Page updated 31 January 2010
Jemima was my father's boat. My parents moved to Lammas, a small Norfolk village, in 1972, in readiness for father's retirement. The following year, to encourage the children to visit as often as possible, he bought a small GRP yacht, a SeaHawk, then built at Reedham, and paid for in two stages in order to avoid the worst of the newly introduced VAT. His plan worked, but only to an extent! I spent a great deal of time at week-ends on the boat, even more after I moved, in 1975, from a job in Northampton to Kings Lynn on the far side of the county. But being on the boat didn't mean that my parents saw much of me.
What follows is mainly a collection of photographs and not really the record of the most adventurous cruise I took aboard father's little boat that I would have wished it to be. The photographs were taken with my sister's borrowed Instamatic camera as I had lost mine. It eventually turned up in the Oxfordshire village of Middle Aston, but that's another story!
The trouble is that while I recall the circumstances of this, the most extended cruise that I ever took in Dad's boat, I remember almost nothing of the detail of it. In large part, what follows is simply a rough interpretation of it, deduced from the photographs themselves.
Having followed my MG Midget to Norfolk Tony and Annette unpack the important bit from their Mini.
The back window sports a "Radio Victory" sticker, showing their Isle of Wight connections.
The cruise, which lasted about a week, took place in July 1976. It was during the week following a display at Old Warden Airfield in Bedfordshire. The airfield is the home of the Shuttleworth Collection and the display is a chance to show off, and raise funds to preserve, a wonderful range of very early aircraft. When I saw it I came away feeling that it had been so much better than the displays I remembered seeing as a young child at Biggin Hill and Farnborough.
My abiding memory of those shows was of a great deal of noise created by the then latest jet fighters. These streaked past so fast you had no chance of a close look before they were mere dots in the sky again. In contrast, at Old Warden, the planes just pootled by. Most sounded like a lawn mower badly in need of a tune up, and looked like something of which Willy Wonka would have been proud. What's more most were at a height and speed that had I had a trampoline handy and space for a suitable run up, I felt I might have been able to jump aboard as they passed by.
I no longer have a note of the dates of that show, but I do recall that I had gone to stay for the weekend at my brother's. He then lived quite close to Old Warden. Friends, Tony and Annette, also came and we all went to the show together. After the show, perhaps the following day, Tony and Annette followed me to my parents home on the fringes of Broadland in Norfolk, and during the following week, probably between the 19th and 23rd of the month, they joined me, most days, on the cruise.
Everyone old enough will remember, the summer 1976 as being one of the longest and hottest of those on record, and this accounts for the continuous sunshine seen in the images and the thoroughly brown grass seen on the embankment behind my MG in the first picture.
Tony is alone. Is Annette is with me, as we set off for the boat? Perhaps this was a trip Tony and I made alone, to position cars so one was at the expected destination for the day?
Those who remember Instamatic cameras will recall that they produced square images. Rarely can you get a nicely framed shot in such a format. Most of the images here were created by cropping newly re-taken photographs of the image produced when the original slides were projected on the wall of a spare bedroom. They then had to be heavily processed to recover something of the original colours and disguise the faults in the dusty and rapidly deteriorating originals.
As I said, my memory of most of the cruise is somewhat hazy. However, one nice thing about the slides returned from processing by Kodachrome is that they are all numbered, so you know what order they were taken in, even if not the precise days and times, as you would these days with properly set up digital camera.
A calm early morning on Barton Broad
It seems that I spent the first night aboard Jemima, swinging from a mud weight on Barton Broad, and the image above must surely be an early morning shot. Tony and Annette tell me that they spent each night of the cruise at my parents' home. This suggests that the previous image does, indeed, show that Tony and I were without Annette and on a car swapping trip.
Almost certainly, we dropped off my car at Barton Turf and then drove to Dilham so I could load the boat. I would then have brought the boat down from father's mooring at Dilham, through Tyler's Cut, under Wayford Bridge, and past Hunsett Mill, to reach Barton. Then, the following morning, after a night on the Broad, I'm guessing that moored at Barton Turf and drove back to Lammas pick them up.
Tony reads the map, navigating us through the country lanes, while I wave a camera about with my right hand!
I reckon that this photo was taken at some point along the old Roman road, known as Anchor Street, between Sloley and Smallborough. Tony is a bit of a railway buff, and I've have delighted in forcing him out of the car to open the gates on the level crossing on that road, a mile south of Worstead station. Back then, there wasn't the automated lifting barrier that there is now. The crossing keeper's cottage had already been sold off and it was a do it yourself crossing, in which you had to open and re-close the gates for yourself, swinging the gates across the railway line while you drove across and then return to close them. Of course you did all this only after making a call, on the phone provided, to the signalman somewhere further up the line, to make sure it was safe to cross.
