Page updated 15 February 2021
This post was originally made on Wednesday 28 September 2011 on what used to be "The Blog". In updating the page after posting it here, I added the headings to aid navigation through the page.
An email arrived last night. The core of it read:
Hope to be in Hickling tomorrow, D.V. Depends a bit on how my old dog is. He has good and not-so-good days. He'll be 14 in a couple of months. Hugh and Angela hope to be out sailing tomorrow, too.
Further details arrived later. The long and short of it was that I could be part of a three SeaHawk "Cruise in Company". How could I resist when the weather forecast was for a perfect day - a good southerly breeze, clear skies and temperatures in the mid-twenties.
The plan was vague and flexible. Hugh, and his wife, Angela, would normally start earlier than John and sail to Horsey where they'd drop the mud weight and have a sandwich lunch. Arriving later, from 137 miles away, John would not attempt the passage, through the narrow Meadow Dyke, to Horsey and, instead, would use a mooring where Charlie, the dog, could be let ashore. I could join in as I pleased.
After a lengthy chat with Hugh, I rigged Just 17 and made ready to sail directly from my mooring.
When I turned up I went directly to Hugh and John's neighbouring moorings at Whispering Reeds, the yard behind the Pleasure Boat, where my mooring is. John had just arrived and was preparing his boat for the day. We fell into conversation and were still chatting when Angela turned up. It really was time I got ready too.
Because I had left Just 17 with her mainsail still on the boom. I was ready in fairly short order. The wind was, as forecast, Sou-sou-east so I was able to sail directly from my mooring without needing to use the motor or paddles, though I confess I did use a hand on the shrouds of Buttercup to pull myself by and put a little speed on the boat.
A collection of pontoons, propelled by a workboat, was heading for the last of the red navigation posts on the Broad.
The first few yards in the dyke were a bit of a drift, but by the time I was level with the mooring dock, housing the old Westerly 22, Lynsa, the top of the sails were beginning to find the wind. Soon I was clear of the trees and out onto the Broad. There was a good breeze, perhaps more powerful than I had expected, and a short chop on the water. As I raced to the far side of the Broad before tacking I even noticed a couple of breaking waves, but they were very much the exception and I didn't notice any more for the rest of the day.
Keeping reasonably close to the houseboats, as I was expecting Angela to emerge from the back dyke I made a couple of long sweeps back and forward across the Broad. Then I realised that the huge workboat that I had photographed at the end of our Sunday Cruise was on the move. Over the weekend it had been moored near Catfield Dyke but now it was coming closer. I swept round to take a photograph and realised that it was not a single boat but appeared to be made up of a number of rectangular pontoons linked together and was being propelled by a smaller green-hulled work boat.
Skylarking, believed to be the last of only four SeaHawks known to have been built by Mistral Craft at Loddon.
Angela had still not appeared, so I took the opportunity of taking a photograph of Skylarking. The photographs are needed as I want to find time to update the SeaHawk site with the information I have accumulated over the last year. There now three of the Mistral Craft built SeaHawks moored on Hickling. Two more are in Whispering Reeds' dyke. At one point I had understood that these three, along with Isolde, now moored at Ranworth, formed the entire fleet of post-Moore's SeaHawks. However, in May last year I heard from the owner of a newly launched SeaHawk, built by Sam Watson. Sam bought the moulds after Mistral Craft and Pyecraft ceased trading. I had begun to wonder if the story that I had heard that a further boat had been built from them was only a rumour, but now I can say that Rocky, launched in the Colne estuary at Brightlingsea last year is truly the last SeaHawk.
Angela has a set of custom made sails with the number 393, but it is believed that her true number may be 139.
After just over thirty minutes, shortly before mid day, I finally spotted Angela emerge from the dyke by the pub. She had a small rig hoisted that I was to learn a little more about later in the day. I waited for a while, expecting to be able to greet John, in his boat, following hard behind, but then decided to give chase to Angela.
With my unreefed sails I had soon caught up, which I guess indicated that a reef wasn't essential. Nevertheless, I was still surprised by how fast I was compared to Angela. Apart from the sails, Hugh suggested that the fact his boat hadn't been out of the water for a couple of years would have something to do with it. I doubt that, as I find that I've only had the lightest coat of slime on the hull when I've slipped my boat after a couple of seasons. Hickling is reckoned to be brackish and doesn't seem to attract as much growth as boats get on other Broads.
