Saturday 26th of June
We arrived at Martham's boatyard at 14:40 having
experienced a somewhat tricky end to our journey, having smoothly
crossed the greater part of England's girth. We had discussed
stopping in Norwich, but on seeing how busy it was, abandoned
the idea rather late, after we had missed the opportunity to
bypass the city. The hirer's (Martham's) main sheds were situated
a quarter of a mile from the river, perhaps in avoidance of
flooding, which one assumes from riverside dwellings to be reasonably
frequent. The waterfront of Martham's yard was very pleasant,
although somewhat typically "dilapidated boatyard"
On first acquaintance our boat, the 1950's bermudan-rigged
Wood's-built yacht Javelin 2, was both bigger and smaller than
expected: "bigger externally, smaller internally and quite
primitive." reads the log. The main cabin had two somewhat
cramped bunks one of which folded out to form a "double"
bed. The toilet, much to my surprise, pumped straight overboard,
as did all of the plumbing. To my understanding, this is not
a legal state of affairs in English ports, it greatly surprised
me that this was legal on an inland waterway. Thankfully it
was not all bad news, and the gas cooking range was rather good,
storage was excellent although Laura has apended a note to the
log to the effect that it was initially difficult to find, being
in many small lockers dotted wherever there was spare space
to be found: under benches; in bulkheads; under the cooker.
Javelin 2 lying at Horsey
Staithe after the awnings have been taken down, but before
the cabin was lowered. The red boat in the background
is Jasmine of Horning.
click picture to enlarge
A strong positive point, to my nose at least,
was the strong smell of varnish under the canvas awning. The
log records: "Original boat must have been quite something,
still very good boat, but niggling short cuts taken: use of
plywood, poor rigging care, some framing in poor condition".
This referred to plywood slowly creeping into the gorgeous Mahogany
interior, lashings used in place of swivels and shackles on
the mainsheet blocks and seemingly endless sistered frames in
the bow. Many of the sistered frames had cracked in sympathy
with their predecessors, and on my last day in the boat, on
raising the sole, I saw that many timbers had rotted completely
away where they crossed the keel, and rather than being repaired,
they had simply been painted over. In their heyday, eight of
these yachts were raced frequently, and it seems very sad that
she should be awarded such scant attention today.
However, today was not to be a day of mourning
for what once was! Today was a day for action, for sampling
the broads I had dreamed of since the first time I opened the
pages of Ransome's Coot Club, for enjoying the largest boat
I had ever sailed, for enjoying the company of friends engaged
on a mutual adventure. By 16:00 we had the boat packed, and
the anchor up. We left Martham's with all sail hoisted and the
engine on to help us out of the moorings. The engine was 1.5Hp
two-stroke unit, with all the glorious simplicity of an engine
from yesteryear. Rotary choke, two position throttle, one cylinder
and the most wonderfully physical clutch-and-gear lever. One
can understand Roger Walker's obsession with the things (see
Ransome's other works). However, by 16:10 the "little donkey"
had been silenced and we were enjoying slow progress with the
tide as the wind arrived in zephyrs. It was difficult to work
out the precise wind direction (which was shifting anyway) because
of the high reeds through candle dyke. The log records "Blocks
desperately in need of oiling I think as the sheet is not running
freely". These blocks were to become something of a recurring
nuisance throughout the voyage.
The small area of the Broads
that we visited. Our first day's sailing is in blue, the
second in yellow. The green line is our approximate route
to the coast, passing the pub of course!
click picture to enlarge
By 16:30 we were passing through Heigham Sound,
a channel marked by posts passing through a wide but shallow
lake with a healthy covering of reeds. Before long we had turned
right and were passing through meadow dyke, gybing time and
again along it's narrow and twisting course. This flowed into
Horsey Mere, a wide and by the standards of many of the broads,
deep lake. We sailed for a little while before starting the
engine and dropping sail before motoring into Horsey Staithe
at 17:20. This is a well looked-after staithe, owned in common
with the Mere and much of the surrounding land by the National
We secured all the warps, and the dinghy we had
hired with the yacht and raised both of the awnings, although
we did not perfect either for some time. We walked across some
bleak marsh to the Nelson's Head pub where we enjoyed excellent
food in abundance at a very reasonable price. We were also fortunate
in being able to secure some matches, which we had forgotten
to procure prior to our departure. Any reader of Swallows and
Amazons may sympathise with our mistake, having no Mother to
remember them! We walked back from the pub and had another go
at the front awning, which this time was raised with somewhat
more success. At 21:40 we were all in bed and the log records
"Rather pleasent to hear rain falling on stretched canvas",
although 22:30's note is less positive: "Rain dripping
down mast". This was of particular importance to me as
my "cabin" was in the forepeak, through the forehatch.
The mast ran down 3 inches from my head, and I spent an hour
and a half tracking down leaks around the mast and the forehatch
coaming, and moving my clothes around until as few as possible
were in danger of a wetting. I was grateful for the provision
of electric lights on board (charged by the engine) as again
when a loud bang on deck shot me through the forehatch at 23:30.
I could only guess that the life ring which had been standing
up had fallen over. By this time I had to accept that the forehatch
could not remain closed as, although it stopped all but the
mast leak, the claustrophobia it induced in the quite remarkably
confined space was unbearable. I turned my back on the splashes
and finally dropped into the arms of sleep.
The Captain's Cabin. This
became known as the "coffin"
and was barely roomier. Amazingly, I only cracked my
head on a deck beam once! Note the large lead weight
at the base of the mast to aid raising and lowering
the mast to pass through bridges. Even with this, it
was still a tricky business.
