Category Archives: Bristol Floating Harbour

Eastward Bound. 23rd September

Brunels Quay to Ferris Railway Bridge 211

Oleanna with the SS Great Britain

This morning I noticed a natty little thing on the ferry that crosses from our mooring to the SS Great Britain. On the bow of the boat is a metal hoop which pivots, controlled by a cable from the helm. As the ferry is brought in and lined up to the jetty the metal hoop is lowered over a post. The driver then walks to the bow flips down the ramp which covers the watery gap, passengers get off or on, she then flips the ramp back up returns to the helm and lifts the hoop off the post and away they go. This means that the ferry can be a one person operation as nobody is needed to tie ropes. Here’s a link to a video I took of it this morning (warning it’s 35MB!).

A close up of the bridge

Two more loads of washing were put through the machine, hoping to use up some more electric before we left. This helped pass the time whilst I composed a long email to the theatre in Vienna with photos of the model for A Regular Little Houdini. With the final rinses happening we headed to the nearby Tesco for a few supplies and then we were ready for the off.

About to cast off

Once the ropes were carefully untied from the wobbliest wobblesome pontoon, the wind helping to push Oleanna away from it, we winded and set off for a little tour of the harbour before we left.

Still westward bound

Down towards the Underfall Yard where we turned, mow eastward bound.

Rigging on the SS Great Britain

We headed back past the SS Great Britain, we then cruised down past the electric cranes and turned into Bordeaux Quay and The Waterfront winding at the far end before then passing under Prince Street Bridge, leaving the harbour.

A concrete boat having a house built on top

We would have liked to stay for longer but sadly time is limited before I start work and the cost of mooring here is a little off putting. A week would cost us around £160, cheaper than a hotel and we’d get all our washing done, but still a touch costly.

Straight through Netham Lock

As we cruised our way out of town storm clouds gathered behind us. Waterproofs were gathered from inside. Straight through Netham Lock and we were back onto the river. Gradually more trees surrounded us, gradually the sky became darker. The forecast originally had been for rain at 4, then 2, but it got started at midday. We hoped for a mooring as soon as we got back onto C&RT waters.

Starting to rain

Hanham Lock was in our favour so we rose the 15 inches or so. There was a space on the pontoon at The Chequers Pub, but we’d have had to shrink a touch to fit. Onwards in the rain, waterproof trousers were now required. Mick valiantly stood at the helm whilst I made tea and lunch to have on the go, but his sandwich stayed inside for fear it would get too soggy.

Keynsham Lock and some kind sole had left the top paddles open, so this very slow lock took even longer in the rain than it needed to. Mick hung back away from the lock whilst I emptied it, the flow from the lock would have necessitated mooring up fully on the lock landing. Then we rose slowly, very slowly. The last 2 foot taking a life time !


It still rained. Not even an inch spare on the pontoon here. Onwards to Ferris Railway Bridge where thank goodness there was space for two next to the one that had taken up residency. We settled down and started to dry off.

There was just enough phone signal for me to have a chat through the props list for Panto with Jo the prop maker. Good job I don’t really use my phone much as it took us a good hour and a half to work our way through the show. Jo will start work on collecting materials in the next week then she’ll start by making the prop car and mod scooters.

This morning I received photos from Australia of the knitting project I was busy with earlier in the year.

Billie at 1 week old

This is Billie at a week old with the blanket I knitted for her. Billie is the great niece of my bestest friend Emma. Nellie, Billies Mum, was very pleased with it, so was Chief their woofer.

Dad and Chief look on

3 locks, 1 straight through, 11.41 miles, 2 more loads washing, £3 left on the post, 1 tour of the harbour, 2 misleading forecasts, 2 soggy boaters, 3rd mooring lucky, 1.5 hours talking smash, pub stools and mod scooters, 0 shore leave for Tilly again! 1 sour dough woken, 1wk old Billie all wrapped up.

