It was a dark, grey and damp morning on the bank holiday Saturday morning, but despite this the cruise started with a very pleasant downwind sail on the tide to Oulton Broad. The plan was to moor up and have lunch here, but as the yacht station was so busy, we were offered the chance to go straight into Mutford Lock, some 3 hours earlier than booked. This meant some hasty phone calls to establish the whereabouts of additional crew for Pandora (who leapt aboard in the lock itself) and the air draft under Lowestoft Bridge - knowing it was high water on a big spring tide. 6 foot 3. Hmmm, bit tight, but we'll give it a go..... Hasty mast lowering as we entered the lock and lots of entertainment for the watching crowds.
Once through the lock (seemed odd rising up to get nearer the sea) we motored down Lake Lothing, receiving further information that the air draft was between 6' 3" and 5' 11". This caused a certain amount of nervousness, especially with the gentle swell, but we let the Secretary lead the way and once he was safely through, the rest of us followed, with just an inch or two to spare. We were soon rafted up on the regatta quay at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk and scurrying ashore to sample the 10 real ales and 2 ciders that were on offer at the club's mini beer festival.
After lunch we were rounded up for the first heats of a friendly boules tournament in the car park. The uneven gravel offered some challenges and extra interest, but many of the games were closely fought. Then it was on to the skittles, set up right by the water's edge. A hard first bowl by the Vice Commodore led Mr Dowsett to scurry round collecting planks and chairs to form an impromptu wall behind the skittle alley, as the first ball disappeared over the edge. Fortunately, as we discovered, they floated!
In the evening, a very pleasant group meal was enjoyed in the club's restaurant with, of course, more of the superbly kept beers. After some night caps to wind down on the terrace, we all retired to bed.
The morning brought glorious sunshine and more ball games. To begin with, Margaret and Joe F set off to play their long-awaited mini golf challenge match (first planned for last years Jubilee Regatta weekend) with the loser being required to buy donuts. This turned into a three way team challenge between Corsair, Wisp and White Rose. The main challenge was neck and neck until young Joe came to grief with the barrel and the alligator, but he cheerfully bought donuts for all.
Then it was back to the club for lunch from the all day BBQ and the finals of the boules and skittles. Tony and Jan saw off all comers to take glory in the boules, with Joe and Emily second and Margaret taking the prize for the highest individual score. Showing some consistency, the Corsair crew also came second in the skittles, this time losing out to Leonie and Tony (who was standing in for John Smith). Tony also gained the highest individual score, a result which led him to hand over the prize giving to Jan, who most ably handed out free beer and glass tankards to the winners.
After an excellent fish and chip supper, we then split into teams of four for the quiz, hosted by Jonathan Winterton and Jo from the club staff.. Questions on beer and drinks should have proved easy, but weren't always and the picture round stumped many. Equally, the general knowledge questions sorted out those who knew trivial things (the name of that plastic bit on the end of your shoelaces, anyone?). The winning team, Norfolk 'n' Chance, finally triumphed, scoring two points more than the Retrowispers.
Monday was another lovely, sunny day, but sadly it was time to return to the Broads. Waving our hosts farewell and slipping under the road bridge (at least a foot clearance - loads of room today!) we made our way back to the lock, where we held up the pedestrians for rather a long time as we tried to fit four yachts with their masts down into the lock. Then it was back out onto Oulton Broad and the fleet dispersed after a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.
Many thanks to the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club for their invitation to this event and, as always, their superb hospitality.