RCTA donate to waterway charities

RCTA donate to waterway charities

£500 each to Waterways Chaplains and Forces Vets Afloat

Since the start of Covid19 the Roving Canal Traders Association (RCTA) along with many other charities, non-profit making groups, business's & traders that make up our canal network have had a tough time. This year however, things returned to almost normal & our Floating Markets started to take off once again. This meant that we have been in a position this year to resume our annual charity donations as voted for by our members.

This year our members voted for the Waterways Chaplaincy charity & the Forces Vets Afloat Project with a donation of £500 to each.

The Waterways Chaplains work alongside Canal & River Trust to make sure boaters who have fallen in hard times or need some sort of support are not missed or lost in the system, they work with food banks around the country & make sure that essential meal, bag of coal or fuel gets to those who might otherwise go without, they maintain contact & support in so many ways. Our traders often come into contact with some of the Waterways Chaplains who are very supportive of our events so it was suggested that our donation was presented to the charity via Waterways Chaplains Malcolm & Stephanie who live beside the Shropshire Union Canal in Market Drayton & are very well known within the boating community. Mark Chester Senior Chaplain said “This donation of £500 will make a real difference in the lives of some of the boaters we encounter.”

Sue Meades presents cheque to Waterways Chaplains

The Forces Vets Afloat Project are close to finishing one of their donated boats nb Daisy ready for a Forces Veteran to make her their home. The founder of this project Andy Flint said "what a lovely email to wake up to" when we informed him of the donation. We hope it helps them with ongoing projects.

We also make a smaller annual donation to CRT if possible, as without their support Floating Markets & other waterways events would not take place.

RCTA is open to all licensed Roving Traders & we welcome new members via our website www.rcta.org.uk. We strive to support Roving Traders and open up as many trading opportunities as possible. We are run solely by volunteers & are always looking for new volunteers to help with moving the Association forward.

the voyage of friendship – the oxford canal

the voyage of friendship

the oxford canal

Hello again friends; my journey continues.

At last I reached the gentle and picturesque Oxford canal where I wait for my next companion, Helen my best friend from Scotland. Not all middle-aged women would travel to the other end of the country to spend a cold week on a narrowboat but Helen arrived at lunchtime full of enthusiasm. Bunty galloped down the towpath to meet her new aunty.

I had done all necessary engine checks in the morning and tried to start Therapy up, and despite trying my usual tricks with connections and plugs she failed to catch. As I was moored opposite a boatyard I asked the nice man to come and take a look and needless to say his magic hands started her immediately. I did all the boating chores (topped up with diesel, bought a bottle of gas, pumped out the loo, filled up with water and dumped the rubbish) and Helen and I were off.

swing bridge on the Oxford Canal

The voyage has been carefully planned around the winter navigation stoppages, which is canal speak for locks being closed for repairs. At Braunston where I will turn off the Oxford and onto the Grand Union Canal, a flight of 6 locks will close on Monday 12th January and we had just a week to get there. It was important to make the most of daylight hours and I had to be a tough captain to have my crew up and ready to go at 8am. Bunty always helped with this.

Mostly the weather was very kind to us with fantastic bright sunny afternoons, despite storms in Scotland that brought down trees in Helen's garden and put out the electricity for thousands. On Wednesday we arranged to pick up a friend Rosemary and we cruised into Banbury just as the sun set and just as Helen's daughter, Alice appeared under a bridge to meet us. Some big winds blew up to challenge us and give us bad dreams about becoming unmoored at night, on Thursday and Friday but our steering skills were improving all the time.

The week went by too quickly and Friday evening found us moored just outside Braunston with a short run into town left for the morning. I did the usual checks before starting therapy only to find that I couldn't get her going again. Helen and Alice had to catch a train from Rugby to London for an onward flight to Inverness and a decision was eventually taken for my poor friends to walk the last couple of miles into Braunston while I waited for the canal AA to come and help me. As I said goodbye, I noticed that Alice had a wriggling puppy secreted about her person as she tried to steal Bunty!

