Tideway Dinghy Meet - Norfolk 2010

Page updated 13 July 2011

Go to TopMention of a Tideway Dinghy

"I am looking for a small trailer sailer and am seriously considering a Seahawk 17", said the email, that appeared in my InBox on 18 August. It was asking a few questions and concluded, "I have never really looked at a Seahawk, in fact I cannot recall ever having seen one, but I am spending the first weekend in September at a rally with my Tideway dinghy on Barton Broad, so am hoping to see some around there."

It turned out that the rally was to be held on 4-5 September at Barton Turf Adventure Centre, a place I knew well. I had made a couple of visits there to attend the UK Home Boat Builders Rally, a group of people held together by a web site and mail list who take great pride in the fact that they have never succumbed to the British habit of voting in a chairman, secretary and treasurer when more than three are gathered together.

It was Bryn Weightman who was writing and I responded, "If the weather's OK I could sail round to Barton from my mooring at Hickling", continuing, "You'll be welcome to have a trip round Hickling on mine, if you're not too tied up with your rally, and I can't get round to Barton".

If Bryn didn't know anything about SeaHawks, then I didn't know anything about Tideways, other than recalling a photograph in a small advertisement that used to appear in Anglia Afloat magazine. That picture reminded me of the kind of dinghy that we used to rent as a tender for the cruisers our family used to hire back in the 1960s. Bryn responded that that was about right.

In the end it was decided that Bryn would visit me on the Friday afternoon. He would then be able to see whether the SeaHawk would suit him before going to view a boat that was for sale lying in Horning, while he was in the area.

Go to TopBryn's Story

When Bryn arrived it was a surprise to find that he was no youngster, a couple of months short of his seventy eighth birthday, he told me, but still clearly pretty fit and sprightly. Earlier in the week he'd driven back to his home in Leicester, from France, after one of his regular visits to the country. Members of his family run a business based out there. "I just act the dogsbody", he said, and explained that up till now most of the work had come from creating CD-ROMs which are sold through a TV shopping channel, but now they are developing products for the French market too. On one occasion, a stock of 3,000 CDs sold out in ten minutes after it was featured on the Channel. However, the channel could be slow to pay their suppliers and that was why they were now developing new local outlets for their products.

Bryn Weightman

Bryn Weightman, aboard Rhiannon the SeaHawk that he bought later in the year.

We sat at my kitchen table, drinking tea, and nibbling on biscuits, when I remembered to offer them. Conversation soon turned to boats. It turned out that Bryn currently owned four dinghies. These were a Heron, a British Moth, a Mirror and his Tideway. Some of these he'd towed over to France and were still there. Others were in his back garden. His last "proper" boat, Bryn's adjective, was a forty five foot yacht which he's sailed with his wife, mainly off the east coast, until shortly before she had died five years ago. He'd sold her at that time.

However, it was when we got to talk of when he learned to sail that I got excited. He started young. Not surprising, given that is father was Merchant Navy Captain before the war and Deputy Head of the TS Arethusa, on the Medway, until he retired. Starting work Bryn was mate on various sailing barges before becoming skipper of "Centaur", the Thames Sailing Barge now maintained by the Thames Sailing Barge Trust. He stayed with her until 1959, when he moved to a motor barge, "Nellie". "We carried cargoes such a cement. We'd get 3/6d per ton for that", said Bryn. Out of that money half would go to the barge's owners. From the crew's half there'd be fuel and some other expenses to pay. The skipper would then get two thirds of what was left and the other third to the mate. I could have sat listening for hours, but he was there to try my boat, so we abandoned the chat and travelled in convoy to Hickling.

Go to TopBryn's Test Cruise

At the boat it was clear that Bryn didn't think much of my mooring technique. While I take pride in using spring lines, I confess my knowledge of knots is less than complete. I still have to learn how to tie a bowline! Spring lines? Well, normally I only use one and, if the diagrams in so many guidebooks, explaining how they should be used, are to be taken as correct, not ideally positioned due to a lack of posts and rings in quite the right positions.

