Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Sims. 23rd April

Gloucester Docks to Sims Bridge
Over the last two and a half years we’ve been getting our internet through EE. We’d come across a Black Friday deal that gave us 50GB a month for £25 which we jumped at. 3 who we’d been with before couldn’t compete with the deal. Gradually EE has increased the tariff, now £29.03. So when Mick came across a deal with Virgin it was worth looking into.
For a limited time (ending today!) Virgin were offering a Sim only deal for £20 which would give us 100GB. It looked like it was only available on line and the sim card would have to be sent to our billing address, in London. Not ideal, but we will be seeing my brother in a few weeks and the saving we’d be making would pay for having two sims within a couple of months. So we decided to see if it was possible to get the deal in store , luckily there is a branch here in Gloucester.
P1280880smThe very nice chap said there was no problem with doing it all in store and sorted it all out very quickly for us. Credit checked and sim card handed over we now have an abundance of data available. It took a little bit to get our EE contract cancelled, which actually involves 30 days notice. So for the next month we will have what ever data is left on our EE contract and a full 100GB on the Virgin sim. Anything that hasn’t recorded perfectly on our PVR will be down loaded instead, just because we can.
P1280822smWith that all done it was time to visit the services. For this you need to pass through one of the 16 moveable bridges on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. Many of the bridges are high enough to just cruise straight through, but others are far too low to limbo under. Before we pushed off Mick called the Bridge Keeper at Llanthony Bridge to ask to pass through. We were told to approach and wait for the green light before passing through.
P1280832smP1280835smP1280840smIt being quite a busy bridge both with traffic and pedestrians a suitable gap was waited for, then the barriers came down and the bridge started to lift. I often wonder when using  a lift bridge whether it’s better to lift it all the way of just enough to pass through. Here they automatically open the bridge right up, so high that it looks like it is about to fall over backwards. We got the green light and we were soon through. Oleanna was winded almost straight away and brought in to moor at the services.
P1280841smWhilst the water filled, we emptied the yellow water tank and disposed of our rubbish. Mick found an Elsan in the little hut up the ramp next to the bins, so no bushes were going to get a treat from us today.
Next we winded again and pootled up to Sainsburys. Here there is a 4 hour shopping mooring which we made use of to stock up a bit for the next few days, only two boxes of wine!
Over the last few days we’ve been trying to find a suitable mooring for Finesse to visit us. Ideally we wanted somewhere close to a road, somewhere to park a car or van and some friendly cover for Tilly to play in. With the assistance of Google Earth, Street View (of which much of the towpath has been covered) and Waterways Routes maps we had short listed a few places. The closest we could get to a parking place the towpath would have been level with the roof of the boat. Other moorings were by bridges, they had parking places on the off side and a bit of a distance to where we could tie up. So we set off to see which would be best.
P1280846smThe new housing estate had plenty of parking, but the towpath was as it looked on Google too high, also Tilly wouldn’t have felt comfortable there. So we carried on.
P1280860smP1280862smA call to Hempsted Bridge was made. We could see the Keeper rapidly doing various things on the bridge, then run over to lower the barriers of the off side. Here there are few buttons to press, much of it is done by hand. Once the barriers were down and locked in position he could then wind the bridge open. It took a bit to get going, but once he’d got the momentum up he easily turned the handle. Reaching into a box he turned the lights to green for us to pass. When we were through he did the whole process in reverse to close it, only for a trip boat to want to come through a couple of minutes later. It looks like quite a work out being on Hempsted Bridge.
P1280868smP1280873smNo such problems at Netherbridge Swing Bridge as there is 14ft 9’’ clearance. This and other high bridges are not manned fulltime as they only need to open when tall ships pass through. Round a couple of bends and the next bridge, Sims Swing Bridge. The light was flashing red and then it turned to green for us to pass even though there was masses of clearance. Just on the other side there was what looked like a gap nearest the bridge for us to pull into. We checked with the keeper that we were allowed to moor there, as long as we were past the bridge lights it was fine. There was sufficient space for us.
P1280876smMick walked up to check on the parking situation by the bins. There was enough space for a couple of vans, first come first parks. Our coordinates were emailed off to Finesse and we waited to hear back.
A couple of hours later we heard from Chris/Kev, they would be on their way at 5am.
DSCF7114sm0 locks, 2.28 miles, 1 lift bridge, 1 swing bridge, 3 ducks, 2 winds, 100GB of data, 150GB this month! 1 full water tank, 1 empty wee tank, 0 rubbish, 4 hour shopping mooring, 2 boxes wine, 2 lamb steaks, 1 Oleanna sized gap, 1 M worth exploring, 4 hours of freedom at last!followed by 4 quiet cat sleeping hours, 1 early night, 1 alarm clock set.
Severn River level at 9am today Bewdley 0.835m,
level at Diglis, Worcester at 9am today 0.739m,
level at Gloucester Docks at 9am today 0.8755.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Going To The Docks. 22nd April

