Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Some birds I have snapped!

A few of my favourite bird photos from 2010 ...

Monday, 25 October 2010

Last night out on the boat 2010

We had more or less decided that last weekend would be the final one that we stayed overnight on the boat this year. With the colder, damp weather and the early dark evenings, it was not so much fun being in a confined space from 6pm until 7am! And the condensation would always be a problem.

There were conflicting weather forecasts so we made the decision to do it anyway. The Snowflake Sailing Club Tri-Icicle race from Horning down to Acle, then up the Thurne, was taking place on Sunday and having enjoyed watching last year, we decided we would find a quiet spot to watch and maybe get a few photos.

After pottering around for a while on Sunday we set off around 11.00 am to find the quiet spot! Not much luck with the ‘wild’ moorings, with the bank work going on and the public moorings were mostly full. As we came towards Ranworth entrance, we saw sails in the distance so decided to drop into a small bay at the river side and drop two mudweights to hold us steady.

One large mudweight went over the stern but as the skipper went up forward to drop the other one, the boat started to turn in the wind and tide. Dropped the bow mudweight but with both down, the boat was still moving at quite a rate of knots! The mudweights were obviously not holding!

The skipper decided to abort the plan, as by this time the river was getting very crowded – not with the yachts which were still quite a way away, but with hire motor boats, obviously totally puzzled by what we were trying to do. One or two asked if we were ok (thanks Craig!) but all in all, it was a bit embarrassing! To make it even more embarrassing, when the skipper went to pull up the stern mudweight, he lost a shoe overboard! He has mules which he wears on board and, despite my reminding him (!) he went on deck in them. Inevitably, one came off and floated into the reeds! So there he was, fishing around with the boat hook, eventually managing to hook the mule back on board. He put it on the roof, to dry off! I couldn't stop laughing!!

We got going again and managed to take a few photos of the Tri-Icicle – not quite as imposing a spectacle as last year as the yachts were more spread out but still a lovely sight. As the last one went past, we turned and slowly followed them down river. I started to review my photos and realised that I had the camera set up wrong (I forgot Lord Paul’s reminder on ISO!) and most of them were a bit over-exposed. Damn and blast! What was going to be the third thing to go wrong!

The sailing boats were going much faster than us due to the brisk wind and by the time we got to St Benet’s Abbey,we saw one of the Norfolk Punts coming back! He was quick, we thought – it transpired later that this boat retired after a major fill-up at Upton and was making his way back home. We got down to the Thurne Mouth and the skipper positioned us at the side of the river so I could take a few snaps as the boats came up from Acle and went on up the Thurne before turning on the homeward leg.

I managed to take one or two but we were suddenly hit by a squall which made boat handling difficult and blew the saved mule off the roof into the water! Despite my efforts with the boat hook, it raced off downriver, bobbing about in the waves! If anyone finds a smart Dunlop Premier Collection size 10 mule, would be grateful for a message! ;)

We decided to abort at this stage as there was quite a long gap until the next boats came through and with very black clouds approaching fast, the weather looked a bit ominous. We got back to our moorings safely and were tied up before the next rain squall hit.

Some friends came on board for a cuppa and we pottered again for an hour or so before starting to pack up for home. There was a lot of activity on the Broad, with a large number of sailing cruisers manoeuvring, with parties of young people on board and a few rowing dinghies intermingling with them, obviously from the same party. There was also a dinghy with an outboard which kept roaring around, up and down the dyke, until the skipper got fed up and shouted to him to keep to the speed limit – especially important as the tide was so high and there was a big risk of fenders on moored boats ‘popping’ over the quay in the wash.

We were watching a couple of yachts coming off the Broad under power and one appeared to be coming in to moor on our moorings. We had our eyes on this boat (Trade Wind) when the skipper suddenly noticed another one (High Seas) heading straight for our stern. We had our canopy up so he had to rapidly undo the zips and jump on deck, onto our stern platform and just managed to fend off the metal bowsprit, which would have gone through our stern. He was shouting ‘go astern, go astern’ to the young person in control of the boat, which she eventually did. Phew, a nasty accident avoided!

