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Villan last won the day on September 3 2015

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About Villan

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  • Birthday 03/07/1973

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    Tonbridge, Kent

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  1. Saturday 22nd August We all slept until the alarm went off at six. After a quick breakfast we finished our packing and then did a final sweep up and clean. The temperature was forecast to get close to 30 degrees today and it was warming up already. With the top and windscreen both down, we set off on our final journey of the holiday at 0730. As we headed East up the Thurne, the Broads decided to bow out with a spectacular sunrise. My camera was of course temporarily unavailable and Janine’s phone out of juice having been used as our camera for the previous night, so we were not able to record this. Turning left into Herbert Woods yard, I managed to avoid contact with the quay for the first time heading in this direction. I then headed for the far quay to which I had been told to return and a HW employee gestured for me to moor stern on in a gap between two other boats. The last time I had attempted such a mooring was above Wroxham Bridge and I had struggled with the limited space I had to line the boat up. This time I took it slowly, alternating between reverse and forward with the steering hard over until I was able to reverse square on to the quay. My best mooring yet went unnoticed amidst the hubbub of people unpacking their boats around me. Oh, the injustice!! After retrieving the car and packing it, I traipsed to reception with the reading from the dipped fuel tank. We had used £62.50 of diesel, which gave us a welcome £87.50 refund on the fuel deposit. After departing Herbert Woods my camera was retrieved following what, by the standards of the previous week, seemed like a ludicrously quick trip to The Bridge Inn by car. As well as providing an excellent family dining experience, this establishment was very kind and helpful in dealing with this situation as well. The boys had behaved really well for most of the week, so we decided to visit BeWILDerwood before the journey home. It seemed a shame to spend most of what was shaping up to be a very warm day in the car, so by quarter to ten we were in the queue to get in for when the gates opened. BeWILDerwood is essentially a very big adventure playground, but it is very well done and the shelter afforded by the woodland setting was very welcome in the increasing heat. The boys had a few hours running around, building dens and going on multiple zip slides before we had lunch and then headed off at about half past one. As we passed over Wroxham Bridge in the car I had a final, wistful look at the boats on the Bure. I had experienced a great week, but then I always knew that I would. What about the other aspects of the holiday and people involved? Magical Light was not the last word in luxury, but she never pretended to be. She was chosen primarily for her layout and this worked well for us. The aft well was a secure area where the boys could go and sit on their own whilst we were travelling and the two separate living areas were a real boon- especially on the nights Janine and I eat separately to the boys and we were able to give them the run of the wheelhouse to watch their DVD’s. In addition, the aft located Perkins engine was relatively quiet and used no oil. As with all boats, she had her foibles. There was a degree of play in the Morse controller which made it difficult to adjust the revs by small amounts for speed limits. The handle of the rear door snagged on the cutlery drawer, making it impossible to retrieve items unless the door was slid open. Also, the middle cabin would have been a squash for two adults (although it was fine for Joseph). However, Magical Light was a great home for the week overall. She was comfortable (especially when the beds were made the correct way up) and easy to manoeuvre considering her size. The spindles on the ships wheel at the helm acted as a good reference point to help me find the “straight ahead” position and the few mooring mishaps that we had were due to my lack of helming talent rather than anything to do with the boat. Herbert Woods were excellent as well. Everyone we dealt with there was unfailingly helpful and friendly- from the person who we phoned in February to change the date when my brother announced he was getting married on 1st August to the poor bloke Janine pounced on to ask for extra dinghy rope after my mishap entering the yard. As far as each of our party was concerned, Joseph had a great week. As expected he loved being on the water and around boats, but it was a delight to see how he got into the concept of mooring up in isolated locations. I had expected him to enjoy Salhouse Broad the most, but he much preferred our nights at wild moorings. As I alluded to at the beginning of the tale, we were concerned whether there was enough to occupy Matthew. There was, although he did not particularly take to the dinghy. He has always been a home-bird and he seemed to like the fact that we were able to take our abode for the week with us wherever we went. His interest in spotting birds and animals helped, as did the fact that he was very good about going into the front cabin whenever we were mooring. Janine got into it as the week went on. She had been to the Broads before, but without needing to get involved with mooring. As soon as she felt comfortable doing this and became satisfied that Matthew was safe, she relaxed visibly. She is up for doing it again, but would like to have a smaller and slightly more modern boat next time. I have agreed to these terms in order to secure our return. Not in 2016, unfortunately. Our holiday plans are already set in stone and we have neither sufficient leave nor budget to shoe-horn anything else in. However, we are discussing potential boats for 2017 (including one that does not have a centre cockpit- a huge departure for me). We may even get to have the holiday with my parents that we were not able to have this time. Whatever, it will not be another 14 years before we return.
  2. Between The Sedge- I was referring specifically to the Bure between Thurne Mouth and Acle as not being my favourite stretch. Pretty much everything upstream from Thurne Mouth is wonderful (although if I had to pick a favourite river the Ant would just shade it for me). Final instalment of the tale and conclusions will follow. Thanks to you all for indulging me in reliving an excellent week. Looking forward very much to reading the tales of those of you who are lucky enough to be on the Broads over the coming weeks!! Best Wishes- Andy.
