Monday, 7 October 2013

Cruising down the River

In 1954, when I was a young chap of 11, I made my first visit with my family to the Norfolk Broads and that holiday sowed the seeds for a deep and lasting affection for that area.

With its huge skies, boundless wildlife and slow moving rivers and broads, fringed by whispering reed beds, it has a unique appeal and linked with my enduring love of boats, has constantly drawn me back. Indeed my wife and I spent our honeymoon there in 1966, on a fine vessel called 'Star Glory' from the yard of Jack Powles in Wroxham and when our own family was young we spent happy times just messing about in boats.
Sunset, Oulton Dyke
So it was that I responded to that deep seated urge to return yet again and booked a four day short break on 'Silver Mirage' from Silverline Marine "http//", on the River Yare at Brundall near Norwich. My crew were my illustrious wife and her sister, who I hoped had not forgotten how to tie a clove-hitch since our last visit, or lost the ability to leap into the unknown as the Commander made his attempts to bring our vessel within jumping distance of the mooring. On both counts my expectations were ill-founded!
Moored stern-on in Beccles Yacht Station
It's quite a long slog across country from Lancashire so we decided to spend a night in Thetford, to break the journey, in one of those 'purple' hotels that in a previous post I was quite critical of.

Whether or not their training team had taken to heart my criticism on 'Trip Adviser' following that earlier visit I don't know, but not once did I hear 'Hi-ya y'alright there!' and neither were we referred to as 'guys' preceded by the aforementioned phrase, in the restaurant! In fact any greeting was a civilised hello or good morning which pleased this miserable old git immensely.
Early morning Worlingham Staithe

The approach to the boatyard is always exciting. Would our chosen vessel be as gorgeous as we expected or would it have been holed by the bowsprit of a passing yacht or perhaps had its canopy swept aside under a low bridge by an incompetent skipper who was unable to understand the tide tables?

We need not have worried, there she lay at her mooring, resplendent in the sunshine awaiting our arrival. The owner of the yard greeted us and having sorted out the paperwork, the business of unloading our provisions from the Volvo and into the boat proceeded apace.
On the River Waveney en route for Loddon
Why is it that we always take with us three times the amount of clothing that we are likely to need and our food and drink supplies would have been more appropriate to the needs of the 'Queen Mary 2'!  Honestly, anyone would have thought that we were setting off on a voyage around Cape Horn and beyond!

Anyway, following an in-depth conversation with the boatyard owner about the benefits of owning a Morgan  as he was thinking of buying one,(he had spotted my MSCC sticker on the car), we set off into the wide blue yonder
Herringfleet Drainage Mill

As we only had 4 days it had been decided to concentrate on the southern rivers of the system, the Yare, the Waveney and the Chet and our first overnight mooring was in Oulton Dyke which leads into Oulton Broad, the very place where, as a boy, all those years ago, I had gazed at that lovely cruiser with its varnished mahogany gleaming in the sunshine that was to be our holiday home for a week.Incidentally it was hired from a certain Jim Hoseason who was just setting up, what is now a huge holiday organisation from his small boatyard at Oulton.

The next day we had a leisurely cruise up the River Waveney to Beccles where this ageing 'plonker' made two very embarrassing blunders!
Moored at Loddon
En route to Beccles we stopped to fill up with water and found that I couldn't engage the bow thrusters, a very useful modern addition to cruisers that greatly assist in the whole mooring process. The boatyard was duly phoned and the engineer said that he would meet us in Beccles to effect a repair.

Calm evening at Loddon
We moored stern on in the Yacht Station and the young lady Harbour Master advised that I should lower the mudweight (a large heavy lump of metal) from the bow to stop any swinging from side to side.This was done and we waited for the engineer, who arrived as arranged, promptly went to the thruster control, pressed them and found that there was not a thing wrong with was the Commander's ineptitude or downright stupidity to blame. Thoroughly embarrassing.

After waving the engineer goodbye, accompanied by many apologies, we walked into the town to top up provisions, buy postcards (my wife and sister love to send postcards) and have lunch and a beer.
Loddon Staithe
On our return to the boat the engine was started, the two stern mooring lines stowed and we set off assisted by fully functioning bow thrusters. We had travelled barely 20 yards when we heard a strangled cry from a lady in a cruiser moored close by, kindly informing us that our mudweight was still down!

This was a situation that demanded the swiftest action to prevent anyone else seeing our plight and compounding our embarrassment. The Commander brought the vessel to a halt, handed the helm to his wife and leapt forward to the bow and hauled the weight on to the deck where he virtually collapsed, having forgotten that he is no longer the sprightly and strong person of his youth!
Rockland St Mary Staithe

We moored for the night at a village staithe where we were joined by a group of fishermen who positioned themselves off our bow and talked and fished until 3.30AM when they finally left us in interesting day!
Magical last morning, Rockland Broad
Fortuately the rest of the holiday was less eventful and we spent a beautiful evening in Loddon on the River Chet and our final night was spent moored on the village staithe at Rockland St Mary, where fortuitously there is a fine tavern, The New Inn, recently taken over and refurbished, where we enjoyed a very pleasant evening meal.
Just wonderful!
Dawn on our last day was sensational, it was calm, the sun shining through a low mist that hung over the river and Rockland Broad as we made our way to the boatyard, always a sad moment and four days is just not enough....I envied the couple moored alongside us at Rockland St Mary who had just enjoyed two weeks in this delightful part of the country.
Journeys end, Brundall on the River Yare

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