Wandering Rose 2011
River Cruiser: Wandering Rose (2011)
From The Norfolk Broads Forum
Posted by Pizzalover, 22th June 2011
A Three Rivers Race diary
All of this is from a very poor memory. Some of it could be wrong.
It's late in May. The crew is exchanging emails: who is coming? when? what is needed? does anyone not want kidney in their pie? Oh - and - where exactly IS the boat, and what are the chances of her actually being ready?
It's the weekend before.
I visit chandleries and make the following purchases:: - Yet another life-jacket for my son Jake (ship's cabin boy) - he seems to have grown again over the winter. - Two bulbs for a nav light (I explain to the bored guy in the chandlers that we only need one but don't know which one. He fakes a smile as he takes my money.) - Two hats (at least one is lost on every race.) - On impulse, a roll of extra sticky gaffa tape (call me a pessimist.)
Thursday before the race.
On the yacht in Norfolk, BarnacleBill (BB) and crewmember Rads are solving a rather odd problem, The yacht has just been fitted with a new mast - replacing the one which was broken in the huge squall on Barton Broad last August. The problem is that the top part of the mast is facing the wrong way. Masts are constructed of many parts which are bonded together. And this mast is sensibly based on the old mast. But the top six feet are back-to-front. This isn't a big deal... it just means that some things need to be turned around - and all the ropes that come down one side of the mast now need to come down the other side. (Astonishingly, this doesn't cause a problem in crew brains later when we race.)
Meanwhile, at home, I am trying to solve a work problem which needs a couple of hours of straight concentration... but am interrupted by many things (most of which are caused by me.) In the end, I decide to drive to Norfolk now, and not tomorrow at dawn. We leave home at about 4pm - just in time for the M25 queues at Heathrow, and to be stuck at Elvedon. Ideas of a nice dinner in a Coltishall pub are forgotten as we are too close to Last Food Orders. So we decide to pick up chips in Wroxham. The chippy is closed at 8:30pm! But the fish/chip restaurant on the Wroxham side of the bridge is open, and we collect a pretty good takeaway of Sausage and Chips, and enjoy them on the terrace at our B&B.... the excellent Bridge House in Coltishall.
Friday before the race.
Full English Breakfast at Bridge House: the best way to start any 3RR.
I'm hanging over the bow of Wandering Rose with a screwdriver in one hand and a bulb in the other. I lever the casing off the navigation light, and wedge it under my shoulder. Why do they put things on boats in such awkward places? Carefully I bend the light contacts together, hoping that they will grip the bulb - and I slip the bulb into place. We don't have the boat's battery, we have a spare one - which doesn't have the right connectors. So - for the test, the kid is at one end of the boat holding contacts against the battery posts, and I'm at the other end of the boat, hanging off the front. The light doesn't work - but then, nothing does. So we hunt for the isolation switch - and then the isolation switch key - and bingo, the lights come on.
The morning is lovely. As the shadow of the boatshed creeps back, bringing sunshine towards us, we drill holes (sunscreen makes a good lubricant when drilling aluminium) and we fit the mainsail.
It's time to eat, but we decide to quench thirsts before feeding, so pop into the BroadShaven. Seated at the bar is our old NBF friend Roy. It's nice to see him again. We give him spectator guidance for the race, and go out into the sunshine to drink. From our position in the pub gardens, we study our yacht on the other side of the river, trying to identify misplaced ropes from a distance of 200yds.
After pre-prandial cocktails, we walk over to the burger van. The couple who run it - I guess a husband and wife - cheerfully serve out food and banter. The guy forgets to heat our rolls. His wife gives him The Look. I say, "I guess you've just blown your chances in the Employee Of The Month competition." He says, "Again."
Rose is ready to go - we paddle through the bridge, then sail down to Thurne Dyke on the jib alone before hoisting a reefed main to sail for Horning.
We moor in front of the Mud Queen - and again I notice how hostile the Swan has become to boats.... the Swan used to be a hive of boating activity on 3RR Friday, but it isn't now.
The crew assembles, and drinks The Swan dry (I'm sure that we had some help.)
Jake and I spend the night as guests of MudweightDave and FemaleDave on their yacht. FemaleDave uses her iPhone to record snoring.
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In what is becoming a tradition, we have a Full English Breakfast (yep, number 2 of this account) in the New Inn with Craig. Perhaps the Norfolk Broads Forum could have a mini-breakfast-meet on 3RR day?
We lower the mast - for reasons that are too tedious to describe, we can't hoist a burgee, so we get a block of wood and stick it and the burgee to the top of the mast (at some point, a fishing net is bought... which is cleverer that might be obvious, but I think was unneeded.) I should also note that we had an excellent innovation this year - a masthead light to illuminate the burgee.