Bryn showed me the hitch he normally uses for mooring a boat to a post or bollard. Having looked it up since, it seems to be go under a number of names, including "Lighterman's", "Bargee's", "Backhanded" and "Tugboat". However most descriptions give it a variety of additional turns, loops and half hitches. What Bryn showed me can be best described as:

Take one turn around the post, then form a loop in the free end and pass this under the line leading to the boat then back over the bollard having given the loop a turn so it drops onto the post in the opposite direction to that of the initial turn round the post.

Bryn was quite insistent that nothing more was needed. "We used to moor fully laden Thames Barges like that", he said.

Winds were light so I hoisted sails in the dyke. After pushing off, I gave some assistance with a paddle until we reached the open water of the Broad. We soon cleared the trees and I passed the helm to Bryn once on the open water of the Broad.

I had been hoping to find a little more breeze in the open water than we did. However, by this time I was doing my full salesman patter, explaining all the features of a SeaHawk and the differences found in boats made by its three manufacturers. Hickling is a particularly fine venue for this as it even boasts two boats made by Mistral Craft of Loddon, the final manufacturer, who are believed only to have made four or five in total.

As I waffled on, I completely lost track of where we were heading or what the wind was doing, I had to be told several times to make adjustments to the jib. I really should have been paying attention. However, at the end of it all, nothing seemed to have put Bryn off, and he seemed satisfied with what he had learnt. We returned to the dyke. I embarrassed myself again. I hoisted the topping lift to spill wind from the main far too early and we ground to a halt short of the dyke. This time, I did do a short demonstration of the joys of the electric outboard.

Back at the mooring I let Bryn go as it was getting close to the time that he needed to book into the Bed and Breakfast place into which he was booked. I did a little tidying then locked the cabin and left myself.

Go to TopFriday Evening at the Pleasure Boat

I had been a little unsure about whether to make the voyage to Barton. If all I wanted to do was see the Tideway dinghies, I could have driven to Barton Turf. From home, it's less than ten minutes by car. However, in spite of a forecast for little wind I decided I may as well have a go.

Once back at home, I packed all that I would need and by about 19:30 was once more at the boat and unloading the car. Once that was sorted it was into the pub. Paul, the landlord, greets me with his usual groan and I toss an appropriate response at him before approaching the bar and ordering a pint and my usual Sausage Baguette with a side order of chips.

The pub is full, but not heaving, with customers. There tends to be fewer hire boat crews on a Friday as Hickling is a long way from most of the yards and Saturday, being change over day for most, means that most boats moor for the night quite near their yard. I sit in the corner next to the entrance to the restaurant. There's a couple on the table next to me and I wonder whether to attempt to butt into their conversation, but an appropriate moment doesn't present itself. Although it's quite early by the time I finish my meal I choose to return to Imagination to unpack all the gear that had just been thrown on board and get ready for bed.

Go to TopAcross Hickling Broad

I wake at 06:00 to find a glorious sunny day but no wind, so I lie dozing for an hour before I rise, wash, dress and get breakfast. It's my usual cereal. I always pack a few portions in a "lock'n'seal" pot, sufficient for the voyage I plan, along with my other provisions. Breakfast is topped off with a mug of tea. After that I rig the sails and at 08:37, according to the short message I put on my voice recorder, I am ready to hoist sails and set off in what still seems like flat calm conditions in the dyke behind the pub.

As I leave the dyke I find the couple who were on the table next to me the previous evening are standing on the end of the Pleasure Boat's moorings. The man asks what class of boat I am. It turns out to be the favourite question of all the strangers I am to meet on this voyage.

Leaving The Pleasure Boat Dyke

The couple who, last night, were on the table next to me at the Pleasure Boat, stand at the end of the dyke and stare after me, as I drift slowly across the Broad.

As I leave the trees around the sailing club the wind picks up slightly, but it's hardly anything to get excited about. In fact the most exciting thing is the pair of light aircraft circling each other overhead. You could almost think that it was a pair of overgrown boys playing with the X-Box for real! I usually reckon it to be an eight hour cruise to reach Barton, but that depends a lot on both wind strength and direction. Things don't look good for a quick passage.

Heigham Sound

At 10:30 I ghost past a Pegasus on Heigham Sound making no better progress than I.

