Adrian Wallbank's Holiday Journal
Our first guest blog has been submitted by Adrian – Read his excellent contribution:
Motley Crew: Dr Adrian Wallbank (captain) Mrs Arlene Wallbank (mother of above and self professed ‘galley slave’) Mr Michael Wallbank (father of above and deckhand)
The first priority of the holiday was to raid the cream cake section of Roys which my aged parents undertook whilst I went and had a look at the river and admired several old Horning Pleasurecraft tubs that were moored at the staithe. My parents, now both 67, remember these things when they were brand new in the 1960s and most of them now look as though they are about to sink and they sound dreadful when chugging along! I can only guess that when they were built no thought was given to their outward appearance as back then people probably thought we’d all be living on Mars by now and the said craft would have long ago been recycled into spacecraft! After ramming all the shopping, and ourselves into the car, we finally took over the boat at 1.30 and within several minutes had completely cluttered what had started out as the usual immaculately presented Royall boat. So much food was acquired that the fridge door would barely close and was in danger of springing open at any moment, but Nigel was well impressed with the Sunday joint that was sitting in there in readiness for our dinner! During our cursory run through of the boat the subject of hair washing was raised (I cannot for the life of me remember how or why), and Nigel suggested my mother ought to be grateful for having some hair, even though it is grey! The recommended method for drying my mother’s hair, according to Nigel, was for her to lean out of the window whilst I revved the engine really fast! How this was supposed to affect the desired result remains a mystery, but Nigel suggested that judging of my mum’s style, she must have tried it already! Cheers Nigel, so much for being a loyal and returning customer! Think we’ll try Summercraft next time.... After a protracted discussion on the best method for killing and cooking a swan, we finally set sail!
The intended destination for the night was the rather unfortunately named Cockshoot Dyke, which has been our ‘first night’ mooring for longer than I can remember. Unfortunately the dyke was full of Yachts and we had to moor opposite the now semi-derelict pub in Horning, which did not go down at all well with the parents who both wanted a decent view, but suited me just fine as I could watch all the comings and goings. Royall Oak joined us a little later, and this makes it three times in a row now that Oak has moored directly in front of us at Horning on our first night. After a few failed attempts at mooring up, the helmsman eventually found the button that operated the bow thruster, and once the boat was tied up, settled down to cook his dinner on his BBQ. I’ve had my reservations about Oak for some time, not really liking the driving position (seems weird being in the middle!), but after being suffused with BBQ fumes for an hour, we rapidly come to the realization that we definitely preferred a boat with modern conveniences such as cooker! Might we suggest, Nigel/Sara, that you fit such a device in Oak ready for next season? Also some better wiper blades on the windscreen to get rid of the volcanic ash that was by now falling a little after its journey from Iceland!!!
In our two holidays afloat in 2009 (Stuart and Solitaire), we didn’t have a single crash! This record was about to change today! First of all Horning Sailing club turned out in force. Around 30 odd small sailing boats came careering past us, each one getting closer and closer to Solitaire. Several booms went whizzing by, only missing us by a matter of inches, until we came to the conclusion that this was a decidedly dangerous place to moor. The deckhand (my Dad), had disappeared on a walk so we couldn’t really move until he returned from his shore leave. We stayed put until the inevitable finally happened! Eventually a loud band, followed by a protracted and terrifying scraping noise roused us from our morning cuppas. A small Yacht went sailing by with his aluminium boom scraping all down the side of the boat! His response was simply ‘whoops’, but I soon had my head out of the cockpit window hurling abuse at him! We checked for damage and surprisingly, we couldn’t find a mark! Very lucky! The itinerant deckhand finally we returned and so we set off to Ranworth for water. Here we had our second crash of the holiday. Our mooring was fine, but a very odd little Barnes Brinkcraft vessel which looked like a cross between a caravan and a mini super yacht drifted into us and nearly put one of our front windows through! The crew fended off with their plastic boathook (in order to maximise the potential for scratching our boat), until I finally dragged them in and helped them get water. This in itself was amusing as they hadn’t been told where there water point was. In the end it took 5 of us to find it. Strangely enough we were again moored next to Oak (we can’t seem to get away from it), but we didn’t see her again all holiday. After lunch at Fleet Dyke, we sailed to Acle and then to the mouth of the Thurne for the night in readiness for a go at Potter Heigham Bridge (tides etc were looking favourable).
