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Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs

11th August, 2018

It was another early start prior to our arrival into Avonmouth as we approached the locks at around 05:45 to make fast a tug aft before turning in the river off the lock entrance to make our approach into the strong flooding tide. The Avonmouth locks are 210m (690ft) long and 30m (98ft) wide, leaving us approximately 3.5m clearance on each side. Those at Royal Portbury are the largest in the UK at 290m and 41m wide.

We were inside the locks at 06:30, with our ‘fender men’ protecting the ships side from the concrete lock walls with their lumps of wood on the end of a rope, as the locks lifted us the 1m to the same level as that inside the basin that is the Royal Edward Dock. Once inside the basin, Capt. Sunderland turned Saga Pearl II through 180 degrees in a tight manoeuvre with approximately 20m clearance at the bow, swinging bow to port to put us port side alongside the berth.

As we entered the locks, we saw the first balloons of the day lift off into the still skies above Bristol.

The locks, and Royal Edward Dock behind them at Avonmouth on the north side of the River Avon and Royal Portbury at the south side of the River Avon are there to allow ships to continue to load or discharge cargo or passengers at any state of the very large tidal ranges that are experienced on the River Severn without drying out and ‘touching bottom’. On 11th August, High Water was at 06:52 with a height of 13.3m and Low Water at 13:40 with a height of 1.0m. This 12.3m range is towards the upper ranges found on the Severn due to us arriving on Spring Tides when the gravitational pull of the sun and moon are in line and combine with greatest force.

Avonmouth is one of the ports in the UK, along with Southampton and the Mersey that form part of the CLH-Pipeline System, originally developed during the Second World War to provide aviation fuel to the RAF airfields across the UK. It is now used to transport and store the aviation fuel delivered by tanker ships that is required to keep Heathrow Airport moving without the need for road tanker deliveries.

Once alongside, I had arranged a drill for the crew, starting at 10:00, with synthetic smoke used to simulate a fire in one of our air conditioning stations. This involved all of our fire teams mustering to be used to contain and attack the fire, and the technical department carrying out their duties, such as shutting down power and ventilation to the affected and adjacent spaces. We also simulated the mustering and evacuation of passengers to their muster stations and then lifeboats, which the crew had lowered on the starboard side.

Tours headed off throughout the day into Bath, Bristol and to the SS Great Britain, Monmouth and to the Balloon Festival. Tours continued on Sunday, and I had arranged some firefighting training for two of the fire teams.

The departure from Avonmouth at 22:00 on Sunday saw us manoeuvre off the berth, already heading out towards the River Severn, and entering the locks, again with our ‘fender men’ in place to protect the ships side as we dropped 2m to river level. We made best use of the ebbing tide to the Pilot Station to disembark our Pilot before heading further out into the Bristol Channel and entering the Celtic Sea via the ‘Smalls TSS’ en-route to Campbeltown on the Isle of Mull.

Andrew Makinson, Safety Officer

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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