At the briefing I chat to Gary - but there is cloud this year, so I don't need the shade.
I count us down with the usual accuracy, "nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, " BANG. We pass across the line behind several other boats, saving them the trouble of passing us later.
There are plenty of waves from the people on the shore, and plenty of waves from the water in the river.
Lord Paul shouts out a hello as we tear past.... but we are gone in seconds, we are shifting so fast.
Somewhere around the waterworks we have a racing incident. Forgive me for not going into detail - but in summary, three yachts try to fit into a very small space, and there is not enough room for them. The result is that one yacht retires hurt - something which saddens everyone.
So, glumly, we continue the race.
The crew is working like a well oiled machine which has been thrown together in a hurry. We tack effortfully down-river, and are suddenly alerted by a crack above. The crosstrees - a strip of wood which looks like a crucifix at the top half of the mast - has come adrift. This is a problem - the crosstrees hold the shrouds, which support the mast. Without that support, Bad Things Will Happen. The skipper dumps the boat into the reeds, we drop sails and crewmember SpeleoThingy lashes the crosstrees back to the mast. The problem is not big, the solution is not hard - but it's cost us half an hour.
We zip up the Ant and try to look cheerful on the turn, which goes well. I go below to mark our times on the sheet and get the South Walsham token.... and almost as soon as I'm back on deck, we are approaching the mark.
OK, so all that we have to do is sail up to a large yellow buoy which has a laundry basket strapped round it - and deposit our token into it.
But this is Fleet Dyke, which is one of those wind-spiral places - every gust comes from a different direction (and that's on a good day.) Our first attempt at passing the marker would be excellent if my arms were longer - but I don't attempt to chuck the token (hey guys... maybe somebody else should be token chucker?)
Our second attempt is so muddled with the third attempt that it's hard to tell how it went. Hah - now we are on it. A perfect line for the mark. Yep - perfect. We are pushed by the wind right over the marker buoy. I don't drop the token because I'm not sure if we have rounded the marker to port or starboard, since we have gone right over it and it's under the boat. But worse! We have succeeded in emptying the whole basket of its tokens. We sail round for our next attempt amid a shoal of tokens.
Finally we make a clean pass of the marker - and I toss ours. It ricochets off the buoy, bounces off the rim of the basket, and plops into the river to join its sinking friends. We look to the guard ship for guidance, but I think they are too stunned to have any firm views.
Somewhere up the Thurne, before we get to the Potter bungalows, we are making good progress against another yacht - both of us tacking our socks off. Then things go a bit wrong - they slow down at the wrong moment and we can't slow down fast enough and we bump rather nastily into them. The two boats then lock together in a deadly embrace and pirouette together. I am lumbering my way to the foredeck to see what might be done to solve the problem. Two streaks of lightening pass me. One is HungryDave, but I'm not sure of the other one until I see our skipper standing on the river bank about 25 yards away. The two yachts are no longer connected - and we are drifting away with the sails filling. From the foredeck, I look back at the well to see a convivial group of crew having a chat. I, er, suggest, that somebody should take the helm. Rads, from the Gorilla Pit, delegates to Jake, who does a quick assessment of the situation and hands over to SpeleoDoodah - who I guess had done a lightening run from another end of the boat. We tidy, get control, and cruise past the bank to collect the skipper. I try to help, but probably just make things harder, by grabbing the skipper from the bank and hauling him in my direction. We come to a rest in the reeds and are back into reefing duties.
NBF forum friend Gary and his crew-mate Neil neatly drop into the reeds behind us, and we refill Gary's mug with tea (surely, we think, this could not be deemed as Outside Assistance.)
The only way that we can get going again is to sail off under mainsail alone, and we make good progress that way into the bungalows. Our biggest problem at the moment is not really big - and it's a problem for several other people. One of the electric day boats insists on trying to creep past us on every tack. We run out of hand signals and polite requests to ask the helm - who seems to be on a different planet - to hold off.
To be fair, the day boat never shifts out of tick-over for the whole process, and slips (with engine still running) into various mooring slots until the wind blows it out again, so that it can quietly pursue us once more.
Somewhere around Maycraft we have a problem - the various moored boats make the river so narrow that it's almost impossible to get any way on during a tack to turn. Oh - and yes, the magnetic day boat is sniffing our transom in the same way that some dogs have of sniffing other dogs. There are other boats around too. It's a bit like trying to find your way through a crowded pub with a bunch of zombie drinkers following you around. We take a couple of attempts to get through. There's a chap stood on a mountain of a motor cruiser. He knows what we should do! He implores us to raise our foresail. Hmmm - so we have a stallion of a race boat which is controllable but is in a confined space. And he wants us to raise another sail, which will make us faster and give us less control. And he wants us to do it next to his big shiny boat. We decline his advice and sail off for the bridge.
