For Those In Peril On The Sea

Bryn had made a list of places to visit and things to do in the area of Cromer. A trip in a steam train had been booked well in advance as he said it sold out. It sets off from Sheringham. We were booked in the afternoon slot so we had a morning activity with lunch at a garden centre called Natural Surroundings. Apart from the plants and types of gardens, there were some glass cases with harvest mice, a major attraction. There were very speedy and I took many blurred pictures. They were most acrobatic, gripping with their tails and burrowing down. I don’t know how they were managing to balance. You could see how they could manage to run up and down the vertical corn stalks. I was reminded of the Burns poem, To A Mouse, where he is distraught at the accidental destruction of the mouse nest. He reflects that at least the mouse only deals with its current turmoil and is not plagued by memories of the past or fears for the future.

While Shane,Bryn, Nye and I were enjoying Natural Surroundings, David had been dropped off at his own niche interest, not far away, a military vehicle museum, a very unnatural surrounding, as far as I am concerned. We collected him on the way back to Sheringham. The museum is in a military base. Leaving the the grounds we saw a sign. We have no idea if this serves as a bit of fun or a warning! Clearly in some places this is no joke.

Mines in Verges warning sign at the military museum

No such negative musings persisted in Sheringham where we all enjoyed a browse in the shops before our cream tea aboard the steam train and the volunteers doing the hot and dirty jobs were enjoying a hobby, not trying to make a living.

The next day we had a very good time at the Amazona zoo, a short walk from our accommodation, Shane and I recalling some of our Brazilian Amazon wildlife experiences. Fortunately we never met pumas and jaguars, but did have close encounters with snakes and caiman. Capybara enjoy the water despite the danger from caiman. In the zoo the capybara shares with the tapir, not the caiman, which is in the reptile house. Both jungle and Amazon River beasts were in this small zoo.

The next day was a full day of fun and family and a visit to the florist, with the wedding of my niece, Kirsty and Adam. All went very well from beginning to end. Even the visit to the Cromer florist was fun. The florist was worried she had made a mistake when she hadn’t prepared my buttonhole until I arrived but I had plenty of time and was more involved in the selection of items in the buttonhole by being there while she made it. She had prioritised the preparation of a wreath for a widower, and I saw him arrive to collect it and he said it was “perfect”. She was a most considerate person and put lots of thought into her arrangements, just like the wedding planners!

One thing you can plan around but not control is the weather. On the wedding day it was a mix of sun and cool autumn breeze. It had been a rainy day the day before but bright and dry in the day. The next day was a lot windier and greyer and the place we went crabbing was no longer suitable for such a gentle outdoor activity.

The pier with life boat launch house at the end in Cromer, on a wilder day than when we did crab fishing.

The life boat house were having an open day so we went to see. They normally do a practise launch but skipped it due to the weather. It is all very well taking risks when lives are at stake, but not when it is just routine. For some reason there were people in Star Wars costumes there too. I didn’t know if they were a random children’s attraction for the open day or a pun on “storm troopers”.

Glass window depiction of a Cromer life boat in action, at RNLI station

We followed this up with a visit to the Henry Blogg museum with more stories about boat rescues at sea. The RNLI crews are all volunteers and in a recorded interview one of the volunteers qualified the term ‘volunteer’ by saying if, as he was you were born into a fishing family, not being lifeboat crew didn’t occur as an option, you were expected to do it. They all had the skills and depended upon it. I was surprised to discover that Cromer fisher families fished in the winter and made money by hiring deckchairs in the summer. The museum had Henry Blogg’s boat in it, rather like the one in the window picture above. Though early lifeboat crewmen were reluctant to wear lifejackets. The museum also taught about life saving strategies, to prevent drowning, in other parts of the world. Drowning is a common preventable cause of death. Alongside the displays of life jackets over time was the traditional fisherman’s Gansey pattern, allegedly each unique so a body washed up could be identified. They were designed to be close knit for warmth and we’re knitted for family members.The knitting charts and patterns were included in the ‘match the gansey’ display.

Shane, Bryn and I then had a clifftop walk to the lighthouse. Altogether it was a day to reflect in the perils of sea and wild weather. We watched a fishing boat trying to launch by reversing into the waves the next day. They made it but it looked pretty hard going. Then it was time to return to our boat grounded but unharmed. It hadn’t been smashed against rocks.

We have made our way back along the Stort and then went into the Lee navigation to Hertford. Hertford is at the end of the navigation so we were glad to have checked there was turning space before heading under this bridge in the morning. The sign makes you think you shouldn’t be heading there at all.

End of Lee Navigation

There was plenty space to turn round, we didn’t fall off the end of the canal system. On the way back I was taking care to have the right windlass with me at the lock where Shane had lost one. I thought I might avoid working it at all when I saw a Canal and River Trust worker. I climbed out and he revealed that he was only there to paint the gate and had just finished. He said, to my relief, that he would operate the freshly painted gate. He remarked that locks may well be full of lost windlasses, as I explained that my best one didn’t fit this mechanism and we had lost one trying to pass one out to me. Better for a windlass to fall in than a crew member. I happened to be reading a (fictional) book at the time that included someone falling into a lock and dying.

There had been storm warnings for Friday, but for further north, and quite a lot of rain forecast on Thursday and Friday so we were hurrying to get to our mooring before the worse weather. In fact Thursday was the rainier day and we had the raincover up, except that at several locks we had to drop it to get under the bridge. At times it seemed not worth the bother but we have got more adept at lowering and raising it speedily. Showers were frequent and sharp but we dried out in between.

Rainbow at the end of a shower

In this part of the system there are a lot of people choosing to live on the canal for economic reasons and I also felt I was seeing more old lifeboats being repurposed for canal life. They don’t have much light as they close over but on our way into London there were a few to be seen. They were surely never intended for the canals. They are very enclosed but we have seen them moving and we saw one in a lock and I helped him get through. There was some confusion at the next lock when someone operating it knew someone else was trying to come in and asked us to wait. We thought it was the lifeboat that had been ahead of us at the previous lock and waited for him to use the lock but he was just tying up and not anting to travel further. Then we saw the boater wanting to use the lock was behind us and approaching. We shared with her and I operated the lock while she held her boat with a rope. She tripped on her rope and Shane expressed his concern and she said she wasn’t having a good day and had fallen in the canal already that day, when her bike fell in. She seemed unscathed. I don’t know how her rescue went. I wonder what rescues these boats have seen in their previous lives and what they are like inside as they were never designed for long-term living.