  3. Friday 21st August Janine and the boys were up before me today as well- the Ant having clearly induced a state of complete calm within me. This coming evening we would need to moor close to Potter Heigham ready to return the boat the following morning, but I didn’t want to retrace our steps entirely. With this in mind we set out at 0745 with a lunch stop at The Bridge Inn, Acle in mind. Being close to Richardsons, we decided to call in there for water. However, upon surveying the busy scene that greeted us there we turned around quickly. I had completely forgotten that Friday was a major changeover day, even though on recollection most of the boats we had seen the previous afternoon and evening were Richardsons craft. I really must have been relaxed not to make the connection! Cruising back down the Ant, it was grey but getting ever warmer. As we crossed Barton Broad for the final time the sun came out, although there was more wind than yesterday. At Ludham Bridge I managed to tag onto the rear of Broadland Wave and follow her through. We were making good time, but still needed water so it was decided to head to South Walsham Broad again. There was a boat moored at the water hose at Russell’s, but we had a very pleasant ten minutes or so waiting out on the broad. It was nice to sit holding station in the sun, looking at the scenery and making the odd adjustment with the throttle and steering to maintain our position. With a full water tank again, we headed out onto the Bure and turned right at Thurne mouth to enter what for this holiday was virgin territory. Although not my favourite stretch of Broadland river, the Bure down to Acle does have a certain wild quality that I have always found appealing. This was emphasised by the fact that we were now heading into a strong wind and I had to saw at the wheel to keep the boat straight. Norfolk had also dished up one of its amazing big skies, with high, dark clouds contrasted by brilliant sunlight nearer the horizon. There were plentiful moorings at Acle so we tied up, closed up the boat and headed for The Bridge Inn. I can now see why it is so popular with families. Joseph is quite often torn between ordering food from the kids and adult menus, so the existence of a separate menu for older children was a boon. My chicken curry was very good, as was the obligatory pint of Wherry that I had it with. By this stage there was a lack of wine aboard Magical Light. This unacceptable state of affairs was rectified by Janine purchasing a bottle of rose from the bar to take away, whilst I took the boys outside for a spell on the playground. On the walk back to the boat we had a vote on where we would moor for the night. I was all for trying to get a space at Womack Island again, but I was outvoted three to one in favour of us returning to where we moored the first night. After two tree-sheltered nights on the Ant, my crew wanted to see a big sunset again. We had an uneventful cruise back up river before we came to the moorings on the left, which were completely vacant. As I drove the last rond anchor into the ground it occurred to me that this was the fifth mooring for which we had used the rubber mallet I had bought and that the average cost per mooring was now less than a pound. I was starting to think in the same way that I do whilst at home again- this was now the endgame. We set about cleaning and tidying the boat, packing away everything that we would not need for the coming night. Matthew helped sweep out the boat whilst Joseph mopped the decks again- why can’t they be this helpful without coercion at home? Janine was making the boys tea when I decided to take a few photographs. Whilst searching for the camera it struck me that I last recalled seeing it as I hung it on the back of my chair at The Bridge Inn. A phone number for the pub was retrieved frantically and I had a knot in my stomach as I dialled the number. Fortunately, the camera had been handed in and The Bridge were willing to hang onto it until the following morning, as I did not want to ruin the last evening by undertaking a mad dash to Acle and back. Crisis over, I opened a bottle of East Anglia Pale Ale poured it into two glasses and took them out onto the front roof to join Janine. As we sat looking at the views it seemed that there were people having a tipple on every craft that passed us. Seeing that we were drinking, most of them raised a glass in our direction or shouted out “cheers” at us. Unlike the day boat we saw at Ranworth, this was all done responsibly and in a low-key fashion. I was going to miss this. Just after five o’clock a phalanx of Herbert Woods boats went past, heading up river. The Friday hirers were on the loose and I was envious of them. Tobago Light was part of this procession, manned by a new crew who had the same look of delight with a hint of apprehension on their faces that I had six days previously. Magical Light would have different people on board the following day, a thought that made me feel melancholic. I was going to miss the old girl! After some pasta and pesto, Janine and I headed back out onto the roof with the remains of our bottle of rose to see our last Broadland sunset. The boys had decided to stay in one of the cabins playing on the iPad. We could hardly complain as they had hardly used it all week, but it was another way in which normality was starting to rear its unwelcome head. We were moored only about 50 yards away from where we had been on the first night, but in addition to St Benets Abbey we were also able to see the towers of Thurne and Ranworth Churches in this location. We were suitably blessed with the finest sunset of the holiday, with the setting sun backlighting a scattering of clouds with a pink hue. Just as the sun was about to disappear the boys emerged from the cabin. They wanted to come and join us on the roof. It was nearly dark but it would be a shame to come in yet, so they put their life jackets on and came out. We asked them if they would like to stay on a boat again and they both said “yes”. This seemed enough of a reason to open the last remaining alcohol on board- a bottle of Adnams Explorer. Janine and I were supping our ales when Matthew gave an excited cry. Against the darkening sky were a set of bright lights arranged in a triangular formation, coming slowly towards us. It was the Southern Belle heading downriver on her late night trip. As she came closer we could hear the sounds of people enjoying themselves on board. The boys waved at the oncoming boat, with the helmsman responding in kind. As the revellers onboard noticed the four of us on deck they waved as well. It was a lovely moment and Matthew in particular was made up by it. This seemed a good juncture to get the boys to bed, after which we had another cup of tea in the darkened wheelhouse. It had been a lovely evening and the sadness I had felt earlier on had gone- we were so lucky to have had the week we had just experienced. Janine then went to bed while I checked the ropes and locked up. There was a bright light upriver, which turned out to be a private boat equipped with night lights mooring a few hundred yards ahead of us, an operation they performed commendably quietly. As I drifted off to sleep the last thing I heard was the distant and pleasant sound of rond anchors being tapped into the ground.
