90 years afloat

The wherry Ardea and cruiser Spark of Light are cel­e­brat­ing

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - DO­MINIC CAS­TLE re­ports

THERE ARE few sights on the Broads more evoca­tive than a Norfolk Wherry glid­ing along un­der blue skies and full sail.

An­drew Scull’s love af­fair with these clas­sic craft be­gan when he and his wife San­dra had a mem­o­rably won­der­ful trip on the wherry yacht White Moth; they loved the ex­pe­ri­ence and An­drew sub­se­quently be­came in­volved in the Wherry Yacht Char­ter, the char­i­ta­ble trust that pro­vides a base for the boats at Wrox­ham.

But it didn’t end there. A while later he had a call; White Moth was for sale. Was he in­ter­ested?

“San­dra was as cool as a cu­cum­ber when I told her I’d re-mort­gaged to buy the boat,” re­calls An­drew. “Her re­ac­tion was; ‘when can we go on it?’”

Some­what iron­i­cally, given his love of the boats, An­drew, a lawyer spe­cial­is­ing in the chem­i­cal in­dus­try, doesn’t sail or even come from a sail­ing fam­ily: “I am oc­ca­sion­ally en­trusted with the tiller and given strict in­struc­tions not to move it!

“It is enough for me to meet peo­ple and be in­volved in these beau­ti­ful boats,” he said. “I de­scribe it as an an­ti­dote to re­al­ity.”

Two years later, In 2014, An­drew dou­bled his an­ti­dote when he bought the wherry

Ardea. It had been of­fered to him by the owner who wanted the ves­sel to go to some­one who knew and loved the boats – and An­drew fit­ted the bill.

“They are beau­ti­ful relics of the past, work­ing an­tiques. It is spec­tac­u­lar to see them in their nat­u­ral habi­tat and they have a ‘wow’ fac­tor which af­fects ev­ery­one from five to 75. I get the same feel­ing when I see a Spit­fire fly­ing over­head, the sound, the shape... won­der­ful.”

Ear­lier this year An­drew, who lives in Not­ting­ham and makes reg­u­lar trips across to the Broads, be­came chair­man of the trust, which now looks af­ter Olive, Hathor, and

No­rada, as well as Ardea and White Moth. “Our pri­mary tasks are to get the boats out on the wa­ter ,” he said, “and we need to train new skip­pers for them - they can be tricky boats to han­dle. We also have an em­ployee now, Dean Howard, who is a ma­gi­cian with wooden boats and who works full-time on them.”

Dean, 24, man­ages the small base, care­fully main­tain­ing, re­pair­ing and up­dat­ing the boats and di­rect­ing a small co­hort of vol­un­teers who work with him. He be­came in­ter­ested in wooden craft when he started work­ing in a boat­yard at the age of 13 and he later went to Low­est­oft Col­lege to learn about gen­eral boat­build­ing and the skills of the tra­di­tional ship­wright.

The col­lege found him an ap­pren­tice­ship at the trust and he hasn’t looked back since. “I love work­ing with wood,” he said; “I used to work on fi­bre­glass boats but it was a bit like be­ing a kitchen fit­ter. It’s far more in­ter­est­ing work­ing with wood and you learn new skills.”

As an ex­am­ple he showed a wooden hoop he had made, steam­ing and bend­ing ash to

make a per­fect cir­clet to go on a wherry mast, a beau­ti­fully-crafted orig­i­nal to re­place the util­i­tar­ian metal loops cur­rently in use.

Much of the labour around the boats is car­ried out by the vol­un­teers who give up their time to sand, paint, lift and carry things un­der Dean’s guid­ance. Some also act as skip­per or crew on the ves­sels when they take to the wa­ter in late spring.

The trust is work­ing hard to put the boats out as much as pos­si­ble, but keep­ing such im­pres­sive craft afloat and in pris­tine con­di­tion costs se­ri­ous money. They’re look­ing to the cor­po­rate sec­tor as a pos­si­ble source, hir­ing the craft out for spe­cial events or for team-build­ing and have en­listed the help of pro­fes­sional caterer Tracy Cole to pro­vide a new of­fer­ing; fine din­ing aboard Ardea with a five-course meal for up to eight peo­ple to en­joy in the sump­tu­ous, pol­ished wood-lined din­ing cabin.

The WYC is also look­ing at ways of in­tro­duc­ing a younger au­di­ence to the joys of wherry sail­ing. An­drew re­called a time last sum­mer when he took a group of young pro­fes­sion­als out on the boat; ini­tial re­ac­tion was of dis­en­gage­ment with phones out, con­ver­sa­tion at a min­i­mum. As the even­ing went on, though, the mood shifted and phones grad­u­ally dis­ap­peared into pock­ets and bags and in­ter­est grew.

“At the end one of them said; ‘this is bet­ter than a re­lax­ation spa’,” said An­drew.

An­drew Scull on the plea­sure wherry Ardea, which will be 90 years old this year, moored at the Wherry Yacht Char­ter site at Wrox­ham

Above (top to bot­tom): A clock with its key; The mast pul­ley block; The plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing the ex­port of teak used in the restora­tion

Top left: The din­ing ta­ble laid for din­ner in the sa­loon, with the named direc­tors’ chairs

Top: The Trust’s op­er­a­tions man­ager, Dean Howard, at work re­fit­ting the gal­ley on the wherry yacht White Moth

Above: The mas­ter cabin

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.