In the autumn we decided to run some crew training sessions over the winter. Our volunteer skipper Jeff Stamps agreed to lead the session.
Winter training with crew only and no members on board works very well. The rivers are almost empty of other craft, and those there are belong to people who are experienced at handling their boats and do not get in the way of wherries. There are no leaves on the trees so you have more wind in the upper reaches of the rivers. A disadvantage is, of course, that the weather can vary enormously and sometimes is not favourable for sailing.
We had set a date of 14th December for the first session and Jeff and about nine crew members had booked. Two days beforehand we were discussing the weather forecast. Due to strong winds we had two options: to make it a purely shore-based session or to take Maud up to Womack Staithe and practice those skills we could on the way there and back.
The day was bright, chilly and windy. We chose the second option and prepared Maud for her short trip. We would not take a tender but would travel using quants in the traditional way. A good way to keep warm on a cold day, everyone volunteered!
We moored to mudweights in the middle of Womack Broad for our training. The emphasis was on speed and accuracy when reefing, raising and lowering sail and lowering the mast. For raising and lowering safety is paramount but speed is sometimes essential. Jeff gave everyone some very useful tips that he had learned over the years. Some crew members had not previously been responsible for setting the chains that carry the gaff. They have to be adjusted according to the number of reefs. Jeff explained what needed to be done and why.
All in all, in spite of the fact there was no sailing, it was a successful session and, weather permitting, we hope to fit in a couple more before the spring season begins.