Up the Avon and into Bristol

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.

View from the bottom lock gate. Not a lot of water there now!

View from the bottom lock gate. Not a lot of water there now!


Mud flats with Avonmouth in the background


‘Ship to Shore’ a sculpture by artist John Buck. It represents ‘Those who journey and those who wait’

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!



In the lock and ready to go.

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.


Following the deep water channel to the mouth of the Avon

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.


Pointing the nose of the boat at the stubby lighthouse as ordered

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!


Making the right turn into Avonmouth  (correction from Captain Gord apparently only the big boys go into Avonmouth) the River Avon just before reaching the harbour wall


Some of the sandbanks we avoided. Phew!

All that was left now was to stick to the middle of the channel and head for Bristol.


The river very quickly gets more ‘rivery’ and less marine.


Boats from Portishead Cruising Club all high and dry


Under the M5. I can’t count the number of times I’ve driven over this and thought…one day I’ll be down there. That day finally arrived!

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.


Passing Black rock just before the suspension bridge



First sighting of Clifton Suspension Bridge

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.


LookingBackAtCliftonWe were lucky and had Gordon’s sister Heth there taking photos from the shore.


First sighting

under-the-bridge sml

You can just spot us coming under the bridge. It was a pity the yacht ahead of us stole our thunder! Still it makes a wonderful photograph.

into-the-lock sml

Turning into the lock

When we arrived in the lock there she was…


…with her trusty camera.HethCamera

reached-the-lock sml

You need some seriously long ropes in here!


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.


Moored up in Harbour Inlet. You’re much more likely to be pooped on by gulls than ducks here but the result’s the same!

Our first priority was to head off for a well earned drink to celebrate the end of an incredible couple of days.


Looks impressive but it’s just Wetherspoons’ Prosecco. We are pensioners after all!



Ewn Ha Cul tucked up for the night


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2 Responses to Up the Avon and into Bristol

  1. Jo ROBINSON nb Panacea says:

    Hi dot and Gordon you sound to be having a great time. Hope you are both keeping well and enjoying this sunshine. We are on the peak forest canal near marple our daughter and family are having the boat next its saves us mooring fees, we are visiting my cousin in devon then boating friends in andover hamshire so busy week. We then hope to get onto the Llangollen canal take care Jo and Dave

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