Page published 13 February 2021

Originally posted on what used to be "The Blog", this page records a cruise I took with Bryn Weightman aboard his new purchase Rhiannon on 3 June 2011.

The Cruise

We'd been in touch over the last month and now the day had come. I was going to accompany Bryn Weightman on his shake down cruise aboard Rhiannon. She had been renamed by Bryn when he had bought the SeaHawk late last year and she still shows signs of her previous name, Mr Toad. (I fancy the owner who gave her that name has a thing about frogs as his replacement boat is called Jeremy Fisher.)

Rhiannon at the Slipway

On the cabin you can easily see evidence suggesting Rhiannon has recently been renamed.

I had agreed to meet with Bryn at Martham Boat Building and Development's slipway at 09:00. There lay my first mistake. Bryn had told me the boat was in their shed and I had imagined that he was referring to their posh new barn-like building on their riverside site. After about half an hour with no sign of either boat or Bryn, it was clear something was wrong.

I retreated the mile up Cess Road to find the company's workshop sheds and hear my name called as soon as I stuck my head through the doorway. There, in the gloom, was both Bryn and boat, hidden behind the company's truck. Bryn arranged for the truck to be moved while we did a shuffle with our cars. Once we had my car awaiting us at Hickling, we returned to Martham to tow Rhiannon down to the slipway.

Once there we had to wait while a Mirror dinghy cleared the slipway and then we set to work erecting the mast. All went remarkably smoothly and the mast was soon up. The one thing that stood out for me was that Rhiannon's tabernacle was a couple of inches shorter than mine. It means that the mast can't reach the horizontal as the pivot is a little lower than the top of the cabin doorway. However, I don't imagine that it's going to create a problem, even at Potter Heigham.

Once ready to launch we had to wait what seemed an interminable time while a two groups of canoe hirers were seen off from the slipway. The staff at Martham gave an impressive level briefing to the clearly novice crews, one a party of girls in their twenties in two canoes and another, a family including young children. Once they were out of the way we had the freedom of the slipway - and made a complete hash of it.

We had separated the trailer from the car and secured a good length of strong rope to the tow hitch of the trailer. I had taken the length around the ball on Bryn's towbar. Bryn had given the trailer a push, as we had planned, to get the trailer to run down to slip and into the water. The trouble was that I had made taken enough turns round the hitch and found it impossible to control the trailer's entry into the water. It went in at an angle, one wheel caught on some obstruction and it ended up stuck half way down, too heavy to move or straighten up.

Rhiannon at the Slipway

With the Mirror dinghy clear of the slipway, I back Bryn's car to the slipway. While we raise the mast two novice groups of canoeists get a comprehensive briefing from the Martham staff.

The yard's men came to the rescue, instructing me to tie the line onto the tow hitch and pull the trailer out again. This I did, and the next time, as I slowly reversed, the Martham man guided the trailer into the water, dragging the tow line to one side or another to ensure the boat went down the slipway straight down the middle. Meanwhile Bryn was holding a pair of lines to bow and stern, ready to haul the boat off the trailer as soon as it showed signs of floating. Done this way, as a three man job, it was easy. It was less than a minute from the time I towed the boat out of the water to realign the trailer, to the time I was out of the car after towing the empty trailer clear.

Then came the longer job of sorting out all the gear. Bryn quickly realised that he could have been more thorough checking over the sails and other gear he'd brought with him or had aboard. It turned out we'd got the older set of sails. The jib had had the clips removed to allow it to work with furling gear, but the furling gear was at home. The Gibb-Proctor gooseneck was missing its screw to hold it in position once the main sail was hoisted. Then there was the mystery of how the previous owner had run his main sheet.

Once we had the sailing gear settled, we came to Bryn's brand new motor. Filling the sump with oil proved an adventure, with a curved-bladed marlin spike used as a funnel. I can't say the Broads Authority would have been happy with the result, but eventually the motor was prepared and fueled and fired on the first pull of the starting cord. Knowing it would work, in case of emergency, was reassuring. However, neither Bryn nor I managed to work out, even after reading the manual several times, how one could tilt it while under sail. We eventually decided the screw would have to drag in the water

Starting up Candle Dyke

Bryn at the Helm of Rhiannon. We have just turned into Candle Dyke after leaving the yard at Martham.