The last of the old red posts is lifted from the water. It seems to take a huge number men and much machinery to do it.
After more of this brief hailed conversation, in which I'd jokingly dismissed the sailing qualities of a Swift 18 that we had both passed, I learnt that John should soon be on his way. At that I said I would return and accompany him across the Broad, hoping, of course, to get some photographs at the same time.
I was soon back at the work boat. By now it was moored to the new navigation post. John turned out to have noticed this too as he had passed by and later made the comment that they weren't setting the best example. As I passed by the old navigation post hung in the air. I suddenly realised that this was the job they had been doing and since the weekend all the duplicate posts had gone missing from the Broad.
I wish I had stayed earlier to see exactly how they did it. I was amused by the ladder, but I guess that someone was required to go down into the water and secure the strap round the post as low as possible. As if to confirm this, one man on the pontoon was wearing a wetsuit, peeled down to his waist. I am not sure what the role of the rest of the crew was. However, I guess it was their lunch break when I took my picture as everyone just seemed to be enjoying the sunshine - and it was a day to be thankful for!
Twenty five minutes after Angela John's SeaHawk appears, under Torqeedo battery power, at the mouth of the dyke.
Then I spot John on his way out of the dyke, and go to have a closer look. It takes me a few moments before I notice that John is using a Torqeedo electric outboard, then recall that it was his photograph of the engine that I used on the SeaHawk site.
I'm impressed with John's ability to hoist sails while seated. "Reduces the risk of falling in!", he says.
John motors until he's a little way clear of the houseboats, where there is more room to drift down wind should there be a problem and then hoists his sails. I am surprised that he can do it while sitting and tell him so. He replies that there's less risk of falling overboard when you do it that way. It makes sense! Seeing my boat fully rigged he also offers a little moan that Hugh suggested he put in a reef before coming out.
With John's sails hoisted we both make off down the Broad to catch up with Hugh. As John is well reefed I streak ahead of him too and find Hugh apparently waiting for us in the narrow section between that last few navigation posts. I go ahead of him, while he continues to wait for John, and spot Reed Nibbler at the far end of the Deep Dyke moorings. I go to investigate and find two anglers alongside the boat. Having been sent a photograph of this SeaHawk on South Walsham Broad a couple of months ago, I wonder if it's changed owners as I'd never seen her beyond Hickling, but there's a denial from one of the anglers, saying they've had the boat for 25 years.
We are advised not to leave the mooring for a while as the pontoon boat is on its way past.
After that confirmation I see Hugh has also exited the Broad and is now preparing to land close to the beginning of the moorings. John is also approaching and looks as if he's about to moor too. I return to join them, mooring just in front of them.
I realise that this isn't just a stop but that Hugh must have changed his mind about getting to Horsey for lunch and so begins an inevitable conversation. We've only been there a few minutes when a Broads Authority RIB sweeps slowly past us, asking if we are about to leave. We tell him we'll be here for a bit and he relaxes, explaining that the crane pontoon will soon be passing. Hugh makes some joke about scrapping our paint work, especially on Just 17, and gets the response that there's a new driver on the boat and "You never know..."
John is still to drop his main as the monster pontoon slowly approaches us through the dog-leg exit of the Broad.
Minutes later and the pontoon appears. Considering that it's flat fronted with a tall jib and masses of flat vertical panels all over the superstructure it's a wonder it can be steered accurately at all, especially when you consider it's only propelled by work boat strapped to the aft quarter. There's some shouted instructions from the crew as it emerges from the Broad and into the channel past the moorings. Somehow it straightens up and comes past without a hitch.
Seeing the entry into the channel I wonder if the mass of crew is just there to fend off when the steering goes wrong!
With the boats moored John is keen to examine Just 17 and some of its features. I am surprised to find that he reads this blog regularly. I can tell he does as he drops plenty of snippets into the conversation that can only have been picked up from the site. I also take a look aboard Angela, seeing how Hugh has attached his fire extinguisher bracket to the cabin wall and the rather posh padded seat that has been built in opposite the galley, for example.
Then it was time for lunch. I boil some water for John's mug then heat my own can of soup before we all gather in Angela's cockpit to eat our various rations. It was 13:30 as the pontoon passed us and 15:00 when I took the photograph of the others in our party after we'd finished, and in all that time we never stopped chattering - mainly about matters SeaHawk.
