Norfolk Broads Cruise (August 1961)

Norfolk Broads Cruise, August 1961

By Unknown

TOWARDS the end of August 1961, Mr. Jefford and Mr. Ridge drove six boys down to Wroxham boatyard in Norfolk where we calmly took nominal control of one of the largest yachts that we could hire. The boat was large in length and height rather than capacity, for the long shallow hull contained cramped living space surrounded by ample room, technically known as the bilges, for water to seap into. and be laboriously pumped out of every morning. The roof was lower than the head, though most people in practice refused to accept this, and the bunk or floor, whichever one slept on, was shorter than the body. Our immense stock of canned provisions was delicately eased into numerous dark little storage holes which, I believe, terminated somewhere with the water in the bilges. A sad looking boatman despatched us quickly with wise stoicism.

Fortunately we were not all inexperienced amateurs for Mr. Ridge, looking supremely nautical with a luxuriant beard, had obviously done it all before, as had Mr. Jefford who calmly took control of the less romantic though equally necessary task of cooking.

The warm yet windy weather was excellent for sailing and on that same day we rashly sailed into Wroxham Broad. The first experience in a reasonably strong wind of a yacht under sail, that dangerous, uncontrollable, nautical anachronism, is unique. You are responsible for the power and yet it is beyond your direction. One searches for the panic button that casts away mast and sails - there is none. Somehow, the nautical Mr. Ridge, who seemed to be enjoying it and actually took us back there the next morning, kept everything afloat, though nothing in place.

Night life on the Silver Arrow was remarkable. After a meal, which Mr. Jefford miraculously managed to produce three times a day, and the strange, sinister nocturnal doings of the crew, equalled only by their strange, sinister day-time activities, we all wedged ourselves into our respective little recesses. When everybody had finished tucking other people's heads in and those on the bunks had finished jumping onto those on the floor, most of us went to sleep.

Eventually, like the boatman, we became resigned to the life, disregarding all but the most exceptional hazards. The perils of tacking in narrow rivers and lowering the mast before every bridge no longer worried us. By the time we reached Yarmouth, turning left for Norwich at the corporation rubbish dump, we had actually begun to enjoy it.

We stayed for a few hours at Norwich to enjoy the amenities of dry land and then gradually made our way back to the boatyard. It must be remembered that we were now all experts who would even lie on the deck in the warm sun relaxing and admiring the scenery while we were under sail. It was on one such occasion, a few days later, while we were using the auxiliary engine, that we ran out of petrol and the engine stopped. We calmly began to hoist the sails and drifted gracefully on to a mud bank on the height of the last spring tide of the year. We sat up that night while sea-going colliers and converted naval gun-boats ploughed past, rocking our leaning boat perilously, even though there was little of it still in the water. We failed to get off on the high tide that night and had to wait until the next when we did finally manage to float ourselves. As the weather turned dull and wet we hurried back to the boatyard to hand over our yacht.

Despite the difficulties the trip was wholly enjoyable and we feel indebted to the gentlemen who took us.

1960-61 School Magazine



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