Designed & maintained by Carol Gingell
© C.Gingell 2015 -
© Broadland Memories 2015
The following set of holiday memories date from the 1970s and are illustrated using postcards from the era.
1973 I had moved away from my parent’s home in the south of England the previous autumn and was living in a rather dingy bed-
A week or two later in early March I had managed to get enough money together for the deposit. Next stop was a telephone box where after having decided on a boat and a date I made the call to Hoseasons. Oh how different things were in those days. It was early March and there was nothing available for hire as they were fully booked until the end of September. So a late holiday it had to be. One of the few boats they had available, even at the end of September was Aston Elm. This was a 4 berth cruiser, 35ft long by 10ft beam. Much larger than my original choice. Still I was not going to let the opportunity pass and a booking was made and I mailed the booking form and the cheque the same day. All I had to do now was to find someone else to join me for the week.
It was not long before one of the staff from the yard showed us how everything worked and gave us a list of the daily engine maintenance tasks. Oil level, Stern tube greaser etc. He then took us for a short trip up the river and in no time at all we were on our way down the Chet. With the narrow river and all of the blind bends this was certainly a way to quickly get the hang of steering. As we negotiated some of the narrow bends in the river we came upon a very interesting sight. A Bermuda class from F B Wilds at Horning seemed to be on the bank rather than in the river.
On rounding the bend we could now see the exact state of affairs. The boat was not completely out of the water but had obviously been travelling at some speed and had steered away from the line of the river. The bow had climbed so far out of the water that the crew heaving hopefully with a boathook had no chance of getting it back in the water. A couple of other cruisers had stopped and it looked like one of them was going to attempt to pull the unfortunate craft back into the water. They waved us past so we never got to see how this incident finished up. However the boat was not there at the end of the week so they must have got it back in.
By now it was starting to get dark so it looked like we would not be able to make the Woods End at Bramerton that evening. So we were now on the lookout for somewhere to moor. It looked like the moorings at Cantley were full but we saw someone waving toward us and directing us toward a space that looked far too small for the boat. However, my first attempt at approaching a mooring was excellent and we were soon moored up for the night. Next morning we set off toward Yarmouth hoping that we would be able to buy some food items somewhere. Mooring at Reedham we went ashore and managed to find a small shop open. We spent some of the cash we had left on stocking up the larder for the next few days. We mentioned to the lady in the shop that we were on a boat and she started to tell us about how when people drowned in the river they used to hold the post mortems in the village hall. Whether this was true or not I have no idea but it was not the sort of thing you wanted to hear your first time on a boat.
Soon we were on our way across Breydon and we were amazed how fast the boat was when the throttle was fully opened. In those days the boats were not governed right back like they are today. In fact the power and size of the engine was one of the details listed alongside each boat in the brochures. We were aiming to reach Wroxham for the night so we pressed on though Yarmouth and up the Bure. Shortly after passing Acle we found ourselves among a large number of yachts. Some tacking and others following the same course as ourselves. We managed to get through without incident and it was rather nice to be thanked by yacht skippers after you had been good enough to wait for them to go about before proceeding. In fact the friendliness of everyone on the river was something that really impressed us. Everybody waved to us, both hire boats and private craft. Wroxham was crowded out even that late in the season so we turned back thinking we might try Ranworth or South Walsham. As we came round past the Swan at Horning we were amazed to find a place at the staithe. So that is where we spent the second night.
Next day was spent exploring the northern broads. We headed up the Ant with the intention of stopping for lunch at Stalham. The trip was made without major incident. We passed several yachts successfully despite our inexperience and the narrowness of the river. The only near disaster was when we reached Stalham. Not having been there before we followed Stalham Dyke and were caught out by the way the dyke comes to a sudden end. Still all was ok and we actually managed to moor. The galley was once again stocked up using most of the money we had left. It was obvious that at some time during the week we were going to have to find a bank and obtain some more cash. Lunch cooked and eaten we then set out once again back down to the Bure and up the Thurne to look at Potter Heigham bridge. We knew there was no way the boat would pass but after hearing so much about this famous bridge we wanted to see it. As we headed toward the bridge and made ready to turn another boat came through the bridge. A gentlemen, who we later realised was the bridge pilot looked straight at us and said something along the lines of, “You must be joking!” I think he must have thought we intended to get him to take us through the bridge.
Next we headed back down the Thurne and headed for Yarmouth with the intention of getting back across Breydon. We had misread the tide table by looking at the wrong month and when we arrived in Yarmouth the tide was still far too high to pass under the Bridges. There was nothing for it; we ended up stopping for the night at the yacht station. This did give us the chance to take a walk into town and obtain more cash. This cleared out the little I had in the bank but at least we were no longer totally without funds. Next day we set off across Breydon again and headed south for Beccles, stopping in Oulton Broad for lunch. Duly moored up on Beccles quay we thought about getting off the boat and going to the cinema. This turned out not to be such a good idea as we found the cinema was now being used for bingo rather than showing films. Alas another early night. Next day we headed for Norwich. This journey gave us one moment of blind panic when we rounded a bend on the Yare to be confronted with an enormous coaster coming in the opposite direction. It did not look as if the ship would fit between the banks let alone allow is to get past it. We headed for the bank and stopped.
Aston Elm pictured in the 1970s
Great Yarmouth Yacht Station
As the large vessel passed by we were surprised at just how much room there actually was between her and the bank. We were certainly in no danger of being run down. We arrived in Norwich and took a walk into the city, getting totally lost and having to ask directions back the Yacht Station. On the wall near the yacht station we noticed a poster advertising a play at the theatre royal that evening. To make a change we went to the theatre and bought tickets. Cant remember a lot about the play but during the interval us two dressed as we had come of the boat stood out like a sore thumb amongst all the regular theatre goers all dressed up for the evening. Still it was a pleasant evening.
Next day we intended to spend the night at Reedham with the intention of spending the final day making sure the boat was clean and tidy ready to hand back to the yard. We would then head back to Loddon to spend the final night at the boatyard. Arrived at Reedham hours too early to stop so we headed through the bridge and down the New Cut. We then turned north again and headed back to the Yare via St Olaves. As we approached Reedham we experienced our one and only major problem with the boat. The sliding roof over the cockpit jammed solid and there was no way we would get under the bridge with it up. Worse still the rising tide seemed to be sweeping us toward the bridge and we were unsure if it would be safe to try and turn. Fortunately the bridge man saw our predicament and was decent enough to open the bridge for us. After mooring up it took as quite a while to sort out the problem, breaking one of the pulleys in the process. Evening came and we were at last moored up in the yard for the final night. We had now eaten everything on board and had nothing left to cook that evening. We tried to persuade the boatyard to give our deposit back early but were not successful. We went to bed that night having dined on half a mars bar each.
This was my first experience of the broads and despite the shortage of cash and the limited time it was for me to be the start of regular visits which continue to this day.
1975 After my first trip to the broads in 1973 I was now hooked and could not wait for the chance to come again. I was now working for a company that operated a 2 week closedown during the summer so my choice of holiday dates was now limited to the main season. Myself and another friend decided we would arrange another trip to Norfolk. Knowing how early the boats got booked up we made the booking in the autumn of 1974 for August 1975. As we had plenty of time to save we also decided we would go for 2 weeks and try and see as much of the broads as possible. First choice boat was not available but we choose another, a two berth wooden cruiser based at a yard in Wroxham. The boat looked really good in the brochure.
Eventually the time came for our trip and this time the journey had to be undertaken by train as neither of us drove at that time. Eventually we arrived at Wroxham station and set out to locate the boatyard. Presenting ourselves at reception there was no friendly welcome like I remember at Aston Boats on my previous visit. The man in the office simply said “what do you want?” as if they were not expecting any visitors. I gave him my name and presented the hire invoice to be abruptly told. “You’re too early, come back in a couple of hours”, after a long train journey we were not happy with this reception but agreed to do so. It was with some reluctance that the yard allowed us to leave our luggage whilst we went back into Wroxham to kill a couple of hours.
