Tuesday, 27 October 2009

October 25-26, Hickling Broad, Norfolk

Time for the sailing season's coda...

Early (recklessly early) on the morning of October 24th, Daisy II was relieved of her sentry duty on the Orwell.  I woke up at 3am in St Ives (roughly high tide at Pin Mill) and, on a whim, decided there and then to head off to the coast to take the boat off her mooring, rather than to wait, as planned, until the tide later in the day.  Arriving at Pin Mill at about 4.30am, there was little time to lose, since the tide was already disappearing from the workable end of the hard.  Somehow, through wind and rain and almost pitch black darkness, I managed to take my dinghy out to the boat, start up the outboard, cast off, and feel my way back to shore.  How I didn't crash into other moored boats, I will never know.  I managed, only just, to ground the boat on the end of the hard, jumped off the boat and dragged her a few feet further aground, so that her bow was safely pointing towards land, and the stern was hanging over the edge of the Grindle.  I then waited for the tide to disappear, backed the trailer down the hard, and winched the boat onto the trailer from the mud.  By the time I was back up at the slipway, dawn was upon us.  Why do I do these things...?

A simple answer is a promised trip to the Norfolk Broads the following day.
Early afternoon on Sunday 25th, I launched Daisy II at Hickling Broad.  There are a number of options, here.  Whispering Reeds Boatyard offer a rather awkward slipway, with crooked access and, at over £10 each way, not inexpensive.  The pub landlord owns another slip which he has made some attempt at renovating although it still needs a little work done to bring it up to the standard of the last and best option of all.  There are a couple of Parish slipways which, at £4 for launching, and, by arrangement, provide a perfect starting point for a trip.  The picture shows the recovery of the boat, a day later.  The second of the parish slips can be seen in the background.  The slip is well maintained, consisting of a wooden slope of reasonable gradient, with a hard area at the top, and eminently sensible as a launching option.  I gather there is a sill over which one must not take the trailer wheels, but, launching with swinging cradle trailers, we Drascombers don't like the water lapping any higher than the top of the lower rim of the tyre, so the sill provides no danger.  There is plenty of room for the boat to float off the rear of the trailer and, although the canal leading down to the Broad is heavily congested with moored boats, there is sufficient room to tie up whilst finding a home for car and trailer, prior to a gentle motor round to the public moorings.

The Broads have a series of short visit tolls which are expensive for the two day visit I had planned. It is a pity they do not offer a daily or two day option.  Tolls can be paid for at the boatyard at Hickling.

I chose to base my trip from the public moorings owned by the pub - £3 per night.  The landlord is most accommodating, and there are some fine beers on tap - the food looks good too, but in this respect I was catering for myself...

Over the two days, I managed a number of trips across Hickling Broad, and along into Horsey Mere.  Both stretches of water provide a fantastic, virtually non-tidal (there is still a small rise and fall this far from Great Yarmouth) sailing environment.  The GPS track shows that I had a good go at 'colouring in' both Hickling Broad (on the West of the image) and Horsey Mere.  (Total distance travelled: 24.5nm.)  On the Sunday and for the first half of Monday, winds were a fresh F4 gusting 5.  Later on Monday, a more consistent F3 allowed for some fantastic sailing with all three up.

The depth of water on both stretches rarely exceeds a metre, as shown by my echo sounder, but there is a workable consistency of depth for a Drascombe with a dropping centre plate which seems to provide access to the whole broad, barring the odd obstruction invariably marked out by convenient withies.  I have heard reports of problems with weeds on centreplates in the summer, but encountered no such issues on this trip.

I have to confess, I was brought up with Exmoor as a backdrop and, having been spoilt from such an early age, miss the landscapes offered by rugged moorland.  However, East Anglia offers its own peculiar charm.  I referred to this in my account of the area around Orford Ness and Snape Maltings.  The Norfolk Broads offers a similarly inspiring landscape.  There is something truly magical about the combination of wind, reeds and water.  Thanks to an inconveniently narrow bridge at Potter Heigham, the Hickling and Horsey area of the Broads is far less cluttered with hire boats and, for the most part, boaters, fisherpersons and nature lovers are able to indulge in their respective hobbies free from reckless interference...

This picture shows the inviting view from Hickling Staithe, onto Hickling Broad.

The trip from Hickling to Horsey Mere.  When reached, Horsey Mere is another hidden gem, perfect for sailing, and has the added attraction of a National Trust Mill, together with a pleasant walk to the coast - this corner of the Broads is only a couple of miles from the North Sea coast...

The total GPS track for the season now stands at 348.9nm.  Whilst the boat will now stay off her mooring until next Spring, I'm planning a couple of trips to some inland reservoirs - such as Rutland Water - prior to putting on the wraps for winter...!

A cornucopia of late Sept, early October tracks on the River Orwell!

Various tracks from Early October and late September, including another jaunt up to Ipswich.  Total distance: 13.8nm