Tide too will play it's part in settling passage time. The tide predictor I use suggested a high tide at around 07:00, but when I reach the Deep Dyke moorings at the entrance to the Broad I can see that the tide is still flowing. That I know will make getting through the tree lined narrows by the White Slea moorings a pain - and it does! Finally, as I pass the "The Holt" the wooden thatched bungalow near the Eel set, it seems that the tide has finally turned - some three hours forty minutes late!

Before making the turn into out of Candle Dyke, I encountered Emily, a river cruiser that I had taken to be a Truman built boat from Oulton Broad. It had been the unusual roof line to the cabin that made me think it was one of that yard's boats which I remember from Blakes or Hoseasons catalogues on the 1960s. However, when I had met the owners at the Hickling Village Regatta they revealed that she was a self-built boat and impressive she was!

Go to TopThrough Potter and down the Thurne

While the tide might now be going in the right direction, speed had not really increased. There was plenty of time to mess about and I decided it was the opportunity to take some photographs that I had wanted to have to use on the SeaHawk web site to illustrate various techniques I use on board.

Keeping the Jib Set

When running I use my telescopic boat hook to hold out the jib. This is easy to do single handed given my longer than standard tiller that allows me to sit well forward in the cockpit.

I usually use my boat hook to hold out the jib when running. It stops it collapsing when a gust comes from a slightly different direction. Often, the jib will go limp as the main gets all the wind, but when held out it fills more easily again as the gust dissipates. Taking the pictures is easy enough too. I rig a bungee cord to the tiller. In very light airs I might secure the cord on both sides of the cockpit and take a turn round the tiller to hold it. However, when the wind is slightly stronger, gusty, or not coming from a consistent direction, I find a one-sided approach safer, as the boat will luff up into the wind to compensate for the stronger gusts. Mind you, that's not always so good in the narrow confines of a river.

The Steering on "Auto-pilot"

In light airs it's quite possible to rig a bungee cord to just one side to hold the tiller straight.

With the photographs taken I decide that I may as well stop at David Sandford's bungalow. He'd told me a couple of months back that I could drop in at any time I was passing. I'd asked to see over Broadland Swift his old wooden Ripplecraft cruiser. It had recently returned after undergoing repair at Ludham Bridge Boat Yard. A hirer aboard a Hunter's yacht had done several thousand pounds worth of damage when he crashed into it. I loved the way David had described it. "It's a fifty metre boat", by which he meant it looked good at fifty metres, but any closer and you would have second thoughts. A couple of times before I had thought of dropping in, but there had been no sign of life so I hadn't bothered to stop. This time, thinking that I might not have been able to spot the signs of occupancy, I swung Imagination round and hopped ashore. However, it turned out that in spite of the open door, so once again I missed a chance to have a less than fifty metre look over his boat.

From David's it's a short trip to the bridges at Potter and I was soon under both and raising the mast again. I moored on the Repps bank which was fairly crowded with large cruisers. Someone offered to help me push off. I turned it down. Normally, with a small boat like mine, it's much easier to handle things yourself. You know its weight and how hard to push and which direction you want the boat pushed. This time it was an embarrassing mistake. As soon as I pushed and hopped aboard I knew I hadn't pushed hard enough. The wind did not take her round as expected and I ended up knocking into the transom of the cruiser ahead of me. It wasn't a big impact but no less embarrassing for that.

Birds on St Benet's Level Mill

The sails on St Benet's Level mill often seem to be used as a perch by large black birds.

Shortly after passing the famous white Thurne Mill you see St Benet's Level Mill on the opposite bank, I managed to take photograph the birds, which I have always taken to be Cormorants, but I'm probably hopelessly wrong, that seem always to be on the sails as I pass. This time there were much fewer than I have seen there, but it is the first time I have had the camera at the ready as I passed.

Go to TopThe Bure

By 13:00 I was at Thurne Mouth and found myself in company with Woodcut one of the half-deckers that can be hired from Hunters Yard at Womack Water. There's a couple of board, with the man on the helm. He didn't seem to be making the best use of the boat as I manage to keep up with him reasonably well. After 15 minutes or so the crew swap places and with the woman at the helm I find myself dropping behind, but before I lose them completely Woodcut turns round and heads back towards Womack.

Swapping positions with "Woodcut"

After keeping up with her for a while Woodcut turns back towards Womack Water.

