Holiday on Norfolk Broads

We’ve just returned from a holiday on the Norfolk Broads with the boat. Had a really lovely time – highly recommended if you are into sailing and / or boats. Having the boat moored at the bottom of the garden on a river, with a pub 1/2 mile down the river plus channels and lakes to explore, is a lovely way to holiday.

Sailing downwind back to our house
Fishing from the boat

Some observations about the boat…

Wanderer dinghy and junk rig

The Wanderer hull was about perfect for us. Stable, not too heavy and easy to manoeuvre, Plenty of space for two adults and two children. Fun to sail too.

I was very happy with the junk rig. I’m probably not a particularly good sailer, but I would have found the same holiday with a conventionally rigged dinghy with two kids on board too stressful. With the junk rig it was fun. Key advantages were:

  • Ability to increase or decrease sail area to suit conditions at the time. The Broads tend to be gusty so 25 knot gusts might be followed by 3 knots for a time. With two small kids I couldn’t ride out the gusts easily – capsize must be avoided and people tend to move around and sit in different locations – so easy reefing is essential.
  • Easy to drop the sail when coming into a jetty whatever the direction of approach. Makes approaching a crowded mooring place or sailing through a marina easy – I don’t think we had any major issues.
  • Light weight sail fabric works well in light winds. Since the junk rig doesn’t rely on rig tension the only loads in the sail fabric are wind loads, which permits much lighter sail fabric than would be usual. This takes a good shape in light winds permitting good progress to be made.
  • The balance area of the sail in front of the mast means that jibes are a much softer. This is useful both when the wind direction changes (gusts can be swirly on the river) and when the kids are steering.

The boat and rig attracted a lot of attention – all positive. One lady repeated “she’s beautiful” several times – I’m very happy to get comments like that! 🙂

I couldn’t detect any particular issues with rig balance fore-and-aft, so I think it is ok. Possibly more area fore would be a benefit.


I started out with the Ah-Sup sheeting system. The key features of this were:

  • Copes with small gap between the sail and sheeting point. Mine was a bit too minimal for the PJR designs.
  • Good anti-twist. The top of the sail has a poorer sheeting angle, so the sheet needs increased mechanical advantage to keep the sail straight.
  • Since the junk bit of the sheet is separate to the bit you hold, you get to choose the ratio of the bit you pull. The original sheet is 2:1 and this seems to be around right.

Diagramatically this looks like this:

Ah-Sup sheeting system as implemented on Custard

The anti-twist worked perfectly – the leach of the sail was vertical and the jibs would collapse at the same time. I liked the 2:1 main sheet – the ratio is about right even for the kids.

However I found the spanning line problematic to reef and unreef. The extra line had to be held in mid-air somehow or would drag in the water. The triple block is tricky to pull the line through just because of the mechanical advantage involved.

Following David Doran’s suggestion I went to this design while on holiday:

Revised Ah-Sup sheeting with line led back to helm

This doesn’t have the same anti-twist properies, although there is still some anti-twist. The main advantage is that the extra line can be taken forward along the boom and back to the cleat board. Fortunately I had space for one extra line.

The back edge of the sail wasn’t quite vertical with this system – more anti-twist is needed. This was particularly noticable with the jiblets. Since they were all cut to the same camber and angle of incidence they should all collapse at the same time, and with the Ah-Sup sheet they did. However with the modified system the top jiblets would always collapse before the lower jiblets.

The ability to cleat the excess line made this much easier to use than the pure Ah-Sup system. However it was still more painful than I’d like:

  • The mechanical advantage in the triple block meant that it was trickier than I’d like to pull the rope through. Generally it had to be fed through by hand.
  • The line tended to get tangled up when I took the sail off. The only way to check I’d got it right was to pull the sail up, but this wasn’t always possible when moored, so we had a few sails with minor tangles in the line.
  • I used SeaSure blocks. I like these blocks – they are light, strong, reliable, low friction and are fairly cheap. However there is no separation between the line they are tied to and the line running over the pulley. In this application the block could invert which effectively jammed it. These would need to be replaced with a block that kept the lines separate – for example Barton Size 0.