Alice falls in love with Bunty

walkers on the Oxford Canal towpath

Soon a 15-year-old boy walked towards me waving- he was the engineer come to help me. He quickly and efficiently bled air from the engine and promised that she would start first time every day from now on. He also tried to persuade me that he is 22 but I must be getting old.

I cast off and enjoyed a slow cruise into Braunston, successfully mooring up by myself despite the strong winds. I felt very pleased to be in Braunston on Saturday night, ready to take on the flight of locks before they close on Monday.

I look forward to my next companions arriving and setting off on a new canal that will eventually take me to London.

Best wishes all,

iwa waterways for today 4

iwa waterways for today

lives of individual people

IWA’s Waterways for Today report highlights the benefits of the waterways on the LIVES OF INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE

The final instalment of our blog series from IWA’s recently launched report – Waterways for Today looks at the benefits that the waterways bring to the lives of individual people. We have already highlighted the benefits to the economy, environment and local communities. The benefits for individual people focus on improved physical and mental health as well as creating better places to live. Living close to a waterway creates a sense of place that helps people to better enjoy their local area. By their very nature, waterways are often located in the centre of large towns and cities and can cut through some of the most deprived areas. Through regeneration, the waterways can be opened up to new sectors of the local community bringing greater inclusivity and diversity.

Improving Physical Health


The inland waterways provide up incredible opportunities for outdoor activities such as walking, running, cycling, fishing, sailing, canoeing, rowing, paddleboarding and volunteering. Waterside routes are free and accessible to all, offering flat gradients on good-quality paths. The Covid-19 pandemic brought significant numbers of people to the waterways for the first time and many have seen improvements to their physical health by getting out and about and undertaking healthy outdoor activities.

Better Mental Health & Wellbeing

The waterways offer a chance to connect with nature, take time out, relax and unwind. They also provide opportunities for shared social experiences. Walking the dog along the towpath, strolling with friends and family, watching the wildlife, photography, boat trips and visiting canalside pubs and cafes all provide a sense of wellbeing. Volunteering can also improve mental health through a renewed sense of purpose, making new friends and satisfaction of a job well done.

Better Places to Live

Waterside locations are perfect for allowing people to appreciate and enjoy the areas they live in. Local authorities need to embrace the trend for providing waterside homes and business premises as well as supporting the growth in residential boating. Redevelopment of the waterside should include residential moorings and facilities for boaters as well as providing for the wider local community.

Waterways and Wellbeing in Nottingham

One of the case studies in the report looks at the waterways and wellbeing in Nottingham. The project uses Nottingham’s canals as a focal point to help tackle mental and physical health problems as part of a social prescribing programme. It encourages local people to visit the canal and take part in a variety of activities including canoeing, running and paddleboarding as well as photography courses, art and craft activities, cookery classes and more. The project was initially only running for 12 months but given the positive results, it has been extended for another year.

To read the full IWA Waterways for Today report or to read the case studies related to all 12 benefits of the waterways please visit the IWA Website.

wendy witch

featured roving canal trader

wendy witch

I live aboard Merly B, a 67' Tyler Wilson nb built in 1988, with my husband whom we call Mr. O and Henry the dog. We're continuous cruisers.

Wendy Witch and Mr O

Wendy Witch

We bought our first boat, Irene, in 2001. She was a 57' iron BCN boat built in 1927, a beautiful boat with great character. She had a 3 pot lister (situated inside next to the loo!), 12v power only and a foot pump if we wanted water, no hot water. She had several leaks, every time it rained we got all the pans out to catch the water. It was damp, smelly and noisy. We were so excited to be living afloat that none of these things mattered.

A few years later we decided to have her lifted out and surveyed. Complete disaster! Her hull was extremely thin in places, she had rotted from the inside due to the leaks. Always get a survey before buying! We learnt the hard way.

We were advised to weigh her in and use the money for another boat, but we had fallen in love with her and so decided to have her overplated. 18 months later she was floating again once more, that was a great day!

Wendy Witch - Irene before welding

Wendy Witch - Irene after welding

In 2018 we bought Merly B and we feel so blessed, another beautiful boat but this time with hot running water, proper plug sockets, lights, even a heated towel rail! Also an engine conveniently placed under the back deck, not inside the boat! This is our forever home.Merly B narrowboat

my business

My Wendy Witch business began in 2000. I'm a White Witch and Celebrant. I have been pagan all my life. My beliefs and skills have been passed down through generations and I'm proud of my heritage.

