Like many people with a love of the Broads I had dreams of one day owning my own
boat. My thoughts were that in my retirement I could convert some of my lump sum
(I had one of those pensions) to a floating palace. The very untimely death of friends
who had just retired prompted me to bring forward my plans. I now needed to raise
some capital to enable me to carry this out. A house move was in the offing so seemed
the perfect way to raise the extra.
Now armed with the wonga the hunt was on for a boat. At that time with 3 children
it seemed sensible to look at 6 berth boats. It had to be able to negotiate all bridges
and I liked centre cockpit cruisers. My perfect choice would have been Moores ‘Glenmore’
which were available but at £19,000 a tad dear (or so I thought). Finally I settled
on ‘Finewind 4’ a 39’ Windboat built in 1957 being sold out of the Pennant Fleet.
(Hindsight is such a wonderful thing!!). She had a recent survey, which suggested
that she was basically sound but could do with some TLC (the story of this could
take up several pages on its own).
The great day dawned, November 15th 1987, my wife and I our 2 yr old son and an erstwhile
friend Ian (sadly armed with a video camera) made the journey up from Kent under
dark and glowering skies with close on a force 8 gale blowing. We arrived at Potter
Heigham before lunch and after completing the paperwork with the now late Stuart
Woods, and parting with £5,500, I was the proud owner of a piece of boating history.
She was lying with the rest of the fleet, in the rear basin stern on to the main
sheds, I didn’t want to leave her there so had arranged a temporary mooring elsewhere
in the yard. We investigated from front to back checking the 3 cabins the 2 toilets
(1 with shower which rumour has it was originally a bath!!), much caught on video,
although quite why I have a real close-up shot of a toilet bowl I’m not too sure.
“Let’s have a run down the river and back”
Start the engine – it runs – and quite well. Ian is to remain on the bank filming
while I manoeuvre her out, picking him up when we head out to the river. Lines are
let off and we inch out, now the basin is quite crowded, with an extremely strong
cross wind. I don’t want to start my boat owning days by crunching mine or any other
people’s boats. Finewind has an enormous amount of freeboard, especially with the
cockpit and canopy up, net result I cannot get her to point the way I want to – the
way out. Lots of advice being given by the wife – for God’s sake give it some ‘welly’
– studiously and perhaps stupidly ignored.
Out of the yard turned right down past the bungalows nothing moving apart from us,
and the odd bird flying backwards. The wind is causing waves up the Thurne and its
grey and overcast but to me it’s a beautiful day. There are no heaters working on
the boat but she has a warmth all of her own, and despite the outside air temperature
we do not feel cold. As all who have done it will know those first times in your
own boat are magical if somewhat scary, and to do it out of season gives even greater
pleasure. We went down as far as Womack Water, but the short daylight hours forced
an about turn all too soon and we made our way back to the yard. She was placed on
her mooring and at least on my part a reluctant ‘au revoir’ said.
I spent so long facing the end of the basin that Ian felt sure there must be some
secret exit he wasn’t aware of, finally having given her some ‘welly’ she came round
sweet as a nut to face the correct way. I now had to stop to collect Ian off the
quayside, here the wind helped a bit and without too much problem he joined us aboard.
Whilst not strictly a first trip, the next February/March found the whole family
back at Potter Heigham, that’s wife, 11yr old daughter, 8 yr old daughter, 2 yr old
son and of course me ready for adventure. We had tried to have a trip in December,
but on arrival found some beggar had got on board and nicked both batteries (still
not totally convinced it wasn’t the yard). So now armed with 2 new batteries and
locks for the cockpit doors we were going cruising. Mind due to the fact that she
still didn’t have any gas on board, nor had we brought up any sleeping bags, we were
booked into the Hotel Wroxham for the night. It was as might be expected a crisp
but dry day and we managed without any drama to board and set off down river. With
the latish start and the short days there wasn’t much time to do much more than just
cruise up the Bure to Wroxham, and even though I had by now done the trip several
times, somehow it was different. We were able to moor outside the hotel (I had phoned
ahead to make sure), and settled down for the night tucked up in our rooms overlooking
Slight shock the next morning, my cabin tops, which were a ghastly blue colour were
all white, snow/sleet/hail overnight had transformed things somewhat. After breakfast
and settling the bill, we boarded Finewind. First order of the day for the girls
was to build a snowman on the foredeck, then back into the relative warmth of the
cockpit for our trip down river. A visit to Ranworth was decided upon. Drifting gently
along enjoying the scenery with the occasional snow flurry heightening the experience
was wonderful. Down Ranworth dyke, out onto the broad, and WHITEOUT the flurries
decided to become a blizzard, now I knew I still had some spare space, but how long
before I have to turn or run into the quayside I wasn’t sure. Fortunately it eased
off back to flurries as quickly as it started in time for us to moor at the quay
without incident and we headed into the warmth of the Maltsters. After some light
refreshment, (I was having to drive home shortly), we resumed our journey back to
Potter by now although not sunny much clearer and drier.
Our first real trip in our own boat.
I was destined not to use her for most of that year due to a fairly major refit –
The survey’s idea of TLC and what was really found being two entirely different matters.