Stretched out on my blanket

Like Giggling Teenagers. 22nd September

Bristol Floating Harbour

Torrential rain woke me at 3am hammering on the roof trying to get in. I checked all the windows were closed and climbed back into bed. By 3:30 the outside world had calmed down so sleeping could continue.

Saturday paper on a Sunday

No alarm clock, we had a lie in and enjoyed a cuppa and the Saturday newspaper in bed. It’s been a while.

A quick tidy and brush up, another load of washing and we were ready.

Two giggling 52 year old teenagers walked down the side of the boat. I knew exactly who they were.

Rachael, Charlotte and Pip

Charlotte and Rachael two of my old school friends from York. Charlotte is a teacher and lives in Bristol and Rachael runs a plant nursery near Malvern. These two ladies were Goths back in the 80’s. They wore black head to toe and had spiky hair, where as I wore all red and occasionally crimped my hair.

They had a good look round Oleanna and met Tilly, although she’d rather have gone out! Then we headed to Wetherspoons for some lunch and a drink. There was lots to catch up on, poor Mick coped very well.

Old friends

I last saw Charlotte at my 40.5 birthday party. We used to keep in touch until we moved onto the boat, then Charlotte moved house several times around Bristol and we lost touch. I luckily found her on Whatsap a couple of weeks ago. Rachael on the other hand I hadn’t seen since we left school. She went off to train as a Stage Manager, performed in a circus act and lived on a coach in Sheffield for a while. She then worked at Askam Bryan, an agricultural college near York, and now designs gardens for people.

Several life times have passed, we caught up on gossip of friends all across the globe. It was a very lovely afternoon with them. We hope to all meet up again when we reach Birmingham at the beginning of next year.

THE Green boat that’s made the headlines recently

There was still enough daylight to go for a walk and help wear off the lunchtime drinking. So Mick and I decided to walk round the harbour to see what else there was to see.

Some of the harbour

By the 1760’s Bristol had become such a popular port for cargo ships it was struggling to accommodate all the ships. In 1765 the idea of a floating none tidal harbour was put forward by engineer John Smeaton. But no progress was made until 1790 and by 1802 William Jessop was engaged to come up a scheme. He put together various ideas from earlier proposals.


The River Avon was dammed at Rownham and at the bottom of Totterdown Hill, near Temple Meads, impounding all the water of the Avon and Frome between these points. A weir at Netham controlled the level of the Harbour water, channelling water along a Feeder Canal and allowing excess to spill back into the tidal river Avon. A half tide basin was constructed with locks to the river and the harbour.

Curved lock gates

We walked down to the River Avon past Junction Lock, Cumberland Basin (the half tide basin) to Entrance Lock which takes vessels down onto the tidal river.

Blimey it’s high up

Standing between the lock and the weir we could look down the valley towards the River Severn, Clifton Suspension Bridge sitting high above everything. Lines of coloured houses brightened up the greying skies.

Spot the ball

A pool under the Plimsole Swing Bridge was playing host to teams playing Canoe Polo, highly energetic and wet.

Mick controlling the harbour level

At Underfall Yard there is a museum where models demonstrate how the level of the floating harbour is kept constant and how they scour out the silt that collects. Notice boards around the harbour warn you of days and times that this process takes place.

4 fingers and a thumb
Pretty boat

Plenty of boats are moored up, some with all the services and other with little other than a ladder to gain access to your boat. Past the Harbour Masters building and along the south side of the harbour.

The sun managed to come out

A clock tower on a 1920’s building glowed in the late sunshine against the bright blue sky. Down the side of the building at the end of an alleyway an alarm box had been put to artistic purpose.

A Banksy

Banksy in 2014 painted his version of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earing. This is called the Girl with a Pierced Ear. The spatters and dribbles make this piece, we did wonder if the central heating flue had been added after the girl was painted or before.

Broken down sign
No sign of Wallace

Signs of the Bristol Old Vic Scenic Workshop and Aardman Animation. Theatre and Wallace and Gromit close neighbours.

