With four hours to wait in Portishead we decided to stretch our legs and explore. In particular Gordon wanted to walk down the breakwater at low tide and see the sandbanks are that would be covered, but still present a hazard as we left.
It didn’t seem like long before we were back in the lock and about to do the section that Gordon had been dreading, the entry into the mouth of the Avon. Rich, who works at the marina and is friend of our nephew Toby, operated the lock and gave us some friendly advice. ‘Go out of the lock and head right, it’s a rising tide, you’ll be fine’. Thanks Rich!
We did this section of the journey without the aid of a pilot. Most of it is fairly straightforward but you do have to negotiate Avonmouth where you are likely to meet some seriously big ships. Gordon was nervous about getting the passage from Portishead into the mouth of the Avon correct. Sandbanks and large ships can make the whole thing a bit tricky.
Rick, the pilot who brought us across from Sharpness helped enormously by giving Gordon some detailed information about exactly how to navigate this passage safely. Contacting Bristol VTS on VHF Channel 12 resolves the big shipping problem as they let you know what is or isn’t moving and will give you advice about when it’s best to leave Portishead. We were told there was a large ship behind us but that we would have time to reach the river before it arrived. This, combined with a sharp shower that reduced visibility, added somewhat to Gordon’s stress levels! All was well though, and the pilot’s excellent navigation advice, saw us safely into the river Avon.
The building on the quay is the office of Bristol VTS who oversee the traffic here. On VHF radio, we could hear their conversation with the ship behind us informing them of our movements. Very reassuring to know that everybody knows where everybody else is!
All that was left now was to stick to the middle of the channel and head for Bristol.
At Black Rock you need to contact Bristol Harbour who are on Channel 14 and use the call sign ‘City Docks Radio’ having contacted them the day before to inform them of your intention of coming into the harbour.
Going under the suspension bridge is definitely the jewel in the crown of this day’s cruising. It was something I’d always imagined doing and it didn’t disappoint.
When we arrived in the lock there she was…
Thanks for the photographs Heather! It was a shame we couldn’t give her a lift into the harbour but she wasn’t up for shinning down that slimy ladder so poor Heth had to walk.
There seem to be two spots for visiting boats to moor – Harbour Inlet opposite the SS Great Britain and, closer to the centre, outside the Arnolfini. We chose the former as it is a much quieter berth a reasonable away from all the noisy pubs and clubs.
Our first priority was to head off for a well earned drink to celebrate the end of an incredible couple of days.