After having a meal and shopping for a good amount of supplies for the next few days we set off back to the boatyard. This time there was a lady in the office who after taking our money then asked one of the men if they boat was ready. We were told the boat was not quite ready and the lady invited us to sit in the office until it was. We were assured it would be ready shortly. We could actually see the boat from where we were sitting. It was over an hour before we were allowed to board and during that time we had not seen anyone go anywhere near the boat. At last we loaded all our gear aboard and then tried to find someone to do the usual trial run and instructions to allow us to leave the yard. It was another hour before someone came aboard. He seemed keener on stressing that any damage would be deducted from our deposit than instructing us in the operation of the boat. I had noticed on boarding that there was a fender missing. The rope was there but no fender was attached to it. His reply was, “You still have enough fenders, stop worrying about it”. I then expected a trial trip but he simply told us to go.
We headed under the bridge and were aiming to spend the first night at the Rising Sun in Coltishall. However, the moorings were full so we turned round and headed back down river, eventually stopping for the night at Belaugh Boats. This is where we discovered our first problem with the boat. The pilot light on the fridge just kept going out. Eventually after dealing with this problem on a regular basis we gave up with the fridge and left it off.
Next morning we noticed a couple of inches of water in the bilge and set too to pump it out. This boat did not have and electric bilge pump and it took a fair amount of pumping with the hand operated pump before the water was finally drained. After breakfast we headed back to the yard to report the problem with the fridge. No joy, the yard was deserted. Giving up on the fridge we carried on down river to stop at Salhouse Broad for lunch. We moored up and then proceeded to cook lunch.
The Rising Sun moorings at Coltishall
The previous day we had purchased a chicken with the intention of cooking a Sunday roast. After a couple of hours we checked the status of the chicken. It was nowhere near cooked. We eventually had our roast dinner. The oven had taken 6 hours to roast a chicken. It was so late now we spent the night as Salhouse after a long walk to the pub and back
Next day we headed off up the River Ant going up to the limit of navigation and then stopping for the night just above Wayford Bridge. Next morning my friend was really ill. He felt so bad that I took the boat round to Stalham and we headed for the doctors surgery. The doctor saw him almost immediately and then said that as soon as his surgery was finished he would come out to the boat. My friend did not seem to be getting any better and when the doctor came to the boat he insisted on calling an ambulance to the staithe. The doctor told me he would be in for at least a couple of days. My friend was destined to spend the next 4 nights in hospital in Norwich. After the ambulance had left I was going to take the boat to Norwich ready for when my friend would be able to return.
More things were destined to go wrong though.
I got as far as the Stracey Arms when I notice the engine was overheating and beginning to misfire. Looking over the stern I realised at once that the problem was probably a blocked weed filter. However, there were no tools on board so I had to phone the boatyard. It was now 5pm and there was no answer from the yard. I spent the night at the Stracey Arms. Next morning I spent so much time pumping the water out of the bilge I was sure this boat was leaking. 0915 I once again phoned the yard. They kept on telling me how to deal with the problem. I already knew that but without any tools I was unable to. Eventually I managed to persuade them to come to my assistance. 4.30pm the van eventually arrived and a few minutes later the filter was cleared. It was now too late to continue through Yarmouth that day so I headed back to Acle where I moored for the next two days, travelling by train into Norwich to visit my friend. Whilst at Acle I decided to top up the water tank. As the tank became full I noticed the water coming out of the overflow was rather discoloured. I think that this may have been the cause of my friend getting ill. I let the water continue to flow until it was clear. This took some time. After that all water on the boat was boiled before use.
On the Thursday when I visited the hospital I was told he would be discharged the next day. So Friday arrived and we were both back on the boat and setting off for the Southern Broads. There were more problems to come though. Friend now recovered and returned from hospital we set out from Acle aiming for the Southern Broads. A good passage through Yarmouth despite the hazards caused by boats attempting to moor at the yacht station. In those days it was usual in peak summer season to see boats moored 3 abreast. This did not give a lot of room in the channel if you happened to meet a large craft coming the other way. Clear of the Yarmouth bridges we set off across Breydon. About 2 thirds of the way across once more strange noises were heard from under the engine cover. No sign of overheating or loss of power but nevertheless this needed investigation. Lifting the cover I was staggered to see an incredible amount of water in the bilge. Not just a few inches but a significant amount. Not relishing the idea of having to swim home it was all hands to the pump. Well at least one of us pumped like hell with the hand operated bilge pump while the other steered.
We made it to the Berney Arms fortunately. Once moored we took turns with the pump and thankfully the water level dropped. Eventually we had emptied most of it out. The problem was now apparent. A hose had come off the engine with the result that the cooling water was being drawn from the river but instead of being ejected via the exhaust was pumping straight out into the bilge. We pushed the hose back on but it took some time feeling around in the gunge at the bottom of the bilge before the clip was located. Not wishing to lose another day waiting for the boatyard the hose clip was finally secured with the help of a suitable knife from the galley pushed into service as a makeshift screwdriver. Boat no longer in danger of sinking we set about cooking. The cooker being so inefficient we had given up on the oven and only bothered with meals that could be cooked on the hob. Can’t give a breakdown of meals after all this time but I know we cooked a lot of those Vesta, ready meals, curry etc., as well as many items on toast. A lot of the time we managed to eat ashore.
Having at last had a bite to eat we decided not to risk making tea or coffee and went to the Berney Arms for some suitable liquid refreshment. From then on we visited a number of pubs, all very welcoming as nearly everybody seems to be in this part of the world.
Berney Arms MIll
By this time we had made up our minds that no matter what happened now we were going to make the most of what was left of our two week holiday. Next day we set off for Norwich. This time with no further problem with the boat, apart from the usual amount of pumping required every morning. (Water was certainly coming in from somewhere but at least we could contain it). Stopped for a break in Thorpe village, just managing to get under the railway bridges. This was a matter of good judgement as there was no height indication anywhere on the boat. This is the only time I have not found this information clearly displayed on a hire cruiser. Arrived in Norwich and after another session on the bilge pump we had a meal in town.
After the problems at the beginning of the fortnight we had tried to eat ashore as much as possible. We had also tried to moor near a pub. Apart from the obvious reason for doing this it also enabled us to use their facilities rather than the toilet on the boat. This had been very smelly right from the beginning and we vowed to use it only in emergencies. It was now beginning to smell really bad but could hardly be in need of a pump out as we had only used it a couple of times.
Next morning we set out very early from Norwich and travelled all the way up the Waveney to Geldeston. A quick lunch and then back down river to spend the night in Oulton. Proceeding along Oulton dyke I was delighted to come across the wherry Albion moored to the bank. What a wonderful vessel. It must have been quite a sight a few years ago when these great wherries were in their heyday carrying cargoes on the Broads rivers. Another good night at the yacht station in Oulton Broad and in the morning I took a quick trip into Lowestoft on the train to get some more cash from the bank. Travelling back and stepping off the train at Oulton Broad South I realised that that the guard had yet to take my money for a ticket. No getting away with it though. There where a number of people getting off the train and he stepped down onto the platform and took the money off everybody before allowing the train to proceed. Off again and back toward Breydon via St Olaves. This time we crossed Breydon without incident and stopped for the night at Yarmouth Marina. Once again handy for a pub.
Morning arrived and we once again set off up river. Back through Horning and under Wroxham Bridge. This time we were lucky enough to find a mooring at Coltishall. Evening was spent in the Rising Sun and after possibly disturbing neighbouring boats with the sound of our efforts on the bilge pump we settled down for our last night of freedom. The plan was to use the final day to make sure the boat was properly clean and tidy to hand back despite all the problems we had with it. I think that this is something I inherited from my parents. Whenever we stayed anywhere on holiday we always made sure the property was as clean if not cleaner than it was when we arrived. I have always made a point of handing any hire boat back with everything clean and tidy. In the afternoon we set out for the boatyard to spend the last night there so as to be able to get away early for the long train journey home. It was not that late in the afternoon when we arrived at the yard but there was nobody about to indicate what was to be done with the boat. So I found a suitable space and reversed her onto the berth. Next job was packing all but essential items ready for the departure in the morning. This was followed by settling down for an early night. This was after the regular use of the air freshener and the usual pumping out of the bilge water.
