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The Lancaster Canal and Millenium Ribble Link
Cruising Log part 5

Return crossing - Ribble Link, Savick Brook, River Ribble, River Douglas to Tarleton and on to Rufford

Thursday 23 June
Bridge 23 to Ribble Link Basin, then across to Tarleton and Rufford Lock

Check in at the staircase was at 07.55 but one boat had been telephoned and asked by BW to report at 07.30. We had planned to leave our mooring at 07.00 but we were ready to go at 06.00 so we started to move at 06.30. By coincidence the other narrowboat had the same plans and so we left together. Then our other 2 boats started moving too, and by 07.30 all four of us were waiting at Ribble Link Basin, and the first two boats were sitting in the top lock of the staircase.

Being only 47 foot we went in forwards but the other boats all chose to turn and go down backwards. It made it so much easier when they reached the bottom with the limited space in the winding hole and the sharp turn down the Savick Brook. We heard rumors there had been a misunderstanding and the staircase lock had been built facing the upstream direction of the Brook and the winding hole had to be incorporated at the last moment to allow the downstream direct to be accessed! By the time the BW staff had started work there were 7 boats waiting, 4 going to Tarleton and 3 to Preston Dock.

It was all on a first come, first down basis whereas it would have been better to make sure that the Tarleton boats got out onto the River first. They had a longer and more difficult journey than those who were only going to Preston.

The first pair of boats were again given handcuff keys, and told to fill the locks for the next pair when they had left the lock. The trip down was a pleasure, sharing a lock made it much easier and each lock was full with the gates open when we arrived. It was only after Lock 8 that it was difficult. The Savick Brook is very narrow and it was shallow, so that longer boats had problems with the sharp turns. It was only 11.00 when we tied up on the floating pontoons, and the others arrived behind us in pairs.

At 11.50 a horn sounded, the light changed to green, and everyone rapidly cast off their ropes and we were away. This was 5 minutes earlier than we had expected and we had not been informed there would be a horn or about the magnitude of the tidal surge. Whilst struggling to make headway through the sea lock we were expected to slow up and pass the handcuff keys back to the BW staff, because the floating pontoons had no access to us from the bank, we threw them and joined the line wiggling line down the Brook.

It was much harder than we expected to push against the incoming tide down the Brook and much worse than we had expected on the Ribble where we watched the boats in front disappear in the Preston direction as they hit the current and turned to struggle back up-stream. An added hazard was that the bright yellow Environment Agency cruiser, which had been sampling the water in Preston Dock, chose that moment to pass by the entry to Savick Brook. Fortunately it had slowed down and changed its course so that we could turn gently into the River. Narrowboats do not appreciate huge wash whilst turning quickly into a fast flowing river.

The strength of the tidal stream on the Ribble was perhaps the most unexpected part of the passage. Pete had expected to do the return passage at much lower revs than the outward passage but a quick look at the progress on the GPS (under 3 mph over the ground) made him increase revs again to hold with Morning Mist, a 60 foot Orchard Marine build boat with a 1.9 Beta engine. Floating rubbish was a considerable hazard on this stretch with big logs and other obstuction which we had to weave our way through. Progress was not also helped by the wash of the boats in front including the EA cruiser so we took a line well to the right of the channel where we were away from the wash and we hoped the stream would be less and this enabled us to take some close up pictures of some of the perches as we passed them.

We knew our route and it was marked on the GPS so the four boats settled into two pairs and headed for the Asland Lamp. Close by the Lamp we noticed two narrowboats which had come out of Tarleton, and as they turned we turned too, outside them. Then we saw another narrowboat and a cruiser, and finally 2 more narrowboats. It is unusual to have passages both ways the same day so we can only assume they were heading for the River Festival at Preston.

The return journey showed the advantages of length and power as the 60 foot Morning Mist did not have the 'wall of water' at the prow although she was steadily drawing away on the run up the River Douglas. Even so we arrived at Tarleton Lock as she was entering and timed our passage at 1 hour 45 Sea Gate to Sea Lock which the GPS recorded as 8.8 miles. We considered that very acceptable with a 9.1 metre tide to push against down the Savick Brook and on the River Ribble. There was no indication the tide had turned this far up the river and we seemed to be in slack water as we entered the lock at Tarleton. We had been told that the return passage was easier and we would have perhaps 15 minutes extra time for the journey but it seemed we had a much larger margin than that thanks to keeping up the speed on the River Ribble. We moored on the wharf and just got back to the Lock to take photos of the arrival of the second pair.

Then we all left Tarleton, mooring by NT Rufford Old Hall so that we could visit the House and Gardens. Unfortunately it was closed on Thursday so we continued through Rufford Lock before mooring between the railway line and the main A59 road. By now it was 17.00 and we had been travelling for over 10 hours and were tired. It was good to sit down, celebrate a safe arrival with a bottle of bubbles and get dinner.

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Content revised: 24th July, 2020