Saturday, May 16, 2015

Scary Sailing Weekend part 2

This evening Herbie rests by the towpath moorings just South of Weedon.


Behind the hedge is, I think, a sewage works, but fortunately the wind is blowing in the right direction so you will be relieved to learn that all is sweet smelling. I've just spend the last couple of hours giving the starboard side a much needed wash and polish. The other side will have to wait until I can get at it. While I was working, a pleasant German fellow on a bike stopped to ask if I knew of a campsite nearby which luckily for him I did. He casually mentioned he was cycling from Munich to Alaska via Glasgow and Iceland. Blimey! After Alaska he was going to tootle down the west coast of the USA to finish off the trip. Double Blimey!!

Anyway, enough of today. I promised to tell about part two of our scary sailing weekend, so here goes.

Anybody who has gone sailing knows it can be easy to get into trouble - to bite off more than you can chew. On Monday morning we learned why it is not a good idea to sail to Horsey Mere when the wind is blowing from the South West.

The wind was not too bad. Even Kath, who is understandably cautious about risking it in strong winds, opted to come with us. On one of our half decker boats we opted not even to put a reef in the sail. So off we went up towards the mighty Hickling Broad where we have had many a white knuckle moment in the past. The wind direction was perfect and we reached and crossed the broad without having to put in a single tacking manoeuvre. In fact we got there so fast that in shouted conversations between boats we decided we had time to get to Horsey for lunch. Horsey Mere is the extreme North West corner of the Broads and only half a mile or so from the North sea coast. Getting there was pretty easy. Half way back from Hickling, we turned left and snaked up the long narrow reed fringed cut which takes you to the mere - the legendary home of huge pike. On the way up there Kath, who was in the other boat from me, spotted a bittern in flight, something I have never seen, and she got a couple of close views of Marsh Harriers. All was going rather well and we had a leisurely picnic by the National Trust Windmill.

We were feeling quite confident when we set off back across the mere and we were a bit dismissive of two sailing boats tied up at the entrance of the cut who shouted that their engine had broken down and they were awaiting rescue. "Why don't they just sail out?" we said. We soon found out why.

It turned out that the wind direction was precisely parallel to the direction of the cut. Now normally that wouldn't matter because you could tack back and forth and make progress, albeit very slowly. The problem was that the cut was narrow, in fact ony about four feet wider than the length of our boat. To tack you need to work up a bit of speed to turn the boat at each end of the tack, but in four feet you just can't do that. To make matter worse the tide was beginning to run against us. After a number of abortive attempts to tack, we opted for plan B. I jumped ashore with a rope and hauled us along for a hundred yards, then we ran out of walkable bank. The pathway gave way to a marshy forest of reeds. Back in the boat we tried plan C - paddling along, but the wind on the mast and the increasing tide meant that we ended up going backwards. In desperation we resorted to Plan D - grabbing hold of the reeds and hauling our selves along with our bare hands. This was really exhausting, these boats are pretty heavy, and in one period of about twenty minutes we had only moved forward a few feet and as soon as we let go of the reeds we drifted back to where we started. My hands hurt, I had strained my back and it was now taking all our effort just to hang on to the reeds just to stop ourselves going backwards with the tide. We had the best part of a mile to go to open water. We were stranded in an enormous reed bed with the wind and tide against us and totally knackered.

Rick and Kath and Frank in the other boat had just managed to get out but we were beaten. Then, the cavalry arrived. Up from behind came the man from our boatyard in a big motor boat with two other sailing boats in tow - the ones we had scoffed at earlier. Totally exhausted, we accepted the offer of a lift and we joined the train of towed boats. Even being towed it took quite a while to reach the end of the cut, confirming that we could never have escaped without help. Had the wind been ten degrees different in direction we would have been OK, but things were exactly and precisely wrong for us.

Next time we visit Horsey we'll check wind and tide first.

Having got back to the boatyard and packed up the boat we got back in the car and headed of to Cambridge to pick up our Peter and then on to Crick for a spot of canal boating aboard Herbie - mercifully without sails and on water without tides. Luxury.



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