I recall being incredibly pleased to get this shot back from processing. I'm left handed, so holding the camera in my right hand, and getting a perfectly framed shot, while driving down Norfolk's narrow lanes, would have been quite an achievement. Of course, youngsters these days, don't have to suffer the stress of waiting to see if a photo has come out. They just check the screen on the back of the camera and retake the shot if they need to.
Tony is on the helm, having just cast off from Barton Turf
Judging by the angle of the sun, it seems that it was quite late in the day before we got under way. The buildings behind are those at Barton Turf. I confess that I don't remember Cox's Yard as being as developed, or as popular, as t seems to be from this photograph.
Once under way, we'd have made our way out on to Barton Broad and then down the Ant. My guess is that the following shot shows Jemima on the Bure. The waterway is certainly wide enough and the trees in the background hint at being the mouth of the Ant, so I suspect that this photo was taken as we were passing St Benet's Abbey. Certainly the sun is at the right angle for it to be there.
Couldn't resist giving you the full frame, in order to show off Annette's legs!
From St Benet's Abbey you go round the long wide sweeping curves, past Thurne Mouth, and on to what I always refer to as the Lower Bure, although I've never seen it marked as such on any map. As the shadow of Acle bridge extends well to the far side, it is clearly late afternoon as we approach. The bridge seen here was built in 1931 to replace a three-arched stone structure. This bridge was then replaced itself, in 1997, with a further concrete bridge.
Late afternoon and we pass under Acle Bridge, with mast lowered, heading for Great Yarmouth
Acle Bridge is the last obstacle on the river for sailing boats before you reach Great Yarmouth. However, you need to plan carefully. Once below Acle the tide really comes into play. While, at the bridge, the rise and fall at spring tides is around one and a half feet, by the time you reach Yarmouth it is closer to six feet. Because of these tides and the, generally, sloping banks, there are only two places where there are reckoned to be good and safe moorings. These are at Stokesby and the Stracey Arms. However, even at these two places those used only to the waters further upstream can easily be taken by surprise by the two to three feet rise and fall.
Although I think of the Lower Bure starting at Thurne Mouth, where the confluence of the two streams do seem to radically alter the current to be found further downstream, for many sailors it will be Acle that marks the change. Certainly, once below Acle Bridge, there can be no dispute that the tide will both affect your passage and the availability of moorings.
The position in the sequence of photographs and the nature of the bank, suggests this is Stracey Arms. I wonder if we had spent the evening in the pub?
We seem to have stopped at Stracey Arms for the night as the photo seems to show Annette leaving Jemima ready to return to Lammas for the night. I have no idea how Tony and Annette would have got home from this point. I have to assume that we had planned a car drop to this point before setting out.
Is this Mautby Marsh Drainage Mill and the farm behind? Another of life's mysteries!
The next morning we are off to Yarmouth. The surface of the water in the photograph suggests that there is a reasonable breeze. This is something you might expect at this time of year, in bright sunny weather and so close to the coast. I remember learning in Geography lessons how if you are close to the coast, then in the morning the sun will warm the air over the land and it will rise. Cooler air then rushes in, from over the sea, to take its place.
This coastal breeze effect means that we would have been travelling into the wind, so it's not entirely surprising that the photographs show that we are under power. This would not have been because we could not make progress under such conditions, but because we would need to reach Yarmouth at exactly the right time. It is essential to make the passage through Great Yarmouth and onto the Yare and Breydon Water at slack water. The currents are extremely fierce through Yarmouth as the river is so narrow. Miss the tide and you may have to wait 24 hours, before you can proceed.
Yes, that was a crop-sprayer you saw in the last picture.
This is as good a close-up as you'll get when taken with an Instamatic straight into the sun!
In the entire cruise the one event that I do recall is encountering a crop-sprayer aircraft. I had remembered stories of American and Australian farmers using aircraft to spray their fields with insecticide when I was at school, but this was the only time I remember seeing it take place. I have a feeling that crop spraying by air was banned soon after this, because I don't remembering seeing it ever again. I suppose, these days, more people would think of the scene from the James Bond film "Goldfinger" than doing battle with insects when seeing an aircraft like this.
I do have a vague recollection of tying up to the dolphin just to the right of the mouth of the Bure to hoist sails. Of course, it was in the days before they had built the new lift bridge so it meant you could sail straight up the channel and on to Breydon Water from that point. These days there is the bridge to negotiate. This was the last time I made the passage through Yarmouth. I'd dearly like to do it again. I've always promised myself that next time I'd do it in the old-fashioned way with no engine assistance. I guess that we were too busy navigating Yarmouth to take any photographs, as the next image is of the swing bridge at Somerleyton.