After leaving the last of the bungalows at Potter Heigham, I had had an exchange of texts with Sue Hines, one of my fellow editors on the Three Rivers Race web site. I was told that she was at St Benet's Abbey so as I pass I look out for Lady Louise the boat that she and husband, Robin, own. After passing every mooring by the abbey, I realise I had been so concentrating on the moorings that I had forgotten to look down Fleet Dyke as I passed. I turn back, but still there's no sign of her. So, disappointed, I turn round once again and turn up the Ant.

Go to TopUp the Ant

It was 13:37 when I turned up Ant. Approaching the bridge the river is particularly busy. The wind is on my stern so I need to hug the right hand bank and swing round 180° to face into the wind on the public moorings on the other bank. However, there is a Hampton Safari, a small motor cruiser, a few feet off my stern who seems confused about my intentions in spite of my hand signals indicating what I need to do. I am fearful that the idiot, who is far too close, intends to use the same gap that in on-coming traffic that I see and make a dash to overtake me while I turn straight across his bows.

Approaching Ludham Bridge

Heavy traffic at Ludham Bridge makes it difficult to spot a good place to moor to drop the mast.

In the end, I make the turn, and from the expression of exasperation on the guy's face - he was almost close enough for me to perform dentistry - I could see he wasn't happy. I really have no idea what he thought I was doing wrong, other than blocking his way. There's no accounting for some boat owner's lack of understanding of sailing, and this did appear to be a boat owner, not a hirer. It was a private boat! The stress of trying to slow my boat to the point where I wouldn't overshoot the gap in moored craft that I planned to use, and timing my arrival at the gap when there was no on-coming boats, while trying to signal to the guy behind not to come so close and give me room to manoeuvre, meant that in the end the turn was not executed well. I hit the quay heading full on the nose with quite a bump, chipping a little more gel coat out of the bows.

The drama at Ludham Bridge was not complete. While dropping my mast and preparing the outboard for use went without incident, as did the passage through the bridge, when I came to swing the boat round to moor head to wind again, I put the engine in reverse. It seems that I had not tightened the engine brackets enough. I use a block of wood to ensure the motor is set as far back as possible on the motor bracket. I have to do this or the two screw clamps foul the lever used to raise and lower the sprung-loaded motor bracket. In reverse the engine tries to pull itself away from the boat, This reduced the pressure on the block of wood and it dropped into the water. I was amazed as I then saw it sink!

Wood packing keeps the motor in place

A temporary repair, scrap wood gleaned from a rubbish skip, that replaces the lost
wood block used to pad the outboard bracket.

I suppose you could say it is lucky that there is a boat yard right beside the bridge. I wandered round and found a wire basket outside with a host of scrap wood in it. I had a word with a man who was working on a boat there and he said it was fine for me to take a couple of bits. It was tricky finding the right combination of bits to pad the motor bracket to exactly the right width, but eventually I found a combination of three pieces that would do the job, returned to the boat and fitted them. After that I was on my way again.

First of the Tideway Dinghies

Suddenly I realise I am being followed by a Tideway Dinghy. It's the first I see on this cruise.

I suppose I must have passed a Tideway dinghy moored at Ludham Bridge but if there was one there I must have been distracted and failed to spot it. As it was I noticed the first one, following me, about half a mile above Ludham Bridge. By the time I reached How Hill I was in pursuit of two more, one of which, I discovered later, was being helmed by the secretary of the owners association.

I just had the edge over the Tideways in the more sheltered spots. However, when we got to somewhere a little short of Mud Point they gave up sailing and took to their oars and disappeared round the bend. I confess that I also had to take to my paddle as the tide was against us and flowing reasonably strongly.

Passing How Hill Staithe

I manage to catch two more Tideways at How Hill. They both give up and row before I do!

When paddling, I connect the bungee to the far side of the boat from where I am sitting and set the tiller to point towards the same side, in the way that I photographed while passing through Potter. It means the boat will turn towards my side. I then concentrate on getting the maximum power out of each stroke in to order to overcome that turn. If I manage to adjust the angle right, to some extent, I can control the direction of the boat by varying the length and strength of the stroke I apply.

