Winter 2014 Selection from Our Archives. (Prev Dip)   (Next Dip)

For this "Dip" we're sticking to the seasonal theme of Winter.

Wherries tacking at Brundall.
Albion ice bound at a very different looking base (compared with the present day) during the Winter of 1985.
Wherries on the River Yare at Bramerton by Charles Robertson.
A very interesting view of a wherry entering Lowestoft during the winter c1920.
See below for some detailed narrative from our archivist Mike Sparkes.
(Click image for slightly larger view).

I have been studying wherry photographes for many years and have seen some surprises over that time, however this photo showing a wherry sailing towards a bridge which is still closed is one of the strangest. So what is the skipper thinking of ?

Well after studying the photograph carefully certain aspects of the wherry's rig gives the answer. My interpretation of the scene is that the skipper came out of Yarmouth on the last of the ebb tide on the river Yare. Before leaving Yarmouth, the crew rigged the wherry by reefing the sail (at sea they would not require a lot of sail, especially during the winter with an easterly blowing, our photo shows it is winter because there is snow on the quay).

When the crew sailed down Yarmouth Harbour the mate allowed the foot of the sail to go further up the mast no doubt using a piece of rope instead of the usual chain, this would set sail higher to catch the wind over the pier as he aproached the harbour mouth. Once out at sea he would sail south on the slack tide towards Lowestoft, this would take him around an hour, especially as it seems the wind is coming off the sea from the east. So as he sailed into Lowestoft Harbour the wind would be on his stern.

So now the clever bit, this skipper has been here before sailing in to a closed bridge ! The wherry rig is set as follows :- The sail is set high, again catching the wind over the quay. At sea the mate has opened the carling hatch in front of the mast to allow the mast to pivot, no doubt the mast gate in the forepeak has been removed so now the mast can be lowered.

“What about the winch you say”, it will still be across the open carling hatch. Well on Albion it would be (she has winch posts) but I am sure this wherry has a winch fitted to the tabernacle cheeks on either side of the mast. It is set high enough for the mast to pivot giving clearence under the bridge. The crew have attached a piece of rope to the top of the mast, so all is set.

Sailing in through the entrance with the wind astern, the mate has come to join the skipper near the tiller, he has one knee on the cuddy roof and he is leaning forward, no doubt with his hand on the rope leading up to the top of the mast. On approaching the bridge the skipper and mate will heave down the mast still with the sail set and with the speed and weight of the wherry, glide their vessel under the bridge.

Once through they only need to give the mast a heave up and the wind will raise both sail and mast together and off they would sail up Lake Lothing to the lock through to Oulton Broad. By going the short distance to sea (around an hour to one and half hours at most), saves them the longer journey of coming via Breydon Water long the River Waveney, a journey that would have taken a lot longer (around three hours) and needing a lot more effort on their part.

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