(click picture to enlarge)
Sunday 27th June
The morning began barely more auspiciously than
the previous day had ended. A lover of my sleep (well, one must
conform to thse stereotypes of 19 year olds!) I woke at 5:15,
and was not happy about the fact! At 6:30 my travel clock sounded
it's alarm which I had failed to disable which disturbed the
rest of the crew. At 7:45 we all gave up on sleep, partook of
our morning toilet (making use of the adjacent public conveniences
as none of us fancied the boat's provision on grounds as diverse
as environmental conscience, privacy and leg-room) and at 8:30
settled down on the rond [bank] with the sun trying to break
through the overcast, supping on Tomato soup (a rather alarming
neon orange) and bread.
After washing up, at 9:00 I took the dinghy out
into Horsey Mere and a strong westerly wind. On return I wrote
in my most Ransomeish manner in the log: "Tried sailing
dinghy - diabolical! Difficult to row [the oars had mismatched
buttons] and unable to raise sail as blew straight off the wind.
Could not reach a lee shore under oars therefore retired to
yacht." Part of the problem had been the arrangement of
the boom jaws which seemed indecipherable to me. At 9:55, in
disgust with all things nautical, I took to my heels in strong
sunlight and spied out the lie of the land. On my return, the
log remarked on stunted marsh oak trees growing in the peat,
and profusion of flies of which, on the water, we were to be
mercifully free. "The landscape is quite immoderately flat.
Landscape features include a large windfarm S.E., various church
towers and the ubiquitous wind pumps, some wrecked. There are
some farms in evidence and one curious orange building."
What I think I liked most were two very small thatched cottages
perched on the banks (if such a strong word may be used) of
the Mere, raised above the marsh on stilts. If one has read
"Witches Abroad" by Terry Pratchett and imagines Mrs
Googol's house, one would be rather close to their appearance.
Horsey windpump, now disused,
was used to pump water from the low lying marshes UP to
the level of the River. It also saw service last century
after the coastal sand dunes were breached at Horsey Gap
which lead to the whole area becoming once again a sea
bed. Adjacent and to the right is the modern electric
Click picture to enlarge
As the wind was strong and in the wrong direction
for making a passage through Meadow Dyke, we elected to go to
the beach, little more than a mile away beyond the line of sand
dunes which at this point, are all that stands between land
and sea. Without them, we would have been sailing in salt water.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable trip, we saw orchids, butterflies,
a seal, a lizard and what are described in the log only as "curious
moths". It had been far too many years since I had seen
the sea, let alone been close enough to it to get damp, so I
forgot my age and went paddling, to be joined later by James.
Laura stayed aloof and superior, and miraculously stayed dry
and relatively sand free. Still, there's no accounting for tastes!
While we were there, the wind changed to an ideal direction
for meadow dyke. We returned to the boat and paused only long
enough to walk up Horsey Windpump where a rather fine view over
the fens could be had for the princely sum of two pounds sterling.
We turned the boat using warps, an operation which was wholly
successful and left one feeling rather pleased with oneself.
We left Horsey under engine and tried raising sail. After three
attempts I gave up as the mainsail was catching in the rigging.
I wanted to take the boat back to Marthams and get the rigging
sorted as it was a mess aloft, however James convinced me to
drop a mudweight and between us we managed to shift the worst
of the tangles. Due to the design of the rigging and the sail,
the mainsail would catch on the topping lifts when being raised
with really only the very slightest provocation. When we had
the mainsail up, the boat started sailing around her moorings
as the mainsheet blocks would not let the sheet run out freely,
so in effect the boat was constantly close hauled. This was
a great nuisance, and rather dangerous. Still, we got the jib
up, raised the anchor and set off.
Once the sails were up and we were underway, we
had a really very pleasent run through Meadow dyke. The blocks
were still causing trouble as now we were running before the
wind, even when standing and pushing on the boom we could not
encourage it far from the side of the boat. In the end we gave
up and suffered the loss of power this entailed. We were overtaken
very neatly by the beautifully turned-out Jasmine of Horning,
a gaff rigged cutter with an apparently permanent "topsail"
making her almost Bermudan-rigged. We passed through the busy
Heigham sound without incident, although rather hard on the
wind. At Candle dyke we were headed by the wind in a tight channel
and in a flurry induced by a sudden calm, the tide running against
us, and a motorboat which managed always to be in the wrong
place at the wrong time, I came close to ramming the bank. We
got the engine started and motored safely out of the dyke and
into the River Thurne proper and sailed beautifully past Martham's
and on to Potter Heigham. The wind died to nothing half a mile
from Potter and we motored against the tide and moored to the
South bank above the bridges at about 17:30 having passed a
great number of yachts quanting with the stream and making little
We tied up with Laura sleeping below and James
went off into Potter in search of meat for the evening meal.
I tidied around on deck and muttered under my breath as two
gin palaces went past far above the speed limits, causing a
frantic wash to hurl itself and Javelin against the piling.
On James' return, we raised the awnings hurriedly as an ominously
black cloud was flying down on us like the wrath of a vengeful
god (we can only hope in vengeance against inconsiderate stinkpotters...).
Two thunderstorms passed in close proximity with each other
and us, making us nervous for the mast, we couldn't see much
else standing 35 feet into the air! With the air cleared and
the awning peeled back (which had leaked badly in any case)
James and I volunteered laura to cook a rather good pasta bolognese.
After washing up I took advantage of the light airs to have
another look at the rigging of the dinghy and managed to solve
the problem of the boom. It was fastened to the mast (apparently)
by a length of chain with a shackle at either end, which in
turn fastened to a length of wire nailed to the boom. By adjusting
the shackles and chain I managed to achieve a sufferable arrangement,
and was left wanting only wind. Before too long we had battened
down the hatches for the night, hoping for a little more rest
than at Horsey!