Go to TopBarton Broad

With the Tideways now out of sight and without any competition I am happy to take my time and relax more as I pass through the narrows at Irstead. Eventually the Broad at Barton opens up before me and I see one of the Tideways I met at How Hill a couple of hundred yards ahead. It's 17:30 and it's obvious that something special is going on. As I approach the pontoons of the Norfolk Punt Club I can hear congratulatory messages from a PA system. As I draw level the PA falls silent and I am engulfed in a mass of dinghies making their exit from the Punt Club's pontoons.

A Crowd of Boats at the Punt Club Pontoon

I learn later that I've stumbled upon the 95 boat entry of the Broadland Youth Regatta.

It's then that I notice all the boats are crewed by youngsters. I am surrounded by Toppers and Optimists. There's a good number of Lasers too, occupied by the oldest crews, still only teenagers. I had obviously run into the prize giving ceremony at the end of a major regatta. I was to learn later that this was the Broadland Youth Regatta, an event that circulates round the home waters of various clubs affiliated to the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association.

All the boats are heading in my direction, making for the staithe at Barton Turf. All in animated conversation with each other, discussing the racing or arranging to meet up with each other later. Amongst the youngsters were various safety boats, one, a RIB, towed several Optimist dinghies. Another, a dory, seemed so heavily laden that the letters of the Norfolk Punt club Safety boat were half submerged. Then I saw them, the entire fleet of Tideways moored at the BTAC staithe.

Chasing the youngsters to Barton Turf

As I pass the Norfolk Punt Club pontoons the fleet breaks loose and heads for Barton Turf.

There was clearly no room for me on the BTAC staithe so I aimed for the pub staithe. It was crowded, but I managed to get ashore and then was helped by the owner of a large "Caribbean-style" cruiser, Dawn Princess, to move my boat to the gap astern of his. I noticed a Norfolk Broads Forum emblem on the boat and chatted briefly with him, mentioning my user name "GregAfloat". He introduced himself as "Captain Joshie". Maybe his wife was preparing the evening meal, but I didn't get the change to chat with her.

It was just after 18:00 by this time and I decided it was time to hunt for Bryn. After all meeting with him was half the reason for the trip. However, I find myself in the aftermath of the Youth Regatta, as there are many boats still being loaded onto trailers in the BTAC field. One woman is haranguing Simon, who runs the Centre, about the toilets. I can't quite work out what the complaint is, but it seems that she is accusing BTAC of shortcomings and disorganisation, when it seems that BTAC was only doing a favour to the Punt Club in providing a field for the launch and recovery of boats, while ending up having their toilets swamped by those attending the regatta. Surely, this was a possibility that the Norfolk Punt Club should have foreseen and made appropriate arrangements to cover. Not that that seems entirely fair either. The event seems to have been so big that it would have overwhelmed any Broads sailing club, unless money had been found to bring in portable toilets.

The Tideway Fleet

The fleet of Tideway dinghies moored in the dyke at Barton Turf Adventure Centre.

Eventually things calm down and the field begins to clear. I am directed to the club officials by others who don't know Bryn, but Bryn is nowhere to be found. It seems that he had arrived earlier, after a journey from Leicester, which had involved an accident and significant damage to the trailer, but luckily not so much for his Tideway. I recalled that he was planning to use a Bed and Breakfast over the weekend and suspected that he had probably gone to book in there. At quarter past seven all the Tideway people assemble in the main dining and common room at the centre, ready for their meal that I am told is scheduled for half past. I am on the point of giving up when I see Bryn walking towards the building just on 19:30. We exchange a few words. Bryn offers me a go in his Tideway tomorrow and we arrange to meet the next morning.

I return to Imagination at the staithe, where it all seems terribly crowded. I take the decision to get out on the Broad and, once again, am given assistance by Captain Joshie as I leave. By this time it's flat calm in the area around the staithe and I make the decision to paddle out. In the end I paddled the boat all the way out to the Broad and drop my mud weight over the bows in the north east corner alongside the three half deckers that seem to have permanent moorings there.