The intention today was to avoid any more crashes and merely take delight in those affected others. We also tried but failed to get under Potter Heigham bridge. Why doesn’t someone do everyone a favour and knock the thing down? One of those old Horning Pleasurecraft things at full pelt ought to do the trick..... Or a drunken stag party on one of those Brinks Lullaby affairs.....! We bumped into Royall Courier at Womack (just in view on the photograph), then set off for ‘shed city’.
On our way back from Potter Heigham, we encountered a small cruiser from Richardsons heading up river at incredible speed. They flagged us down and said they were late returning the boat after a short break and was Stalham just round the corner? This obviously caused us great hilarity! We did our best to direct them and told them it would take the best part of 3 hours from Potter Heigham! In hindsight I wished I had said left at the bottom of the Thurne instead of right, thereby directing them to Great Yarmouth, but my folks wouldn’t have approved and there was still some roast beef left in the fridge that I had my eye on, so I decided to behave myself! In the end they mistakenly followed us down Thurne Dyke (our intended lunch stop), again asking if they were at Stalham yet (!!!!), so we had to help them reverse out of the narrow dyke before they again sped off towards the Bure. Whatever happened to them we shall never know, but they must have been at least 6 hours late returning their boat!!
We headed back to Salhouse Broad for the night in readiness for again hitting the Roys cream cake department and a cruise up stream to Coltishall. It is £6 to spend the night at Salhouse but it is worth every penny for the wildlife and the views/atmosphere. We got our first sighting of a pair of Ospreys here, although we were to see more throughout the week, especially at Ranworth and How Hill. We also tried Nigel’s tactic for drying my mother’s hair, but we still couldn’t work out what he was on about!
A rather relaxed and uneventful day today, which was excellent considering the crashes we had on Sunday. We cruised up to Coltishall and then back down to Cockshoot for the night. The trip up to Coltishall is delightful and well worth it. The wildlife was spectacular as always, and we saw several Kingfishers and the first butterflies. The evening was still and we had our first frost, but the location more than made up for it. We also managed to figure out how to make the new heating system that Paul had installed over the winter work a bit harder and bring the temperature to above 17oC for the first time!!
Today saw the first sight of rain, which covered the boat in volcanic ash! Despite dire warnings from the Daily Express that we ought to be wearing masks and that were all about to perish, this was pretty much the first contact we had with the stuff, although apparently its invisible, so we may have been breathing it in all along and might not make the holiday on Commander 2 booked for September after all!!! After taking water next to a day boat at South Walsham that was rapidly sinking, we headed up the Ant to How Hill for the night. Here we again bumped into Courier (not literally). Being moored next to her for the night created something of a stir. Before long word had got around that two Royall boats were moored together (actually Commander 1 was just round the corner as well), and before we knew quite what was happening the paparazzi had descended upon us! I know Royall’s boats are good, but I didn’t realize they were famous too! We were later disappointed to realize that they were actually photographing the sunset, but it made interesting viewing for while! Another very cold night with a frost. Heating system much better now we know how to work it properly!!!!
Today saw us head upstream to Barton Turf for water, then onto Sutton for lunch and Stalham for yet more food! We returned to How Hill again for the night to see more Ospreys and to be serenaded seemingly all night long by the Bittern ‘booming’ out in the reeds somewhere!
Today we headed down the Ant to South Walsham for water and lunch, and then up the Bure to Wroxham (via Ranworth for ice creams due to it now being quite hot!), in readiness for returning to the yard on the Saturday morning.
The idea was to moor on the river at Wroxham Broad for the night. We never have our last night in the yard as overlooking the Barnes Brinkcraft empire never really appeals as much as the main river! However, near Salhouse a mysterious red light appeared on the dashboard. We rang Paul and were told we needed a pump out! Quite why the domestic system voltmeter registers this fact remains a mystery, but we were advised to head in for a pit stop (either that or not moor next to anybody who might have a well in line with the septic tank overflow!!!). This was a actually a good move as we booked our next holiday on Commander 2 while Paul took care of our sewage problem, and Sara kindly showed us around inside. It looks an amazing boat – not properly in the Royall livery but very sleek and roomy. Can’t wait until September!!!! Paul proceeded to tell us how ‘impressive’ and ‘commendable’ it was that the three of us had managed to completely fill the septic tank on Solitaire in less than a week! Cheeky git! I can see his point – as a 4/5 birth it is good going, but we drink a LOT of tea and consume a LOT of food, so that’s our excuse and we are sticking to it. I’m just waiting with baited breath for a sarcastic comment or cartoon from Nigel next time. If we fill the tank on Commander then that really will warrant concern! How big is the tank Nigel?? Friday night saw us get our mooring at Wroxham Broad and then we headed back into the yard for 8am the following morning. We will be back soon though....!