We were understandably upset by this and the person driving the dinghy with the outboard came alongside and apologised, saying the skipper of ‘High Seas’ had gone overboard and the youngsters on board didn’t know what to do. We felt (and told him) that they should have been briefed on what to do in this circumstance, one of the most important things for the ‘skipper’ to do was to keep a lookout for obstacles – like our boat!! We had heard no splash, no shouting of ‘man overboard’ or any indication that there was an emergency or we would obviously have tried to assist, even with verbal directions. He was hauled into the dinghy, which turned out to be the ‘rescue boat’ and put back on board the yacht.

One of the reasons given by the rescue boat driver, responding to our comments was that they were a party of youngsters from a Christian charity on their first day out! We felt this was totally irrelevant and in our opinion they had not been fully instructed on what to do in an emergency; it seemed irresponsible that there appeared to be only one competent person on board each boat! These are big, heavy boats, not dinghies and need to be respected as such. Photo is of the two boats involved, finally leaving the Broad.

Just after this we saw another incident by the same party, where a dinghy being rowed by a young person, side swiped a small sailing dinghy and both nearly capsized! Another example of not being aware of who else was on the river.

The commodore of this sailing party came down to our moorings and took on board our comments about briefing the youngsters. As we said to him, it was lucky we were on our boat as we wouldn’t have been happy to find a hole in the stern on our next visit and we felt sure the last thing the boatyard would want would be an insurance claim!

All in all, a fairly incident packed weekend but one we could have done without!

Monday, 6 September 2010

2011 River Cruiser calendar

This is the front of my calendar. The back is below, with thumbnails of the actual photos!! If anyone is interested please leave me a message and I will send details :)
Or you can see it on Ebay - Item number: 150506762129

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

August Bank Holiday 2010

What is it about Bank Holidays this year!! The end of May Bank Holiday was spectacular for the dreadful weather and this August one has been just as dramatic.

The skipper had decided to take a rare long weekend so we headed for the boat on Friday afternoon. The plan was to go down to the southern rivers for the first time in ages so we needed to top up the diesel. When we arrived at our moorings, the tide was very high – we hadn’t seen it so high since early this year. We set off for Horning and after a 15 minute ‘holding pattern’ in Woods Dyke whilst Boulters fuelling mooring cleared, filled up with diesel.

Back at our moorings, a friend had arrived back from a week racing at Oulton Broad regatta so we cracked open a bottle of wine and had a pleasant evening hearing about dramas at Oulton; before we realised it, the clock showed midnight! As we had to be up at 5am to make the tides through Great Yarmouth, this probably wasn’t a good idea!

The alarm woke us and we almost made the decision to abort the trip south and stay in bed – little did we know ….

There was a lovely sunrise as we passed St Benet’s Abbey and the day dawned nicely.

We passed under Acle Bridge with plenty of room to spare and cruised gently down river, following another privately owned boat. This boat appeared to have a problem negotiating bends and was slowing down and drifting to the other side of the river on every bend. We had no problem with this as we estimated that our tide timing was just about right.

We caught up with, and passed, three river cruisers in convoy, with their masts still raised and were passed by a number of hire boats, all of which seemed to be in a hurry for some reason!

We began to worry a bit when we passed a boat which was stationery near the bank, but still afloat, and we had not seen any of the customary mud banks either side of the river as the tide ran out. As we got nearer to the bridges, I got the binoculars out to see the tide level at the first marker board and couldn’t believe that there had only been a 2ft drop! This was fine for the boat in front of us and for the river cruisers which gave an impressive display of dropping their masts whilst underway, but we needed more height than there obviously was.

We had to make a quick decision at that point, rather than going any further and causing difficulties for others whilst we turned, we decided to abort the trip and turned round! Very disappointing as we had been really looking forward to Breydon and then up to Rockland and Surlingham Broads.

We very quickly realised that there were some exceptionally high tides happening this weekend, slightly high forecast tides being added to by the heavy rainfall and the high winds.

We got back to Stracey windpump and decided to tie up on the lovely new moorings and treat ourselves to a cooked breakfast in the café. To cut the story short we ended up staying there on Saturday night, watching the East Coast Truckers charity convoy heading for Great Yarmouth on Sunday and then back the same evening. I hadn’t seen this amazing spectacle for a few years and it was wonderful to see the children’s faces as the spectacularly decorated cabs drove past, with horns blaring and everyone waving.

