Up at 4.15am this morning, slipped our mooring lines at 5.20am and reversed out of the Arnolfini Building pontoon in the centre of Bristol. Dawn had broken but it was both the stillness of the the city plus the cool air that were most striking. We bid farewell to the two giant horns of Pero’s Bridge … not a single soul crossing.
We motored slowly at 2 -3 knots westwards along the floating harbour to the first swing bridge… in front of this it was fairly easy to “hold station” as there was not even a mere hint of a breeze and no tidal currents.
Mike working the mooring lines 6.20am in the final lock leaving the ‘Floating Harbour’ of Bristol and about to enter the River Avon…. morning sunshine.
At exactly 5.45am we presented ourselves to the Junction Lock Bridge…. as instructed… then watched it swing in a long arc so that Poli Poli could pass through. Having done such maneuvers in the canals of Holland there would have been at least ten light combination signals to beckon you forward…. here there were none, not even a single green. Those of you who have passed the CEVNI test will know what I am talking about!
Within the space of half an hour, we had passed through both swing bridges, crossed the Cumberland Basin, done the final lock…. and exited into the River Avon proper. So at 6.25am we were heading north up the River Avon…. about 8 miles to the sea at Avonmouth…. once again passing under the Clifton suspension Bridge and through the Avon Gorge. The day was warming up after the chill of the dawn, and sailing jackets were removed.
The River Avon, widens out as you approach the sea ( Estuary of the River Severn ).
Today’s journey had been planned the night before…. and one prerequisite was that when we entered the main River Severn Channel we met a tidal stream that was travelling in the same direction as the boat. After bouncing through the wash of an incoming Dutch Ocean going tug and then a Pilot boat, we executed the plan of buoy to buoy navigation as we travelled down the channel towards the Welsh coast. Not a breath of wind so all on the motor!
So we kept on the right hand side of the shipping channel… passing such buoys as Second Green Buoy to Newcombe Red, then to Welsh Hook South Cardinal… onto East Mid Grounds red, to East West Grounds… the safe water mark, to Hope East Cardinal, and then finally to South Cardiff… another south cardinal …. meaning keep to the south. The cardinals look like vertical bees with their yellow and black prominent horizontal stripes.
Once we had avoided both the Monkstone Lighthouse standing in the middle of shallows and overfalls as well as the Cardiff Grounds… a shallow ridge… we navigated into the final approaches to Cardiff with a transit up the Wrach Channel to the Cardiff Bay Barrage locks.
Cardiff was once a major tidal port with deep docks for commercial shipping. The Cardiff Bay Barrage was constructed by linking the outer docks all together, thus sealing in the freshwaters of three rivers that drain into Cardiff Bay, and creating a huge freshwater lagoon in front of the City. The salt water tides were therefore kept out by the barrage.
In order to pass from the outlying sea into the freshwater lagoon of Cardiff Bay, you have to go through one of three huge locks. The inbound lock only opens at 15 minutes to the hour and 15 minutes past the hour.
We faced head tide coming up the approach Wrach Channel…. this slowed us from 8 knots on the way down from Bristol…….to 4 knots on engine. We arrived at the Barrage locks at 9.50am so, thinking we had missed it, called the gentleman manning the locks, on the VHF radio and asked if there was a waiting area for the 10.15am lock.
A kindly voice said, as we are not too busy at the moment, we are holding the lock open for Poli Poli. Relief all round… having entered the barrage… it would have been impossible to reverse out… and there was no waiting area. So we finally entered Cardiff Bay at 10.10am.
There were multiple choices of where to berth in Cardiff Bay, After lots of thought, we opted for Cardiff Marina on the Ely River near the town of Penarth, but with good access to the centre of Cardiff. By 11am we were safely berthed on a hammerhead… pontoon J.
We had made it to Cardiff in Wales, our very first of five capital cities. A scorching hot day… and the BBC reported that a place in North Wales had achieved the highest temperature of the year so far…. an amazing 31 degrees C. I thought it rained a lot in Wales…. well that has been my experience.
Duration 5 hours 40 mins, distance 30 n. miles from Bristol.