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My Broads Holiday During World Cup Final Week 1966

1960s History 1960s Memories 1960s Gallery

By Keith Gingell

Imagine this, you are 20 years old it’s the final week of the World Cup. England have made it through to the quarter finals and you are on holiday leave. What do you do? Stay at home glued to the television set?  Nah!......You go on holiday on the Norfolk Broads with your mates.

Why? Because you don’t have the slightest interest in football. Not only that, the holiday was booked back in January and even those of us with an interest in football didn’t think that far ahead. In fact I would lay a bet that I didn’t even know what the World Cup was in January ’66. This might seem unusual today but those of us ancient enough to remember will tell you that the World Cup football competition was not a very big deal for most people at that time. In fact it seems to me that the only reason it has become so important to the Brits these days is because of the events that occurred during my week on the Broads. So let’s forget football…for the moment.

As I already mentioned our holiday was booked sometime after Christmas. There was to be seven of us going, which presented us with a bit of a problem boatsize wise. So after several sessions pawing over a pile of Blakes, Hoseasons and others brochures at one or another of our Mum’s houses it was finally decided that we would take two boats.

 The exact reason for this I can’t remember but I guess it was something to do with the lack of availability of 6-8 berth cruisers and the formidable cost of hiring one. As it turned out this was a fortunate arrangement since there were two groups of us and we couldn’t get two boats from the same yard. Three of our number lived in the Woolwich area of South East London, while the other four lived some 10-12 miles further East in the Bexley, Dartford area of North Kent. Thus it made sense for the Woolwich group to go in their car and pick up one boat and for the Kent group to go in a separate car and get theirs. I was in the Kent group.

Classic Safari at Potter Heigham 1966

The plan was to meet up at a prearranged spot on the Saturday afternoon. I can’t tell you where it was now (it’s been 40 years y’know) but it was probably a little way from the Oulton Broad area. It worked out pretty well since the guys from Woolwich were big lads so they needed the extra space; there was Mike, he was about 6’ 6”, his old school friend Rob who matched him in height and Colin  at around 6’.

In our group was Roger, Brian and…er…Melvin I think. Anyway let’s call him Mel (we didn’t keep in touch after this on account of an ex-girlfriend). The average height in our group was considerably less so we could fit OK in a 4 berther.

So we set off separately, Mike and Co. in his maroon 105E Anglia and us in Brian’s green Morris 1100 (for those interested in old cars as well as boats).  Fortunately, I brought along my ’55 model Ilford Sportsman camera, which my parents had bought for me for £7.10s.0d at Boots some years earlier (for those interested in old cameras as well as boats). Our cruiser was located on Oulton Broad. I can’t remember where Mike’s group had to go, but it was quite a way from us. ( The other boat was actually “Gay Musketeer” from Jenners of Thorpe - webmaster)

We had to go to Hampton Boats Ltd. Oulton Broad Lowestoft. And after a long old drive up the A12 we arrived sometime in the afternoon. When we found the owner (or Manager…whatever) he gave us a very warm welcome;

“OH NO…NOT BOYS! I don’t want boys on my boats!”

He then proceeded to make us feel as though we had cheated him by booking the boat as a party of four in the name of Mr. Huggins (Brian). The fact that we had done exactly what the booking agent had told us didn’t seem to cut a lot of ice with him. He then Hummed and Haar-ed about whether he should give us our money back and moaned on and on about Blake’s (or whoever we booked with). It was lucky for him, and for us I guess, that we were not violent people and we explained calmly that we had done everything according to the procedure and that we were one of a party of two boats and that we had to meet the other one later and we had no way of getting in touch with them.

Also we told him we were very nice blokes really and that we would treat his boat as if it made of glass. Eventually he, grudgingly, agreed to let us take the boat. When I say grudgingly….well, he gave a whole new meaning to the word. His acceptance of us was interspersed with threats about loosing our deposit if we put so much as a scratch on it, more moans about ‘boys’ and promises to check the boat over with a fine tooth comb when we brought it back. He didn’t really seem to truck with the expression, The Customer is King.

He called one of his underlings and we were taken to the boat. When we saw her we understood his reluctance (grudgingly!). She was a beauty with a capital B! Classic Safari W661. The pictures in the brochure didn’t prepare us for seeing her in the ‘flesh’ (wood actually). We were taken out onto the broad for the cursory instruction of how to start the Perkins diesel engine, how to stop the engine, how to go into reverse and, almost superficially, how to moor up. The whole ‘teach in’ must have taken all of 20 minutes! (If it was my boat they would have had to pass a 4 hour written exam!)

Gay Muskateer 1966

We returned to the yard and ‘parked up’ according to instructions while our ‘friendly owner’ skulked in his office. After that we were on our own, we were free to go wherever we pleased, except that we always had the spectre of ‘The man from Hampton’s’ in our heads whenever a yacht or another cruiser came too close. We were early at the rendezvous place. As I said I can’t remember where it was but thankfully it was deserted so we didn’t get laughed at as we did what all newcomers to boating did. We made an absolute ‘ball of cotton’ (as they say in Yorkshire) of mooring. Just to make things worse when the others turned up they just slipped alongside on the wings of beginners luck as I remember!