Peeking over the fence

We’d considered visiting the SS Great Britain, now it was too late in the day and the £17 entrance fee put us off. Instead we looked at the stern through the fence for free, not quite the same as going round, but considerably cheaper!

There is a bit of road in there somewhere

From here railway lines criss and cross what was the docks.

Electric cranes all lined up

Four electric cranes still stand at the waters edge, the only remainers of the 40 that had existed in the 1950s. What a different place this would have been 70 years ago. No museums cafes and bars then.

Mirror ball

We crossed back over to the north bank on Prince Street Bridge then over Peros Bridge and towards Millenium Square. Here cascading water sculptures reminded us of Sheffield station.

The biggest mirror ball gave me opportunities to take our photos before we looked at the electric generating tree. Below this you can charge your phone whilst enjoying the aroma of the rosemary bushes as a statue of Cary Grant watches you. Millenium Parade brought us back to the boat for some play time with Tilly.

Energy tree
Rosemary phone charger

The cruiser that had been moored near us had left, so we decided to give the other boat left on the moorings a bit more space. We pushed over to the next pontoon, which was one of the wobbliest I’ve ever tried walking on, more like a fairground ride than somewhere safe to tie up to. The wind blew Oleanna away as I clung onto the centre line, Mick waiting for me to pass it back to tie us up. I stayed put trying to keep my balance until we were tied up, reducing the number of sides I could fall off to one.

Cary Grant apparently

0 locks, 0 miles, 2 old friends, 2 much to catch up on, 3 burgers, 1 quinoa salad, 1 portion of halloumi fries, 1 Punk IPA, 1 Swift 1, 1 wine, 1 coffee, 5 mile walk, 4 cranes, £17!! 1 tide out, 1 more day without friends, 1 boat almost blown away, 40ft of wobbliest wobblyness.

Reached Our Destination. 21st September

Sydney Wharf Bridge 188 to Brunel Quay Visitor Moorings

First things first a newspaper! At the bridge behind us there was a Tesco so that was an easy find. Breakfasted and ready to go just gone 8:30am. We had quite a few hours cruising to do today, so no languishing in bed with the paper.

Sharing with plenty of crew

As we rolled back the covers a Sally Hire boat came past with a crew of far too many chaps to ignore. If we could share with them it should make our trip down to the river a lot easier. I checked they were happy to share and we pulled in alongside them.

Chin wagging at the back

We were joining a group of chaps from Margate Rotary Club who’d come out for the weekend. They had missed winding further back this morning and were in two minds as whether to carry on down the locks to the river or find a suitable place to wind. They had to do the first two locks no matter what. As we progressed down the locks more and more people kept coming out of their boat, just how many of them were there?! Eight and someone else was joining them today.

Following another hire boat down we all had to pause when it came to Bath Deep Lock. This is the second deepest lock on the network and has only a short pound above it. By now a couple of volunteer Lockies had arrived and with local knowledge they suggested that the boat in front of us should wait until the Deep Lock had finished filling before leaving the lock above, this would save them grounding.

Winding and winding

I’ve been finding the low geared paddles a pain, so have started to stand in front of the gate to wind them away from myself, I find this a lot easier. The volunteer wasn’t happy with this and told me off. I understood his concerns that I might step back and off the side of the lock, but I was very much aware of this and was just avoiding giving myself numerous bruises.

They’re such a long way down

A single hander was coming up, so the volunteer was kept busy. Locks were swapped, then we helped the single hander up the lock in front of us. A do-si-do of boats and we were in the lock waiting to go down, pausing whilst a boat came into the Deep Lock to come up, therefore they could use our water.

Winding winding winding the gates open

Another do-si-do and we were in the Deep Lock ready to go down. I know we are more than likely to come back up on our own so let the chaps from the hire boat do all the winding of the paddles followed by the winding of the bottom gates. Meanwhile I chatted with the Lockie to get tips on how to ascend the lock should there not be anyone around to assist. We’ll see if his method works when we come back.

