The Naiad Voyages

Mark Austen

2018.06.30 - An Unusual Trip

The weather was not good for sailing the river today, too much wind but even if it had been perfect I would not have sailed anyway since I had other plans. Those plans involved taking Naiad down to King's Lynn or more precisely, how to go about it.

Up river of the Denver Sluice is fresh water and non-tidal, down river from the sluice is salt and tidal and therein lies the problem. The tides between King's Lynn and Denver Sluice are odd in that it takes 9 hours for the ebb tide and only 3 for the flood tide and there are five bridges that I would need to negotiate.

A group of DCC members had decided to spend the weekend at King's Lynn and I asked the Chair and the Mooring Master if I could hitch a ride on their boat for a trip down river and for them to show me the route and the bridges. Accordingly I set off for Downham Market a little before 08:00 and drove to the station via Tescos for some ship supplies. I parked the car at the station and then cycled along the river bank where the footpath runs. It's only a mile this way but if I go via the roads it is just under three miles. The river bank is kept well grazed and mown, or at least the part that is owned by the farmer, the part owned by the Environment Authority is overgrown and unkempt and difficult to traverse. Fortunately I only needed to travel about 20 yards along the EA land to the pontoons below the lock at the sluice. There I met the flotilla where they were awaiting the start of the ebb tide.

We put the folding bike and stores aboard and then waited until the water started to fall and then it was off. The first bridge is just a mile away but even so, only two of the boats were low enough to be able to get under the bridge, the one upon which I was travelling was about 2" too tall. So we waited for about 10 minutes and were then able to creep under the bridge with about an inch to spare.

The ebb tide builds quite quickly even though it lasts for 9 hours and it was very quickly evident that the water level had fallen when the mud banks started appearing at the side of the river.

There was a small "book" published in 1992 with the title of "King's Lynn to Denver, a guide for river users". This was a simple sketch map of the river between Denver and King's Lynn with land marks and useful information of the river banks and, more importantly, where the shallow mudbanks lie in the river. Even though this booklet is 26 year old is is still amazingly accurate although the members of the DCC do walk the river banks at low water at the beginning of the year and make amendments to the location of the mud banks which periodically change.

Unfortunately you cannot get this booklet anymore which is a great shame. I may well ask one of the members with a copy of the booklet if they would lend it to me so that I can photocopy it for my own use. If it were still available I'd certainly buy a copy.

We had a very good run down to the visitor's pontoon at King's Lynn but it was quite apparent once we had all moored up that it would not be at all possible for me to sail the river in either direction. At only after three hours of ebb tide at spring tides, the current past the pontoon was much faster than I could possibly sail or paddle. That coupled with there being nowhere to safely moor for taking down and raising the mast make for a difficult journey downstream and an even ore difficult one upstream with a very strong flood tide. It is normal for boats from the club to be making 10 knots through the water on the flood tide but in excess of 20 knots over the ground.

We sat and talked about it over a cup of tea and biscuits and decided that probably the best way to travel the river would be to lower the mast for the entire journey and to paddle a little where necessary to maintain steerage way and let the tide do all the work. Going upstream certainly this would work quite well. The distance to travel is just 11 nautical miles and with a flood tide reaching 10 knots at times, this would be quite a short trip. It would mean dropping the mud weight near the Sluice until the tide moderated enough to paddle over to the pontoons but that would probably not be that long. Travelling on a rising tide is fairly safe. If you run aground all you need do it to wait a while for the water to rise.

Going downstream, however, is a little more difficult. It would not be so quick but it is certain that I would still traverse the entire 11 NM is much less than 9 hours and that is the problem, how to stop at King's Lynn when the tide is still ebbing and quite fast. One suggestion was to leave some time after the ebb has started, say half tide, with the intention of arriving at the visitor's pontoon at slack water. However, this would be considerably harder to achieve due to the depth of water at half ebb tide or the lack of it.

There are some moorings buoys just under the road bridges a few hundred yards upriver from the pontoon, but trying to catch one of them whilst travelling at speed could be just a tad dangerous.

One suggestion was to buy an electric motor, something that would be the equivalent of a 2hp petrol outboard motor and use it for the ends of the trip. I'm not particularly keen on this idea, but it might be the only way to make the journey in safety. But I doubt that I'd be doing this since the cost of something suitable starts at around £1,300 and goes up!

2018.06.23 - Another Northerly Sail

Once again we have great weather, but not really for sailing. The forecast for the morning was North Westerly 2 gusting 4 so I went down to the boat and sure enough there was enough wind for sailing. I put the kettle on whilst I prepared the boat, then made a cup of tea before pushing back out of the mooring, paddled across to the other side of the river where I could hoist sail. Full sail, at least to start with since the wind at water level is not that strong. Since the wind was in the North, I set off down river.

