Another wonderful weekend but this time something rather different for me. A friend invited me to sail with her (and another crew member) up to Hickling Broad and then on to Horsey Mere in her classic Broads river cruiser, meeting up for lunch with about half a dozen other boats from the same sailing club.
Having only sailed on river cruiser on a couple of occasions I was a little uncertain but decided that it was too good an offer to pass on so packed my bag with life jacket, sailing gloves, wine and cake and headed for Thurne.
We duly met up and I was quickly bundled on to another boat to cross from one side of the river to the moorings on the other side, handed the tiller and told to guide the boat down the dyke. Gulp!! Luckily there were no sails up at this stage and once I’d remembered that the tiller should be turned the opposite way to which you wanted to travel, I was ok. I did hand it back when we got to the busy main river and the mooring.
We seemed to have a huge amount of gear for three of us, although the other ladies were staying overnight on the boat, so this was understandable. This was all stowed away in the cabin, the boat was uncovered, the outboard engine was lifted on to its bracket, the sails were set up ready, the boat was turned round and we were all set to head upriver to tackle Potter Heigham bridge.
The original plan was to sail up the river to this bridge and moor up to lower the mast but as we had been a little late setting off it was decided we would lower the mast first and motor to the other side of the two road bridges.
As we approached the bridge it became obvious that there was a sailing race starting and we had to carefully negotiate through the start, our skipper greeting most of the other sailors as we weaved our way through.
She wasn’t sure of our air draft so I stood up to judge the height and we cleared the bridge with about 12 inches to spare. We discovered later that some boats had centimetres clearance!
Having moored up to raise the mast we set the sails and off we went up the river, luckily no tacking involved at this stage so we could look at the riverside properties and boats as we progressed in the glorious sunshine.
After a while, we turned left into Candle Dyke and after a fairly short sail we arrived at Hickling Broad, which is a National Nature Reserve. There was a regatta of small boats going on and we spied our raft up on the other side of the Broad. As we approached, under sail, there were shouts to me of “where’s your camera Sue” and I just managed to snatch one shot as we tacked and turned to come neatly alongside the end of the raft up.
Greetings were shouted along the boats, lunch was produced, wine was opened with a pop from the fizzy stuff I had brought and everything was perfect. It was so peaceful and we watched the dinghy racing on the Broad - what a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.
As time went by, one or two of the boats started peeling off to sail on up Meadow Dyke to Horsey Mere and the dyke where we would be mooring before heading to the Nelson Head pub for an evening meal. We were almost the last boat to leave and were overtaken by another faster boat as we made our way up the beautiful winding dyke on to Horsey Mere. A quick sail across this lovely stretch of water and we were into our mooring.
By the time everything was tidied up and bunks were prepared for the two staying overnight, it was time to head to the pub. There were 32 of us and we took over the restaurant for the evening, amidst a lot of laughing and joking.
R had joined me for the evening and we then drove home for the night, rejoining the fleet early the next morning. The thick fog which was surrounding us as we drove cleared as we reached Horsey and the coast and another day of lovely sunshine dawned.
It had been a cold night and many of the brave people who had stayed on their boats were returning from hot showers in the toilet block or tucking into hearty breakfasts.
R was to sail back downriver on another boat, which he was delighted with as he had admired this particular cruiser for years. He told me later that he had been allowed to helm most of the way! Very impressed!
We set off on to Horsey Mere and decided to have a bit of practice manoeuvring the boat. The other crew member (who had only been sailing for 4 months but was a natural sailor) wanted to learn how to sail backwards, so we spent some time trying out the theory, unfortunately failing! There were a number of suggestions made, some quite bizarre, but we gave up in the end and headed for home.
Halfway there, the wind died completely so the decision was made to use the engine and lower the mast whilst travelling. I was again put in charge of steering and only made one or two mistakes!!
We cleared Potter Heigham bridge with about 10 inches to spare this time and again I steered whilst the mast was raised. We rafted up for lunch on Womack Water which wasn’t quite as peaceful as the previous day as someone was strimming on the bank! Uh, what was that all about?
Boats again started to move off for the journeys back to their home moorings and we reluctantly set off, passing the Hunter Yard boats ready for lifting out of the water for the winter.
We moored up by Thurne Mill to offload the bags and then the skipper and other crew member took her back to her moorings. Goodbyes and thanks were exchanged and we went on our way home.
What a fabulous weekend and I had such a good time, in the best company and super weather. I am so lucky!