Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Once in a lifetime trip on MTB102

I was given the opportunity last Friday to take a once in a lifetime trip aboard the motor torpedo boat MTB102, which was the first MTB of the modern era and is now in a Trust.  More information can be found here http://www.mtb102.com/

The trip was supposed to have three people who would act as crew and six passengers.  I put my name down as a passenger but said I was willing to act as crew if required.  Not being sure what crewing entailed on this large boat I was a little apprehensive!

During the week, we were advised that new propellers and shafts were being fitted to the boat and by Thursday morning these had not arrived, so until the last minute the trip was in jeopardy.  However, they did arrive and the team worked almost throughout the night to install the new parts.

As the MTB was on the sea side of the Broads on Lake Lothing, Mutford Lock would have to be negotiated as would the swinging railway bridge, so some organisation was required.   

The original timing was that the MTB would go through the lock at 10 am and we had to be there by 9.45 but this was then put back so we duly arrived at the boatyard at the newly appointed time of 12 noon.  The boat was on the slipway but it was fairly obvious that she couldn’t be floated until the tide came up.  Richard Basey, who runs the Trust and skippers the boat, told us that high water was 3 pm but he would try and float her before then.  We anticipated the long wait and settled down on the bank to talk and eat our lunch.

Crew and passengers

Around 2.15 Richard and his usual crew asked us to move down to a nearby pontoon in anticipation of boarding and they went on board, started the engines and tried to power the MTB off the trolley but she was stuck fast!

Engines started

 No amount on rocking, pulling and shoving would budge her so again we sat and watched the tide creep in until eventually, with one roar of the engines, she was afloat!  We all cheered and clapped!

And she's free!

Having twin engines, she can turn on a sixpence, which she did, and came alongside the pontoon where we clambered on board, Richard hoisted the flags, signalled the railway bridge and lock keeper and off we went.

I hadn’t been through Mutford Lock for many years and only in small boats previously so was very impressed with the handling of the MTB through the confined space.  It was all hands on deck with fenders until the water levels adjusted and we were able to make our way out on to Oulton Broad, to the cheers of the boat owners in the marina!

The idea of the trip was for MTB102 to lead a procession of private and hire boats down to Beccles where spaces had been booked in the marina, for a weekend of fun and frolics!  As we went across Oulton Broad, the fleet formed behind us, many of the boats decked out with flags and bunting.  There were cameras clicking and flashes flashing everywhere and we felt extremely privileged to be on board this historic vessel.

It was quickly clear that most of the small boats in the procession were struggling to keep up with the powerful MTB so one of the engines was shut down which reduced the speed thus allowing the procession to keep together.  There was one intrepid sailor who managed to keep up with the leaders, under sail, for about a third of the journey which was very impressive.  I think when it came to tacking the skipper thought better of it and resorted to the engine! 

The fleet!

The trip took almost three hours and we were cheered and photographed all along the route. 

I'll give you 10 seconds to drop that camera!

The MTB had taken part in the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations on the Thames so had quite a high profile and as she isn’t seen too often on the Broads these days, it was a momentous occasion.  One I certainly enjoyed tremendously and the memories will stay with me for a long time.

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