Read the article by Henry Chamberlain, sailor and explorer, who talks about the various traditional boats he sails off the North Norfolk coast.  

I use three traditional North Norfolk fishing boats for a very good reason. Their design has been honed over centuries and through generations of use by fishermen for the most efficient design for the particular coast of Norfolk; shifting sand banks and violent swells that build up on them, when the northerly winds blow. The whelk and crab boats are very beamy and double ended, which allows the stern to part the following waves and dissipate the wave’s energy effectively.  The mussel flat boat is perfectly designed to glide along the creeks harvesting its resident mussels as it has no keel and can float in inches of water. The flats can be punted or sculled with the help of the tide, a simple and cost effective way to work. 


The wooden boats are heavier than fibreglass and so have a very different feel about them, they tend to be more stable and ride the rough North Sea with greater ease, as an old fisherman told me once the larger whelk boat will scare you to death before it kills you, i.e. they can cope with very challenging seas.  The sailing rigs are also tried and tested by generations of seamen, allegedly going back to the Viking ships. The simple lug rig was used on all of the boats; a simple spar is attached to the top of the red sail, which means there is no boom to knock the working fishermen into the sea. Safe and powerful!


Therefore every time you go to sea you have this reassuring feeling that there is the knowledge of generations of seamen with you, the boats, sailing rigs, equipment and design, enabling us to be as safe and effective as possible.


The boats provide access to an abundance of coastal food, which is of course what they were designed for, so the whelk boats allows us to go offshore (10 - 40 Miles) to pick up whelks, while the crab boat is perfect for accessing the crabs, just a mile off shore. The mussel flat was designed for inland collection of mussels from the narrow tidal creeks in the salt marsh.  We make greater use of them, so the mussel flat is also perfect for foraging samphire, sea purslane, cockles and sea aster, whilst the larger boats are good for mackerel fishing, which requires more time out at sea. 

Sailing the Norfolk Creeks

Words by Henry Chamberlain | @coastalexplorationcompany

Photographs by Angus D. Birditt | @ourisles 

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