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
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.
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
Continued on next page ...
My Broads Holiday During World Cup Final Week 1966
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.