The Reedham Row for me is the highlight of the Yare Boat Club year, and once again, this year’s event did not disappoint.
Fourteen members took part in the rowing – 6 going both ways. It requires a little bit of advanced planning by Tony in order to determine the right dates in order that we can boat from Reedham at high tide, Phil to book the Archers camping pitches, Sue to provide the breakfast, and Tony again to help to bring all the camping equipment in the car.
After throwing our camping equipment in the back of Tony’s car, we crossed over to the boat club where Phil awaited us with news of the team sheets. Bob, Sue T, George and Ariane were to go in Phoenix, whilst Sue F, Phil, Ian H and Sam were primed for R&B. But there was a problem! Sam’s feet wouldn’t fit in the small shoes of R&B. We were stuck. We were about to pack up and go home when it occurred to me that I could apply the years of expensive education I had received: Ariane and Sam could simply swap boats! Genius, agreed everyone (probably). Once Ariane got over her disappointment (she had already bonded with her initial crew), we were under way.
The expectation was that the tide and wind on the way down would be kind to us – the tide was going out, and the wind was blowing from the south west. So much so that though the quad crews assured us that they would wait for Arthur and me (in Dusky Grimmer) who were last to boat, we actually found them skulking under Postwick viaduct. Sue T assured me that they hadn’t pulled a stroke, and as it’s Sue we’re talking about, I (almost) believe it!
As I said, it was expected that the tide and wind on the way down would be kind to us. So much so that I only had to row light for the next 16 miles. Apparently I hadn’t bothered to tell Arthur of my intentions, but he did have a little chuckle about it as he repaired a particularly nasty blister during blister clinic later in the day!
Although starting last, the double soon blasted past the two quads (helped by the fact that they waited for us!). We didn’t want to rub it in too much, but a little show-boating was surely to be excused – we attempted the Surlingham Broad challenge – to row a perfect circle within Bargate (the central lake) without crashing into the bank. We nearly made it too – but the bank to the north west proved an unyielding foe. Despite our failure, we rowed on, and in the exit dyke, passed R&B, whose crew were gamely trying to scythe the reeds from the bank. Well that’s what it seemed to us they were doing!
Moving back into the channel by Coldham Hall, the wind seemed to get up a bit, and the river became somewhat choppy. From then on, steering was simply a matter of hugging the bank until reaching a bend, where we would cross over the waves to the cover of the other side. This seemed to work well, though the participants of the fishing competition after the Beauchamp Arms probably didn’t think so! Arthur and I took a break at Cantley and watched as R&B cruised past us at top speed (the crew obviously worried that the hot water for the showers would run out if they didn’t get there first!). Half an hour later we arrived at Reedham and not a moment too soon: we had the pleasure of watching R&B attempt the impossible: to shoot into the slipway whilst the tide and wind were aggressively taking them down the river, whilst at the same time the ferry was darting back and forth across the river. It was like a game of Frogger! They fairly quickly gave up, and so gave us a chance to land first. The tide and wind were so strong that to row into the slipway appeared to us to be impossible, so we improvised. We rowed alongside the quay, where Tony threw us a rope which we attached to a rigger. Once secured, we removed our oars, passed them up, and carefully scrambled out of the boat. Then it was a case of lifting the boat out of the river. We did this in a stylish manner.
R&B by this time had ploughed into reeds 100 metres down river (intentionally, as it later turned out!), and the crew had managed to disembark, with only collateral damage to Katherine’s foot. Phoenix turned up soon after, and Bob expertly steered the boat to the quay, where we repeated the Tony rope trick, which worked a treat. As we all rested on the bank, boats safely on tyres/trestles, we reflected on the previous year when we had all got covered head to toe in mud in the slipway. Why did we do that again?
Once at Reedham, we set up camp and a MASH (Mobile Arthur Surgical Hospital) to try to remove the reed firmly lodged in Katherine’s foot. The wind was up, but the bank and trees of the campsite afforded us a bit of protection, and we enjoyed George’s flapjacks (secret to their tastiness: butter), Katherine’s delicious chocolate cake (secret to their tastiness: butter and chocolate) and copious cups of tea and coffee. We enjoyed a very good meal at the Reedham Ferry pub, and were joined in our wassailing by former member of the club but not forgotten Guy Gibson, who didn’t rub it in to us at all that we had to row the whole way back in the morning! He didn’t actually.
The morning arrived and with it new members of the crew and helping hands. Rod, Christina, Catharina and Katherine replaced Sue T, Ian H, Ariane and Sue F, and Ali and Tony turned up to provide moral support and to help the boats into the river. Phil found himself steering Phoenix, with Catherine, George and Sam stroking. Bob retained the steering for his boat, and had Rod, Christina and Catharina stroking. The wind, which had died down somewhat during the night, was back (at 26 KMPH), and the boats were launched smoothly from the quay. Dry rowing kit lasted about 5 seconds – especially if you were sitting towards the stern of the boat. I promised Arthur I would put in more effort on the way back – and as it turns out, there was not the option to do anything else. The rowing was hard and even a cross-wind was welcomed as sweet relief from the head-winds we seemed to be getting. As we passed the Beauchamp Arms, the tide and wind seemed to become kinder to us. There were no antics in the Bargate on the return – everyone was too tired, and Sam in particular was suffering from very bad blisters. Bananas were passed between boats inexpertly, and had assumed the status of common currency. The last 7 miles was as per usual a slog, and much suffering was endured. The boat house was reached though, and a round of applause and a cup of tea was waiting from the helpers at the bank – Sue F, Sue T and Tony, which was greatly appreciated.
Hats off to Ian H, Catharina and Sam, who all completed their first Reedham Row this year, and thank you to Tony, Phil and Sue F for arranging everything.
26th June 2012