We left Potter Heigham after another coronary-inducing session raising the mast, and motored past the bungalows before getting the sails up. The Thurne is broader below the bridge and we had a pleasant sail down to Thurne Mouth and into the Bure. We reached St Bennet’s Abbey about 5, turned into Fleet Dyke and moored up.
Next morning the wind had shifted so we decided to motor up to Horning or beyond and then see if we could sail back down to Potter. The Bure was a delight, twisting and turning through lines of trees. To begin with the traffic was relatively light. But of course this was a bank holiday weekend and it didn’t last. At Horning Ferry we began to get a glimpse of what we were in for and at Horning itself we turned round, left the pubs advertising amusement arcades and quad bikes, the day boats and hire cruisers, and made a break for the peaceful stretch of the Bure we’d just abandoned. Of course by now it wasn’t nearly so peaceful.
Sailing was interesting. The twisting river course and the banks of trees kept us guessing but we made it to Thurne Mouth without too much difficulty. Our problems started when we turned into the Thurne. From this point we were tacking – not very efficiently, it must be said. Nevertheless we managed to keep going. I think on an empty river I might have got away with it, but we were faced with a steady stream of cruisers moving in both directions. It was only a matter of time before we lost momentum on the wrong side of the river, and sure enough on the last bend before the river would have put the wind astern to take us into Potter Heigham we were stranded in the reeds on a lee shore. Fortunately we knew what to do in this situation – haul down the sails and get the kettle on.
I was sitting below quietly telling myself not to worry because Gypsy Roma was obviously a little less agile than the broads sailing boats when the sky darkened, the water was sucked from under us and what looked like a block of flats passed the port side windows. It was Albion, 23 tons and 1200 square feet of magnificent black sail.In comparison we were a racing dinghy. So I gave up on the excuses, pardoned Gypsy Roma and settled on the usual incompetence as the best explanation for our latest cock-up.
Back at Potter Heigham we slipped under the bridge without any undue drama and once more tackled the mast. It’s clear we need a rethink here. With the mast half way up, and every muscle screaming in protest it struck me I could die doing this. Which would be a shame. So the search is on for an alternative method. I’ve already had an email from a Gypsy owner outlining some clever tackle that might do the job. Lying on the bank checking my heartrate, and waiting for the stars to clear I decided it might be a good plan to follow this up.