Eventually, we cast off. We weren't the neatest looking craft around, but we covered the ground quickly enough. I was still puzzling about the main sheet. Judging by the sail number, the boat is only months younger than mine and the holes exist that used to hold the bolts for the loops to secure the blocks for the standard four point mainsheet. However, on Rhiannon, the loop on the starboard was missing and the one to port replaced by a jam cleat, yet the sheet itself came with the expected pair of single blocks plus a double. We ended up using the thimbles welded into the cockpit guard rails as anchorages for the outer points for the sheet.

Rhiannon at White Slea

It's difficult to get enough tension in the forestay using only the anchor cleat. The luff of the jib needs to be
attached to the forestay and the kicking strap is not a solution to the lack of screw in the gooseneck.

While the wind was against us the tide was flooding so progress was reasonable. It was the first time I had been in a SeaHawk with jib sheet winches and I didn't find them as easy to use as the conventional cabin mounted jam cleats. Maybe that was just unfamiliarity, but as it stood the boat wouldn't have suited me as, normally single-handed, I also need the ability to cleat my jib sheets.

Another issue, which I didn't foresee until the time came to drop the sails, was the method for attaching the mainsheet to the boom. On my boat there is a large swivel, allowing the topping lift to be attached on one side and the mainsheet the other. On Bryn's boat there is a fixed loop riveted to the underside of the boom and the swivel appears to be intended only for the topping lift. Surely this is wrong as it prevents the main from being reefed by rolling the boom?

SeaHawks in the Pleasure Boat Dyke

We make a fourth! There are three interesting SeaHawks already in the front dyke at the Pleasure Boat Inn.

Progress through the bushes past the Deep Go Dyke moorings was, as expected, slow but we speed up again as we clear the dog leg in the channel and the channel widens again. Once into the Broad go out of the channel as we cut the corner to reach the Pleasure Boat Dyke. I warn Bryn of the area where even a SeaHawk can go aground at times and tell him to expect to hear a scraping sound because, surprisingly, there is a gravel bottom off Jarvis Point.

The Pleasure Boat Inn

After a quick drink and discussion with the landlord, we move Rhiannon to the far side of the dyke.

On at the Pleasure Boat, we take Rhiannon up to the head of the front dyke, moor and I leave Bryn to tidy the boat as he would like things. I suppose I should have checked whether he needed help, but I always like to pack my own boat and assumed he would like to do the same. It so much easier to find everything on your return if you've been the one to stow it. I hate having to hunt for things, and finding ropes or sails coiled, folded or rolled in unusual ways just makes life more difficult than it need be, so it's better to do it yourself.

I went off to chat with the owners of Beagle. I have been photographing it whenever I see it, as I do with almost any SeaHawk, for a number of years and it was good to talk to the owners properly for the first time. In fact the two other SeaHawks in the dyke were also interesting. Scorpio changed hands last year and is one of the rare boats with an inboard engine. Skylarking, also only arrived at Hickling late last year. She is one of the recent, but rare boats, built by Mistral Craft of Loddon. She had passed us while we were getting Rhannon ready, but the four folk in the cockpit failed to hear me shout at them - as they did again a while later returning from Potter Heigham.

I also take the opportunity to check my mooring will be ready to return to once Imagination is painted. It was with some alarm that I find that all the boats have been squeezed up in the back dyke and my usual place has gone. Once Bryn is ready we enter the pub for a drink and to check on the position about moorings. Glenn, takes notes and agrees to contact John, the owner about things, but, informally, we agree that Imagination will have a berth near the front door of the pub this year.

A Solway Dory Canoe

A splendid out-rigger canoe, built by Solway Dory, being prepared for launch in the Pleasure Boat's car park.

Before leaving the pub car park and find another reason to chat with someone - it's a splendid strip wood sailing canoe. At first I assume it's home built and mention the UK-HBBR to the owner, who is still fitting the outriggers. He knows of the group but says that he didn't attend their meet this year at Barton. Then it emerges that it is a Solway Dory boat, and we have another reason to talk, as one of the owners of the company is related to folk in East Walton, the village where I lived for ten years in West Norfolk - it only has a population of 85. You tend to get to know everyone rather well in a village of that size. Through that contact I also wrote an article for Anglia Afloat and the Open Canoe Sailing Group a few years ago.

About to Return to Leicester

Time to leave Bryn to return to his home near Leicester.

Finally, it is time to leave and take Bryn back to his car, which we left at Martham. That done I leave him to make his way to Leicester. All in all a very pleasant day. Good company, interesting sailing in a new boat, and lots of interesting people to talk to. Couldn't have been better!

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