We spent a quiet night, pretty much in the middle of nowhere using up the food we brought with us. Like all lads of that age we sat around joking and playing cards and so on during the first night. I think it was Colin who said he was looking forward to the three F’s that you can do on a boat. Fishing, floating and …well….following the football, what else!  Floating we did, fishing we would have done if anybody had brought a rod or found out about licences. As for the third F we split into two groups, those that did and spent the matches in the Woolwich boat and those that didn’t and went for a walk or sunbathed or listened to tinny music on Brians tiny transistor radio.

Before we left for our holiday we had speculated about mooring up near a quaint old pub every evening and meeting up with a few ‘Norfolk birds’ and bringing them back to our boat. The reality was a bit different. If we found a pub it would be virtually impossible to moor up unless we arrived about three hours before opening time, which we didn’t since we left finding a place to stop until the last minute and this presented problems because we had two boats to find space for. So most of the time we spent a ‘quiet’ evening.

One evening, however we were determined to get to a pub and we consulted the oracle, tourist map of the broads that is. I can’t remember the place but according to the map there was a recommended pub near where we intended to stop one evening. It was not actually on the water but it was ‘a short walk’ as tourist literature speak goes. We found the mooring place according to the map and after getting dressed up for evening, set off in search of the pub. Problem was it had been raining and the short walk turned out to be a mile and a half hike (probably illegally) across the sodden field of some local farmer. We arrived dirty and wet in a deserted pub which looked great from the outside but on the inside was the very essence of country dump. And the beer!......Tolly Cobbold…. Yuk! As for the Norfolk birds, they flocked to our boat morning, noon and night, they even brought their families. But they only wanted us for our money, well bread really. They were incredibly beautiful though…. All swans are.

So the week went by, we did actually have a carefully planned out itinerary and we more or less ended up where we intended every evening (minus pubs). I must confess that after 40 years I have no idea which route we followed or where we went except on one or two occasions. Having said that, I have the feeling that 40 days after our holiday I would not have been much wiser than now. I have wracked my little brain trying to think of ‘events’ to tell you about during our epic voyage. This is what I’ve come up with;

Let me see… there was the yacht that zigged when it should have zagged (I pinched that from Joseph Heller, sorry) or perhaps tic’d when it should have tac’d (that came from a sweet packet!). Anyway it sent me into a tizzy and I ended up in the reeds. Not an uncommon story I here you cry. There was the sinking feeling (or rather the hope we didn’t) when entering what seemed to be the vast open space of Breydon Water for the first time and the awe of passing very close to a sea going ship coming the other way. Can’t remember where that was but it definitely happened.

Then there was the time we spent the night at Yarmouth! O…O…O!

Dydler's Mill July 1966

The O…O…O has nothing to do with the nightlife, which was conspicuous by its absence by the way.We cruised into Yarmouth and decided that we weren’t going to cough up any more money to Blakes or any other boat hire company come to that (especially after our experience with that ‘orifice’ at Oulton). So we decided to tie up on the public mooring spot. (please forgive the use of any non nautical terms). Trouble was that everybody else in Yarmouth felt the same way. I can’t say what happened to the other ‘ship’ in our ‘convoy’ because in circumstances like this we just split up and looked out for a place where we could and met up on the bank later. It was horribly crowded and as we cruised up and down looking for somewhere a guy told us the only thing to do was to tie up ‘double breasted’ (I’m really sorry for this very grockely expression but I can’t remember the proper term). That is, as if you didn’t know, we tied up alongside another boat using the full extent of our ropes to attach them to mooring posts. This is what we did. No problem.

After that we met up with our fellow matelots and went off to get some fish and chips and find a half decent pub. I think we had a good night, I can’t remember really (due to the years not alcohol!) and we got back late. When we returned we were surprised to find that the depth of moored boats had increased to three across and our boat was the meat of a very big sandwich. But we didn’t care we just laughed about it and went to bed (probably was the alcohol this time).

In the morning it was my turn to cook the breakfast for my crew while they went off to get the morning papers. I dutifully prepared the breakfast in the kitchen (or should I say galley even on such a little boat?) I had the bacon frizzling in the pan when I heard a woman’s voice calling out, she sounded pretty worried and insistent. I went up on deck and was mildly terrified to see that the ultra kind and considerate guy on the inside had untied, not only his boat but ours too and had shot off without a word. Nice!  So there we were 20 tonnes of wood, a rookie sailor and a rookie woman sailor (whose hubby had also gone for the papers) tied together drifting sideways on the very considerable River Bure current. A very solid looking bank on our left (port for those who don’t know) and bloody great oak piles on our right (starboard). Somehow between going back below deck to switch off the gas and going back up to calm down the woman and untie her boat (typical woman; could drive but couldn’t do knots!) I managed to separate our vessel from hers and we both (God alone knows how) regained control of our respective charges and managed to turn them round and moor up again.

