MARLIN trips up Mersey to Widnes, Fidlers Ferry, Warrington,.. 2019

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MARLIN trip up Mersey to Fidlers Ferry February 2019

Thursday 21 February (Liverpool HW 12.20 10.2m). Wind slight then SW 2-3; sunny.

Enter river from marina at 10:37. w Calm weather. Sunny. Quite warm. Not at all like February. Head up Garston Channel. Leave Garston channel at G11 (SHM) and head for waypoints MER0,...MER7. (see here for navigation info, some history and more photos).
Actually since it was a very big tide, and while it was still making, I could go just about anywhere - so I also used evidence from the surface ripples to try to find the deepest part of the channel.

Floating crane [Lara 1, ex Mersey Mammoth] working at Tranmere Oil Terminal

Cammell Lairds shipyard.

Cross south of Hale Head at 11.35pm and proceed along north bank up to the Runcorn bridges. Go through south arch (of three) of the railway bridge at 11.55. I met a yacht coming down the river just as I approached the bridges. Also a fast SURVEY motorboat (White Osprey) passed me going up river.

Runcorn chemical works

Foot Bridge on the walkway along the north shore at Widnes.

The Rail Bridge and (arched) Road Bridge, looking towards Widnes.

The road bridge is currently being repaired and has workmen on the arch. Follow south bank passing (abandoned) lock into Ship Canal, then head NE keeping close inshore - and avoiding the ruined quay which is an obstacle here (though most probably not when the tide was so high). There was a yellow buoy in place - most probably to mark this obstruction. I had set up a waypoint to avoid it - based on a Google Earth image at low water.

I had been restricted by the trestle bridge (low head room) that was in place 2013-2018 while the Gateway Bridge was built. So my last trip was in 2013. The trestle bridge is finally no more - so I could head on up. Some of the photos taken during construction of the Gateway Bridge helped to give an idea of the location of the deepest channel. I chose to keep fairly close to the Runcorn bank - as on previous trips. I crossed under the bridge using the gap south of the southern large support tower (see LW image).

There were a pair of yellow buoys on the NE side of the Gateway Bridge - possibly to mark the channel (or maybe left-over mooring buoys). I passed under this bridge at 12:05 with current still strongly up-river. I decided to head on up to Fidlers Ferry - calculating that I would have enough time to get back to Liverpool marina by last lock-in (at 2:39pm), if I pushed my speed through the water up from 7 knots (displacement speed) to more like 10 knots to counter the current which would still be flowing up-river until around 1:20pm.

Gateway Bridge with yellow buoy in foreground; Fidlers ferry power station to right.

Gateway Bridge

All 3 bridges lined up (looking out).

I passed the pylon crossing and then arrived at Fidlers Ferry at 12:25 (so about 2 hours from Liverpool marina at 7 knots through the water). I had as little as 2 metres under my keel (depth 0.7m) once or twice on the way up - but deeper water is available - I just did not chose to creep up slowly checking depths.
The tide level was high and was lapping against the launching area at Fidlers Ferry. I heard a funny buzzing sound - and popped outside the cabin to see if some engine malfunction was the cause - then I saw a small drone close by. A group of people were standing on the bank - presumably piloting the drone.

Image from the drone (from FFSC): Marlin passing Fidler's Ferry Sailing Club heading out:

Depths (in metres under keel, not tidally corrected) from Runcorn Gap (at left) to Fidlers Ferry (at top right).

Same information on HO charts (darker is shallower):

Fidlers Ferry Sailing Club

Fidlers Ferry Lock

So at 12:29, I had turned around and was ready to head back down river. With 2-3 knots of adverse current, I decide to up the revs - doing 10-11 knots through the water. I was under the Gateway Bridge at 12:50 and under the older bridges (rail and road) at 12:57. It was very calm. By 1:14pm, I was passing Hale Head and I was in good time since the current was slack by now and it usually takes me about an hour from Hale Head to the marina.

