Posts Tagged ‘wherry’

Afloat on the Broads

Monday, May 27th, 2019

Earlier this month saw me taking my first paddle on the Broads in a long time. It was something of a trial run to see how I would cope with reflected glare after my third bout of eye surgery the previous week. The staithe at Barton Turf is an easy launching point, and a short paddle along a channel brings you out into the northern end of Barton Broad, one of my favourite paddling locations. Nelson’s sister lived in nearby Barton Hall, and he used to sail on the broad whenever he came to visit. Legend has it he lost a chain and locket in the water here.

The plan was to paddle south down the broad, and then continue along the River Ant until I felt it was time to turn round and start back. I was amazingly lucky to see not just one but two grand old ladies of the Broads. Under sail on Barton Broad was the historic trading wherry Albion (built in 1898), which I’ve been fortunate enough to sail on twice. Down the river at How Hill I found the pleasure wherry Hathor (built in 1905 for the Colman mustard family). I didn’t tie up here, but I’ve been on board before, and the Egyptian-themed interiors are quite remarkable.

How Hill was as far as I got, and by the time I emerged onto the southern end of Barton Broad for the final leg of the return journey, the breeze had got up. While inflatable kayaks are great for their portability, and stability afloat, the fact that they’re on average half the weight and twice the surface area of a comparable hard-shell does make them more susceptible to wind. I was being blown off-course so much, it was actually easier to retrace the track on my GPS watch rather than navigate by line of sight. Even so, a most enjoyable round trip of just under six miles.

Click here for my Kindle guide to the Broads: “The Broads – A unique National Park

Sailing through history

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

I’ve had two sailing experiences in the last couple of months, very different from one another. The first was a return visit for me, on the historic sailing Broads trading wherry Albion. It was her first trip out this year, and the idea was to celebrate the launch of a new beer created in her honour. Called Jenny Morgan, after the figure on the wind vane at the top of Albion’s mast, a firkin of Green Jack Brewery‘s tasty new brew had pride of place on her foredeck as we sailed from her base on Womack Water to the Maltsters pub at Ranworth.

Here we were met by the Golden Star Morris dancers from Norwich, who ceremonially danced the beer from the quayside to the pub. I’d been told that the beer would actually need to settle for a couple of days before it could be served, and was therefore relieved to hear the pub had some already in place, so I did get to sample a couple of pints. And for every pint sold, a percentage of the profit goes to the Wherry Albion Trust to help keep the grand old lady of the Broads afloat.

Funnily enough, while hoisting Albion’s sail involved pretty hard work turning the handle on a winch, my next spot of sail-raising was rather less tiring. A day trip from Harwich saw me on the 47ft sailing yacht Viking Blue, where all I had to do was push a button and watch the sail go up the mast! The boat was operated by Ipswich-based Viking Mariners, and I was on a trip which included a night in The Pier Hotel, a lovely boutique hotel in old Harwich. The town has a long history both as military and commercial port, as well as the HQ of Trinity House, the organisation which looks after all the lighthouses and navigation buoys in British waters. All that nautical history is ingrained in the hotel, where I had a room with a fantastic view across the harbour, and the quirky Ha’penny Pier.

It was from here that I set off with one or two other guests from the hotel on Viking Blue. It was one of those days where people could do as much or as little as they wanted, so apart from pushing the button to raise the sail, I did, along with my fellow guests, get to take a turn at the helm. It’s a fascinating area to sail – just across the water from Harwich is the huge container port of Felixstowe, at the confluence of the rivers Orwell and Stour. We cruised along the coast for a while before exploring the rivers. And while we didn’t quite make it as far as the impressive Orwell Bridge, we did pass historic Pin Mill, once the place where Thames sailing barges came to be repaired, and the subject of two of Arthur Ransome’s famous “Swallows and Amazons” books.

Yachting as an activity began in the Netherlands in the 17th century, so it’s logical that here would be the place where it first started in England. It was certainly much in evidence the day I was there – modern craft with brightly coloured spinnakers ballooning in front of them, and a variety of traditional wooden boats taking it rather more leisurely. As for me, not having been at sea in a small boat for quite some time, it was nice to note I still have good sea legs!