Next morning we were up early and ready and waiting for the yard to open. There was at least a foot of water in the bilge now and it was decided that this time we would leave it so as to point out the problem to the yard. Some time after the yard had opened no one had come to the boat so a trip was made to the office to try and get someone to deal with us. Eventually a member of the boatyard staff arrived. I informed him of the excessive amount of water getting into the bilge. He took a look and then said, “All boats seep a little” I gave up on this score. He was totally indifferent to the problems we had with the smell from the toilet as well. We then expected to be refuelled and given a figure of the amount to be refunded. This is what had happened at Astons. He checked the fuel level using a dipstick fetched from the shed. There had been no dipstick on the boat. Based on this reading a refund figure was written down. The next move I was staggered by. Another man joined the one already on the boat and they went through every item on the inventory. All the crockery was taken out and checked as was every single piece of cutlery. I was surprised they did not frisk us looking for any stolen knives and forks. Luckily nothing was damaged or missing. They did, however; charge us for the missing fender, the one that was missing when we took over the boat. Despite our protests they would not back down. Eventually we gave up arguing the point so as to be able to get away from the yard. We were already much later than we expected to be and faced a difficult journey home.
Did this put me off coming to the Broads? NO! It just made me determined that next time I would make sure of getting a good boat from a good yard. On arriving home I addressed a letter of complaint to the boatyard and also wrote a detailed account and a letter of complaint to Hoseasons. I was not after compensation or a refund but simply an apology. The main reason for writing to Hoseasons was to stop this happening to anyone else. No reply at all was received from the boatyard but a letter from a senior manager at Hoseasons arrived by return off post. This letter expressed much concern at the shortcomings we had experienced and assured me that the matter would be taken up with the yard concerned and a full investigation would take place.
A month or two later I decided to book another holiday on the Broads. Even though next summer was a long way away. This time the choice was a Calypso clas from F B Wilds at Horning. At the time I think this was the most expensive 2 berth boat in the brochure. The booking was made and the deposit sent to Hoseasons. The invoice arrived by return. Also in the same post was a very pleasant letter from James Hoseason, thanking us for booking with them again and once again expressing regret over our previous holiday.
FB Wilds Calypso 1970s
His letter included an invitation to visit the Hoseasons stand at the forthcoming boat show where he informed us that they would have a Calypso on display. January came and we made the trip to the London Boat Show. I had the chance to talk to both James Hoseason and the manager who had first dealt with the complaint. Mr Hoseason was extremely pleasant and introduced us to the lady who was explaining everything about the Calypso to potential hirers. From memory I think this was Frank Wilds daughter. We spent a long time having a really good look at the boat and asking all sorts of questions all of which were answered. On the whole a very good day out and an assurance that next years holiday was going to be a lot better. When the new brochure arrive it was rather interesting to see the boat we had all the problems with was not in it.
1976 It was now the summer of 1976 and once again we were off for a trip to Norfolk. After all the problems of the previous year we had splashed out a considerable amount this time. We hired a Calypso class from F.B. Wilds. At this time this was one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive 2 berth in Hoseasons brochure. This year we had also gone to the added expense of having a sailing dinghy and a television. (In those days TV was not available as of right but was an optional extra. From memory I think a black and white set was about £6 per week and a colour set around £10. All the sets available on boats appeared to be on rental from one firm). After hard saving over the year we were expecting a lot this time.
Anyway, once again we made the long train journey to Norfolk and eventually arrived at Wroxham station. It was still very early, so thinking about what had happened the previous year we decided to kill some time by stocking up for the week and then think about how we were going to get to Horning. Lumbered with luggage and a not inconsiderable amount of supplies we decided against the bus and took a taxi. The driver was really cheerful and when in general conversation on the way to the yard I commented on the fact we were a bit early. He immediately informed us that we were not the first and he had made a couple of trips to Wilds yard already. We arrived at the yard after a really pleasant journey. What a difference a cheerful taxi driver makes. He gave us his card and informed us that if we gave him a ring the night before he would pick us up from the yard after the holiday.
Next stop, reception. As soon as we walked in the lady behind the desk recognised us as the two who had asked so many questions at the boat show. She informed us that our boat was not yet ready but made us most welcome in the meanwhile. Despite the fact it was only around 1.30 and the official pick up time was 4.00pm we were able to board the boat within half an hour of arriving. What a difference from the previous year. The boat was absolutely spotless, inside and out. The whole boat, including the toilet smelled fresh and clean unlike last years boat. About 10 minutes later a man from the yard asked if we were ready and we were given instructions and a trial run. This time everything was explained clearly and all questions answered properly. Happy that we were going to bring the boat back in one piece he asked us to take him back to the yard where we could drop him off and pick up the dinghy.
Soon we were away. It was still only 2.30 so we had plenty of time before dark. We had a rather madcap plan to try and explore all of the navigable broads during the 2 weeks, so off we headed to the limit of navigation on the Bure. With such a low boat there was of course no problem getting under Wroxham Bridge. I must admit though that I prefer centre or aft cockpit boats where I can see for myself what the clearance is. On those front drive things you have to have faith in the bridge gauges and the air draft figure that the yard has stuck by the wheel.
Anyway, through the bridge with no problem. (No pilots at Wroxham in those days). I must admit that I don’t bother going above Wroxham now. (I just don’t want to have to spend so much money to go through a bridge I have navigated though myself many times). As it was still quite early on a turn round day we did not meet a lot of other boats until we reached the moorings near the Rising Sun. They were not full but there were already a number of boats there. Determined to go as far as possible up the Bure, we continued upstream until we could see the now sealed off lock. We were unable to proceed any nearer to the lock as there was a Bahama class stuck sideways on across the river. He had found the water too shallow and attempted to turn round. The result was that the cruiser was now scraping on the bottom at both ends and was stuck fast. We made an attempt to moor up and watch proceedings but also found problems with the depth of water and could not get nearer than about 4 ft from the bank. Nevertheless we temporally dropped the mud plug and watched as the poor folks on the cruiser after enduring numerous shouts of conflicting advise from people on the bank were eventually freed by a gentlemen with a small motor cruiser but a good deal of sense.
I would have liked to have been able to give them some assistance but our boat had already touched bottom a couple of times and I guess we could have ended up with two cruisers stuck instead of one. Those of you who remember the 1970’s will recall that in 1976 the UK was experiencing the worst drought for many years. In many areas of the country reservoirs were running dry and we were having to collect water from stand pipes or water tankers. As a result of the drought the water levels on the broads were at a record low and we found problems with shallow water several times during the 2 weeks. Once all the excitement was over we lifted the weight again and headed back to moor near the Rising Sun. Even there we found difficulty getting close to the bank. We managed to get the lines ashore but the only way we were able to get on and off the boat was to position the dinghy in a suitable place and use it as a sort of stepping stone. After a quick meal followed by a brief visit to the pub it was time to try out the television. The program being broadcast at the time was a sort of documentary series about HMS Ark Royal. The series was called "Sailor" and the music being used to introduce this series was Rod Stewart’s “Sailing”. This seemed rather appropriate on our first night on the Broads.
Next morning we made an early start with the intention of stopping for lunch at Salhouse Broad. After a trip back down the Bure and look round Wroxham Broad we stopped at Salhouse. The normal way of mooring in this broad was to beach the bow on the shelving bank. The only problem with this was getting on and off the boat. However, we noticed that the people on the boat alongside us had a loop of rope hanging from the bow, obviously to assist in getting on and off. I tried the same idea and it actually worked very well. Time now to have a go at cooking a Sunday Roast. Unlike the previous year this task was completed easily. The cooker being excellent. Lunch over it was time to try out the dinghy. Everything on the dinghy had been neatly stowed by the boat yard so we set to with rigging the boat. It was a gaff rigged dinghy and seemed to have a fairly large sail area for its size. Anyway, sail now set and the centreboard lowered we set out onto the broad. For a hired dinghy this boat turned out to sail extremely well. There was a decent breeze that day and we enjoyed a really good afternoons sailing. On returning to the boat my friend went to organise a much needed cup of tea whilst I was about to commence to lower the sail and stow everything again.