I have been reading the Tarot since I was a child. During the winter my Tarot readings are on board, in the warm weather outside on the towpath. The readings are an hour long, I don't like to rush and we have tea, coffee and sometimes cake!

Wendy Witch, Hallowe'en

a selection of Tarot Cards

inside narrowboat Merly B

I also conduct Handfasting Ceremonies (Pagan Weddings), Baby Naming Ceremonies and Memorial Services. These celebrations are becoming very popular as many people are looking for alternatives to traditional ceremonies. Pagan Rituals have very few rules so the Ceremonies are customised to suit and every Ceremony is different.

Handfasting Ceremony conducted by Wendy Witch

baby naming ceremony conducted by Wendy Witch

As a Pagan I celebrate the 8 sabbats or festivals throughout the year. I even have a Pagan Altar outside my boat. My altar is a log which I keep on the roof whilst travelling and place on the towpath when we moor up. I decorate it with nature's gifts - flowers, fruit, seeds, stones, feathers etc and redress it for every Sabbat. It makes a great talking point for passersby!

Altar on towpath beside Merly B narrowboat

decorated altar on towpath beside narroboat Merly B

During the summer I have a plant stall with annuals and perennials which I grow on the roof. All the proceeds go to The Huntington's Disease Association. The only thing I initially missed when we moved onboard is my garden but I soon realised that it's amazing what you can grow in a pot!

Living on a boat has been a dream ever since I can remember, making it a reality has been a wonderful experience. We are within nature, detached from 'normal' life. Many of my customers remark that they never knew this canal life was here, even though they drive over it often; "Do you live here all the time?"

The boat people, the wildlife, the seasons, the freedom...all of these things make the canal special, like a long, wet village.

I am truly at home living on the cut, I feel I belong here and here is where I will stay.

the voyage of friendship – a new year

the voyage of friendship

a new year

Hello again friends and Happy new year to all.

I'm back on board Therapy following a quiet Christmas and a brilliant New Year holiday with all our children and grandchildren.

The boat survived being locked and moored up at Abingdon for a week or so and a driech Saturday morning saw me re-stocking and checking before taking off again for her last couple of days on the Thames. Am I sensible, out in the cold getting soaked? I wasn't 100% sure as I waved to Ewan and cast off again.

My companions for this leg were to be Lynn and Chris from Lambourn but both had been poorly and couldn't make it. I hope you're both better soon and will join me further on. However my son Stephen, here for the holidays with his wife and baby, had just had his own plans cancelled and was serendipitously available. His Vietnamese wife found it rather cold but made sure we all had supplies of hot chocolate. It was lovely to be back on my journey despite the rain and great to spend bonus time with my son. As the sun set, we moored up at Iffley lock and walked into the village for

Sally Kershaw with her son Stephen

I was very lucky that my week off had been dry and the current of the Thames had not been strong. However, by the next day the rain had changed that and yellow boards on the locks indicated that current was increasing. By the time we reached Osney lock, the last one on the Thames before we needed to turn off and on to the Oxford canal, the boards were red, which means strong current, moor up immediately.

What should I do? If I didn't get through today it could be a week before the water drops, or even longer. Friends are scheduled to meet me in Oxford and lock closures further on mean that I need to get onto the more benign canal and away from the mercies of the river. Also, we had only half a mile to go before the turnoff. I made my mind up when a small riverboat, the only other moving craft we'd seen all weekend, joined us in the lock. If he was up for it, so was I.

The current was very strong as we left the lock and I bravely left the driving to Stephen. Even with high revs, Therapy struggled to move forward in the current but we carefully and patiently pushed on.

