Open Bridges Radio Transcript

Open Bridges objectives were to celebrate the River Hull and explore the meaning of freedom by splitting the city in two, momentarily denying the freedom of movement east and west across the city, by raising and closing all 13 bridges over the River Hull simultaneously for the first and only time in the city’s history. The river runs north to south through the middle of the city. It’s the only city in the world with so many all movable bridges along its navigable stretch. It’s the only place where it could happen.

For the first time in the city’s history there would be 3 vessels representing 3 centuries on the River Hull: the 18th Century Schooner HMS Pickle, the 19th Century Humber Keel Comrade and the 20th Century Motor Barge Syntan. They were to be met on the Humber estuary by 21stCentury tugs: Svitzers Bristol and Josephine and the 2017 SMS Towage Superman all supported by the rapid response rescue boats of Humber Rescue.

This transcript is taken from a recording made by Les Drake on board HMS Pickle and includes communications on maritime frequency VHF22 between vessels and the Hull and Humber Harbourmasters, event radio communication of 20 Bridge Operators plus Engineers, Pete Curry – Event Control, Harbourmaster Pete Bayley, and the conversations on board HMS Pickle, the voices of its Captain, Mal Nicholson, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for the East Riding of Yorkshire, the deputy Humber Harbourmaster Andrew Swift, Captain Malcolm Mathison and Harry, Ken and crew.

TIME:          19:30 HOURS

HMS Pickle:                “HMS Pickle to Drypool – is Millennium Bridge open?”

Harbourmaster            “Swinging for you now”

Harbourmaster            “Yeah Pete, Comrade’s just going through Millennium now”

HMS Pickle

“You’ve got a good 3 or 4 knots going in off the Westland Point”

“It’s a lot isn’t it? I’d have preferred to have waited to be honest, it’s quite a lot of tide that”

“One of our launch consuls is just hanging off Ruscadors”

“There’s a lot of running water – I’m going to hang fire, if we’re a few minutes late we’re a few minutes late – I’m not risking the ship for it”


“HMS Pickle HMS Pickle – Drypool – Good evening!

We’re going to keep Millennium open so you can manoeuvre quite freely there”

HMS Pickle 

“This must be one of Yorkshire’s biggest, you know what I’m saying – I’ve never seen it come together like this

“It’s a privilege to be here.” “It’s a real feat of organisation isn’t it?”

“I think it’s steadying, we’re not drifting backwards hardly. We’ve got 40 – 45 minutes yet. Still a long way to go and a big tide

Would you wait a little longer?”

“I would but I don’t know what she can do.”

“Well she’s powerful enough. You’ve got to watch the current, I don’t want it to wash us into the dolphins that’s all.”

“Just watch the end of Ruscadors, if it starts to take you in you can end up in the horse wash if you don’t watch it

Yeah, I’ve got that t-shirt as well”

“We need a little tide to wash her round don’t we, we’re barely tickling along that’s all we need to do. I think the angles about right I’ve got a transit line and she’s maintaining it”

“Trouble is you’ve got a converging current there”

“I want you to watch out for distance on the end of the bowsprit! If I have to come around I don’t want to damage her. I’m going to go behind those red lights to the green and put her head in there”

“What do you want? About 6 metres? 20 foot?”

“I don’t know. I can’t tell you until it starts happening and it’s going to happen rather quickly! It’s a very, very strong tide”

“High waters running on late 45 minutes due to the last high tide it’s above and running late”

“Yeah, I’m going to start turning her very shortly, head for that green light, and just get into a position now to ease her round. Right, coming her about steady, just carry us in, stern’s coming about – can somebody shine a light on the rudder post please?”

Harbourmaster            “Syntan, Syntan – Drypool”

Syntan                         “Just clearing Stoneferry”

Harbourmaster            “No problem, you’ve got 10 minutes to get here”


HMS Pickle 

“I really didn’t want to be here I wanted to be another ship’s length further in”

“The tide should push her bow round a bit, she should give you a hand”

“Can you ask Humber Rescue if she can just give us a push on the starboard bow?”

Humber Rescue         “Humber Rescue receiving – and on our way”

HMS Pickle  

“That’s it she’s coming in nicely now

Yeah, push her, push her hard now! 90 degrees to the left – square on – push ahead – woah!!! Ahead!! Ahead!!! Steady, steady”

Event Control              “Myton – radio check”                        “Myton receiving”

HMS Pickle                 “Push her, push her hard now!”

