Down to Martham to check on the boat after two weeks of snow and sub-zero temperatures. The sun obligingly came out as we arrived. We opened the cabin and found everything as it should be. The battery decided it wasn’t going to turn over the engine but we’d brought our power pack along and managed to kick it into life. It ran as sweetly as I remembered from its 15 minute test run after the servicing episode. We cast off and began to motor past the few boats left on the moorings. Almost at once the engine faded and died. I managed to get us to the bank where we tied up to take stock. Then doing my best to remember what the book had said I set about bleeding the engine. This involved lot of work with the lift pump. After about five minutes or so I was about to give up when fuel appeared at the bleed point. The engine still wouldn’t start so I followed the fuel line to the block where there was second bleed point. More pumping and low and behold the engine fired up and settled in to its regular thump.
There was very little wind so we decided to motor down to Hickling and explore the far end, then see if we could sail back. It was beautiful out on the water with the low winter sun lighting up the reeds.We passed one other boat and couple of fishermen but saw no one else. Essentially we had one of the loveliest sections of water in the country entirely to ourselves. Give or take a few thousand water fowl.
As we got through Deep Go Dyke and White Slea we began to see ice in the reeds. Pretty soon there was sheet ice in the margins. We crunched through some slabs that reached out into the channel sounding like a mini ice-breaker. We could hear it breaking up along the hull as we went through. Looking ahead down the broad we could see a point where the wind seemed to die completely. There wasn’t a ripple on the water. This flat calm stretched all the way to the far side where out of sight the Pleasure Boat Inn was open and serving beer. As we got closer we could see that what we had taken for smooth water was a continuous sheet of ice. Half the broad was frozen. It was probably very thin but we decided not to batter our way through. Instead we hoisted the sails and turned back the way we’d come. As the engine noise died the dense wintry silence rushed in to take its place etched with the sharp cries of birds. With the lightest of breezes behind us we drifted back to the Thurne while the geese performed overhead.
Kate was working the jib and had us in a gentle goosewing as we came out of the Sound. Apparently they call it psalmbooking in the Netherlands, with the sails mimicking the open pages of a psalter. I’m not sure if we got it quite right but the breeze was so light we couldn’t really get into trouble. A fine expedition. By itself it justifies keeping the boat in the water.