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So here follows my initial offering!
May 1972 and I wandered into the grandly named Wakefield School of Nursing not really knowing where I was. A very diminutive middle-aged woman approached clad in a white coat. “I’m looking for school” I ventured. “This is school little one” was the response.
Entering a room full of desks I found a bearded, long haired fellow about the same age as me. Nobody else at all, this is what constituted the May 1972 intake to study for State Registered Nursing qualifications. “I’m Ian” the fellow said, “It looks as though we are going to get to know each other well”.
And there it started, a never-ending catalogue of shipping adventures and disasters. It was March 1973 when it really started with our first Norfolk Broads boaty holiday together on a craft somewhat misnamed as “Spitfire”! We could walk faster !! This craft belong to one Leyland Jillings who, with his wife and a couple of underlings, ran Alphacraft of Brundall. They appeared to still be in the early building up years and build up they certainly did as they eventually priced us out of their market with grand flashy boats. In the meantime, myself and Bosun Broadhead (Ian) commenced to climb Jillings’s “ladder” of ships. Gradually moving from one to the next getting bigger each time until we finally had their biggest ship!! This was “Samarkand” and had been viewed by both of us as the ultimate ship that we would aim for. This was a procession of nine different ships. There was a depressing side to this grand process. No matter how we tried, how we preened, showed off, danced about in front of passing women, regularly washed and powdered our private bits, we never ever even had a sniff on the “pulling” front.
Later we were fortunate enough to be able to take our own women with us alongside crackers and cheese that would “be so useful when we got back from the pub”!
All this preamble is an effort to illustrate how the epic “Voyage of the Trent” came about. One thing that came out of the Norfolk escapades was an obsession with boats and “bent beams” which were a mystery to us in the construction of said boats in as much as how were they made?
We lost touch for several years and my own obsession with boats continued to fester without progressing due to the severe economic climate, which seems to have plagued most of my life.
Recently I had reason to take a substantial amount of time off work through illness. During this time it became clear that I badly needed some new interest to occupy me and give me an alternative to work, work and more work. Just after Christmas I hit the January blues. An annual event where one’s money runs out during the first couple of weeks of January and there are still four weeks to pay day. I approached my bank for an increase in my overdraft. No chance they said, no, but we can offer you a substantial loan!! I was not amused and went away penniless. A few weeks later I happened to read a copy of Canal & Riverboat and the old bug burst upon me again.
I rang the bank and said “You know that substantial loan you mentioned……..” Next thing I knew I had six thousand pounds in my account labelled “boat fund”.
I spent hours combing the internet, magazines and newspapers and eventually came up with a shortlist of three or four likely looking craft. These were an Ormelite, a Trentcraft, a Norman 24 and an Eastwood 24. The Eastwood was sold from under me by a mob at Chesterfield. The Ormelite turned out to be a bit of a wreck and the Trentcraft, although an unusual attractive design with a good layout, sadly had a petrol engine. I was extremely tempted by this boat “Perseus” although I got a distinct feeling the Rob, who was selling the boat, was somewhat pressured by “she who must be obeyed” and would be less than cheerful parting with it! Anyway, I had resolved to have an inboard diesel. That found me weaving my way to Mills Dockyard at Trent Lock where I met one Denny Brown who had a Norman 24 named Bona Dea for sale at £5,250. This seemed to meet most of my initial criteria and following a bit of haggling we agreed on £4,600. This was to include a full term safety certificate and the cost of the mooring until I could move it home to Yorkshire.
I then spent some time researching the route home. On the surface there seemed two alternatives (three if you count loading it on a lorry and I didn’t). I could either go up the Trent & Mersey Canal, round Manchester, over the Pennines etc. Or, I could wander up the River Trent, Keadby & Stainforth Canal, Aire & Calder and the Calder & Hebble. A fortnight nearly versus three to four days seemed no competition so it was to be the River Trent. So I concentrated on looking at this route and saw all sorts of writings and musings about sand banks, tidal waves, hairy locks and a need for charts !! I then spoke to our local MP and Narrow Boaty person, Hinchy. “Go by Manchester, its very hairy, wouldn’t do that as a new boater” he ventured. Also colliding with locks and sea going commercial craft was mentioned. David was good enough to offer to meet and discuss it, an opportunity I didn’t manage to take up but thanks anyway David. Its around this time that the term “round up” first emerged. A term that neither myself or Ian were going to understand until much later.
I posted questions on newsgroups asking about the Trent and charts and stuff. Yes, you must have charts or you’ll sink!! No, you don’t need charts, you’ll be OK. What was I to make of that?? So to the selection of my crew or, to put it more clearly, who could I persuade to come with me? My father was very keen and if the boat had been ready it would have been himself! As it was really there was only one person who I wanted along for this historic voyage so the call went out and “she who must be obeyed” (Liz) she say yes!! Bosun Broadhead it would be. We arranged to go down to Trent Lock on Monday evening (March 18th) courtesy of Mr Harbour Properties (Glyn).
That Monday evening we spent in the Steamboat pub at Trent Lock perusing charts and maps. I had an offer from Rob Barker (via newsgroups) to scan and e-mail me a set of charts, no idea how old they were but at least we had charts and therefore would not sink!! From our deliberations it seemed we could get home in three days, four at the outside. I had spoken to the Lock Keeper at the infamously dangerous and hairy lock at Keadby and all was arranged, or so we thought.
Tuesday, March 19th, up early, breakfast and engine fires up straight away!! We’re off!! We had decided to go down to the lock itself and use the BW facilities for daily ablutions as the bog on the boat was a mystery to us both which we were not keen to investigate as it hummed!! (the fact that I had bought a boat from a man who could not be bothered to empty the sh*t pot assumes more significance later!) This we did and then proceeded to go through our first lock. All went smoothly until for some unknown reason I happened to notice the temperature gauge showing a bit too warm!! I told Ian I thought we may have a problem….. serious he asks…….. maybe I answers. On examination, horror of horrors, no water spewing out of the exhaust. We had travelled all of 200 yards of a 130 mile voyage. What to do?? We tried to appear knowledgeable in examining the engine when really all we could do was look at the hoses and hope that one was obviously leaking or disconnected. Nay, no chance it could be so simple. Luckily, as folk will know, at Trent Lock there is Trent Lock Boatyard whose signs offer help. Looking around we could find no sign of anybody. “Well its only 9.30 maybe they start late” we thought. We enquired of a passing very presentable female, who we both agreed would “bob along a bit”, as to the whereabouts of the useful folk of the boatyard! Not here until May was the answer. Very useful indeed. This is the point at which we both began to seriously fantasise about women the details of which are far too lurid for here, suffice to say hooters, black stockings, fishnet tights and thongs regularly arose in the conversation. Were we already going mad like the ancient mariner??
Whilst in the process of purchasing said boat I had encountered a friend of Denny’s, an extremely useful fellow by the name of Paul Saunders who had foolishly parted from me in a pub following convivial supping insisting that I ring should there be any problem. Paul we have a problem! He would be with us as soon as possible, maybe late morning. So there we were with nothing to do but wait hopefully. We commenced reading some essential books. I had bought the 12 Volt Bible, Boat Electrics and Diesel trouble-shooter. We eventually were led to demolish the engine housing and look at a shiny brass pump! We took off the cover and pulled out a very worn and tired looking windmill affair which we were to discover was called an impeller !
Still no sign of Paul. In the midst of this engineering magic a fellow comes pedalling down the towpath. “Now then lads, where are you off to”? Turns out he is the Lock Keeper for the Trent Flood Lock. Cromwell Lock we venture, “Oh no you’re not” he announces grinning from ear to ear, “Trent’s in flood and I’ve had to close the gate”.
How long? we ask, “who knows, could be a couple of days, a week or maybe sixteen weeks” he explains somewhat gleefully. We were to have cause to regret thinking badly of this keeper of gates. The remainder of the day would see us glaring at the river and wishing hard that it would subside fast. I lost count of how times we walked up the road hoping to meet Paul, we never did. We past the time swabbing decks and generally trying to use water and lower the river level.
We were having a brew very forlorn and fed up when we glanced out of the window and there was Paul climbing out of his car, the colour of which was the subject of some debate. We were to discover that one of Paul’s likes was my tobacco preferably rolled into a fag and copious cups of tea. Yes says Paul examining our sad impeller, that is likely to be the problem. I ring Sawley Marina and am told that yes they have lots of impellers. So off we go to discover that they have every one but ours! (how unusual) A chap there is very helpful however and manages to identify ours as one of two. Both same size but each taking different size shafts. He rings Beeston Marina for us and low and behold they have one! Off we toddles and gets back to the boat with the little piece of machinery that is so vital to our voyage should the damn flood gate open. Guess what? Our shaft is too big. We ring back and asks if he has the other one of the two. Don’t be silly, I mean would he?? No chance, don’t have any in stock but can order you some for a week on Thursday and no he can't deliver it as he has a man off sick and when it arrives it will be the wrong sort. So we ring around and eventually discover that the nearest source is Newark Marina. Paul can collect this in the morning on his way around and will also take back the wrong one. So we are stuck for the night anyway. If only we had gone through that damn flood lock! The darkening hours are spent convincing ourselves that the river is going down. I ring the Lock Keeper at Keadby to tell him we had been delayed.
That night began the famous world scrabble championship. Ian has a bit of a thing about us and games. He never wins!! And so it proves as the first two legs go to yours faithfully.
The following morning we try not to wake up too early and have too much day to pass praying for Paul’s arrival. Of course we are up with the larks looking at the river. It has definitely gone down and this is born out by a fellow living on a barge close to the lock itself. Does this mean it will open we plead? Not necessarily, could be a couple of days……..
Late morning or early afternoon had been Paul’s prediction of arrival. We were fast learning to add a couple of hours to times he mentioned, in the nicest possible way of course. Late morning and the first good news, the flood lock is open! OK but we are not moving anywhere yet, where’s Paul? On his way is the message via the mobile and he eventually rolls up at 4pm. Takes little time at all to fit this damn vital organ and lo and behold water is spewing out of the exhaust. £80 Paul charges for this work and very reasonable too considering the chasing about he had to do. By now it is almost dark and proverbially raining hard ! “We are not stopping here”!! is the irrefutable conclusion drawn by the weary crew. So we victoriously cruise through Trent flood lock and the next lock too totally drenched, cold, starving but glad to have moved a more significant distance. The next round of the scrabble championship goes much the same way as the previous ones much to Bosun Broadhead’s disgust.