Spike Island (West Bank Boat Club) (lock into Sankey Canal)

Hale Head Lighthouse (disused)

Flying a kite - Otterspool Promenade.

At 1:45 I was off Garston and the outgoing current was now 2-3 knots. I noticed a new vessel (or part of a vessel) on Cammell Laird's slip in front of the southern "shed" - presumably placed there after the Red Kestrel IOW Ferry was "floated off" a few days ago. OA
I entered the marina lock at 2:12, along with White Osprey.

MARLIN trip up Mersey to Warrington April 2019

Thursday 18 April (Liverpool HW 11.10 9.5m; LW 18:13 0.6m)[Gladstone Dock Tide Gauge actual values: HW 11:02 9.46m; LW 18:08 0.66m]. This is an above-average spring tide - an exceptional or equinoctial spring. Wind ESE 3-4; watery sun, visibility about 1 mile.

Enter river from marina at 9:47 after a slight delay from workmen checking repair work to lock. Only one other boat left in that lock. Head up Garston Channel. Leave Garston channel at G11 (SHM) and head for waypoints MER0,...MER7. (see here for navigation info, some history and more photos).

With the strong tidal current (3 knots mostly), I made good progress at only 7 knots through the water (my efficient displacement speed). Off the airport I was overtaken by a survey Cat speeding up to survey the area around the new Gateway ridge.

By 11:06 I reached the Runcorn Bridges and passed under the southern arch and then followed the south shore - keeping inshore of the ruined quay which is an obstacle here (though most probably not when the tide was so high). I then passed under the Gateway Bridge and around Hempstones Point to Fidlers Ferry. Even though I had the data from my trip earlier that year, I still failed to find the deepest channel in places - but the tide was deep enough that I always had a metre or more under my keel.

Liverpool Bay Falcon from Fidlers Ferry Sailing Club:

I reached Fidlers ferry at 11:33 with a strong upriver current (3-4 knots). As well as the Falcon dinghy, there were some small motor boats and ribs out on the river. From now on, I was in territory that I had not explored since 2013. Since I was not planning to make it back to Liverpool Marina in time for the last lock on that tide at 13:25, I could afford to explore further up the river.

As on my 2013 trip, I again found it difficult to locate the deepest channel in the turn to port into Penketh Reach [in 2013 I ran aground, this time I kept 0.9m under my keel here on the way up].

At 11:41 I passed the entrance to Sankey Brook and the tide was rushing up the brook. This brook was, initially, the route taken by flats to reach the Sankey Navigation at Sankey Bridges. The brook proved hard to negotiate - so the Navigation was extended to Fidlers Ferry with a lock directly into the Mersey.

Entrance to Sankey Brook:

Then it was "run the bridges" time:

Forrest Way Bridge (a garbage truck stopped to look at me as I passed under it on my way back)[there are plans to build a bypass bridge alongside this in a year or two]:

There were several branches and logs floating in the river near Forrest way Bridge.

Pipe Bridge (also has footpath):

Image of Bank Quay in 1928 with barges moored, also showing earlier transporter bridge (built 1905, sited near where the pipe bridge is now, demolished 1960s). A second transporter bridge was built in 1915 and, though disused, still stands:

Transporter Bridge; and suspended "car":

I reached the Transporter Bridge by 11:50 with still 3-4 knots current up river. I had taken the precaution, unlike in 2013, of lowering my radio aerial and so my air draught was reduced to 4.0m. Also by studying my photos of the next bridge, and some local information, I estimated that I would be able to pass under it. So this time I decided to head further up. I drifted slowly under the box girder bridge and had a foot or two clearance at that tidal height.

Box girder Bridge:

From now on, I was in territory new to me. The next bridges were two railway bridges close together. The first one had plenty of air draught for me, but the following one (stone arch bridge known as Walton 12 arches that carries the main West Coast railway line) was not so easy to assess since there was little room to manoeuvre near it. I decided not to risk getting stuck, or bashing some of the equipment on my cabin roof, and turned round under the first (iron girder) railway bridge at 12:00.

