This week 3 of the team here at Waterways Holidays were lucky enough to have a few days sailing on the Norfolk Broads. Our partners at Upton very kindly provided us with the beautiful 34ft yacht ‘Leda’. ‘Leda’ has a gaff rig, which means unlike a Bermudan rig, the main sail is four-cornered. Not only did they provide us with a yacht, but also an instructor for the 3 days due to us all having little to no experience between us!
We set off bright and early on Monday morning and arrived at Upton Yacht Station around 11am. Feeling slightly nervous we popped into the office to say hello and were shown to our floating home for the next few days. After putting our belongings on board we were introduced to our instructor Jimmy. We discussed the route options for our trip, popped our lifejackets and sailing gloves on and sat down for our first bit of training.
Jimmy motored us down Upton Dyke and onto the River Bure, where we all had a go at controlling the yacht under motor. Luckily all 3 of us are used to a tiller due to previous narrowboat experience. The yacht is far more responsive than a narrowboat so we all adapted to the steering fairly easily. Jimmy put the sails up and we took turns on the helm and controlling the jib.
We sailed on the River Bure past the ruins of St Benet’s Abbey and joined onto the River Ant. We sailed a short way up, on the approach to Ludham Bridge we stopped so that Jimmy could lower the sails and mast in order for us to pass under the bridge. There is a designated mooring spot for yachts to pull over and put the mast and sails back up. We moored at How Hill to visit one of the few remaining Norfolk Broads Wherries. ‘Hathor’ was originally built in 1905 and is free to look around for members of the public when moored at How Hill.
We sailed on from How Hill, passing by beautiful riverside homes at Irstead on our way to Barton Broad. With time against us we decided to head to our moorings for the night. Luckily we found a free spot at Gay’s Staithe so we moored, took the sails down and put Leda’s cover on for the night before saying goodbye to Jimmy and heading to the pub for some dinner. We decided on the White Horse at Neatishead, which is a 15 minute walk from the mooring through country lanes.
After a lovely meal and a couple of wines we headed back to Leda for a much needed rest and an early night. In the morning we had a hearty breakfast ready for a full day of sailing and our first attempts at tacking under Jimmy’s instruction. We put the sails up and headed to Barton Broad, each taking it in turns with the tiller and jib. With the wind getting up more and more it truly became exhilarating as the speed increased and we learnt to tack and weave our way across the Broad. We gained confidence quickly and really started to understand what sailing is all about.
After a fairly intense morning we decided to head up to Barton Turf to moor for a spot of lunch and to use the shower facilities. The weather was starting to turn, with rain showers becoming more frequent we decided to start making our way towards Ranworth where we’d be stopping that evening. We sailed back down the River Ant to How Hill to visit another attraction there- Toad Hole Cottage Museum. Toad Hole Cottage is a tiny, thatched cottage, that tells the story of Broads life in Victorian times. The museum provides lots of information on the Broads and has a little shop to buy guidebooks, postcards and gifts.
After dropping the mast and sails we motored for a mile to get under Ludham Bridge. After this we pulled into the reeds and put them back up to attempt to tack down the River Ant. Unfortunately the wind was not working with us and we were meeting a fair amount of cruisers on the way. We turned onto the River Bure, the wider river allowed us to sail most of the way to Malthouse Broad where we managed to find a mooring close to the pub. We popped over to The Maltsters and had a lovely meal and some drinks for our last evening.
We awoke early on the last day of our trip, ready for a morning’s sailing before heading home. Sailing off Malthouse Broad, we spotted a variety of birds including a heron and a little egret. We sailed back past St Benet’s Abbey and headed up towards Womack Water to visit our partners at Ludham. On the way we sailed past another Norfolk Broads Wherry- The Albion, one of only two remaining Broads trading barges.
We arrived at Ludham Yard, home of the Norfolk Heritage Fleet, to have a look at their traditional sailing yachts. These yachts are sail-only, with no motors and some original vintage features such as oil lamps and propane cookers. After our visit, we headed down the River Thurne and River Bure for another sail on our way home. We moored in the boatyard, gathered our belongings and said a huge thank you to Jimmy. We all learnt so much and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, one which I think all of us would highly recommend.