Reviving Old Skills

During the weekend of 10/11 September 2016 Maud made history.

Do you know anyone who has witnessed a wherry being loaded in the traditional way using her mast as a crane*?
Well, now there are some Heritage Open Day visitors to Thurne who have seen that skill demonstrated.

Bystanders watching cargo being loaded : Sept 2016
Bystanders watching cargo being loaded.

The crew removed some of Maud’s hatches and stacked them either end of the hold, then they lowered the gaff and sail down onto them. That left an area of the hold open for loading and unloading. The mast was then lowered to a suitable angle for lifting from the centre of the hold.

Lifting cargo out of Maud's hold : Sept-2016
Lifting cargo out of Maud’s hold.

One of the crew operated the winch and heavy sacks and a large bag of reed were (almost) effortlessly transferred from wherry to bank and back again throughout the day.

Loading cargo at Thurne on 11 Sept 2016
Loading cargo at Thurne on 11 Sept 2016.

It was skipper Kim Dowe who taught the crew how it was done in preparation for the event. He learnt his skills from his father Vic who was a wherryman and who sailed Albion in the 1950s.

Skyscape with Maud's mast lifting gaff : Sept 2016
Skyscape with Maud’s mast lifting gaff.

*Note that the block at the mast head is suspended from the crane iron.

Maud during July

July has been a very busy month for the trust. Having moved Maud onto the southern rivers – the first leg Womack to Acle then Acle to St. Olaves –  we then set sail for Beccles, as part of the Beccles Charter Weekend, based at Hippersons yard. With a prime mooring spot it was lovely to be there amongst so many historic boats gathered together for the public to enjoy. On Sunday in particular people turned up in great numbers – with a hot day, good food, live music – it all added to the mix in what turned out to be a super weekend.

Beccles - Hipperson's Boatyard

Hipperson's boatyard Beccles

Leaving Beccles on July 10th we returned to Hardley Mill, taking a group part way to Somerleyton. That first leg was a great sail but in the afternoon the wind got up and from the wrong direction, together with the tide against us it made sailing tricky, but still skipper Kim guided Linda through the New Cut sailing “scandalised” (with the peak of the sail dipped). We arrived quite late at Hardley Mill.

Crew and passengers returning to Hardley Mill.

Maud with the peak of the sail dipped.The following weekend we sailed to the Ferry at Surlingham with new members from the friends of Hardley Windmill on board. At Surlingham Sonia, landlady of The Wherry House pub and her team made it a memorable weekend and looked after us so well – thank you Sonia for all you did.

Sonia, landlady of The Ferry House pub at Surlingham.

While moored up Maud was open for viewing and, with the four up-stream short taster sailings we did over the weekend plus the return trip to Hardley Mill, it was financially the best weekend to date for the trust.

Maud near Bramerton Woods End.

During the week ended 24 July Maud was open for viewing at Hardley Mill on two occasions, providing extra interest at their AGM and also at the Coldham Hall Sailing Club barbecue.

So the last weekend of the month is here and we are setting sail for home. Don’t worry, with the warm welcome we received and the new friends we have made we WILL be back next year.

article and photographs by Neil Thomas, July 2016.

Come onto the Waveney, Maud…

The message is out that Maud is on her way to southern climes for a short time. Is anyone interested in sailing her from Acle to St Olaves? As it so happened I was at somewhat of a loose end (gardening can only go so far), and so I volunteered to assist in the passage. What I was hoping for was the chance to do some helming, especially across Breydon.

Maud on the Waveney
Photo by M. Abney.

