After a lovely weekend in Shropshire with friends and family (and chickens) Peter, Claire and First Mate Alex returned to Wren on Monday 4 July for the next exciting stage of the trip - the final part of the K&A into the heart of Bristol followed by a voyage through the Avon Gorge (hence the title) prior to the anticipated encounter with Sabrina, or the River Severn as she is usually known.
The entry into the Floating Harbour at Bristol was fascinating as Wren chugged up the river passing under buildings and bridges, old and new, and by moored and moving boats of all shapes and sizes. Wren's berth for the night was right in the centre of the city and shortly after mooring an experienced local guide, Allen, came aboard to take the crew on a walking tour to a suitable hostelry, the Nova Scotia. This riverside walk included a brief stop at the Library, where Jess was about to finish work, and also to reconnoitre the big locks leading out of the harbour through which Wren would be navigating in 24 hours or so.
Tuesday was warm, sunny and breezy - a good day for some more exploring as well as a bit of preparation for the challenges ahead. The engine was checked over, the diesel and the water were topped up and, perhaps most importantly, the toilet tank was emptied! Then it was a quick trip down to the Underfall Yard to learn about the history of the harbour and the ingenuity of a certain Isambard Kingdom Brunel and other such engineers. After that there was just enough time to cruise back up the harbour to visit the historic SS Great Britain (even if Wren's entry to the site was a bit unconventional - narrow boats are not supposed to moor right next to the mighty vessel). The ship and its story was fascinating and looking at the condition of the 200 year old hull with the water suspended on thick sheets of glass above your head and hearing about the details of the salvage operation in 1970 was an amazing experience.
Wren's passage through the locks was booked for 7pm and at about 6pm the crew were joined by Jess and Al for the final run down the harbour. As the lock gate opened the impact of the incoming tide and the strong Westerly breeze hampered the boat's progress but eventually the Avon Gorge opened out and the distant hills of South Wales appeared on the horizon. At Avonmouth life jackets were donned and, with Peter at the helm, Alex navigating and Claire taking safe refuge below deck Wren passed under the M5 before bearing south past the docks to Portishead where a secure mooring awaited her. The waves were vigorous to say the least but by 9.30pm the lock into the marina was sighted and the mooring secured about 20 minutes later (a little pricey at £41!). Then it was a quick meal, a shower and bed so that Wren and her crew would all be ready for the arrival of the Severn Pilot at 6am on Wednesday morning.