Wandering Rose 2010

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River Cruiser: Wandering Rose (2010)

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From The Norfolk Broads Forum
Posted by Pizzalover, 18th June 2010

Technical Info.
Craft:Wandering Rose
Class:River Cruiser

A Three Rivers Race diary

Most of this is fairly true… but the timing is a total mess.

Race Day

I fetch my car from the Ferry Marina car park. It’s spent a week under a tree, and is pebble-dashed with blobs of bird poo. For a while, Jake refers to it as duck poo, but then realizes that it’s rare to see a duck in a tree. I wince as the wiper blades scrape off enough for me to see to drive. We load the mountain of cruiser-holiday stuff into the boot. Rads gets a hose pipe, Jake gets the mop off the boat, and they give the windscreen a scrub. Even with that, the car is still covered. Norfolk birds must eat Araldite. As I drive through Horning, I feel like I’m a Spitfire pilot in one of those WW2 movies, stating out of a splattered windscreen.

It’s 8am. In the next 120 minutes, I need to be in several places at the same time: The New Inn for breakfast; Coltishall to book into a B&B; Roys to buy a frying pan; Norfolk Marine to enable string purchase (yep, the Whisker Pole Downhall mechanism needs even more string.) Oh, and I also need to be on the boat to sign the race form which confirms that I was healthy and sane before the race. Finally, I try to run Helen over before dumping my car at the village hall.

The briefing

The briefing is hot. Fortunately, Gary comes to stand next to me, so I am in the shade. Colin Facey, the race controller is stepping down after this race, and his daughter will be race controller next year. In his speech, tells us that members of the race committee are “carrying on” with his daughter… that gets a good laugh.

Briefing over, we all rush back to our boats. The small boats, which will start first, are first to leave their moorings, and fill the area around the Swan and up the Reach. The larger boats, which will start later, so need to be further up-river now need to make their way through the gaggle of small craft to get to a suitable waiting place.

The River Cruisers wait. Some make tea, some eat lunch. One gets itself glued nicely onto the lee-shore and entertains us with its efforts to get off (we’ve all been there.)

A good start

Our start this year[1] is not “awesome” (followed by “poor”) – instead, we make a respectable start, and head down the street. My memories of previous years are of a reach or run down the street – a chance for the crew to pose for pictures and enjoy being in the throng without having to actually work (except, maybe, to act as a human fender.) But this year, we are working against the wind. I’m on a jib sheet, trying to do my best while listening to the shouts between the various skippers. At some point over the weekend, I had a chat with our skipper about the odd relationship that the various helms must have… they are, at the same time: friends and adversaries; they have a mutual respect – but they also carry baggage of previous encounters.

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Wandering Rose & Joy heading for the mark

This is going to be a tacking race, and the crew works well. It’s not just a case of getting the jib from one side to the other – Rose has running backstays which need to be set – and just as importantly – unset. And the Gorilla in the gorilla-pit isn’t just dangling on that mainsheet – he’s trying hard to get the best out of the sail on every tack, and at the same time watches the whole boat. The chap in the forepeak-pit is not just there to be out of the way – he is the problem solver, constantly being yelled at to fix things or tighten them (we only ever tighten things on Rose – you never hear the phrase, “Oh, I say, that rope is about to pull the mast down, would you mind just easing it off a touch.”

River Ant

We turn into the Ant – an easy reach in both directions. As we approach the turn, it’s nice (and scary) to see a throng of spectators. There are perhaps half a dozen race boats in the short, narrow bit of river around the mark… and there are also a couple of day boats. This is equivalent to having a couple of learner drivers joining the second lap of the Monaco Grand Prix in their Minis. We round the mark[2] – one of the day boats causes us to lose a hat. But the other day boat, ahead of us, is causing serious grief to other racers… and if the problem isn’t sorted, will cause grief to us. The day boat is bobbing hopelessly in the river in everyone’s way, and a fantastic thing happens. The audience, as one person, yells, “FORWARD” – and the day boat lunges ahead. That gets it out of one problem, but there is another. Again, the audience, in unison, yells, “REVERSE” – and the day boat surges backwards. What a remarkable situation. Everyone in the area knows what the day boat should do… except the fools who were actually on the boat.

We are close to the end of the Ant, about to rejoin the Bure. There is a day boat behind us, driving itself through a small tree. There are some young ladies aboard. One of our crew looks back on the scene and calls out, “Nice bush.”

Jake asks if anyone wants anything to eat. HungryDave says no! MudweightDave suggests that we should check HungryDave’s temperature. I suggest that we should check for a pulse.

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Wandering Rose crew concentrating

We approach the South Walsham mark. Ahead of us is the yacht, “Joy.” One of her crew is about to drop their token into the bucket. Our crew chant, “Miss. Miss. Miss.” But to no avail – the token is dropped successfully. Now we approach the mark, and Joy’s crew attempt revenge, calling, “Miss. Miss.” as I prepare to drop. We are going so slowly that the drop is easy. “Now,” I say loudly, “which token do I need to remove?”

Under the bridge to Hickling

The mast is down. The skipper notices that the topsail halyard is not through its block at the top of the mast… which is about three feet behind the back of the boat. He climbs on to the top of the horizontal mast and crawls out along it. Just above the transom, he slips… the next destination might be the aft deck, or might be the river – but Rads is there to catch him. The skipper is hoisted back onto the mast as if he was a small child.

We are on Hickling Broad, heading for the mark. Someone notices that we have a tear in our fore-sail, close to the top. So we begin one of those situations where the crew are all vigorously working on their own tasks, which need to slot together. We come off the racing line, into wind. The fore-sail is dropped, and gaffa tape is applied (later we agree that NASA must surely send a roll of the stuff up in the Shuttle tool box.) The sail goes back up, we turn, and I drop the token in the bucket.