We are under sail as the bridge swings open at Somerleyton
Bare torsos and bikinis for the crew of the day boat coming through Somerleyton bridge from the Oulton direction confirm the blazing hot weather. I wish I could recall what we had to do and how long we had to wait for the bridge to open. These days, I believe that one is expected to use a mobile phone or radio to alert the railway staff that you wish the bridge to be opened. I would have to research it if I did make the trip onto the southern waters again.
Over the years I've read many stories of the bridges here and at Reedham being closed for repairs for long periods. I believe there were even protests in the House of Commons about the Railways riding rough shod over laws supporting the right of navigation.
A rare photograph, as this is the only one I have showing Jemima with her genoa hoisted
The photographs provide the proof that Jemima reached the Yacht Station at Oulton Broad. I have fuzzy recollections of both a hassle with the harbour master and a bit of a panic as we approached the mooring.
I may be confusing two separate incidents, however. I do remember reading, much more recently, that there was a long standing harbour master who had a particular way of doing things. I fancy we may have encountered him and not have quite met his exacting standards. It is also possible that my memory is playing tricks again and that incident occurred in the sixties when I was on a hire boat.
The second recollection is more likely to be real. The photographs makes it appear that we are on a lee berth, so we probably did approach with greater haste than I would have liked. I wish I could remember more details.
It seems we really had to wait for the bridge to open this second time
With all the noise I make, about the use of the genoa, in my reports of my attempts at the Three Rivers Race on my own SeaHawk, it was a surprise to be reminded that I must have fitted fairleads and cleats for the genoa on father's boat. I had barely remembered using the genoa, but it would appear that I had spent at least a little time and money on making sure it could be used.
I don't recall whether we used the New Cut or doubled back up the Yare to get the photograph of the Berney Arms Mill. Either way involves a bridge, but it does, at least, confirm that we were on the "Norwich River" for more than just crossing Breydon. The pair of ropes in the bottom right corner of the photograph suggests that we passed it going downstream, with the wind behind us, and the boom to port. This doesn't help in determining exactly how we came to be here as the tide looks too high for us to be about to cross Breydon to Yarmouth at this time.
The mill at Berney Arms. The great landmark on the Yare at the head of Breydon Water
Being well across the river, when taking the photograph, suggests that we made no attempt to moor by the mill. That suggests that we choose the pub, 200 yards further downstream, to be a more attractive point by which to moor and await the tide to be right to cross Breydon. I have no memory of visiting either the mill or the pub, but given my general state of memory about this cruise, that doesn't mean much. Whatever the exact background to the photograph, it was a shame that the mill was not equipped with its full four sails when we passed by.
The next photograph shows us back at Yarmouth at the very mouth of the Bure. The silos on the right are still there, as is the Vauxhall Rail Bridge which has, in recent years, been the subject of much local protest about its deteriorating condition.
I'd be surprised if one would see a commercial vessel moored in the Bure these days
As we are passing under the bridge, ahead we see the then newly reconfigured Acle Road and the replacement for what is marked, on my old Hamilton's map, as the "Suspension Bridge".
The road bridge ahead must have been quite new in 1976
Next we are seen, with sails hoisted, on the point of casting off from from the Yarmouth Yacht Station. It's nice to see that there was another SeaHawk just ahead of us. We are both in the area that was then reserved for yachts, above the first of the Yarmouth Bridges that then existed.
In the background a bridge to nowhere. Another bridge in Yarmouth that is long gone
The bridge, which was taken down long ago, used to carry the old Midland and Great Northern Line through the town to Yarmouth Beach Station. The station was closed in 1959 and the line closed. The stub of the bridge's western foundations can still be seen on Google's satellite images, as can the dolphin that would have been the point to which the old trading wherries would have secured themselves when making ready for their passage through Yarmouth.
This set of photographs indicate that we did quite a lot of motoring during this cruise. However, on reaching Acle, the sails on Jemima are seen to be only loosely stowed, indicating that this time we had made the trip from Yarmouth under sail. Some might think that this photograph is out of order and that in reality we are on your way to Yarmouth. However, notice how almost all the boats are pointing downstream. It's far more likely that it indicates that the tide is still flooding and the reason so many boats are pointing downstream is that it's always much safer to approach a mooring against the tide. Doing it this way gives you the ability to steer and control the boat at much slower speeds than you can when approaching the bank with the tide.