Event Control

“Scale Lane – radio check”                “Scale Lane receiving”

“Drypool – radio check”                      “Drypool receiving”

HMS Pickle                 “Push her square on, square on to the left”

Event Control 

“North Bridge – radio check”              “North Bridge received”

“Sculcoates – radio check”                 “Sculcoates receiving”

“Wilmington – radio check”                 “Wilmington received”

“Stoneferry – radio check”                 “Stoneferry received”

“Sutton Road – radio check”              “Sutton Road received”

“Finally Ennerdale – radio check”       “Ennerdale received”

HMS Pickle                 “I’ve got her! She’s coming!!”

Event Control              “Event Control. All stations all stations – its 20:11 – 6 minutes!”

HMS Pickle      

“Can Humber Rescue stand by because we’re going to need a hand. Watch the head lads! Watch the head!! Woah! Steady. Watch the bowsprit – bowsprit!!!

Give her a kick ahead port bow, sterns coming in, I can take her over there now and square her up. Ok coming about, that’s better – if they can just push us through to keep us square

We’ve got the wind off setting and the tide off setting”

“Humber Rescue can you give us a push starboard?”

Event Control              “All stations standby”

HMS Pickle

“Steady, ease down Rescue. All easy starboard shoulder”

“You’ve done this before Mal!”

“Stern still swinging in”

Event Control              “All stations standby – all stations – start barrier lowering sequence”

Event Control              “HMS Pickle are you receiving?”

HMS Pickle                 “Receiving over”

Event Control              “In one minute all the roads will be closed and you can fire your maroons”

HMS Pickle                 “Received over”


Bridge Operator          “Sutton Road – barriers down”

Bridge Operator          “Scale Lane – swinging”

Bridge Operator          “Wilmington and Scully – barriers down”

Bridge Operator          “Ennerdale Bridge – barriers down”

Bridge Operator          “Myton Bridge – barriers down”

Bridge Operator          “North Bridge – down”

Harbourmaster            “Drypool to Comrade – Drypool raising”

Event Control              “Event Control. All stations can confirm all barriers are down – Pickle! Fire when ready”

HMS Pickle                 “Harry! Can you get the rockets out? We need all 13!!”

Event Control              “HMS Pickle, the city’s cut in half – fire your maroons!”

HMS Pickle 

“Ok – received and understood. Getting ready to launch now

How many bloody arms do they think I’ve got? Harry, we’ll have to get away from that!” (The Deep)

“We need the Rescue on the port side, we should be able now to control her on the rudder and I think she is doing.

Harry get some flares this side, start rattling them off”

“Rescue can you push her amidships? – just gentle, just gentle”

Harbourmaster            “Drypool, Drypool to Syntan”

Syntan                         “Received Drypool – we’re on our way”

Event Control              “Event Control to all bridges North and North of North – raise your barriers!”

HMS Pickle   

“We need the whole vessel 20 or 30 feet that way to let the maroons go”

“Watch the stern Mal, stern! Stern!!”

“Ok Harry – let them go. 13 of them. All clear – and fire! Fire!

Is that 13? All 13?

The rocket launchers worked – well done Harry!”

“I would have liked a bit more…”

“I think we all would, we’ve done alright – we’ve done alright. The water cannon are going, can you put the deck lights on Ken?

Right you can let some cannon go and all if you want Harry

Here we go, fire!!”

Event Control              “Event Control – all stations apart from Bridge Operations – stand down”

HMS Pickle      

“Mal, there’s some more rockets here”

“Yeah, let some more go Harry

Just holding her head to wind. The wind’s catching the bow that’s all. The wind’s picked up”

“Comrades coming down” (the river)

“It’s great when a plan comes together, isn’t it?”

“Yeah we got it nailed – well done lads! Absolutely well done, that was bloody perfect”

“What’s the score skipper?”

“We’re going to head up river gently while the Comrade goes in first”

VHF 22    

“Good evening Sir, Svitzer’s Bristol and Josephine’s completed PR at River Hull and heading back to Immingham Dock”

“SMS Superman, Superman…”

Click on the Open Bridges – Radio Transcript panel below to see full size image, or scroll down the page to read the text of the conversations as they happened on the night:

Open Bridges Radio Transcript
Open Bridges Radio Transcript

Thanks to Les Drake of Digital Creations for his recordings on the night on board HMS Pickle which we transcribed for the Open Bridges exhibition.

Open Bridges is an independent Hull based project, concept and management by Rich & Lou Duffy-Howard 


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