sharpness to bristol

sharpness to bristol

cruising the bristol channel

Cruising from Sharpness to Bristol is not a journey which you can undertake on your own or without considerable preparation and planning.

you will need:

  • an anchor
  • vhf radio
  • snacks and a flask of hot tea or coffee

you will also need to:

  • check your insurance policy for your boat
  • make sure your diesel is topped up and clean
  • make sure your fuel filter is changed

then you will need to:

  • book all ports - first Sharpness, then Portishead, then Bristol
  • and book your pilots in advance - one from Sharpness to Portishead, and one from Portishead to Bristol.

and consider the costs:

  • Pilots are somewhere in the region of £240 to get you from Sharpness to Portishead, plus another £130 for a pilot to get you from Portishead into Bristol.
  • You will also have to pay for mooring, and that depends on the size of your boat. For my 46ft boat I had to pay £40 and then £20.
  • So for an average sized boat you are looking at a cost of somewhere in the region of £500 - and that is if you are not intending a return journey.
  • It is possible to share a pilot between two boats, which could cut the cost a bit, but then one of you would have to be brave enough to follow the piloted boat.


my journey

Rob (Bob) Bolton on his narrowboat NutCracker, with first mate Milo.

sunset at Sharpness

Times for departure vary because of the tides, but you will be given a starting time at least the day before. You will need to moor on the Gloucester and Sharpness canal at Sharpness the night before you are due to leave.

We duly arrived in Sharpness the night before we were due to leave. There was a beautiful sunset, and the mooring was very peaceful.

We were due to depart Sharpness Dock at 8.30 in the morning, so set out very early. We had to wait for CRT to open the lower bridge before we could enter the main basin. Once in the basin, we passed some very large sea going ships on our way to the dock which made us feel very small. We then had to wait about an hour, until the tide was on the turn.  At last the Pilot arrived and came on board.

entering main basin at Sharpness docks

leaving the safety of Sharpness docks

We set off out of the lock. When you leave the lock and hit the body of the River Severn, it feels as though you are going to get nowhere. Engine is running at full throttle, and time stands still. We were moving, though, and once we got clear of the pier, we turned left and headed for the power station.

After that, you might expect a straight run down the middle of the channel, but instead you have to follow the shipping channel, zig zagging down the estuary. You need to know exactly where the sandbanks are, which is why you need an experienced pilot.

heading down the estuary

Portishead Lock

After two and a half hours, we arrived at Portishead, locked in and moored up where the lock keeper told us to.

from Portishead towards Bristol

approaching Severn Bridges

After a night in Portishead, we set off at 8am with another pilot for Bristol. This was an equally exciting journey. We arrived at 10.30am and then set off on the next stage of our travels, down the Kennett and Avon Canal.

approaching Bristol

passing moored ships in Bristol Docks

SS Great Britain in Bristol


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About Bob Bolton

I have always loved boating. I hired my first narrowboat in 1978 and bought my first boat in 1982. All this against a career as a DJ and a publican. I got back on the water in 2000, and bought this boat (my last!) 3 years ago. I live on it full time with my dog Milo - a proper boat dog who loves cruising. I now have a permanent mooring, but I am away cruising for 8 months of every year.