A whelk boat in Norfolk
The north Norfolk coast is a “heartswelling” region of vast, widescreen skies and shifting horizontals, and there can be few better ways to explore its “labyrinthine” creeks and salt marshes than in a traditional whelker such as the Salford, This 30ft wooden sailing boat is the pride and joy of Henry Chamberlain, a former officer in the Royal Marines who now runs overnight trips from the pretty fishing port of Wells-next-the-Sea. Out past the vast sweep of Holkham bay lies the Scolt Head Island National Nature Reserve, where much of your “micro-adventure” unfolds, including swimming in wetsuits, foraging for samphire and mussels, and looking out for the 100-strong colony of spoonbills that arrived here unexpectedly from the Continent in 2010 – and which make for a surreal sight. The night is spent under a canvas canopy on deck. Chances are you’ll feel yourself “unclench” as you are immersed in the vast stillness of this precious wilderness. See coastalexplorationcompany.co.uk for more information.
A wind-powered ferry to the Continent
It launched in late 2020, but this summer is set to be the first proper season for Fair Ferry, a new ferry service that transports you by sailing ship from London to Rotterdam. It’s not only a great way to get to the Continent for those who are anxious to reduce their carbon footprint – it’s also a “wild adventure”, on which guests are asked to help with hoisting sails and other tasks. Typical of the company’s small fleet is Jantje, a “beautifully rigged” brigantine Dutch tall ship, built in 1930, with comfortable cabins, hot showers, a galley serving vegetarian food, and a crew of four. Sailing her out of the Thames Estuary from her berth by Tower Bridge is like a voyage back in time, as apartment blocks, container ships and wind farms gradually give way to forests, empty tidal flats and then the North Sea, peaceful and silent (save for the odd breaching porpoise). The crossing takes roughly 36 hours one way; you can make a city break of it by buying a return ticket that includes two nights’ accommodation onboard while in Rotterdam. From £495 one way, full-board, and £1,009 for the five-night round trip (fairferry.co.uk).
Touring the UK in a Thames barge
Thames barges were once a common sight on the Kent coast and beyond, carrying cargo to and from London. At the turn of the 20th century, there were more than 2,000 of these six-sailed vessels. Today, there are only 30 or so left, along with a few beautiful modern variants – such as the Snark, which now carries guests on varied week-long voyages around the UK coast, Named after the fictional animal in the Lewis Carroll poem, this 105-footer was built in 2018 from 1898 plans, using modern materials. It has “stylish” interiors (its owners, Paul and Qiao, are architects), and can carry up to 12 people, although numbers are usually limited to six on longer voyages. Guests can pitch in with the sailing, or relax on deck. Paul does the cooking, using fresh, local ingredients, and there are yoga lessons from Qiao, a qualified teacher. This summer, the boat is visiting all four UK capitals on various trips, but there are plans for different itineraries in future. Sevenday, all-inclusive trips cost from £1,368pp (snark.limited).