  4. My technical gremlins have abated, so here are pictures from Wednesday and Thursday. Friday's tale to follow a little later. JOHN- I kept a diary, which I wrote up religiously before going to bed each night to ensure I captured everything.
  5. Alan- I'm still getting the error message when I try to upload, so will email you pictures from19th and 20th August shortly. Don't wish to disappoint Grace! Thanks once again! Thursday 20th August Having gone out like a light, I did not stir again until Janine woke me at 7am. The kids were up and breakfast was on the go. The sky was grey but it remained dry as we discussed a rough schedule for the day which would allow us to stay on the Ant. It was due to rain in the morning and improve in the afternoon, so we set out for Stalham at half past eight. Apart from vessels moored outside the main channels, we were the only boat on Barton Broad. It remained quiet as we navigated the stretch above the Broad and then entered Stalham Dyke. Having taken on water, we moored up at Richardsons and then wandered into Stalham as it began to rain. After buying some doughnuts to eat later, we wandered back towards the Staithe and called in at the Museum of the Broads. We spent a pleasant 90 minutes in there with the boys particularly enjoying the touch screens and the boats on view. My highlights were looking through some of the old boating brochures on display and seeing the Boat Bar from the Maltsters again. When we came out the weather had brightened considerably and the sun was starting to come through again. We now had suitable conditions to begin a tour of the rest of the Ant. We began by taking the short-cut to Sutton Broad and cruising along to the Staithe before turning around. We then headed up in the direction of Wayford Bridge. After taking in the views of Hunsett Mill and the “interestingly” renovated cottage, we went up to just before the Bridge before turning around and retracing our steps. It was now nearly 1300 and although the crew were enjoying the sights they were hungry. As I came off the main river and approached Paddy’s Lane I spied a gap between two private boats which was just big enough for Magical Light to fit into. As we moored, I remarked to myself that I would not have attempted to get into this gap a few days previously. After beans on toast we tidied up the boat as the bank we moored on last night had been muddy and Joseph volunteered to mop the decks down. It was beginning to get seriously warm again as we headed back out onto the river. There was virtually no wind on Barton Broad as we headed across in the direction of Gaye’s Staithe. The Staithe was a hive of activity with lots of kids having fun in dinghies. There were no spaces, but that was of no concern to us as we fancied another wild mooring. It was still a bit early to moor up for the night, so we went downriver as far as How Hill before turning round again to seek out a mooring. It was noticeably busier than yesterday and the only suitable mooring that we saw before Barton Broad was deemed to be too close to another boat. After crossing Barton, I spied a familiar looking craft coming the other way- there in all her glory was Broad Ambition. It was strange to see her in the flesh (well, the wood anyway) after reading and seeing so much about her on the forum, but up close she looked fantastic. She was a good omen for us too! A few minutes after seeing her we spotted an unoccupied patch of grass on the left of the river which was tucked behind a tree. The mooring was similar to last nights in that it involved a mix of tying on to rond anchors and tree trunks. It also had a network of paths in the trees for the boys to explore which, it was soon reported back, was even more extensive. It differed in that there were a few boats on the opposite bank that were in view, but they were a suitable distance away After taking in our new surroundings for a while, Janine and I made the kids sandwiches for tea and split a bottle of Adnams Broadland Sunrise which we consumed sat on the roof of the front cabin. During this time, we spotted a dragonfly fluttering in the bushes on the bank by the bow of the boat. Continuing the routine into which we had now fallen, Joseph and I went for a row between 6 and 7. We went about 15 minutes upstream and then downstream twice, just enjoying how quiet the river now was. Janine and I then had our tea before we all decamped out onto the roof to watch tonight’s edition of the River Ant nature show. Like last night, we had jumping fish and bats. There was more cloud cover, which made it much warmer but reduced our ability to see the stars. Mother Nature compensated for this by laying on an owl that hooted sporadically from a nearby tree. It was nice to see the lights of other boats nearby and the flourescent orange life jackets of some boys fishing quietly on a nearby boat standing out against the darkening scene. Janine and the boys turned in at 10 o’clock, but I was still warm and enjoying the view so I made a cup of tea and sat drinking it in the aft well in near darkness. With regret, I eventually gave in to tiredness and went to bed, walking away from the glory that is the nocturnal River Ant until the next time we would be on the Broads.