The following morning and the batteries are as flat as farts ! Must be all the hanging around we conclude but wonder how we are going to get started. Ian wanders up to the lock to see if any help is around. Remember the broadly grinning lock keeper that took so much pleasure in telling us of the flood lock closure? Well now he’s coming down the towpath with a wheelbarrow full of impressive looking hardware. In this barrow he has a generator and things for connecting to batteries. Fires up first time and away we go with a much more charitable view of said lock keeper. I ring the Lock keeper at Keadby and agree a new timetable which will see us going through his lock the following afternoon!
Everything goes swimmingly well as at last we are steaming as though we mean it. So we gratefully leave Cranfleet Lock behind us now into our third day and having made all of a mile !! On to the Nottingham Canal and a brief stop at Beeston Marina for gas and a general look around. Here, Ian receives sad news which could have finished the voyage there and then. However, it would seem that no particular purpose would come of his return home, just that we now had a date by which we must be home. As this was over a week away we did not think this relevant at the time. What foolishly over confident musing!!
We now wove our way through the city of Nottingham with a very varied canal frontage. Derelict in parts and very impressive in others where warehouses have been renovated and the world of the canal incorporated into development. It was here we encountered BW’s (British Waterways) fastest painters. They appeared to be painting each lock we went through. Whether this was an indication of our leisurely progress or a figment of our imagination matters not. One of said painters seemed insistent on carrying on painting the top of a lock gate while we opened it with him on it until his mate suggested it may be wise to get off!
Back out onto the River Trent and we experience our first “assisted” passage through a lock. There appeared to be a lot of keepers until we discovered they were all learning. They all learned well in that they all addressed myself as “captain”. An action that was to bemuse Ian who seemed to doubt that I had the instantly recognizable aura of captaincy! While we were eagerly chucking our ropes up to the keepers, one looked at us somewhat puzzled and asked why we didn’t use “those yellow things”. To explain, there are rods in the side of the lock to which one can rope up and they are yellow. We thought they were some space age data cable or equally strange affair that was vital to the locks continued existence.
At Stoke Bardolph Lock the keeper appeared to be chuckling while he informed us that he was expecting us and understood we had had a wee bit of trouble. This was our first demonstration of the Lock Keepers telegraph which we were to encounter again and again.
We approached Gunthorpe lock debating whether to stop and check that the batteries were charging. The decision to do so was influenced by the attractive moorings and the presence of a rather inviting looking café. Having moored, we turned off the engine, took a deep breath and muttered a prayer and turned the key…………….
Nothing!!! Not a fart or a squeak, just nowt !! I had been suspicious of a red light perpetually glowing on the control panel. Denny and Paul had insisted it was just an “ignition on” light. I now knew better and it was obvious that the alternator was not exactly in the peak of condition. Phone calls to Paul who changes his plans to come and have a look and, at my suggestion, bring an alternator for a Ford engine. He will be here late afternoon so today’s cruising is over. Guess who I rang next!
Paul arrives and agrees with my diagnosis and proceeds to fit a replacement alternator. This should be simple and straightforward! Is it?? No by jiminy….. not on your nellie! It seems the existing alternator is old and the replacement more modern with different wiring connections. The maze of wires makes it difficult to be sure how to connect the new one and Paul is cautious. He rings a friend who is a marine electrician who can get to us around lunchtime the following day. The scrabble championship continues by the light of a very useful tilly lamp that night. Oh and I forgot to mention that the café was closed until June!!
Next morning and eventually a fellow dismounts from a van. “Have you got a mashing on”? are his first words. Make him a brew and let him have a fag, lets try and keep him sweet. He then proceeds to wander up and down the bank puffing away and slurping our mashing. Thirty minutes later he assures us that he has started and that he likes to think about a job first. What followed was a demonstration by someone who has one of those enviable special skills. It is no exaggeration to describe the wiring system of Boa Dea as a tangled web of multi colours with no sense of order whatsoever. Nick seemed to recognise each one and proceeded to snip, solder, strip and tape. Lo and behold the alternator was fitted, time to start up. Fired no problem then doom and gloom…… no water from the proverbial exhaust!! We exchange panic stricken glances. Off comes the pump cover, out comes the impeller, liberal application of grease, reassembly and fire her up and all is well. £150 this costs me though Nick and Paul agree that Denny should stand the cost of this one.
We don’t have the time to get to Cromwell Lock before the keeper knocks off so we meander our way through Hazelford Lock where again a recognition and knowledge of our problems appears to be local folklore. On to Newark where we pause and purchase another impeller, which quite clearly we will never need because, we have got one. We top up with diesel, admire a few “Marbella” type cruisers and continue on our way reaching the huge and impressive Cromwell Lock around dusk. This is our first completely voluntary stop. Good showers and BW facilities here but b*gg*r all else except an attractive sunset and a bunch a geese forever fighting. Back to the scrabble championship !
Morning, and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Lock Keeper because today is the day when we at last depart the River Trent and brave the dire hazards of Keadby Lock! Or do we???
After numerous forlorn looks without any sign, I see a figure moving in the Lock Keepers control room. Off I go to seek passage, Ian dawdling along behind. I climb the steps and am about to open the door. “Here, come on, you’ll want to see this”! We both enter the control room and there she is, blonde, good build, pleasant looking and not too young for us whippersnappers! Ian’s face betrayed the fact that he was thinking just as I, all those deviate thoughts which I will not repeat. We had said where we intended going and suddenly and brutally we fell back to earth. “Oh no you are not”, blonde Lock Keeper informs us, “Keadby Lock only opens on a weekend if you have booked. Have you?” All those phone calls to Keadby and we had neglected to reinforce with the Keeper that we were coming through today. It would seem we could go as far as West Stockwith and then wait until Monday morning. The resignation with which we accepted this was not as deep as it might have been. It seems we are now conditioned to the fact that little, if anything, is going to go right.
We make proper fools of ourselves going through the Lock at Cromwell. Hope she wasn’t watching too closely as we bobbed all over the shop not having secured our ropes properly. Ever onwards and we now have a leisurely voyage to West Stockwith. We are also now on a tidal river for the first time and will use the charts so kindly provided by Rob Barker. The general rule appeared to be keep to the outside of all bends and pay heed to the warnings of sandbanks, submerged objects and shallow water. Uneventful is the way to describe the first leg. We passed much evidence of The Trent’s past industrial life, most of it now sadly derelict and decaying. Huge wharves and dolphins unlikely to see a ship again. Just past Dunham Bridge there is a statement “soundings advisable” so being light of said technical equipment it’s a case of leaning over the side and yelling “ping” or just looking and hoping for the best. This is followed by a contradiction which advises us to keep nearer the inside rather than the middle of a sweeping bend leading to Torksey and the start of the Fossdyke navigation. We halt for a look around and a visit to the shop promised in both Nicholsons and the charts. “Not been a shop here for some time, you can buy sweets and milk from the pub” we were informed. We also chatted to a fellow with a good looking Elysian craft who turned out to be a number one name dropper and all round expert on anything to do with canals!! He offered all sorts of advice about approaching Keadby Lock and how it would be so dangerous for us but he could do it with his eyes shut as he and the lock keeper were “like that”. On we go to West Stockwith which took us through Gainsborough and long stretches of unused jetty, warehouses and wharves. West Stockwith Lock appears suddenly as you round a bend. It’s a hugely deep lock and the river tide and currents do their best to knock you off course but we sneak in without a bump and discover a big hook on the end of a rope dangling in front of our faces. Now this could have been embarrassing. Earlier we had transferred the obligatory anchor to the front warp and temporarily put on a scrappy rather short rope until we could take it off. We were fortunate that Ian, standing on his tiptoes, just managed to get a hand to the returned end. On rising to ground level we were confronted by another small figure with a mass of curly hair and a grand Yorkshire accent. Another female lock keeper and very pleasant too.
She informs us that a boat is leaving at 8am for Keadby and we can accompany it to get through the lock. The good old canal telegraph working again. She had also seen my boat before in the possession of previous owners. Small world so very often.
Behind West Stockwith Lock there is an extremely pleasant canal basin with all facilities and two pubs. It was a good job because we were stuck here until Monday morning. What to do then? Ian went for one of his relaxing runs while I replaced and mended the ties to the canopy. Then to explore and we wandered down the canal bank, the wrong side first. There is another homely looking public house establishment on the towpath. We eventually found shops for sustenance and I came away with an inch thick gammon steak and we ordered our Sunday morning papers as it would be somewhat leisurely. Then, Bosun B informs me he has booked us in for a meal at the pub, compensation for everything seeming to go pear shaped. Much appreciated and very tasty except the pictures outside of the waitress’s are a tad misleading shall we say.
After we had dined we retired to the public bar area and were enjoying our thirst quenchers when a miserable twerp with an organ gave us the most dismissive look we could ever encounter. Why?? It seems we were in his seat but he could not bring himself to speak to us. He was cr*p with his organ too!!!
Sunday and a day to fill! Even huge Sunday papers can only occupy you for so long. It was about this time that the subject of the loo emerged. Don’t know how we got round to it but the fact was that we were not using it. Why? Because the pratt that sold me the boat could not be bothered to empty it and it hummed some. I have to admit that it was the Bosun’s driving force that persuaded me that we should grasp the nettle (or the container of sh*t in this case) and try and empty it. What strange hilarity followed. Carting someone else’s cr*p around a canal basin! We had discovered various bottles of deep blue and pink stuff, which we associated with the achievement of a less foul smelling bog. Round to the sanitary station we struggled with said porta potti and we could not get the lid off. Were we really trying I hear you ask, maybe not hard enough, but eventually we gained access to its foul content. After many rinsings and dollops of pink and blue we agreed it was an improvement. Does it not always feel good and satisfying to complete a great achievement??