We could see a low bridge on our right and the small channel we needed to steer down. The water level was high and the current flowing very fast- would we even make it under the bridge? We needed to go through in the centre to avoid knocking the equipment stored on the roof.​ I feel sure that my orders, such as "no steer, left" and "quick, put her in reverse" did nothing to help, but Stephen, with the bravado of a young man who had never driven a narrow boat before, took her successfully through and out of the raging current of the Thames, suffering only a telling off from a resident boat owner for going too fast.

piloting a narrowboat in the rain

But now ahead of us was an even lower bridge, apparently one of the lowest canal bridges in the country, I was later told. We ducked our heads to avoid losing them and groaned as the precious bicycle on the roof was scraped and thrown about by the rafters. But we were off the Thames and onto the gentle Oxford canal. The bike had a buckled wheel and broken breaks, but the journey will go on!

We moored up close to the railway station where I walked my hero son and his family to catch their train to Gatwick airport from where he would fly back to Berlin. My voyage has resumed and I'm looking forward to travelling with friends through Oxford tomorrow and further north to see where our adventures will take us.

Take care, have fun in 2015 and please meet me if you can.

Love from Sally

the voyage of friendship – home for christmas

the voyage of friendship

home for christmas

Hello friends and family,

The voyage continued well last week, and I enjoyed my first night spent alone aboard "Therapy", moored in a sheltered spot between Pangbourne and Beale Park.

On Monday morning I met Sue Allen, with her husband Joe (whose birthday it was) and their beautiful wee girls. Sue and Joe have lived on a narrow boat in the past and it was great to have experienced folk with me on the Thames where the yellow boards at the locks sometimes pronounced that the current was increasing. At Goring, Joe and little Trixie left us, and Hannah and Ash came aboard. Sue was Captains mate, her old boating skills obviously coming back, while Hannah and Ash worked out lock duties.

Sally Kershaw with Bunty     narrowboat Therapy moored on pontoon      child on board a narrowboat  

I was delighted with our progress as we reached Wallingford soon after lunch and we decided to press on to Benson. The book showed a great public mooring and we glided into the jetty well before dusk. Sue called Joe, but as we started to arrange a little birthday surprise for him on the boat an officious person approached us to let us know that we couldn't moor here and suggested we moved a mile or so up the river. OK, we cast off again to seek another mooring spot. The sun was starting to go down now and a slight tension crept in as we looked ahead for possible places. I could see a green bank and directed Sue in towards it. As we approached I realised that it was too shallow, but Therapy was already grounded on the remains of a tree. We were stumped! The sun was almost disappeared now, but Ash saved the day when Hannah held on to his legs and he hung over the side to push us off the wood. Once free we cruised on in the fading light to find a very suitable mooring outside Shillingford Bridge Hotel. We quickly re-staged the birthday surprise for Joe, who'd met us with the car and sang a hearty "Happy Birthday" to him. Many thanks to all for an excellent day.

After another cosy and enjoyable night with my puppy, Bunty, Tuesday was set to be a very relaxing day as we'd gone further than expected yesterday. Bunty is settling in well aboard Therapy, and I hope will be a confident boat dog.

Lambourn friends, Katharine and Libby were my "shipmates" today and arrived shipshape and Bristol fashion at the appointed time. Again, the weather was kind, and we had a quiet day's cruising, reaching Abingdon an hour or so before dusk. Our only brush with difficulty was at lunch time. We had moored at a very quite spot for half an hour to eat cauliflower cheese, when the land owner appeared from nowhere to let us know that "we could not moor there". Is this a phrase I will have to get used to on the river? I wished the chap a super Christmas, let my puppy off to pee, and we cast the boat off into the current again.

Ewan met us at Abingdon, we moored and locked up the boat and headed home for Christmas.

Happy Christmas and many thanks to all those who've helped me and to those who plan to meet me further on.

Warmest wishes,


the voyage of friendship – early days

the voyage of friendship

early days

Hello friends and family.  

Ewan, Bunty (our puppy) and I left Newbury on Friday morning  aboard Therapy, the narrowboat that will be home for me for the  next 3 months.

Sally and Ewan Kershaw                  Bunty tiny Jack Russell puppy

Jenny and her family joined us at Thatcham in time  for lunch and we continued through to Midgham.  

Waking up next morning I realised I'd left my purse in the pub where I'd joined the youth work team for a Christmas meal on Thursday evening. By some coincidence we were only a mile or so away and I  was able to take my bike from the roof of the boat and go to collect it- relief!  

