Page published 19 February 2021
Originally posted on what used to be "The Blog", this page records a day aboard Just 17 cruising around Hickling Broad on 16 October 2011.
Reading through the page, you'll find a reference to "Roz". That will have been Roz Wilson, who must have been sitting with us or on a neighbouring table. Roz had recently moved to the village and was soon to become the keyboard player the the Muddy Broad Blues Band, a band I was a founder member of and played with till 2016.
Day long clear blue skies were forecast and it turned out warm enough for me not to need more than a T-shirt. This was no ordinary October Sunday! Accordingly, Diana and I packed all that was necessary for a few hours sailing and a light lunch and set off for Just 17's mooring.
Just 17, as she looked when we arrived in the warm October sunshine and before we unpacked the car.
We arrived at the boat at around 11:30. At this time of year The Pleasure Boat Inn does not open till midday, so the front door was still closed and the parents of one child found they had time to play with their toddler in the garden. The mother spotted the sign about the regular Sunday Open Mic sessions, but I called to her, saying that they weren't going to be on for the next couple of weeks.
Since the last trip to the boat I had found my "packing list" and we knew we had everything we needed. I had brought the shackles to replace those lost overboard the last time we were out. Diana had packed the tea towel. I know she had, as I had got it from the airing cupboard. However, it never found its way aboard. And we never did find it - not at home in the house or near the garage, not in the car or drifting round the car park. Its whereabouts remains a mystery! If anyone sees a red tea towel, that was freshly ironed. An ironed tea towel? That's another story!
Before putting on her sun glasses, Diana squints into the bright sun as we leave the Pleasure Boat dyke.
The search for the tea towel caused a little delay and it was around 12:10 when, with sails hoisted and Diana on the helm, I eventually cast off. As usual, I resisted using the motor as it was flat calm at the top of the dyke. To get us moving I took a few strokes with a paddle instead. We soon cleared the end of the dyke and the wind took us out onto the Broad. Once there we found ourselves the apparent target of a group of dinghies bearing down upon us. I guess it must be one of the last weeks in the season as, over the last couple of weeks, I have seen others taking their dingies from the sailing clubs grounds, presumably to be berthed at their owners homes for the winter.
A cluster of dinghies of a class we failed to recognise turn at the mark, pursued by a Norfolk Punt.
We soon were clear of the buoy that the dinghies had been aiming for and they swept round it a little way from our stern. We carried on down the Broad with Diana on the helm. I had wanted to go below and sort out the cabin. Because of the search for the tea towel things had become a bit of a mess below. However, Diana insisted I stay in the cockpit as she wasn't confident enough yet to be left unattended.
The next thing I noticed was Skylarking. It's one of the newest SeaHawks and normally found on a swinging mooring near the Sailing Club. Today it was tucked up in the reeds in the north eastern corner of the Broad, almost in the entrance to the dyke that leads to the small timber bungalow with a distinctive brick chimney stack. It still appeared to be attached to its buoy so it seemed that it was the buoy that had separated from its anchorage rather than the boat not being secured properly.
The repaired mill seen in the bay south of Catfield Dyke. I presume it is used as a hide by bird watchers.
I decided we ought to take a closer look but, thirty feet from it, we went aground. Initially, we just slid to a stop, but as soon as I realised we were stationary, I swung the tiller over to get us away from the lee shore. However, the keel handle began to jump as the keel lifted scraping over a hard gravel bottom, not the silt that we initially had grounded on. If we were not to join Skylarking there was no choice but to lift the keel a little. This I did, while Diana took the helm. We were soon in deep enough water to lower the keel fully, but it did mean that I felt put off trying for a closer inspection.
We then proceed down the Broad. With such breeze as there was West-Sou-West, I began to think about where we should moor for lunch. In the end I opted for the bay on the western side of the Broad, just south of Catfield Dyke. It's an area I normally by-pass and I'd never got as close as I could to the old mill that's there. As it appears to have been capped with a new roof, I assume it's one of those used as a hide by bird watchers.
