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Crew – Phil, Bob, MIke and Spike (Tony).



All too soon it was the bank holiday weekend, for months the fearless four had dreamed of this day, the carefully made plans were about to be put into action.


The plan was to sail Smashey and Nicey from Oulton Broad to St Olaves, St Olaves to Beccles and back to Oulton Broad, on the face of it, a not too demanding schedule in the cosiness of the Norfolk Broads.


Smashey was a gleaming new Wayfarer admired by all who clapped eyes on her, she had been bought by Mike who glowed with pride as admirers gathered in the car park on the M25 service station, Smashey's pedigree showed on every curve and varnished teak embellishment. Smashey sat quietly on her trailer yearning for wind and water but mostly wind.


Nicey was quite different; she was a well-seasoned well-mannered all-purpose Cornish Cormorant with bruises and scars to prove it. She also yearned for wind and water but mostly water. Her builders described her as having 'sparkling performance' despite her rather beamy dimensions. She certainly impressed Bob who hadn't had a great deal of sailing experience but had been trained at two of the finest sailing schools in the land. He was none the less equally proud of his Nicey and had spent many days preparing for the worst, possibly erring on the side of being over cautious, unlike Mike who was confident that he could handle anything that wind, water and Smashey could throw at him.


The journey to Oulton Broad went smoothly enough, Smashey and Nicey following on dutifully behind their respective owners. Phil, who accompanied Bob on the journey was the most experienced sailor of the four, he had a quiet confidence which came from many years of experience and study of the art of sailing which impressed the others. His apparent coolness in the face of adversity was to be put to the test.


Spike, who went along with Mike on the journey was the second most experienced at dinghy sailing but didn't take it too seriously, he was probably looking forward to a couple of pints at the many river side pubs as much as anything else. He had a congenial, happy go lucky nature which was going to be put to an even greater test.


The weather forecast for the Bank Holiday weekend couldn't be better, a large area of high pressure sat over the country giving light northerly winds over the area, turning to a light easterly by the Monday, Nicey was quite relieved to hear that it was going to be sunshine all the way but was a bit concerned about the fact that there was so many windmills around the Norfolk Broads, perhaps somebody knew something and wasn't telling.


The party arrived at Oulton Broad somewhat tired and hungry, not having stopped since the M25, but it was decided that the priority was to get the boats into the water. The slipway was the opposite side of the water to where the cars were to be left which necessitated a great deal of shuttling with cars, bodies and trailers. Spike couldn't understand the logistics of the exercise and promptly went to sleep in Smashey, which was now bobbing about in the water next to Nicey.


Phil decided that a few cans of beer would solve the hunger problem, mainly because he wanted to get a few lagers down his neck before seeing the girlfriend who lived nearby.


The last piece of the jigsaw for the evening was to sail the boats on to the mooring and use a row boat to get ashore, this was achieved without too much of a problem in the late evening light, the crews enjoying the brief sail onto the mooring, Bob settled Nicey down for the night trying to clip on his brand new cover while being rowed away, the others obviously anxious to check out the B & B and get something to eat.


The first night was to be spent at the George Borrow Pub, a passable establishment alongside the railway line, which much to the lads delight offered an over 30's disco that very evening. Thoughts of boogying the night away with the Oulton broads began to filter into their minds. Phil by this time was in a suitably inebriated state to visit the girlfriend.


The trio left at the George Borrow discussed the options for eating, the barman suggested that they strolled half a mile up the road to an establishment called the Norman Warrior, the distance suddenly became three quarters of a mile but well within walking distance, Spike suggested more than once that the San Andreas fault line lie between the two pubs which would account for the shifting dimension, his geological knowledge was to be proved correct. The Oulton broads began to arrive at the Pub which prompted a few comments, but hunger ruled the moment.


After approximately a mile and a half walk, Spike was right, the trio arrived at the Norman Warrior, which was full with more broads on an evening’s staff outing from Boots the Chemists; however the trio were assured that there would be room. Steak and Kidney Pud was on the menu, Bob was somewhat unsure of how much he was going to get for his money, the waiter cupped his hand as if holding a grapefruit and said “38 B", Spike committed this remark to memory in order to recall it when writing his account of the weekend, he committed other comments to his memory for the same purpose but rapidly ran out of memory on the first evening.


Mike and Bob being pigs ordered the Steak and Kidney Pud, they weren't to know that it came with roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, vegetables and chips and can be forgiven for leaving half of it.


The conversation ranged from broads to Broads and back to pipe supports. The walk back to the George Borrow was just enough to walk off that bloated feeling and at least enough to create a space for a few jars in the disco.

