River Canal Rescue is warning boaters of the dangers of navigating the Ribble Link following call-outs to free grounded or trapped vessels. Recent rescues include a boat perched precariously on five metal boulders on the bend at Savick Brook in Preston and a craft stuck high above the banks of the River Ribble at the entrance to Savick Brook and the Ribble Link (following travel from the Rufford Arm).
RCR managing director Stephanie Horton comments: “The grounding of a boat on the metal boulders was reported by CRT staff who asked us to attend and advise on the situation. The customers later explained that while travelling down the Ribble Link they ran out of water which they believed was due to a leaking lock gate. This delayed their progress which meant as they got to the Savick entrance the tide was already running.
“Due to the height of the water they were unable to pass under the bridge to travel down Savick Brook and the water pushed them back towards the bank. They took emergency action and tied their boat to a tree. Unbeknown to them – due to damaged marker poles – they were resting on bollards for the bend; something which only became apparent when the tide started to recede.
“Our emergency crew attended at 6pm and advised the owners to leave the boat for their safety. Having secured the vessel, our engineers returned at 10.30pm to keep watch and wait for high tide at 2am. This refloated the bow and extra manpower was used to release the stern as the tide was not high enough. The vessel was moved and moored for the night on the lower pontoon for the lock. We recommended a lift out and inspection for hull damage as soon as possible.”
A second rescue involved customers being mislead by the high tide which covered the bank. As they travelled across it they became grounded leaving the craft literally ‘high and dry’. The boat was at risk of tipping and unlikely to be refloated at high tide, due to the height of the bank it was grounded upon.
Steph continues: “Using a tractor and one of our rescue vehicles we manoeuvred the boat off the bank and onto the mud so it could be refloated with the midnight high tide. We then arranged with the RNLI to escort it up the Ribble Link, ensuring it arrived safely at the lock. While in many cases rescues cannot be avoided, you can reduce the risk of an incident on this journey by taking the following precautions; on preparing to enter Savick Brook from the Ribble, always line yourself up before entering , according to which way the tide is running. This will vary, but never cut the corner or try to swing in to it. On entry from the Lancaster Canal, if the water is low or there are any concerns, call CRT and ask them to confirm you’re ok to continue. If you are worried, moor up and wait for the next crossing. This is too dangerous a route to take chances on - both boats were extremely lucky to come out of these incidents unscathed.”
The CRT advises permission should be sought before undertaking the journey and asks boaters to check with the sea lock to confirm travel up Savick Brook is allowed. It also suggests a mobile is left on and within hearing range.
Steph concludes: “Boaters often describe their crossing as an ‘exciting challenge’ however those who recently had to call upon us to free them from groundings are likely to have other adjectives for their experience.”
In its 2015 Guidance Notes the Canal and River Trust says there are strong tidal flows on the Ribble Link and asks boaters not to cut corners, particularly on the western side of the Savick Brook entrance where there are sandbanks. It advises there are areas of shallow water over marshland hiding submerged walls and suggests boaters keep within the markers and adopt a central position in the estuary.
To find out more about River Canal Rescue and its call-outs search for the firm on Facebook or visit www.rivercanalrescue.co.uk