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.
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 was 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-east-ish. 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.
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.
We gently come alongside and after some 7+ 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.