That evening whilst “scrabbling”, we were to have the directions to West Stockwith via Bawtry and Misterton ingrained in our brains. Clearly a patron of the pub was expecting a friend who had never been here before and he was forever emerging with his mobile and venting forth his instructions to head for Bawtry and Misterton. We lost count of how many times he came out to renew his instructions and we never did see a very relieved looking traveller actually arrive! During the day we had identified the boat we were to accompany to Keadby. A very fancy narrow boat with a fine paint job that had clearly encountered attempts to remove the colour. It was actually moored in the lock ready for a rapid getaway. We politely introduced ourselves and stated our intention to moor alongside in readiness.
The following morning and anticipation is high. Today we would at last see this infamous and dangerous monolith that was Keadby Lock. Or would we? Cranked up the engine and fired straightaway. Something made me ask Bosun B if there was the reassuring stream of water emerging from the exhaust. Not a drop or a dribble!!
No!! this cannot be happening. Well you never saw a faster dismantling of the engine covers and the pump. Onto the impellor goes some lovely grease and an F1 type reassembly. We could be a pit crew for an F1 Norman Cruiser team. Try again and all hail to the almighty as water came gushing. Down into the depths of the huge lock we descend and triumphantly emerge onto the River Trent. An uneventful journey saw us use the charts again to try and avoid calamity obeying instructions to pass under particular bridge arches. We did not think we were progressing particularly quickly but we soon left our companions miles behind. The instructions from Keadby Lock Keeper were now ringing in our minds. “Head for the cranes and big wharf and round up to come into the lock”. A number of times we had nodded sagely at the mention of “round up” not having a clue what it meant! The latest call to the keeper had seen me swallow my pride and ask. Although it seems to involve some use of currents and tides it does just seem to mean turn around! We steam past the lock towards the wharves and take a great sweep around and head for the opening which does appear daunting with the towering walls either side and a width that appears, at first sight, to be no more than six inches wider than your craft. There is a tiny figure on top gesticulating and waving. We pretend to understand and head for the opening. I have to admit to being slightly unnerved by the sideways travel as we approached and at one stage I thought we might miss. In the end it was a bit of an anti climax, we nudged in without a bump and again wondered if that front rope would be long enough. The old hook came down again and we were safely roped in. “Good to meet you at last” was the greeting from the Lock Keeper, “I feel I know you already” !!
Where were our companions?? Nowhere to be seen. After about 10 minutes of wondering suddenly they appeared. Out in the river was the narrow boat, huge bow wave as he had his engines on full and was charging for the lock. He tried to turn straight in when us clever sods knew he should have rounded up. Closer and closer he got then “vroom” he disappeared sideways looking as though he must ram the side. It looked comical and cartoon like to observe. It was another 10 minutes before he appeared again having rounded up and nudged his way in. Our suspicion that these two were not the world’s most experienced narrow boaters was confirmed by the manner in which he entered the lock and failed miserably to position himself without lots of heaving on ropes and fending off by us.
Five minutes later we were on the Stainforth & Keadby Canal and well on our way again.
The remainder of the journey seemed to be a bit of an anti climax considering all that went before. I mean it was a very pleasant part of the trip seeing all these places from a totally different viewpoint. The difference was that we kept going!! Boring or what?? Bosun Broadhead came into his own along the Stainforth and Keadby and the South Yorkshire. He really took to jumping ashore with the trusty BW key, inserting it in its hole and setting off blue flashing lights stopping the traffic just like Bono in Dallas. Yes he really enjoyed working all those bridges. Fortunately the predictions of Mr Nicholson that local youths congregated around the lift bridge generally being a nuisance did not occur. The Bosun appears to have a real prejudice against Stainforth for some mysterious reason. “All burnt out cars, criminals and nare do wells, lets keep going”. We did attempt to stop at Blue Water Marina to show Ian Perseus which was almost a purchase. No room at all. That place is doing well.
And so on to the Aire and Calder and were immediately met by the Humber Pride and another boat just as big and insistent of taking precedence. Who would dare argue with those ??? They are impressive craft and it is refreshing to see that they appear to be doing good business on the waterway. Long may they prosper. We also came across Hargreaves and the train of coal tenders. Also vastly impressive in the amount of stuff they can shift.
We spent the night at Whitley Bridge passing more pleasant hours over the scrabble board. We discover the next hurdle to interrupt our journey. Work at Fall Ings Lock is not complete and there is still a stoppage so we may have to wait at Stanley Ferry. We will call in and check at Castleford BW Offices.
Bosun Broadheads eyes grow stalks and he develops a wish to return again and again to Castleford British Waterways Offices. Why is this phenomenon? All due to the attractive nature and appearance of the damsel behind the counter and the “bits” not quite concealed. We both feel those fantasy moments creeping back up on us. We retire to the showers instead. It was confirmed by the way that Fall Ings would be completed late that day. We decided to stop at Stanley Ferry and do the last bit a couple of days later.
Out through Castleford flood lock and onto the Calder and Hebble. Still not needed this wonderful hand spike yet. Still the majority of locks are mechanised on this stretch and the Aire and Calder, which make for much lazier passing. It’s at this point I ring the ex-wife requesting transport facilities home from Stanley Ferry.
And so we meander along to the close of our voyage. What will we do tomorrow when we don’t have to get up, run the engines and then seek a suitable establishment for daily ablutions? How long will the wobbly room syndrome last back on dry land?
Just before Stanley Ferry we pick up two damsels from the towpath. What I hear you ask? Have they coppe
Joined: Mar 2020
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If you are desperate for something to distract you during your period of ‘house arrest’, can I suggest a few audiobooks that you might find of some interest?
These are all totally free to download and have been recorded from books that are in the public domain and the recordings have in turn also been released into the public domain.
The first four audiobooks are completely Broads related, whilst the fifth, although giving the briefest ‘nod’ to Broadland, does give a good account of travelling through Norfolk and Suffolk around the turn of the last century.
So, in no particular order, apart from being sequenced by my personal preference of listening:
Man and Nature on the Broads by Arthur Henry Patterson - https://archive.org/details/man_and_nature_on_the_broads_1902_librivox
The Land of the Broads by Ernest Richard Suffling -
The Handbook to the Rivers and Broads of Norfolk & Suffolk by George Christopher Davies -
Notes on The Broads and Rivers of Norfolk and Suffolk by Harry Brittain -
Through East Anglia In A Motor Car by James Edmund Vincent -
You can choose the quality of recording via the Download Option – either 128KBPS MP3 or 64KBPS MP3
The higher the quality, the larger the file size to download.
Warning - Listening to that little lot will take up around 45 hours of your time next week – And I can’t be held responsible for the consequences!
Other free audiobooks on all sorts of subjects are available on the Librivox website: https://librivox.org/
Also, public domain books in PDF format can be downloaded from: https://www.archive.org or https://www.gutenberg.org/
Hope that you might find these suggestions of some use.
Joined: Oct 2005
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In case you can’t sleep here’s something to help you.
Our boating history (part one):
Vestella 4 (35ft 5 berth wood centre cockpit) Engine: Morris Vedette Petrol, Landamores, Hoveton, August 58 - 7 days with my parents.
No car so travelled overnight by Robinson’s coaches who ran the main service from the North West to the Broads in those days. I remember stopping in the middle of the night at a cafe in Retford and having a roast lamb dinner at about 3.00am. The coach dropped us off in Hoveton at about 7 am. Later we had lunch in a cafe and my mother was most disappointed that the ham and eggs was just slices of boiled ham.
We had about 8 or 9 hours to kill which I spent noseying about various boatyards watching them building wooden boats. In a couple of them the chaps took the time to explain to me what they were doing. I think only one yard moved me on.
Our boat was late coming back but they still changed everything down to crockery, cutlery and even the curtains, while a guy went round the boat in a dinghy touching up the paint on the hull - you don’t get that sort of service these days.
Who can forget their first ever mooring: ours was St Benets which was just a sloping bank in those days. I leapt off the front which was quite high on Vestella and fortunately I had enough loose rope to land (on my backside) safely. Another memory is fetching water from the hand pump on the village green in Stokesby in a large metal jug which needed both my brother and myself to carry it with quite a few trips back and forward. We had a day in Yarmouth and I recall playing in an arcade on a machine where you had to stop a traffic light on green when you would receive a roll of polo fruits. The penny I put in was slightly bent and when I pulled the coin slide out my penny was still there. I am (slightly) ashamed to say I took advantage of this and emptied the machine - well sweet rationing had only finished a few years earlier and we rarely had sweets at home. Last year I came across the very same machine on a pier in Paignton - 61 years on, and I won a few packets of Refreshers for my grandchildren.
Somebody told us you could get fish and chips at Potter. This was before the chippy existed and it turned out to be a guy who turned up in a van late afternoon and you gave him your order. Mum thought a chip van would turn up at teatime. The van did turn up but the fish and chips were already wrapped up and only lukewarm so they were cooked somewhere else. Mum was again not very happy,
The boat was top class, weather was superb, we caught some fish and I was hooked at 13 on boats and the Broads.
Crusader 1 (32ft 5 berth wood centre) Engine: Morris Vedette Petrol, Richardsons, Stalham, July 63 - 7 days (my first booking aged 17).
After Vestella this boat would have been a bit of a disappointment but for the adventure of all of us having our first holiday away from our parents. Blakes knew what they were doing when they gave five young lads a boat that had seen plenty of service, because one of the crew left a rope trailing in the water as we left Yarmouth YS and of course it found its way round the prop on Breydon. We started drifting back towards Yarmouth when one of the lads managed to lasso a buoy which had replaced a missing post. We were towed back to the Yacht Station and next morning towed under Haven bridge for the boat to be craned out to remove the rope. At least I can say I’ve been past the large “No Hire Craft” sign and under Haven bridge on the Yare.
On our first night we moored above Ludham bridge near the windpump. It lashed down all night and I recall lying in my bunk listening to the rain hammering on the roof - pretty loud as there wasn’t any insulation or headlining in those days, just the roof beams and the roof. Soon went off to sleep as i found that being snug in my bunk listening to the rain soothing - and I still do.