Rhona and Andy joined us at Woolhampton where they quickly  learned locks and took over the windlasses (or winder things, as Rhona called them). We moored up at Theale where I jumped on my  bike again to meet my YOT colleagues for another Christmas meal -  again it was conveniently close by great coincidence.  

On Sunday we made great progress through Reading, with the surreal experience of cruising right through the Oracle centre on a  busy Christmas shopping day.  

And then out onto the Thames and turn left towards Oxford. Going from the little canal to the big wide river was exciting (and colder),  but the locks easier as they are electronic.  

Dave Wraight and his lovely family joined us from Mapledurham to Pangbourne. The children were a little reticent to start with but then  really enjoyed  themselves. Dave used the trusty bike from the roof  of the boat to collect his car and pick them up later. You can join this trip for a very short time, just 1 lock or stay for a while.  

At dusk we moored in a sheltered spot by the trees and I said  goodbye to Ewan, Rhona and Andy. Thanks for all your help.  

Today, Sue, Joe and their little ones will join me, hoping to get to Wallingford. We hope Hannah will meet us later too.  

The adventure has started and I look forward to seeing you further  on.


albion adventure

albion adventure

I was very happy to attend the MNA Boat Club AGM in September 2022 at the little Norfolk Broads village of Neatishead. The following day I was able to take part in an event associated with the AGM – a day out on the Broads on the ‘Albion’.

Wherry Albion

The wherry 'Albion'

The ‘Albion’ is one of two surviving Norfolk Wherries, and the only one currently sailing. She is owned and operated by the Norfolk Wherry Trust who purchased her in 1949 in order to preserve her as an example of the Norfolk Wherry, the sailing barges who served the Norfolk Broads and were specifically adapted to the conditions prevailing there.

‘Albion’ is now 125 years old; some 65 feet overall and able to carry up to 40 tons of cargo. She is maintained in first class condition by the Trust and is operated by a team of volunteers and is funded mainly by passenger charters, one of which I joined.

I joined her at the Trust base at Womack near Ludham with some other Boat Club members – fortunately my Sat-Nav was able to find the location - and after a safety briefing and issue of lifejackets the ‘Albion’ got under way. We left our jackets etc. in the hold as it looked as though we were in for a warm shirt sleeves rig day, the hold also contains a toilet and a cooker and plenty of seating.

‘Albion’ is berthed in a little dock on the River Thurne. She has no engine but power is supplied by a dinghy with an outboard lashed to one quarter with a fender between. The outboard is usually operated by the Mate, who jumps into the dinghy to change the throttle setting when required. Security is maintained by a red safety line attached to the ‘Kill Cord’ and fastened on Albion’s quarter.

We set off down the River Thurne with this method and set the sail.

Perhaps a word about the ‘Albion’s unique rig might be useful at this point. The mast is unstayed, apart from a forestay, there is no other ‘Standing Rigging’. The mast is therefore a very substantial spar. It is stepped in an equally substantial Tabernacle at the fore end of the hatch and the foot is furnished with a very substantial counterweight, which rises up through the foredeck via a hatchway when the mast is lowered, by slackening the forestay purchase. The single sail is suspended from a very substantial gaff, which extends the sail such that the leach is practically vertical.

The halyard system is unique to the Norfolk Wherry. All other vessels with gaff sails have two sets of halyards, one for the Throat and one for the Peak. The wherry has one halyard which leads up from the deck through a double block at the mast head, through a single block at the throat of the gaff, back to the masthead block, down to a block with a span attached to a couple of points on the gaff, and leads up to and is finally made fast to the masthead block. The sail is then hoisted by the halyard led to a geared winch at the fore side of the mast. The sail was actually hoisted on this occasion by myself and another Boat Club member, and it was not a very heavy job.

We sailed down the Thurne and then ascended the river Bure. The conditions were a mainly cloudy day with light winds, often diminished and diverted by vegetation on the banks and thus we were able to experience every point of sailing many times, and in rapid succession! ‘Albion’ tacked and gybed as necessary with little fuss, assisted by the dinghy outboard when necessary, the throttle operated by the Mate who jumped into the dinghy from his normal position by the little knee-high ‘cockpit’ at the after end of the hatch from where he also tended the mainsheet, cleated on the after end of the coaming, where necessary.