A good start is finding that Kim will be the skipper so the chance of some action increases. Come the day there are some 11 or 12 of us on board, and a dog in a bag. At first I thought it was someone’s pack up but no, it was a very sweet dog. Kim kindly tells me that it is for me to give the safety briefing and to sort out the departure of Maud.
I discuss with him the best way of doing so bearing in mind we are on a lee shore and a motor cruiser is about 30′ in front. One idea was to go straight through it and take it with us, but on reflection it seemed better to leave her where she is. I decided that the way forward is to lower the mast to cut down windage and motor off. Kim points out that I can also use the tide to my advantage by turning the rudder to 90 degrees which will take the stern out.
Safety briefing is completed whilst we have our first hot refreshment. The weather is overcast and it is quite breezy, and again in consultation with Kim 2 reefs are the order of the day. The crew put them in.
We cast off and sweet as a nut Maud moves into the middle of the river being pushed gently along by Nigel in the “naughty boat”. The mast is put back up and the sail is set. The wind starts off North West in the teens with some gusts into the 20’s. I am helming and Maud is travelling as some speed and enjoying herself.
There is a lot of work to be done and I have to be aware of potential gybes. It is good to be able to talk things through with the skipper. Somewhere just down river of Stracey Arms Kim takes over and Maud goes even better. The plan is to sail almost to the yacht station at Gt Yarmouth lower sail and mast hopefully hitting low water.
On the way we play I spy birds (Marsh Harrier, Harnser, crane, egrets), and Kim plays the where are we and where is this game. Strange thing he lost, as we were in fact looking at Runham church.
As we reach Gt Yarmouth I moved to the bow to deal with the lowering of sails and mast. All down neat and tidy ready for the bridges. More local history is pointed out including the remains of the Bure railway bridge and where the old suspension bridge was. Even though it is close to low tide there is not too much clearance, especially under the railway bridge (Vauxhall).
We turn onto Breydon and it is like someone putting a brake on. The decision is made to stop and wait the tide and so we stop at the pontoon. I ring Liz. “Hello, where are you?”; “I am sitting outside Asda (or as it is known locally Asbo’s)” “What are you doing there?” “On the dolphin waiting for the tide.” “What time will you be home?” “Don’t know so look after yourself for food etc.” “Will do”
It was then time for coffee and a bacon sandwich, before setting off as soon as the tide had slowed. We go under Breydon bridge and put the mast up. The wind had gone round to north eastish. Sail back up and Maud roars back into life. Some of the gusts are quite lively. I get to have a helm whilst Kim has his sandwich. Having never sailed a wherry on open water in a decent wind I have to say that it is very hard work, even with the wind on the beam. Before too long Kim is back on the helm whilst I take the opportunity to look listen and try to learn.
There is a photo opportunity for our friends, having made sure the tender, Gem, would be able to keep up with us.

Maud across Breydon
Photo by Ivor Stemp.
Maud across Breydon
Photo by Ivor Stemp.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye we are across Breydon and heading to the mouth of the Yare and Waveney, where the wind seemed to have eased a bit. It never ceases to amaze me how far you travel by river to cover such a short distance on land. The evening wears on and Linda rings our berth point for final directions. The plan is to sail to the beginning of the 24 hour moorings, drop sail and moor up.
The tide is now flowing which means it is pushing Maud along with the wind. The decision is made to go past the mooring, turn and come back against the tide and wind. This means lowering the mast to go under St Olaves bridge so we can turn by the New Cut. The mast is safely down and we pass under the bridge. By the time we have turned and gone back upstream the level has risen a few inches and we have to dip the top of the mast to get under again.

Maud at St.Olave's bridge.
Photo by M&L Taylor.

We gently come alongside and after some 7 plus hours of sailing the journey has ended. I for one had a great time and so did my friend Harry who came along as a birthday treat. I understand from his wife it took him about 3 hours to tell her all about it, and then his friends on Sunday. All in all a great day which even the weather could not put a damper on.

by Malcolm D., 18 June 2016.

Two Trips in May

On Saturday 7 May John Cook took the following four photos :

Day sail from Womack 01
Day sail at Womack - 02
Day sail from Womack - 03
Day Sail at Womack - 04

And Martin & Lynette Taylor took some photos on Sunday 15 May when six new members came for a short sail as part of a joint event with the Wind Energy Museum. Two mill enthusiasts had come from further away than the others, in fact from Florida. All look a bit chilly, but happy.