I was suddenly called by a lady on the boat next to us. She said her son had been watching us sailing and could we possibly take him for a short sail on the broad. The lad was about 11 years old and told me he had been taught some sailing at school. Anyway, I agreed to take him for a quick trip and he seemed to be really enjoying it. The wind had freshened a bit and the dinghy was fair racing through the water. After a while he asked if he could have a go. The lad had learnt something at school as he certainly knew how to sail. When we returned to shore he brought the dinghy alongside under sail like an expert. After all this activity it was now getting a bit late to move on so we decided to pay the fee and stay the night. I think in those days it was about 40p.
Next morning first port of call was a quick trip back to F B Wilds yard to top up the water tanks. Everybody in the yard very friendly. We also took the opportunity to nip into Horning and purchase a few more food items. It’s surprising how much food two of you get through on a boat. Water tank full and plenty of supplies now on board we set off up the River Ant. There seemed at be an enormous number of yachts on the river and, all under sail despite the narrowness of the river in places. My normal practice when meeting a group of yachts heading toward me is to pull over to the bank and let them pass by. It is far easier and safer in the long run than trying to navigate among them.
Our Hamilton’s guide indicated that it was possible to navigate to Dilham via Dilham Dyke and also indicated that the North Walsham and Dilham Canal was navigable as far as Tonnage Bridge. Still trying to explore the whole of the broads we proceeded upstream passing across Barton and then heading for Wayford Bridge. Under the bridge and continuing upstream we took the dyke toward Dilham. No problems but there were no available moorings so we headed back and started up the canal. Hamilton’s Guide may have indicated Tonnage Bridge as the head of navigation but we ran into shallow water long before that and had to give up. Still, we had been as far as we could on the river Ant. Back down through Wayford Bridge we headed to Sutton Staithe for the night.The Staithe at Sutton was very crowded but we were lucky to be able to moor on the very end. It was still early so we decided to pass some time by rowing back up the river in the dinghy
Looking downstream from Wayford Bridge 1970s
The mast and sail were placed on the roof of the boat. It was not easy to find anywhere else and they were in the way if we planned to use the oars. Rowing steadily across Sutton Broad we eventually reached the island where the channels for Stalham and Sutton divide. For some reason it seemed a good idea to row all the way round the island so we headed down the channel to the north of the island and then swung left along the western shore of the island. Half way along we could hear an extremely noisy cruiser approaching. Not only were they going far too fast but loud pop music was playing from a radio or some other source. If you have ever read Arthur Ransome’s Coot Club, then picture his description of the hullabaloos and the Margoletta and you will have a fair description of what was happening. The boat did not slow up at all as it passed us in the small dinghy and we found ourselves thrown amongst the overhanging low branches on the bank. A few choice words were aimed in their direction but I doubt if they even noticed us. At least the majority of visitors to the Broads were not like that. After extracting ourselves and the boat from the tangle of branches we continued with our circumnavigation of the island before rowing back to Sutton Staithe, feeling rather glad that the noisy cruiser had continued to head for Stalham and we would not have them near us that night.
Next day was another early start so as to get through the bridge at Potter Heigham as soon as possible. Nothing held us up and there were only a couple of boats ahead of us as we waited for the pilot. Once through the bridge it was time for another bite to eat so we headed up past Martham Ferry and stopped at West Somerton. The horse who had been taking an interest in all the boats the previous year was still there and still trying to make friends with all who moored. Hunger satisfied it was time to explore as much as we could of the upper broads. Back we headed and up Candle Dyke to Hickling and looked for the markers indicating the channel to Catfield Dyke. As we were trying to get round all of the broads we had to include the various dykes. I have not been up Catfield Dyke since this 1976 holiday but I can recall seeing the hulk of a derelict wherry hull either near the entrance to the dyke or part way along it. (This may be my memory playing tricks though) After exploring Hickling and Catfield Dyke we set out up Meadow Dyke and into Horsey Mere. I recall the number of boats that had decided to moor in the dyke made the channel very narrow and awkward as we met a fair number of craft coming the other way.
Venturing out onto the large expanse of Horsey Mere it was now time to try and find the markers for Waxham New Cut. It took a while but eventually they were sighted and our course set toward them.. So much for Waxham cut. We managed a couple of hundred yards as far as I recall and then grounded in the very weedy channel. It took us a while to get free again and the cut being rather narrow it was necessary to reverse all the way back to the mere. Having extracted ourselves from the cut they next stop was Horsey Staithe for the night. I’ve always liked this mooring but it does tend to get a little busy in mid summer. That evening the dinghy was rigged once again and we headed across the mere with the intention of sailing across the broad and rowing up toward Waxham. It seemed to take no time to sail across and after lowering sail, out with the oars and we headed once more up the cut. This time it was not the depth that put an end to our travels but the weed. It was just impossible as it kept tangling round the oars. It was surprising our propeller had not got fouled up earlier. Heading back it was not such a quick trip. The wind was not in our favour now and by the time we eventually reached the cruiser it was getting quite dark.
Next morning was spent sailing on the mere. Horsey seemed to be great for sailing and we were very lucky with a good breeze. After lunch it was time to head back South through Potter. It was now Wednesday and I had arranged for my parents to join us for the day on Saturday. As they were coming from the south of England we were going to meet them at Geldeston. A brief stop was made at Womack Staithe whilst a few more food items were purchased and then to Ranworth for the night. The Staithe was full and I am sure we moored at Ranworth Island. The main thing I remember about the mooring was the number of boats that tied up and then very soon departed on realising that there was no land access to the village. The result was a very quite night despite it being high summer.
Ranworth Staithe & St Helen’s Church
Next day, after consulting the tide tables the plan now was to spend the night at Acle or Stokesby so as to be able to set out for Yarmouth to pass through around slack water. After another quick trip back to Wilds yard at Horning to top up the water again we headed toward Yarmouth. Acle was crowded and there seemed to be nowhere to moor. Approaching Stracey Arms it seemed there was still space to moor so rather than risk not being able to moor at Stokesby the night was spent by the windmill. It was now Friday and this was going to be a long day. Setting off for Yarmouth we passed through without incident and headed across Breydon. It was like being on a motorway as we headed across. There were just so many cruisers about many of them seemingly taking the opportunity to open up the throttle and race across at top speed. A brief stop was made at St Olaves and then we proceeded up river stopping at Burgh St Peter for lunch. Continuing on our journey a couple of hours later we at last saw the tower of Beccles church and soon were at the bridge. No problem getting under and soon Beccles was astern. At last we reached the dyke leading to Geldeston where the intention was to spend the night at the Rowan Craft Yard.
Shortly before the yard I noticed a low bridge; I think an old railway bridge. There was a large notice advising craft to use a new channel that had been dug to the left of this bridge. However as we followed this rather tight artificial cut it was just too shallow. The boat was scraping on the bottom. In the end I reversed back out and took the risk of going straight under the bridge. No problem at all and at last we were in the yard and suitably moored for the night.
Next morning as there was a few hours to kill before my parents arrived we decided on a short trip back down river. Oh dear! How I wished we had not done so. My friend was at the helm as I cast off, unfortunately I had not noticed that after using the dinghy the night before the oars were still in the rowlocks and protruding from the side. I looked in horror as the end of the oar caught under the piling. I was too late in running to the front of the boat to get my friends attention and with a sickening sound the oar was snapped in half. Having retrieved both halves of the broken oar we still went on a short trip before coming back into the yard to wait for my parents. Whilst we were waiting I decided to try and do something about the broken oar. It was split rather than a straight break so I had an idea that with a suitable length of rope I could use a bit of whipping to hold the two parts together. Asking at the yard if they would sell me a few feet of rope I was presented with a suitable length with their compliments and no charge. Soon I had finished my rope work on the oar and surprisingly the whipping held for the rest of the holiday and enabled us to row the dinghy much as normal.
My parents arrived with my younger brother. He is actually considerably younger than me and at this time was about 7-
A woman appeared on the deck of the said cruiser and hands on hips she proceeded to shout abuse at us accusing us of causing the damage by doing something with our dinghy. Explanations that it was the rescue boat just fell on deaf ears. If you could imagine Nora Batty on steroids I think you would have some idea of what we were subjected to. Eventually she stopped shouting and disappeared below, leaving us in stunned silence. As we prepared to cast off, the ferocious lady on the next boat once again appeared on deck. This time however she remained silent and as we set off across the broad she fixed us with a look that could kill. She was still standing there glowering as we took a last look astern before heading for Oulton Dyke.