Mike ,Bob and Spike were transported back to their youth, Bob kept asking to borrow Spike's comb as they stared open mouthed at the bumping and grinding going on on the dance floor. Mike couldn't stand the pace and went to bed, at least that’s what he told the other two. Spike and Bob wallowed in nostalgia until midnight and did the same, only to find that the cacophony of noise went on till l.00am, reception in the bedrooms was very good.


Morning dawned over Oulton Broad, a perfect spring morning full of colour and promise of a good days sailing. Phil turned up at the boat yard and announced that the lagers had worked and everything was OK again, the others couldn't think what he meant except that they were sure that they had heard the story before somewhere.


The four, eager with anticipation rowed out to the dinghy’s which to Mike and Bob's surprise were still afloat both of them worried that all the bungs were in and doing their job. Bob was soon ready to go, having spent lots of time practising rigging; Phil was to be Bob's crew for the first leg and spent some time rowing round in circles trying to catch Nicey who was now beginning to show her sparkling performance. The two boats were finally under way in light breezes towards Oulton Dyke, Nicey eager to please led the way but was soon overtaken by Smashey who sensed that there was a bit of wind around the corner, sure enough Smashey started to dart back and forth against the wind gaining ground on Nicey who despite Bob and Phil's helming skills decided to go backwards. After many tacks the decision was taken to abandon the attempt and clamp the outboard on the back of Nicey and hope that Smashey wouldn't notice. Bob had also practiced the next moves often but hadn't actually had experience of motoring Nicey on the outboard, after one or two pulls the engine burst into life, after some teeth chattering minutes later Phil politely suggested that it would be somewhat smoother on less than full throttle at this point the engine stopped, Bob immediately knew that it had run out of petrol and swiftly topped it up from the spare can, this operation was carried out while drifting helplessly in mid channel, it was fortunate that there were no floating blocks of flats about.


Thoughts now turned to the nearest Pub which was the Waveney Inn a mile or so the wrong way but both crews decided it was time for a break, Nicey was back under sail having turned the corner and now was galloping along with a following wind.

At this point Nicey sensed that getting all the way back up this stretch is not going to be easy and with Bob at the helm tried to rip her sail off on the bowsprit of a large yacht when mooring at the pub, Mike and Spike arrived at the Pub in great style, Mike announcing that it was the greatest sail he had experienced. Smashey was visibly wringing her sails with delight and relishing the next leg against a steadily strengthening wind, Mike didn't notice the look on Smasheys face.


Following instructions from Phil on how to get away from a quay with an onshore breeze the fleet headed out on route to St Olaves. Smashey with Mike and Spike aboard leapt back and forth sensing an even stronger wind round the next corner; she was not to be disappointed. Nicey turned in a creditable performance but couldn't keep up with Smashey, only Smashey's sail was visible now over the reeds as the river twisted and turned Northwards, Smashey was now in her element and testing her crew to the limits.

With Mike at the helm Smashey finally triumphed ending up on her side with Spike having nipped over onto the centre plate and Mike slipped gracefully into the murky waters as if it were a launching ceremony.


The next few minutes can only be guessed as our two heroes fought to right Smashey, Mikes efforts to get back into Smashey resulted in a cracked rib which he nursed bravely for the rest of the trip. Smashey was now waterlogged which included all the weekend gear and clothing for all but Bob.


Nicey and her crew rounded the next corner to a sorry sight, Spike was standing in Smashey up to his knees in water shouting for a bucket, Bob with his usual foresight had two on board which after much bailing and pumping managed to bring Smashey back to life again. Mike in the meantime had discovered that his bin bag had saved his clothing and was now naked, nursing his cracked rib and changing into dry clothes.


Bob went round discreetly taking photos of the scene but didn't relish the job.


A certain amount of gear had been lost overboard, Bob and Phil set off in Nicey to look amongst the reeds, they only saw Mikes white sailors hat drifting as though there were a head underneath it, Phil spotted a plastic bag and retrieved it luckily it contained a can of beer. Searching further they got too near the bank, the rudder caught in the mud and broke the down haul. For readers who are unfamiliar with nautical terms, it is the piece of string which holds the rudder down, without it steering is severely limited. Bob expertly manoeuvred back to the only hard place and proceeded to fix it having all the tools on board for just such an occasion, however a match was needed to seal the ends of the string, at that moment a passing river patrol spotted their plight and solved the problem.


Smashey wasn't finished yet, Mike and Spike gallantly searched the reeds for the missing gear and did a creditable job, retrieving all but Mikes hat and sunglasses, during these manoeuvres Smashey struck again leaving Spike with punctured lip which bled profusely, spitting blood all over the sails feeling cold wet and exhausted moral was now very low and words were exchanged. Our two heroes were now trying to sail Smashey without the Genoa which cramped her style so she promptly nailed herself in the mud and refused to budge. Frantic efforts to launch Smashey against the wind from a squelchy reed bed requires superhuman effort Spike now knee deep in squelch produced a last effort and succeeded, only to be blown back in to the reeds.


