The Naiad Voyages

Mark Austen

2017.10.08 - Longer Voyage

Thankfully, the weather forecast, though not totally correct, was good enough for a great sail today.

The forecast gave force 2 gusting 4 and WNW for most of the day becoming NW then all over the place. There was a possibility of force 3 gusting 4 around 15:00. What we got was force 1 or less gusting 2 or less with the very occasional force 4 gust around 15:00. The wind direction was spot on but due to the low wind speed it was all over the place anywhere that trees grew close to the Western side of the river.

I arrived at the club early and made a cup of tea first thing and while the was brewing I prepared the boat. The wind did raise the burgee but only just, so it was easy to push back out of the berth and paddle to the other side of the river. I hoisted all sail, lowered the rudder blade and centre plate and set off.

The current was quite strong this morning so I used the paddle to avoid having to tack since in the very light winds and strong current, this would have been counter productive. Even so I passed the Ship Inn after sailing for an hour. What a difference having a westerly wind makes.

To my surprise, as I passed one mooring near the Ship Inn, I saw a Kingfisher fly away from a bush on the bank. There's no mistaking that turquoise colour. I haven't seen one of those for years so I was very pleased to see one today.



There is a windless hole just after the pub with trees on both sides of the river. Only Northerly or Southerly winds get through, anything else gets lost, especially if it is a light wind as it was today. The hole lasts for about 800 yards and I had to paddle for most of this. As I navigated the last stretch of the hole I saw another Kingfisher. Or maybe it is the same one I saw a mile or so back. Still, two sightings of a Kingfisher in one day is a first for me.

Once though this dead spot the light wind resumed and even strengthened a little and the trip down to Littleport was even more delightful than the first part of the journey. My aim was to get as far as the first upriver bridge, turn and moor up and cook some lunch. Then I would set sail again and sail home.

Just by the bridge there are houses on the west bank and these turned the light wind in odd directions so that at one point, for a distance of about 30 yards, the wind went to the North East. Still I reached my goal and then turned around and headed back to a recently re-piled section of the river bank that I had spotted on the way past. Here I moored up, downed sail and had lunch consisting of a bowl of Tomato Soup and some bread and butter.

The river is sufficiently shallow next to this bank that I had to raise the centre plate and the rudder blade, this was despite the river having been dredged by the bank and the spoil used to back fill behind the newly installed piling.

After lunch, I didn't clean up, just put everything in to the washing up bowl to be washed later, pushed off the bank, hoisted the sail, just the main and staysail, and headed back down river towards home.

The wind stayed light and was still flukey around any obstruction on the Western bank and the windless hole by the Ship Inn was still dead and some paddling was required but I was in no hurry and only resorted to the paddle when my movement through the water became zero and I lost steerage way.

The wind did gust up to about force 4 once or twice shortly after this but even that soon died away and I was left with a force 2 or less WNW becoming NW as I approached the club. As usual I downed the main but closer to the berth than I would have down with a Southerly wind and left the staysail up until the very last moment. A quick couple of strokes with the paddle was still required to avoid my neighbour and Naiad slipped into her berth.

Having moored, stored the mainsail and put Naiad to bed I made myself two bacon sandwiches and a cup of tea to eat while I sat in the cockpit and contemplated my day.

One of the nice things about such a relaxed and stressless sail is that there is no impetus to get going and rush on to the next task once you have returned, or not for me at least, so having eaten my Bacon Butties and drunk my tea, a task that took well over half an hour, I boiled up some water for the washing up and tidied the cabin.

Even then, once the washing and drying up had been done I was reluctant to leave and go home, but eventually I did. I had to pump up my back tyre, the slow puncture is becoming not so slow, and the ride home was a bit soft at the back wheel but I still wasn't in a hurry, a feeling that lasted the rest of the day.

So, a nine-hour trip in Naiad. A lovely day but I really do need those cushions!