In 2022, we joined our first Freeman gathering, not being familiar with anyone and having no idea what type of people Freeman owners might be. We were greeted by a wonderful selection of characters with a wealth of backgrounds and no hint of elitism. I had expected some chin stroking with technical debate and in fact I was really quite looking forward to it. It turns out that pretty much everyone possesses nuggets of wisdom whilst remaining open-minded to alternative solutions to problems. Perhaps most importantly, everyone was welcoming and happy to chat, have a chuckle and help each other out.
One year later and things just got better with people recognising me and the boat and welcoming us like log-lost friends. Not being strictly speaking locals on the Broads, we don’t have quite as many opportunities to bump into fellow Freemanites and share stories. It’s more often a wave and a smile, passing each other on the river so the meets have become a highlight in our cruising calendar, so much so that I’m considering joining the 2024 Thames meet if I can logistically make it work.
Typically, we arrived on the Friday night in the dark, having had to drive up to the boat from Woodbridge in Suffolk (sorry, I keep forgetting my passport). I should have been on driving duty this weekend for my family and crew who were going to a K-Pop concert at the O2 but ‘fortunately’ the concert was cancelled.
The trip to Salhouse from Ranworth went much more smoothly than last year with the skies remaining clear and moonlit rather that the rain and temperamental wipers of our previous Salhouse visit.
We were welcomed by familiar voices, despite not being able to see anyone in the dark. The big difference was that there were pretty much no spaces ! A little juggling found us moored between two boats of the Thames chapter, Tony (Tugboats) Anderson and Pat Warner.
Having settled in and having a bite to eat it left a little time to have a chin wag with some of the folks camped out under the essential gazeebos before turning in for the night proper.
We’d managed to pick up some fishing bait in Beccles on the trip up to the boat, so much of the Saturday was spent fishing off the bows and of course later in the day joining in the now legendary paper aeroplane flying contest and the quiz around dusk. We won the quiz on the spring meet on the southern broads but failed dismally this time around although I thought my answer to ‘What is Algophobia the fear of ?’ was pretty creative (Fear of seaweed).
Most people fired up BBQ’s for the evening cook-out however we bought a fridge rather than a barbeque this year and cooked on board. I’m certain someone would have let us use theirs if we’d asked.
Last year, most of the boats left together in a flotilla headed for Horning and beyond but that didn’t happen this year. It was most likely due to many boats needing to make an early start to catch the tide south over Breydon Water. We left around mid-morning along with our frequent cruising companion Martin, with Wey Rambler, to stop off for the remainder of the day at Cockshoot Dyke. We had plenty of fishing bait left and Martin fired up his Barbeque as he had plenty of meat that didn’t want to go to waste. We had lots of garnish to hand !
The fishing wasn’t spectacular, but it was fun with Cockshoot Dyke being an incredibly busy spot to watch everything from sailing boats broaching in the stiff breeze to hire boats attempting to re-shape the staithe cappings.
Then it was time for the quick skip back to Ranworth with the essential wash-down, stern-tube greasing and not forgetting to switch off the gas, seacocks and battery isolator. I always seen to forget something !
Another great weekend, wonderful people and fantastic turn-out at Salhouse. Here’s to the next meet, wherever that may be.