, on paper, looks like a huge Z shape but as the water is moving, and you are also moving 'across' the water, if you get it right, you make a straight line from A to B

 

Well worth doing if just to get an understanding of tides and navigation, - (just think, when we are 'cut off' from Europe, no planes and no ferries, we can still get there)

 

There is one of these tidal streams published for every hour of the tidal flow showing strength and direction.

 

Image result for channel tidal flows

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5 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

That's one of the things you learn on a RYA  'Day Skipper' and in further depth on the 'Coastal Skipper' courses.

I feel certain there is a joke there somewhere.

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On 06/02/2019 at 16:43, PENTARGON SPRINGER said:

Has anyone here ever done Sharpness to Bristol solo? There seems to be no published information on how.

To be honest I think I'd only consider it if I'd travelled both ways with a pilot and knew exactly what was involved, that is always assuming that my insurer would wear the idea of travelling without a pilot. When you consider that Ports'head has one of the biggest tidal ranges in the country, I think I'd like to try it with someone who knew what they were doing before trusting it to someone who didn't (me). I have done quite a bit of offshore sailing and the guy I sail with did a sort of circumnavigation of England and Scotland, including a trip up to Gloucester docks. He sent me an e-mail about his exploits and when I told him that there are a few narrowboaters who go between Port'shead and Sharpness, his response was,"They must be barking mad", this was from someone I've crossed the North Sea with (twice). The currents under the bridges can be, shall we say, challenging:unsure:

  • Greenie 1

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16 minutes ago, Wanderer Vagabond said:

To be honest I think I'd only consider it if I'd travelled both ways with a pilot and knew exactly what was involved, that is always assuming that my insurer would wear the idea of travelling without a pilot. When you consider that Ports'head has one of the biggest tidal ranges in the country, I think I'd like to try it with someone who knew what they were doing before trusting it to someone who didn't (me). I have done quite a bit of offshore sailing and the guy I sail with did a sort of circumnavigation of England and Scotland, including a trip up to Gloucester docks. He sent me an e-mail about his exploits and when I told him that there are a few narrowboaters who go between Port'shead and Sharpness, his response was,"They must be barking mad", this was from someone I've crossed the North Sea with (twice). The currents under the bridges can be, shall we say, challenging:unsure:

Currents like this...that huge baulk of timber just wouldn't get out of our path; the pilot took the helm and had quite a battle to get round it. IMG_7183.JPG.1d9bca9bd08427d35fcdab3faa926c84.JPG

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The pilot & I played a game. As the boat rode down off a wave I happened to let go of the tiller to pick up my coffee cup. He said our boat was clearly very stable, it hadn't fallen sideways off the wave, and could I let go of the tiller & get through 2 waves. I did so then gave him the tiller saying "Your turn, 3 waves". After some practice he managed 3 then gave it back with a smile and said "4". Eventually I managed 4 and gave it back to him saying "5"; he couldn't manage 5 & nor could I. It was fun, but our dog was seasick.

 

The best thing about having a pilot was that he knew the seabed perfectly. When we had to leave the channel because it was too rough, he knew shortcuts across sandbanks that would dry out a few minutes after we had crossed them. He knew what was possible and what wasn't, and our properly-installed VHF radio meant he could stay in contact with several coastguard stations for real-time weather observations; this meant he could decide whether we could make it to Portishead or whether we needed to go up the Wye to anchor until the weather improved.

 

I'd love to go again, and I would definitely take a pilot again.

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I did Bristol to Portishead in 2013 with a couple of narrowboaters I met on the K&A just because I didn't want to do it alone, and then had a pilot's help from Portishead to Sharpness. I had perfect conditions for the trip, but having done it, even if I had the correct GPS coordinates I still wouldn't try it without a pilot.

 

For me it was well worth the money and it was nice being able to relax while someone else took over. He did push the engine hard but if an engine is in danger of "burning out" then I'm not sure that the boat should really be on tidal waters in the first place? We shot out of Portishead at full power and he only backed off the revs about two miles out as the temperature was starting to creep up a bit. I don't think it went higher than 90C but he was aware and did ask if it would overheat before we started. He only checked my anchor and didn't ask about the fuel tank, but that may have been because it was a calm day.

 

25 Bristol channel.jpg

Edited by blackrose

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