  6. Back from a really good weekend, which included a fantastic day at the T20 Cricket finals at Edgbaston on Saturday. It made the horrendous five hour journey up to Worcestershire on Friday (normally takes two and a half) worth it! I'm definitely not a professional writer (my background is in Logistics), but the Broads does tend to wring descriptive language out of me. I will be back to posting a section each day from now on. I'm having trouble uploading pictures again for whatever reason, but will try again later on the basis that the issue sorted itself out last time. Regards- Andy. Wednesday 19th August We all slept soundly and were awake by 0630. Outside it was grey, but there was a growing patch of pink sun in the Eastern sky which looked encouraging as we consumed our egg on toast in the wheelhouse. By the time we were ready to head off at 0830, hazy sunshine was beginning to seep through. It was good to be able to have the canopy down again, especially as the River Thurne was incredibly quiet as we headed towards Potter Heigham for water and a few provisions. I was conscious that I had made contact with the quay when leaving Herbert Woods on Saturday, but surely with my improved boat handling skills and less traffic it would be fine this time! As I approached Herbert Woods yard, there was a boy in a dinghy near the entrance. He did the right thing and moved to the far side of the entrance, but to avoid him I had to take a tighter line than I would otherwise have done. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have brought the boat to a stop and then turned in using my desired line, but I didn’t. On the positive side I was now skilled enough to wind on enough lock to stop the stern from hitting the quay as we turned in. However, the dinghy made contact and the rope securing it to Magical Light snapped. The dinghy was now loose and obstructing the entrance to the yard. We moored at the nearest water hose and while Janine and Joseph sorted out the ropes I ran round the quay to try to retrieve the dinghy. Fortunately the aforementioned lad had got hold of it and was bringing it into the boatyard alongside his own vessel, which was quite an achievement. I took it from him thanked him and praised him on his skill, which had put mine to shame. I returned to the boat, apologising to the occupants of HW’s bungalow “Bittern” for running across their quay to retrieve the dinghy. Fortunately, they were very understanding and thanked me for laying on entertainment while they had their breakfast. In the meantime, Joseph filled up the water and Janine had found someone from HW to get us a new length of dinghy rope, as the remainder was now too short to use. During the 10 minutes that we waited, Janine also managed to pop over to Lathams. The crew had performed fantastically- even if the helmsman was having a bad morning. The man from HW fitted the new rope (dinghy ropes were becoming a theme of the holiday) and we were soon on our way again. For the first time, I managed to negotiate the turn out onto the Thurne without boat or dinghy hitting the quay. This made me feel better, as did the strengthening sun and increasing temperature. The miles passed and we were now turning onto the Ant. It felt as if we had just changed down a few gears on life’s highway as we wound our way upriver in now glorious sunlight. We approached Ludham Bridge and (thankfully) had a clear run through. The river was busy, but most of the traffic seemed to be coming the other way. We reached How Hill at just gone midday. Most of the moorings were empty, but on approaching the tea rooms it seemed as if a lot of people from the local area had chosen to visit. After eating some very nice sandwiches purchased there outside, we went into the woods. The boys spent a couple of hours running off their pent-up energy from yesterday before we returned to what was now a very warm boat. With the canopy and screens down we set off towards Barton Broad with our objective being to find a wild mooring. Joseph in particular seemed keen on the idea of us mooring up on our own, so he stood on the deck beside the helm to help choose a spot. We saw a couple of potential locations which were rejected for not having enough tree cover. As Barton Broad came into view we were preparing to cross when Joseph spotted an unoccupied curve in the river bank on the left just before it opened out into the broad. Upon inspection it was deemed safe to moor and few minutes later we were tied up there, our stern rope round a tree trunk and our bow rope secured with a rond anchor. It was a fantastic spot, with ample tree cover but also the wide expanse of Barton Broad in view. There were a few paths into the trees on the bank, which the boys went off to explore. Sitting on the roof, we watched the passing river traffic and felt inspired to open a bottle of cider after seeing the occupants of one craft drinking wine on deck. The kids then had their tea while I ran the engine for a bit to make up the necessary hours before it would have impinged on the quietness of the evening. At 6 o’clock, Janine and Matthew settled down to play some board games , while Joseph and I prepared for another dinghy excursion. We rowed out onto Barton Broad with the wind at our backs, keeping just outside the navigation channel to the right of the green posts. At the third post we turned around and began the struggle back into the wind. It was good fun trying to edge the dinghy forward against the elements and we had a breather after we had progressed to the shelter of the river again. We then went downriver to ogle the houses at Irstead before returning with the aid of the wind. Janine and I had Pasta Arabbiata in the open wheelhouse before we closed the roof at 2000 and Matthew chose a DVD to watch. Enthused by the isolation of our mooring, Joseph joined Janine and I out on the roof watching the bevy of swans that seemed to rule this section of the Ant. Janine went in feeling the cold at nine, but Joseph stayed out with me to enjoy one of those evenings at a wild mooring on the Ant that stay with you forever. As the light drained from the sky, a colony of bats came out and began to swoop in the air above the boat. It was getting colder now, but we were enjoying ourselves so much that we stayed put and were rewarded with the sight of the stars emerging above the trees. We finally came in at quarter to ten as a tired Joseph needed his bed, following his brother who had turned in half an hour earlier. Janine and I then had a cup of tea in the wheelhouse with the lights off. There was just enough light in the sky and reflecting off the river for us to see what we were doing and the stars were now more pronounced. A detailed plan for the next day had yet to be formulated, but one thing was certain- we would be remaining on this glorious river.