I prepare my evening meal. For these weekend cruises I generally pack a selection of cans of chilli, curry and the like, and packs of "Straight to Wok" noodles and polythene bags containing measured quantities of rice or pasta. Often my first evening's meal will be something that I have brought to the boat frozen and which has been allowed to defrost during the day. There's cans of beer, of course and packets of crisps. The meal will normally be completed with an apple, yoghurts, and even cheese and biscuits. Lunch is rarely more than a can of soup with bread and after a hard day's sailing, appetite is usually substantial.

By the time I'm done with eating it's quiet on the broad. However, it is as busy as I have seen it. I count 20 boats moored within sight, north of Pleasure Hill and there is likely to be almost as many beyond and in the bay leading to Neatishead. I settle down for the night, listening to my radio through earphones.

Go to TopSailing a Tideway 10

At around 05:00 I am woken by two nearby geese making a diabolical squawking. It's before dawn and not quite light - some dawn chorus and it takes me a while to fall off to sleep again. Sleeping isn't helped by my discovery that the inflatable pillow that I had bought earlier in the year had sprung leak. There are a few of the tiniest pin pricks and they are right on the seam so will be impossible to patch with sticky tape. I puzzle about how they were formed. My best bet is that they are caused by some sliver of metal on a rough edge of a screw on the bulkhead at the top of the bunk.

At 07:00 I decide it's time to be up. I boil water and pour it into the sink ready for my wash. After getting dressed it's breakfast. A lot of my provisions is packed in "lock and seal" polythene boxes. One of them is filled with a mix of Weetabix and muesli. It's easy enough to pick out the bisks or hold them back and pour out the muesli, whichever one I feel like on any particular day. Milk for the first couple of days is held in a steel vacuum flask, which is kept as low in the boat as it will go, to be below the waterline where the cabin is coolest. After that I turn to powdered stuff. Breakfast is not complete without a mug of tea. While all this goes on I listen to my multi-band pocket radio, the size of a cigarette pack. At night I may explore some of the short-wave bands, but at breakfast time it's Radio 2 or Radio 4 depending on my mood.

After a third time of boiling, the kettle provides the hot water for washing up. With that out of the way, I set about hoisting the sails and making my way back to Barton Turf. There's already a little activity at the Adventure Centre when I get there, with various people preparing their boats for a sail. It's only now I begin to realise how much variety there is in the dinghies, as I am given a quick lesson by one owner in distinguishing the various types.

The 12 foot model is the mainstay of the range which, these days, comes in three flavours, the basic "Open Boat", the "Extra" with a lockable aft locker and the "De-Luxe", which adds a foredeck to the Extra specification. On top of this there are various other differences in the range, with galvanised fittings on the open Boat and brass on the De-Luxe. The De-Luxe also has a more ornate transom. Early models were in wood but more recent ones come in GRP, though recently one of the owners club officers has a wooden version commissioned.

As well as the 12 footer, there is the 10 foot model that Bryn owns and a 14 foot boat. I don't recall seeing any of the latter at Barton, but there were a several ten footers. At 09:30 Bryn arrived from his B&B and set about rigging his boat. He was suffering bit with a few bruises. I don't recall that they were related to his accident, but it did mean that he wasn't keen to go out in his boat, but was keen that I should have a go. I'm always ready for a trip in any sailing boat. I donned my buoyancy aid and hopped in as soon as it was made ready.

Greg aboard Tideway 10 #8

© 2010 Mark Harvey

Bryn rigged his Tideway and let me take it out for trial sail on Barton Broad.

It's a long time since I had been in a Mirror Dinghy. I recall thinking that boat was cramped. The Tideway 10 is two feet shorter and my immediate impression was that this was no boat for a six-footer like me. The boom was incredibly low. After a few experiments I spent most of my time on board sat facing backwards in the bilges just aft of the main thwart. At least I had the headroom then to allow me not to have to bend double as I tacked, but I did feel a little like a rower, never quite knowing where he was heading.

Greg aboard Tideway 10 #8

© 2010 Mark Harvey

The Tideway 10 is not ideal for a "six footer" but it would suit "Swallows and Amazons"!

