Thursday, 16 September 2010

Gloucester 2010 - A dash for freedom

Gloucester to Worcester
28th August 2010

30 miles - 5 locks - 9 hours

Yesterday's water predictions were not optimistic, so I hauled myself over to the lock keepers office at 8.00am with little expectation in my step. Mentally we were prepared for yet another day in Gloucester, so imagine my surprise to be told that against all the odds, the water level had dropped a metre overnight and was now inside the green zone, by the smallest of margin - and was like that all the way up the river.

Narrowboats in Gloucester dock

Put another way - we were hot to trot.

I rushed back to Wand'ring Bark and informed the still horizontal crew that we would be casting off in 15 minutes, and they both had to be up and dressed before we emerged onto the Severn.  8.20am saw us leave our home for the last four days and enter the Dock lock with another narrowboat. This other boat clearly had a much bigger engine than WB, because she started to pull away even before we were out of the lock.

Unusual clouds above Gloucester

Whilst the Severn had dropped a lot it still had a significant flow on it - about 3.5 mph which robbed WB of much of its forward speed, which is just over 5.00mph flat out of still flat water. This strong current resulted in the two mile passage to Upper Parting taking about an hour, after which the flow slackened and we managed to pick up the pace to a heady 2.5 mph. Half a mile an hour makes a big difference at these low speeds. However, as Jeff and Belle pointed out - 2.5 mph is a good canal speed on some of the shallower waterways - and we were making better progress than on the Trent when we cruised over three metres of fresh. I quake at the memory of it!

Telford's road bridge at Tewkesbury

As you will remember, I was planning to take it easy and avoid straining the shaft, but the flow left me little choice other than open up the throttle and maintain a constant engine speed of over 2000rpm. I periodically took a look at the shaft and engine throbbing beneath me but all appeared OK so I crossed my fingers and ploughed on in a welter of spray.

Perhaps the greatest danger on the lower section of the river was the debris being washed down the Avon. Huge chunks of timber appeared, lying low an the water had to be avoided, as did the big clumps of floating weed.

Floating debris

Just above Haw Bridge we came across five firemen in a RIB, coaxing a cow back onto dry land. I don't know how long the unfortunate beast had been in the water but it was soon back on dry land the the firemen were speeding to their recovery point at Apperley.

Cow rescue - very amoosing

The influence of the ebbing tide weakened as we progressed and by the time we passed the Avon confluence our land speed had risen to a dizzy 4.00mph - which is about as good as it ever gets on the Severn.

Aggregates fleet laid up for the weekend

Lower Lode Inn

The evening before we had been chewing the cud with Chris and Maralyn of nb Nebulae, who also happen to moor at Calf Heath. We had exchanged thoughts about the slim possibility of escaping Gloucester today and they had pretty much given up hope. As we left they were still fast asleep but apparently woke as we chugged into the lock and figured if we could make it so could they - and made a start an hour later. We had been comparing top speeds and worked out that they could make nearly 0.5 mph more than us - so I spent the afternoon keeping a weather eye over my shoulder for the bows of a grey narrowboat. Sure enough, a couple of miles below Diglis lock I spied a blob of grey behind a small mountain of foam which slowly but relentlessly reeled me in.

Upton on Severn - enjoying its annual folk festival

In the end three narrowboats approached Diglis Lock together, and warned by Chris on the VHF of our impending arrival, were directed to the large lock. The third boat had been on the Avon and became trapped for three days. Their only way off was downstream and they has to shoot a number of very narrow bridges with a minimum of control. The helmsman still looked a bit grey about the gills and was very keen to return to the embrace of the canals.

Nebulae waiting to enter Diglis locks

We both rose through the two barge locks into Diglis Basin, using the rubbish disposal point and taps before seeking out a mooring for the night. We moved back to the very end of the wharf near the basin itself, a spot we have used on a number of occasions whilst Nebulae went through the lock at the Commandery and moored on the official moorings. Our spot had the advantage of having the Anchor pub just round the corner and thus a ready supply of take out beer.

Sailing boat which was outpacing the narrowboats.

As it turned out, the weather was the best of the holiday so far - bright sun but tempered by a  strong North Westerly breeze which dictated the use of a fleece out on the water.


Chris said...

Nice to see you at Gloucester. Glad you got back OK. We liked the G&S Canal but the river is a bit hairy! I did not realise our boat looked like the Queen Mary bearing down on you! We are thinking of an Autumn cruise to Froghall, subject to arrival of another grandchild. Chris and Marilyn.

Captain Ahab said...

By a strage coincidence - so are we. We should be in Froghall on the 31st Oct / 1st November (ish).
Oh - was at the marina today and youe boat is still afloat!