Gloucester on Severn 2010

Taking the canal tug Gloucester up the largest river estuary in Britain.

Given that the Severn estuary (known as the Bristol Channel further downstream) is the largest by far in Britain, and has the second highest tidal range in the world, taking any boat on it is not something to take lightly. Excursions that take in shallower waters must take account of the current tidal range, the direction of the very strong tidal currents, the timing of the tides, the draught of the boat and the weather. There are charts showing the water depths and locations of marker buoys, radio channels that can be used to contact the harbour authorities and monitor other shipping traffic, and even a guidebook for navigating the estuary. At low tide, vast parts of the estuary are exposed as sandbanks.

The Gloucester needed to be taken back up to the shipyard for some more work to be done on the exterior. The interior was missing most of its internal walls and furnishings, but at least the boat was seaworthy. Our skipper (Chris) had followed the route before, and had carefully chosen the ideal time to leave Cardiff, and head up the estuary, to coincide with a minimal tidal range, incoming tide and daylight hours. We also had a navigator (Paul) who was familiar with the use of the shipping charts.