Boating to Beccles

The forecast said ‘mist’ but what we got was rain. It let up a little to allow us onto the boat but the respite was short-lived. Mast down, we left the mooring at 9.50 motoring into the wind and tide. By the time we reached the Bure the rain had set in again. We managed Potter Heigham and Acle bridges without stopping, but we were soaked by the time we stopped for lunch at Stokesby.

We left again at 1.45 just as the sun came out. By now the tide was with us though the breeze had dropped away to almost nothing. Still we were able to get the sails up and kill the engine. For an hour and a half we drifted slowly downstream. It was difficult to manoveur without much in the way of a breeze and after we touched the bottom at the end of a tack and the spring tide swung us through 360 degrees we fired up the engine again and got the sails down.

As we approached the Yacht Station in Yarmouth things were starting to get interesting. The ebb was running strongly under us and we had to tie up and wait a couple of hours for things to quieten down.  There was a drop of a good six or seven feet from the quay heading to the water but fortunately there were two cycling quay rangers on hand to take the ropes.  All I had to do was spin her round and come in against the tide. We were already moving quickly.  I swung the tiller hard over and as she came round we were swept sideways downstream towards the first of the bridges. I worked the engine hard in forward, hard in reverse and somehow managed to get her facing back the way we’d come. With the throttle fully open we crept forward agains the flow and squeezed into the gap where the rangers were waiting.

The tides in Yarmouth have to be taken seriously.  It’s not just the Bure that flows into town. Both the Waveney and the Yare empty into the vast inland estuary of Breydon Water. The flow from Breydon meets the flow from the Bure and funnels out to sea.  Timing is important. Slack water passage time was 17.44.  Fortunately things had calmed down by then, so mast down for the third time in one day we left the yacht station and headed for the first of the bridges.

Yarmouth - leaving the yacht station

The fresh water on the surface was still ebbing but the flood had already begun with the salt water underneath. So things weren’t entirely calm.

Yarmouth - the road bridge

We passed under the road bridge and the disused Vauxhall railway arch.

Vaxhall Bridge

At this point it was turn to port for the sea or to starboard for Breydon. We went for Breydon.

First sight of the Breydon Lifting Bridge

We turned round the channel marker and headed for the lifting bridge.

The Lifting Bridge

The boat suddenly seemed very small. A few minutes later we passed under the starboard span and Breydon opened in front of us.

Entrance to Breydon Water

We’d been warned the channel was narrow, but it didn’t seem that way to us. The Thurne was narrow, Meadow Dyke was narrow but this was something else. For the first time it really felt we were in open water. This was at low tide. At full flood Breydon is two or three times as broad.

Breydon Water

There was little other traffic about and for the first five or ten minutes we were stunned into inactivity.


The wind was still on the nose. But motoring here was ridiculous.  We hauled up the sails and switched off the little Yanmar. And suddenly everything changed. Freed from the confines of the narrow streams of the northern broads the boat came to life. This was a different kind of sailing altogether. For an exhilarating hour we tacked the length of the channel and made our way to the far end where the Waveney and the Yare meet. A few other yachts were plugging their way across under engine but we easily avoided them. The plan was to moor up at the Berney Arms mill but when we got there the place was a forest of masts. Apparently it was the day of the Breydon Regatta and the mooring – and the pub – was packed. Fortunately a gent took pity on us and moved his splendid looking classic cruiser and classic yacht to allow us to squeeze on the end.  It was 7.15 when we broke open the beer and watched the sun slowly disappear behind the bank.

Berney Arms

A meal on board. A brandy in the pub and then back to bed at the end of a good day.

I woke in the early hours. Something didn’t feel right. I stuck my head outside to find the boat hung up on her moorings. We’d assumed the night before we were close to low water but we’d miscalculated.  I scrambled out and managed to release the warps. Gypsy Roma settled back onto an even keel but proved impossible to move. I assumed she was on the bottom. There was nothing else I could do, so crept back on board and went back to sleep. By morning she was afloat, gently nudging the bank.

After the excitement of Breydon the next day and a half was a bit of an anticlimax. The wind was being uncooperative, blowing straight at us, then fluking and dying, and changing direction. We managed to sail some of the way but the engine had a great deal of work as we made our way up the Waveney.  We found a quiet mooring at North Cove for our second night and on day three after yet another attempt to find some wind, motored on to Beccles.

The town itself looks lovely from the water, but our borrowed mooring, when we reached it was obviously going to be a challenge. A classic gentleman’s launch at one end and the rowing club pontoon at the other made the approach difficult. We’d also had to lift our keel because at low tide we were going to be sitting on the bottom so after a couple of failed attempts  I put Kate ashore on the pontoon and she walked us into position. The boat extended beyond the mooring by the length of her rudder. I hope the rowing club don’t mind. The bowsprit was several inches short of the launch. What could possible go wrong?


We wrapped her up, gathered up our belongings and walked into town. A bus was waiting to leave for Norwich. It had taken us 2 1/2 days to get here. The return journey took 40 minutes.

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