Mercy, Mercy on the Mersey
1999 Campaign Cruise Awards
As a bit of relaxation after the rather busy few days of the Maritime Festival I spent a couple of days scrubbing down the white Tyrolean rendering on the house with an old (well it is now!) car washing brush and hosepipe to get rid of a couple of years growth of green algae.
Next on the agenda was a day out - a circular trip via Daisy Nook Country Park which is based around the Hollingwood and Fairbottom branches of the Ashton canal, Stalybridge where work is just starting on reinstating the canal through the town centre and Whaley Bridge to visit the re-watered Bugsworth Basin.
Next it was down to updating the web site. There's extracts from the June edition of Ripples, updates to various sections due to a change in the route upstream of Tom Benson Way on there now. When I've finished this edition of Ripples I should soon have a new page for uploading with the photos I took on Thursday from the river and on Friday from the bank opposite the entrance to Savick Brook and at the Marina.
Many thanks from my wife and myself go to Dave Dawson and his son Paul for the very smooth trip from Tarleton to Preston aboard Bosworth. We even had the Eurofighter as an escort at one point!
Sod's Law strikes again! After printing a map of the route of the Link in the June issue it has had to be shortened by removing the section through Haslam Park.
This decision has been taken because of escalating costs due to the various delays in starting the work not being matched by additional funds. The Link will therefore take a sharp left turn at point just up-stream of the tunnel under Tom Benson Way and run roughly parallel to Tom Benson Way up three locks to a basin at its junction with the Lancaster Canal.
The optimists say an October start of construction the pessimists say a November start but definitely before the end of the year.
We also have for sale the remaining copies of the first edition of Ian Bottrill's book of short boating stories, 'Well, Eye Bee Blowed' which went on sale at the Maritime Festival. It contains all the stories which have been printed in Ripples, some with additional content, and others which have not been published before. The book costs £4.95 including p&p with all profits going towards the Link, contact me me if you would like a copy.
In the first week of September the Ribble Link Construction & Operations board received a joint recommendation from the Babtie Group and British Waterways that Gleesons should be the contractors selected to move the Ribble Link project forward.
During the Saturday evening of the cruise weekend, it was announced that Gleesons will now spend the next few weeks checking over the project details with Babtie and British Waterways. On completion of this task they will sign a formal contract and building work will start around the end of October.
I have had informal discussions with the project manager and she is optimistic that they will complete the project to allow our inaugural cruise in September 2000. Once a full program of works is complete we will reassess the situation and start planning the opening ceremony.
The weather for the last campaign cruise was extremely good to us, with everyone appearing to have a good time and, in fact, everything seems to have gone off without a hitch.
The seventy boats that joined the cruise from Tarleton made a colourful display in the dock. On both Saturday and Sunday a procession of boats cruised around the basin in celebration of the Trust's success - to the delight of the general public.
Partnership Projects Ltd, the main organisers of the Festival under the leadership of Andrew Harris, arranged numerous events to take place in and around the dock ensuring that there was plenty to see and do over the weekend.
On the Saturday evening the entertainment in the marquee was Penn & Page a comedy duo and during the interval the Ribble Link Award winners were announced. The Mayor of Preston Borough, Councillor Jeff Swarbrick and the MP for South Ribble, David Borrow attended to hand out the trophies. The prizewinners are listed elsewhere in this magazine.
Several boats entered the illuminated parade on the Sunday night making a spectacular display. To round off the event the organisers brought the weekend to a close with a spectacular firework display thanks to the generosity of Preston Borough Council, Preston Marine Services and Millennium Pyrotechnics,.
Once again my thanks go to Frank and Irene Parker, along with a number of people who assisted them (including the escort craft), for organising the cruise. Everyone worked extremely hard to get all the boats into the dock and then back again to Tarleton. Congratulations to one and all on a job well done.
We are still continuing to try to raise money to ensure the scheme can be completed to the best standards, therefore my usual cry goes out for help. I must add that during the Cruise we had several donations ranging from £5 to £1000. Thanks once again to all of you whose contributions are listed below. By allowing all donations to go via Lancashire County Council, who will ensure they go through a Landfill operator, the benefit is multiplied tenfold. Please don't be concerned if it takes a while before your cheque is cashed, all is in hand.
Easter approached and our first proper cruise of the year. Our usual foray was to Middlewich, well Croxton aqueduct due to our 9ft beam. Then the news of the bank collapse into the canal at Anderton filtered through and put the mockers on that plan. We considered a shortened journey, no didn't fancy that. Up to Skipton? Maybe, but we were going there in the summer. What to do?
Then a plan started to form - always a danger when this happens. We still had our Sea Worthiness Certificate from last year as it didn't run out until the end of May. Yes! that's what we'd do, down the Ship Canal on to the Weaver in at Ellesmere Port on to the Shroppie and back. Hmm!
Already the return journey was formulating in my mind "Say nothing at this stage." I thought.
So that was it and on Sat 27th March we set off for Castlefield in brilliant sunshine, my wife Lynn our son Sam and two dogs Bess and Domino. Little did they know what I was planning. On Mon 30th we went down the Ship Canal and on to the Weaver. Cruised on the Weaver which is little used. We were the first boat to go through Vale Royal lock since last year. On to the Ship Canal on Sat 3rd April and in at the Boat Museum to join the yearly Working Boat gathering and very good it was too.
We moved on Sunday afternoon and spent the next day in Chester. I pointed out to Sam where Julie Anne had been built. David Jones (Taylors) and the man who actually worked on her, Alan Parry, who now runs two wooden trip boats on the Dee. We continued on to Nantwich and I think it was here that I first mentioned to Lynn that it might be better to come back via the Mersey, all casual like, after a meal and several drinks, quickly adding that it would be cheaper and also quicker. She didn't appear fazed probably due to the bottle of wine and the memory that last year, on the organised cruise, it was like a mill pond.