An incredibly calm and warm October day. This scene looks as though it might have been high summer.
It was around 12:40 as we approached the shore turning to the south to make our way towards a small bay where I threw the mud weight over the bows. The wind was light and I did no more than raise the topping lift before going below to heat the soup we had with us. It was an hour later before we even thought about setting sail again. We were both content to sit in the cockpit and watch the world go by or in my case watch the boats go by.
The trouble was nothing was passing us by, at least, not within half a mile. The sailing club's races had clearly been suspended for their lunch hour and I only noticed one or two other boats that were under way. I recall the tan sails of a Cornish Shrimper and then what I took to be a SeaHawk travelling southwards towards Pleasure Island. For light relief I got out my ukulele.
With no boats to photograph I felt it was time to get the ukulele out and have a bit of a sing song.
Eventually, we decided that we might as well do some sailing, so I lifted the mud weight, dropped the topping lift and we set off again. Out of the bay, we passed a very bored looking crew aboard the sailing club's safety boat. They respond good naturedly to my jibe about the pointlessness of their role today.
After lunch the Sailing Club safety boat is back on its station, with an unusually bored looking crew.
Sure enough that boat I'd spotted was a SeaHawk. It took me a while to realise which one. I had never seen Skylark under sail before. Although I had often chatted with its crew as last year I had had the mooring ahead of them in the back dyke behind the Pleasure Boat. I lost that mooring when Just 17 went for her re-paint.
Skylark - not to be confused with Skylarking, the boat that had broken free from its mooring.
With light airs it was easy enough to pirouette round each other and take a number of photographs for my files and possible use on the SeaHawk web site. After getting enough reasonable shots we made our way down the main channel in the Broad taking a left turn when we found the gap leading to the bay north and west of the island.
I had had the neighbouring mooring to Skylark but lost that spot when Just 17 went for her re-paint.
I don't know of another SeaHawk with sail number on main and jib.
I hadn't realised, as we approached the gap, that we had the Wildlife Trust's electric powered trip boat close on our tail. It was only the sound of quiet voices that alerted me, interrupting my instructions, no - suggestions, to Diana about how soon we should turn once through through the gap. As we passed through, at 15:50, we turned to our left, while the trip boat turned right heading for the very western end of the bay and the hide that overlooks it.
The Wildlife Trust's boat followed us through the gap by Pleasure Island and headed for the hide.
We made our way back towards the Pleasure Boat, taking a detour around the swinging moorings, as I had seen someone aboard the yacht Kernow for the first time. I wondered if he knew anything of Skylarking. However, my hail brought no further information. The conversation switched rapidly to tales of his own troubles. Apparently, there is very little mud on the bottom, just a few inches, and the mud weights to which the buoys are secured frequently drag when there's a heavy boat and a good breeze.
The Pleasure Boat Inn's garden. A dog sleeps while a discarded umbrella allows full advantage to be taken of the sun.
With no information, we turned again for home, moored, and made for the pub. Diana and I took the table in the bar nearest the archway through to the restaurant area. On the neighbouring table were a couple I half recognised. We slipped into conversation and it emerged that they were regular attenders on Friday nights, having enjoyed Dave and Carol's session the previous week, although they'd missed the last "Proper Jobbies" session on the first Friday on the month.
There may not have been an official Open Mic session, but we managed an impromptu sing-song. It started because they asked if we owned a boat, and when we pointed it out, and its name, that started Roz off. Diana and I joined in and before we knew it any excuse to recall a song that was, or ought to be, included in the Proper Jobbies act had a few verses recited.
There's something nicely quaint about the very local warning sign in the bar.
It was a great way to end the afternoon of what had been the best October day sailing that I can ever recall. I wonder if Diana and I will make it aboard after the next Proper Jobbies do. The plan at the last gig had been to sleep aboard rather than go home at the end of the night. We chickened out of it last time. Somehow I think that Diana, hardy girl that she is, won't allow us to miss out a second time. Roll on the first Friday in November!