As our plan is to cruise all the connected navigable waterways this included the Lancaster canal which is not connected to any other canal. It’s only access, aside from a large crane and lorry assisting, is via the tidal rivers Douglas and Ribble and the Millenium Ribble link which was opened in 2002, and when it was built was the only canal in GB built entirely for recreational purposes. As this is tidal it is protected at both ends by sea locks which are only operated when the tide and weather are suitable by Canal and River trust staff. We duly booked our passage with a little fear and trepidation.
We were due to travel across on Sunday 17th May but the weather was very windy in the morning when the tide was right and it was called off. I was quite pleased about this. We were put on standby for Monday morning.
Monday came cloudy and wet but not as windy and we were in business together with the other 7 boats waiting to cross. We left Tarleton and headed for the lock feeling anxious and excited in all our waterproofs and life jackets. We were first through the lock with a smaller boat and once through headed into the River Douglas. At this point the tide was coming in and water rushed towards us. The Douglas is a huge river and we travelled along it for about 4 miles before it opens into the Estuary with glimpses of the Irish Sea. The water was quite big, (from the perspective of being in a 57′ flat bottomed narrow boat) and the stormy weather continued as waves crashed over the front of Eunoia, but she was wonderful and didn’t cause us any doubts. As we rounded the Astland lamp which marks the safe route and also the point where the Douglas and Ribble meet the tide was slack which gave us an easier journey for another 2 1/2 miles to the junction of the Ribble link. Also at this point the rain stopped giving us a more pleasant journey. We found the Ribble link and headed in through the sea lock where we moored up to await the other boats and for the tide to go down so that we could get under the next bridge. 9 locks later, travelling with NB Amy with John and Nicki, we reached the Lancaster canal and got ourselves moored up. The highlight of the locks would have to be the final staircase of three locks that you have to reverse into – a good novelty and a test of those steering.
What a journey, 10 miles, 10 locks, big rivers and glimpses of the Irish Sea. Obviously we have to do the return trip – let’s hope for a dryer, sunnier, wind free day on 18th June!
A few photos of the trip.