Wandering Rose 2012

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River Cruiser: Wandering Rose (2012)

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From The Norfolk Broads Forum
Posted by Pizzalover, 15th June 2012

Technical Info.
Craft:Wandering Rose
Class:River Cruiser
Wandering Rose 2012

A Three Rivers Race diary


I have hired a motor cruiser for the week. My son Jake has asked if he can remain in Hampshire - so I'll be picking up the cruiser alone.

A complex sequence of events ensue. Rads and I have a couple of breakfasts. I collect Jake from Wroxham Station. We fit the metally-masty thing – including a wooden donut - to the mast. We fit a new Whisker Pole connection - though we are now unsure that it is actually a Whisker Pole. I eat once in the BroadShaven (my experience is not as bad as other crew-members had earlier) and once at the Falgate (OK - but I should have booked a table.) We put a lot of string onto the race boat - Wandering Rose - and take her to Horning.


My motor cruiser is moored on Horning Staithe. Rose is moored at the sailing club. The wind is howling down Horning Reach - sometimes it brings horizontal rain with it.

A yacht moored in front of us on the Staithe has a detached halyard which is threatening to disappear up the mast. BarnacleBill sets off to retrieve it - I suggest that he takes the boat hook off my cruiser.

It's a busy day. Boats are out on the river when they should not be. At one point, I'm on the foredeck of Rose - a motor cruiser crunches into the Mississippi Mud Queen, then into a red-hulled-yacht, and then churns in the direction of the yachts moored at the sailing club. There's a chance that four bowsprits will be hit at speed. But at the last second the cruiser changes course.

We really only have one task to finish on Rose - but it's the most awkward in these conditions - we need to fit her mainsail. There is only so much tea that you can drink to prepare yourself for such things. So we set to work - and other crew arrives - so in the end, we complete the task with nothing more than discomfort.

Race Day

The Crew Breakfast in the New Inn is excellent.

As expected, the briefing tells us that the start is delayed. So we've got several hours free.

BarnacleBill does a spot of varnishing.

We delay the inevitable trip to the pub as long as possible. During the 23rd strategy meeting, we discuss reefs. I ask if we can try to avoid using a mile of string and a hundred half hitches on each cringle.

This is a kind of drug for BarnacleBill, who has a string fetish. He comes up with a new quick-release reefing system - it only takes one pulley, one cleat - and a mile of string - to achieve... but it's remarkably effective.

In a normal 3RR, there is a curious pre-race race... everyone rushes vigorously from the sailing club as soon as the briefing is complete. But this year's pre-race race is lethargic.

We need to move Rose up Horning Reach out of the way of the earlier "starts". Since we have no engine, we beg a tow from the yacht alongside us. The two skippers agree a plan – the tow-yacht will head out into the river from her stern-on mooring... then we will pass Rose's bow rope to her stern... and they will tow us upstream. Everything goes according to plan for the first three seconds. We forget that the two boats still have a bow-to-bow rope keeping them together. The rope is quickly detached. Oh - and the crew on the tow-yacht don't all seem to know that they are a tow-yacht - and so get into a bit of a kerfuffle when handed our bow-rope.

Somehow, Rose’s stern is still on the sailing club moorings (maybe I did something wrong or right to achieve this.) We are also helped by a couple of helpful chaps who hold onto ropes for us (thanks guys.)

So we turn Rose fore and aft to face into wind and sail off.

We are into the start sequence. Neither I or SpeleoWhatsit have a watch- which is a bit poor, because one of us usually does the countdown. Jake has a watch, and accepts the role of timekeeper. But I fester with my phone as a backup. The 10 minute gun Bangs, and I hit "Start" on my phone. We put in some tacks, and I check my phone. It has, of course, turned off its display and is showing its home screen. We tack. I select the clock. We tack, I pick up the phone - and touch the screen - which stops the clock. The 5 minute gun Bangs, and Jake asks to compare my time with his - one thing is clear... I'm about 30 seconds out. The other thing that's clear is that I'm festering too much with the blessed “smart” phone. I ditch the phone and try to concentrate on ropes.

We are on the start line. Jake says "one" exactly one second before the gun Bangs.

We cross the line. I think we were first – but the skipper later tells me that we weren't (and he should know.) But it's academic, because there is a large hire cruiser right in our path, and we waste time getting round it. Once again, I wonder... what would it be like if they allowed rental cars out onto the circuit in Monaco at the start of the Grand Prix. We lose some more places going down the street – perhaps because we ended up on the poorer side of the river, possibly as a result of negotiating the motor cruiser.

Our nifty new de-reefing system is deployed when we are in the trees. We enjoy the sight of other crews wrestling with half hitches.

We are approaching the turn on the Ant below Ludham Bridge.

I note that the Skipper doesn't brief the crew that we need to be on our toes through the turn - maybe he sees the fear in our faces. We exchange comments with another yacht which is about to make the turn with us and a third boat... there's a kind of mutual agreement and trust that we'll all try not to screw up. We all make the turn cleanly (and - I think Rose gains two places in the process.) There is a round of applause from the bank.

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Wandering Rose approaching the mark
Wandering Rose at the mark

Fleet Dyke, and the token drop – is really easy. We wave to Sue as we turn.

Wandering Rose heading out of Fleet Dyke

The trip down the Bure and up the Thurne is blissfully uneventful.

There's a nice moment on the Thurne - Coriolis and Helen are on the bank, and call their good wishes to us.

