The two Big Boating Events of this Big Trip were always going to be the Anderton Lift, and the Manchester Ship Canal. We never intended them to be on the same day!
First thing this morning we filled the diesel tank and had a pump out, then winded and headed back to the lift. I went down to the booking office, and got a spot on the first lift of the day at 10am. At the appointed time, we and another boat made our way first onto the aqueduct, then into the lift caisson itself. The journey 50ft down onto the River Weaver takes about 6 minutes, with a few minutes at either end for all the safety procedures to happen. As we went down, the other caisson went up.
Then we were out onto the river, where we turned right.
We were on a bit of a mission to get to Weston Marsh Lock, but our brief time on the Weaver has made certain that we need to come back and spend more time. There are swing bridges, huge locks at Saltersford and Dutton, and enormous viaducts. Occasionally, you can see bridges and even boats on the Trent and Mersey just up the hill.
The Sutton Weaver Swing Bridge is covered in scaffolding, with just enough room to get through. A temporary road bridge has been built to take the traffic. We stopped just beyond the bridge to fill the water tank, so it didn't slop about if the ship canal was choppy.
The scenery of the river changes to a chemical works, then we reached Weston Marsh Lock at around 2pm. The CRT guys were already there, and suggested we try to go straight away. I radioed Eastham Port Control, and said that would be fine, although a big ship would probably catch us up. We went into the lock, the guys did their stuff (much of it seems to be manually worked), and then the gates opened, leading to an inrush of water.
Then we were out into a vast expanse of water. You have to cross the river, then turn left into the ship canal.
Although it was raining for most of our journey, the wind was calm meaning the water was pretty flat. After a while, I spotted a large ship behind us, gaining on us quite rapidly. Eventually, the captain of the Coastal Deniz radioed to ask us to move over to the left so he could pass us before what he regarded at the narrows. This ship is almost as wide as we are long. We got out of the way, and he slowed down so there was virtually no wash.
The canal passes through the Stanlow oil and chemical terminals. The banks are often quite high, but there are brief glimpses of Liverpool off to the right. Even so, there are plenty of big ships and industry to look at.
Then we were at Ellesmere Port, with the entrance to the Shropshire Union Canal visible between the flats and the light house. Adrian made the turn in, and we moored up as we'd arrived earlier than planned. We informed Eastham Control that we were off the canal.
Before long, the man from the council turned up to swing the bridge over the bottom lock; CRT had already been to unlock it.
We moored up in the lower basin in increasingly heavy rain, and I walked up to the museum office to pay. Mooring costs the price of admission to the museum. We are surrounded by all manner of boats.
It's been quite a day. The Ship Canal wasn't nearly as frightening as we thought it might be -- no doubt the lack of wind made a huge difference. There's a lot of organisation involved, but it's certainly worth it if you want to make a circular trip, or if you just want to tick the Ship Canal off the list. With proper planning and precautions, and taking into account the conditions, there's little to fear.
20 miles, 4 locks. (223 miles, 121 locks).