All settled then and so on Sunday the 11th at 6.15 am - first light - we set off along the Ship Canal for Eastham Dock. I had checked with the Met Office on several occasions and they forecast light winds in the morning turning stronger in the afternoon. As we had arranged to dock in at Langton between 8.00 and 8.30am on the high tide it should be fine. As we docked at Eastham the Harbour Master informed us that there was a bit of traffic about and to keep well over in the channel. I had already planned this I assured him. He then spotted our dogs and asked if Langton were aware we would be taking dogs into the Port as they may put them into quarantine. I honestly thought he was joking but he wasn't. Anyway, to cut a long story short I stated that I acknowledged his comments and said we would sort it out at Langton. In actual fact we kept them out of sight but I can't believe there would have been a problem.
We left Eastham in a lightish breeze and made steady progress. It's about eight or nine miles in all and I calculated we should do it in about an hour, an hour and a half at worst and this is actually the time we did it in. About a mile out I saw a ship following us in the distance, and just as the channel started to widen to the north it went past. All I could see was this enormous mountain of water being pushed by its bows, it really was moving. I must admit to an odd heart flutter as this monster flew past no more than fifty yards to our port.
We then had a taste of what was to follow as the waves hit us "It's not too late to turn back." I thought, but as the waves gradually subsided I rationalised that in another mile or so we could stay well out of the way of any other ships. Of course, as you can imagine, Lynn was not amused and Sam had gone a kind of green colour. The wind decided at this point to intensify and what I thought, at first, to be the remaining waves of our passing friend was in fact the norm. Slowly the weather deteriorated further and the water got heavier. Waves were now coming over the bow and I had to put the wiper on.
As we approached Brunswick Marina I did seriously consider diverting into there but I had no idea whether we would be able to so and as I did not want to start a sequence of events which, if proved impossible to achieve, could contribute to further anxiety among my sickly crew, we continued on. I was confident of the boat and the only real worries I had were with Lynn and Sam and their unhappiness. We ploughed on and things appeared to be improving or perhaps I was just getting used to it all. The waves were now coming over the boat and spraying into the main cabin so I was forced to close the cabin door to keep the interior dry. (Lynn later stated I had done this to prevent her seeing how bad things were, the only thing I thought she could see was the plug hole.)
As we came to the Pier Head and alongside the Sea Cat it started to sound its horn at us to allow it out. There was nothing I could do but get past as quickly as possible - our only reward being more waves of heroic proportions as it passed us by very close indeed. We proceeded along the dock wall past the old Isle of Man landing stage and soon the Langton came into sight and with it the ferry still in the dock. I had watched the ferry some thirty minutes earlier manoeuvring into the dock in reverse but felt sure it would have cleared by now. I gave the dock a call as I had the sneaking suspicion they would divert us to Gladstone, some half mile nearer the open sea, and this was not something that I wanted to do in the circumstances. As it was they didn't but told me the ferry would be another ten minutes and that we would be joined by the Manchester Challenge, a three master, sheltering from the deteriorating weather. I could just make her out coming in from the sea and ten minutes later I called Langton again and asked how much longer it would be as circling the dock entrance in this sea was becoming extremely difficult. Lynn must have overheard this and expressed her own brand of opinion, bleep bleep, and demanded they let us in NOW! I tried to explain that they couldn't because of the ferry and received a whole new set of superlatives, loosely translated meaning, that they better had if they know what's good for them.
After pirouetting for over half an hour I finally saw the gate sliding open and made straight for the developing gap. Thankfully we reached calmer waters however there was even a three foot swell in the dock. The Manchester Challenge entered quite soon behind us and the gate slid to. I could now tie up and survey the damage in the cabin - thank goodness for super glue. At this point I made my worst error of judgement as, looking at my quivering wreck of a wife, I said to her "See, it wasn't all that bad after all was it?" I will leave the rest to your imagination.
Dave Leach and family.
Dave adds: The organisation of the above was, as I am sure you can appreciate, not as straightforward as it sounds. Listed below are the contacts required to synchronise such a journey.
Manchester Ship Canal
Marsh Lock (Weaver)
Ellesmere Port Council (swing bridge, Boat Museum)
Gladstone and Langton (Gladstone being the main agent)
BW (Stanley flight, swing bridges)
PS. No VHF required or Pilot, but desirable
Total cost, sum £150 (Langton charged me £35 for dock which included week in Stanley if I'd wished)
Video Active are to record all events from beginning to end. They will video various stages of the construction along with the opening ceremony. They have now completed their first section of the video which shows the full length of the route before work commences, the next stage will be to record various stages of construction and a cruise along the finished waterway.
The Trust's aims are to release three different videos. The first will be a fully edited version of the route and the entire construction. The second video will be a limited edition which will include all archive footage, these will be supplied with a numbered certificate of authenticity. The third will be a comprehensive video comprising of, the Rufford branch, the cruise along both the River Douglas and River Ribble, the Ribble link Navigation and onto the Lancaster Canal.
They have also be recorded this year's campaign cruise from Tarleton to Preston from aboard Dave Dawson's boat, Bosworth.
Ribble Link Trophies
Best Dressed Narrow Boat - Kelley Lee - D J Toon
Best Dressed Cruiser - Bracken - John Massey
Best Kept Engine - Ferris McLoed - J M Howard
Best Illuminated Boat - Launea - Linton Childs
Ribble Link Shield
For his continuous & tireless efforts in support of the Trust - Phil Unsworth
TopPage design by John Clegg.