All this was observed by Bob and Phil who sailed back and forth offering assistance but our two heroes were by this time oblivious to the outside world.


Somehow the final effort succeeded and both boats fought together to cover the last miles to St Olaves and a hot meal and a warm dry bed.

A couple of miles short of St Olaves is a swing bridge which carries the railway line, Nicey arrived at the bridge and sailed back and forth waiting for the bridge to open, disaster struck, Phils new Breton hat was knocked into the water, luckily it floated jauntily downstream, and after a few skillful manoeuvers Phil and Bob managed to retrieve it.


The swing bridge began to open, Smashey and Nicey charged between the piers, which funnelled the wind into wild eddies, diving back and forth and a few dexterous strokes with the paddles they finally made it through watched by an armada of floating caravans and gin palaces. Smashey tried valiantly to score again but failed, Nicey arrived at St Olaves to find Smashey tied up at the quay and Mike and Spike stood on the quayside looking somewhat forlorn.


It was at this point that Nicey decided to show her sparkling performance once again, with Bob at the helm, Nicey charged at the quay and arrived with all the delicacy of a 7001b concrete block being dropped from a height of 6ft. Bob congratulated himself on choosing a strong boat.


Our four fearless friends, now nursing cracked ribs, split lips, bruised shins, egos and carrying soggy bags looked about for The Ingate Pub which Mike understood to be near the quay. A kindly couple from Yorkshire with a £40,000 cruiser moored nearby took pity on our heroes and invited Spike and Bob into their warm and welcoming lounge for a coffee. Mike and Phil went off to search for the Ingate, Mike despite his obvious pain felt it was his responsibility to find the Pub.


Spike and Bob settled in to cosy armchairs, and learnt much about the price of houses in Rotherham and Doncaster from their hosts. Spikes slowly closed his eyes nodded off and hoped the phone wouldn't ring.


An hour later Mike and Phil returned with great news, the Ingate Pub was eight king miles away in Beccles and the local accommodation is booked, our heroes looked at each other with mixed thoughts which can only be guessed at.

Dragging their soggy bags behind them they tried to shelter from the cold easterly while waiting for a taxi. Their fortune was about to change, they were soon to learn all about Beccies Memorabilia and Czechoslovakian stamps from the jolly taxi driver. Bob tried to respond to the conversation while the others nodded off in the back and hoped the phone wouldn't ring.


The taxi drew up outside the Ingate Pub, Bob clocked the paintwork on the doors and windows which was worse than his own and suggested trying somewhere else, only to get short shrift from Mike who had arranged it all. After paying off the taxi with soggy fivers, they were ushered in by the landlord through the bar with a Karaoke session in full swing, up the lino'd stair case and shown the bedrooms complete with two pieces of MFI furniture per room and not a coat hanger in sight, the reception from the Karaoke session was much better than the George Borrow's.


There was no fight left in our heroes, the landlord said that the water would be hot in an hour and they could use his washing line. They were grateful.

While the others were drying out and swopping clothes, Bob went off to reconnoitre the east end of Beccies, only to return with the news that perhaps the Ingate wasn't so bad after all, at least after a couple of pints of Adnams. However with Phil's local knowledge the four opted for the Kings Head which provided a warm welcome and a hearty meal. Spirits were beginning to rise and even Mike, although in obvious pain was starting to crack a few jokes.


On return to the Ingate with the Karaoke session gone into overdrive our heroes thought 'if you can’t beat 'em join 'em' and ordered a nightcap till the music stopped. Sure enough the thumping eventually stopped and peace reigned for a full 5 minutes until a local broad decided it was time to feed the juke box.


Dawn broke on the Sunday with a clear blue sky and promise of another days barmy sailing which was to be from St Olaves to Beccles. The taxi arrived on time to take the crews from Beccles to St Olaves, Bob suggested at this point that an option would be to stay in Beccles rather than take a taxi to St Olaves and sail back to Beccies, this suggestion received the silence it deserved.


Both crews now expert at rigging and getting away from a quay were soon sailing off with a following breeze for the third night in Beccles. However with the river twisting and turning it meant that a few beats were necessary, Smashey had visibly calmed down from the previous days excitement, this was probably because Smashey sensed that Phil wasn't going to stand any nonsense.


Spike and Bob led the way in Nicey with Sinashey catching up fast towards the swing bridge which was open; Nicey sailed through with Bob at the helm. With the swing bridge behind them Spike joked about the possibility of the swing bridge closing on Smashey, at that very moment the bridge began to close much to the delight of Nicey and her crew who now had a reasonable chance of reaching the Waveney Inn ahead of Smashey.


The next few miles went without incident, mostly with a following breeze, which allowed Spike to demonstrate his pinching technique to Bob who was very impressed. Nicey arrived at the Waveney Inn just ahead of Smashey who now appeared positively docile.


