Up and away in the morning about 09:30, as is our daily routine, heading east as planned, towards Potter Heigham. The river Thurne here is open and wide, and with a westerly wind behind us progress was easy. We sailed first back past the turning for Womack Water preceded by the distinctive stand of poplar trees. Then into the second phase of the journey. After the open fields the banks become a bit built up with riverside holiday cottages.
On the approach to the buildings there is a notice warning of the low bridge ahead.
From here the river is lined with small summer houses, many privately owned and some available for holiday lettings. Many have power or sailing craft moored either in the main stream, so narrowing the river, or in small boat-sized dikes alongside the property. These dwellings, together with some trees lead to trickier winds when beating and lighter and flukier winds when running, as we were.
Watch out ahead, to the left bank, and you will see the large blue sheds of Herbert Woods yard with the pedestrian bridge over the entry to their marina. This warns you that the Potter Bridge is almost in sight. Now is the time to consider the landfall so you can lower your mast to pass under the low mediaeval bridge. There are short-term moorings especially for yachts undertaking this manoeuvre on both sides of the river just before the bridge.
We scandalised the rig to reduce power from the following wind and pulled over to the left (windward) bank mooring with a bow rope only as we were only stopping to lower the mast and get through the bridge before lunch. However, before passing under the bridge, if you need any water you will find a tap on the south west side of the bridge just downstream of the bridge pilot’s dyke.
Having quanted through the bridge we moored up again just upstream of the old railway bridge and, as it was lunchtime, retired to the Broadshaven Tavern’s Wherry bar for a frozen pint of beer. Or two. Bill arrived at lunchtime having driven Andrew’s car so that he could get away as planned.
A visit to Latham’s, just 50 yards up the road, is well worth while if time affords. It is truly a unique shopping experience and many bargains are to be had.
After lunch the wind, a Force 2 to 3, had veered a bit and settled in the north west.
We returned to the boats and set sail for Hickling. Getting through the remaining bungalows to the east of the bridges was a bit easier than it often is as the wind was on the beam. Then the left turn into Candle Dyke meant tacking all the way up through Heigham Sound and White Slea to Hickling Broad proper.
We had already noted that the water level was generally low and so the edges of the fairway were not a good place to be. Pete and Bill got stuck briefly in one place and we got stuck in another. Judicious use of the rudder, quant pole and jib got us free.
We also met a fleet of 5 yachts from Whelpton’s yard at Upton, one of them even got stuck in the middle of the fairway!
Once on Hickling Broad we enjoyed a great sail in the free air, as there are hardly any trees for miles. However, with keel boats and motor cruisers it is important to stick with the channel as the rest of the broad goes down to only 3 feet in depth and you will get stuck. You have been warned!
The wind direction made the approach to Hickling Staithe relatively easy as well. We were able to get close under full sail and then scandalise and go in slowly stopping just half way along the pub side of the staithe. One larger yacht was already moored across the end of the dyke and five of the Whelpton’s yachts arrived over the next half hour or so and all moored, tightly packed and in an unkempt fashion at the end of the pub’s staithe.
It is our practice to walk the mile or so to the Greyhound pub in Hickling village for a meal, but we called into the Pleasure Boat pub first for a couple of rounds to refresh us for the walk and to share our patronage. When we arrived at the Greyhound we found that the other party had got there before us, having missed out the Pleasure Boat altogether. As we areregular visitors to the Greyhound we were welcomed and an excellent meal provided despite the large numbers dining. A quiz evening ensued and our team won with a score of 71 out of 76 points. Initially we were classed as second, as the first team was quoted as having scored 77 points, but that was recounted. Being on familliar ground, a late night ensued.
The following morning we were charged our mooring fee of £3, which would have been refundable against food had we eaten at the Pleasure Boat.