The next day we woke up to a lovely sunny day and a dinghy a third full of water. It was wooden and very heavy and took us five and another couple of lads to haul it out of the water to empty.
We were coming up to one of the bridges in Norwich when we spotted a coaster coming the other way. After passing through the bridge we saw how big the ship was and how much room we had to pass. My cousin at the helm panicked, swung the wheel to the right and ran into the steel piled bank. We had the canopy down and I was sat on the edge of the roof with my feet dangling in the well and as we hit the bank I ended up on the well floor. I dived up and swung the wheel as we had bounced off the bank and were heading for the coaster about twenty foot away. I straightened up and we managed to pass the ship without touching. A sailor’s head appeared over the side of the coaster with a bemused look on his face. When he saw we were OK he just shook his head and disappeared. I realised I couldn’t see two of our crew and then I heard them shout from the bank “stop and pick us up” - “no chance” I said, “meet you at the Yacht Station. It turned out that as we hit, the boat had swung flat against the bank and one of the lads had grabbed a ladder and climbed up while the other one had leapt from the roof and just managed to grip on to the top edge of the piling and hung there until the other lad pulled him up - he was incredibly lucky that he didn’t fall in as he could have been crushed.. I saw none of this as I was flat on my face in the engine well.
In those days a butcher used to come round Norwich yacht station moorings in the mornings. As we had been on the boat for three days we had eaten almost everything we had had delivered on takeover so I asked for some bacon and sausages. I had to go aboard to get some money and leapt from the bank to the top of the boat which was wet with dew, my feet went from under me and I just managed to grab the handrail and stop myself from going in - a good job because I can’t swim.
Just as we passed the first bungalows at Wroxham we ran out of petrol. There was a spare fuel can on petrol hire boats back then and we swapped ours (and some cash) with another can from another boat. We then went into Sabbertons (now Sabena) Yard to fill up. A chap came out and said it is half day and we are closed but took pity on us and fueled us. Of course we didn’t need a pumpout as it all went straight in the river!
Quite an eventful holiday as the reverse gear packed up on us as we were going through Irstead on our way back to Stalham. Because there was very little movement in the water we managed to crawl our way back to Richardsons. When we arrived we kept blowing the horn to attract an engineer who shouted “put it in reverse”. We said it isn’t working and threw him the bow rope which he wrapped around a mooring stake and stopped us - the stake almost coming out of the ground and the stern of the boat swinging out into the river into the path of another cruiser coming in, much to their displeasure.
Constellation 2 (36ft 6 berth wood centre) Engine: Perkins 4.99 Diesel, Chumley & Hawke, Horning, July 64 - 7 days. Another journey down overnight with Robinsons. The coach dropped us off at the crossroads at the top of Lower Street, Horning at 7.30 am. Quiet a long walk to the boatyard but it was a gorgeous morning. On the way I spoke to a lady filming in 16mm but she wasn’t very forthcoming about her film so I presumed it wasn’t a commercial enterprise. I remember looking down from the road onto the bones of a very large sunken boat - I presume it was a wherry or wherry yacht.
On arrival at the boatyard an engineer said our boat was in and as we were first to arrive they would have it ready in a couple of hours. He suggested we go to the New Inn for breakfast and he would ring and let them know we were coming. We had breakfast on the lawn (which went down to the river in those days) in glorious sunshine watching a parade of boats passing - probably on their way back at the end of their holiday. The landlord said as we were eating he could serve us beer - we weren’t going to miss a chance like that, but we did behave ourselves and only had the one.
Our boat was in its first full season and we felt really posh after the previous boat. Unfortunately a boat rammed us in the stern while moored at Yarmouth leaving a split nearly a foot long in the top of the transom. Phoned the boat yard and they said keep an eye on it and if it appears to be getting longer ring us - just an example of the laid back Norfolk way.
On this trip I found out about the strength of the flow on the lower Bure: we were going upriver (agains a full flow - well we didn’t know any better and there weren’t any forums to give you advice) when a small boat came close alongside and some lads pelted us with tomatoes, then turned and sped off. We weren’t having that so I turned our, quite long, boat; but as we got side on to the flow it pushed us sideways down river for probably half a mile before we managed to turn back into the flow - lesson learned!
In those days if you wanted to hire a certain boat you had to either book it at the end of your holiday and if you left it as late as September/October you usually had no chance.
Constellation 2 - Engine: Perkins 4.107, September 66 - 7 days (boat had changed engine since we hired her two years previously).
Totally mistimed our passage over Breydon and passed a full Reedham in total darkness. We moored up behind the last boat at the Ferry and my friend jumped off and ended up calf deep in mud and water. With the total faith of youth we just bashed about with the Rhond hooks until we found a bit more solid ground, cleaned up and went to the pub holding our shoes and socks until we got to some dry land. How the boat didn’t drift off in the night I’ll never know.
In those days the lower Bure had some flat mud shelves sticking out into the river when the tide went down and on this trip there was a Windboat sat on one, high and dry until the tide came back in.
Our first visit to Loddon, quite shallow and windy in those days, and we moored in the Princess Cruisers/Aston Boats basin as I don’t think the present moorings were there in those days. I seem to remember that until the mid 60s, craft over 35ft weren’t allowed on the Chet - but I can’t find any reference to that anywhere.
We went for a row around Oulton in the dark and as we were coming back in a posh voice from a Moores boat called “I’ve seen you messing about with boats and I am going to call the police”. We hadn’t been near any boats so we just ignored him. Blakes were thought of as the premier agency back then but Moores thought they were too good to be listed by Blakes so stayed independent (admittedly their boats were very smart and well turned out and tended to get mainly repeat bookings), and some of their hirers also thought they were a cut above the rest of us.
Connoisseur Deluxe 6 (42ft 6 berth grp centre), Engine: Perkins 4.108 Diesel, Porter & Haylett, Wroxham, September 81 - 7 days (first boating holiday with our children). Lovely boat and only one faux pas: when the engineer who took us under Wroxham bridge on takeover got off (bow in) at what is now the pilots mooring and tried to push us off, I had remembered to only use a little throttle but totally forgot to put it in reverse - well it was the first time I’d driven a boat in fifteen years.
On the way down to Horning mother-in-law said there’s no water so we pulled into Chumley & Hawkes boatyard which was up a dyke and tighter than I remembered - it was, as previously I’d been up there on 36 footers and this boat was 42ft. One of the engineers fixed the water pump for us by just turning a screw and said he wouldn’t give us a chit for such a small job - the yards with the same booking agency used a chit system to pay each other for repairs etc.
It was fortunate that we decided to stay the night in the yard as it blew a gale all night; the chairs outside the restaurant (I think it was called Nandos and is holiday lets now) were all over the place including in the dyke.
We rowed the dinghy under Potter bridge which took us about twenty minutes against the current - it was a bit quicker coming back!
On our last day, mud weighting on Salhouse the promised rain arrived quite suddenly. In our rush to close the (very large) canopy it came off its runners - five minutes later four very wet people managed to get it back on. £234.25 including cancellation. Norwich YS £2 per night.
Admiral 7 (42ft 8 berth wood centre), Engine: BMC 2.5 4 cyl Diesel, Brooms, Brundall, August 82 - 14 days. What can I say, beautiful boat, gorgeous weather and our moorings all went to plan. One slight disappointment: we couldn’t get through Wroxham bridge, so we moored up in Lloynes and got the train into Norwich which then gave us time to get up to Beccles the next week.
We met a coaster on the straight stretch above Brammerton but I knew to give it a wide berth as we passed because of the pull from it.
The fan belt snapped just near the boatshed that’s on the right hand of the river on the way to Geldeston. No access to the bank so as there was little flow I switched the engine on and off in small bursts which got us to the entrance to Geldeston Dyke where the temperature gauge was showing quite hot so we moored up. My wife bound the split ends of the fan belt with some heavy fishing line, hoping it would last us till we could moor at the far end of the dyke. Unfortunately having no tools the belt was too tight to lever over the pulley. So my two sons got in the dinghy and managed to tow us the fifty yards or so to the moorings. I got an earful off my wife for not paying attention to where we were going; I was watching the birds in the reeds as we went along The engineer while fitting the new belt was amazed how good a job my wife had made of the belt repair. The next year when we pulled in at Brooms, on Sunset 6, for some water, I spotted the same engineer and he said the belt was hung up in the workshop as an example of some hirers’ ingenuity.
We had such good weather for the fortnight that I was so laid back I couldn’t even be bothered to fish. £530.
All GRP from now on (except narrowboats which were steel).
Sunset 6 (42ft 6/8 berth Aquafibre centre) (Ex King of Light), Beaver Fleet, St Olaves, August 83 - 14 days - first time under Potter Heigham bridge. Only three years old but needed a lot of work doing. Things like leaking windows, a couple of doors hanging off their runners etc. They had given us a sheet to write on any things that we thought could be improved. I gave up when I had filled one side - but then we did get under Potter!
We had driven down overnight and arrived about 8.30am; fortunately the weather was good so we just sat on the grass watching the staff working. Mid morning I drove into Yarmouth to pick up our other two crew members who had travelled down by coach and brought back fish and chips for what I suppose would be called Brunch today.
I went in the office after the returning crews had gone home and they sorted the paperwork and said we’ll tell you when your boat is ready. About half twelve all the staff disappeared for lunch; when they returned an hour later the yard owner came over to us and said “you still here, your boat was ready before lunch - didn’t anybody tell you”. What did he think we had been doing sitting on his grass for five hours - looking for a four leaved clover!
The Blakes pilot who took us under the Potter bridge was old school - he wore a blazer, white slacks and a cravat.
We arrived at the Pleasure Boat, Hickling on a Sunday. a lovely sunny day with loads of people drinking outside. I cruised really slowly up the dyke hoping to get a vacant mooring outside the pub. Fortunately it was very slowly, as level with the last boat we ran aground. I immediately sent our crew of seven to the bow which just lifted the stern the fraction needed to reverse off - red faces saved. £489.31 incl cancellation.