Has anyone ever noticed that it’s a bit shallow in Heigham Sound? We drag the keel for most of our passage through it. Someone comes up with a brilliant idea – if we heel the boat enough, we can lift the keel by enough to prevent us from getting totally stuck. So everyone moves to the lee side. HungryDave and Jake are hanging off the shrouds, doing the opposite of what dinghy sailors do when they are hiking. I’m on the cabin roof, leaning out over Jake, also hanging on to the shrouds, intently aware that the three of us are being supported from total wetness by a few shackles and some fraying string. If our support breaks, there will be three Men Over Board… and the yacht will have lost her mast, so won’t be able to come back to fetch us.

The shallowness of Heigham Sound IS a disgrace. I see at least two yachts firmly aground in the middle of the channel – one of which has to retire from the race.

There’s a bit of a raft forming in Candle Dyke. We have multiple meetings with a small boat with two nice chaps on board. Prompted by the boats name, I comment, “That’s the trouble with Boomerangs – they keep coming back.” For some reason, we want to pass them beer, but sadly it never happens.

We pass a moored yacht. Its mast is down and so horizontal on its crutches. The yacht is bobbing gently, rhythmically, and as a result, the end of the mast is bouncing through an arc of at least two feet. But the water is calm. Someone in our crew observes that there must be some adult activity going on in the cabin to cause the pumping of the mast.

Wandering Rose

We are cruising nicely downstream to Potter Bridge. As we come close, we just need to drop the sails, then the mast, and cream through. But with the new bridge looming, the main-sail is firmly sticking to the top of the mast. Oh – and the topsail too. The skipper calls for the whole rig to be brought down, still hoisted. I don’t know what it was like for the rest of the crew, but my bit was heavy.

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As we paddle through the bridges, I see Fendoff (another nickname) with a camera and smile at the thought that others will be delighting in our struggles when he posts the pictures. Also, someone calls at us from the bridge. We wonder who… and one of us claims that it’s Malcolm … which, on reflection would be impressive, since he was in another boat.

We are on the Potter Bridge pilot mooring, trying to rebuild a River Cruiser from the pile of rigging on it. I fear that the task is impossible, and want to start from scratch: take everything off, put it on the shore, and rebuild from there. The mess on board really is a nightmare. You know spaghetti? When you take it out of the packet it’s easy to deal with… you could drop a pile of it, and then get it back into a neat handful in a few seconds. Well, our situation is one of trying to straighten out spaghetti after it has been cooked. Amazingly (truly amazingly) there was a deft bit of, “that needs to be on the other side of that,” and “this needs to be over there,” and a final, “let’s give it a try” – and the mast goes up, closely followed by the sails.

Down the Bure

We are at Stokesby – an excellent turning point, if it wasn’t so far south. We make the turn and head back towards Acle. And then we start to sail backwards to Stokesby. A small boat, coming the other way, yet to round the mark, drifts downstream. But we are faster than them! We are sailing backwards faster than they are forwards.

Eventually we are at Acle Bridge, heading upstream for home. We are so good that we get the sails and mast down in near record time – about ten minutes too early. I (and others) am paddling like fury against a tide which has refused to turn. This is true sweat making stuff. With all paddle engines going at full throttle, we park about 10ft off of the riverside under the bridge. I am exhausted and hand over to someone else and take the tiller. There’s no choice but to pause ashore. We get our breath back and restart. As soon as the sails are back up, we can make progress again.

Somewhere between Acle and Horning, progress is slow but simple. Jake goes below to make bacon rolls for all, and the crew waits in eager anticipation, with sounds of sizzling and odours of slabs of Roys best smoked rashers drifting from the cabin on still air.

A boat ahead of us confirms that it is stationary, and that we will therefore have to navigate around it at 0.1 MPH.

There is a momentary puff of wind, then a pause, then a force 6 blow. The crew staggers into action. The best solution to the wind conditions is to sail through it, but that means that everyone must work hard. Jake, who fifteen seconds earlier had been in a calm cabin cooking bacon, hands out two rolls. One goes to the back of the boat and I take the other. I take two bites, but we are tacking so fast that I don’t have enough hands or mouths, so with great annoyance lob it over the side. Jake locks down the cabin – gas off, pan safe – and comes out to help in the melee.

It would be nice if the wind held, but it doesn’t. Instead it turns to rain.

Final drift home

We drift nicely back into Horning and I make sure that I am smiling when Craig points his camera at us.

It’s 6am, so time for breakfast back at the sailing club. The crew tucks in – all except Jake, who has been snacking all night (“If I eat a cooked breakfast now, you will see it twice”) He tidies the cabin as we eat. I am aware of a steady passage of clinking carrier bags between boat and bottle bank.

The crew scatters. Jake and I spend a few hours in our B&B, showering, bathing and sleeping.

Tidying up

At lunchtime on Sunday – or, if you were to look at our body clocks, 3am on Tuesday – BarnacleBill, Jake and I set off under sail from Horning to take Rose back to her mooring. The skipper tries a number of towing options, but fails – and, hey, conditions are perfect for a drift sail. Or, at least, they would be if we were wide awake, unhurried and in a position to open the bottle of cheap fizz that is in the boot of my car. But we are tired, and have other things to do, such as driving to Hampshire. Oh, and it is abundantly clear that rain is coming.

To our rescue comes the yacht Vixen, who tows us for half our route – and importantly – out of the wind-shade of Horning. We sail to the mooring, arriving, as predicted, in a downpour.

And that’s about it. The only thing left is a car drive home – with the briefest of pauses at J24 on the M25 to return left luggage to crew.


  1. A video of Wandering Rose's start by David Moore
  2. A video of Wandering Rose rounding the mark by David Moore

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