  7. Tuesday 18th August Having gone out like a light after climbing into bed last night, I woke up at about 2am and heard what was now an incessant drumming of rain on our cabin roof. After a while I went back to sleep until 0630 and a damp and grey scene greeted me when I looked out of the window. The plan for today was to get under the bridge early and then cruise to somewhere around Ant Mouth, ready to go up my favourite Broads river the following day under better weather conditions. After bacon sandwiches our normal morning routine was completed in time for us to set off at 0830. Easing on the throttle as we pulled out onto the river, there was a loud crash from the back of the boat and the sound of crying. With the canopy and screens up, I was not aware of what had happened, so I sent Matthew from the forward cabin into the rear dining area to find out. It turned out that having untied the front of the boat and walked back along the decks using the handrail, Joseph had been climbing down into the well when I applied the throttle. This had caused him to slip on the wet deck and fall down into the well, cracking the front of his head on one of the steps. As Janine got him inside and put a cold compress on his head, I did a less happy lap of Bridge Broad before she joined me to moor up stern on at the Kings Head. It was not the best mooring. With less room to line the boat up than I had at Salhouse I could not get the angle right and I tapped Monte Carlo from Richardsons coming in. One of the occupants emerged to help us with the ropes and he waved away my apologies on the grounds that the impact was negligible. He was very friendly and I would normally have chatted for longer, but I wanted to see how Joseph was. When I got back on the boat, he was in the wheelhouse under a blanket. He was ashen and a large lump was forming over his right eye. As Janine gave him some Calpol and a cup of sugary tea it was obvious that we were not going anywhere soon. I decided we all needed some chocolate, so Matthew and I set off into Hoveton to buy some. By the time we returned, Joseph had his colour back and he devoured his Fry’s Peppermint Cream with relish. We decided to leave and the bridge pilot indicated that he would be ready to take us under in a few minutes. The rain was still beating down, so we moved the TV and seat cushions into the front cabin before lowering the canopy. Much as I prefer centre cockpit boats, this is an undeniable downside. Once under the bridge we dropped off the pilot onto the decks of Blue Gem, which was waiting to go the opposite way. Janine wound the canopy up whilst I helmed the boat downriver. I had not liked the restricted view that I had with the wiper-less screens up, so these were left down. With the TV and cushions still in the cabin and a towel spread over the dash, this was quite an effective way of keeping dry and maintaining visibility. Conscious that the boatyards could well be full of moored boats in this weather, we decided to go to Salhouse Broad for water. It was virtually deserted, so we moored up with me using the plentiful space to try to rebuild my stern mooring confidence. Joseph came out on deck to help with the water hose and was now looking much better. We pressed on downriver. It was busy now, although the rain was becoming lighter. Coming upon the moorings at St Benets, we saw a suitable sized gap and pulled in, with Joseph making a welcome return to deck duties. It was five past midday and we were all hungry, so the screens were put up and ham and cheese toasties prepared. After lunch, we decided to go for a walk around the Abbey. A low mist was rising off the sodden landscape which added to the mystical atmosphere of the place, especially when a sail negotiating a twist in the river appeared to be gliding across the fields like a ghostly apparition. As we walked to the cross where the high altar used to be, the rain began to lash down. We were wet through when we got back to the boat, but glad to have had a walk. It was decided that we would try for one of my favourite Broads moorings for the night- Womack Island. I had some trouble getting Magical Light off the bank owing to the wind, with the advice that Robin gave on this subject on his Belmore TC blog having leaked from my mind at a most inconvenient moment. Eventually we got clear and set off with the canopy up and screens down once again. When we turned left at the fork at the end of Womack Dyke, I was reminded why I love this stretch so much. The trees seemed to crowd the river and the scene was reminiscent of the creek at Salhouse. Unfortunately, the occupants of the two other boats moored on the Island clearly saw the appeal as well. Coming up the Dyke, we had seen a large unoccupied bay on the left which was quay headed without posts. This was still free as we came back the other way, so I nosed the bow in and then got off for Janine to throw the rope to me to pull the stern in. The bay was the perfect size for Magical Light and her dinghy, which we tied closely to the stern having tied the rond anchors to the cleats. It was a lovely secluded spot, but after a day in the rain our main focus was to get dry. The screens were put back, wet clothes changed and hung up and the boat swept free of the mud that had accumulated over the course of the day. Having put the wheelhouse back together, we all played board games and drank tea while the rain continued to hammer down outside. After a family Spaghetti Bolognese, the boys watched yet another DVD on the reinstalled TV. Janine and I washed up and then sat in the dining area finishing off the Chianti we had with our meal. By now the rain had stopped, so we wandered out into the well to enjoy the misty views across the landscape. However, it was too damp and cold to linger outside for long so we came in. After sending the boys to bed we had a cup of tea in the wheelhouse whilst discussing our plans for the following day. The forecast was good and we were set to go up the Ant.
  8. Monday 17th August I had a better night, going straight to sleep and waking up at 0530. Having lain in bed listening to the sound of the ducks for a while, Janine and I got up, had showers and a light breakfast. The boys did not stir until 0715, but they were quickly breakfasted, showered and dressed as we had a date with the bridge pilot at Wroxham. We left Salhouse at 0820 in brilliant sunshine, but as we nosed out onto the Bure it was apparent there was more wind than yesterday. The cruise to Wroxham was surprisingly quiet with only one other boat going that way and we pulled into the pilot moorings without having to queue. After five minutes the pilot came and we were through. Within minutes of leaving the Kings Head moorings it was obvious that the character of the river had changed. The trees were thicker, the water clearer and Janine and the boys could see fish in the water from their vantage point on the front of the boat. At the helm, I set the engine just above tickover and just enjoyed the privilege of cruising on the upper Bure in the sunshine. In just over an hour Coltishall came into view. The lunchtime rush had yet to hit as it was half past ten and there was plentiful mooring space at the Common. After turning the boat around and mooring, the boys were let loose onto the Common with a ball and then with Frisbees. It was good for them to burn off some energy while Janine and I had a quick tidy up inside the boat. The boys and I then took an excursion in the dinghy. We had intended to row past The Rising Sun to the head of navigation, but a combination of the first wave of boats coming up for lunch and a strong wind resulted in us returning after only 10 minutes. We decided to revisit The Rising Sun on foot for a spot of lunch. It was classic pub grub fayre (scampi and chips for me, washed down with a pint of Wherry) and there was a good kids menu. Appetites sated, we went back to the boat and set off downstream. We had spotted a few potential mooring stops on the way up to Coltishall, including two wild mooring spots and Wroxham Church Staithe which looked delightful. However, these were all occupied so we moored up at the far end of the Hoveton Viaduct moorings. It was a spot I was familiar with from previous Broads holidays. We had a good view up the wooded Bure from the rear well and we were close to Bridge Broad, which makes an excellent dinghy circuit. Joseph and I went out to experience this as soon as we were tied up. We drifted downriver with the current and wind before going into the Broad and fighting against both to get to the exit further upriver before drifting down to the boat again. We had a special grown-up meal planned for tonight, so Janine did the boys some pizza onboard whilst I walked into Hoveton to get some bread and milk. By 1900 the wind had dropped and boat traffic nearly stopped, so Joseph and I did another dinghy circuit of Bridge Broad. We took our time, appreciating the peace and quiet, as well as the fact that the wind had died down by now. The boys changed and chose a DVD to watch in the wheelhouse while Janine and I sat down in the dining area to have our special meal. This consisted of Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pie with tinned potatoes and tinned carrots. Janine does not normally allow such food near our table, but for some strange reason, I love to eat this when we are on holiday in the UK. I only get to sample this “treat” once a year and this was the night! This was consumed and we were clearing up when what sounded like World War Three broke out in the wheelhouse. Having been brilliant for two days, the boys argument over who sat where had spilled over into a fight. As usual when we are not there to determine who the aggressor is, they were both sent to bed amidst protests of innocence. Our mood mellowed when we returned to the aft well with the remainder of the wine we had been having with our gourmet meal. The sky had turned pink as the sun was setting. Then a few drops of rain started to fall. We had been lucky with the weather so far, but the forecast for tomorrow was not good.