Sunline 2 (42ft 7 berth modified Caribbean split canopy bathtub), Porter & Haylett, Wroxham, October 83 - 10 days. Really cold weather with ice on the inside of the windows most mornings. The blown air heater was at the back but the heat only reached about half way; it was sleeping in woolly hats in the front saloon. We moved off from Thurne Dyke upriver in thick fog but had only gone a few hundred yards when we came out of it into a cloudless sunny day. We had an excellent evenings fishing (in the dark) at St Benets.
Tana Fjord (50ft Andersen Boats narrowboat) Llangollen Canal/Shropshire Union, July 84 - 14 days.
Clear Horizon 2 (42ft 8 berth Horizon bathtub), Horizon Craft, Acle, October 84 - 11 days. Nice clean boat. We’d only booked 10 days but the guy on reception told us we could bring it back a day later - we didn’t need telling twice.
The engine wouldn’t start when we came to leave Somerleyton and when the engineer turned up the first thing he did was sit down in the forward well, look over the side and say I haven’t seen a duck like that before - definitely another true Norfolk man. The breakdown was caused by an ignition wire vibrating off.
When we returned one of the yard staff on inspecting the boat said there was a star crack on the deck on one side that hadn’t been there when we took the boat out. I said we haven’t hit anything and anyway the crack was obviously old as it was full of dirt. Another engineer overheard and said he had seen the crack previously. I’ve always wondered if they were on commission if they could find something to let them retain your security deposit.
£318 incl cancellation. Yarmouth YS £3.80.
Shetland (42ft 8 berth Horizon bathtub), Alan Johnson Boats, Acle, August 85 - 14 days. A posher version of Clear Horizon. We had some more very good fishing on this holiday especially again at St Benets. On the way up to Coltishall we came across a boat (another Windboat!) with its bow up on the bank out of the water. We tried to pull them off but no chance. Later we had an example of my excellent knotmanship when we arrived at Coltishalll with no dinghy. On return we found it up against the bank just above Belaugh where we had moored for lunch. While at Coltishall we were rammed in the stern by a mooring boat which bent the rubbing strip leaving it hanging off, so I removed it.
After a very early start the next day we called in at the boatyard at Acle and the engineer said they would fix it when we returned. Not to miss a chance of a chat with a local I said we are staying for lunch so if you want you can fix it now seeing how busy you are on turnround days. So I got him a brew and we sat there chatting while he worked. One of the things he told me was that he had “done” Golden Anchor, a Bridgecraft timber build on a Bourne 35 grp hull. £686.90 incl cancellation. Oulton YS £2.
Little Gem 4 (25ft 4 berth Hampton Safari Mk2 forward drive), Richardsons, Stalham, May 86 - 7 days - passed PH bridge. Just myself and my wife we cruised for a long day, but very slowly - almost an hour to cross Breydon. We only went as far as Langley Dyke. Went for a drink (or two) in the Wherry - the first of only two visits to that now closed pub. Woke at 5.30 next morning by rolling out of bed. The water was that low the boat was lying at an angle. The boat in front of us was completely out of the water on a ledge and they probably never knew anything about it.
Later in the week we managed to get up to the end of navigation on Waxham Cut. The pilot at Potter was training a new guy and asked him to have a go with us. At the last minute the trainee decided he didn’t think he could do it and stepped away. The pilot took over and with a absolute last second correction took us through - I’ve nothing but admiration for those guys. £103 incl cancellation.
Meadow Saffron (42ft 7 berth Alpha centre), Engine: Volvo 3 cyl Turbo Diesel, Colin Facey, Horning, August 86 - 14 days. New boat in its first season. The only time we have moored at Marina Quays. It was a lot quieter than the Yacht Station and a very pleasant walk along the seafront into Yarmouth.
I took this boat under Wroxham Bridge but when, at Coltishall, we tried to push the canopy back up it came off its runners. The engineer arrived and said didn’t anybody tell you not to pass under Wroxham as the boat was new and they didn’t have the correct canopy, so they had temporarily fitted one of the 35ft version which wouldn’t retract fully and was a couple of inches higher. £666.27 incl cancellation. Beccles YS £2.20.
Star Monarch 1 (42ft 7 berth Powles centre), Jack Powles, Wroxham, September 87 - 14 days - passed PH bridge. At this time Powles were part of Pennant group and as they had so many offers on their boats we got it for a song. In fact when booking the lady said any more discounts and we will be paying you! It cost us £359.10 plus £26 cancellation plan for two weeks.
It was getting on for end of season but the boat was only ten years old and the hull was filthy and it was looking very tired inside. Everything worked though and to be honest as long as the boat is clean inside it doesn’t bother us what it looks like as long as we are on the Broads.
When we took over the boat it was jammed in between other boats. After walking us round the inside the engineer just shoved it in drive and forced his way out, with much twanging of fenders, in fact the boat next to us lost one. When we were just out and the bow was about 10 feet from the boats moored on the other bank of the boatyard he said off you go and off he went - not the most thorough handover we’ve had - mind you I did get the impression they were short staffed.
We spent some time above Potter and had some good fishing.
Hire boats not having enough ropes for springs we had to get up one night (at Beauchamp Arms) to rock the side of the boat off the bank.
Lady Diana (57ft Narrowboat Company narrowboat) - Midlands Canals/river Severn, September 88 - 14 days.
Rhinestone 2 (45ft 4/6 berth Foster sedan), Southgates, Horning, October 89 - 9 days. A mixed weather week with our daughter and her friend. We had one hairy moment when trying to moor in Thurne Dyke with a very strong offshore wind. First attempt we got a bow rope off but before my daughter could get off with the stern rope the stern had swung out. I signalled to my wife on the bow rope to walk to the stern with the rope and I let the wind take the boat round, pretending that I had intended to do that in the first place. The wind dropped enough for us to get on the bank with fore and aft ropes but then it really picked up and we had a few minutes with two people on each rope just holding the boat, with all our strength, to stop the wind pushing it out. My first experience of mooring a high sided sedan boat in a strong wind - I don’t want to do that again.
When we returned to Southgates they said we could keep the boat for another day but unfortunately the girls had to get home for school - bit disappointed missing another day on the Broads. £228 incl cancellation.
Swan Raider 2 (32ft 4/6 berth Alpha bathtub), Swancraft, Brundall, October 90 - 7 days. I really like these boats, plenty of room for four and still reasonably roomy for six plus a sliding canopy for the sunshine. Again with our daughter and her friend. The boat was fitted to a high standard and had been looked after - I think it may have been an ex Alan johnson of Acle boat but Swancraft were definitely looking after her.
We did have one problem when we broke down just after leaving the swimming pool moorings in Beccles when the heat exchanger (on the gearbox I think) started leaking oil - we noticed it coming out of the exhaust. While we were stopped mid river some ducks started eating the oil off the surface so I tried to shoo them off with my fishing rod. A chap on a passing boat shouted you should be ashamed of yourself doing that - he didn’t think to ask why we were stopped in the middle of the river. It just goes to show appearances can be deceptive. Some kind people on an Aston boat towed us back to the moorings. £258 incl cancellation.
Princes Caroline (70ft 10/12 berth Black Prince narrowboat), Avon Ring, August 92 - 14 days. Lovely trip but a bit hair-raising when, on the Avon, we had to turn a 70ft boat (without bowthrusters) above the weir at a couple of locks to go in backward to drop the bow on to the cill as a 70ft boat wouldn’t fit in the lock the normal way round.
Pink Champagne (45ft 10 berth, Aquafibre Ideal enclosed centre cockpit), Alan Johnson Boats, Acle, October 93 - 7 days (last Broads hire holiday with our children). This is a big boat which when we had it still had the dinghy on the back on davits which had one bonus - we got special treatment at Oulton YS where we had to moor on the Jetty to the right of the main moorings.
The boat had quite a few problems, mainly water leaking into the cabins, the worst one being the bunk room where the top bed was soaking. Fortunately we didn’t need to use that cabin. The double bedroom at the back was full width of the boat - almost as big as our bedroom at home - luxury for a Broads boat!
We did have one incident on this holiday - Because of the height of the boat we had to make sure we passed Yarmouth Bridges on the last of the falling tide which meant we were pushing agains the flow up the Yare. We were a few hundred yard above the lift bridge on Breydon when the engine started labouring and a red light on the dash came on. The first thing I thought of was something on the prop but we were only a hundred yards or so above the big ship layover mooring which at low tide had rocks behind it and we had begun to drift in that direction. I did the forward, reverse a few times while telling the family to put on their life jackets (forgetting mine and I’m the only one who can’t swim). My son noticed a blue item in the water which looked like a large plastic bag and when I put the SLC in forward off we went - problem solved.
Alan Johnson had retired and the boatyard was now owned by Foley family who had bought some of the Johnson and Easticks fleet plus a few others. I think they only lasted a few years. £400.
Autumn Willow (30ft 2/4 berth Bounty Buccaneer bathtub), Willow Cruisers, Brundall, late October 93 - 4 days. At the end of our week on Pink Champagne we stayed at a B&B in Gorleston for two nights and then made our way to Brundall. We booked Autumn Willow on a newspaper offer where it was pot luck which boatyard and boat you got. This one was a winner because it was a lovely boat, well looked after with rear engine and hydraulic drive and practically silent from the front steering position.
We really did just pootle about on this break only going as far as Oulton and Norwich and using the tides as much as possible - I was a bit embarrassed about how little fuel we used.
Our stern rope was untied in the night at Norwich and whoever did it was lucky not to go in as the boat was covered in ice when I got up to re-tie it.
On our way up river returning to Brundall a duck flew straight at us, put its undercarriage down and landed on the boat’s roof. We heard its feet as it made its way to the front and popped its head over and looked through the door. We gave it some madeira cake (not allowed any more) for its cheek.
£110. Oulton YS £3.80.
Saucy Gem 4 (30ft 4 berth Dawncraft DC30 bathtub), Richardsons, Stalham, early October 94 - 4 days. This was on the same deal as Autumn Willow. Originally we were booked on another DC30 San Rafael 3 but the previous hirer had managed to remove the sliding roof. Saucy Gem was a really basic craft but it was very clean, everything worked and it handled well. We had planned to look for another hire boat for the following week while we were on Saucy Gem. Moored up at Barton Turf on a lovely sunny day.