During the trip back to Geldeston the boat seemed to be lacking in power. Nothing appeared untoward and there was no indication of overheating or other problem. We stopped at Aston Boats in Beccles to top up the water tank and exchanged a few words with the harbour master who has just come across from the yacht station. Surprisingly he remembered us from the previous year when we had spent some time in conversation with him. Casting off again all seemed to be ok apart from the lack of power. We guessed that the problem might be an accumulation of weed on the prop so made up our minds that once we had dropped off my parents we would have a go with the boathook and try and clear it. Parents now departed the boathook was dug out and a bit of probing around the propeller soon indicated that there was nothing fouling it. Maybe it was just imagination that the power was lacking and it was the effect of the current now we had been heading upstream.
Anyway, we set off from Geldeston rather late in the day and just about managed to reach St Olaves before dark. Luckily we found a mooring on the right a couple of hundred yards below the bridge. There were other craft already there and although we were on the end of the row we were still very close to the next boat along. Concerned that we might bang against them during the night I went to the trouble of using a spring line in addition to the normal two fore and aft lines just to make sure. It had been a long day and after a meal and a quick look at the news on the television we settled down for the night. Around 1.00am I awoke for some reason, I don’t know why but I just thought everything seemed to be incredibly quiet. Normally when mooring in a town or village there was always some sort of noise. Not being able to settle again I decided to get up and make a drink. Whilst the kettle was boiling I took a quick look outside and realised the reason for the silence. The boat was no longer tied up and had drifted a fair way downstream of St Olaves. I could not believe that I had failed to moor her properly and was rather annoyed that she had broken away. It was when I looked at the ropes I realised that she had not broken away but we had been deliberately set adrift. The ropes were not trailing in the water but lying on the deck. There was nothing for it but to start the engine and try to moor up again in the dark. Thankfully we made it back to the mooring to find a man busy with the stern rope on the boat next to us. He helped us tie up and then informed us that he had heard the boat banging against the quay and had come on deck to find the stern warp had been cast off. Fortunately the bow was still made fast and the tide had kept the boat from swinging out into the stream.
Obviously there had been some idiots about in St Olaves that night. A bit of an unnerving experience especially when you think what might have happened had I not woken? Fortunately this sort of thing does not happen often on the broads. In nearly 40 years of boating it has only happened to me twice. After all the excitement of the night we were a bit late getting away next morning. Our target today was to reach Norwich for the night. Upstream again though St Olaves bridge and we were soon heading along the New Cut towards Reedham. We headed along the Yare diverting to explore the Chet and Rockland and Surlingham broads. A short trip under the low rail bridges into Thorpe and finally back onto the river and up the Wensum into Norwich. Two abreast at the Yacht Station for the night but at least being late arriving we were on the outside which meant an easy departure in the morning. During the day we had realised that there was definitely a problem with the engine. It appeared to run normally but as soon as the power was taken off and reverse engaged to stop the boat when mooring, the engine would stall. This was becoming a real problem so our intention was to stop at the nearest Hoseasons yard and seek assistance.
St Olaves Bridge
The boat required both fuel and a toilet pump out anyway. Consulting the Hoseasons handbook it indicated a yard at Thorpe, Maidencraft, so this was our destination in the morning. I described the problem and they could not have been more helpful, straightaway someone from the yard took the boat for a quick trip and listened to the engine. He then said it sounded like a faulty injector and he would have to ring F B Wilds and get them to come out too us. After last years experience of waiting all day for assistance I had visions of spending the night there. Whilst we waited for the engineer to arrive from Wilds the yard dealt with the pump out and the refuelling. I felt rather guilty when I realised that the yard did not have a riverside pump and the fuel had to be carried to the boat in large jerry cans and poured in by hand. We offered to help in fetching the cans but he would not hear of it. It seemed no time at all after all this was done when the van arrived from F B Wilds. The engineer was a really cheerful guy and it was not long before he had replaced the damaged injector. We were most grateful to have this problem fixed as the idea of the engine causing a problem whilst crossing Breydon did not appeal. As soon as we set off from he boatyard we knew the problem was solved, the engine was now as good as it had been when we first collected the boat. Off again downstream and we stopped at the Berney Arms to wait for the tide.
Whilst there we had a couple of young boys hail us and ask if they could borrow our dinghy. Apparently a football had gone into the river and had drifted away. I did not really want to lend the boat to them as they seemed a bit young. However, a couple of minutes late an older lad appeared. I think he must have been about 18 or 19. He asked if we would lend the dinghy if he went with them. He seemed responsible enough but I had to explain about the broken oar and my makeshift repair. “I think I can help you there”, he replied and then explained that earlier on he had seen an oar drifting around on Breydon. If he could still see it he promised to fetch it back for us. Amazingly after about half an hour or so this lad and the two boys reappeared. The boys thanked us and the other lad for helping them get the ball back and this young man then presented us with an intact oar. True it had another boatyards name on it but at least we now had two complete oars for the dinghy. We invited this young man to join us for lunch. He turned out to live in the area and entertained us with a number of stories about hirers on the Broads Rivers. Low water at last and we set off for Yarmouth, stopping at the marina for the night.
Early start again next day as we planned another trip to the upper Thurne, mooring at Martham for the night. Next morning we set off back up to Horsey Mere and enjoyed a few hours sailing in the dinghy before heading south again and back under Potter Heigham Bridge. Next stop was Womack Staithe to purchase a few items in Ludham and spend the night. It was getting near the end of our holiday now and it was difficult to decide what to do next day. This would be Thursday and we would be spending the last night, Friday, in the yard in the hope of getting an early start next day. In the end we decided on a quiet day and to spend the next night in Salhouse. Once again we spend a good amount of time sailing the dinghy. Evening came and the decision was made to walk into the village for a drink. Salhouse is a fair walk from the staithe and although this was ok on the way to the pub it was not so easy on the way back, it was very dark and finding our way along the path back to the broad was rather entertaining as we had not thought about taking a torch. We made it though and settled down for out last night on the Broads.
Womack Staithe 1970s
Next morning that last day feeling seemed to abound. That is the trouble with a holiday on the broads; you just don’t want to leave. Anyway, we spent the last day making sure that the boat was cleaned from stem to stern both inside and out before heading back to the yard. We were met as we entered the yard. I explained about the broken oar and the fact we now had an extra one. The yard simply said "don’t worry about it.”. They asked if there were any breakages to report but none of the full check of the inventory like the previous year. I think they were more concerned about losses or breakages so they could be remedied ready for the next crew rather than to take money from our deposit. There was already another cruiser approaching and he asked if I was happy to put the boat in the yard or did I want him to do it. To help him out I took the boat into the yard and reversed her onto the berth myself. A lot less hassle now the dinghy had been taken away. Now moored up for the final time I found a phone box and asked for the taxi to pick us up at 10.00am next day. It was hoped that we would be away by then. In fact we were clear and ready to go by about twenty past nine and had to wait for the taxi.
This had been a great two weeks and what a contrast from all the problems the previous year. On arriving home I at once wrote a letter to the boatyard expressing our appreciation and also sent a letter to Hoseasons, this time a letter of satisfaction rather than complaint.
1977 This year I did not think there was going to be any opportunity for a visit to the Broads. The friend that had come with me on the previous two trips was no longer interested. Whilst I was trying to find someone else to help with the cost it occurred to me to ask another friend who lived some distance from me down on the south coast. He was very interested but would only be available on certain dates. Checking with Hoseasons I was able to secure the hire of Aston Elm again for the required week. My memory fails me as to the dates of this holiday but I am fairly sure it was early April. It was to be a bit more interesting as the friend that was coming with me found out that a couple of his mates had booked a boat for the same week. Subsequently we planned to all meet up at Liverpool St station and travel to Norfolk together.
