MARLIN trip to Barrow, Walney Channel, Borwick Rails and Duddon 2018

Jump to Barrow, Duddon.

Friday 13 April: weather forecast was for slight wind and calm for two days, with a sunny day on Saturday - so suitable for an overnight trip. I wanted to explore for myself the Walney Channel (between the mainland of Barrow and Walney Island) - circumnavigating Walney Island. I had already done some planning, and obtained some local knowledge: see here.

I left Liverpool marina at 11:45 (Liv HW 10:25 8.4m) and headed out. Visibilty was poor - around 0.5 mile. It was very calm but misty and with drizzle at times. I called Mersey VTS so that they would know my plans in the poor viz. With my radar, I have a good warning of vessels and buoys. AIS also helps to indicate what big ships (and pilot boats, windfarm boats) are underway.

Out via the shipping channel until ALPHA buoy (at 13:05) when I took my shortcut going north. I was overtaken in the channel by Stolt Pelican (a tanker), followed by pilot boat Petrel.

STOLT PELICAN overtaking me in the Liverpool shipping channel.

I headed north to the Barrow Channel entrance - with little shipping and nothing much to see. I reached the Barrow Channel at 5:42 (pm), having cut across the outer edge of Mort Bank (least depth 2.2 m under my keel). I passed the Piel Island moorings at 6:00, with no yachts moored and no sign of activity on the Island.

Accompanied by a lot of windfarm catamarans, I headed on past Barrow Docks (they have in-river moorings and an in-river fuel berth there) to pass up the channel between moorings buoys at either side. I went under the Jubilee (lifting) Bridge at 6:40, and was not alarmed (unlike last time) by the clunking noise of the traffic crossing above.

The chart gives some non-drying areas north of the bridge, and the tidal prediction was for a least depth of 1.9m. Most mooring buoys were unoccupied and I found a promising one. It had an attachment rope with lots of seaweed on it - but it looked quite substantial. As I was securing to the buoy, a local fishng boat (BW28) came past and suggested that another (yellow) buoy would be a better choice. So I re-moored, feeling more confident that the mooring was considered sound.

I was planning to stay on board anyway and I set an anchor (or drift) alarm so I am alerted if I have moved further than the specified distance. It turned out that this buoy gave me 1.1m under my keel at the next LW (1.9m tidal depth).

BW28 moored nearby and the skipper rowed past me - giving me the chance to check my local knowledge. He warned me that the current on the mooring would be strong so going ashore could be tricky. I asked about proceeding north through the Walney Channel - he said he intended to do this in his boat the next morning since a 8.8m (Liv) tide would be sufficient and that his boat drew 1.4metres. He confirmed that there was no specific channel through the meetings (the shallowest part) and that he planned to go through before HW, so he could get off if he touched bottom.

I stayed on board overnight - it was very calm with some distant rumbling from traffic crossing the bridge and some noise of fans(?) from the nearby huge BAE shed (that is part of the facility that builds/repairs nuclear submarines)

Views from my mooring (towards Jubilee Bridge):

Liverpool to Barrow 47.3 nm.

Saturday 14 April: HW (Liv) 11:03 (8.8m); 23:26 (8.9m). Weather mostly sunny with very slight wind.

Views from my mooring (moored FV BW28; BAE shed with fishermens' stores in foreground and part of Barrow Sailing Club to right):

Current submerging buoy near my mooring:

My researches suggested that departure north 1-1.5 hours before HW Barrow would be suitable. HW Barrow is 18-20 minutes later than Liverpool (so 11:21). I decided to go early, since it would be a making tide and the current might show the deepest water: so at 9:45 I set off with still a strong north-bound current. I followed the channel (as shown by LW photographs and Google Earth) and was alongside the gap in the slag cliffs by 10:00 in 3.6m depth under my keel. The current was less here. The "meetings" starts from there and stretches to North Haws Point. I headed slowly across, with a least depth of 1.2m under my keel (so sea depth 2.0m). I passed close to a yellow buoy - so circled it to see what it was for - channel mark, shallow spot, ...? By 10:20, I was in the deep channel around North Haws Point - so the shallowest part was crossed. I noticed that the FV came about 10 minutes after me, and seemed to cross the meetings a bit further west than my track.