We moored up at Brister Craft in Hoveton for lunch on the Thursday and I asked if they had any 2 berths available for next week. The owner said he had one in but he couldn’t let it out as it was booked by the same person for most of the season and they hadn’t used it but if he let it to me Sod’s law they would turn up. We were just about to move off when he came over to us and said I have a four berth that I can let you have for the price of a two berth. It turned out to be Yare Sunset 1 which was a pretty new boat in lovely condition and beautifully fitted out - of course I snatched his hand off..£110
Yare Sunset 1 (35ft 4 berth Aquafibre Diamond centre), Brister Craft, Hoveton, October 94 - 7 days. After Saucy Gem we stayed at The Old Brewery House in Trunch overnight - superb B&B but I don’t think they do it anymore. One of my car’s headlights had blown but as I hadn’t travelled at night for a few days I didn’t notice it until we were going out in the evening from the B&B for something to eat, but as we were going back to Hoveton the next morning I would pick a spare bulb up at Roys.
After our meal, driving back to Trunch the other headlight blew. So there we were a couple of miles from the B&B on dark country lanes with only side lights. I put on my rear fog lights as I was only going to drive at no more the ten miles an hour as my worry was either coming upon a cyclist with no rear light or a parked car. Any way we made it back safely and then I realised I had breakdown cover.
I bought a couple of bulbs at Roys next morning and when we got to Bristers I started to change them. The owner said leave it with me to sort for you and get off on your holiday. When we returned the boat he wouldn’t take anything for fixing the lights and also gave us a fuel discount - that was a first for us. Another first class hire company who went above and beyond. p.s. I’ve always carried a spare bulb since and never needed it. £275. Norwich YS £6.80
Dover (45ft 4 berth Clifton Cruisers narrowboat), Oxford Canal, March 95 - 4 days.
Swan Roamer 1 (27ft 2/4 berth Bounty sedan), Swancraft, Brundall, September 95 - 4 days. Another booking on the newspaper deal. This one was a bit older but still in good condition. I’ve wasn’t really keen on Sedan style boats but for out of season cruising they work well. This was another very quiet pootling holiday only as far as Oulton and Norwich again. Moored one night on the green at Brammerton we were going to the pub for an evening meal. The wooden capping on the moorings was in poor condition, split and with holes. I shone the torch on it for my wife to step down and she stopped and said I’m not getting off there are rats. I looked down and there were quiet a lot of young rats running in and out of the capping. I said they’re too small for rats they are only mice to which she replied “have you seen the size of their bloody feet”
That was it and as it was our last night we had no food so it was crisp butties.
The next day we were driving down to a B&B near Wallingford on the Thames and then on a cruiser for a week from Maidline (Richardsons) at Wallingford.£110. Oulton YS £4.
This message was edited by webntweb on Apr-8-20 @ 5:47 PM
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If you are still awake here's part two:
That was our last trip to the Broads until we came back in 2007 for an overnight B&B stay on Sarah Louise, a Kingfisher 44ft dual steer. We were looking to buy a share in the boat but we didn’t think the scheme would work, which proved the case - but it did give us a taste for the Broads again and led to our purchase of a share in Moonlight Shadow in 2009.
This trip was a last minute thing as I had read about the scheme, so when I saw a special offer of £10 return on train tickets Manchester to Norwich off we went.
The boat was based at Wayford Bridge and we cruised down to Neatishead and had our evening meal in the White Horse. Sarah Louise wasn’t a very good design, basically a forward drive bathtub with a second helm at the stern, quite high up above the engine. The main accommodation was fine until you got to the two bedrooms at the stern. Both bedroom were tight to get into, the one on the left you literally had to crawl in on your hands and knees.
Our return trip on the Sunday was eventful. On arrival at Thorpe station we found our train had been cancelled; the booking office said there was another one in an hour. It was a lovely day and we sat on the balcony of the pub overlooking the river and yacht station, had lunch and watched some of the newbies not getting it quite right when mooring up - that brought back memories of our early trips.
Returning to the station we were told that all East Midlands Trains had been cancelled for the day and we were told to make our way home by any route. Being a bit of a train freak this wasn’t a problem for me but the EMT representative had his work cut out writing out details of routes for about two dozen passengers. I decided on Norwich to Ely, Ely to Peterborough, Peterborough to Doncaster, Doncaster to Sheffield and Sheffield to Manchester. Six trains when you add the final part of our journey: Manchester to Urmston where we live.
Maid of Chertsey (28ft 2/4 berth Bounty 28 Mk1 bathtub), Maidline, Wallingford, river Thames (owned by Richardsons), October 95 - 7 days. £267 incl cancellation.
Unfortunately there aren’t as many hire yards on the Thames these days but if you ever get the chance try the top half from about Wallingford to Lechlade at the head of navigation. Most of it is very much like the Bure above Wroxham but with more low banked meadows. Ours was a Broads built boat that needed a bit of TLC. But the weather was very good for early October, dry, sunny and warm so as I’ve said before we’re not too bothered about the boat if everything else is good.
Straight away we had a problem with the boat, if I went over a certain amount of revs the engine started overheating. If I slowed down to about 4mph it was fine. I told the boatyard and they came and had a look and the engineer said it wasn’t really a problem. While we were waiting I worked out that we could complete our planned trip if we kept to 4mph, so I didn’t argue - if it got worse I could argue then.
One night we moored more or less in the centre of Oxford and had a good look round. We also moored close to, and had lunch in, the waterside pub in “Morse”. Another night we moored next to Clifton Hampden bridge and walked across to the thatched Barley Mow pub (of Three Men in a Boat Fame).
There’e a choice of two pubs at Newbridge where the Windrush joins the Thames - we chose the Rose Revived because you can moor outside.
Other pubs include the Trout at Tadpole Bridge.
Lechlade is a pleasant small town with a couple of pubs near the river.
There are a couple of bridges that need a bit of care and one just above Oxford which has a similar profile to Beccles road bridge, if slightly higher at 7ft 6 in at normal river levels .This bridge does a similar job to Potter - it keeps the larger boats from accessing the top 30 miles.
We passed through 38 locks on our trip and only shared with another boat in four of them.
The last night was our anniversary so we cruised down to the lock below Wallingford where the Thames Book said there were two pubs. The first pub’s moorings were full and when we got to the other one “The Olde Leathern Bottle” it said “no mooring”. It was getting dark so I moored up and went in and asked if we could stay overnight to eat in the restaurant. The landlady who was, lets say, slightly tipsy said OK as there are only two of you.
It turned out to be a rather upmarket restaurant with a car park with Porches etc and even a Rolls. To give them credit one of the chef’s brought a menu to the boat, I think to save us any embarrassment over dress and prices. It was considerably more expensive than our usual eateries but as it was our anniversary and we had some decent clothes with us to dress for our anniversary, we went in.
The food was excellent and I think the staff were more than happy to serve “ordinary people” rather than some of the loud boorish people that were in there. Half way through the evening the landlady, who by now was more than tipsy, asked if everything was OK. She said she liked the boats going past but couldn’t understand why they paint them in such garish colours - ours was orange. I replied it was that they were in such bad condition that when they sank the bright colours helped them find them. She didn’t get it but a lot of the people around us did.
On returning to the boatyard I waited outside the office to hand over. The manager was on the phone to somebody and the conversation was quite heated and went something like this “I’m sorry but I can’t refund you for a bottle of whisky you say was broken as we paid out on your collision claim over a month ago”. Handing over the keys I mentioned the engine overheating problem that we’d had from the first day. She was obviously agitated from her previous conversation and replied that I should have called them out again. My reply was that their engineer had said it was fine and if I had had to return to the boatyard for another boat I wouldn’t have had time to complete the trip I had been planning for some time. She said I can’t give you a refund and I was just about to say “I only came In to remind you about the engine and wasn’t looking for a refund”, when she said we won’t charge you for the fuel - well, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth do you.
Unfortunately in the 25 years since we’ve been to the Thames, narrowboats have taken over from cruisers, so it probably isn’t quite as idyllic now - but a little secret: There is a small boatyard with an ex Broads wooden, forward drive 4 berth for hire (ex Johnsons of St Olaves I think).
Narrowboats: Corwen (48ft Anglo Welsh) one way trip from Peak Forest canal to Trevor, Llangollen canal, July 96.
Dover (45ft Clifton Cruisers) March 97.
Ouse & Cam: Sunquest 1 (34ft 4/6 berth Elysian centre), Engine: Perkins 4.108 Diesel, September 97 - 14 days.
This boat had the biggest weed filter I have ever seen. The upper reaches of the rivers were completely covered in duckweed. The boatyards instruction was: keep a close eye on the temperature gauge, switch engine off and empty filter - it turned out it needed clearing about every half mile on a couple of stretches.
The Ouse is a lovely river. There are a couple of bridges that need care but generally it is easy cruising. The whole system of the Ouse, Cam, Wissey, Lark and Little Ouse give about the same cruising distance as the Broads and are a comfortable fortnights holiday. A couple of the smaller rivers go through very sparsely populated country and one of them doesn’t even have a mooring until you get to the end.
When we were there we only came across undesirables on two occasions and both at the weekend and in both cases they weren’t land based but private boaters. The first was a couple of 30+ year olds climbing on guillotine lock gates while they were raising and lowering. The other was at another lock where half a dozen boats were waiting to descend. The first boat was much too close to the lock meaning I had to turn round it only just clearing the lock with our stern. As I was coming out I heard the guy holding the bow rope say to the chap waiting behind him “let’s see how good he is” and he slackened the rope he was holding which caused the front of his boat to drift towards us with the pull from the lock weir, which made it even more difficult for me to get round him. As I passed I gave the wheel a quick flick which caused our stern to give his boat a slight touch -He was correct I obviously wasn’t good enough.
Bridge Boats at Ely are the only yard offering grp boats on the Ouse now, most of them are pretty old but well turned out. The river system is worth doing if only once.
