The alarms were set for 6.30am. Max needed his walk before we set out onto the river. At 7.30 the CRT guys arrived as promised and once they’d done their lock checks, we were beckoned forward. There would be a total of five lockings at Lock 8 after which we would all make our way down through the final leg of Savick Brook to wait again on the pontoon above the sea lock.
We shared the first locking with NB Elan leaving NB Oleanna behind to share the second locking with one of the other boats.
NB Elan left the lock first. The brook was shallow and as we left the lock we ran aground at the first left turn and had to reverse to try and get our stern into deeper water. Then we edged our way slowly forward. Kingfishers were everywhere and I don’t know how many there were in total but at one time there were three flying off in different directions. I couldn’t believe my eyes when a silvery line appeared in the water ahead of us and an otter popped its head up to take a look at us before turning and disappearing.
We ran aground a couple of times but we made it to the floating pontoon just above the sea lock and breasted up to NB Elan to wait for the others to join us. We had a wait of over an hour there before the height of the incoming tide provided enough water in the Brook for us to clear the sea lock which is a vertical rotating door that is not visible when its open as its under the water.
The floating pontoon is very short and NB Oleanna arrived and breasted up to us and then NB Bosley arrived and breasted up to them so we were four narrowboats across the Beck. Storm checked his weed hatch to make sure we’d not picked anything up on the propellor. He proudly held aloft this length of rope.
Two more narrowboats arrived and tied up behind us and then we waited anxiously for the two wide beams to arrive. All narrowboats had encountered similar problems to us and each skipper said they were glad they weren’t trying to steer a wide beam. The minutes ticked by. Eventually one appeared. By the time we got the signal to go though, the second wide beam hadn’t appeared. We’d had concerns about him before we entered the Brook as his boat was not in the best of health and the skipper had arranged for a boat to meet him and tow him back to Tarleton once out on the river.
Oleanna led the way and as we passed through the sealock. Chris, the CRT guy on duty, said that the final wide beam was stuck and had broken down and he wouldn’t be making the crossing today. We may never know if and how he escaped. We just hope he hasn’t blocked the brook to incoming traffic.
There was no breeze today and the river was flat calm.
Canada geese were gathering ready for their winter migration and provided Oleanna with their best flying display as they flew overhead and came into land around them .
Our trip down the River Ribble and up the River Douglas took just about an hour and three quarters. A sea-going yacht passed us just before we reached the Astland Lamp and as we were ready to start our turn into the Douglas, a Preston bound narrowboat was heading towards us and we both turned at the same time and we gave each other a cheery wave as we passed. The pilot boat, Gnat, that had come out to tow the missing wide beam came past us and once he realised he wasn’t needed turned round and came past us again, creating quite a bow wave that we had to ride.
Otherwise our journey was thankfully uneventful. The lock at Tarleton was set ready for us to go straight in. The lock-keeper asked us what happened to the second wide beam and when we told him he said he’d not be offering to tow him again! He’d just returned from his trip down river on Gnat!
We didn’t stop in Tarleton, and instead continued on up the Rufford Branch of the Leeds Liverpool Canal. As we passed through the swing bridges, Oleanna and Blackbird played leap frog as Pip and I took it in turns to open them. We stopped before Rufford village to fill up with water and Oleanna went to fill up with diesel at St Mary’s Marina. We met up again at the first of seven wide locks and travelled together through them.
There were signs of activity in the fields as farmers hurried to get their harvest in while the warm, dry weather lasted.
At one lock we met another boat coming towards us and we were asked where we’d come from. I said we’d come from Preston and we mentioned that we’d been holed up there an extra nine days because of the bad weather. This was not welcome news to them as they were heading to Tarleton to cross tomorrow and hoping to cross back in about a week’s time as they’d book to go into the docks in Liverpool for the end of September.
The last lock with its swing bridge was the toughest of them all and it took both Pip and I to swing the bridge.
By 4.30 we’d made it to the top of the Rufford Branch and had turned left onto the Leeds Liverpool Canal heading towards Wigan. We moored up just after Glovers Swing Bridge, showered and headed to the Ship Inn for a lovely meal to celebrate.
We have mixed emotions. Glad to be heading home, but sad that our holiday is almost over. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed our five weeks exploring the Lancaster Canal together. Thank you CRT for looking after us in the Link.