On Tuesday 24th September it was time to return to the Bure with Jimmy James as skipper, from Reedham Ferry to Womack, a journey accomplished in one day, starting late morning and finishing at dusk. This is a report of the day from Jimmy’s perspective:

The date of 24th September 2019 was fast approaching. It was the date set for the return trip for Maud from southern rivers to her home at Thurne.

The weather can’t be as bad as 2018, or can it? As the day draws closer the weather forecast is not good (well not for sailing wherries!).

If the tides are right, and all goes well, the trip from Reedham to Thurne can be undertaken in a day, but we know it is tight, particularly as the days are so much shorter by the time we get into September.

Much e-mail communication with Linda as we lead up to the trip, and a departure time is set, but I know there is not room for delay, otherwise we will only get as far as Acle.

On the day the wind is ‘fresh’ (well very fresh!). Information from the bridge master at Reedham as to possible opening times, combined with the weather and my wish not to be delayed, means a mast down and push with the launch through the bridge.

Once through the bridge the mast is raised, but the wind is still ‘somewhat fresh’ (even for a fully reefed sail), so we continue with a push from the launch, whilst we rig a very much scandalised fully reefed sail. We put the throat block onto the spen block, securely tied the gaff jaws down, and secured a line around the sail and gaff  about halfway along. With all this done we then raised the peak of the gaff some 12 feet off the deck and controlled the sail with the gaff line.

This scandalised sail works so long as you are going downwind, and this took us down onto Breydon, but the slight turn on Breydon took us round onto the wind enough to render this rig ineffective, so regrettably the most of Breydon was undertaken with a push from the tender.

Through all of this we had a series of squalls with nice wet rain (it is amazing just how swiftly some people can get below when the rain comes!)

But copious quantities of tea and cake kept myself and the crew happy.

We made the turn into the River Bure bang on planned time, and continued with a push up through Yarmouth, but once around the sweeping loop on the lower Bure we were able to hoist and set the sail (with 3 reefs!!)

It was still a ‘fresh’ wind pushing towards the limit of keeping the boat on course, so a keen watch on approaching squalls resulted in the sail being lowered just before we got to Stracey. As it turned out this was not necessary, but I much prefer to err on the side of caution and take a more calculated option.

With the squall passing well clear of us we re-hoist (well the crew re-hoist, I just ask them to hoist!) and sail to Acle, where we are due to lose many passengers and some crew.

There is still just sufficient light to make it to Thurne, so off we go, the wind is now dropping so all reefs are taken out (which turned out to be the correct decision as by the time we got to Upton Dyke we were having to consider another push to get us home before dark.

We made it back just as the light went, slipped Maud back into her shed, and relaxed!

It is such a privilege to be invited sail on such a vessel, it truly is the nearest we can get to experiencing a little of what life must have been like for the ‘Water Men, and Women’ of years gone.

For those who may be interested I copy one of my planning e-mails sent to Linda for the trip

Hi Linda,

I did say an 11 departure, but on double checking, and realising that you would like to get her back to Womack perhaps we could plan to leave earlier at 1030?

I reckon I want to be at Breydon New Bridge at about 1330 (LW at Gorleston shown as 1137), but I do not mind being 30 mins early.

I reckon it is 2 hrs from Reedham to Breydon New Bridge, so I would like to be leaving Reedham village (swing bridge) at 1100

The swing bridge has the best ‘opening window’ of between the half hour and the hour, so I would like to plan to depart Reedham ferry 1030 to make this window.

If, like last year we have a smart tail wind across Breydon I will delay departure, but if not and we find we are running early we will just slow down the passage to get to Breydon New Bridge for 1300/1330.

I estimate that we should be at Acle by 1700, dependent upon wind.

If this all works out, we will then continue on to Womack to get there before darkness falls (about 1920 it will be dark!).

If we are to drop off passengers/crew at Acle can we please make this a very short stop (last year we lost the best part of 30 mins waiting for some passengers to disembark).

I would rather crew and passengers assembled at 1000  at the latest to allow for briefing etc so that we can depart promptly at 1030 if we wish to?

This is all very weather dependant!

Can we make sure we have some good torches on board to help the pack down in the dark shed at the end of the day?

Hope this helps