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Having been taken to the Broads by my parents twice during the 60’s (1963 Aviemore, 1969 Baltimore), and as previously stated totally hooked. I decided I wanted to go again under my own steam. So 1972, aged 19 yrs, found me pouring over a brochure, no problem where to hire from – it had to be R Moore & sons, still at that time at The Rhond. In those far off days, even though by todays prices it wasn’t a fortune, on my princely wage of £12.50 a week I would require crew/financial backers. First crew easy, current girlfriend, Lesley, second crew her brother, Stephen, third crew a female friend of all 3 of ours, Liz, (who possibly had the hots for Stephen but did not have the most sylphlike figure and was not particularly agile). So, knowing the boat having been on it 3 yrs previously, I talked them into hiring Baltimore, perfect layout 4 single berths in 2 cabins. The booking was made early in the year for September.

First problem, girlfriend decides to dump me, with a proviso that we will remain friends (we had known each other well for 8 yrs then) and will still do the broads trip. This action was to have a profound effect on the rest of my life causing me as it did to choose a career, which I stuck at for 30 yrs. Second problem, a relative of Lesley and Stephen chose to get married on the Saturday we were taking over the boat. After some figure crunching and consultation with train timetables, it was decided that Liz and I would drive up (in Stephen’s car, I didn’t possess such a thing then) and the others would follow up in the evening by train.

Third problem, beginning of August, Stephen who was a Scout leader manages to fall out of a tree at a weekend camp damaging his back (initial thoughts were it was broken) fortunately it wasn’t but it seriously restricted his movements, making bending almost impossible. Fourth problem, Liz’s favourite cousin is killed in a motorcycle accident and the funeral is to be the Friday at the end of our week, again train timetables were consulted and it was decided she could be dispatched early. (I’m sorry if I sound heartless but be fair we are talking about a week on the Broads).

The great day finally arrives. Route planner (my father) had been consulted and clutching sheet of paper with list of instructions (funny how you always turned left or right at a pub!) Liz and I set off. Uneventful journey didn’t even get lost once. Arrived at Moores early for pick up, but no problems boat was ready so were able to load all the necessities and get them tidied away. Member of staff gave me the walk through of where to find and how to use everything and a trip out to the river to ensure I had some idea of how not to wreck the boat, and we were left to our own devices.

I had decided that we needed to be above Wroxham Bridge to be close to the train station so the first scary bit was taking a 35 foot boat through the bridge the first time on my own. I seem to recall it went rather well (not something I could say about another attempt some years later!!). It then dawned on me that driving along the river was the easy bit, stopping and mooring, more or less on my own was going to be difficult. Practice was called for, so finding a nice soft bank side mooring I gave it a go. It all went surprisingly well, gently into the chosen spot stopped alongside (I don’t think I even touched the bank) leapt off with mooring ropes and Bob was your uncle. Tucked up nice and snug. Probably helped by the fact that the canopy and screens were still down and that the ropes had been laid close to the cockpit, (again my fathers influence and something I still do to this day). After a breather decided to move down near to the railway bridge to await the others, again no dramas and second mooring was as good as the first.

Time to explore, need to find the train station, not too difficult, although it appeared that the only way off the platform to our part of the river would mean climbing over or through the railings at the bottom of the steps. It’s a lot easier nowadays. Later that evening armed with torches we retraced our steps to find the other 2 crew, this is where it got difficult, Stephen found he couldn’t or wouldn’t bend sufficiently to negotiate the railings, so we ended up lifting him over, in itself no mean feat. So to the boat to catch up on the day’s events, supper and bed. The ‘girls’ up forward and us boys in the saloon.

The weather that week was kind to us (as it often is in September) and we cruised all around the Northern rivers, none of this mad dash down south for us. We just pottered from pub to pub. Stokesby, Hickling, Neatishead, Stalham Ranworth and Horning.  Slight hiatus in the peace between Stephen and I one day, crossing Barton, Stephen at the wheel me in the front cockpit, faced with an oncoming boat I say “We should get on the right side of the channel” “But we are on a broad it doesn’t matter” “We are in a marked channel it does matter” by now I have moved towards the cockpit ”But why, on a broad we can go where we like” “ Not when there’s a boat coming towards you, you don’t” “If you’re so clever you steer” and moved down below to sulk which effectively left no one at the wheel until I could get there – We missed the other boat.

It wasn’t always possible to get a mooring right outside the chosen pubs (as usual) but no problem we had a dinghy, you try getting someone who won’t bend, and a slightly large non athletic lady into a dinghy, it was somewhat amusing and at the same time frustrating.

Most evenings found Stephen resting his back along one of the settees (I must lie straight) and Liz reclining along the other, which meant there was nowhere for Lesley and I to sit. Now fortunately, due to my earlier mentioned career change, Lesley and I were once again an item, so we tended to spend the evening in the cockpit (steering position you smutty readers) me drowning maggots while she kept me warm, OK I did lose interest in the fishing and we just kept each other warm, (something she has done ever since – we married in 1974).

Thursday found us at Wroxham waving goodbye to Liz as she set off to catch the train home, at least Lesley and I would be able to sit in the saloon for 2 nights, although Stephen’s presence rather curtailed the keeping warm bit. Friday night as tradition dictates found us at Coltishall, leaving a nice easy run back to the yard Saturday morning cleaning and clearing the boat as we enjoyed the passing scenery.  

Hugh Moxon 2006


My First Hire In September 1972

By Hugh Moxon

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