Sunday, 12 December 2010

Traditional boats compete in The Carrow Cup

The last three boats to start in this year's Carrow Cup Race in Norwich on 11th December were a Norfolk Mussel boat named Ethel Maud, Mr Fisher a Lynn cockle boat and the Salter Skiff Osprey.
Following more than a week of freezing temperatures, Saturday dawned with clear skies and an air temperature of 7 deg C. Quite a relief for all participants in the event.
Norwich Rowing Club organises this annual race for a trophy first presented in 1813, six years before the first Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.
This year "traditional" boats were invited to join in with the large fleet of racing fours, quads and doubles. Traditional, on this occasion, being defined as boats with fixed seats and no riggers. The Norfolk Skiff Club offered a prize for the fastest traditional boat to complete the 3500 metre course on handicap.
The handicap system used bears some simlarity with the Duckworth-Lewis Formula, being completely reliable, but impossible to explain.
The starting line for the race was at Pull's Ferry, in the centre of Norwich and almost under the shadow of the cathedral spire. Shortly after 12.30 the starter gave the signal for the first boat to go. Boats then started at ten second intervals until only the last three, the traditional boats, were left.
Mr Fisher was next to start and made good speed in persuit of the faster boats. Ethel Maud followed and Osprey brought up the rear. There was a long way to go, but all the crews worked at their oars as the boats negotiated the Foundry Bridge. Past the Hotel Nelson, Osprey was making ground on Ethel Maud and an attempt to overtake lead to a clash of blades and a close encounter with some moored boats. By Carrow Bridge Osprey had overtaken Ethel Maud, but Mr Fisher appeared to be pulling away.
Mr Fisher was first to cross the finishing line followed by Osprey and Ethel Maud. The times were:
Mr Fisher 28mins 03 secs (corrected time 21mins 36 secs), Osprey 29 mins 22 secs (corrected time 22 mins 19 secs), Ethel Maud 32 mins 43 secs (corrected time 23 mins 53 secs)
Mr Fisher was awarded the Norfolk Skiff Club prize, which Mark Beck on behalf of his crew received from David Bolton of the Norwich Rowing Club at the prize giving ceremony, which brought a most enjoyable event to its conclusion.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Carrow Cup 11th December 2010

Osprey, the Salter Skiff, will be entered for the Carrow Cup race in Norwich on 11th December. Having got permission for fixed seat boats to enter this long established race, the crew of Julian and Adrian are just hoping for some other fixed seaters to brave the weather, when most will be Christmas shopping, or finding something to do indoors.
Julian and I have rowed this race before in various weather conditions including: fog, rain, sleet, hail, but this year we are expecting it to be bright, crisp and fine. I'll let you know the reality afterwards.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Rowing, pulling and sculling

Here's a little learning from Eric McKee's "Working Boats of Britain".

Propulsion by oars and sweeps, standing and sitting, facing forward and aft, with varying numbers of hands on each oar or men in the boat, needs a book to itself to describe adequately. Oars are as practical today as they were thousands of years ago. In spite of rowing being an easy manoeuvre, the mechanics of it are not self-evident, nor has the geometry been recorded systematically in the past. Even the terms are confusing, as they differ in salt and fresh water. In salt water a man is said to be rowing when he is working a pair of oars, one in each hand, but pulling if he is working with both hands on one oar. A thwart is single-banked if there is only one man on it pulling, but as rowers can only be single-banked, they do not get this designation. (A double-banked thwart is one with two men, both pulling separate oars.) In fresh water, the waterman rows with one oar and sculls with a pair of sculls, only state barges being double-banked. This may be why scholars, who are more likely to be wet-bobs than salts, persist in writing about 'rowing' in sea-going oared vessels, one thing that could not have been done.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Wissey Exploration