We arrived at Horning which was our lunch stop, and where some of the passengers departed and our MNA President, Vivien Foster OBE, joined us for the return trip. I had elected to stay on board ‘Albion’ for the whole day as being a unique experience, not to be missed. I was offered a spell at the helm which I enthusiastically accepted. She is steered by a very large rudder, some six feet in length, which is controlled by a substantial tiller operated from the little knee-high cockpit which also leads by a further step down into a little cuddy, crew accommodation when she was working. The only helm order I was given was ‘Keep her in the middle’, which I endeavoured to do. Not surprisingly she takes a little while to respond to her helm, and a bit of anticipation as to when to take helm off is required, she certainly is not hard to steer in those conditions.

We noticed some black rain clouds creeping across the Broads to one side of us but thought that they would probably pass astern, so we continued to sail in our shirt-sleeve rig. Most other traffic has given us right-of-way up to this point, indeed the Skipper had told us that we had precedence over most other traffic on the Broads. However, at this moment a charter sailing yacht crossed our bows and then tacked back, putting her on a collision course.

The Skipper ordered the helm over and told the Mate to let go the Mainsheet to depower the sail. As she started to respond we were suddenly engulfed in a heavy rainstorm with a heavy gust of wind; with which, with the helm already over and the mainsail running out to right-angles, ‘Albion’ headed for the reeds along the bank, where she remained pressed to the bank.

The mainsheet continued to run out and unrove and the sail, with no Standing Rigging to inhibit it, continued around to the fore side of the mast. The downpour continued and all hands, including Vivien our President sitting on the foredeck, were drenched to the skin by this time!
The Skipper suggested that I step into the Cuddy, I don’t think that this was in consideration for my welfare, because as well as himself and the Mate there was also a Trainee Skipper and a Trainee Mate on board and I am sure that he decided that he needed experienced hands at a time like that. I might therefore be slightly adrift as to the sequence of events following.

the Wherry 'Albion'

Norfolk Wherry 'Albion'

The squall had eased and the first task was to re-reeve the mainsheet and get the sail back abaft the mast, the sail was then lowered onto the deck and the task of getting her off the bank was commenced. This was accomplished by the use of the dinghy with its outboard and the use of the ‘Quants’; long poles with a fork on the bottom and a shoulder button on the top used to pole the vessel in the way that a punt is propelled by punt poles.

Once ‘Albion’ was under way, with propulsion provided by the dinghy, it was noticed that there were lightning flashes visible close by. Standing Orders are that in the event of lightning, the mast is to be lowered, so the forestay purchase was slackened off and down came the mast to join the gaff and sail on top of the hatch.

It was then time to get below and remove my sodden shirt. A kind member of the crew kindly loaned me a dry tee shirt to wear under my waterproof jacket, now perhaps a bit superfluous! When I returned it when we docked, it was sopping wet below the waist where it had been in contact with my wet trousers!

I did have the temerity to ask the Skipper, trying not to teach granny to suck eggs, whether it would not be useful to have a figure-of-eight knot on the end of the Mainsheet. He replied that they had given some consideration to this very point and had decided that; in the event of having to let go the mainsheet for any reason, it was better for the sail, unencumbered by any Standing Rigging, to go forward of the mast to de-power it. I have to admit that this made good sense.

Thus we returned under power to our dock, where we helped to turn her and back her in to her usual berth. So ended a very interesting and enjoyable day, enlivened by a bit of excitement!

I was most interested to learn more about this unique sailing craft, evolved to satisfy the local conditions on the Broads which I had only read about before. I knew something about the evolution, equipment and handling of the other classic British sailing barge, the Thames ‘Spritty’, of which there are many surviving still, but I can only applaud the efforts of the Norfolk Wherry Trust in maintaining and operating this almost unique example – there is another partly restored privately owned wherry in the Trust’s dock, but she is not rigged at present.

AGMs are boring aren’t they?

AGMs are boring aren't they?

unless you are with the MNA boat club!

