Country: UK - England
Boat name: Happy Days
Length: 3m +
Engine: Mariner 4St/4HP
Join Date: Jul 2009
Bristol Harbour Aug 8th 2009
If you're after tales of daring-do and rough water exploits, this isn't the thread for you!
However, if you're interested in what you can do SIB wise in Bristol, or were out and about in Bristol Harbour today, either with a fishing rod attached to the back of your SIB, or you very kindly looped back to check if I'd broken down - this is, indeed, the thread for you!
So the Bristol Harbour festival was last weekend, and with a slightly damp Saturday behind us, Sunday was a fine day to be out in one's SIB along with all the other boaty funsters.
Sadly, other matters previously arranged meant that a trudge around the zoo was the order of the day, so a slightly frustrated Mr & Mrs MikeP miss out on all the harbour festival fun and have to make do with secondhand tales from all their friends who had heard that "you've got a boat" and naturally assumed we'd be "down the festival" with everyone else.
However, this weekend threw up an unexpected gem - a clear forecast of sun and no rain - in August - who'd have thought it!
Once more, though, pre-arranged events started to conspire against us, and Mrs MikeP had a haircut and some other female malarkey arranged with a 13:45 terminus - our plan thus became for me to attempt my first solo inflation and launch from Hotwells, and then go and pick the missus up near to the hair salon by Bristol Bridge and enjoy a couple of hours of pleasant bimbling around the Bristol harbour environs.
Maths being one of my few strong points, I calculate that in order for us to stay powered for the projected duration, we would need to refuel which, strictly speaking, means removing the outboard from the boat and topping up away from the water.
I didn't fancy that much, given our previous experience trying to drag a meagre 4HP outboard off our SIB, so in a fit of 'go gettum' I decided to get an external fuel tank and line from our preferred supplier (Bristol Boats in Saltford - I cannot recommend them highly enough if you're in the Bristol area).
Anyway, to cut a long story short and not bore you with the obscene number of bottleneck creating traffic lights between Saltford and Bristol - I find myself back in Hotwells at a much later time than anticipated, prepping to launch to go and pick the missus up from her hairdo.
Thankfully, we've evolved a system of dual cheapo Aldi 12V pumps - one per tube - which do most of the gruntwork in getting the boat inflated, so with a bit of a sweaty top up as it was getting a bit warm in the sun, I was down the slipway within 15 minutes of parking up.
Power up was a bit embarassing, as I sincerely thought I had the outboard in neutral, when in fact, the Gods had decided that it was in forward. This would not have been a problem, apart from the two or three very competent looking sailors who were waiting for me to get out of their way.
Suffice it to say, once I'd reversed the boat back off the pontoon, I chugged away nervously looking at my watch, wondering what Mrs MikeP would say when I turned up 20 minutes late to pick her up from her hairdo.
Twenty minutes later I am circling the landing stage by Castle Park, and the steps by Bristol Bridge, wondering where the missus is.
Forty minutes later, I am hanging around on the quiet side of the channel, having had a couple of very nice chaps in a SIB stop by to ask if I'd broken down - "No", I reply, "I'm supposed to be meeting the wife".
Eventually, my mobile phone rings, and it turns out the 13:45 RV should actually have been 14:45.
Thankfully, the hiatus allowed me to suddenly realise that in my haste to arrive on time, I'd forgotten to detach the transom wheels - flipping them up interferes with the travel of the outboard, so we've been unscrewing the wingnuts and removing them completely once we're in the water. Not a big deal, but you have to remember to do it as they're invisible once you're in the water.
Of course, without my co-pilot to check and double check, I'd forgotten this basic step and had been dragging them through the water like a numpty since launch.
In the interim, the missus had stopped into a nice sandwich shop and got us some eats, so after picking her up from the side of Bristol Bridge, we headed towards Temple Meads and briefly moored up to eat our lunch and consider the architectural merits of the new buildings and bridges.
Once again, we were overtaken by the "Young Bristol" rowing boat. There must be a way to stop this occurring so regularly.
From there, we motored down onto Feeder Canal, and to my surprise when we got to Netham Lock, it was open (until 9pm, the stern lock-keeper informed us) and we were able to motor through onto the Avon. This was an unexpected bonus, so we made good headway down past the legendary Beese's Tea Gardens almost to Hanham, all the while admiring the scenery and wondering where the hell we were - distance and perspective are very different when you're on the river, and we've probably driven left and right over all of the area without appreciating where the river runs.
A short stop by a nettle infested fishing ledge allowed yours truly to answer a call of nature, and then we're motoring back to Bristol suddenly realising that we'd been fighting a 2mph current thus far, and going downstream requires less revs for the same speed. Bonus!
In a bizarre twist, I spot a narrow boat parked at a rather jaunty angle to the riverbank with the male occupant descending into the engine compartment with a spanner in his hand. After a short discussion with Mrs MikeP, we decide to loop back and enquire if they are OK (although what can we do in a 3M SIB to help a hulking great narrowboat ? Good point).
In a strange 'small world' scenario, it turns out to be some old friends we've not seen for years and their engine has conked out. Despite ferrying one of them back to Beese's to see if engineering help can be had, we end up leaving them stranded awaiting the arrival of the Bristol Harbour Master for a tow at upmty-ump pounds for the pleasure; I just couldn't think of a safe or meaningful way for a 3m SIB with a 4HP motor to help them out in their four berth narrowboat. However, it did make me question whether they should invest in some oars as a backup.....
And so back to Bristol we went, enjoying the ride over the wash from the Harbour Master's rescue tug on the Feeder Canal, and - as you can see from the attached - we realised in our eagerness to engage in boat related fun, we'd forgotten that the balloon fiesta was this weekend, and the sky was literally lit up with balloons.
The other thing that was lit up was the Baltic Wharf quay with, probably, hundreds of people quite rightfully enjoying not only the weather but the balloons as well. Thankfully, our landing was smoother than my launching, and with transom wheels firmly engaged, we emerged from the water like we'd been doing that sort of thing for ages (ahem).
So, all in all, a fun day - almost six hours on the water, got out onto the river when we didn't expect to, external fuel tank worked a treat, snagged pretty much a complete black bag full of plastic bottles and other garbage, and did a good deed trying to help some stranded boaters.
It might only be a few bits of PVC with some air in and a small engine on the back, but it's the most fun we've had for years. And the big, big thing for me is the jaunty waves and positive attitude we've experienced from fellow boaters that is 1000000 miles from the behaviour you see on the roads.
Finally, a couple of pics of the missus and the balloons; I leave you to pick one from t'other :-)