  9. One of the things that is great about this forum (in my view anyway) is how a holiday tale can prompt other discussion. I've always particularly enjoyed the dinghy aspect of the Broads, so nice to have inadvertently acted as the catalyst for some chat on this. Day 3 will follow shortly. We're going to visit family for the Bank Holiday later today, so I won't be posting over the weekend until Tuesday. However, the write up of Day 4 is coming along so I will try to post this later this afternoon before I experience the joys of the M25 and M40.
  10. Whoops! Forgot to attach photos for the day. Thanks to Alan and Jonzo for sorting out my technical difficulties!
  11. Sunday 16th August After tossing and turning for a few hours in a vain attempt to get comfortable, I finally drifted off sometime after 1 am. I got up at 0600 and my tiredness and cold feet were temporarily forgotten when I saw the windmills near Thurne silhouetted against the sunrise whilst looking out of the patio doors. Everyone else was up within 20 minutes and we all sat in the dining area with a cup of tea admiring the view. Feeling guilty about my cold feet (which I may have mentioned a few times over our tea), Janine started a cooked breakfast while I remade the bed the correct way. After breakfast, showers and engine checks we lowered the canopy and prepared to set off. I noticed that the occupants of “Springtide” were up and about and went off to thank them again for their help the previous night. On approaching the boat, I noticed that they had a NBN burgee showing. Having thanked them again for their help, we had a chat and they made a number of excellent recommendations which helped enormously over the week. Thanks once again for your help and encouragement diastar! It’s great that people like you are so willing to help others out and share your experiences. Buoyed by this, we set off down Fleet Dyke again- this time in search of water. The mooring at Russell’s went well and I sensed that Janine and Joseph were feeling more comfortable with our collective abilities. We then enjoyed a pleasant cruise to Malthouse Broad in the sunshine, where I turned the boat into the wind, dropped the mud weight and cut the engine. Janine was unsure about this, but I assured her by demonstrating over the next ten minutes that the boat was staying in the same place in relation to landmarks. It was 1100, so we put the kettle on and all sat in the rear well with tea and a slice of cake. A gentle breeze blew, the temperature was rising and chimes came from the tower of St Helen’s over on the shore. It was perfect. Having finished our cake, we climbed into the rowing dinghy that we had hired with the boat for the first time. After a pleasant row we entered the dinghy dyke at the staithe and tied up the single bow rope through the same ring as another dinghy, leaving space for a dayboat and canoe moored further down the dyke. Matthew had been keeping a note of birds that he had spotted all morning, so we got him a bird spotting book from the shop before dropping off our rubbish and walking to St Helen’s to climb the tower. The boys enjoyed the view and the fact that we could see Magical Light in Malthouse Broad. We then had a look at the Rood Screen before walking back to the dinghy dyke. Our dinghy had been moved when we returned. On seeing us, a man from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust politely explained that we had taken the mooring they use for trips. The “No Mooring” signs were on the top of the quay facing upwards and we had missed them completely. We were clearly in the wrong and I apologised profusely, which he accepted gracefully. We had goofed, but the issue had been resolved amicably. Or had it? Another voice entered the conversation, this one not so conciliatory. “Why didn’t you tie up your stern as well”? The canoe at the far end of the dyke was being manoeuvred out by my questioner, who scowled at me. Feeling that a direct question merited a direct answer, I responded “Because there is no stern rope to tie up”. “Well, you need to fit one then don’t you”, he shot back. Looking back, this was probably a good man having a bad day. It must be frustrating negotiating scores of moored dinghies in that dyke in the summer months. However, his tone had put my back up as had the fact that he seemed to believe that I should know some arcane aspect of dinghy dyke etiquette that was not backed up by inclusion in the skippers manual or the equipment that one of the main hirers on the Broads provided with their dinghies. As I was preparing to make a response along these lines, Janine stepped in and took the sting out of the situation. “It’s not our dinghy to fit ropes to- it belongs to Herbert Woods”, she soothed, “but we will raise it with them for you”. He rowed off silently. This was the right response and mine would have been wrong. Normality had been restored. Back on the boat, we took the canopy back down and had a quick sandwich before hauling up the mud weight and setting off again. By now there was real heat to the sun and Janine and the boys went to sit at the bow of the boat to get some