The train from London to Norwich was very crowded and when we reached Ipswich a large number of football supporters boarded the train. It turned out that Ipswich Town were playing Norwich City on that day. I would stress they were football supporters not hooligans. There was no problem whatsoever they were just groups of lads interested in football. The problem however arose when we got off the train in Norwich. You would have thought that as the four of us were all carrying luggage that we were obviously not going to a football match. However, we had a difficult time stopping the police from herding us like cattle along to Carrow Road as they were most of the passengers from the train. Thankfully we eventually managed to sort the problem out and my friend and I set out to travel to Loddon whilst the other two took a local train down to Brundall where they were due to pick up their boat, Silver Pieces, from Buccaneer Boats. The plan was to meet up at Cantley where we would all spend the first night.
We took the easy option and travelled by taxi to Aston Boats. On arrival and after all the paperwork was completed we loaded our gear aboard the boat and waited for the staff to deal with us. In time a young man appeared and gave us the general instructions regarding the boat and fetched the sailing dinghy we had ordered. He then proceeded with the trial run. I think maybe he was rather new to the job as he had considerable difficulty in manoeuvring the boat out of the yard into the river and in the end I took pity on him and did it myself. He then informed us that he was only supposed to take out the smaller boats. Having dropped him off we set off down the Chet to meet the other party. Considering how early we were in the season the river was very busy and with a 35ft long boat we had to be careful on all the bends with such a lot of river traffic. Eventually we moored at Cantley and waited for the other party. As they were coming down from Brundall we expected them to be there first, in fact we waited nearly two hours for them. Their boat, Silver Pieces, was 27ft long and unusual for hire craft was fitted with a petrol engine rather than a diesel. After attending to the job of preparing something to eat we discussed plans for the week. It appeared that if it were left to the other two the week would turn into a waterborne pub crawl as their main interest seemed to centre round this activity. Anyway we reached something of a compromise and decided that next day we would set of as soon as the tide allowed and try to reach Stalham for the night.
The weather was kind to us on the Sunday morning and we set off through Reedham and across Breydon. Despite our checking of the tide tables the river was still high when we reached Yarmouth and the clearance under the bridges was a lot less than expected. Still we managed to get through ok with everything lowered and headed up those dull reaches of the Lower Bure stopping at Stracey Arms for lunch. The wind had freshened by now and the combination of tidal flow and an offshore wind resulted in both of us making a bit of a hash of mooring. Managed it in the end though and suitably fed and watered we carried on upstream. In the end we did not go to Stalham that night but spend the night riding to a mud weight on Salhouse Broad. After spending the morning sailing the dinghy we set off after lunch for Stalham. As we approached Ludham Bridge we saw Amber Gem, one of Richardson’s large front drive cruisers having trouble at the bridge.
She seemed to be touching both fore and aft. My guess was that the helmsmen had slowed as he went under the bridge and the rather fresh wind had taken control as the boat emerged. A minute or two later they seemed to have fended themselves off and emerged from the bridge and we were able to proceed upstream. So much for the weather, as we passed Irstead the rain suddenly started. It was Ok for us with the Aston Elm; all we had to do was wind the canopy up with the handle. However, the two on the other boat were pretty wet by the time they had finished with their car type hood. It was pouring down as we crossed Barton and we were looking forward to getting to Stalham and mooring for the evening. It was not to be though. Despite it being early in the year we could not find a mooring. True, we could have probably gone into Richardson’s yard even though they were Blakes at that time and we were hired from Hoseasons. In the end we moored to the bank down river from Stalham.
After eating yet again, the mast and sail were removed from the dinghy and we all piled in to go into Stalham for a drink. I cannot remember the name of the pub now but I do remember attempting to play pool. The table was positioned in such a way that when playing shots from one end of the tale it was necessary to ask drinkers at the bar to move. Fortunately these requests were always received without argument. I guess the locals were used to the problem. Later that evening we rowed back to the boat. It had been light when we moored and it was now pitch black and somewhat cold. We seemed to be rowing forever and actually began to wonder if we had passed out boats. Eventually we arrived and thankfully got back aboard. The plan next day was to set off early with the aim of making Beccles before dark.
The weather was terrible as we woke on the Tuesday morning and when we were approaching Ludham Bridge we decided to moor up for a while in the hope there would be a break in the torrential rain so we could lower the canopy on each boat and pass under the bridge. After about an hour the rain lightened and eventually stopped. We wasted no more time and quickly lowered everything and got thought the bridge. Relieved that we would now not need to lower again until Yarmouth and possibly not even then. Conditions did not improve and it was very wet and windy as we headed south. It should have been slack water by now but as we passed Yarmouth marina the tide was still pouring out. Just after we passed the yacht station and headed under the bridge we noticed someone on the quay shouting something but neither of us could hear and there was no way of stopping or turning safely so we carried on. Now heading out onto Breydon we felt the full force of the wind. It was really blowing a gale and I must admit to feeling a little nervous. Despite our boat being 35ft Long and 10ft beam we were being tossed around like a small dinghy. Our friends on Silver Pieces were having an even rougher time. We seemed to be the only boats on Breydon so I wonder if that guy at the Yacht Station had been trying to warn us of the conditions. Alas we shall never know. This was one of the worst times I remember crossing Breydon and it took considerably longer than usual. It was certainly a relief to reach the junction for the Waveney and get away from this exposed area. It was still very windy as we passed Burgh Castle but the waves on the river were nowhere near as bad as they had been crossing Breydon. By this time we had all had enough and the plan to aim for Beccles was abandoned and we made up our minds that if we could find a mooring we would stop for the night in St Olaves.
Approaching St Olaves we were delighted to spot that the free moorings on the left were completely clear. Unfortunately this mooring was going to cost us our deposit. There were no problems approaching the mooring, I was steering gently in and my friend was ready to step ashore when the wind suddenly increased. It was too late to do anything and the bow was blown onto the quay with a sickening crunching sound. Unfortunately this was a concrete quay heading and on inspecting the damage after mooring up it was obvious that this would be spotted as soon as we returned to the yard. Still there was nothing we could do about the situation so we did what most people would do. As soon as the weather abated we headed for the pub as soon as it was opening time.
Thankfully the next day was a lot calmer and we had a pleasant trip to Beccles. The planned lunch stop at Burgh St Peter had to be abandoned as we could not get into the basin. There seemed to be a large group of yachts obviously travelling together who had moored in such a way that it left no room for other craft to manoeuvre on to the moorings. Onward then until we eventually arrived in Beccles and moored in Aston’s yard for the night. That evening the weather was so much better that we were able to sail the dinghy down river.
Next night was gong to be our last on the river as both crews were planning to spend the last night in our respective boatyards. We headed back downstream from Beccles with the aim of going back to Yarmouth to spend the night. This time the trip was easy and Breydon was a flat calm, so different from the big waves on the Tuesday afternoon. Suitably moored at the Yacht station we wandered into the town and stopped for a drink. Later that evening we were walking along the front and passing what I think was a night club. We had no intention of visiting this establishment but as we passed this rather large bouncer started shouting at us that there was a no jeans rule and we could not come in. Myself and my friend accepted that he had made a mistake and ignored his shouts but one of the others who I think may have had a bit too much to drink walked toward him and shouted indignantly, “But, they’re my best jeans”. All I can remember after that was running like hell. Safely back to the boat and a welcome nights sleep.
Last day we started early and headed across Breydon again and up the Yare, stopping eventually in Surlingham Broad. It was dead quiet as we were the only boats there. Both of us dropped our mud weights and moored the boats together. After a morning spent doing the usual final day cleaning a couple of the others decided it was time for a last sail in the dinghy. What happened next was unbelievable, they lowered the centreboard and something must have broken somewhere as it disappeared out of the bottom of the boat. It’s probably still there on the bottom of the broad. Oh well, nothing do now but confess out sins on returning to the yard. We parted from the other crew as they set off on the short trip to Brundall and we set off back to Loddon. As we approached the yard the damage on the bow was spotted immediately and several from the yard came out to have a look. We then had to confess to losing the centreboard on the dinghy although I don’t know how. I suspect that had it only been the problem with the dinghy we may have been allowed to keep our deposit but it was obvious that the damage on the bow could not be ignored. Next morning as we went into the office, as expected we were informed that we would have to forfeit the security deposit. (£10 in those days). Still, they were matter of fact about it and not unpleasant. Accidents do happen. Thankfully this is the only time I have actually lost a deposit.