I made my way up the dyke and out onto the Broad. In the open the wind was quite lively. I'd have loved to be able to take a few photographs of the other Tideways, but being cautious about the wind, I had left my camera behind. Most Tideway owners appear to be retired, or close to that age, although there was one family with young children at the event and all four of them were in their 12 footer, seemingly enjoying things. I was back at the staithe after about forty five minutes. I'd thoroughly enjoyed myself, though I confess it definitely isn't the boat for me. It is just too small for me to be comfortable sailing it. It hasn't stopped me thinking about a sailing canoe, however. But that is for the future!

Go to TopDown the Ant

After getting back with Bryn's boat, I decided it was time to make my way home. With the wind livelier than yesterday I was hoping to be able to make it in less than the eight hours I always use as a ball park figure for a return to Hickling from Barton. I thank Bryn for allowing me to have a go in his boat and cast off in Imagination. As I crossed Barton I did wonder if I could make out the yacht of someone I only know as "HmmCrunchy". He's a guy who briefly owned a SeaHawk, one that I had first seen being renovated in a front garden on Johnson Street, Ludham. The boat had been bought, without mast or rigging, by a man who planned to use it as a launch that his wife would be prepared to go in. I guess the plan didn't work, as I learnt later that it had been sold to someone who took it to the Medway, only for it to return to the Broads when HmmCrunchy bought it.

HmmCrunchy, is the user name of someone on the Norfolk Broads Forum. I still don't know the guy's real name, but he proved to be my savour on another voyage up the Ant in, I think, 2008. Then I had moored overnight in a small bay off Hall Fen, Irstead. Overnight, the boat swung with the tide and it seems a stick got itself through the triangular hole that appears between my hull and the keel, when it is fully lowered. When I came to sail off the bank I found I was aground, so attempted to raise the keel temporarily. That turned out to be a bad idea, as I appear to have lifted the stick into the keel slot and jammed stick and keel so it would not go either up or down.

With my keel half up I was finding it extremely difficult to make any way against the tide and and the wind against me. However, I did manager to get as far as How Hill, which is where I'd seen HmmCrunchy and his then new (to him) SeaHawk replacement. a red hulled yacht of some 20ft or so. He was able to lend me hammers and other bits and pieces that allowed me to free up the keel.

It turned out that others had begun to leave the Tideway event as well. Passing through the narrows at Irstead I find myself following a Tideway dinghy crewed by two teen aged girls. It could well have been the one I had first seen coming up the ant behind me, yesterday. They fully lived up to my Swallows and Amazons fantasy of the typical Tideway crew having been been camping before making their way from Horning to join the event and now sailing home to Horning. They eventually gave up sailing and took to their oars and I didn't see them again.

Lord Paul of Sealand, aboard his cruiser

© 2010 Kathy Little

Lord Paul of Sealand, cruising the Ant aboard his Freeman, photographed over the
Tideway weekend by another member of the Norfolk Broads Forum.

A little while after I lost track of the Tideway girls I encounter another of the Norfolk Broads Forum regulars, Lord Paul of Sealand. clearly a character of note. You have to be a bit of a character to buy your title from the people who occupied a Word War II fort off the coast of England and declare it an independent country. Lord Paul is a photographer who spends a lot of his time on his boat and seems to have a talent for getting good shots of Kingfishers.

Harmony passing under Ludham Bridge

© 2010 Paul Sergent

Mike waving, with Karen barely visible, aboard the hire cruiser I had seen them on, and photographed by Lord Paul, a short while later, at Ludham Bridge.

It was turning out to be a weekend for encountering Norfolk Broads Forum folk. On Saturday while working my way up the Ant with the Tideway dinghies I was hailed with a cheery wave from a large hire cruiser. "It's Karen and Mike" came the identification. "We're on this boat with friends this week". I had encountered them for the first time when I had dropped in on the "Forum Meet" last year at Malthouse Broad. The photographs of Lord Paul and Karen and Mike were both taken by forum members and initially posted there.

Go to TopRacing along the Bure

By the time I was through Ludham Bridge the wind was picking up nicely, as you expect it to in warm summer sunshine on the Broads. Turning on to the Bure meant I had to tack but on the wide Bure progress was good. After my disappointment and not being able to Sue on Saturday, I was taken by surprise, at 13:30, as I passed St Benet's Abbey to hear a voice from the bank ahead of me. It was Sue. We had a snatched conversation. It seems I was mistaken to have been looking for Lady Louise. It was only ever Sue herself that was to be on the bank at the mouth of Fleet dyke.

