On Sunday morning the weather was what the Scots would call ‘dreich’. Really the only good thing you can say about it was that there was a fresh breeze and so making progress was not going to be a problem. The objective here was to reach Gay’s Staithe for lunch. This involves a trip down to Windy Corner and along past St Benet’s abbey before turning right up the river Ant to Ludham Bridge. And here is the first challenge of the day, lowering the mast and quanting through the bridge.
We were fortunate in that there were a couple of mooring spots close to the bridge, unfortunately on a Leeward bank.
However, the bank was quite sheltered by the boatyard and its tall trees and so a Leeward landing was quite possible with care. Masts were lowered, and boats quanted through the bridge one at a time.
On the far side of the bridge we were able to moor on the windward bank, which makes restarting much easier. As I was trying to tie our boat up and had my hands full of rope a chap from a motor cruiser asked me how he could undo his water top up, a problem quickly solved once our boat was secure. A quick visit to the Ludham Bridge stores and we were ready to get under way.
Just as I was returning to our boat the motor cruiser that we have helped was setting off facing towards us. The lady was in charge of the controls and as she moved the boat forward realised she was not going to take off clear of our boat and so she accelerated rapidly. This resulted in the cruiser hitting the jib boom hard, causing Mike, who was standing in the stern, to fall over and smashing the wooden retaining piece on the jib tack so that it immediately exploded and completely disappeared leaving two bent screws. The motor cruiser then tried to disappear through the bridge but rapidly had to find reverse is a much larger boat was already coming upstream through the bridge. That was the last we saw of them as they scuttled away.
We studied the damage, fortunately not major, and made a temporary lashing repair. By now the rain had ceased and the sky become a little lighter. We hoisted sails and set off for a Gay’s Staithe. With the wind being from the East, and quite a bit of cutting down of trees on the eastern bank having taken place, our trip through Irstead village to Barton broad was quite rapid. However, as we had been delayed by the incident, we made ourselves a sandwich for lunch to eat on the way. We moored up where the others were, removed our wet weather gear, and set out to walk to the White Horse at Neatishead. The pub was packed and, in the rear flagstoned bar, was a hot wood burning fire. Quite a contrast to the chilly outside!
Back to the boats and onwards across Barton Broad towards Sutton. The first part of the sail from Gay’s Staith is fully tree lined with huge tress so there are only fits and starts of wind to move you forwards. As you approach the broad proper the wind sudenly kicks in and two boats that were separated by only halfa boat’s lenght can suddenly be a hundred yards apart.It’s a magnificent piece of water to sail roughly triangular in shape and all of the central area availible, and a small island to add to the fun.
Here you can see Tim on the helm having now got fully to grips with the boat handling. And you’d never guess that Damo normally sails dinghys when he sits out like that, would you?
Once you leave the exposed area of Barton Broad there is quite a distance to sail in the trees, always quite a delicate challenge. Then, as the Staithe comes into sight, you reach across the last half mile of open space of Sutton Broad, which has a relatively narrow channel, and then approach the Staithe with a couple of final tacks.
When you get here watch out for overhanging trees as your mast easily gets entangled. It’s normally best to lower away on the final stretch of your approach and then quant in to find a mooring.The bank is in very good condition with excellent mooring locations, however there is no water (except by a long walk round to the boatyard) and no public facilities.
The only real drawback was that the fast main road to Stalham is only a couple of hundred yards away and so there is a background of traffic noise through the night.
The Sutton Staithe Hotel is just 100 yards from the mooring area and offers an excellent choice of beers and food. Whilst we were there the evening special was an excellent rump steak and chips for only £5.95.