The most perilous part of small boating isn't facing mountainous seas or screaming tornadoes, it's getting in and out of the boat. In the Broads, where all the staithes are designed for cabin cruisers and are about a mile high, it is particularly difficult for small boats. How kayakers do it at all I cannot imagine.
Tim O'Connor found this to his cost when he tried to leap athletically off the bow of his Acorn skiff Ardilla at Neatishead Staithe on Sunday. The staithe was rather high and the deck is rather small, and he ended up between boats.
Did we drop everything and go to the assistance of a distressed mariner and friend? You must be joking - those of us who weren't doubled over laughing reached for our cameras:
On the Monday I rowed down the River Ant to How Hill, where there is a great nature reserve and a small preserved marshman's cottage. Here, the staithe is like the great north face of the Eiger. Getting out was no problem, but getting in....oh dear. I did the classic clinging to bank thing as the boat headed for midstream. Golly it was cold.
Luckily for me, the boats either side consisted of the Broads yacht Hiawatha and a family on a cruiser who proved to be most of the crew of the Tynemouth lifeboat.
They hauled me onto Hiawatha's elegant counter stern where I oozed horribly, then took me to the cruiser where they gave me a cup of coffee, a shower and the opportunity to squeeze my clothes out. They even microwaved my socks. They were wonderfully hospitable and my sincere thanks go to them.
I rowed back briskly to avoid freezing up, and even got a bit of a sweat on.
So hooray for Tynemouth RNLI, and if you would like to make a generous contribution to their sterling work even when off duty and on their hols, click here. After all, if you make a habit of stepping into and out of small boats, you never know when you might need them.