Diglis Lock to Gloucester Docks Pontoon

Plenty of miles to cover today, so no Sunday cooked breakfast for us today.

P1280486smP1280489smOur push off was a little bit later than planned, but we still had plenty of time to make it down the Severn to Gloucester in one go. We reversed out from our space and backed up past NB Chrysalis, we’ll most probably see them in the week as they are heading all the way to Sharpness and then have a pilot booked to get them to Bristol! One day we might just be brave enough to do this journey.

P1280496smWe winded nearer the lock, avoiding being anywhere near to the weir and called the Lock Keeper. All the locks on the Severn are manned and a phone call or vhf radio call stirs them into action. We had a short wait for him to set the lock for us with the red flashing light, then once the gates were opening a green arrow pointed us towards the small lock. There are two locks here one small, which we could have shared and a large one, which looks like we’d have fitted in eight times. The large lock is currently closed, but I suspect we’d have been directed to the small one anyway.

As we pulled in, I first of all couldn’t see the dreaded wire risers. But they were just metal wire, not covered in a blue sleeve like they are on the Trent. Mick slowed Oleanna down and I passed my bow line round it as calmly as I could. Even though my rope had been coiled well it decided to tie itself into a knot just as Mick was wanting to pull the back in to get his line round a riser too. Fortunately the knot gave way and we pulled Oleanna into the side. Phew! I don’t like risers (only click on the link if you are not squeamish).

P1280527smP1280526smDropping only a couple of feet we were now on our way, fast along the river. Boats like being able to go faster than most canals allow, Oleanna slipped along with ease doubling our normal cruising speed. At first we were reminded of the Ouse with trees down to the water line and not much view. Then the Malvern Hills came into sight as the channel opened out a bit.

P1280531smP1280547smThere was a bit more traffic than we’ve been used to of late, but not too much to start with. A small cruiser passed us slowing as he did so, then cranking it up leaving us to rise and fall with his wake.

P1280572smP1280580smShould we have wanted to stop there was nowhere until we reached Upton On Severn. A 48hr mooring and another for partons of the many river side pubs and hotels. Here we spied NB Henry Thomas whom we’d met in Llangollen. With what looked like an interesting church tower topped with a copper cupola Upton looks like a place we may stop at on our return.

P1280551smP1280588smIt being the weekend we weren’t going to meet any gravel barges, they were all moored up at a wharf side by side waiting for Monday.

P1280610smMythe Bridge spans the Severn shortly before the turning onto the River Avon and Tewkesbury, I do like a good Tewkesbury! Designed by Thomas Telford it was built in 1826, one large elegant iron span with a criss crossed structure. In 1992 the bridge was strengthened so that it could withstand modern traffic weighing up to 17 tonnes.

P1280616smP1280632smWe continued round to the right on the Severn towards Upper Lode Lock. When it came into sight Mick called the Lockie, but only got the answer phone. Up along the side of the lock we could see him being busy cutting grass, no chance he’d hear the phone. So we trod water as there wasn’t really anywhere to tie up to until he spotted us. The light flashed red and then turned to green and we were in. We started to sort our ropes out, but the Lockie said we needn’t as we were on our own. The lock is an unusual shape as it widens out towards the bottom gates. The Lockie had set the lock for a boat coming down stream, but it hadn’t shown, most probably stopped somewhere enroute, so he’d had to refill the huge lock for us. The river level board was showing green above the lock, and amber falling water levels below.

