(All photographs can be viewed at a larger size by
clicking on the image)
We returned from a week in the Norfolk Broads refreshed and ready for battle.
Reedham on The Great Yare is a small East Anglian village near the centuries old
canal town of Beccles and city of Norwich. Not much except holiday boating goes
on there and it was an idyllic vacation. We were forced to relax and meditate
on the beautiful river, it's marshes and country walks along peaceful footpaths.
Our cottage sat directly on the water with it's own little dock and private garden
so, as the weather was mostly sunny and warm, we dined al fresco. From our vantage
point we observed the wide variety of watercraft the Norfolk Broads have to offer;
wooden sailingwherries, fiberglass Broads Cruisers and steel narrow boats all
of varying pedigree, age and condition mingled together daily in great number.
It was a daily water parade that kept our interest high.
Most of the Broads Cruisers were hire boats and full to the brim with many
holidaymakers enjoying themselves enormously judging from the happy faces and
tans. The sailing wherries are privately owned and are part of the history of
the area, many are close to one hundred years old, very picturesque with tanned
bark sails and varnished wood hulls. Narrow boats were not as common to see and
tended to be older models and privately owned. The open waters in the Broads allow
for larger boats to travel; the tides and currents discourage narrow boats.
We took a couple of field trips to visit brokerages in Horning and Wroxham,
very charming river towns utterly packed with tourists, swans, stone bridges and
ancient stone houses. The boats available for sale are varying fiberglass models,
generally 30-40 feet long with carpeted interiors, pilothouses and beamy. Most
were over 30 years old, many even older and in need of extensive refitting. They
did not tempt us with their chilly and damp interiors. Thus, our decision was
sealed in the Norfolk Broads. We firmly settled on our new home in our hearts;
the labor of getting our bodies there still remained.
Upon return to Braunston our boat was put on dry dock and we crawled around
and under it with the surveyor measuring plate thickness, checking the systems
(heat, electric, engine,plumbing) and the interior fit out. He stoutly declared
it the best interior joinery work he had ever seen, music to our ears. His main
task, however, is to confirm the steel plate thickness is within acceptable range,
i.e., 8-10mm for the bottom, 6mm for the sides and 4mm thickness for the roof
(10/6/4). Friction on the boat from the canal bottom wears the steel down and
is a gauge of the age of the vessel. Older boats are often replated.
As no defects were found we proceeded with the sale and settled in by the end
of the first week of September, less than a month after disembarking in Southampton.
It was a happy day, especially as our hotel was fully booked the remainder of
the week and we had no place to stay.
The big bad bags were ordered from Southampton storage and delivered within
a couple days. My heart sank upon their arrival. How was I to get all this stuff
on the boat? Then I recalled a riddle How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite.
Thus the elephant was consumed over the next two days.
It was time to drive. Unfortunately the wind was blowing hard and steady for
the past couple days and we were loath to attempt the tight manoeuvring out of
the crowded marina. Past experience as sail boaters taught us to be careful about
grazing other vessels since the gelcoat was usually tender and difficult to repair
once rendered. We didn't know the narrowboat etiquette yet. We were in for a surprise.
On a breezy Sunday morning we untied the ropes from the dock and pushed off
for the first ride on Oo-La-La. People and boats moved about and crowded the canal;
we were nervous. Cheerful talk and laughter rang out around us, there were many
enjoying the beautiful fall weather and we chatted to some boaters as we glided
along. Along came a boat coming toward us and we realized there was going to be
a bit of a squishy situation with so many double and triple rafted in the narrow
spot. As Rob delicately steered the boat so as not to scrape any other, one of
the boaters said, just give it some throttle, lean over on me if you have to.
He shrugged as we rubbed gunnels. It became a bumper-boat as the canal passed
by, a local inn and there was even more boats. People just gently bounced and
banged each other with never a shout or rough word said. Not sailboating to be
sure. After a few more jostles I inspected below decks expecting a broken glass
or two. Nothing had moved or fallen to my delight.
We bade Braunston farewell a few days later and left the safe haven of the
marina for cruising grounds on the Grand Union Canal and beyond. We faced several
flights of locks and the longest tunnel on the canal system. We had not yet worked
a lock and our last tunnel passage had been on bicycles in France, not the most
enjoyable experience but an adventure; we hoped this next tunnel, the Blisworth,
would be an easier passage. However, it would prove to be an even greater challenge
right in the beginning of our cruising life on the English canals. Adventures
ahead we celebrated day one with champagne as the sun set in the warm September
.....on to October 2001