It was short tacking in this direction as the wind was pretty much up river but it was a lovely day and the intention is not to get somewhere but just to be out sailing. I decided that I'd just sail down river for two hours and then head back. After about an hour I furled the stays'l during the stronger winds, only unfurling it when the wind dropped. Doing this keeps the boat balanced and yo need less effort to steer.

The wind, for some reason, was very flukey in places, one moment we were moving along smartly the next becalmed. the wind strength did increase just before I turned round to the point where if I had continued on I would probably have put in a reef. As it was I was pleased to change direction and head the other way.


On the outward journey I was too busy tacking to be able to take any photos but once I had turned around it was a lot easier. This is a few minutes after turning and you can see the caller water where Naiad has passed.


The view in the opposite direction.

As usual, the return trip was significantly shorter than the outward leg a mere 25 minutes. We did a lot of tacking going down river!

2018.06.11 - An Unexpectedly Brief Sail

My weather station had been reading 0 knots of wind for most of the day but I took the chance to cycle down to the club just in case there was enough wind there for a sail. It is, after all, a mile away. At the worst I could have another cup of tea although I have to say that I had already drunk many cups of tea during the day.

It turned out that there was just enough wind so I set up down river in the hot sunshine, not forgetting to slather some sun lotion on the exposed skin.

I had a very leisurely sail down the river, sailing nicely in the gusts and drifting in the calms, when I spotted trouble.


There is a drain pumping station just by the wind turbine and today it was pumping out the drain into the main river, something that I have not seen before. As you can see it is fairly flowing out into the river and my concern was that with just a light wind I would have difficulty in sailing agains the extra current that this outflow caused. Had the wind been stronger then it would not have been a concern. Since I didn't want to paddle against this either I turned around and drifted back to my mooring. Just a brief sail of an hour but a very pleasant one nevertheless.

2018.06.09 - Making Good Use of the Northerly Winds

The winds for the last few weeks have been from the North and would have afforded opportunities to sail down river instead of up as I do when the wind is in the South. The idea being that the outward journey is up wind and therefore the slowest and the return journey is the opposite.

Or it would have done if the wind strength had been either not as much or more than it was. too many times the wind was either too strong or none at all for Naiad to be sailed.

Today, however, the wind was not perfect for a sail but good enough and I pushed back out of my mooring at 08:15, hoisted all sail and started the sail down river. Since this was mainly against the wind I tacked a lot in the two and half miles to Modney Bridge and the last half mile or so was taking against virtually no wind due to the trees and buildings. The return trip took about an hour and a quarter.

Still it was a lovely sail.

Maybe next time I'll remember to set up the camera!


Looking back towards Modney Bridge. It's round the bend in the river about a mile. As you can see, there is not a lot of wind.


The view forward. I passed several club members on the trip back to the club, it's the start of the annual Summer Trip Away. A lot of the members, being retired, take their boats and go far afield for six to eight weeks and today was obviously the day to start.

Tina was out riding at the same time as I was sailing and for once we were able to cross paths.


Here's a photo of Naiad sailing that she managed to take whist trying to keep Hope under control. Hope was scared of that big, horse-eating, white, flappy thing that was certainly going to leap out and devour her.

I really do need to get a set of professionally made sails, these ones will do for now but are not really good enough for the long term. I wonder how much a new set of sails will cost?

2018.06.05 - Another Move

I had a phone call from the club chairman a few days so asking me if I would be so kind as to move Naiad to a different pontoon. I had mentioned to her husband, the mooring master, that if needed I could move since Naiad is the smallest of the boats on the club moorings and could fit into any of the space unlike some of the boats which are huge.

Two of the club members had a problem in that their boat was now moored port-side to the pontoon whereas previously they were starboard side to. The difficulty was that due to physical infirmities they found it neigh on impossible to to get onto the boat this way round. Conveniently Naiad's berth is a starboard side to mooring so we have swapped places. Naiad is now three pontoons South of where she was at the beginning of the season.


On her new pontoon.

Now, the new berth suffered from the same deficiency as the previous one so I needed to moved the posts and the fender board to the new spot before moving Naiad over. Whilst I had the fender board ashore I fixed the eight new fenders to the plank so that I do not have to worry about where Naiad's fenders should be tied.


Here is a closer view of the new board.


And another from the pontoon at which Naiad touches the fenders mounted on the board.


The water is deeper and muddier on this pontoon so the posts had to be tied in place. This is the post furthest out into the river and tied to the metal mounting pole on the other side of the pontoon.


At the other end of the the board there is a convenient cleat.



I took the opportunity to spray the cockpit cover with silicone spray as the recent sunshine has evaporated that which was sprayed on before.


The new view from the cockpit whilst I drink my tea!

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