When I get time I’m going to try this:

Proposed sheeting system for Custard

This hopefully combines all the features I need:

  • Overall mechanical advantage of the sheet is 3:1 rather than the 2:1 I currently have. This should be acceptable.
  • The lack of space between the sheeting point and the sail is compensated by the adjustable euphroe on the bottom three battens.
  • The euphroe has a simple rope path so the rope should run freely when adjusting.
  • There is a useful amount of anti-twist.


The calculated ideal length for an oar is over 10′. The oars supplied with the boat are much shorter – 6′ (1.83m), plus the rowlocks are the much-derided nylon versions. The short oars means rowing with the hands wide apart – probably good for developing chest muscles but not particularly efficient. However:

  • The oars pack neatly into the boat along the sides. They are easy to get out and put away. This is crucial since we often used the oars in tricky situations such fending off or when drifting in the wrong direction towards something expensive.
  • The spacing between the handles was ideal for two small kids (ages 4 and 6) to each pull one oar. Both are now fairly good at this.
  • The nylon rowlocks worked fine. Nylon has the advantage that there is no danger of damaging the boat when they are left to swing on their lanyards.

So while long oars and galvanized rowlocks would be better for more efficient rowing, the short oars and nylon rowlocks were perfect for our requirements.

One note – ensure that the rudder is in the water for rowing! With the mast up it was hard to keep the boat straight with a headwind, and when the kids were rowing one-per-oar we spent a considerable amount of time in the reeds at the side of the river!


We found the Wanderer very comfortable. I only had two issues:

  1. Rowing for some time left me with a sore backside – a cushion is required!
  2. The anti-slip on the floorboards removed the skin from my knees when sailing in shorts. New floorboards are needed some time anyway, and I’ll look at kinder ways to provide anti-slip then.


Our Wanderer is fitted with two self-bailers. I put Vaseline on these before we left as per Internet advice which seemed to keep the water out for a bit. However, by the end of two weeks water was coming in particularly when the boat was loaded.

GIven the way we use the boat I’ll probably take them out and fit molded blanking plugs. I could fit new seals to the self bailers but these are expensive. It would be better to spend the money and time on fixed bilge pumps.

2 thoughts on “Holiday on Norfolk Broads

  1. I have only just discovered your blogs and read about your boat. All very interesting, well described and easy to follow. It will be a while before I have read all of them. I know that Lynda (my wife & editor of the JRA magazine) has just been in touch with you and would like to use some of your material in future magazines.

    Have you read my article on junk rigging my little 9′ dinghy called Mo? It was part of the JRA magazine’s “dinghy special” in February this year (Issue 79 Pages 14 to 22). Figure 1 shows my solution to sheeting, a solution we used on the much bigger Tin Hau 30 years ago. The advantages are: easy hoisting, less loose rope to get in the way, works on all reef combinations, control of possible unwanted sail twist). The disadvantage could be seen as having to control two bitter ends, but I have found that even in a small dinghy this is not a problem: I find it quite easy to hold two sheets in one hand. In light winds I cleat these off, in stronger winds I use the cleat to ease the strain.

    My little Mo is quite tippy, unfortunately, having a rounded hull, so capsizing is always a possibility. Also she is quite heavy, which makes pulling her up the steep slipway on her launching trolley difficult. But she and the new junk rig (with which I am very happy) have enabled a lot of fun exploration of all the creeks coming off the Carrick Roads (Falmouth). I am slightly frustrated that a similar boat that occasionally sails with me – a Tideway 10′ with a single lugsail – is (a) more stable and (b) better performing upwind, but this could be a function of the boat hulls, not the rig. Tideways are beautifully constructed dinghies (and expensive).

    Please feel free to contact me by emailing me direct. I don’t tend to do blogs and am trying not to be pulled into the modern era of facebook, mobile phones and the internet. So, a direct approach is best.

    I will study all your blogs when the sailing season is over and the darkness and dampness of winter sets in.

    I hope you bring your boat to Falmouth one day??!!


    • Hi David – thanks for your comment. I will certainly try your sheeting arrangement – looks nice and simple. I’m sure we’ll get to Falmouth one day – just depends on the crew!


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