There are times when I believe in God and this was one of them. For my part I was so anxious and panicky to get back to the bank I turned Classic Safari back around to face the same way as before, completely forgetting the tide had turned and tried, in fact did, moor up with the current.  The only casualty was a little dingy which was squashed between my 10 tonnes and the 10 tonnes in front as I struggled to slow my lady down. I noticed it too late and as I backed off, amazingly, it ‘pinged’ back into shape. This is a 40 year old secret I have just let you in on ‘cos I reckon by now the owner and indeed the dingy have gone to the great broad in the sky.

And do you know what! My crew moaned because their breakfast wasn’t ready!

Now towards the second half of our week it came even to the notice of the footballphobes in our group that, as a matter of fact, England were doing pretty good and even we, along with another 20 million fellow footballphobes were getting interested. And on the night of the semi-final between England and Brazil (correct me if I’m wrong - I wasn’t that interested) Brian, Roger, Mel and I found ourselves crouched around Brian’s 6”x3” transistor radio straining our ears to hear to the crackly commentary of the crucial second half. Well, as everybody knows, ‘we’ won and made it to the final but at the time it seemed unbelievable. We were so pleased we made a cup of tea to celebrate. Actually it was not really to celebrate, it was to warm Brian up. That publicly victorious evening had come very close to being a private disaster. After about five or six days and at least 20 moorings we reckoned we had it down. We could cruise in slow, bang her in reverse hop off, grab a rope and bingo, sorted. We could even do it alone.

So what went wrong? We got cocky that’s what. That evening we found a really pretty little cutting off the main river. It was quiet, and we ‘cooled’ our way towards the bank, Brian shoved her into reverse to reduce the momentum, then cut the engine. Mel was already off at the bow with his rope. Me and Roger had already hopped off and were standing with the others letting the other half of our ‘experienced crew’ do the business. As Classic Safari glided gently towards the bank Brian hopped off at the stern and grabbed the rope. But Classic Safari wanted the last laugh, she wasn’t ready to stop just yet, Brian’s rope tensioned and he was catapulted on a graceful arc into the water and under her stern, powered by her kinetic energy.

As a matter of fact she didn’t get the last laugh. The site of Brian’s acrobatics made us fall about, but not for long. The O Shit! factor cut in and we ran to Brian’s rescue. But the site of Brian being hauled out clinging for dear life to his rope like a beached whale made us crack up some more, this time though from relief more than anything else. The one thing I can’t understand is that Brian didn’t find it funny!

So now we are nearing the end of our week, we had been to the far end of the broads ( well Wroxham maybe) and we were making our way back to Oulton Broad unscathed, the boat anyway. Any scratches that were on her were put there by someone else. I can’t remember the exact day but it was probably Thursday. Capt’n Brian was at the helm and we were on a busy stretch of river. Suddenly from out of nowhere, well a side cutting really, (I apologise if this is the wrong way to describe it) a small yacht, seemingly out of control, smacked into the starboard side of our lady. It may have been a small yacht but it was big enough to put a six inch hole in the side, just below the deck. During the confusion, of trying to stop and avoiding the other boats we lost track of the yacht. I seem to remember we did catch up with each other but for some reason, possibly because of the difficulty of manoeuvring in so much traffic we didn’t exchange paperwork or whatever we were supposed to do but I think we got the number.

All the way back to Oulton we speculated about what ‘Happy Harry’ was going to say and more to the point do. The rest of the days passed without incident and we arrived back at Hampton Boats yard on Friday evening after everybody had gone home, thank goodness. We knew we were in trouble even though it was not our fault. In order not to give our friend too much ammo we set about cleaning Classic Safari from top to bottom, stem to stern, inside and out. She was spotless. In order to keep it like that we did our packing, locked up and went out to eat and didn’t come back till late so she would stay clean.

  In the morning we went to find ‘the man wot don’t like boys’. I can’t remember his reaction really except to say he was none too pleased. He had a championship moan about not doing the paperwork but I have a sneaky feeling that he was relieved we actually brought his boat back in one piece.

After he had got over this bit of grief he set about running his microscope over the rest of the vessel. But we had out manoeuvred him, she was spotless, he couldn’t find anything wrong. He tried very hard, believe me! He even tried to invent scratches that weren’t there or at least not ours!  Sullenly, almost disappointed I reckon, he had to admit the boat was OK. I’m not sure if he gave back our deposit. I don’t think he did at least not all of it but in fairness to him, even though he doesn’t deserve it, I wouldn’t swear to it.

So that was it, we made our way along eerily quiet roads back to Bexleyheath. We arrived just in time to see the second half of ‘that match’.  Brian, Roger, Mel, Me, Dad and Kevin watched the excitement of England beating Germany to win the World Cup.

I hope you all enjoy reading this account and I hope you find the photos interesting. There are not that many but I have to say some of the boats photographed are magnificent and they were at least taken during a momentous week in British, sorry English, sporting history.

One final note, if any of you out there are related to or know or even are Happy Harry, an apology wouldn’t go amiss!

Keith Gingell 2006

See more of Keith’s photographs form this holiday here

Oulton Broad July 1966 Reedham 1966 Top