By this time, it was very windy and there had been some heavy rain squalls. We were amazed that the majority of boats were coming in to moor with the wind and tide behind them – getting ashore with bow ropes and then not knowing what to do when the boat spun round on the mooring. We also couldn’t believe how many of them were hauling on the bow rope of the boat, tying it in as tight as possible and then wondering why the stern wouldn’t come in! I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a few hernias being caused by this, not to mention fenders popping on to the quay!

We saw at least two hire boats with bits broken off, rubber rubbing strake popped out of its channel and missing fenders; one lovely wooden boat had some structural damage to the port stern corner as they crunched into the quay on mooring.

One or two brave souls in sailing boats came down river, heavily reefed and then fought their way back up against the wind and tide - looked like hard work!

We had been intending to head back up river on Sunday but the weather was so bad that we decided to stay put, and lay in our bunks on Sunday night listening to the wind, rain, water against the hull and fenders and ropes creaking. We must have eventually dropped off, despite the noise but I was woken at around 2 am by the skipper getting up to check the tide. It was almost up to the top of the quay heading and a couple of our fenders had popped on to the quay so he put on his waterproof over his jimjams and climbed out to lower the fenders. The wind was horrendous and he struggled to push the boat off the quay to add a couple more fenders.

I didn’t get much sleep after that, and we were in a good position with the wind on the bow and protected by the jutting out quay heading. I can’t imagine the occupants of those boats which were broadside on to the weather got any sleep at all!

Monday dawned a little better, the wind was still very strong but the rain had stopped, and after the treat of another cooked breakfast, we decided to head for more sheltered waters. We managed to pivot the boat on a stern rope and extra fenders to get off the mooring and headed back up river, under Acle Bridge with centimetres to spare.

We saw one of the crew of this river cruiser making some adjustments to the rigging by climbing along the bowsprit! A bit scarey in the big swell on the river.

We had thought about heading for Black Horse or Salhouse but on passing St Benet's Abbey (above), Fleet Dyke looked very welcoming and we ended back on our own moorings. There was a hiccup on mooring, as our ropes, which we normally lay out on the quay to pick up with the boat hook, were all over the grass! We learned later that a Herbert Woods hire boat had come into our mooring, used our ropes and boarding step and gone off somewhere for a few hours! Unbelievable! I know what the skipper would have done if we’d come back and found them there ;) We were a bit cross that the occupants of another boat who moor in the next dyke on the same moorings, who had seen this happen, had not challenged them. No real harm done but it’s the principle of it! How would they feel if we parked in their driveway and pushed off for a few hours!

The sun came out just after we moored up and we spent the next few hours airing the boat, re-adjusting the fenders and chilling out. The tide was still high and we spoke to the owners of a Broom 37 who were unable to get under Yarmouth bridges (one of the boats we had seen going down and returning a bit later). They had to get back to the southern rivers to their mooring as they had to be back in London on Tuesday but had been told that the tides wouldn’t be back to normal for around a week; they were looking for a safe haven to leave their boat. We told them of one or two places to try and they went off.

All in all, a disappointing weekend and from my personal point of view I struggled to find anything worth photographing. Just bad luck that we chose that weekend to have an adventure and I had a big lens to try out :-(

Sunday, 15 August 2010

River swim!

I went for a short swim on Saturday!! I didn’t intend to go for a swim and I certainly didn’t enjoy it very much!

We were coming in to moor our boat in what appeared to be a light-ish off-shore wind and I was in my normal position, sitting on the deck ready to step on to the quay, with a rope in my hand. The stern, port side, got close, I got my feet on the quay and suddenly a rogue gust of wind caught the boat and blew it slowly away from the quay, towards the middle of the river!

By this time I was at the point of no return, either way – I couldn’t launch myself on to the quay, nor could I return to my comfortable seat on the deck. By this time, the skipper realised I was in difficulties, cut the engines and raced out of the cockpit to help me.

I had slid off the deck, down the side of the boat – not yet in the water, but clinging on for dear life to one of the stanchions with my right hand. He grabbed my other hand and started to try and pull me back into the boat. However, my ***lbs weight defeated him but he refused to let go, despite my cries of ‘let go, let go’. My first plan was to gain a foothold on the small step on the side of the boat and lever myself back up on to the deck but I needed my left hand to pull myself up to do this.