We are approaching PH Bridge with the wind aft. SpeleoWhatsit at the mast is driving the boat, and is in the zone. He says, "Wait.... wait... OK" - the mast drops and we go under the bridge to a round of applause from above. I put in about six paddle strokes under the bridge, then switch to tangle-freeing duties. There are a couple of shouts from the stern under the bridge... “Wait... we aren't clear yet... OK... NOW!”

The mast swings back up, and the jib fills, all to another round of applause from above.

We sail to the new bridge, dip the mast, paddle and raise the mast again. Within seconds the mainsail is hoisted. I look across at another yacht on the shore labouring over their masting, her crew is watching us like a bunch of impressed meerkats.

The wind is dropping rapidly, and I'm a little disappointed that we have to sail out onto Heigham Sound for the turn - this is going to be a long night.

As we drift towards the turn, the Skipper takes a trip to the heads, and Jake takes the tiller.

The Skipper comes back on deck and works on topsail preparation duty. I hand the token forward - and Jake steers us round the mark, giving HungryDave plenty of time to drop the token into the bucket.

The topsail goes up - and gives us good time against the dying wind.

Back at Potter Bridge, we are into the wind, so can't sail through the bridges. SpeleoWhatsit drops the jib and the main - but (as agreed) leaves the topsail at the top of the mast.

We paddle easily through the bridge and start the mast-raise process. Except that this time, there is a topsail.- now washed and holding about 30 litres of water - at the end of the mast.

HungryDave is standing on the weights. SpeleoWhatsit is hauling on the forestay. Jake is on the cabin roof, pushing the mast up. I paddle, free stays from the cabin roof and paddle... and then go to join Jake. The four of us manhandle the rig into a vertical position. The boat starts to sail - backwards.

The topsail is dragging us back... to the bridge. We get the mast up. The mainsail is raised to about 80% of its height and jams.

BarnacleBill, at the helm, is trying to sail with two sails... neither of which are offering forward motion. The foredeck crew is overwhelmed... but are asked (OK... shouted at) to change priorities and get the jib up. This is achieved - and with a heart-fluttering moment that involves HungryDave taking a journey out onto the bowsprit for fending duties - we get control and start to sail.

The trip down to Acle Bridge and back is easy. The only notable things are that the wind is dropping to nothing and that it is getting cold.

We watch the moon rise - an orange slice of pizza. It's a beautiful night with a clear sky.

SpeleoWhatsit shares round some "very rough" medicinal rum. It must be medicinal, because it seems to make everyone cough.

We pass a Japonica which seems to be aground. It's one of those strange coincidences of life that one of her crew is Jake's geography teacher back in Hampshire. They exchange "Hello" in the darkness.

Jake goes below and serves us all with bacon rolls and coffee. Bacon rolls offer two tactical sailing advantages: they cheer our crew up and demoralize other crews as they smell the bacon.

Dawn comes early, but sunrise bides its time. We are outrunning the very evident tide – it's a bit weird to be sailing along with our own shroud of mist around us.

It's about 5am. We're drift-sailing into the lower reaches of Horning. Rads asks me to hold the boom out on the starboard side, since there isn't enough wind to ensure that it will stay there without some assistance.

So I'm seated on the cabin roof (which is slippery) with my heels on the toe-rail (which is slippery) and I have my arms on the boom (which is slippery.)

Despite the slipperiness of my situation, I'm safe - the boat is upright and we are doing about 1.6 mph.

Pippa Middleton comes out of the cabin. The skipper moves slightly to give her room to step silently onto the cabin roof behind me. She massages my aching shoulders gently. Oh heck, I've fallen asleep and am dreaming. I jolt awake.

I look back at Rads, who is seated on the very back of the boat. His eyelids droop. I wonder what HE is dreaming about. Then I worry that he might fall backwards into the water - but before I get to ask the skipper to give him a nudge, he rocks slightly forward and wakes.

And so we miss the story of the year, because it would have been a laugh if Rads and I had both gone overboard at the same time, and had been swimming after Rose, trying to catch up.

The sail back through Horning is gorgeous.

If only I wasn't cold and tired.

We are amongst 3 other River Cruisers from our start, fighting ferociously in almost no wind. Two of the boats engage in some sort of battle-of-the-gybes, a very advanced tactic that sees them slow to a dead halt as we drift through. Up the street, it is clear that one of the boats is sailing better than the rest and will overhaul us. There is so little wind it is difficult to tell where it is really coming from, so we ignore our burgee and copy our rival’s sail settings. We continue to be overhauled. Desperate not to be overtaken within the last 100 yards of this 35 mile race, we listen to what Rose has been telling us, set the sails to our burgee, and can feel her sigh of relief as she heels imperceptibly, picks up her skirts and takes us home at the front of our little pack.

We drop sails and paddle into the sailing club.

Breakfast is, as ever, splendid (thanks to the people who must have been on stand-by for more than 24 hours to provide it.)

The crew decides to leave the boat in a mess... we disperse in different directions.

It's about 10am. I'm in my bed in my cruiser - Jake is in his. We are enjoying a few hours sleep - disturbed somewhat by the noise of the Staithe and the boats around it. I hear the sound of the rear cabin door sliding shut - Rads, who has kipped for a couple of hours on our table-berth has slipped quietly away.

We take the motor cruiser back to Herbert Woods. As Jake reverses it into the mooring I move our dinghy to the bow - and let go of the painter. No worries - I can fish it out with the boathook. I look at the cabin roof - but there is no boathook. We left it on a hire yacht in Horning several days ago. I confess this loss to HW reception, but there is no charge.

And that's it. Apart from the mountain of laundry that is now sitting in front of my washing machine.

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