Into the Washing Machine!

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or that's how it seemed at the time!

On a Sunday evening in early October I was considering a trip to Portishead with Wye Invader Two, I watched the 10pm BBC Weather for the coming week, a small high pressure was forecast for Wednesday the 3rd, Thursday 4th and Friday 5th October, an online check gave me the wind speed at a gentle breeze of 5 to 10 Knots, Andy who helps out as crew and looks after any filming was not available at a short notice so a trip out on Wye Invader Two was down to me alone.
Monday morning I booked the access bridge for the Docks for Wednesday 1015 hours, a pleasant trip downriver to Portishead and back to Sharpness in the late Autumn sunshine was on the cards and I might even fit in a few beers as well in Portishead!

The Journey down.

Wednesday 1015 hours. The bridge was on time, and Wye Invader Two passed through to the Lock, about 10 minutes later a second Narrowboat arrived and moored up alongside, as we were lowered the Pilot in the second boat held the rear stern line and I held the forward one, I asked what their plan was and he informed that they were leaving as soon as we were clear of the Lock so as to be in front of any queue at the last lock up in to Portishead and I might think about doing the same, so I followed him out a few hundred metres to the rear.
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As we were almost 2 hours in front of High water, I followed close to the left bank of the tidal River Severn, left of the channel the water is deeper and out of the river current, about a mile past Berkeley Power Station I then moved out and away from the bank on a fixed sight line or Transit from Berkeley to Hayward Rocks and then onto the Green Starboard Channel Marker at Hill Flats. As I followed the other narrowboat and we moved more towards mid Channel, it became clear that the wind was a lot more than a gentle breeze, we had the making of a 'Wind over Tide' situation, we were now on an ebb tide and there was a fairly strong wind and now, with no chance of returning to Sharpness as the Lock closes an hour after High Water and the tide was on the ebb.

Under the Old Severn Bridge.

As I came off Slimeroad Sands and passed under the Old Severn Bridge, we seemed to drop into a dip, the waves seemed to become organised in groups of 3 to 4 and around 3 to 4 foot high (about a Metre) from 45 deg off the port bow, so changing the course of Wye Invader Two to take them head on was fine, however as I dealt with them, it was all most like a computer game, the water falling out of the River Wye on the right became large waves on the Starboard side and found I had to turn into the oncoming waves, to get back on course.
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New Severn Bridge (Prince of Wales Bridge)

The last 500 metres to the bridge was almost calm, however 500 metres further on downstream the river motion moved up a gear, we now had a swell on with standing waves as we made our way towards Portishead. At about this time the other Narrowboat eased off and I almost came alongside only to be told that my front cabin door was open, I had no option other than slow Wye Invader Two to a stop, go below and secure the door this, as I was single crewed I think could be called an interesting experience! Avonmouth was about 1 mile ahead on the Port side, 20 minutes later Wye Invader Two Locked into Portishead, a little wind swept to say the least and ready for that pint!


Return to Sharpness.

1100 Hours. Wye Invader Two is locked down on to the River Severn and the journey back was a real pleasure, the sun came out, the wind was about 5 mph (a gentle breeze!). The first 6 miles were fairly quick to the Prince of Wales Bridge and the total time back to Sharpness was just over 3 hours. When Wye Invader Two was in the Lock at Portishead I spoke to the Pilot, he had also checked online for the weather and wind speeds as had I, they were forecast to be 10mph or less, I think the lesson from this is, do all your checks online and then ring a local contact ie: Portishead or Bristol VTS who are responsible for the day to day management of Avonmouth Docks and approaches for their assessment before committing to a trip that has potential weather and safety considerations.
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