He wouldn’t let go – I could see the panic on his face! I should explain that where we were trying to moor was on a fairly strong tidal part of the river and I think he had pictures of me being swept down river to the sea. My concern was that the boat was drifting out to the middle of the river and I knew that if I went in it would be a long swim to the quay! At this point I had completely forgotten that we had a bathing platform on the boat with a drop-down ladder which I could have climbed up. However, with the river flowing fastest in the middle and other boats around, I preferred the thought of dry land!

Whilst all these thoughts were going through my mind (my life didn’t flash in front of me!) I could feel my feet and legs getting wet, water creeping up to my cut-offs and I knew there was no going back. I eventually managed to persuade the skipper to let go of me and made the decision to drop into the water. Unfortunately I had my mouth open so when I completely submerged, got a dose of brackish river water – not pleasant!

As I went down I drew up my legs, mainly to avoid getting tangled in whatever nasty things might be on the bottom – someone had lost a guitar overboard from a dinghy a week before incidentally – but ready to kick out for the quay as soon as I surfaced.

At this point I would like to thank the Broads Authority from the bottom of my heart for putting in these wonderful steps and looped chains on the public moorings on the Broads! I headed for the steps but knew that if I didn’t reach them, I could grab a chain and make my way to the steps. However, after about a dozen strong swimming strokes (thank goodness I kept up my swimming ability) I reached the steps and felt for the bottom step. I found it immediately and was eternally grateful that the steps were set at small intervals, suitable for someone of my age to climb.

By this time a number of fisherman who had been watching with interest along the quay came up and asked if I was all right! Thank god I had enough breath to say ‘yes, thanks * but can you help moor the boat’, as by this time the skipper had started the engines and managed to power it into the quay where the fishermen and I (didn’t forget my duties, although exhausted and obviously dripping wet) grabbed the stanchions and got it alongside.

* My first words after ‘yes thanks’ were ‘well that’s a first and I managed to keep my shoes on’ to which one of the fishermen replied ‘and your glasses’. Quite impressive I thought!

I have never been so glad of hot water on a boat and a wonderful shower but it took a couple of brandies before I managed to get rid of the taste of the river ;-))

I have to say that I nearly always wear a life jacket when mooring or casting off but for some reason I totally forgot on Saturday.

No after effects, apart from a very stiff left arm which was stretched by the skipper but when I went to bed that night, I started to think of what could have happened and it took me quite a few hours to get to sleep. Needless to say, the life jacket is now hanging by the door on the boat so it doesn’t get forgotten again.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Floral identification

Whilst we are on the subject of identifying plants (timbobig) can anyone tell me what this is? I took the photo in 2007 and have been trying ever since to put a name to it. The photo was taken in June and I went back the next year to find the plant again but it was gone and I haven't seen it since which made me think I dreamt it - except I have the photo.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Disturbed nights

When I see on the news dreadful accounts of house fires and it’s reported that the smoke alarms were out of action, I always wonder why. I think I may have discovered one answer to that question.

Last night, at 1.00 the smoke alarm started ‘chirping’ like a budgie. Oh, I thought, the battery is low – I’ll change that in the morning. However, an hour later when I’d still not got back to sleep, I tried to remove the battery altogether. It was jammed and without going outside to the garage to get a large tool to hit it with, there was nothing I could do, although the intention was definitely there.

As I lay awake, waiting for the next chirp, my thoughts went back to a night a few weeks’ ago when I was babysitting for my two eldest grandchildren whilst their parents were away over night.

Got them to bed, watched a bit of TV then decided to go to bed myself. Drifted off into a lovely sleep to be rudely awoken by an alarm going off. I should explain here that my daughter’s friend had left her car in the drive of a house down the side lane, the owners of which were also away that night. My first thought was, oh no it’s her car alarm. Looked out of the window but couldn’t see anything, except thick fog.