Walney Island shore (N of Jubilee Bridge):

Cliffs of "slag" on mainland shore:

North end of Walney Island (sand dunes):

The shallowest points that I found seemed to be near the yellow buoy - so maybe it marks a shallow area. Even so, the seabed in the "meetings" seems to be below 7m above CD.

North Walney Channel track (with waypoints; darker is shallower); [note wreck near my track and marked as drying 6 metres is SS Anastasi driven ashore on 25 December 1946; see also here]:

North Walney Channel (depths above chart datum using tidegauge for Heysham: distances in metres):

I was on the north end of Walney Island by 10:30 and with still some time to go before HW, I decided to push my way up the Duddon Estuary. So instead of following the deeper Scarth Channel out to the west, I headed north and then east. I had tried previously to get as far as the port for Millom - known as Borwick Rails. This has an alongside quay and is advertised as suitable for coasters to use - though currently it is not in use. Until the 1990s Duddon Valley Shipbreakers operated there and several Royal Navy Frigates were dismantled (such as HMS Aurora in 1990).

The last time I was in the Duddon Estuary, the tide was only a 7.0m HW, almost 2 metres less, so I should be able to go anywhere that was covered at HW last time. This encouraged me to strike across the Duddon estuary towards Haverigg and then swing towards Askam Pier. I passed close to the end of Askam Pier (an abandoned loading pier) at 11:00. Just east of the root of Askam Pier is a boat harbour - drying. One of the interesting boats moored there is Oakdale - one of the last surviving Mersey Flats [built 1951 at Runcorn and still afloat at high water]. She is a liveaboard located at 53°11.247N, 3°12.919W. [Updated info: March 2020 Oakdale suffered damage during a spring HW]

Askam Pier (earth/stone embankment heading out from shore):

I reached Borwick Rails by 11:10 - with current still incoming at that location. The quayside is still in good condition with ladders, but the surrounding is fenced off. Depth about 2.7m under my keel.

Borwick Rails: abandoned quayside of Port Millom:

At 11:15, I set off back out to the open sea through the Duddon Estuary. My depth tracks are shown here from this trip and a previous one (Borwick Rails at top right, Walney Channel at lower right, Haverigg at top centre; depths above chart datum using tidegauge for Heysham; distances in metres):

Tracks shown with waypoints on chart (lighter is deeper, NW-SE track in SW corner on left image is spurious):

Haverigg with Black Combe behind.

Once out of the Duddon estuary, I headed south past the Barrow Windfarm:

With Barrow shipyard visible the other side of Walney Island:

On the SW side of Walney is the site of a wreck at Cockspec sands - this is the Lough Fisher which ran aground there on 28 December 1935. The wreckage was subsequently dispersed in 1936 to a depth of 10ft, so little may be left. It is not charted but the site was close offshore of the small drying patch charted.
  The wreck charted as PA (position approximate) 1.5 miles further offshore is of the trawler Jean Marcel(FD280) which foundered on 26-10-1968. All 3 crew were picked up by a nearby inshore trawler (Girl Mary).

Then I continued past the Lune Estuary with IOM vessel Ben My Chree leaving:

It was sunny and calm, so I stopped off to survey a few wreck-sites on the way. I usually cross from the North into the Liverpool Shipping Channel near buoy Alpha. Since I was earlier than usual, the tide would be lower, to I decided to cross further west near buoy Q10. At 7:35 (HW-3 hours 50 minutes ), I had depth of 2.5m under my keel both crossing the sandbank and then the training wall. As you approach the training wall, the depth gauge seabed level shoots up and I usually slow down in case of any obstruction. Then, relief, as the depth level shoots back down again.

I arrived off Liverpool Marina and locked in (with two other boats) at 9:20pm.

Barrow to Liverpool 67.6nm (via a circuitous route).

Trip (115 nm; 22 hours run; circa 15 galls fuel) mainly at my displacement speed of 7 knots, or less, through the water.

A record of the depth and track of my voyage is available from teamSurv [now defunct]

Clicking on an image should give a higher resolution picture. If even higher resolution versions of the above images are wanted, please contact me. All information given in good faith, but please do not rely on it.

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