At Acle, before dropping the sails, we fill our water containers
It seems that there was water available on the moorings below the bridge. I don't think that is the case today. There were no water tanks aboard Jemima and I remember the preferred water container was a recycled plastic half gallon flagon that originally contained orange squash and somewhat squarer in shape than the modern four litre milk bottle. It seems strange that Tony appears to be taking the hose to the bottles, as I would have expected him to take the bottles to the hose.
Tony snaps the windmill cottage in Horning, still a landmark in the village
I doubt that the little windmill in Horning was ever a working machine. It seems to be too hemmed in by trees, but it does make a pretty holiday cottage. I suspect that it's much the same as the helter-skelter cottage, that was once a fairground attraction at Great Yarmouth, that is found at Potter Heigham.
The slack in the shrouds suggests that we're back on the motor again, and we certainly are by the time we reach Wroxham Broad.
The first time I was aboard the large boat seen below on Wroxham Broad was on a three hour sight seeing cruise in 1964. I don't know what she was called at the time, but I have read since that she was built at Potter Heigham, in Herbert Woods' yard, in 1950 and when launched, as a 100 seater trip boat was named "Her Majesty".
Was the trip boat, here seen on Wroxham Broad, still called "Her Majesty" in 1976?
The picture also is about the best I have of Jemima's, possibly unique, tabernacle. Every other tabernacle I've seen on a SeaHawk relies on a pivot about a foot up the mast. Jemima has the standard mast foot. As the mast is lowered the foot rises in the slots in the tabernacle and, in this way, enables the mast to lay horizontal over the top of the cabin doorway.
After a hard day cruising, Annette stays in the cabin to put on her face and generally make sure she's fit to face the world
Once moored at Wroxham Tony and I go off to find a phone. Our mission is to call in reinforcements. More precisely, it's to get my sister to bring the folding bike that's kept at home and bring it to us. She arrives a little while later delivering it to the car park, which is just the other side of the shed we've moored by, at Loynes Boatyard.
A least, that was the way I remember it, but the angle of the shadows don't seem to support that. Certainly, we arrived at Loynes boatyard late in the day, or our mooring, on the south side of Loynes yard, wouldn't be in deep shadow. But the photograph of my sister's car appears to have been taken in the morning, and from the shortness of the shadows, perhaps towards mid-day, presumably on the following morning.
The bike made by Puch. A company that I recall also used to tune cars
I have vague memories of my sister being a bit annoyed about having to deliver the bike to us. Perhaps, I had forgotten to ask Tony and Annette to bring it with them as they came to join me? I do recall a lack of cheery wave as she left us, and the photo seems to support that.
While I may not recall the exact circumstances of the bike drop, it is funny, the little things you do remember. For example, my sister bought that car, her second Hillman Imp, from a garage in North Walsham. The garage was pulled down a long time ago and remains a derelict site as I write this in early 2010. I can't remember where my parents bought the bike though!
For many, going up stream from Wroxham barely seems worth it, but clearly we thought it was
It would appear that having got the bike we made our way upstream. Again this appears to be a morning shot as the quay heading on the left is in bright sun, so probably soon after having the bike delivered.
Once again my memory fails. I don't recall how far upstream we went above the bridge at Wroxham. It may have been no further than Bridge Broad, but if we then had the bike on board that seems unlikely. I wonder if the plan was to get to Coltishall and then cycle back to pick up a car. That, too, seems a bit unlikely, as surely we would have had a car with us to pick up the bike in the first place. It all remains a mystery!
The final picture reveals a further jump in location. This is back at Dad's mooring at Dilham and represents the end of the cruise. When Dad bought the boat in 1973 he also bought a mooring at the newly dug facility at the head of navigation on Tyler's Cut. His was the only yacht based there and some of those in the bungalows around complained at the sound of the halyards slapping on the mast. Perhaps this wasn't surprising there were few yachts this far upstream, as many people wouldn't have fancied a yacht mooring below Wayford Bridge, let alone another mile above it, on extremely narrow and tree lined water. Perhaps it also isn't surprising the locals complained. The sounds of boats so close to home would have been new to them as well.
Back home at Jemima's Dilham mooring, near to where the village now has an Arts Centre
I never complained about Dad's mooring. While it's location did mean that I always motored down to Wayford, I loved the challenge of sailing from there, down past Hunsett Mill and on to Barton Broad. It's partly what made me learn to love sailing solo. Having anyone else on board always seemed to mean that the moved around the boat at just the wrong moment and shook what little wind there was from the sails.
My proudest moment was completing a return, under sail, to the mooring. I do wonder what would have happened had I met a boat coming the other way as I gull-winged up the upper reaches of Tyler's Cut, main and jib sails on opposite sides, the wind behind, no room to turn and no way to stop. It could have been fun!