1978 1978 was not the most eventful of trips to the broads but it still forms part of my Broads memories so I will tell it here along with the others. It was the April of 1978 and we had hired Aston Gander (Goose Class) from Aston Boats at Loddon. Arriving at the boatyard I was a bit concerned that they might remember about the damage to the boat back in 1977. However, if they did, nothing was said about it. The Gander was a centre cockpit craft offering a 2 berth cabin at the rear and the saloon in the front. This was a good arrangement giving separate living and sleeping accommodation. The boat was about 28ft long with a 9ft 6” beam. We were soon on our way down the Chet and the friend I had brought with me this time took no time at all to get used to steering the boat.
After negotiating the narrow river and the tight bends on the Chet we were soon on our way down the Yare to spend the night at Reedham Ferry. The tide tables had been checked and our plan was to wait there for the tide next day and then try and reach Stalham before nightfall. Moored for the night the car type canopy over the cockpit had to be fitted in place. This was not as convenient as the sliding roofs on most of the other Aston craft but was soon erected. The facilities on the boat were excellent and everything spotlessly clean. (I hired many craft from Astons over the years and their standards were always very high).
Next morning we were early getting up and cooking breakfast with the result that there was a lot of time to kill waiting for the right time to head down to Yarmouth. Still there is always something to watch on the broads so it was not that dull. Eventually we set off across Breydon which seemed extremely quiet. I guess I had been used to seeing it in the busier season when it was a bit like the M25. As we approached Yarmouth we met a few boats at last. Soon we were swinging into the Bure and under the bridges. Even the Yacht station seemed to be less busy. Plodding on up the lower Bure, Stracey Arms was eventually in sight and seemed to be a good spot to stop for a quick break. Not for long though as there was still a long way to go and it was now late afternoon. Above Acle there were still a large number of yachts sailing up and down the river around Upton Dyke but we carefully navigated our way through them and carried on along the Bure until St Benet’s Abbey came into view. It was getting quite late now and we started to wonder how far we would get before dark.
Soon we swung into the river Ant and passed under Ludham Bridge. Once this was out of the way we erected the canopy over the cockpit to save having to deal with it later. The other reason for this was that it was now starting to get rather cold to be standing in the open. Eventually we were crossing Barton with the last of the daylight and found a quiet spot to moor for the night at the edge of the island where the channels divide for Stalham Dyke and Sutton Broad. It had been a long day but at least the night was really peaceful and undisturbed. So much so that we were rather late to emerge the next day.
Eventually we set off back down the river taking it easy unlike the rather rushed trip the previous day. As we approached Ludham Bridge the kettle was put on for a drink and at this point we found the gas had run out. There only appeared to be one cylinder on board so this would obviously have to be sorted out. Our cup of tea had to wait as we now headed into Horning and F B Wilds yard where they were very obliging and within minutes had replaced the empty gas cylinder. Whilst moored in the yard we took the opportunity to walk into the village and stock up the larder. It is strange just how much more food you seem to get though on a boat. Everything now sorted out the next stop was Salhouse Broad where we were going to stop for a rather late lunch. As we turned into the broad we noticed a cruiser stuck in the shallow water. They had obviously thought a bit of grassy bank looked a good place to moor and had headed for it. The result was that they were now firmly aground and were desperately poking about with a boathook attempting to free them. We decided to be kind and help them out and threw them a line. With us pulling with our boat and them rocking theirs she soon came free much to her crew’s relief. Entertainment for the day now over we had lunch and set off again for the short trip to South Walsham Broad where we were going to spend the night. Our sleep that night was rather disturbed by noise from another craft. I don’t remember the name but she was from the Beaver Fleet at St Olaves. They did not stop their loud music and shouting till after midnight.
Next morning as we set off again this same craft came roaring across the broad and then suddenly turned at full speed. This resulted in both their deck mop and broom flying over the side. They did not even notice as they headed up Fleet dyke creating a wash like nothing on earth. We rescued the items from the water with the intention of handing them into the Beaver fleet yard when we reached St Olaves. Soon we were underway again and heading back down the Bure towards Yarmouth, stopping briefly to top up the water tank. Crossing Breydon it started to rain meaning we had to erect the canopy again. No real problem as we had now got this down to a fine art and could achieve this very quickly. Once across Breydon we were soon passing Burgh Castle and heading up those rather dull bits of the lower Waveney before reaching St Olaves. The rain had stopped now and we lowered the windscreen to pass under the bridge and moored up at the Beaver Fleet yard to hand in the items rescued from South Walsham.. As soon as we mentioned the name of the craft they let slip that they had now had a number of complaints about noise and speeding regarding that particular boat. They were most grateful for the return of the deck equipment and said they would be happy to allow us to moor for the night. It was still quite early and we passed away the remainder of the afternoon with a long walk toward Somerleyton.
As soon as we mentioned the name of the craft they let slip that they had now had a number of complaints about noise and speeding regarding that particular boat. They were most grateful for the return of the deck equipment and said they would be happy to allow us to moor for the night. It was still quite early and we passed away the remainder of the afternoon with a long walk toward Somerleyton.
Next day we headed upstream again and after a lunchtime break at Burgh St Peter eventually moored up in the second Aston Yard at Beccles. There were one or two other Aston boats in the yard and this gave the chance to have a look round with a view to future holidays. Next day a leisurely cruise back down the Waveney with a short diversion into Oulton Broad before eventually spending the night at Burgh Castle. The last day was spent doing the usual chores before heading back to the boatyard for the final night.
Not a very eventful week but enjoyable as all trips to the broads are. To me there is just something about this part of England that draws one back again and again.
Oulton Broad Yacht Station
1979 It was now the autumn of 1979 and the time had come to embark on our first holiday on a yacht. In a rather rash moment earlier in the year we had booked a weeks hire on a Corsair class yacht from Martham Boatyard and Development Co. There were now three lads on their way to Martham with only myself having any previous experience of sailing. It was quite late in the afternoon when we eventually arrived but still in time for the quoted takeover time of 4.00pm. Next job was to load our gear onto the boat. There was not a lot of room but somehow we managed to get three guys luggage aboard. Corsair was described as sleeping a maximum of 4 persons, two in the forward cabin and two on the saloon. As one of our crew was over 6ft tall we decided that he should have the forward cabin to himself. After hiring cruisers in the past the accommodation seemed very cramped. Still we would have to get used to it for the week.
It was almost 5pm by the time we had everything aboard and had taken the car to be parked up for the week. The staff at the yard were obviously now thinking about going home as the guy who came to clear us to leave the yard only gave us a brief description of how to start the Stuart Turner engine and how to operate the yacht toilet fitted on the boat. This seemed to rather a complicated operation with remembering which valve to open for each operation. I guess if we left the wrong valve open we might have succeeded in sinking the boat. For some reason he seemed to assume that we were experienced sailors and did not question our competence to handle the boat. There was no trial run and we were simply told we were free to leave. Not wanting to make a hash of casting off from the yard we decided that we would leave under power and would hoist sail somewhere where we would not be watched. We set off down the Thurne and once out of sight of the yard we moored and set about lowering the mast for the passage through the bridge at Potter Heigham.
The mast lowering operation went a lot smoother than expected and we were ready to set off again. However, something seemed wrong. I am a pretty good judge when it comes to whether a boat will clear a bridge or not and to me this boat still seemed too high even with the mast and cabin roof lowered. This was a bit odd as the yard had assured me that apart from particularly high tides this boat should be able to pass the bridge at any time. It then dawned on me what the problem was. The lowered mast was resting on the wrong crutches. There was a lower set to use for passing under bridges etc. As soon as this was corrected things looked a lot more promising and we set off downstream again. As we travelled down river I found the easiest way to see clearly ahead was to stand on the counter and steer the boat with a foot on the tiller. (I tried this after reading about it in Arthur Ransome’s Coot Club). It was certainly a very easy way to steer and maintain a clear view.
Soon Potter Heigham Bridge was in view. We waited for a boat coming upstream with the pilot at the helm. As he passed us he gave us a wave of thanks and I steered for the bridge. This was the first time I had taken a boat through Potter myself but I remembered what one of the pilots had said a few years earlier about not changing your mind half way. He had pointed out that if you were to take off power part way through then the wind as you emerged from the bridge was likely to blow you off course and into the stonework. Lined up for the bridge I could see that there was going to be sufficient clearance so I opened up the throttle and steered through the arch. Everything went well and we got thorough without a touch. As it was now autumn there was not a lot of daylight left so our next job was to find a mooring for the night. We ended up near Thurne Dyke.
