In Arthur Ransome’s excellent book ‘Coot Club’, which is all about the joys of sailing on the Norfolk Broads, there is a glorious description of the Teasel’s journey down the River Bure to Great Yarmouth and then on through Breydon Water to Burgh St Peter (near Oulton Broad).
Leaving early morning on the ebb tide(with a strong north-westerly), the Teasel’s crew have to navigate a series of bridges (including three at Yarmouth) before the tide turns so that they can then ride it up through the large tidal estuary of Breydon Water and on into the Waveney.
Just as they are leaving the hero, Tom Dudgeon (head of the Coot Club), tells how a man from Potter Heigham, in a boat smaller than the Teasel and on just such a wind, sailed from Hickling to Yarmouth and on to Oulton in a day.
When you look at the map and take account of how neatly you have to time the tides, I can’t help wondering: just how possible is this? Sail only mind, no motor and no towing (unless you get stuck on the mud).
Are there any intrepid broads sailors who have done this journey in the time given? Do any of the many yacht clubs hold a Coot Club Challenge to see if this is possible? And if so what’s the record?
Naturally you would have to wait for wind and tide (the latter at least has the decency to be predictable – and maybe a north-easterly would work almost as well – though I don’t know the river system well enough to judge).
Are there any old Wherry Skippers out there who know if this can be done?
PS: If you like tales about Norfolk, try Literary Norfolk.