Narrowboats now for the next 7 years:
Jade 57ft Wyvern Shipping Co, Grand Union - 4 days;
Sevenoaks 60ft Clifton Cruisers, Oxford Canal - 4 days;
Puffin 54ft Alvechurch Boats, Grand Union - 7 days;
Galadriel 59ft Viking Afloat, Four Counties Ring - 14 days;
Joanne 62ft Black Prince, Four Counties Ring - 7 days.
Ashford Tunnel 42ft Blisworth Tunnel Boats, Grand Union - 14 days;
Brecon 60ft Black Prince, Llangollen Canal/Shropshire Union - 14 days;
Golden Fleece 50ft Anglo Welsh, Combined Four Counties & Cheshire Ring - 14 days;
Romulus 68ft Viking Afloat, Oxford Cana/River Thames - 14 days
Patsy 58ft Black Prince, Trent & Mersey/Leeds & Liverpool - 14 days
Asmund 45ft Viking Afloat, Ashby Canal - 7 days
Brecon Castle 45ft Castle Narrowboats, Mon & Brec - 7 days. Electric boat The company has its own charging points along the canal, about 2 days apart.
In 2004 and 2005 we has holidays on French Canals, both times on Connoisseur Magnifiques. First time we went for 10 days on a return trip on the Canal du Midi from Trebes to Agde. it was in August and a couple of days it reached 95 degrees. This was fine when on the canal because the plane trees that were all along the canal in those days, formed a canopy over the canal and with a slight breeze it was very pleasant. But when you moored up and left the shelter you really felt it.
The second trip was 11 days, one way starting at Beaucaire on the Canal du Rhone a Sete and finishing at Homps on the Canal du Midi, with side trips to Aigue Mortes and then Narbonne down the Canal de Junction, River Aude and Canal du Robine. On this holiday we also cruised the River Herault and into Carnon where you moor just a few hundred yards from the Mediterranean. One highlight of this trip is the Etang de Thau, a salt water lake just inland from the Med with a navigable area 2 or 3 times that of Breydon Water, which, when the wind gets up, can make Breydon look like a mill pond.
Another one is a long foot bridge at water level, which when the bridge keeper sees you coming, he unlocks a 30 ft hinged section, which is equipped with an outboard and swings the bridge out of your way.
Other points of navigation interest are the three sided lock at Agde; the Libron Barrage; the seven lock staircase at Fonserannes with its adjacent water slope and you pass through the oldest canal tunnel in the world at Malpas.
The fact that the boats were built in Wroxham and were by far more boaty looking than most of the French boats added to the pleasure.
In 2003 we bought a share in Adderbury, a 58ft 4/6 berth narrowboat which we kept for six years.
In 2009 back to the Broads when we bought a share in Moonlight Shadow (38 foot 6 berth Aquafibre Pearl) which we kept for two and half years.
In 2011 we bought a share in Winding Down, a 58ft 4/6 berth narrowboat which we kept for five years.
Also in 2011 we bought a share in Lightning, a 43ft 6/7 berth Aquafibre Diamond which we kept until health issues forced us to sell in 2018. On one of our Lightning holidays we hired a day boat from Woods and went to the Pleasure Boat and then Catfield Staithe which completed my trips to the Broads extremities.
We cruised on both Moonlight and Lightning through Bishops Bridge to the head of navigation on the Wensum.
Our last Broads holiday was a lovely fortnight in July 2018.
So between 2003 and 2018 we had a minimum of three weeks holidays per year and as many as eight weeks some years.
Well this has kept me busy for quite a few hours while confined to barracks - and probably sent you to sleep.
This message was edited by webntweb on Mar-28-20 @ 4:21 PM
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We are also stuck in the house as we have just got back from Canada and having spent 9 hours in a crowded plane with people coughing all over us and then going through Heathrow and in a London Taxi, we are staying away from everyone in the village until we are sure we did not catch anything nasty.
So..... Broads History.
Christina and I got married in 1975 and for our honeymoon we spent a week on a boat on the Norfolk Broads. It was my first visit to The Broads although Christina had come here many times as a child. (see photo).
We had a couple more boat hire holidays over the next 15 years and then (as we were living in London at the time) we decided to buy a holiday cottage to get away to at weekends. We looked at lots of places, but in the end we bought one of the holiday bungalows on the River Thurne. This was 1990. The bungalow was actually in Ludham and thus began our association with the village.
Our first boat was a Norman 20 called Mandelbrot. Then we had a Westerly Nomad called White Smoke and then a Norman 23 called Woodwose (named after the Ludham Woodwose). Hence my Forum name.
We had lots and lots of great family times in that bungalow and on the boats. We often jumped in the car on a Friday night and hit the M11 heading for the peace of The Broads far from London.
In the late 90s, my company started offering redundancy packages but they would never let me go. Then, in 2001, they relented and I got the chance to retire. So we bought a house in Ludham and now we live here all the time. Every day is now a holiday.
We kept the bungalow for a while and moored our boat there but it was only a half hour walk from here so we sold it after 17 amazing years of holidays there.
Ludham is a lovely place to retire to. It is not just a place to come to on holiday. It has got just the most fantastic community spirit and there is simply loads going on here. Most things are on hold for the virus emergency right now but the village has pulled together and a volunteer scheme is looking after the vulnerable.
Some of the things I do include:
The Ludham Archive www.ludhamarchive.org.uk
The Womack Herons www.womackherons.org.uk
The 1st Hoveton and Wroxham Sea Scouts www.hovetonandwroxhamscouts.org.uk
The photo shows the boat we hired for our honeymoon. I could illustrate this with a few more photos but I will only do this if you really want it. To see a lot more you could look on my website www.nigelworld.org.uk
Keep safe and well
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If you get really stuck Trev try xhamster...
This message was edited by steve on Mar-30-20 @ 1:27 PM
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"..for the avoidance of any doubt, the broads are not legally a national park and do not come under the national park legislation, and nor will they."
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for DEFRA (Hansard 2015)
Joined: Nov 2008
Our boating adventures started on the Thames in May 1985. Brian had always wanted to try it but I was very reluctant as I was always seasick whenever I stepped on a boat, even the Isle of Wight ferry. However having agreed to give it a go for a week we booked with Kris cruisers in Datchet near Windsor. When we arrived at the boatyard we booked in and this lovely old lovely was there to show us around the boat and as we unpacked the car she picked up our suitcase and toddled off down this gangplank, she beckoned us to follow her, I was terrified as the plank rocked and rolled every time you took a step!! Our boat was on the very end, an Elysian 27ft type and felt very small. After a trial run we were let loose and got to the first lock just as the lock keeper was going off duty. He told us we could stay the night moored in the lock waiting area but would have to be ready to move at 9am the following morning. We settled on the boat and tried to unpack the suitcase but found storage at a premium, so most had to stay in the case. The only problem was where to put the case. During the day it was on the bed in the front cabin and at night on the table in the dinette. That first night was quite traumatic as we had horrendous thunderstorms and couldn't sleep and spent most of the night in the dinette drinking coffee, no lights needed. The following morning we were ready for the off when the lock keeper came on duty and put us through the lock first, it was still raining and very grey and we pcked up more boats at the next lock and got very wet. A young man on the boat in front at the next lock was quite a comic and as we progressed through the locks together he took another layer of clothing off until he ended up in his swimming trunks and kept us all entertained and our spirits up despite the weather. We stopped for lunch and the rain finally gave way to clearer skies and sunshine, this was more like boating weather. We stopped at Henley on Thames, one of my favourite places from my childhood days of staying with my grandparents in nearby Wallngford on Thames. We planned on having a meal out in Henley and I got ready then found I couldn't off the boat!! The high heels and pencil skirt just didn't cut it on a boat, there was only one thing for it Brian had to lift me off the boat amid much laughter. I then found it difficult to walk in the high heels, I was all over the place and very wobbly.The week then got better and better, the sun shone for the rest of the week and we thoroughly enjoyed it, we had moored in Wallingford and went to see my parents who had moved from London to look after my grandparents after I married in 1971. 3 valuable lessons learnt on this holiday, the first get a bigger boat next time, the second was don't take a hard suitcase and the third only take suitable clothing.The following year our Broads adventures began with a 11 day holiday on a connoisseur from Porter and Haylett and we hired from them for 3 years by which time we had a dog and it was difficult for the dog and the side hatch entrance. We then hired Merrymores from Moore's at Wroxham. We enjoyed boating so much we used to spend 2 weeks on the Broads and 1 week on the Thames, or 2 weeks on the Thames and 1 week on the Broads for a few years. Whilst moored one year at Sutton Staithe we saw a new boat being built and had a nosey around and came face to face with Tony who was deep inside the boat hard at work, he explained it was going into his hire fleet the following year. We booked the new boat the following year and hired it every year until he sold it to a private buyer. It was an Aquafibre Diamond 35
Named Golden Honeymoon (later changed to Sutton Gold) and still remains my favourite boat. Coincidentally good friends of ours bought this boat just over 2 years ago and it is moored beside us in our marina. It was 2007 when we finally purchased our own boat (Sutton Gold was not for sale at that time) and we decided our second favourite, Merrymore was to be the boat of choice. We still have the boat and we can't wait to get back on the the water and see all the friends we have made over the years. Stay safe everyone.
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As a teenager I would tear about off the Southend coast in little Shakespeares and the like and in my twenties a few of us would bumble about on Broads. That’s fifty years ago now, so all I can remember of the boats we hired is that they were mostly painted yellow. But when I left the UK in 1979 to live and work in Europe, I took the opportunity to obtain the appropriate French Licences (inland waterways in Nancy, Merchant Marine from Paris - the famous 'Permis B' up to 25 tonnes, later upgraded - radiotelephony from France Telecom). I learnt to sail by joining flotilla crews in the Mediterranean and chartered a yacht for our honeymoon after my wife Luise had a couple of days tuition at a Southampton sailing school. But four-year postings in places like Damascus, Santo Domingo and Sarajevo effectively meant no more boating activity until my retirement in 2005.
