I read somewhere that sailing is like long periods of boredom interspersed with short instances of abject terror. Well i take the point. We’re just back from our annual Norfolk Broads sailing weekend and it was a bit like that. On Sunday, after dodging the stream of plastic cruisers as big as ocean liners crewed by hirers who had no idea how to anticipate the movement of a tacking sailing boat and then several overloaded launches full of drunken oiks, we ground to a halt on Horning taking about an hour to do a couple of hundred yards in absolute flat calm. (I have a soft spot for Horning, recalling one trip forty odd years ago when we overloaded a dinghy with inebriated comrades returning after a night in the Ferry Inn and sank it. We all lived to tell the tale I’m happy to report.)
Next day the wind was 18mph gusting to 30 odd as we tore down the river Bure at a rate that would put jet skiers to shame. Some thing of a white knuckle ride I can tell you. The boat yard from which we had hired the boats did offer to come out and tow us back, such was the force of the wind, but we were made of sterner (or stupider depending the way you look at it) stuff. Anyhow by some miracle we arrived back unscathed, which was just as well for the boats we had hired were much too beautiful to scratch or dent, or worse still, sink.
Here’s one of them. Take a good look and guess how old it is.
Well it might have looked as good as new but it is 90 odd years old. The woodwork in these things is something to behold. No veneer in ‘ere. I suppose it might be like Trigger’s broom that’s had 5 new heads and four new handles, but I’m pretty sure the hull and much of the other stuff was original. Anyway, it was immaculately turned out and equipped and sailed very nicely. Boats like this are called half deckers on the Broads and they were originally built for racing. They’re 22 feet long so plenty big enough for four or even five people.
When it comes to skippering a sailing boat I am pretty slow in coming forward as my imagination of what might go wrong is a lot stronger than my ability at the helm, so a lot of the time I volunteer as ballast or if pressed, take over the jib sheets and do as I am told. I know my place.
Overnight we (nine of us) stayed in a little complex of holiday cottages a short walk from the river Ant where we could keep the boats overnight and it was all very jolly as we are all old old friends going back well over forty years (except for the second generation who aren’t that old yet.) We wined and dined and had our annual quiz and a good time was had by all.
I like the Broads, but I’ll be happy enough to get back where boats don’t usually capsize.