19th May 2019
Narrowboat Quests epic voyage to the Lancaster Canal via the Ribble Link. Why not join us on one of our biggest adventures crossing this tidal river. Experience our anticipation as we leave Tarleton Locks and make our way up the River Douglas towards Aslands Lamp and the turn onto the River Ribble. Watch as we experience the wide expanse of the river and hunt for the green light that tells us that we have reached the narrow, muddy Savick Brook. Experience the contrast between the fast moving and wide Rivers and the narrow shallowness of Savick Brook. Watch as for the first time ever we reverse into the tricky staircase locks as there is not enough room to turn around.
We had booked our Ribble Link crossing in January of this year as we were informed that there are limited crossings available on the Ribble Link and that they get booked up quickly as it is the only route to the once isolated Lancaster Canal. You have to book via the Canal and River Trusts (CRT)website where they give you the crossing availability for both directions and the size of the tide you will be travelling on. The link which opened in 2002 was the first new navigation to be built since the Manchester Ship Canal back in the 19th century and its well worth the experience of navigating this imaginative route connecting the Lancaster Canal to the rest of the inland waterway system.
Preparation is key however, firstly ensure your boat engine is capable of making the crossing. We have a Vetus 42HP engine which is more than capable of making the journey and our boat is a year old at the time of crossing so it was well run in and Pat did an engine oil change before our crossing. If your engine is not powerful enough you can get a tow across until you reach Savick Brook. Also our advice would be to read, read and read some more, everyone has their own opinions and views about the crossing. The CRT have a skippers guide on their website which we studied intensely ensuring we were well prepared.
Our experience really started as we arrived at the Rufford Branch of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal . This short branch is well worth spending some time in. Although there are 2 marinas here, it really doesn't get too busy as the only traffic is boats going too and from the Ribble Link. The locks come thick and fast to begin with but the views soon level out and the canal is accompanied by open undulating farmland. We took the opportunity to fill up with diesel at Fettlers Wharf Marina as there aren't many opportunities to obtain diesel on the Lancaster Canal. We moored just after Town Meadow Swing bridge so we could include a visit to Rufford Old Hall an NT property which flanks the canal here although there are good moorings just North of lock 4.
17th May 2019
We took the short journey from Towns Meadow Swing Bridge to Fearns Swing Bridge taking in the boaters facilities on our way as these will be the last before we get onto the Lancaster Canal. There are limited mooring at Tarleton so we stayed here overnight before travelling to Tarleton the next day. It was here that we met up with Foxes Afloat who were our cruising partners for the Ribble Link and the Lancaster Canal.
18th May 2019
We moved down to the overnight moorings at Tarleton. The village is here is well worth a visit with a couple of well stocked small supermarkets and a lovely bakery. While we were here it was Scarecrow week and many of the businesses had their interpretation of a scarecrow by their doors.
19th May 2019
We were due to leave Tarleton Lock at 1100hrs, the lock keeper came to find us beforehand and gave us some safety instructions on exiting the lock and also advised that as we were exiting on a high tide (7 metres) we should use maximum revs to get out onto the river. Also as the lock is on a bend the current can push you over to one side. We also had to give our phone number to the lock keeper in case of any emergency. You get about 2 hours to make the crossing to Savick Brook as the times are governed by the water levels at the locks at both ends. There can be up to six boats on this journey but on this occasion it was just ourselves and NB Silverfox, we were really grateful that they decided to join us on our journey as it was great to have the company.
We exited the lock at 1800revs but that didn't appear to be enough, we felt ourselves being pushed over so we increased our revs to 2200 which gave us enough impetus to travel. Once out onto the wider river we were able to decrease revs to 2000. Sailing down the river we made slow progress which shows the strength of the current. It took us about an hour to get to Aslands Lamp and we turned starboard onto the Ribble Estuary as directed ensuring we kept left of the lamp at all times to avoid hitting the underwater obstructions. We travelled the 3.5 miles down the estuary enjoying the journey and keeping in contact with Silverfox. As we reached the appropriate marker we contacted CRT as advised to let them know of our progress and a few minutes later turned into Savick Brook and entered the sea lock. We passed through the sea lock and was advised to wait on the floating pontoon ahead.
We waited here for about an hour for the water levels to recede so that we could get under the first bridge. After passing under the bridge we made our way up the brook, which is exactly what it is, a shallow, narrow winding brook with tight bends and reed beds on both sides. As we were the only two boats to make the crossing CRT helped us through the 9 locks on the brook which included the tricky staircase lock at the end which you have to enter and exit astern.
The crossing took us five hours and we traveled up the Lancaster to bridge 23 before we moored which took about another hour. Its was a long day but well worth it, our first mooring on the Lancaster Canal was idyllic and we were looking forward to our seven weeks here.