breeze. As we went down Ranworth Dyke, we came up behind a day boat which had a clearly well refreshed party on board. The mood was jovial and they raised a few smiles by waving at oncoming craft. On leaving the dyke, they turned right towards Ant Mouth and I prepared to turn left upriver. They then changed their mind and turned tail oblivious to the fact that I had to slam hard into reverse to avoid a collision. Wishing to avoid another potential contretemps, I bit my tongue and stuck behind them. By now they were rocking the boat from side to side as they went along. As their helming became increasingly erratic Janine brought the kids back into the boat until they moored up at The Ferry in Horning to take on more alcohol, upon which she took them back out again. As Horning slid by, my thoughts turned to our intended destination- Salhouse Broad. I was feeling increasingly confident at the helm, but I was a bit apprehensive about the impending stern on mooring. As we pulled into the Broad I spotted a large gap between two private boats and began to cruise up to it. Matthew had been despatched to the front cabin and Janine walked the dinghy around the front as I turned the bow away from the bank and engaged reverse. I was delighted at how well it went. Guided by Janine I adjusted my line a couple of times before slowly reversing up to the Bank and giving it a faint kiss with the rear fend-off as Janine and Joseph stepped ashore. There was no wind and the gap was wide enough for three boats, but it still felt good. We then roped the boat over to one side of the gap to allow room for another two boats to moor. Having tied up, I went with the boys to hire some kayaks. Although we had a dinghy, Joseph loves kayaking and he offered to pay to hire one when he saw there would be places we could hire them on the broads. Flushed with my mooring success I told him I would pay and that Matthew and I would join him when it became clear that a two man kayak was available. I had always loved paddling around Salhouse Broad in a dinghy, especially the creek that runs down the eastern side. Rediscovering this in kayaks with my own kids was just as good and the creek seemed even more overgrown and magical than ever. The only slight disappointment was that the wreck of the old boat in the creek had disappeared behind the trees. Despite this it was a wonderful hour and it passed quickly. Meanwhile, Janine had taken the chance to read her book in the sun back on the boat. After a while, the owner of the private boat moored by us introduced himself and asked if he could move our dinghy as he felt there was a risk that it could come into contact with his boat. He was polite, friendly and gave Janine some great tips on tying the dinghy which made things easier for us and our neighbouring boats over the remainder of the week. It was an object lesson in how to talk to less experienced boaters- he had obviously read Gracie’s post from a few weeks back! We then sat on the front of the boat looking out onto the broad and the kids did more bird spotting while Janine and I split a bottle of ale. We then had beef burgers for tea before going back out onto the front roof. Later that night we realised that this was the only time that we allowed the boys on deck without life jackets. We had relaxed to a point of complacency already and we would not let it happen again. Tobago Light from Herbert Woods then moored next to us, which brought memories flooding back for me because this had been the boat that we had on my second Broads holiday with my parents in 1988 (it was then Tobago King from Kingline Cruisers). My parents never found a better layout of four berth centre cockpit cruiser and it remains the boat they judge all others against. Following a relatively recent refit, it looked even better and a conversation with the occupants revealed that they were very pleased with it as well. Definitely a boat to consider for the future. By this stage, the boys were tired so we put the canopy up and settled them in front of a DVD. Janine and I then returned to the front of the boat with a bottle of wine to watch another stunning sunset, pausing only to put the boys to bed. Close to us a party on two large cruisers from Horning Ferry boatyard were having a lively birthday celebration on deck, but it was good natured and they turned in just before 10, as did we.
  12. Thanks for the kind words. Writing this is proving to be a good way of keeping memories of the holiday alive. Everyone we met was friendly and willing to help and advise with one exception........more of which when I come to write up the day concerned. My Mum is doing well now thanks, Grace. She really enjoyed seeing photos of the boys visiting many of the same places and doing the same things that we used to that we sent over whenever there was a 3G signal. Talking of which, I have tried to upload some pictures to go with the post using the "choose files" option, but I keep getting the message "There was a problem processing the uploaded file -200". I would be grateful for any tips that anyone may have regarding what I am doing wrong! Many Thanks- Andy.