Lay there for a few minutes, mulling it over, the alarm still going loudly. Looked at the clock and it was 2 am. Decided I had to do something, so got up, put on my pink silk dressing gown over my pink silk pyjamas, my daughter’s boots (mine were still wet from an earlier adventure in a field!), got a large torch and the car keys, unlocked the front door, went out, locked the door behind me and set off down the lane in the fog, only to discover the car was fine, the alarm was actually at the house! I could do nothing about this, the house was in darkness with no visible signs of problems so trudged back up the lane, back into the house and back to bed.

After about half an hour the alarm stopped and I turned over to try and sleep again, worrying about a break in at the neighbour’s house and wondering if I should have dialled 999, only to hear a vehicle driving quietly up the road. Jumped out of bed, went to the window and saw the silhouette of a person dressed all in black wearing a balaclava and a head torch. My thoughts immediately jumped to – here are the burglars and this is the vehicle come to collect the loot! Felt rather foolish when the vehicle crept past the house to see it was the milkman!!

It was only the next day, when my daughter was horrified to hear of my escapade and said it was like something out of a horror movie, where the heroine/victim is creeping off to investigate something which you, as the viewer, know is going to be bad and your mind is saying ‘don’t do it, don’t do it’ that I wondered what I would have done if someone had been trying to take the car, or rob the house? I hadn’t thought that far – although I did have the sense to put my mobile phone in the pocket of my pink silk dressing gown!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Poetic justice

I believe that I am a careful and considerate driver and don't give in to 'road rage' very often. However there is one bit of driving which seems to be prevalent in Norfolk, possibly due to the ridiculous road layouts created by the council, which does infuriate me.

For example, two lanes of vehicles come to traffic lights, go through the lights together and suddenly are expected to 'merge' into one lane! Now I know that cars are expected to behave sensibly and merge one by one but does that happen? No way! The one in the outside lane feels it is his right to get ahead of the one in the inside lane, by any means possible!

Last week I sat at the lights, inside lane, with a blue Audi next to me. I don't dawdle around at lights and, knowing the sequence, was quick off the mark and up to the 30 mph limit. However, the Audi felt it was his god-given right to be in front of me and as I, a mere woman, grey haired as well, had beaten him away, he obviously felt affronted. He therefore drove level with me, on hatched lines, and because he couldn't pass me before the central traffic bollard, he went the WRONG side of the bollard to over take me, doing speeds of well over 40 mph! I couldn't believe it!

You can imagine that I took a certain amount of pleasure today, when being told that this same car had carried out virtually the same manoeuvre (except for the bollard overtaking) but had been side swiped by a large lorry when he tried to cut in front of it. YES!!

He won't be trying that again for a while - at least not in that car!
Just for reassurance, no-one was hurt but I did feel a sense of retribution! ;))

Monday, 15 February 2010

Something new for me!

I have always been interested in the Three Rivers Race which takes place on the Norfolk Broads in June every year, this year being the 50th anniversary. You may have noticed my previous post on this subject, which was a bit of a rant!

Anyway, a couple of years’ ago I wrote a letter to the Anglia Afloat magazine complaining at a lack of information on the race being available on-line. One of the contributors to the magazine (Greg Chapman) caught on to my letter and made it the Editor’s letter for that particular issue. He and I have corresponded occasionally since then and I have sent him photos of his boat under sail etc.

Following my letter, he decided to buy a website – and contacted the organisers of the race (Horning Sailing Club plus a sub-committee) to see if they would like him to set a website up. The rather stuffy response was that the sponsors, Navigators & General, would be putting together a website for the 50th anniversary. Well, November, December and then January came with no sign of anything so Greg and I asked the person who designed a website all about Horning Village (although he lives in the Midlands!), Craig Slawson, to help and to cut a long story slightly shorter, we have been working on this for over a month now and it is up and running.

I have been doing the research for the stories from competitors, spectators and the like, finding appropriate photos, researching local accommodation and I am now starting on the boat recognition section. It is just the kind of thing I enjoy doing.

I am quite amused, however, at the friendly bickering which is going on between the two chaps (Greg and Craig) who are doing the technical bit of setting up the layout etc. As all the interaction is taking place by email I end up with about 20 emails a day, copied to me by these two with decisions like the size and colour of the headings, whether menus should be left or right, should there be captions on the photos etc. I hadn’t realised how much minutiae there is in setting up a website and I’m so glad that there are people who have the patience (and knowledge!) to do all this work. Me, I like to write words and take photos!