P1280635smupper lode lockVerbal instructions were given to us about our approach to Gloucester Lock. You need to call the Lockie as you approach Upper Parting, where the river splits three miles out, take the channel to the left. Then as the lock comes into sight slow down. If the red light is flashing hang back, pass a stern rope around the chains on the wall and wait for the light to go green. This is because in this lock you go up and the paddles that empty it can cause quite a bit of turbulence. Then on the green follow the profile of the wall, don’t pull outwards, into the lock with a bit of umph so as not to get pulled to the right and down the channel that leads to the weir. Instructions received and understood we were allowed on our way.

P1280654smThere were plenty more possible moorings along this stretch, numerous pubs with their own pontoons looked enticing. Should we stop for lunch, we decided not to.

P1280661smWhen I bobbed below to make sandwiches I could hear the engine tone change from ahead to reverse, what was happening? There was a dinghy tacking it’s way along the river, so Mick hung back until it had passed our course and then full steam ahead to get through before they’d turned and headed straight for us again. Collision avoided. But up ahead there were even more dinghies. Mick did his best and the boats did their best. I looked out of the window to see one chap let go of the pontoon as the sail filled, his face suddenly struck with panic as he realised he was on collision course with us! Then the strain dropped from his face as he realised he would actually just miss us. Phew all round!

P1280702smThe phone call was made at Upper Parting and we were asked how long we thought we’d be. ‘No idea, we’ve never been this way before!’ We were now in a cutting rather than a river, a whole different feel to it. A dart of blue shot across the water top. This is only our second sighting of a Kingfisher since the canals froze, I suspect the lack of water to fish in had an effect on numbers.

P1280712smMonitoring the VHF radio we started to hear crackles of conversation. One audible extract was ‘It’s half empty’. Would the lock be ready for us? After several bridges the wall with chains came into view, soon followed by the lock entrance. The light was red flashing, but the gates were open and the lock empty. The light turned green, we wouldn’t have to cling onto the wall.

P1280719smP1280728smOnce in the lock, we passed our ropes around the risers slowly and with care. Looking back towards Mick signalling that I was ready I could see that over the lock there was a road bridge. The Lockie came out from his booth and crossed the road. All three of us gave a thumbs up, we were ready to go up. It took forever for anything to happen, I wondered if he was going to have to open the bridge before we rose in the lock, but still nothing happened. Bigger boats would necessitate the bridge being opened, but we’d miss it. After a few minutes I could at last see that water was being let in, very gently holding us against the wall. It was one of the most gentle river locks we’ve been in, we hardly needed the ropes.

P1280736smP1280749smWe had a choice of where to moor. Either on the wall where we could hook up to electric or round on the pontoons. Opting for the pontoons we winded assisted by the wind and pulled up. We’d made it, an easier cruise than we’d thought, narrowly avoiding dinghies and having done a load of washing and a dishwasher load full too, bonus. What a place to moor, surrounded by refurbished warehouses, tall ships with rigging, quite a sight.

P1280741smP1280744smDSCF7121sm3 locks, 28.67 miles, 1 reverse, 2 winds, 2 rights, 2 lefts, 5 hours cruise, 1 flymo, 1 length of string, 2 many places to stop on the way back, 1 pot bellied lock, 0 bucket, 7 rowing boats, 3 cruisers, 2 at really bad times, 6 dinghies, 1 panic stricken face, 1 topiary motorbike, 1 Kingfisher, 9.75 digits still, 2 dry docks, 1 full, 1 not so full, 1 more day without shore leave!