  13. Saturday 15th August It was here! The day I had looked forward to for two years was finally upon me. However, I was not as excited as I might have been. My parents were meant to be joining us for our week on Magical Light. However, Mum had fractured her hip a few weeks previously and would clearly not be able to cope with moving around the boat. Mobility issues have prevented Mum and Dad from visiting the Broads in recent years and them joining us was meant to allow them to experience it again with a crew to take care of mooring etc for them. It was sad that circumstance had prevented them from coming again. The practicalities presented by this turn of events also weighed on my mind. Our eldest (Joseph) is 11 and a sea scout who goes sailing regularly and has been around boats for a few years, but our youngest (Matthew) is 6 and would need watching. With Mum and Dad there would always have been someone to keep an eye on him whilst the boat was being moored, but this was now not possible. On top of this there was also the prospect of me employing my rusty helming ability in a 44ft boat with a dinghy and no bow thrusters to consider. Having discussed all this with my wife, Janine, we agreed to proceed with the holiday but resolved that if we did not feel safe at any point we would come home. As we drove up the M25 and A11, I was looking forward to being back on the water after a 14 year gap but also concerned at how long our holiday would last. Turning to more jovial matters, we discussed where we would have lunch. A plan was hatched which involved doing our holiday shop at Budgens in Acle before proceeding on to The Nelson Head at Horsey. Having bought everything that we felt we would need and packed it into the car and freezer bags that we had prepared for items for the fridge, we headed for the pub and now much needed food. I was determined to visit The Nelson Head having discovered this traditional Norfolk hostelry on my last visit to the Broads. I had been following a thread on the forum about water levels at Potter Heigham for much of the previous week and it seemed Magical Light would not fit through, so the chance to visit now could not be missed. The pub was just as good as I had remembered with a field for the kids to run around in, hearty home cooked food and Woodfordes Wherry on the handpump. After our meal we still had two hours to kill, so I ordered another half and we sat outside while the kids kicked a ball around at the bottom of the field. The field was carpeted with flowers and was full of bumble bees and butterflies- Norfolk was working its magic on us already. We arrived at Herbert Woods at 1500. As expected, the boat would not be ready until 1600, so we wandered around and found Magical Light being prepared. After a while we picked up our life jackets and began loading our possessions on at 1600. Now there were just four of us, we would certainly have ample room. Matthew had the twin cabin to himself, Joseph had the double bed in the middle cabin and Janine and I occupied the forward cabin. The trial run passed off well, apart from an irate exchange between a fisherman in front of whose bungalow we had turned around and our man from Herbert Woods (who had suggested we turn there). After returning to HW’s yard and turning the boat again he was dropped off and we were loose on the Broads! Things did not get off to a good start. Underestimating the sheer amount of boat behind me I clipped the quay with the stern when turning out onto the Thurne. My confidence shaken, I then tiptoed hesitantly around other HW boats turning on their trial runs and felt the fisherman’s glare as we passed him again. However, as the bungalows along the river gave way to countryside and traffic levels abated I felt myself becoming more comfortable with how the boat handled. The early evening light was fantastic and the kids were clearly enjoying the experience as we turned right onto the Bure. It was now quarter to seven and we were keen to moor up to sort out the beds and have a meal. I had read that moorings on Fleet Dyke were generally the quietest near to Potter, but they were all full. I was encouraged by how well turning the boat around on South Walsham Broad went and that I was not fazed by how relatively narrow the Dyke was as I headed back to the river. I was ready to try a mooring and I now decided that it would be in the same location where I spent my first ever night on the Broads with my parents in 1987. We had passed it already. I had recognised the quay heading on the left where the speed limit changes from 6 to 5mph heading upstream on the Bure after Thurne Mouth and that there were no boats moored there. Having picked up Dazzling Light from Herbert Woods, Dad had tried a test mooring here and we ended up staying for the night having being transfixed by the sight of the sun setting over St Benets Abbey. Back in the present ,our pre-arranged mooring procedure sprang into action. Matthew went into the front cabin so that we knew he was safe. Joseph went to the bow to take the rope there and Janine went to the stern. I prepared to go past the moorings, turn round and moor facing into the tide. When we got to the moorings it was 1930. They were no longer empty, but there was a large gap just after the private boat “Springtide” that I felt I could take us into. Concerned at how quickly the moorings had filled up, I made a snap decision not to turn round and potentially lose the space but to moor up straight away. Like most decisions made in haste, this was not a good one. Approaching the bank with the bow, I found it hard to judge the gap to the bank. Joseph did the right thing and waited until he could step onto the bank, but by the time I had got close enough for him to do this the tide had started to pull the stern into the middle of the river, which fortunately was quiet by this time. By now, a gentleman from the private boat had come over to help. He took the bow rope from Joseph and advised me to let the tide bring the rear of the boat all the way round. I had been so cautious in assessing the gap that there was plenty of room to moor up this way. As the stern came round he took the rope from Janine, waited for me to hammer in the rond anchor and then tied us onto the cleat. When we had secured the second rond anchor, he headed off with Janine and I both shouting heartfelt “thank-yous” after him. It had not been pretty, but we were all safe and moored up for the night. I made us all some pasta with sauce for tea while Janine made the beds up. After we had finished, I noticed that our bed in the main cabin had been made up the opposite way round to that indicated in the brochure, but Janine insisted this was the right way. I was not sure, but experience has taught me to work on the premise that Janine is right 80% of the time so I did not argue. After washing up and getting the kids settled in front of a DVD, Janine and I went on deck and settled on the roof at the front of the boat with a glass of wine. All was quiet apart from the occasional lowing of cattle in an adjoining field and the sound of fish sporadically coming to the surface. St Benets looked magical as the sun was beginning to set behind it. After a while, the boys came out to join us. It was great that they had voluntarily given up looking at a screen to come and enjoy a quiet Broadland evening and I felt a warm glow as I remembered how I had done this with my own parents and brother on this very spot twenty eight years previously. Tired, but happy we all came inside at about 2200. Janine and the kids went to bed while I checked the ropes. By the time I climbed into the far side of the bed, Janine was already fast asleep. I settled down and noticed that my feet were sticking out of the bottom of the bed- a new experience for me being 5ft 5! Looking across to Janine, I could see that my pillow was at least 2ft lower down the bed than hers despite it being fast against the curve of the bow. I had been correct about the bed after all! I was experiencing the rare sensation of me being proved right and I felt a strange sense of elation. Then I realised that my feet were cold and it subsided. It was going to be a long night!
  14. Apologies- meant to say I'm surprised more of the new build centre cockpit boas do not have patio doors/ wells. More haste, less speed.....
  15. Antigua was one of the contenders for our forthcoming holiday (went for Magical Light in the end). I'm surprised more of the new builds do not have the large patio door/ aft well arrangement that we both seem to like.
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