Normally the only way to get club members to attend an AGM is to catch them off-guard with a comment like “well I’ll see you at the AGM then” before they’ve had time to think up a plausible excuse for not attending....

So how were we to encourage a reasonable attendance at our first proper AGM since before the Covid pandemic?

The Merchant Navy Association Boat Club has some two hundred plus members scattered throughout the UK so the first obstacle is the question of a venue that suits at least a sizeable slice of the membership and then devise a format for the event that might be of interest, hopefully enjoyable and, dare I say it, even good fun!

members who attended agm of MNA BOat CLub

The members who attended the AGM of the MNA Boat Club

If one has to travel two hours to and from a meeting it means, effectively, that it’s taking up a whole day. If you have to travel even further it probably means an overnight stay. Frankly who would want to spend the time and money for a two-day round trip simply to attend a formal meeting? Hence, our plan for the Boat Club’s 2022 AGM morphed into one for a two-day potentially interesting and enjoyable “event” with less than one hour of the two days dedicated to the formal Annual General Meeting.

Given that the MNA Boat Club has quite a high proportion of its membership living in or near to East Anglia and that we also have a very worthwhile “partnership” with the Norfolk & Suffolk Boating Association (NSBA) to promote our “WaterWatch” safety & surveillance initiative, we decided that a series of events on the Norfolk Broads would be an attractive proposition and so it proved to be, with the bonus of all-time record AGM attendance!

After much deliberation the following events were agreed:

⦁ a visit to the fascinating Museum of the Broads
⦁ a half-day cruise on the famous Norfolk Wherry the “Albion”
⦁ a further half-day cruise on several of our own local members boats

We obviously needed to make sure that there would be enough accommodation available near the venue at what, in early September, would still be a busy time with many holidaymakers around. We were very fortunate in making contact with three very pleasant and comfortable guest houses within 50 metres of the venue for the AGM in the village of Neatishead, where we had booked the mezzanine floor of the White Horse Inn for the meeting and an evening meal afterwards.

white horse inn, Neatished

White Horse Inn at Neatishead

Our programme kicked off at 11.00 am on the morning of Tuesday 6th September with the visit to the Museum of the Broads. This proved hugely interesting and enjoyable, especially thanks to our being given a fascinating tour conducted by Bob a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic member of the museum volunteer team.

CLive Edwards with Bob the guide to Museum of the Broads

Clive Edwards with Bob, museum guide

Given that many of our members attending are former professional seafarers, we were particularly interested in the old WW2 airborne lifeboat on display (one of the very few still in existence). One of our members was even able to provide a hitherto unrecorded local story about one of them.

Members looking at Airborne Lifeboat at the Museum of the Broads

Members looking at Airborne Lifeboat

Moving on to the late afternoon and evening, having got through the AGM in good time, our members and guests proceeded to enjoy some excellent food from the White Horse’s extensive menu, including their own local “pie of the day”.

The following morning dawned fine but storms were forecast for the afternoon. Most of the members had elected to spend the morning (or in a few cases the whole day) on the wherry “Albion” sailing from her base at Womack Water on the River Thurne to Horning on the River Bure.

The afternoon was to be spent on one of our local members' boats exploring the River Ant and Barton Broad. Hence, everyone was aboard either the “Albion”, Richard Card’s “Ness Nomad” or Clive Edwards’ “Elsa II” by 09.00 at the start of what was to be an enjoyable and for some a surprisingly eventful day on the water!

Wherry Albion on the Norfolk Broads

The famous wherry Albion on the Norfolk Broads

Those aboard Ness Nomad and Elsa II were able to get a good view of Barton Broad and the River Ant as well as a short side-trip to Malthouse Broad with views of Ranworth Church known locally as the “Cathedral of The Broads”.