The 10th day of the 10th month of two thousand and ten dawned bright and cloudless in Norfolk. Just the day to explore a new river. Tony and Adrian hitched Osprey, Tony's 16' Salter Skiff, to the Skoda for the road trip to the river Wissey.
The Wissey rises near Shipdham in central Norfolk and flows into the Great Ouse 3 kms west of Hilgay. It is navigable from above Whittington to the confluence. There are no locks and it is non-tidal.
We launched Osprey from the public slipway (no charge?) beside the bridge in Hilgay and parked the car and trailer on a parking area 100yds up Bridge Street past The Rose and Crown. Hilgay also provides public
conveniences near the visitors' moorings upstream from the bridge.
A few minutes rowing into a stiff headwind took us clear of the moorings and into open country. To the south the low bank revealed cows grazing on Hilgay Fen and to the north a row of tall poplars marked the bank of the Cut Off Channel, one of the main drains of the fenland drainage and flood defence network. We soon parted company with this oversized ditch, knowing that we would
meet again at the mysteriously named Syphon.
The Wissey proved to be wider, quieter and more attractive than we had anticipated; broad in places and with mature trees to the water's edge. All peaceful and rural until, after 4 kms, the belching chimney, unpleasant aroma and mechanical din of the Wissington sugar beat factory assaults all of the senses. I suppose that the giant pipes and conveyors are of some interest, but I could have done without them.

3 kms further on and the Wissey takes a sharp bend to the north. At this point the Methwold Lode joins the main stream. Although not shown as a navigable waterway on our map, it looked wide enough for Osprey,so in we went. Passing some fine willows the "Lode" runs straight for several hundred metres. We stopped and climbed onto the bank well short of the possible limit of navigation. From the bank you look down into the surrounding fields; sheep on one side and cows the other. The OS map shows a spot height of just 2 metres here.
Back to the Wissey, the next highlight is the aqueduct and syphon, where the Cut Off Channel flows under the river. As a feat of engineering this is quite remarkable, but it is far from picturesque. The river runs in a concrete trough with sides so high that you can't see out. The only way to gain a view of the aqueduct is to moor in a tree, brave nettles and climb a wire fence. The reward is a view of the ruler straight Cut Off Channel apparently stopping abruptly at an impenetrable barrier, but reappearing on the other side of the Wissey. All this framed in concrete and adorned with railings and notices warning of what you are not allowed to do.
The flood barrier, which comes next, is a delicate structure in comparison with the Syphon. But once past this, nature reasserts itself and the row up to Stoke Ferry is pleasant. Facilities at Stoke Ferry are, however, lacking. Once upon a time there was a pub by the bridge, but this closed years ago. Between the old and new bridges there are private moorings and once past the new road bridge we had reached Whittington, with its tidy riverside camping site, slipway and public moorings.
This is where we turned Osprey's bow back towards Hilgay. The row upstream into a headwind took two and a quarter hours. We made the return trip in one and three quarter hours. Within 15 minutes of our return to Hilgay, Osprey was back on her trailer and we were on the road for home.
A good day out, we agreed and that the Wissey was, in most parts, more attractive than we had anticipted, but we felt that we had ticked another river off the list and would not be back, except, perhaps, to launch at Hilgay again and explore downstream and dip our oars into The Great Ouse.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Follow us in the Great River Race on 25th September

A message from the Great River Race organisers:

Naturally we hope you will be bringing hordes of vociferous supporters with you; but please encourage those family and friends who cannot make it to watch online from noon on Saturday.
All they have to do is go to and click on the TDL logo to follow the fortunes of every boat in the Race via GPS tracking.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Flying the flag

Osprey will proudly fly the Norfolk flag during the Great River Race.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Skiff Club enters Great River Race 2010

The Norfolk Skiff Club has entered Osprey, a Salters skiff, for the Great river Race from London Docklands to Richmond on Saturday 25th September. The crew of Julian, Adrian, Sarah and Baz are in training. Adrian says: " We have been training at high altitude. I'm sure it will pay off with a good time over the course."

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Norfolk Skiff Club founded

The Norfolk Skiff Club was born one evening in June 2010. I can't quite remember which evening, but Tony, Sue Lynne and Adrian were present. Apologies for absence were received from Julian, Imi and Frode.

It was decided that the purposes of the NSC were to promote recreational rowing and sculling on all Norfolk waterways, particularly in fixed seat boats of traditional design and any construction.

It was decided that membership would be open to all who showed an interest in the club's objectives.

These motions were carried and a toast drunk to the new club.