Imagination - Head On

© 2010 Sue Hines

Well done, Sue! This must be one of my favourite shots of me aboard Imagination

Reading through my text messages again when at home, I realised that I had just misread them, or rather made assumptions. I mailed my apologies with my explanation to Sue and in return was sent some of the best photographs I have of me aboard Imagination.

Passing St Benet's Abbey

© 2010 Sue Hines

Sue manages to select a perfect vantage point for a view of Imagination at St Benet's Abbey.

Go to TopTo Hickling and Home

At Thurne mouth I head for home. It's late for lunch but I take a detour into Womack Water where, out of the breeze opposite the parish moorings, I drop the mud weight over the bows and heat up a can of soup, which I take with some cheese and biscuits. It's good to take a break from sailing and I use the time to relax, watching some of the other boats. I finish off with a mug of tea, before hoisting sails and returning to the Thurne.

Imagination's Wake after passing Duck Broad

Crossing the open water by Duck Broad, Imagination produces an impressive wake.
The experimental dredging waste island is in the background.

I complete the passage under the two Potter bridges at around 17:00 and make my way up to Martham. By 17:55 I am virtually through Candle Dyke and out into the open water passing Duck Broad and the half constructed experimental island the Broads Authority are recreating as a site for dredging spoil. With the wind on the aft quarter I make good speed and leave a smooth wake between two lines of froth left from my bow wave.

Once on the wide waters of Hickling Broad there are lots of white horses breaking all round me. I wonder if the lone light aircraft above me is one of the pair that were up there yesterday morning as I left for Barton. It takes no time till I am in sight of the house boats that I use as my guide towards the dyke behind the Pleasure Boat Inn where my mooring is. When I get there it looks a bit too lively to risk sweeping into the dyke under sail so, once more, I drop the mud weight over the bows and lower and begin to stow my sails.

The Swift 18 of

© 2010 Sue Hines

The Swift 18, Rondonay, owned by Pauline and Phill,
seen here leaving South Walsham Broad at 09:40 on Sunday morning.

It's only as I motor in to the dyke itself that I realise that yet another Norfolk Broads Forum member is moored at the end of the Pleasure Boat dyke. Pauline posts under the name "Rondonay", the name of her Swift 18. After doing the most basic of tidying up on my boat, I wander down to have a word. The next thing I know is that I find myself invited aboard, and supping a mug of warming tea and eating delicious and welcome cake. Pauline reckoned that the overnight wind was forecast to be 36mph. It had certainly been getting more lively throughout the afternoon and the Broad was now largely empty of boats in spite of the sun. Perhaps the others knew something we didn't.

I recall that I once spent an afternoon with my brother when he had hired one of Whispering Reeds houseboats, the one nearest the end of the dyke and most exposed to the winds coming across the Broad. On that occasion the wind was blowing down the the full length of the Broad and straight at the side of the houseboat. It set up a most disconcerting jiggle, yaw, pitch and roll, as mooring lines at each end of the boat were used in a tug-of-war between the choppy water and mooring stakes. For a moment my stomach definitely complained! I'm sure I would have told the tale, but confess, I can't remember if I did.

Asked recently, Pauline recalled that I had managed the return from Barton in four hours. I don't think that can be right. I might have claimed four hours from How Hill, ignoring my stop for lunch. That would have been more reasonable. She also recalled that she had a spare pint of milk. I do remember taking that home, as I knew my fridge was otherwise empty. She also recalled that septic tanks came into the conversation too! Boaters always seem to get round to discussing toilet facilities on board. I suppose it's possible we got round to discussing domestic sewage arrangements too. It would be in keeping with a boater's sense of priorities! I do know I told the tale of the various Swift 18s that I considered buying before finding Imagination.

Eventually, I left Rondonay, returned to Imagination and completed clearing up all my gear and shifting it to the car. So ended my cruise to meet Bryn and see and sail his Tideway dinghy. There's not much better way to end a cruise but a long chat in good boating company - other than that I'd have preferred to have finished with a beer. Pauline offered, but I turned her down as I still had to drive home.

Go to Top