Across the south of England all crew were making the last minute preparations for Broads2005. Captain Sahdev and crew member Steele elected to spend the evening before the trip out grooving at an Oasis gig. Cabin Boy Roberts (who had already bought his titanium cutlery) and Pirate Ford decided instead, to head up to Cambridge in the early evening; thereby avoiding the early morning rush hour traffic out of central London and buying themselvs a small lie-in. This would leave only a short drive in the morning to Ludham to collect the boats. Admiral Dog Rowlands and First Mate Anne Rowlands had a similar plan, so knowing that Sahdev and Steele would be ringing their doorbell in a few hours they packed and got everything to go and settled down for an early night without even needing to set an alarm clock.
As expected Sahdev was the first up, in Southampton at an eye-rubbing 3.30am, after bundling gear and Jo into the car they travelled up the m3 and woke chris and anne as planned. The Rowlands-BMW really shifted up the m3, round the m25 and made stellar time to "the picnic spot", which happened to be within a stone's throw of the B+B elaina and roberts were in, still sound asleep. However, by 9.30am all crew were at the boatyard, and got the customary tour round their boats for the week: three halfdeckers. They are stripped down, quick, minimalist, and uncomprimising. If the conditions are right, the perfect boat for a days summer sailing; sun beating down, a cool breeze blowing, and the smell of sun cream in the air. But it was drizzling, overcast, miserable, and the wind hadn't made an appearance yet. Wearing the same yellow waterproof as last year, Graham enthusiastically showed us the configuartions of boats, rigging seemed easy: two gunter rigs, each with a jib; and one balanced lug without. We made a smooth, sedate exit, with vivid memories (on some etched more deeply than others) of coming into the dyke last year in a force 8, sail full of wind, with the un-flappable Graham in the afore-mentioned yellow raincoat skidding down the slippery planking of the yard at breakneck speed, yelling for us to "lower the peak, raise the topping, slow down, and chuck me that warp". Once on the main river, we made good time to Horning, where we stopped for our first loo stop (which would prove to be a pattern of the holiday) and had lunch in Horning. It was in Horning that we found out about the tragic events in London; Norfolk, it seemed, was the best place to be. Leaving Horning with appetites satisfied we made reasonable time, sailing was slow but peaceful and relaxing. Buff Tip had a change of helmsman, the old-hand Roberts (who has lots to learn about sailing despite being second only to the Admiral in terms of years served at hunters) swapped with Pirate Elaina Ford, fresh from her level 2 RYA dinghy qualification. Sadly whilst being highly trained, her gruelling weeklong course was completed in London on a busy stretch of the thames where each bank is vertical brickwork. Not so in Norfolk, every tree holds potential danger in the form of an overhanging branch or submerged root. This is what caught her out when pinching to get the most from a tack: the topping lift becoming a casuality of an overhanging gnarled section of fairly dead tree. Hooked round the tree, Buff Tips rigging configuration meant the was no quick release and it just stopped the boat dead, twisting it round into even more difficulty, the sail previously full of wind was now in amongst the sharp branches. A few minutes later and with the assistance of the admiral Buff Tip was free and we continued along towards wroxham. Progress was still slow and arriving at Wroxham Broad we decided that a quick play on the broad would be a good antidote to the total lack of wind on the river. Someone soon spotted an exit futher down river, so we performed an equal-distance-but-fast-cut. Wroxham was the stop for the night, and we had a place booked in a run down boatyard - the important thing was the toilets... Again we found that hydration and boats with no toilets don't mix, at this stage most of the crew suffering with mild dehydration headaces. We hit the town in Wroxham, despite the pouring rain, quickly finding a suitable eatery - a curry house serving enough of a selection to suit all tastes.
The crew rose early to the sound of geese having a scrap outside on the river and a guy building a wooden house right next door to the boat. If it were not common knowledge that no Hunters boat has a single nail in it, only maticulously handcrafted joints, then we might have believed one of the guys from hunters yard was performing running repairs, such was the volume of the banging. Coming out of wroxham there was little wind, but the three boat convoy made good time to Salhouse where the wind had picked up giving an enjoyable sail. Salhouse gave Admiral Spielberg Rowlands his first opportunity to explain his filming schedule for the holiday. Having bought himself a tidy silver sony handycam a few weeks earlier, he was keen to hone his film-making skills. Getting the idea from the big competition in the latest issue of "camcorder monthly" he wanted to make a three-minute thriller. Parts were cast to those who were willing to act rather than those that were able, and a (very) vague plot was outlined to each in preparation for that days scenes. Lunch first though, which was fortunately completed before the dark clouds came in. Although the sudden rainshower did catch out the members of the crew that had decided to make the short walk to the public loos. The others were preparing "the set". Proving that his skills lie not in the field of acting (and further supporting his view not to give up his day job), Cabin Boy Roberts sweet-talked the girl collecting the £3-per-boat mooring fees, and managed to reduce the damage from £9 to only £1. Sadly his acting in the scene after that: "so carls dead, miranda's gone missing, and we're two days from home, what are we gonna do" wasn't quite so inspiring. Very quickly we were under way again, making up time with some excellent (dry weather) sailing to Horning. Hydration once again was the top priorty on the crews minds, as everyone was gulping back water knowing that Horning, and therefore a loo stop, was close. All timed it to perfection with the exception of Cap'n Sahdev who was taken short at the very start of the village. Making use of the familiar "over the side technique" with shrouds grasped in his free hand, he managed to start the task in a quiet stretch of river. Not so after a few seconds though, as Crew Steele ran out of river she had to put in a tack, which forced what was the blind-side of the boat out wide into the river. Whilst the fisherman on the bank were, I guess, used to looking at tackle that afternoon, the tourists passing on foot and on dayboats probably got to see more than they bargained for. Sailing back from Horning was relaxing, and again we made good time to our chosen resting spot for the night - Hunters Yard, and once there we all secured the boats and put on awnings. A small glitch was when Crew Steele embarassed the Cap'n further by losing a hallyard to the top of the mast and promptly blamed him: "NEILLLL!!!!". All very amusing, but to his shame Neil elected not to climb the mast, instead woosing out and lowering it. Obviously much taunting followed, which attracted the attention of a chap in a near-by boat. Apparently, he told us as he helped Neil lower the mast, he'd seen some photos on the internet of some lads climbing the mast of a Hunters Boat, and clicking round the site he read all about their exploits in previous years. With tales of these week long holidays in his mind he'd decided to book one of the fleet for a week, for a holiday of his own. Living up to the hype (although probably without all the childish pranks he'd read online) he had apparently had a great time and was now on his 3rd or 4th trip since... So this ones for you Chip, thanks for reading and maybe see you next year too! Since it was late, and the weather looked a bit dodgy we abandoned the BBQ idea and opted instead for a short walk up the lane to the Kings Arms in Ludham. Whilst the train that passes overhead is as annoying as it is pointless, the mixed grills are "extra large" which mose than makes up for it. After a few beers it was back to the boats, and since no filming was planned and it was getting late straight off to bed.