Last lock with the chaps

120 turns of a windlass later the bottom gates were open and there was only one more lock. We said our goodbyes to the chaps as we’d be heading downstream, the chaps still had to make their minds up as to what they were doing. Hope the rest of their weekend was good and that they don’t get too wet tomorrow.

Our locking partners to the right

Down on the river, back in a wide watery world. Here boats were moored where ever they could cling to the bank. We still had several locks to pass through and quite a few miles to cover, so on we pressed. A little wooden boat with a one cylinder petrol engine joined us for a few locks. A hire boat with helpful crew wound the paddles up to empty the lock before even looking to see if the boats were ready. The helpful chap really wanted me to climb down the ladder to get back on board, but I don’t do ladders unless I really have to, due to my grip. He kept insisting, but he was never going to win, our boats could just swap over below the lock, far easier than fishing me out of the water.

A good vantage point

Our tiny locking partners moored up by a pub they’d not tried before and left us on our own. The next lock Keynsham was being emptied by a group of lads, they were bringing two cruisers up. Blimey the lock took forever to fill, we seemed to be there for an absolute age before the top gates could be forced open.

The last lock of the K&A

A few more meanders and occasional views and we’d reached Lock 1 of the Kennet and Avon, Hanham Lock. Here you leave C&RT waters and enter Bristol City Docks water. The next stretch to Netham Lock is tidal water, but currently the tides are not high enough to come over the weir. Mick called ahead so that the Lockie at Netham knew we were on our way.

Inflatables and swimmers

There is no mooring along this stretch, but plenty of people were out enjoying the water, paddle boarders and swimmers. We passed a slow widebeam as we gradually left the greenery behind and more urban surroundings took over.

The Lock Keepers house

At Netham Lock we pulled in, as instructed to do by the big sign, and walked to the office. Two nights please. We handed over our money and in return were handed a sticker for our window and given a map showing us where we could moor in the floating harbour.

Netham Lock 1000 miles this year

A quick check of mileage today and as we came through Netham Lock, we had achieved our thousandth mile this year!

Oleanna smiling

Forty Five more minutes of cruising to reach the harbour. Big boats, small boats, boats that might bite, boats with sails.

Wiggly Bridge

Bridges, winding, high and low.

People, loads and loads of people all out enjoying the sunshine, possibly the last we’ll see for a while.


Our first option to moor after Prince Street Bridge had space but the number of people sat on walls, dangling their feet in the water put us off. Here is known to be noisy on weekends so we pressed on to Brunel Quay. Here there is no security gate, but finger pontoons. The area was very busy still, but we decided to pull in and make use of the electric hook up and water point at each mooring.

Not a bad view, of people sitting round the pump out machine

Once tied up we checked the credit on the post 22p, 15p went on the first load of washing, good job we’d bought some more credit. We settled in, Tilly was shown that the outside was not for her, but she didn’t take ‘NO’ for an answer and tried to clamber out through the side hatch! There’s only so much sleeping a cat can do!


Mick popped to the nearby Tescos and spotted a sign saying that the bar we were moored in front of would be closing at 4pm for a wedding party. Maybe we’d made a mistake in our choice of mooring.

At around 6pm there was a lot of singing.. A LOT! A trip boat pulled in to the moorings close to us and the singing got even louder. This was the wedding party! Damn, we’d just added £5 to the electric post.


The singing stopped for about half an hour, then for the remainder of the evening a chap with a guitar led them all singing Britpop hits, maybe it was Noel Gallagher. We thought about going out to enjoy the warm evening and get away from the singing, but we were both a touch pooped after the last couple of days and a long day on the river. Noel turned his mic off shortly after 10:30 and the general party noise gradually subsided.

13 locks, 1 sailed straight through, 17.86 miles, 1002.83 miles so far this year, 8 extra crew, 0 darlings, 2 locking partners, 8 hours cruising, 1 canal finished, 2 loads washing, £5 to get through, 50 grams short, 2 nights, £59, 2 high for painting, 1990’s relived.