Martin and Lynette Taylor photographs at Wind Energy Event
Martin and Lynette Taylor photo at Wind Energy Museum event

Day trip from Womack to Ranworth and back

7 May day trip

Well, who would believe such a change in the weather since our last trip on 17th April?

The 17th April photo of people on the foredeck showed us all in nice, warm clothing, but 3 weeks later there we were in brilliant sunshine, wearing tee shirts and even with a touch of sunburn by the end of the day.

On board the wherry Maud, May 7th 2016.

We left Womack at about 10.30 and had a gentle sail round to Ranworth, arriving on the Broad sometime after 1pm for shore leave. Soon we heard the wonderful sound of the bells of the church ringing out for a wedding and learnt that Neil Thomas’s wife Nikki was one of the team ringing.

On the return trip to Womack we were helped by the tide but hindered by a head wind on some reaches. We left the sail up and used the engine in the tender to push us when needed. As often happens we had a fair wind on the last reach before the entrance to Womack and were sorry to have to lower sail.

There was an experimental element to the trip. We do have quite a few members who are dog owners and whose pooches are quite happy on board boats. So, with the consent of all those on board, Tom was allowed to bring Pip and Mollie with him.

Mollie the Collie on board Maud.

Mollie the Collie (above) enjoyed all the attention from dog-loving members and didn’t tire of chasing a stick thrown a short distance for her in the hold.

Maud passenger Pip the dog

Pip, a much larger dog, was quite happy as long as Tom wasn’t far away.

Other members will be sending photos and they will be put onto our website once received. Watch this space.

Social Evening and Annual Meeting

On 30 April 2016 the trustees put on a Social Evening and Annual Meeting for associate members.

The evening began at 5.45 when Linda Pargeter gave a presentation of the trust and its work in 2015, its first year of operation, and details of plans for events in the coming year. See a video of the presentation.

Immediately afterwards John Greenaway, recently retired owner of Traditional Boat Supplies at Beccles, gave a fascinating talk about his life.

His early years were spent in Mevagissey, then a very close community of fishermen. He was taken out of school by his mother at the age of fourteen and a half to support his family by fishing for pilchard in the family lugger.

After two or three years national service changed all that and, although in a reserved occupation, he volunteered for the forces. A self-taught, extremely fast, shorthand writer he was soon in demand for clerical service overseas and served in Bermuda and Jamaica until demob. He then set up in the charter business with a friend and later for 3 months went as bosun on Errol Flynn’s yacht with the Rat Pack attending frequent parties on board. After various other business ventures he came to Beccles and spent many years building up an international business supplying anything and everything needed for maintaining traditional boats. This year, fed up with his sleep being interrupted by international calls, he finally decided to retire, although in his retirement he will be looking for new adventures. He interspersed his half-hour talk with amusing anecdotes and members were most appreciative. Few of us realised, for example, that a true Cornish Pasty has a filling of pilchard and vegetables, with a jam section at one end.

 John Greenaway

 John Greenaway 02

 John Greenaway 03

Thank you, John. Members enjoyed your talk immensely.

Then members had a short time for a chat and a drink before the FISH AND CHIPS arrived. A few people had chosen sausage or a vegetarian option instead of the fish, and nobody went hungry. Quite the opposite!

John Greenaway 04
And many members decided to stay on to see the film of Albion’s trip round to Ely in the 1970s. Everyone enjoyed watching but perhaps we won’t try a similar voyage with Maud yet awhile.


Trip from Thurne

17 April Afternoon Trip from Thurne

On a chilly but bright afternoon we made about a three-hour trip from Thurne up to St Benet’s Abbey and back. Six new members on board enjoyed a first experience of wherry sailing. Kim Dowe was our skipper and Neil Thomas (one of the WMT Trustees) was his understudy. Neil is taking every opportunity to learn from Kim as he hopes to graduate as a wherry skipper soon.

We had some good bird-spotting too. Two cranes were riding the thermals above our head for a while and a male marsh harrier gave us a fine display.

On the bank near St Benet’s members of a camera club were very excited to see a wherry out and about and promised to put some of their pictures of Maud on Facebook.