We're doing pretty well without a jib - but somewhere around here, we drag the big foresail from the forepeak hole and hoist the smaller one.
Our upstream passage of the Potter Bridges is pretty good - it's a long paddling haul between the two of them, but everything is smooth.
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We are in among the Potter bungalows. A tack comes rather late, and the front end of the bowsprit passes over a lawn. Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but there is a mooring post in the lawn - and we are going to snag on it. The bungalow owner, seeing the problem that is about to happen, cheerfully rushes to our aid. He neatly and easily plucks the post out of its socket in the ground. The bowsprit passes over the socket; we continue the tack gracefully; and the nice chap re-inserts the post, as if he does this regularly.
As is usual, the crew rests on Hickling - we wedge down some food and drink. FemaleDave knows how to keep a yacht crew happy and has been baking. We are treated to Banana Bread and Flapjacks (described appreciatively by HungryDave as "Syrup held together by oats..") There are also Salmon sandwiches, courtesy of MrsBarnacleBill and some Cheese and Pickle rolls which MudweightDave, The Kid and I assembled on an inept production line at Early O’clock..
Coming towards us is a dinghy with two guys trapezing out over the water. Our crew is impressed, and discuss the effect of them passing us. As they pass, I shout, "Wind shadow" - and on cue, they are dipped into the water.
The token goes into the marker buoy such little fuss, we wonder why it was so hard on South Walsham. And we begin a surf down-river.
We pass NBF forum friend Gary and his crew-mate Neil for the fifth or sixth time. I suggest that it would have been easier if they had simply come with us.
As the Potter Bridges loom, we dig out the crutches (which hold the mast when it's down) and the paddles. The wind is right behind us. We drop the main sail and slide the gaff to the side, so that it won't be in the way when the mast drops. As the first bridge appears overhead, the mast and jib come down together - and we glide under. "Why not put them up again between the bridges like the little boats do?" I ask. And so we do. Between the bridges, the mast goes back up with the jib attached, and we sail. As the old bridge appears, Speleologist drops the rig again - and we glide under the old bridge. Then it's just a case of getting the whole rig up again - and we are under jib and main before the first bungalow - and most of the paddles are still dry.
Potter to Acle is a sprint.
Acle Bridge is in view. We send The Kid below to fetch crutches and paddles from the tumble-drier cabin. I put the paddles on the roof. The boat lurches, and a paddle skates neatly into the water. The skipper dives to grab it, almost going overboard. He crawls back to safety, without the paddle, or the hat that he had been wearing. Thus, we maintain our tradition of hat loss.
At the bridge, the mast barely touches the crutches before it's up and pulling again. As we pass the Bridge Inn, we scuff against a boat and pick up fender from it. Jake notes the name of the boat - fortunately it belongs to a forum member and so we can easily work out a plan to return or replace it.
We round the Bure marker and start the hard but incredibly satisfying tack back up.
We are tacking somewhere around Upton. I'm on one side with one jib sheet and backstay. FemaleDave and Jake are on the other side on the other jib sheet and backstay. We work through tack after tack, then there's a sudden squeaking, yelping, exploding fart - and a cloud engulfs the well. Shocked, everyone tries to work out what has happened. The Kid has rested onto the fire extinguisher and set it off. The well is full of powder and laughter.
After Thurne Mouth, the wind is in our favour, and Rose charges off again - the GPS log shows 8mph at one point (though this is later disputed.)
By the time we get to St Benets, we are all tired. Robin, on the foredeck, has quanted; raised and lowered the mast several times and has been yelled at continuously to free the jib sheet. The well crew has worked the jib sheets through more tacks than I can count. The skipper has fought the tiller for the entire race - he says something rare and remarkable... something like, "I never thought that I'd look forward to shelter of the trees in Horning." David on the back has been playing tug-of-war with the mainsheet for 12 hours and has rope burns. The concentration has been pretty intense through the whole race, with little chance to rest.
Now the main thought is: will the wind hold? The normal process for us is to get so near to the finish - and then to be becalmed. On the bend downstream from the Ferry - we stall, and the wind holds its breath. I hold mine too. Then there is a gust, and we are off again. We cream past the New Inn and in minutes, not hours, we are moored at the sailing club. The mug of tea is wonderful - and I tuck into the third Full English Breakfast of the weekend.
The Morning After
After what could almost be described as a full night's sleep, four of us enjoy ANOTHER cooked breakfast at the excellent Riverside Tea Room at Stokesby. We go back to Rose to tidy things up - putting most of our stuff and some of other people's stuff into our bags. And that's it. We hop into the car and head for home. The Kid sleeps for most of the journey. I pause briefly for a double espresso.... it's been a tiring weekend.
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