We had planned to all rendezvous at the Swan Hotel at Horning but unfortunately the mooring for the Albion was already occupied so she had to moor alongside the opposite bank whilst Ness Nomad and Elsa II were able to moor at Horning Sailing Club where Clive is a member. With the aid of Albion’s tender, we then had to ferry members back and forth during a brief break for a sandwich lunch so that those who had spent the morning on Ness Nomad and Elsa II, including MNA President Vivien Foster OBE, were able to make the homeward passage on the Albion whilst some of those who’d been on the Albion during the morning transferred to Ness Nomad and Elsa II for the homeward leg via the River Ant and Barton Broad.

wherry Albion

Members on board the wherry Albion

So far so good, although sadly our Vice Commodore Paul and his wife Tracey had to depart by taxi and car to attend a medical emergency back in Essex (happily turning out not to be as serious as first thought).

Up to now the weather had been perfect and seemed set fair for the afternoon despite the previous warning of storms. Everyone set off from Horning in ideal conditions for what was mostly a leisurely and peaceful sail home - I say “mostly” because two-thirds of the way into the return journey all three vessels (and Paul & Tracey’s open-top car!) were hit by a series of seriously violent squalls, thunder and lightning and absolutely torrential rain that reduced visibility to about 50 metres! As both Ness Nomad and Elsa II are motor cruisers all we had to do was reduce speed for about fifteen minutes until the storm had gone through, but the situation on the Albion was significantly more dramatic and is the subject of a separate report by one of our members, David Cornes, who was on-board at the time, along with others including our President Vivien.

Clive Edwards, Commodore MNA Boat Club

steve haywood

featured author of the season - autumn 22

steve haywood

Steve Haywood wrote his first canal book against the strong advice of his agent. She didn't think there was enough interest in canals to make it worthwhile. Harper Collins had just published his first novel as part of their renowned Crime Club imprint. She thought he should stop messing around and write another.

Steve disagreed and in 2001 his first canal book was released to an indifferent audience. "It flopped," Steve said. "It's a great book but it needed promoting. Instead they gave it the rubbish title of 'Fruit Flies like a Banana' and gave it an incomprehensible cover, which wouldn't even have attracted me."

steve haywood - fruit flies like a banana

steve haywood - narrowboat dreams

steve haywood one man and a narrowboat

However, 20 years ago so few books were published about canals that his - with his characteristic brand of humour - soon found its audience. His second about a single handed trip across the Huddersfield Narrow Canal shortly after its opening when it wasn't really navigable at all, struck a similiar humorous note, though it touched on darker topics too.

"My mother was dying at the time, and I think a lot of the feelings I had during that difficult time were reflected in the book," Steve explains. "People responded to it on a different level. It wasn't just a canal book, but a book written by someone who was facing difficulties way beyond those normally associated with canal cruising."

The book sold far more than anyone had predicted and it still sells well today. However, the problem was that the publishers hadn't commissioned Steve to write another. Their response was to repackage 'Fruit Flies' with a new cover under another title: 'One Man and a Narrowboat'. Even with that questionably sexist title it flew off the shelves.

Other canal books followed including 'Too Narrow to Swing a Cat' about a summer spent with his cat Kit visiting canal festivals, and 'Narrowboat Nomads' based on the four years he and his wife spent as continuous cruisers exploring outlying parts of the canal system they hadn't visited before.

steve haywood - too narrow to swing a cat

steve haywood - narrowboat nomads

His latest book 'Tales from the Tillerman', published by new publishers Bloomsbury, is a different kettle of fish altogether, being a sort of overview of the canals and the changes he's seen in them over the nearly 50 years he's been cruising them. Still characterised by his idiosyncratic humour, it's neverthess a very different book to his usual offerings.

steve haywood - tales from the tillerman

steve haywood - 101 wonders of the waterways

Mind you, if you want different, then Steve's next book, scheduled for publication in spring 2023, is a total change of direction. "It's a lavishly illustrated book which I've written with my wife, Moira Haynes," he explains. "It's called '101 Wonders of the Waterways' and it's an evocation of the best the British canals have to offer, everything from THAT aqueduct to the grooves in cast iron bridge protectors, from its unique wildlife to Tim and Pru.

"It's been a lovely experience putting it together. It contains pictures of our own we've taken over our years on the cut, as well as some contributions by friends, not to mention some stunning images from professionals."

steve haywoodSteve's books are available from all good bookshops, Amazon and other Internet bookshops.

You can also follow him on Facebook and on Twitter