TALES FROM THE DEEP(LY) TERRIFIED, BROADS SUMMER 98
Continued Part 3 by
Mary Dennis
The notoriously low bridge at Potter Higham meant once more lowering the mast. Newly acquired hire boats zigzagged out of control in the strong winds on our flight path to the small arch of the bridge. Threading our way between boats we finally steered straight for the gap and in spite of high water levels just managed to scrape through. Up went the mast again and we set off for the peace and seclusion of the National Trust owned Horsey Broad. As the boat sailed through the convoluted reed lined channel it felt like passing backwards through time. The wind still roared but was muted by the reed beds close to the sides of the boats. Wild ducks and geese went about their business and peace descended on the boat.
This was short lived. On hitting the broad the wind seemed to strengthen, great gusts swept across the water alive with white horses and spray whipped at our faces. The wind suddenly changed direction as Charles was balanced on the coach roof attempting to take down the main. The jib backed, the boat tilted over at an alarming angle, loud clanking of falling objects came from below and the cockpit started to fill with water. Somehow Charlie hung on, I released the jib, the boat righted its self and we sailed under jib to the retreat of a mooring in Horsey Cut.
Day 4
Charles had promised me a peaceful day to recover my shattered nerves. Horsey Cut provides a perfect mooring, it is beautiful, has a good toilet nearby and a shop which sells such delights as the Sunday Times and chocolates, an interesting windmill to clamber up, nature trails and pubs nearby. We had a restful morning and had just settled down in the cockpit for a late lunch with the Sunday papers when Charles, wafting an insect from his face, sent his spectacles flying into the water.
Prescription spectacles are expensive, so various rescue ideas were put forward. We borrowed a glass bowl from the shop to attempt to peer through to the bottom of the murky waters, cut a plastic bottle up for the same purpose, dragged the boat hook up and down the river bed to attempt to ‘feel’ for the spectacles - all to no avail. Eventually we bought a child’s fishing net to dredge the muddy river bottom. Charles tried and tried again - only managing to lift mounds of smelly black mud from the depths which he spread liberally over the boat and himself.
 
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  We tried loosening the mooring ropes to dredge further out into the cut - failure. By now Charles and cockpit were in a ‘right state’ with mud everywhere and Charles was in despair. Once more he adjusted the mooring ropes and whilst he was doing this I thought that I’d have a go. Hey presto! At the first go up came his spectacles in the net! Charles was so delighted that he dashed straight to the shop to buy me a packet of chocolate buttons as a reward. A climb to the viewing platform of the windmill and a nature trail walk completed an almost uneventful day.
Our previous visit to this mooring was not quite so uneventful. A terrible storm raged for two days with gale force winds and violent thunderstorms. Every boat was tied up unable to move from their moorings. Kwahu was permanently heeled over, straining on the mooring ropes with the force of the wind on the hull. Charles went out to check the ropes and was immediately blown into the water! More black stinking mud found its way back into the boat via Charles person.
The rain was torrential, so in a bid to allow fresh air into the boat we’d put up a fishing brolly over the hatch and removed the wash boards. Suddenly a gust of wind lifted the brolly high into the air, swirled it around like an UFO doing the waltz before it plunged back to earth and floated upside down at speed down the cut. This activity caused quite a sensation and heads began appearing from boats with shouts of ‘Mary Poppin rides again’!. The errant brolly was finally retrieved and put away for a calmer day.
That night a really terrible thunderstorm raged with lightening streaking to earth all around us. We nervously compared the height of our mast against those of nearby boats and were not reassured. The metal kingpost supporting the mast neatly divides our forepeak birth. We both kept well towards our own side of the bed that night.
Charles has a nasty habit of dropping useful and valuable items into the water. On one memorable occasion on the Thames he had borrowed an outboard motor and was checking it for petrol when the fuel cap fell into the water. The water was about four feet deep, so we thought there was a good chance of retrieval.
Charles’s first action was to strip down to his underpants, plunge into the river and ‘feel’ for it with his feet. Then he persuaded me to hold his ankles whilst he plunged his head in the water to search the riverbed. He then sent my son home for any glass container that could be used to break the surface tension and see the riverbed. My son’s view was that ‘the optical qualities of Nescafe jars was not good for the exercise’ - and so it turned out. Finally we had a brain wave - a magnet on a string!
Our friend Richard is now retired from aviation design. As an apprentice he had built a 50cc engine, of which he was very proud, this had a large magnet at the centre of the magneto. He took much persuading to part with his large magnet, which was about 3” x 2” cube, and ensured it’s safe return by tying several knots of strong nylon cord securely around the magnet. I tied one end of the cord to the jetty to keep it safe and then started to ‘fish’ for the fuel cap by jerking the magnet to and from the riverbed.
Suddenly there was a huge splash and a large fish leapt out of the water causing me to fall back in surprise. I stared in amazement - the fish had bitten through the strong cord, presumably swallowed the magnet, and left me with a ragged piece of cord! How was I to tell Richard that a fish had swallowed his magnet? At first we did not believe it and dragged chains along the riverbed to attract the magnet. We never did find either the fuel cap or the magnet. We can only assume the magnet lies within a large fish, which has a fatal attraction for metal boats! And perhaps a fuel cap as a Finny fashions accessory.