The plan was to head off downstream and see how far the light breeze and the tide would take us. Our start was delayed when we arrived to find a road crew resurfacing the track down to the mooring. By the time we’d ferried our gear down to the boat it was almost lunchtime. We got the sails up as soon as we cleared the low bridge at Potter Heigham and didn’t need to resort to the engine until we reached Acle bridge a couple of hours later.
The first stage took us down the Thurne and into the Bure. The Bure is quite broad below Thurne Mouth and the banks are clear of trees – good conditions for sailing. We were passed by the odd motor cruiser but again for the most part we had the river to ourselves. This will change dramatically in a few weeks when the schools break up. The mast came down for the second time at the bridge and once we were sailing again we were in unfamiliar waters. We got into trouble almost at once.
We’d been feeling pretty pleased with ourselves after successfully tacking along a couple of reaches where the wind had come round onto the nose. The wind was less favourable below the bridge and trying to pinch as much river as we could we ran aground as we crept up to the reedy margins. The bow was resting on soft mud and it took some serious work with the engine to get us off. We were getting tired by this point and after a few more failed attempts to work against the wind we gave up and motored the last half mile or so to Stokesby.
Stokesby is a typical Broadland village that owes its existence to the river. A village green, a tea shop selling cream teas and a riverside pub called the Ferry Inn make it a popular place to tie up. There are virtually no moorings between Stokesby and Great Yarmouth a few miles further downstream. By now it was well into the afternoon and the tide would shortly be turning against us so we considered our options over a piece of apricot fruit cake from the tea shop and after consulting tide tables, the shipping forecast, two swans and a dozen nosey ducklings booked ourselves in to the restaurant at the pub.
After our usual night’s broken sleep in the confines of the cabin we had breakfast on board and set off back the way we’d come again with the tide under us. Overnight we seem to have recovered our (very modest) tacking ability and made it through the bends to Acle. Using the engine to ease us through we managed to lower and raise the mast without stopping. The sails went back up and then with Kate at the helm we sailed back along the Bure and into the Thurne. At Potter Heigham I made a bit of a mess of coming in to moor in order to take down the mast for the forth time on this expedition. And I repeated the trick when we arrived back at Martham. But all in all a fine couple of days and signs that we are slowly getting more competent under sail.