The First Railway Bridge encountered.

The stone built 12 arch Walton railbridge (built 1837 and carrying the electrified West Coast main line):

If I had passed under the stone railway bridge, I would have come to the abandoned Walton Lock. This, until the 1980s, provided a link for barges from the Manchester Ship Canal into the Mersey and hence, following my route, to Bank Quay at Warrington which had unloading facilities. So these barges must have been able to get under the bridge.
  I have found evidence that the rail track over the stone railway bridge (Walton 12 Arches) is at 12.3m above OD, so 6.7m above the sea level at MHWS. If the bridge is 2.3m thick at the centre of the arch [a guess based on photos], then air draught at MHWS would be 4.4m. This checks with a Peel Ports recommendation of bridge clearance at 10.5m above OD [4.9m above MHWS] for any additional bridges that are planned in this part of the river.

I thought that very few sea-going vessels would have come this far inland since the 1980s. I was surprised, however, to see evidence that restoration work on the river bank and on Walton Arches Bridge Piers in 2013 had involved several dumb barges and a workboat. See here.

In order to make reasonable progress against the inrushing tide, I upped the revs to do about 9 knots through the water: resulting in only 8 knots over the ground, if I kept out of the areas of strongest current. I reached Forrest Way bridge by 12:11 and Fidlers Ferry by 12:25, by which place and time, the tide had turned and was favourable (ebbing), and I was doing 9-10 knots over the ground.

Ferry Inn at Fidlers Ferry

Boatyard at Fidlers Ferry

Fidlers Ferry lock - near HW.

Fidlers Ferry Power station astern; MARLIN at speed:

Gateway Bridge (passed at 12:43 doing 11 knots over the ground):

Canada Geese (which breed successfully on the bank between the Manchester Ship Canal and the Mersey):

Abandoned lock into Manchester Ship Canal.

Spike Island (West Bank Boat Club) at Widnes

Runcorn Bridges:

After passing through Runcorn gap (at 12:50), I was approaching an area of strongly falling tide (at Hale Head HW is 30 minutes after Liverpool: so circa 11:40). I kept up the revs to get through this area before the tide fell further. By 1:06, I was passing Hale Head [local HW+85'].

Hale Lighthouse (abandoned)

I was able to use my surveys to cross Hale Sands and get around to the Garston Channel. I was off Liverpool by 2:00. So 2 hours from my point of turning.

Liverpool Pier Head:

Plot of depth under my keel in upper river [Hempstones Point to Warrington](depths and distances in metres):

Passing Hempstones Point (at left) round to Fidlers Ferry (at right) (with tide corrected using Gladstone tide gauge depth 60 minutes earlier); 2019 trips; depths over CD and distances in metres:

Same information on HO charts (darker is shallower):

Passing South of Garston: Plot of depth over CD (using Gladstone tidegauge depth 15 minutes earlier) (+ for waypoints MER0, MER01 and airport gantry; 2018-9 trips; depths and distances in metres):

Distance run 39 nm (so 19.5 miles up and back to marina). Average speed 9.3 knots over the ground.

I was too late to lock into the marina, as I expected, so I took the opportunity to do some low tide exploration of the Rock Channel, wrecks on Hoylake beach and the Training Wall.

First, to complete the cruise of the Mersey from head of navigation to mouth: I made for New Brighton, where the Rock Lighthouse (disused) marks the mouth:

I then passed through the Rock Channel and headed along the north Wirral coast towards Hoylake to take a look at a wreck on the beach. At 3:23, I was within 0.22nm of it (due north) and could see that the sand around the wreck was just awash. This, with tide gauge data, helped to determine the height of the wreck above CD - which may help in deciding what vessel the wreck actually is.

As it was approaching low water with a predicted height of only 0.6m above CD at 6:13pm, I then returned east, to go through the Rock Channel - to check my waypoints - and then explore the Training Wall - to see how much they actually dried at low water; since I have never, in 30 years of sailing in and out of Liverpool, actually seen any part of these walls. I also planned to anchor in Lagoon to take a break, out of the current, while waiting for enough water for the marina lock to open (around 9:30).

