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Next, the sea

I’d be prepared to agree with anyone who felt like arguing that to date our passages on this round Britain voyage on Cirrus have been relatively modest affairs. We have had so much sunshine whilst at sea that Kate and I are beginning to look distinctly cooked and the winds have generally either favoured us or been absent altogether. Our passage from Lowestoft to Wells has changed all that. This time we had wind, more than we wanted, we had waves, bigger than we wanted, and for much of the trip the wind was trying to blow us back instead of helping us along. Then by some serious miscalculation on my part we managed to arrive at Wells as the tide was going out instead of coming in, forcing us to spend most of the night outside resting on a sandy piece of Norfolk instead of tucked up snug in port.
At this point I could regale the reader with a moment by moment account of each large wave that Cirrus’ broad bows bashed into, each 25 knot gust that whistled through the rigging, each groan from the straining sheet winches, but I won’t. Instead it seems appropriate to write about the delights of this port of Wells that we eventually made it into.

If I were asked to guess a reason for the full name of this town being ‘Wells-next-the-Sea’ I would have said that it might be due to the fact the for most of the day the sea is in fact notably absent from the port. Visitors need to be reminded that this is a seaside town when most of the boats in the harbour lie about on their bottoms for hour upon hour. It is only when, all of a rush, water suddenly emerges from the winding channel leading north from the quayside that the seaside illusion becomes real. To be fair though, there are other things here which sort of give the game away. Like the black-headed gulls, for example, who enjoy nothing more than standing around in mid air waiting for someone to throw them a piece of bread.
Elsewhere, closer to the sea, another animal disports itself. We think that the light brown may be an adult and most of the others juvenile versions of the common seal, here on the north Norfolk coast in considerable numbers. Someone reading this will be more expert on the local mammalian wildlife than me in which case they can pass comment if they wish. The next beast, however. might be more difficult to place. We came across this tank whilst wandering off for a short walk along the beach, strangely strategically positioned close to a line of huts. Kate couldn’t resist going up to it and patting its flanks and the tank didn’t seem to mind so why not.

The recession that most of the world seems to be living through at present seems to have entirely missed the town of Wells. Shops around here are well stocked and have a prosperous feel to them (Wells never had a Woolworths). The houses are tidy, a tasteful mix of modern and very old and the port itself has none of the sad, tired fishing boat debris lying about; it is clean and well managed. Best of all, the town has no less than two chandleries, places where they sell spare parts for boats, these shops being noticeably absent from other places we have visited, one of the many victims of internet purchasing. The Wells harbourmaster so wants to encourage visiting boats into his port that he takes his own launch out and is waiting offshore for you on arrival, to escort you back along the winding channel into to where new pontoons and shower facilities are waiting for you. So long as your boat can ‘take the ground’, a nautical expression meaning to stand upright without the benefit of supporting liquid, then this is a really nice place to put into.

Catamarans like Cirrus are made for this kind of port. There is, however, a slight slope to the firm sand onto which we gently settle twice a day as the tide goes out and this puts our normally level world inside the boat at the same slight angle. Curiously this tends to affect our sense of balance and we find ourselves staggering about inside as if inebriated. But this is a small price to pay for being safe inside a good harbour.

Having spent a few days here looking around, cycling out to Blakeney beside the marsh checking out the bird life, then browsing the art galleries in the town, we are moving on north again early tomorrow morming, taking advantage of a few days of fair wind. We have a simple plan to get Cirrus up to Yorkshire where who knows, we may stay awhile to give our land legs some exercise.

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