Next job was to sort out rigging the awning for the night. Eventually we got this organised and were somewhat surprised how warm the boat was once this was rigged over the well. Cooking on the simple stove was actually surprisingly easy and we soon had a meal organised and eaten. The toilet was a different matter though, true it was clean but it seemed such a complication to operate. Also it discharged straight into the river. During the week we decided to try and use onshore facilities if at all possible, only using the one on the boat if there was no other choice. Uncertain how long the battery would last with the electric lights on we decided on an early night.
Next morning we set sail down to Thurne Mouth and headed up the Bure. Shortly after we left the Thurne we met a considerable number of powered craft heading downstream. It seemed like the M1 so the decision was made to moor up for a while until the motor traffic thinned out a bit. As we sat in the well drinking coffee we were privileged to see the Wherry Albion heading downstream. As she passed her skipper made comment to us about the rather large number of motor craft about that morning. It must have been causing him a few problems as well. Eventually we set off again eventually reaching Salhouse Broad where we intended to spend the night. It did not seem very practical to moor so we lay to a mud weight out in the middle of the broad. As evening came we decided to row ashore in the dinghy and walk into the village to visit the pub. Realising that it would be dark on our return we had the rather bright idea of hoisting a small torch to the masthead so we would be able to locate the boat easily on our return. As we walked back from the village it seemed to be very dark and when we left the road to follow the path to the broad we would have had difficulty had we not brought a torch with us. Back at the broad we got into the dinghy but there was now a problem. There was no sign of the light we had left at the masthead and we could not see the yacht. Shining the torch out onto the broad we still could not see it. Despite this we set out in the dinghy and started to try and find the boat. It seemed to be an age before the yacht was eventually sighted and we gratefully climbed back aboard after thinking that we would be spending the whole night in the dinghy rowing round Salhouse Broad in the dark. It turned out that the battery in the torch hoisted up the mast had long since gone flat. We did not try that idea again.
Next morning our first stop was going to be somewhere to top up the water and stock up on some food. As we moored up in F B Wilds yard at Horning we saw an elderly gentlemen heading toward us. We thought maybe he was going to tell us we could not moor there. He turned out to be really pleasant and his first comment to us was “It’s nice to see a proper boat in here for a change”. We found throughout that week that people were always coming up to be friendly. Food stocks suitably replenished we set off for Stalham.. With our vast lack of sailing experience the idea of tacking on the narrow reaches of the Ant did not seem appealing so we set off up the river under power. Passing under the bridge at Ludham with another successful lowering and raising of the mast. The plan was to moor against the island at the bottom of Sutton Broad as we had the previous year. However this was not possible as with the deep keel of the yacht we could not approach close enough to the bank. Eventually we managed to moor a short distance upstream in Stalham Dyke. That evening we rowed into Stalham and after a rather successful evening playing some of the local lads at pool we rowed back to the yacht, this time without problems.
Next morning having had a good cooked breakfast we were ready to set off back down the Ant. It was a dead calm so it did not seem such a sin to be using the engine. There was going to be a problem though. On this particular boat charging the battery put a considerable extra load on the tiny engine so there was a switch to disconnect the charging circuit which made quite a difference to the engine power. Unfortunately we had left this charging circuit in the off position with the result that the battery was now flat and the engine could not be started. The idea of quanting all the way to somewhere we could get the battery charged or a jump start did not appeal at all. Big tall lad suggested someone jump in and give it a push start or flick the prop. He nearly ended up being thrown overboard. However, we took a look at the engine and there appeared to be a fairly large flywheel to which was attached a pulley with a belt drive to the dynamo. On a whim the ignition was switched on and we tried a quick spin of the flywheel by hand. Amazingly the little engine fired up and was soon putt putting away. Somewhat relived we switched it to the charge position and left it that way to make sure the battery would be properly charged.
Stalham Dyke 1970s
Heading back down river again we were soon back on the Bure and turned into Fleet Dyke to head for South Walsham. Everyone was in somewhat high spirits as it had been a really fine day. As we proceeded along the dyke I had left one of the others at the helm. He suddenly shouted very loudly, “how do we stop?”. This attracted the attention of some people on the bank who looked at us as if we really did not know. I decided I would play along with my friend and shouted back that I did not know but I would check the manual. I then quickly ducked down into the cabin and emerged holding a copy of Swallows and Amazons. The people on the bank now seemed to be convinced that this yacht had a crew of total nutters. Spotting a suitable clear space on the bank of the dyke we swung into moor. We had no sooner moored up when a notice was spotted. Thinking that this was maybe to forbid mooring at this point we walked over to investigate. The notice in fact said “DANGER -
Later that afternoon after we had eaten and everything had calmed down we started to prepare for the evening. I have always been able to judge the weather fairly well and despite the fine weather we had that day and how calm it was at that moment I said we ought not to moor in the broad as it was going to get windy. Nobody believed me but we moved to the side of the broad for the night. Exactly as I had predicted, it was a wild and windy night and when we looked across the broad next morning boats had been blown all over the place. Setting off again that afternoon the plan was to get back north of Potter Heigham. The passage through the bridge was once again achieved without incident. However, it was not long after this that we had the only near accident during the entire week. Not far from Martham Ferry I noticed a small hired motor launch coming up river far too fast. I was now lined up to pass though the gap left by the open floating bridge when the small launch now following dangerously close suddenly took it into his head to open up to full throttle and overtake. He did not even do this correctly and suddenly headed past on my starboard side and cut in front of us as we were almost at the ferry. You can’t just slam one of those small auxiliary engines into reverse like you can with a cruiser but somehow I managed to get reverse gear engaged and just avoided the fool in the launch who carried on oblivious to the accident he had nearly caused. I was just about to shout something suitable at the idiot but one of the men at Martham Ferry boats had seen the whole thing and saved me the trouble by shouting himself. After all this excitement we moored for the night a few hundred yards further along.
Next morning we were only too aware that this was out last day and we spent it by taking a trip up to Hickling Broad where we moored up and spend the day making sure the yacht was clean and tidy to be handed back. All shipshape the final trip was made back to the boatyard for the last night. On the whole a different experience and great fun. Also Martham Boatyard were a brilliant yard and I was to hire from them again a year or two later.
Boating Tales From The 1970s
Next morning we decided to walk up the road to North Denes airfield and splashed out on a flight over the broads. It was rather expensive but was something to be remembered for some time. Very interesting trying to pick out the various rivers and broads from the air. In those days there was private flying from North Denes, I think now that it is only the helicopters flying from there.Off again up the Bure, the smell from the toilet getting so bad now it could even be detected on deck. I could not understand this. It was the same type of toilet that was installed on the Aston boat previously hired in 1973 and in that case there was no smell at all. In hindsight I would guess that when the toilet had been pumped out the tank had not been flushed through or possibly the thing had never been pumped out after the previous hirers. We proceeded to Potter Heigham and waited for the pilot. Even he commented on the smell coming from down below. Through Potter I was rather interested to see another wherry, Hathor, being used as a houseboat moored at Martham Boats. I remember at the time thinking how great it would be to have her fully restored and sailing again. Next stop The Pleasure Boat at Hickling and then on to Horsey. Paid a small fee and had the chance to climb to the top of the windmill. The view from the top was well worth the climb. Off again and ended up at West Somerton for the night. Had a great deal of bother from a horse that kept trying to eat the top of the gear lever. He was a friendly animal but he seemed to being paying far too much attention to the moored boats.
Next morning we headed back down through Potter Heigham and stopped at Womack Staithe and went into Ludham for lunch. We just had to get away from the awful smell on the boat. Purchased several air freshener sprays in Ludham and gave the toilet compartment a really good dose of whatever fragrance they were. This seemed to subdue the smell for the time being. Suitably fed and lubricated we proceeded to Ranworth for the night. Another visit to the pub then back to the boat where the bilge pump once again demanded attention. Having got the bilge water down to a reasonable level again. I gave the toilet another good dose of air freshener and we settled down for the night.