Crossing the Mersey Estuary (report)

Having arrived together in the lower basin at Ellesmere Port on Monday 9th June, club boats Time Out, Cormorant ll (that’s 2 not eleven), Lucky B, Jigsaw, Aquarigo, Minimo, Doinmein were all rafted up in a neat little package at one end of the basin. Intrigue joined us in the basin but didn’t go out on the crossing although the crew did! Polly hitched a ride with Doinmein and Jan helped out on Time Out.

Club boats rafted up at Ellesmere Port

Club boats rafted up at Ellesmere Port

On Tuesday a shopping expedition to Cheshire Oaks Shopping Village took place; a job lot of orange coloured polo shirts seems to have been acquired for those brave enough to wear them! In the afternoon the skippers and some crew members then attended the comprehensive safety briefing given in the Rolt Centre by Mike Carter and the pilot. Returning to the boats for final prep and checks, most members turned in early ready to spring into action first thing Wednesday morning (11th June) and move down through the bottom lock leading to the Manchester Ship Canal for 7am, this involved a 6am movement of the boats.

Once the boats had locked down, there was a short delay before we could enter onto the waterway proper whilst a large seagoing vessel made its way by. During this interval, Mike Carter, (IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch) installed himself on Aquarigo whilst the Pilot, Stuart made himself comfortable on Cormorant 2.

When the large vessel had passed, we were led out on to the MSC where, although not breasted together, we paired up “Buddy” style and whilst following the lead boats, the rest joined in line astern. It was nice to see and quite neatly done.

Part of the Flotilla

Part of the Flotilla

We cruised the ship canal undisturbed by any other vessels for around an hour before entering the big Eastham Lock which was about to release us into the tidal estuary.

Once out on the estuary, we soon settled into the paired “Buddy” system, line astern of the lead boats. We were thrilled by the experience; it was just amazing to see our little flotilla out there, the little boats holding their own and doing it with some style. Sea conditions were relatively gentle, there was no close seagoing traffic to disturb our pleasure The tide was calm and the weather could not have been better, blue skies with bright sunshine and only a light wind, remained with us for the duration of the crossing.

All at sea!

All at sea!

Almost there....

Almost there….

Bridge party on "Time Out"

Bridge party on “Time Out”

After about an hour and a half, we locked up through Brunswick Lock into the southern tip of the Liverpool Dock complex and very soon afterwards we were meandering through the dock area until we reached Salthouse Dock where our reserved moorings were quickly located. The booking system operated by CRT works very well and the moorings are excellent.

Within a very short time, all the club boats were moored alongside each other. Each pontoon had access to shoreline AC supply and there were several water points located on the pontoons.

We hadn’t been moored for more than 10 minutes before the tables and chairs were out to celebrate our arrival. Polly and Jan provided home baked cakes and pink fizzy and a group photograph was taken.

An impromptu soirée on the moorings at Salthouse Dock

An impromptu soirée on the moorings at Salthouse Dock

Soon afterwards the Lavender boat came calling offering pump out and diesel sales – it is all very organised and is the perfect place to be based whilst exploring the delights of Liverpool. All in all, this was a hugely enjoyable cruise due in no small measure to our planners and fixers: John Cheesbrough (Events Organiser 2014) and Mike Carter (IWA Chester & Merseyside Branch) and to whom those participating offer grateful thanks.

It was a great experience and I have to ask myself “Would I do it again?” The answer is a resounding “Yes” I certainly would!

This cruise does carry an added bonus – The Liverpool Canal Link which is the only way out back onto the Canal network other than going back across the estuary (which would have to be planned, paid for and subject to safe weather and tide conditions).

The Link takes you on a “magical mystery tour” of a series of redeveloped and other seemingly untouched, abandoned docks all connected by a series of newly made concrete channels, some of which pass under sections of the dockside estate.

We are given stunning views from the water of magnificent buildings such as the Three Graces: The Liver building, the Cunard building and the Port of Liverpool building as well as some more recent modern architecture.

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The redeveloped areas and the new channel of the link are soon left behind as we reach the once vibrant but now deserted and abandoned areas (no doubt scheduled for further development). As the channel leads further inland to the Leeds & Liverpool canal, it is easy to picture just how important this area once was both to the British economy and in feeding and supplying a country at war, when the docks were being bombed almost night after night at times.

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Eventually we are channelled into the Leeds and Liverpool canal which, once clear of the city and it’s suburbs, is a sheer delight until the hard work begins at Wigan (for those continuing beyond). There is, of course, the alternative of the Leigh branch and the following 40 miles lock free passage along the Bridgewater canal leading back to the Trent and Mersey canal.

It is just not possible to do justice to all that this particular cruise offered in a short report like this. Suffice to say that I am so glad that I chose to partake and I heartily recommend it to anyone.