Severn River level at 9am today (at Bewdley a mile upstream from Stourport) 0.895m,

level at Diglis, Worcester at 9am today 0.763m,

level at Gloucester Docks at 9am today 0.872m.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Almost Green. 21st April

Offerton Bottom Lock to Diglis Visitor Moorings, wait for it…. The River Severn!
P1280341smBreakfast done and no faffing this morning as we wanted to be away before the blue hire boat. No offence to them, but we didn’t want to be waiting or for them to feel pressured at locks. As we pushed off there was no sign of life from them.
P1280360smP1280385smAll the sport fields were full, parents shouting encouragement to their youngsters on the football fields and gentle applause for runs on the cricket pitches.
P1280350smP1280377smOur run into Worcester was easy, a Viking Afloat boat yesterday had set most of the locks for us, only one had drained overnight. The last two locks down into town were both empty and as I was just starting to fill the top one a chap with a BWML shirt on came and asked if I’d seen a boat. A moving boat, no we’d not seen anyone else moving. He was relieved as I’d saved him quite a walk to try and find it, they must have gone down onto the river.
P1280408smP1280417smThe last two locks are deep and Mick could only just reach to close a bottom gate and then only just enough for me to step over. Sidbury Lock was to be our last narrow lock for sometime.
P1280426smP1280421smJust under Mill Street Bridge we pulled in and tied up on the rings. Two boats were moored there, one very antisocially on the water points. We made sure we pulled backwards, sorted out our boat covers, poppering them back into place, the kettle put on, time for lunch. From here we’d walk down to have a look at the river level and the moorings, then stock upon a few items and fill with water. But just as the kettle was about to boil a C&RT chap stopped to talk to Mick. He informed us that where we were wasn’t a mooring and that we’d get a ticket if we stayed there. Yes there were signs at the waterpoints, Max stay 30 mins, but nothing that we’d seen nearer the bridge. We’re not sure if this was official or something that has come about locally over time after complaints by locals, who knows, we just couldn’t stay there.
The kettle was taken off the gas, hose hooked up to fill the tank and Mick walked down to check on the mooring situation on the river. With the tank full we pushed off again towards the last two locks down onto the Severn.
P1280437smP1280439smThese are big brutes! Wide and heavy. I went ahead to open the lock below whilst Oleanna dropped to the level of the intermediate pound. A very nice chatty Volunteer Lockie appeared from nowhere and helped with paddles and gates. We were having difficulty opening the bottom gate when she noticed water still bubbling up from one of the ground paddles. She tried dropping the paddle but still it bubbled, possibly something stuck in it. So we pushed extra hard and eventually managed to get the gate open, she’d see if she could fix it once we were out on the river.

Insisting I jumped on board to go down the bottom lock whilst she did the paddles I did as I was told. The bottom gate opened and there at last after 25 days we were actually on the river. Instead of 13 miles and 3 locks we’d come the long way round, 68 miles and 98 locks! As we exited the lock the board was just level with where green met amber, almost green. Then it started to rain!
P1280457smTurning left, we headed down stream to where the floating pontoon moorings were. An hour ago there had been space for us, but in the mean time two cruisers had filled the gap. So we slowly turned to face up stream and came in very slowly along side a narrowboat moored at the end of the pontoon. ‘Hello, anyone on board?’ A lady popped her head out, yes we could breast up. She took our bow rope and passed it around her T stud. NB Chrysalis had just come up from the Avon and would next week be heading back down stream on the Severn.
After lunch the rain had stopped so we walked along the river, crossing at Worcester Bridge and headed up to Sainsburys to pick up a few bits to keep us going and a newspaper. However where our paper should be there was an empty space! We should have come out before eating. Shopping done I checked google maps, there was a newsagent across the way who, thankfully fulfilled our weekly paper requirements.
P1280479smTo celebrate getting onto the river we stopped off on our way back and enjoyed some chilled medication, Blackcurrant Sorbet and Salted Caramel. Very nice they were too.
The two cruisers had moved off so as soon as things were in the fridge we untied and moved up the pontoon giving Liz on NB Chrysalis her day light back. Tomorrow we’ll head down to Gloucester before anything can possibly happen to the river.
DSCF7114sm10 locks, 4.73 miles, 1 left, 1 wind, 1 missing boat, 48hr moorings no more? 1 lovely Lockie, 3 cruiser git gaps, 1 more day without shore leave! 1 woofer next door, 2nd time lucky, 2 chilled medications, 1 river verging on the green, 2 tbsp of Lee and Perrins in our dinner,  1 NB Oleanna on the Severn at last!
Severn River level at 9am today (at Bewdley a mile upstream from Stourport) 0.984m,
level at Diglis, Worcester at 9am today 0.791m,
level at Gloucester Docks at 9am today 0.930m.