Wherry Yacht Charter
Caring for the Broads' last wherry fleet

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All charter customers receive complimentary membership of the Friends of WYC.

Parts of a wherry

The image below shows the main parts of a pleasure or trading wherry. Some are familiar sailing terms, while others are specific to these Norfolk craft. We aim to have more images soon to show the rigging, mast and winch in more detail, and to show a wherry yacht.

  • Blocks - three blocks, containing pulleys, allow the single halyard from the winch to raise both the throat of the sail (by the mast) and the peak. The rearmost block is called the span block, and the spans that run from it support the peak of the sail; they are reconfigured slightly when reefs are put in or the bonnet is added.
  • Bonnet - (not shown) an extra strip of sail which can be added to the bottom of the main sail when the winds are very light and forecast to remain so.
  • Bow - the front of the wherry; in pleasure and trading wherries, this area has a white quadrant for visibility at night. Wherry yacht hulls are already white. Our wherries do not sail at night as they don't have navigation lights.
  • Counter stern - (not shown) on a wherry yacht, the counter stern is the large seating area at the stern, allowing passengers to sit uninterrupted by quanting, winching the sail and lowering the mast.
  • Counterweight - (not shown) a mass of lead on the lower end of the mast, balancing the main mass of wood and allowing the mast to be lowered under control.
  • Cuddy - the self-contained skipper's accommodation on a pleasure or trading wherry.
  • Ensign - a civil ensign, in our case the red ensign, is flown at the stern to indicate nationality. It is put out at 8am daily, and taken in at sunset, being rolled and stored alongside the lowered gaff.
  • Fo'c's'le - or forecastle, the area below decks in the bow of the wherry. The hatch above it is opened when the mast is lowered, to allow the counterweight to rise. On our wherry yachts, the crew quarters are in the fo'c's'le.
  • Forestay - this cable holds up the mast. The bottom end leads into a pair of blocks, which allow the mast to be lowered for passage under a bridge.
  • Gaff - the long spar supporting the sail. It is raised by winching the halyard, with the blocks allowing it to be raised to the correct angle.
  • Gaff line - this rope allows the skipper to keep the gaff under control while the sail is raised and lowered, preventing it swinging out to the side and dragging the sail into the water.
  • Gaff jaws - the leather-covered Y-shape at the mast end of the gaff. Looping around the mast to join each side of the Y is a rope with parrell beads (not shown).
  • Gate - the hinged iron bar across the counterweight in the upright position, acting as a safety measure should the forestay fail. It must be opened when the mast is lowered.
  • Main sheet - the rope, running through two blocks containing four pulleys each, that allows the skipper to haul in or let out the sail, according to wind conditions.
  • Mast hoops - loose iron hoops holding the sail to the mast. They are tied to the sail at metal eyelets called cringles.
  • Quant - a wooden pole used to propel the boat when there is no wind, to assist while tacking (zig-zagging to make progress against the wind), and to manoeuvre when entering or leaving moorings. Hathor's long quants are approximately 24 feet (over 7 metres) long, but in the southern rivers the quants may only just reach the bottom (or not at all in the most downstream reaches). One quant is usually used on each side of the boat. Quanting is less common on the wherry yachts as they have motors; the deck rail also makes it more difficult.
  • Parrell beads - (not shown) large wooden beads which roll and allow the rope conecting the two ends of the gaff jaws to pass up and down the mast as the sail is raised and lowered.
  • Planksheer - on a pleasure or trading wherry, the white-painted plank along the edge of the deck.
  • Reef points - all of our wherries have three sets of reef points where the sail can be rolled up and secured, to shorten it when the wind is strong.
  • Rudder - the large rudder at the rear of the boat allows it to be steered.
  • Sail - the main sail on Hathor is over 1100 square feet - quite some weight of canvas to winch, more when it is wet.
  • Storm sail - (not shown) also known as the "elephant's handkerchief", this ultra small sail is used when the wind is too strong for the main sail, even with three reefs in.
  • Tabernacle - the stout supports for the mast, which come up as far as the pivot point, just above deck height. When the mast is lowered to pass under a bridge, it lays back from this point, and the counterweight comes up forward of this point.
  • Tiller - the handle on the rudder, allowing the skipper to steer.
  • Timberheads - extensions of the structure of the hull, these are used for securely attaching mooring ropes.
  • Vane - a combination of a figure or symbol and a long-tailed pennant, which clearly show wind direction and strength.
  • Winch - used to hoist the sail by winching in the halyard. There may be additional gears to make it easier. Detachable handles are stored on the deck when not in use; two are usually used for raising, while lowering is started on one handle and then continues just on the brake for speed.

Wherry Yacht Charter is a registered charity (as Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust), number 1096073

WYC is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, RDPE, Geoffrey Watling Trust, Town Close Estate Charity and others.

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