|Wooden lugger Tilly Whim negotiating the rapids of the surging tide on the River Severn|
Avonmouth is famous for its extreme tides - the second highest tidal range in the world, so we are told and yet the amazing knock-on effects of this are often overlooked. The Severn Bore is one such obvious example, but the whole package of the effects of this tide takes some comprehending. On tidal springs, about three hours before high water off Lydney, the mile-wide channel is almost entirely given over to sand. By HW, a 10 metre tide has completely transformed the estuary and the speed at which this happens is truly breathtaking. Initially, the tide covers the sands faster than one could walk. Beyond this is the relentless, powerful flow of water hurtling upstream to Gloucester and beyond.
Most navigational guides would guard against any attempt to sail with this tide but John Christie of the Drascombe Association has been organising safe cruises along this stretch for many years. It takes a leap of faith and it is one of those events for which safety boats are absolutely essential, in case of breakdowns such as engine failure. However, having taken the leap, the experience is, as stated above, simply 'extraordinary'.
|Gloucester Docks for an excellent value lunch at the public house 'The Tall Ship'|
|We moored on the pontoon adjacent to the lock entrance|
|Approaching the lock basin at Sharpness Docks|
|Sharpness Docks lock, with the big ships. We spent a couple of hours in this lock, watching a ship depart and another arrive, before the time was right for us to dart out, into the dark and make the final crossing back to Lydney.|
All things considered, I'm extremely glad to have done this trip; John is an excellent organiser, very pleasant company and Lydney Yacht Club make excellent hosts. Hopefully, I would like to return to it on a day when the wind blows sufficiently to enable at least some sailing - the sound of an engine does 'grate' after a while...