The leg from the Waveney Inn to Beccies with the wind dropping was a pedestrian but nevertheless enjoyable sail. Smashey made as much of the breeze as possible and was soon left Nicey far behind. Spike and Bob decided it was time for the outboard and overtook Smashey on the approach to Beccies.

With Nicey safely tied up behind Smashey, Bob took the opportunity to start the outboard and empty the carburettor according to instructions. Bob was aware that the outboard doesn't have a neutral and had checked the bow rope in case Nicey should smash into the back of Smashey, Bob started the outboard, Nicey leapt forward heading for Smasheys rudder, the bow line snapped taught with Nicey an inch from Smashey, the others didn't believe Bob when he told them that he had in fact done all the calculations.


The Ship Inn turned out to be the best B & B one could wish for, the hosts swapped stories with our heroes on the terrace who were now in great spirits, one story from the proprietor was that a jolly couple from Yorkshire had called in at the Ship that very day and recounted a story of a bunch of idiots who had nearly drowned themselves and that they had rescued them from certain death by hypothermia, "Can you imagine such idiots on the river" said the hosts. Our heroes laughed uncontrollably and agreed that there were indeed many idiots on the river.


Having enjoyed the West End of Beccles with a cream tea an Indian meal, a jazz club, a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, the fearless four were now about to start, with some sadness, the last leg back to Oulton Broad.


For this leg, Spike opted to sail with Mike on Smashey despite the trio's previous experiences, explaining to Nicey that he preferred a more exciting sail but hoped that she wouldn't be offended. Nicey wasn't at all offended but had noticed a wry smile on Smashey's face and wondered whether Spike would later perhaps regret this decision.


Nicey with Phil and Bob on board rounded the first bend just ahead of Smashey. They didn't notice the Exxon Valdez slipping her moorings in the distance. The wind was generally southerly, but the twists and turns in the river and the many clumps of overhanging trees made progress quite difficult, with a deft touch with the paddle and the odd gust of wind Nicey began to draw further ahead much to her crew's surprise.


The gusts of wind which seemed to come from all directions kept both crew's on their toes, Phil and Bob speculated why Smashey had fallen so far behind, was she up to her old tricks again, had some disaster befallen her, at times a half a mile of river was visible behind Nicey and not a sign.


Nicey continued on, fighting her way through the gusts and flat spots. With Bob at the helm during a particularly gusty stretch, the Exxon Valdez approached menacingly from behind, Bob had noticed the hulk on an overtaking course, but while on a port tack had his view blocked by Nicey's sail. The captain of the Exxon Valdez was not aware of the rules regarding sail and power and continued, placing his ship right in the path of Nicey and her crew. Phil's cool was now to be tested, with Nicey's bow now within seconds of collision, frantic leo's were heard from Phil, Bob normally responded to Phil's commands but had decided that as captain he would this time make his own decisions. He decided deliberately to ram the Exxon Valdez amidships, as though Nicey was an Excoset missile. Instead of going into a smart tack, Bob pulled the tiller towards him and went for the kill; Nicey responded instantly by spinning on her centre board deciding that discression was the order of the day and overruled the skipper. Bob and Phil frantically tried to fend off the Exxon Valdez as she steamed by with a closing speed of at least 50 knots.


Nicey and her crew resumed their course behind the Exxon Valdez considering themselves somewhat lucky that nothing had snagged in Niceys rigging. Phil apologised to the skipper explaining that the king idiot on the tiller wouldn't listen to instructions. Bob mumbled something about floating caravan drivers but went unheard.


Bob and Phil were now somewhat worried about Smashey and her crew and considered going back, however the Waveney Inn was now not far ahead so the decision was taken to wait for them at the pub. Bob once more demonstrated his mooring skills by doing a couple of 720's in the yacht basin watched by some astounded onlookers.


It was sometime before Smashey and her crew appeared looking at first sight like a picture of gracefulness. With Spike at the helm Smashey flipped her jib and gullwinged into the quay, next to the No Mooring sign, as if going for one last gesture of defiance only to be thwarted by being fended off by Bob and Phil. No explanation was given for the delay by the crew but Smashey proudly sported some mud on her gunnel and decking together with a burgee that had been modified by the overhanging branches to measure updraft and downdraft.


Will the truth ever be known as to what disasters befell Smashey and her crew on this leg?


The final leg from The Waveney Inn to Oulton Broad was achieved against the wind using the Iron Sails (engine’s) which produced no incident, Smashey and Nicey arrived at the slipway said goodbye to each other amidst a cacophony of noise from the power boat racers, agreeing that it had been a great weekend and hoped that they would meet again sometime.


Bob Jones 2015


Smashey with Phil, Mike and Bob

Nicey with Spike and Bob

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