We settled in Great Yarmouth to be near my widowed father, bought a little Shetland Family Four to potter around the Broads, part-exchanged it a year later for a 4 Plus 2 with shower and a proper toilet rather than a Porta Potti and had some great times. But boating on the Broads is a Full Contact Sport and we decided that our next boat should be a little more substantial.
We happened to overnight in a little village on the banks of the Saône and admired the péniche-type steel boats that we thought might suit our needs. We checked out Jetten and Pedro but on seeing the Linssens at the UK distributors (Boat Showrooms in Shepperton) I knew that this was the boat we had to have. And a couple of trips to the Dutch factory convinced us even more. But new or used? Like buying a new car, pay a premium for the “new smell” and having it to your exact specifications, or let somebody else bear the brunt of initial depreciation? But the selling of our Shetland and our freehold mooring at St Olaves was going slowly and around this time the factory put up for sale an ex-demo New Classic Sturdy 28 Sedac of which only a few would be made, just a year old and fully guaranteed. We drove to Holland, it was as good as it looked in the pictures, and we told Boat Showrooms to go ahead and broker the deal. Their suggestion was that rather than have it delivered to Norfolk, it might be an idea to collect it from Shepperton, giving us a chance to get used to our new boat on the Thames, have any teething troubles rectified there and then, and even bring it North ourselves to Great Yarmouth. So we told the factory to install a chart-plotter, autopilot and VHF radio, paid our money and waited with anticipation…
A family bereavement meant that we wouldn't be able to spend too much time on the Thames, not much more than a trip downstream to Hampton Court, then up to Windsor, discovering on the way that rhond anchors are better known thereabouts as mooring pins.
I'd previously purchased the relevant charts and marked appropriate waypoints to get me through the Thames Estuary and North to Great Yarmouth; for those not familiar with the Thames, although Clacton on the Essex coast and Margate on the Kent coast might be some 25 miles apart, getting into or out of London isn't just keeping to the middle. Simplistically, if you open your left hand and your little finger represents the Essex coastline and your thumb Kent, the other fingers are Gunfleet Sand, Sunk Sand and Long Sand to be avoided, with the Wallet, Middle Deep, Black Deep and Knock Deep the safe channels between them: for those interested, I passed between Maplin Edge SHB and Maplin Bank PHB, then took the Middle Deep and East Swin (King's Channel). As backup to the Raymarine chartplotter I had an AA battery-powered Garmin GPS and my trusty hand-held compass, my wife called it belt, braces and a piece of string.
I wasn't too worried about the tides, with such a long passage up the coast we would in any case be cruising with the current behind us for half the journey, and pushing it the rest. But received wisdom seems to be that one should be at Southend around slack water, so I reserved a mooring for Friday night at Imperial Wharf Marina pier, with no tidal restrictions allowing me to begin the journey next morning. We'd enjoyed our stay at Hampton Court so much that we decided to return to Shepperton Marina on Thursday, fill with diesel then go downstream to Hampton Court for the night.
AND THEN DISASTER! Refuelled, as I went astern off the fuel pontoon I lost all drive. Forward gear, reverse gear, full revs, nothing… Out of control and narrowly missing the moored boats, we managed to attract the attention of somebody on the quay, throw them a line and eventually get tied up. The royal barge Gloriana was moored at Shepperton Marina during this period, we joked afterwards that had we sunk that, we'd probably still be in the Tower of London. Lifting the hatch, the problem was immediately apparent. All four bolts joining the two halves of the flexible coupling between transmission and prop-shaft were laying in the bilge under it, no wonder nothing was happening. Lindon Lewis and his engineer came to the conclusion that the only possible course of action would be to crane out the boat so that the propeller could be blocked, allowing the whole coupling to be removed for inspection. Too late to do anything that day…
Friday morning, boat lifted, coupling removed, the thread on one of the high-tensile steel bolts was stripped, the others had presumably shaken themselves loose. Over-tightening, not tightened enough? Difficult to say, but repair was effected by restoring the thread in the flange with a Heli-Coil insert, and fitting new bolts. Perhaps they should have beeen lock-wired at the factory? I'll certainly consider having it done at some future time. Linssen were very accommodating, on seeing a photo of the damage they authorised any repairs to be at their cost. But all this took most of the day, obliging an evening mad rush through Sunbury, Molesey and Teddington locks and we were lucky to make it through Richmond in time. We arrived at Imperial Wharf in darkness.
At 1100 on Saturday 26 July 2014 we slipped our mooring, cameras ready for shots of the Houses of Parliament etc. Far from a relaxed pleasure cruise, my missus thought the next couple of hours were the worst she's ever experienced on the water! High speed river buses, ferries, RIBs, sight-seeing and commercial craft all hustling and bustling unpredictably this way, that way and the other, ColRegs simply “Get Out Of My Way” and the swell and buffeting worse than on the high sea. Couldn't really relax until after Woolwich or so, passing under the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge an experience having driven over it so many times; we crossed from the right-hand outbound track Northwards towards Southend on schedule, W Shoebury SHB to port at exactly 1800.
A completely uneventful night passage, I kept the revs to 2200 worrying about the coupling shaking itself loose again, we arrived at Great Yarmouth harbour entrance at 0800 on Sunday morning. We'd covered 133 miles in 21 hours, my hourly log shows a highest speed of 9.8 knots through Tilbury and a lowest of 3.7 in the “Corton Road” South of Great Yarmouth. Refuelling to the brim, I ascertained that I'd used 155 litres of diesel.
More important than the satisfaction of having achieved our objective of delivering the boat to Great Yarmouth, we absolutely fell in love with the non-tidal Thames and decided to spend much longer on it in 2015. But not looking forward to another long trek and my wife vowing to never again put herself through the stress of central London, I investigated the feasibility of having the boat transported from my home mooring (Waveney River Centre) to Shepperton Marina, where the engine could be serviced and any issues sorted out within the warranty period. It seemed expensive (eleven hundred quid plus lifts) but not outrageous taking into consideration the fuel saving, the convenience of not having to be encumbered with the Zodiac we'd lashed down as a lifeboat for our sea voyage, and the cost of hiring a boat on the Thames.
So charts and compasses put away and with “The River Thames Book” our guide, on one sunny Wednesday morning in May I watched Luise (the boat) being lifted onto a flatbed trailer, then picked up Luise (the wife) from home and drove to Shepperton to await its arrival. Boat in water, stores and clothes on board, we overnighted in the marina and the following morning the engine was routinely serviced and we went just a little way upstream to the free 24hrs moorings on the left bank.
On our second day, we cruised a leisurely 18 miles to a mooring near Eton College Boat House and before setting off on the Saturday morning investigated the noise coming from the adjacent Dorney Lake. A Triathlon was taking place, a great spectacle. Next day took us 14 miles upstream to Marlow, dinner at The George and Dragon (good value, a Whitbread Inn), the day after 19 miles to moor up on the bank near Sonning Lock. The Bull was found to be a nice pub serving good food, service could have been better (“Lovely candles on the table, could you light them please?” “No”). The evening of day 5 found us moored at Goring, a really pretty village with its quaint John Barleycorn Inn. Or cross the bridge to Streatley and visit The Bull, one of the stops in Jerome K Jerome's book “3 Men in a Boat”. Day 6, 20 miles to Clifton Lock, day 7 just a few miles to Abingdon where we moored up early to have a look around the town. A wonderful place, we had a good fish and chip meal in The Nag's Head in the middle of the bridge and determined that we'd stop there again on our way back downstream.
So by the eighth day we were as far as we'd get with any boat having an air draught greater than 2.28m (7'6”), namely the 24hrs moorings between Osney Lock and Osney Bridge in Oxford. We paid the small fee allowing us to stay an extra night, and enjoyed a couple of days in Oxford. Our first visit and mightily impressed, all I can say is that anybody who graduates from Oxford and doesn't go on to be a President or Prime Minister hasn't made the best of themselves. Unless you're Mr Bean, of course!
And then it was time to head back… after our promised second night in Abingdon and a good dinner in The Kings Head & Bell, we descended 23 miles to Pangbourne and on day 12 made our longest journey, 30 miles to Maidenhead. On day 13 we overnighted in Old Windsor (opposite The Bells of Ouseley; now part of the Harvester chain, good value food but we feared a sleepless night because of traffic noise. In the event much quieter than we thought), then to one of our favourite moorings, namely outside Hampton Court Palace, where there's a good choice of restaurants. The day after (day 15) we continued on just a little further to Kingston upon Thames, as far downstream as we wanted to go, and found perfect mooring on the bank opposite The Gazebo. To the left of the bridge, in Hampton Court Road just a couple of minutes walk, is The Old King's Head, a local pub definitely to be recommended, serving great food. The next day was Friday, and we'd agreed with Shepperton Marina that we'd overnight there so my daughter and my 2-year-old grandson could join us and leave her car in a safe place while they spent the weekend with us. Nothing too off-putting for his first taste of cruising, just a short hop to Hampton Court and a meal at the Carlton Mitre's Riverside Restaurant, on Sunday back to Shepperton to see them off and remove fenders and step the mast etc. ready for tomorrow's transport.
So, on Monday morning, 19 days after Luise had been craned in to Shepperton Marina, she was lifted out and put on the truck taking her back to the yard at St Olaves where she'd be craned in. By mid-evening I'd taken the boat the 7 miles up the River Waveney to Burgh St Peter (no locks on The Broads!), and went home to start unpacking. We'd covered in total 225 miles, and although our holiday was not the high-adrenaline stuff of an ocean passage, we'd had a great time and don't regret our decision to “wimp out” and have our boat transported to its destination by truck.
After Covid? The Great Ouse appeals, perhaps have Luise transported by truck to St Ives or somewhere, go out to sea at Kings Lynn, then down along the coast to come in at Great Yarmouth? Now if only I can persuade the missus or find a crew...
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As Luise says the Thames is a beautiful river and all the places mentioned brings back some lovely memories of past times We too used to travel from Hampton Court to Oxford and were determined to get through that bridge to the head of navigation so booked a boat with a lower air draught from Red Line? at Abingdon but just before we were due to go Brian was made redundant so had to forfeit the holiday, so never made it past Oxford.
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