Phil Latham Serial (Part 3)

Ian Riffles on Gloriana

Ian Riffles on Gloriana

I loved this pic of ‘our’ Skipper, Ian Ruffles ‘playing away’. The pic, supplied by Maggs Casey Kelly has Ian, who you may know is also the full time Skipper of the historic vessel Havengore (she of the moving Winston Churchill’s coffin up river and the first ever boat with an on board computer) and here gets to play with the Queen’s rowing barge, Gloriana. I see he’s in his working garb, though, so must have just been sneaking her about privately. He scrubs up nice when he’s on official business!

…and so to our third and final part of the Phil (Ginger) Latham series so without further ado…

Phil writes:

“One of our first visitors to arrive was Anne Roberts for a pleasant chat which was followed by a gratifyingly large number of the public including Ron Turner, ex-Superintendent of the Thames division and a good friend of ours in the sixties, who presented a painting of SB Cambria off the Sunk to Cambria Trust, and I hope they find a good place for it: The painting was done for him by an ex-mate Jimmy Penn. Also visiting, was an old gentleman in his eighties, of the same name as Ron who was third hand on the Will Everard at the end of the war, very clear in his memories and interesting to talk to, convinced that his year or so on the Will had set him up for life, kill or cure I reckon but it certainly appeared to have worked in his case.

Another visitor was the son of a previous skipper of Cambria before Bob took her over. Altogether a successful day and we “stuck it out” to the press at every opportunity about the role of Cambria Trust in the re-construction although not much seems to have been published. All day long it went on with many a moan, “typical Norwich organisation, you only know about something when it’s about over”.

After all of this excitement we closed down until the arrival in the evening of the Flying Folk Association. These folks arranged themselves up forward and started singing, mostly un-accompanied, one after the other; though there was one man with a “squeeze box”. Bob would have been right at home. One of our casual, non-singing visitors mentioned that he lived in one of the flats opposite and Mark said that he hoped there would be no trouble about noise. “Don’t worry about that”, said our visitor, “I’m chairman of the residents association and I’ll soon sit on any nonsense of that sort”. There goes the effect again.
Now some people may object to my term “ditch crawling” but since the end of commercial use, the Wensum at Norwich has silted up somewhat, it never was deep and we used to slide most of the last mile or so up to the berth behind the tug who just stayed in the middle and let us elongate our arms heaving on the wheel.
Thursday night / Friday morning was designated for our re-negotiation of the rail bridge. Our muscular young bridge operator was once again on duty, so to our “green layby” until the Broads tug showed up at sparrow cough; the plan was to get down to Yarmouth in one day but this depended on a early start to save the last of the flood tide at Haven Bridge.

All went well to start, but picking Mark up in our boat at Brundall where he had left his tug proved to be a bit fraught but we captured Mark and importantly our boat too. Sorry Mark, but there are priorities in this life! We had been joined for the trip down river and the re-rig by Niel Goldie but had lost Stretch at Malden for several days. All went well until Reedham Approaches when the railway turned true to form and couldn’t swing for us as the trains were running behind time, whereupon traditional fault lines appeared in conversation on board; luckily not forwarded by the Skipper to the bridge operatives or we might still be up above Reedham. When eventually we got the swing we arrived at the same time as a fleet of traditional sailing cruisers, who unfortunately lost the draught in the bridge hole and the Skipper got his down river edition of the “Kiniptions” but no contact, just as well. On entering Breydon we lost the services of our escort launch and were again joined by the larger “ with attitude” vessel for our onward voyage.

Now came another delay for Breydon road bridge and time was getting tight for the flood tide, however the effect worked again and I swear the bridge opened wider this time , but who cared, we were still lowered flat and so to the Haven bridge and the last of the flood. I’ve seen coasters take the bridge on the ebb and it’s scary, just watching, especially if you are moored just below the bridge and worry about receiving the vessel, or what’s left of her as a result of wild steering. However, all was well and we moored up on our berth at Heritage Quay. So, up mainmast and topmast, what a jolly life it is ditch crawling! Serious thoughts about C4 explosives but calmed down by a visit to the headquarters bar.
Saturday was up mizzen day, which went very well and out bow-sprit which was a bit of a pig, especially the cat’s cradle of rigging now associated with it. Getting the bolt back in went very well, the alignment being perfect first time. The rigging took longer; it is a well-known fact, that rope left to itself will spontaneously knot and this lot had had the best part of a week. In my time it was much simpler its purpose not being to stop silly sailors, or in this case young beginner from falling into the “ogin”. OH No, it was there to stop expensive sails from going ogin-wards. In those more heroic days before risk assessment,’ elf and safety’ and duty of care any right-minded skippers regarded one as more or less expendable but a good sail as being harder and longer to replace! After assisting Tom in unravelling the mess I began to see the old boys’ point of view, as long as it wasn’t extended to me!
Sunday was re-dressing the mizzen and housekeeping generally. The wind was veering into the West with a half promise of North West, a sailorman’s dream in Yarmouth. I was really tempted but my rail ticket was paid for and my ferry return for Monday evening. I’d sailed in and out of Yarmouth several times but cannot recall freight when we had managed a double, so when the Skipper and Tom insisted on carrying my bags for me to the station a vision of Prison Governor and his Chief Warden escorting an unlamented inmate off the premises flashed across my mind, no pure imagination! But I’ll always regret not doing the passage back especially as I received a text from Niel confirming her arrival at Mersea on Tuesday morning.

That’s it for the coastal cruise this year. All good healthy exercise if you don’t weaken.

All the best and may the effect be with you.
Phil Latham

“June 28th / 29th 1966: 150 tons of mustard seed in bulk, ex-Loch Garth, Royal Victoria Dock, for Coleman’s Wharf Norwich. Sailed June 30th from Erith arrived Yarmouth July 2nd, arrived Norwich July 6th and discharged July 7th. Sailed light from Norwich on July 12th.”

This piece of information has been copied from Bob Robert’s Cargo Book, and appears to be the last trip SB Cambria made to Norwich. BJB


One Response to “Phil Latham Serial (Part 3)”
  1. DAVID RYE says:

    Thank you both again for all 3 parts from both myself and the boys out east, appreciated and enjoyed.

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