Following the pontoon was an Environment Agency launch. The only people missing were the Police themselves.
Eventually, I decide it's time to take a photograph of us all and some of the things discussed over lunch. The photographs are intended to be used to illustrate new pages I plan to add to the SeaHawk web site. These include what Hugh calls his "modesty screen" for the cabin doorway and John's three piece cabin door.
Stowing the cabin door can be a problem for SeaHawk owners. Many were supplied as a single piece, although some were supplied in two parts. Providing an owner hasn't fitted any external handles a single piece door is not too bad for day sailers. You can simply lay it on one of the bunks and push it aft under the cockpit. But if handles have been fitted there can be a risk that the bunk's cushions will be damaged as the door is slid up and down the bunk. For those who go on overnight cruises or are more prepared to go sailing when there is a risk of rain, the large door can prove more difficult to handle.
The modesty screen is, in effect, a closely fitted curtain, made of crude woven plastic fabric. It is far easier to manhandle than a one-piece door when showers threaten, or if someone wants to use the toilet. Hugh has sewn a hem round the arched top and sides and passed a bungee cord through it. so it forms a loop. With the curtain in place, the exposed bottom part of the cord is passed over two hooks at the bottom of the door frame so holding the screen in place. John's door comes in three easily stowable pieces and is deigned to be fitted or opened from both inside or outside. It comes complete with a special bracket that is used to secure the three stowed pieces when the door is not in use. He uses this door as a replacement for his one-piece original, which he leaves in his car during his usual mid-week two night cruises.
Relaxing after a long lunch aboard Angela: John, with 14 year old Charlie on his lap, Angela and Hugh.
As well as door modifications another big topic for me is boom tents. Now I am expecting to take overnight cruises with a second crew member, I have to consider ways to make the boat more comfortable for two of us. Hugh and John both show off their own creations. John's needlecraft being especially impressive. I chastise him for not responding to a recent question on the SeaHawk forum from an American owner who was asking about fitting a Bimini to a SeaHawk.
John is already aboard SeaHawk. Hugh is ready to cast off and I haven't got round to hoisting my sails.
By now, it is well after four o' clock and it's agreed that we ought to think about a return to base. I mess about aboard Just 17 trying to tidy up below. When I emerge from the cabin it is to a farewell from Hugh. The others are already to cast off. As they leave I take advantage of the bank-side shrubbery, rather than use my Porta-Potti before hoisting my sails and giving chase.
Only maximum camera zoom reveals the two SeaHawks disappearing
into the haze.
I fail to catch SeaHawk, but do eventually overhaul Angela.
As I reach the Broad, the other two SeaHawks are fast disappearing in the afternoon haze. In spite of the extra speed I demonstrated on the way to Deep Dyke, I don't expect to be able to catch them on the downwind run home, even though both seem only to be using their main. John, who left first remains ahead as I reach the Pleasure Boat dyke, but I have almost drawn level with Angela by taking a short cut cutting close to Jervis Point and not following the main channel.
As I draw level, Angela swings head to wind to drop sails and start up her engine. I keep sailing, first hoisting the topping lift, the dropping the main and rolling it round the boom. I then disconnect the boom from the mast to shoot the forward end into the cabin. By the time I'm entering the Pleasure Boat Dyke, I only have the jib flying and I know the wind will die completely once past the entrance to the dyke.
Ghosting into the Pleasure Boat Dyke. It's been a thoroughly splendid day, even if not too much sailing was done.
As I glide further into the dyke a cheery call greets me from the pub garden. It's one of the musicians who frequently plays on Proper Jobbies nights. It seems that two of them are completing a practice session and leave before I have finished the washing up, left over from lunch and go to join them. However, by the time the car is packed, two other Proper Jobbies have arrived and discussion and a pint follows. Of course, this takes time and it only comes to me later that I haven't said my thanks for such good company during the day or offered goodbyes to my two fellow crews.
In case you're wondering about the title of this entry, at one point during the day Hugh asked what the collective noun for a group of SeaHawks should be. I reminded him that I had coined the term "Colony" for a collection of neighbouring SeaHawks moorings when I first created the SeaHawk site but agreed that colony wasn't suitable for all circumstances. It was only as I was returning home that it occurred to me that "Swoop" might be an appropriate term for SeaHawks cruising in company.