These days I steer clear of social media a far as possible and now strictly restrict my use of Facebook to a couple of boating groups. One of the groups (Freeman Cruiser Owners) has become a great source of advice and information over the last 12 months with members forming a very active community. A wonderful lady called Maureen organizes periodic events within this group. One in particular that was of great interest was a Freeman meet in May of 2022 at Beccles however our boat wasn’t ready and we could only view it from afar online.
It was great news to hear that a Freeman meeting was being organised for the weekend starting on Friday the 9th September 2022 so immediately signed up to reserve a berth.
Having cruised in company up and down the Thames Estuary with sailing boats, I didn’t know anybody on the Broads so this was a great opportunity to show my face.
On Friday, the earliest we could get to to the boat was 19:00, around sunset, so we were in for a Salhouse approach in the dark. Having rewired the boat in the winter, this was the first opportunity to run the navigation lights. Everything worked, but a problem I’d anticipated came to fruition. The all-round white/anchor light on the mast completely destroyed all night vision which was essential for pilotage in the dark. The casual flashing of torches and cabin lights without realising the implications for the helmsperson, made it a real challenge navigating between Horning and Salhouse. In addition, rain showers reminded me that I really should have swapped out the windscreen wiper blades in daylight, tied to the riverbank ! As it happened I was able to swap them just in time for the shower to stop.
Our arrival at Salhouse was greeted with mild surprise around 21:00 but our lines were taken and assistance given with great enthusiasm. We weren’t the last in on Friday however with Tony Anderson (tonytugboats.com) arriving with his F26 having towed it to Wroxham and launching there. Tony turned out to be one of the celebrities of the Freeman community and rightfully so given the miles both in and out of the water he has travelled with his current ‘Rat-rod’ Riomar.
Like any newbies, we had a degree of trepidation to establish what kind of breed ‘Freemanites’ would be and were pleased to find a diverse collection of people devoid of elitism which you frequently find with any specialist group. Of course people naturally clustered in groups of people they knew but everyone was more than happy to let us pull up a chair and ask ‘Where do you keep your boat’ and ‘how long have you had her’.
Personally I love a bit of chin stroking along the lines of ‘well in 1964 they changed the spark plugs to model N625’s with a suppressor cap’ but in reality there wasn’t as much of that as I’d expected.
Several boats came and went on the Saturday with the mooring being completely filled most of the time. Drinking only really commenced after dark which was a very civilised way of going about things and was a welcome antidote to knocking as many back as possible through the day to become a nuisance later on.
Entertainments were thankfully of the gentle variety such as precision paper aeroplane making and a quiz around the barbeques in the evening. With this being our first meet, we didn’t realise that most people brought their own portable (not disposable) barbeques but a very generous couple let us use theirs.
Salhouse was an interesting spot with countless party and river cruise boats turning on the broad. I’ve decided to name one of them the ‘S/S Living on a prayer’ following an epic sing along from the revellers when the DJ dropped the fader on the chorus of Bon Jovi’s classic.
Sunday was a pretty relaxed affair so I took the opportunity of being moored stern-to to finish off a gel-coat repair and re-stitch a couple of seams on out canopy where the previous thread had rotted. My daughter spent some quality time fishing for perch from the bows of the boat and when there was space, from the quay. It was a good fish count well over 20.
The moorings had to be vacated by 14:00 on the Sunday and when it was time to go, all the remaining boats departed in an impressive flotilla. I’ve never seen a stretch of water so busy in all my days but it was amazing to be part of. All the boats headed off toward Horning of which some shot off onto Hoveton Little Broad for a spot of afternoon mud-weighting. We continued to Cockshoot Dyke to use up our remaining fishing bait where we stayed for a couple of hours before heading to our home berth at Ranworth to give the boat a little scrub and tidy.
Huge thanks to Maureen for organising such a great gathering and everyone else that was involve in making it a great weekend. It was a pleasure to make ‘first contact’ and very much look forward to the next meet where I might actually start remembering a couple of peoples names.