The timing of our voyage sailing on the Norfolk Broads is a little later than usual this year as Easter was so very late; almost the latest it can ever be. So we were pushed into the week with the May Day bank holiday, otherwise christened “Moscow Monday” by one of our former crew members. A further complication was the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on the Friday before we set sail. This meant that Broads cruiser hiring was at a very high rate for the long Bank Holiday weekend.
Our journey to Norfolk was also disrupted by traffic chaos as there had been a crash on the M11 which had resulted in significant road closures and extensive delays affecting our normal route. So we diverted around the north of Cambridge via Ely and Fenland. It took a while longer but, to judge from the continuing travel reports, the diversion was sell worth it.
We arrived at the Falgate in Potter Heigham safely if a little late but the landlady was ready for us with excellent ham, egg and chips for lunch. Some sad news was that Mike D had succumbed to a tummy bug and had not been able to make the journey. It was hoped he could join us a bit later in the week, but for now the crew of Wood Sorrel would have to fend for themselves on the catering front.
So, for us a quick trip across to the local shop to top up on initial stores and then off to the yard. As we turned down into Horsefen Road we came to a rapid stop as we found Richard’s car stopped in the middle of the road. He had come to a halt with two flat tyres on the offside and Danny was helping him fit the spare to the first. He then set off into the distance to try and find an open tyre shop to get a replacement for the second. As we could offer no further help we continued down to the yard to meet our home for the week, Hustler 4. A change from our normal boat, Hustler 2. The wind was blustering across the yard lading to a discussion about the number of reefs and we decided on three. A wise choice as we found out later.
All the boats, although nominally the same, do have slight differences and also have different pieces replaced at different times. The berths in Hustler 4 are a bit shorther than those in Hustler 2 which is why the latter suits me better being well over 6 feet tall. The awning was brand new and pristine white – at least at the beginning of the week. The sails were decent, but not new.
Having stowed all our gear and provisions we quanted to the head of the dyke and hoisted sails. These were now rattling nicely in the strong breeze. The direction was from the north-east and so the sail down the dyke from Womack to the main river Thurne was a reach with some very close fetches as the water bent. It did not help that the wind was also very gusty and the Hustlers, having a shallow keel for Broads work, always drift sideways when a gust hits before settling down to a new course. Tricky when you are in a narrow piece of water with little space to leeward. All was OK until we reached the Thurne when I discovered that I had made an error when tying in the reefs. In my exuberance to ensure the clew, that’s the rear part of the foot of the sail, was well secured to the boom I had tied the rope around the main sheet so it would not free off for our journey downwind. So we turned upwind and landed on the bank just upstream of the moth of Womack Water. It was the work of only a few minutes to redo the lashing and free the main sheet.
However, on the other bank of the Thurne, was someone in more trouble than us. A sailing dayboat was there with two rather damp crew bailing out. They had not sunk but had taken a lot of water onboard in the strong wind and were waiting for a tow back to their yard. All were safe, just wet. Another pointer to our three reefs being the right decision. Their parting comment was “It’s interesting saing to windward.” Perhaps a bit too much so!
Casting off from our temporary mooring we sailed a few tacks to windward to build speed for the turn downwind. They were quite right, it was “interesting”; in fact very lively indeed. We turned downwind and headed for the distinctive white mill at the end of Thurne dyke. We sailed past the end of the dyke and looked in. there were three boats onteh end of the wndward back so no safe landing there, but there were a couple of space aftger that. The dyke runs due east so, with a north-eater, the wind would almost allow us to sail in – if we were lucky. So we sailed back up the Thurne a couple of hundred yards to windward of the dyke and made our approach keeping close to the windward bank and with the greatest speed we could muster. We got to within a couple of feet of the landing point, but then stalled and stared backwards. There was a small gap between two motor cruisers on the opposite bank and we managed to tuck our transom in there and get the boat’s head round and sailed out again. Our second approach, which was much the same, met with success as we were able to get a line ashore and moor up. We pulled forwards so as to leave room for Richard and Danny when they arrived not too much later. It also took them two attempts.
Within a few minutes Sid, the landlord of the ‘Lion’ was there on his bike to give us our mooring fee request. When we visited the pub, purely for old time’s sake as I am sure you can imagine, we found it packed. Mike and I ate there and had a good pub meal – and as a result the mooring fee was waived. Returning to the boats later we found that the wind persisted all night and the temperature increased after midnight keeping it very warm for the time of year. The night was absolutely clear with no moon and loads of bright stars piercing the velvety void.