Some images of the training wall near LW (with MSC Messina loading containers; Stena Mersey incoming near C23 buoy):

After exploring the Rock Channel and Murphy's Gut, I decided to anchor in Lagoon. This is the local name of an inlet on the east side of Brazil Bank. At low water, it is protected on 3 sides by Brazil Bank and by the Training Wall on the remaining side. It thus has rather little current and is fairly calm. I anchored at 53°27.11N 3°3.305W at 5:10 (before LW). From here, I could see the Brazil bank, Training Wall and Murphy's Gut and note at what tidal depth they covered/uncovered.

My conclusion, for Brazil Bank itself, is that it is in two parts: the southerly part dries about 3.6m; the northerly part dried 4.0m while the joining part (west side of Lagoon) dries only 1.3m. Note that these results may change as tides, storms etc push the sand around. Note that the chart of this Bank shows data from MDHB surveys from 1988-1997.

As I was at anchor in Lagoon at low water, I was surprised to see a boat coming in through Murphys Gut. It was a small local fishing vessel (registered as LL506; 5.8m long). So I am not the only person who goes through Murphys Gut. It was very peaceful anchored in Lagoon - except for a low rumbling noise from the big ship engines (generators?) coming from the docks on the Liverpool side.

Lock in to Liverpool Marina at 9:30. There was a 4 knot current off the marina at that time - convenient for me since Marlin has a least speed, in gear at tickover, of 4 knots: so I can easily keep stationary in the river off the lock.

Exploration to Hoylake and back from the marina added 24 nm to my distance run: so 63nm in total.

For my results for the Rock Channel and Murphys Gut, updated by this trip, see Rock Channel.

MARLIN trip up Mersey to Eastham June 2019

Thursday 5 June (Liverpool HW 13.14 9.2m). Wind S 3-4; mostly overcast.

Enter river from marina at 11:45. Main reason for trip was to test AutoPilot with new electric hydraulic pump installed. Beacuse wind was from S, decide to hug the Wirral coast for more shelter. So head over to Cammell Lairds shipyard and then proceed up river towards Eastham:

Cammell Lairds: Polar Research Vessel under construction (aka Boaty-Mac-Boaty-Face);

Vessels under repair in Cammell Laird's Dock - RFA Tidespring (grey) at centre; P & O European Highlander (Cairnryan - Larne Ro-Ro Ferry, 163x23m) at right in dry dock.

Pontoons used by windfarm boats

Floating crane-barge (Lara1, ex-Mersey Mammoth, 60x24m);

Tanker Parthenon (250x44x12.5m) on Tranmere oil stage

Bromborough Wharf (here called Mersey Wharf) - no vessels alongside;

McTay Marine built many vessels from 1971 to 2015 when they closed. Their premisies and slip were taken over by Carmet who continue to repair and build.

Spud-leg barge (Haven Seafield?) alongside near McTay's shipyard (now Carmet).

The slip at McTay's (now Carmet) with ferry (Royal Daffodil) being restored and overall view including jack-up rig:


Bit Eco (120x20x7m, described as asphalt/bitumen tanker) passing Eastham after leaving ship canal lock:

Survey vessel (Peel Port's Royal Charter 11x4m):

Oil Tanker Stella Theresa (126x21m) inbound to lock at Eastham, with tug:

I reached Eastham by 12:45 and remained close by, since it was sheltered, to eat lunch. Then cross over towards the airport - with increasingly choppy seas. I explored some of the routes I had taken previously to get data on the current depth.

Depths (from 2019 trips, corrected to CD using Liverpool tide-gauge data, taken 15 minutes earlier), distances in metres, showing estuary from Eastham to off Airport.

Lock back into marina at 2:00. 12.1nm run.

A record of the depth and track of my voyages are available from teamSurv

If 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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