A most enjoyable early-season trip.

A chat on the foredeck
Enjoying a chat on the foredeck
Passing Thurne Mill
Passing Thurne Mill on the way back to Womack


Upcoming Talks

Normally lasting a maximum of 1 hour.

Date Time Group Name Venue Address Speaker
03 Oct 2019
Evening Frinton Rotary Club To be advised Linda
15 Oct 2019
? Blackwater
Probus Club
Le Bouchon, The Square, Holloway Road, Heybridge CM9 4LT Linda
16 Oct 2019
? Sprowston
History Group
To be advised Linda
22 Oct 2019
11.00 Chet Valley Probus Club The White Horse Public House, Chedgrave Linda
14 Nov 2019
? Yare Valley
Probus Club
The Oaklands Hotel, Thorpe Road, Norwich Linda
12 Feb 2020
13:45 Wherry
Probus Club
Sutton Staithe Hotel, Stalham, NR12 9QS Linda
26 Feb 2020
Evening Great Yarmouth Naturalist’s Society To be advised Nigel Gutteridge or

Non members of the groups listed may be able to attend for a small fee. We suggest contacting the group if you  or your friends wish to come along.


Maud’s Story – the Life of a Norfolk Trading Wherry

The trustees of Wherry Maud Trust are keen to speak to interested groups in order to:

  • increase public awareness of the part Norfolk wherries played in the transport history of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads
  • show how people can get involved in preserving and sailing these boats today

The talk uses up to 50 good quality slides (mostly colour) and lasts approx. 1 hour + time for questions. We will always endeavour to tailor the talk to the interests of our audience on the day.

We can bring a set of information boards with photos illustrating the life of the boat. Those interested can look at the photos at their leisure during the interval or after the talk.

Themes covered by the talk are:

  • Introduction – a brief history of the Norfolk Wherry
  • Maud’s working life and her owners and skippers
  • The rescue of Maud from her watery grave in Ranworth Broad
  • Restoration of the boat – it took 18 years to get her sailing again – materials and methods
  • Use of the boat post restoration and before the Trust was formed
  • Wherry Maud Trust formed in 2015. How it operates + current and future events

Further information can be found on the National Historic Ships website and on Facebook.

See below for upcoming talks

Rigging Out

Rigging out

On Sunday 20 March volunteers gathered together to put Maud’s gaff back on board and to re-rig.

Nobody present had rigged a wherry before! A copy of David Bray’s instructions were produced and followed and each stage, once correct, was photographed for future use and to put in our manual. Once assembled, all components were diligently tested by the “A team” and pronounced ready for use.

After lacing the sail onto the gaff and making some final connections we were ready to have a test sail. There was a good wind and we had a brisk sail down to Clippesby. The following day there were pictures to prove it on Facebook. Not many wherries are out sailing in March. It’s our ambition to be the first in the year whenever possible.

Working parties

Working parties

There have been lots of opportunities for “partying” from February until April 2016 and members have given their time generously.

Maintenance on The Gem

Work started on the 7th February on our tender, The Gem, and continued until she was pronounced ready for re-launching in the third week of March. During that time she was given a thorough clean out, her bottom was scraped and painted and other areas of paintwork touched in. This was the result.

It doesn’t sound much but it was hard work. As a finishing touch the brass letters of the tender’s name were polished and varnished, proving that there is always a job someone can help with.

The finishing touch - polishing Gem's brass lettering.

Maintenance on Maud

On Saturday 13th February work began on Maud and there were 5 work parties in the period to 3rd April.

It’s no exaggeration to say that we all enjoyed ourselves hugely and the weather was quite kind to us. Morale was kept high with some nice touches – Martin’s profiteroles went down a treat, as did most of his jokes. We even found time to do some work and at today’s date, 4th April, Maud is looking smarter than she has for a long time. She has had a good clean inside the hold and the cabin and lots of new paint has been applied to the exterior. As always there are jobs that haven’t been done but we will fit those in between trips.

Keeping Broads history alive…